Monday, April 30, 2012

4/30: A Wild Night in the Association

Greetings everyone... really short on time but a lot to cover, so let's go...

  • Hawks 83, Celtics 74 - Really, really ugly game here that was punctuated by a weird incident with the Rondo ref-bump, and subsequent (likely) suspension. Josh Smith was the best player on the court last night despite attempting twelve jump shots. TWELVE! He converted five of the twelve attempts, so it could've been worse, but at no point is it a good idea for that number to continue in the next 6 games. Joe Johnson and Paul Pierce played to a hapless draw as Johnson shot 3 of 15 (including a ghastly 0 of 9 on threes) while Pierce shot just 5 of 19. One of the big keys to the series is Johnson playing at least close to a draw with Pierce, and despite his horrendous shooting night, Pierce bailed him out. The Larry Drew experience had its ups and downs last night, as he played Jason Collins 32 minutes (huh?), went to an all-bench lineup twice that was murdered both times, and couldn't generate a positive offensive possession for the first 7 minutes of the 2nd half. All that said, Collins actually worked out (small sample size alert), and the Hawks didn't do the "Hawks" thing and blow a double-digit 4th quarter lead. The huge question going forward (no, I'm not worried about Kevin Garnett) is whether Rajon Rondo will be suspended for game 2 after bumping an official. I think it's fairly cut and dry and "contact with an official" is an automatic 1-game suspension. There's no disputing that there was contact, and this is a huge break for the Hawks, as Rondo is the Celtics' best player, and with no Ray Allen (potentially), they are very, very thin in the backcourt. Nice win.
  • NBA Check - Memphis led by 27 points the second half last night against the Clippers... and lost by 1. In one of the crazier collapses/comebacks in playoff history, the Grizz led by 21 to start the fourth quarter before LAC went on a 26-1 run and ultimately stole the game. There was a barrage of Nick Young threes (finishing with 19 points and a crazy +28), the typically masterful Chris Paul play, the emergence of Reggie Evans (who took Zach Randolph completely away), and even Blake Griffin making free throws late. Insane game. I'd still pick Memphis to win the series (they are the better team) but it'll be interesting to see how they bounce back. In the other action, the Lakers and Spurs both cruised to 15-point victories. Andrew Bynum had a triple-double (with 10 blocks) to lead LA and Tony Parker posted 28 points and 8 assists to lead the Spurs. Don't worry, the old men were around too, as Kobe had 31 for LA and Tim Duncan put up 17 points and 11 rebounds for the Spurs. Chalk.
  • One final NBA note, I'm a day late here, but Derrick Rose tore his ACL on Saturday and will miss the rest of the season, and the Olympics. This is obviously a crushing blow for the Bulls, as he's the reigning MVP and by far their best player. This opens the door widely for Miami in the East, as there's pretty much no scenario where Chicago could beat them without Rose. Horrible spot for Rose, and you never want to see one of the league's stars on the shelf.
  • MLB Check - The Braves won another game with a 4-3 win over Pittsburgh in the return of Tim Hudson. Huddy wasn't especially sharp, but did navigate 5 innings, allowing 2 runs, and even striking out 6. Martin Prado homered for the Braves who had 7 hits, and drew an impressive 6 walks on the day. Matt Garza threw 7 innings of 1-hit ball with 10 K's for the Cubs as they got a rare road win in Philadelphia 5-1. David Price led the Rays to a win in Texas and it was the first win of Price's career against the Rangers. More importantly, however, Josh Hamilton left the game with a back issue and while he's considered day-to-day, it can't be ignored with a guy like Hamilton who has his injury history. And finally, the red-hot Dodgers got 6.2 IP of shut-out ball with 9 K's from Chris Capuano and took down the Nationals 2-0. That win put the Braves into a share of 1st in the NL East, and while that is totally irrelevant in April, it's fun to see. 
What to watch for on Monday...
  • NBA - Knicks @ Heat - 7:00 TNT - Game 2 here, and after Miami's decimation in Game 1, the Knicks need to show up or everyone will collectively turn their brains off to this series.
  • MLB - Pirates @ Braves - 7:00 SportSouth - McDonald vs. Minor - Wrapping up the series with a chance to take 3 of 4 from Pittsburgh with Philly arriving tomorrow. 
  • MLB - Rangers @ Blue Jays - 7:00 ESPN - Darvish vs. Drabek - Here's a fun game, try to figure out how many different pitches Yu Darvish throws. 
  • NBA - Magic @ Pacers - 7:30 NBA-TV - Easily the least compelling series, but since Orlando stole Game 1, it's suddenly a lot more interesting.
  • NBA - Mavs @ Thunder - 9:30 TNT - I honestly can't wait to see what happens here after the buzzer-beater win in game one, and this series has all the makings of the "5 to-the-wire games in 7" type of series. 

Saturday, April 28, 2012

2012 NBA Playoff Preview

Greetings everyone! I'll be taking you through the entire playoffs here, with some more in-depth coverage on the 1st-round matchups (because we know them) and some "informed" predictions on the rest of playoffs. Let's go!

  • #1 Chicago vs. #8 Philadelphia - This series is pretty open-and-shut for me. Philly has been scuffling for a long, long time now having lost 21 of their last 36 since their 20-10 start, and Chicago is now at full-strength with Rose healthy. Philly will absolutely have trouble scoring in this series because a) they always do, and b) as the game slows down, Chicago's defense will ratchet up the intensity and clamp down on an offensively-challenged team. I'm not sure I see a single advantage for Philly in the series, as Chicago is deeper, has the best player by far, and better, deeper size up front. Bulls in 5
  • #2 Miami vs. #7 New York - Lots and lots of hype and star power here. There is no statistical measure that would suggest that New York has a legitimate chance to win this series. Their level of play has certainly risen since they fired D'Antoni, but if you look at the roster (really, the point guard position and lack of depth), it's tough to see. Baron Davis and Mike Bibby are going to play a prominent role here (lol), and their front-court depth leaves a lot to be desired. I can see Carmelo going nuts once or twice here, putting up 40 in MSG, and getting a win, but with Lebron at full-bore, Wade ready to go, and Mike Woodson on the opposing bench, I think Miami cruises. Heat in 5
  • #3 Indiana vs. #6 Orlando - Biggest no-brainer of the entire playoffs. Dwight Howard is out for the year, and Orlando isn't a playoff-caliber team without him, much less a threat to win this series. Maybe they could steal one if every three goes in for 48 minutes, but with no one to protect the rim, and sporadic guard play (at best), Indiana is in great shape here. Going forward? Their lack of a go-to-guy may come back and hurt them, but they are head and shoulders better than Dwight-less Orlando. Pacers in 4
  • #4 Atlanta vs. #5 Boston - First of all, I'll be a company shill and tell you to check out everything over at Soaring Down South throughout the series. Secondly, I hate this matchup for the Hawks. With Zaza questionable, and Al Horford definitively out for the series, the Hawks will likely be unable to take advantage of the Celtics biggest weakness, which is on the glass. Because Boston is playing KG at center and going smaller than they have in the past, their rebounding has been pretty miserable, but when the Hawks are trotting out Ivan Johnson and Josh Smith at the 4 and 5, that's not a recipe for making it up. Let's go matchup by matchup here. Kevin Garnett vs. Ivan/Zaza? Big advantage KG. Brandon Bass vs. Josh Smith? Big advantage Smiff. Paul Pierce vs. Marvin Williams? Advantage Pierce. Ray Allen (maybe) vs. Joe Johnson? Advantage Johnson, but only slightly, as long as Allen is semi-healthy. Rajon Rondo vs. Jeff Teague? Advantage Rondo. And finally, Avery Bradley vs. Kirk Hinrich? I think the advantage is certainly Bradley at this point in the season. 4 to 2 advantages for the Celtics, who also happen to have the much, much better coach, and a competitive maniac in KG who won't likely let them lose. Forgive me if you've heard this before, but Joe Johnson is the key to this series for me. If he's 25-a-game Joe, the Hawks certainly have a chance to win this series, but if he's 17-a-game passive Joe, it's lights-out. Celtics in 6
  • #1 San Antonio vs. #8 Utah - The west matchups are much, much more intriguing on the whole, and this is no exception. Because the Spurs were unceremoniously ousted by the Grizzlies last year in round one, there is some angst about them this year, but i'm here to put that to bed. First of all, the Grizzlies weren't exactly your typical one seed last year, as they took OKC to the brink in Round 2 and had that devastating front-court combo with Z-Bo playing at his all-time high. Secondly, San Antonio wasn't coming in full strength with Manu being completely banged up, and thirdly, the Spurs had one less big last year (Splitter was buried), and didn't have the Kawhi Leonard chip to play. Utah isn't nearly the team that Memphis was last year, and while they do present some issues (front-court depth again with Jefferson, Millsap, and Favors, who is playing his best basketball of his career), the Spurs are a well-oiled machine. I could see Utah stealing a game or two here if Al Jefferson decides to dominate or the Spurs aren't making jumpers, but with Parker playing how he is, Duncan with an increased workload, and a healthy Manu, I'd be flat-out shocked if the Spurs lost this series. Spurs in 5
  • #2 Oklahoma City vs. #7 Dallas - Such an intriguing matchup. Dallas blitzed the Zombies in 5 games in the Western Conf. Finals last year, and OKC gets a shot at a rematch. In fairness to Dallas, this is not the same unit as last year as they've missed Tyson Chandler and JJ Barea throughout the year, and Dirk hasn't played at quite the same level, but I don't think they have much of a chance here. OKC has become a well-oiled machine with their version of the "big 3" being sort of a terrible matchup for Dallas. Delonte West will likely get the task of matching up with Russ Westbrook (good luck with that), and when he's off the court, I have no idea who guards him. Harden gets the pleasure of being guarded by either Kidd or Terry in crunch time (lol), and Dallas doesn't have the same array of guys to throw at Durant when Marion is off the court either. I'm very interested to see what kind of lineup OKC goes with in crunch time, because I think their best unit is with Ibaka at the 5 and Durant at the four, especially against Dallas, who can't punish them with scoring in the front-court other than jump-shooting Dirk. If Dallas is to have a chance in the series, they need bad jump-shooting from Durant and Westbrook coupled with the 2011 Dirk, and an unconscious Jason Terry. Likely? No. Plausible? I guess. Zombies in 6
  • #3 LA Lakers vs. #6 Denver - The ultimate Jekyll vs. Hyde series for the opening round. The Lakers are huge up front, and play a plodding system as a result, while Denver is small and will run you out of the gym thanks to the "system" of George Karl. There's no doubt in my mind that the Lakers will absolutely maul Denver up front simply because they can. I love Kenneth Faried, but when your other front-court guys are the Jevale McGee disaster, Mozgov, and Birdman, good luck to you against that front-line. One negative for LA is that the loss of Metta aka Ron could prove to be a big one if Gallinari has it going at any point, with Matt Barnes banged up and Devin Ebanks being Devin Ebanks, there isn't a whole lot they can do short of going to Kobe. I think the key to the series for Denver is Ty Lawson. It would've been free reign for him before the acquisition of Sessions, but let's not forget that Sessions is still a below-average defender, and Lawson makes that engine go big-time. Kobe is Kobe, and while he's a lot more limited than he used to be athletically, he can't be ignored. On the plus-side for Denver, however, Arron Affalo is an elite defender who will be inside Kobe's shirt for the duration of the series. I can only hope that we encounter a full-scale Andrew Bynum meltdown here, but I'm still taking LA. Lakers in 7
  • #4 Memphis vs. #5 LA Clippers - What a weird/awesome series. My infatuation with Chris Paul is well-documented, and I firmly believe that he'll elevate his play in the playoffs, just as he did in his two (yes, two Ryan) trips to the playoffs with the Hornets. That said, I pretty much hate every other aspect of the Clippers roster for play-off basketball. Is Paul enough to carry the day? Let's talk about Memphis. Memories of last year's run are in place, and I believe that gear does exist for this team, but we have to remember that Zach Randolph was playing at an all-NBA level in the playoffs last year, and he simply hasn't been that guy this year thanks to injury concerns. Marc Gasol and Randolph should still wreak havoc on the Clipper front-court with power, and because Griffin can't guard anyone and Martin is undersized, that's an advantage. I think the Rudy Gay/Caron Butler matchup is a huge one. You'll remember that Gay missed the playoff run last year with injury, but he's come back strong in 2012 averaging 19 a game and posting solid across-the-board numbers. I've never been a fan of Gay, but there's no denying his talent. Opposing him is Caron Butler, who the Clippers signed (read: overpaid) in the off-season for moments such as this. He didn't have a great year (41% shooting, 12 ppg), but he's the #1 wing option (somehow) for the Clips, and they'll need him to have a big series. The x-factor for Memphis? Perimeter defense. Tony Allen, OJ Mayo, and Mike Conley are all above-average defenders (with Allen being elite), and with that many bodies to throw at Paul, they can wear him down a bit, and that'll be enough. Grizz in 7
Where do we go from here? Well, I'll come back with series-by-series previews (going further in-depth as there are less series to cover), but for now, I'll throw something against the wall for the rest of the playoffs. 

  • Chicago over Boston in 6 - Too much rebounding. As covered above, Boston is susceptible to being dominated on the glass, and Chicago is a bad, bad matchup for that. Also, Rose can neutralize (at worst) Rondo, and allow for the team depth to kick in for Chicago to outlast undermanned Boston.
  • Miami over Indiana in 5 - We will remember quickly that Danny Granger isn't as good as Lebron James. One thing to watch here would Roy Hibbert. He should have his way with Joel Anthony, et al, and that could keep Indy in the series.
  • San Antonio over Memphis in 7 - Horrible matchup for the Spurs. Everyone will pick Memphis based on last year, but this is a different, deeper Spurs team, and with a healthy Manu added to a bolstered front-court with Splitter, and some young wing help from Green and Leonard. I'd like San Antonio.
  • Oklahoma City over LA Lakers in 5 - Ibaka and Perkins matchup pretty well with the Laker front-court. OKC has Harden and Thabo to throw at Kobe. LA has no answer for Westbrook, and you'll be getting a highly motivated/pissed-off Zombies team in the aftermath of the Metta/Harden elbow. Oh, and Mike Brown is involved.
  • Miami over Chicago in 7 - Lebron takes Rose out of the series defensively (to a point) while "struggling" to 21 points, 10 boards, 8 assists per game, and the whispers start about his un-clutch play while he's the best player in the series (and the world). Can you see that scenario?
  • San Antonio over Oklahoma City in 6 - The old guard sends the new guard packing one last time. Popovich dominates Scott Brooks tactically, throwing multiple looks at Durant, and letting Westbrook hang himself out to dry, while Manu and Parker attack, attack, attack. What a series this would be.
  • Miami over San Antonio in 6 - I can't believe I'm doing this. I can't believe I'm picking Lebron James to step it up. I can't believe I'm picking against Tim Duncan and Greg Popovich in the NBA Finals against a team led by the guy that no one thinks is clutch. Here's looking at you, Lebron.
And as always... the NBA is FANNNNN-TASTIC! I LOVE THIS GAME! (copyright: NBA and/or Bill Simmons)

Friday, April 27, 2012

4/27: NFL Day 1 Wrap, NBA Playoffs Set, etc.

Greetings all... let's go...

We knew what was coming in the first 2 picks of the NFL Draft, but after that? Craziness ensued.

  • Trent Richardson is headed Cleveland, after the Browns hurdled over Minnesota to ensure that they secured him. He brings a dynamic to that offense that they haven't had in a while because, well, they didn't have a single even average skill player last year. I like the move, and they likely had to move him to ensure that Tampa didn't. 
  • Minnesota moves down a spot and gets their man in Matt Kalil. Executed perfectly.
  • Jacksonville and Tampa swapped picks and the Jags went up to get Justin Blackmon. Not sure I understand this one with the amount of needs they have, but it is pretty undeniable that they need a receiver to help out Blaine Gabbert. On Tampa's end, they move out once Richardson was gone, and still get an elite talent in Safety Mark Barron.
  • The biggest shocker of day one for me? Dallas shooting all the way to #6 to select Morris Claiborne. Dallas went from having no corners to having Claiborne and the newly-signed Brandon Carr. That's pretty solid.
  • Ryan Tannehill wins the Christian Ponder memorial "shouldn't have gone this high" quarterback award to the Dolphins at #8. Good luck with that. 
  • Elsewhere - Seattle had the curious pick of the draft so far with Bruce Irvin (who most had in the 50's) at 15. There are off-field issues, but his talent could justify that spot. The Patriots actually traded up in a draft for the first time in a long time, and drafted Chandler Jones to go along with Dont'a Hightower. I love that they actually went defense and stayed in the 1st round. Brandon Weeden is headed to Cleveland in a move that I don't like at all. He's 28 years old (read: much older than current starter Colt McCoy), and doesn't seem to be much of an upgrade over what they have. And finally, I love the David Wilson pick for the Giants as he provides some much, much needed speed in that backfield. 
To other stuff...
  • The NBA playoff matchups are set. If you know anything about me, you know I'm breaking it down in a full-length post (to come later today or tomorrow), but the Hawks secured home-court (despite 9 jump shot attempts from Josh Smith, yes, nine), New York edged Philly for the #7 seed in the East, the Spurs will play Utah in the West, and the other matchups in that conference are Memphis/LAC, Denver/LAL, and OKC/Dallas. Let's get it!
  • Remember the Kobe Bryant rant I went on yesterday about playing in the game for the scoring title? Well, he sat out. My bad, Bean. 
  • The Bobcats got blown out by 20, at home, by the Knicks last night to cement their legacy as the worst team in NBA history. Good looks, MJ!
  • In baseball news, Carl Crawford will reportedly be sidelined for 3 months with a mysterious elbow injury. You may recall that Crawford is already on the DL, but this is a new injury that seemed to pop up from nowhere, and a big blow to the Red Sox.
  • MLB Check - Speaking of the Red Sox, they throttled perfect game twirler Phil Humber last night to the tune of 9 earned runs in their 10-3 win in Chicago. Kevin Youkilis woke up from a slumber with a homer and 4 RBI for Boston. Remember when Edinson Volquez was an uber-prospect? After a flame-out in Cincy, he's landed in pitcher-friendly Petco Park, and threw 7 innings with only 1 earned run in the Padres win over Washington. Just saying. And finally, I've decided to take a break from Albert Pujols watch 2012. I'll let you know when he bombs.
What to watch for on Friday...
  • No NBA! This will be the last night for a long, long time with no NBA games, so rest up, people!
  • MLB - Tigers @ Yankees - 7:00 MLB - Verlander vs. Nova - Justin Verlander on national TV is a good thing.
  • MLB - Pirates @ Braves- 7:30 SportSouth - Burnett vs. Hanson - I'm actually on the AJ Burnett bandwagon in his return to the NL and he was tremendous in his debut start. 

Thursday, April 26, 2012

4/26: Braves Comeback, NFL Draft, etc.

Greetings everyone! Let's get to it...

  • What a win by the Braves last night. Trailing 2-1 in the 9th after being stifled by Ted Lilly all night (we'll get to this), the Braves cranked out 5 consecutive 1-out singles to score 3 runs, take a 4-2 lead, and put the game out of reach. The most curious decision of the night (and there were many) was the choice by Dodgers manager Don Mattingly to pull Ted Lilly for a pinch-hitter (to lead off the inning, no less) after 7 innings after he had thrown just 79 pitches. He was absolutely cruising at the time and well below his pitch count, so I don't understand it, but the move opened the door to the Dodger bullpen, and Javy Guerra let the floodgates open in the 9th. One positive note for LAD was that Guerra is okay health-wise after being hit in the face with a McCann line drive... and staying in the game! No idea. At any rate, this was an impressive win and comeback for the Braves, and not even Fredi Gonzalez (who inserted Chad Durbin in one of the game's biggest pitching spots AND had him face Matt Kemp) could mess it up. Off day on Thursday, and then home for the Pirates.
  • Wait for it... Wait for it... I'm about to cover hockey. The Capitals beat the defending Stanley Cup champion Bruins in a game 7 last night 2-1. I won't tell you that I watched this (because I didn't), but there's something about Game 7's that is unmatched intensity-wise, and when you throw in the defending champions, and the fact that everyone seems to love playoff hockey, and it gets the nod. 
  • I have a Kobe Bryant rant. The Lakers are set to rest all of their starters in the finale on Thursday night... with the exception of Mr. Bryant. And why is that, you ask? Because Kobe needs to score a bunch of points to win the scoring title. Yes, that's the reason that an elderly (by NBA standards) NBA guard would put more miles on his seasonal odometer in a year where they are supposed contenders. And this is yet another reason why people don't like you, Kobe Bryant.
  • NBA Check - Chicago edged Indiana 92-87 on the road, and inched closer to the overall #1 seed. Now tied after 65 games with the Spurs (who will openly tank their final game, I can promise you), the Bulls sit in the driver's seat for home-court throughout, should they reach the finals. Charlotte lost to the Dwight-less Magic last night thanks to 31 points from JJ Redick, and the Bobcats are now 1 game away from historic futility. Hilarious. And finally, Denver won on the road in Oklahoma City 106-101 thanks to 25 from Ty Lawson, and are in line for either the 6 or 7 seed in the West depending on the final day's action. It's all winding down. 
  • Michael Pineda is shut down for the season with shoulder surgery. The former Mariner prospect and current Yankee was the centerpiece of the trade for Jesus Montero, and after struggling mightily in the Spring, they've shut him down. It's not a crushing blow to the Yankees this season because they've acquired some reasonable depth (and Andy Pettitte awaits!), but the long-term issue is that they invested heavily in Pineda, and need a return there. 
  • MLB Check - The Orioles are 11-7 and Jason Hammel is dealing. Hammel is now 3-0 after throwing 7 scoreless innings, and he's sporting a sub-2.00 ERA. This is unsustainable, on both counts I believe, but you have to respect the Orioles start. Billy Butler blasted 2 home runs to lead the Royals to their first win in 2 weeks. KC had lost 12 straight games before this one, and really, really needed the win. Texas is showing signs of gauntlet status after winning last night and getting to 15-4 in the standings. Rangers reliever Robbie Ross is now 4-0 on the season (yes, 4 wins in April), and the Rangers are finding ways to win games even when their "starter" Scott Feldman only gave them 3.1 innings. And finally, the Nats are 14-4 after winning in San Diego, and they're justifying all of the preseason buzz thanks to some masterful pitching from their young guys. It was Zimmermann's turn last night and he didn't disappoint, with a little help from that putrid Padres' lineup. 
What to watch for on Thursday...
  • 2012 NFL Draft - 8:00 ESPN - If you've noticed, I haven't spent much time at all on the NFL Draft in this space. Firstly, if you have ESPN, you've seen enough, but secondly, the Falcons don't own a pick until the mid-50's, and with the buzz being absolutely gone at the top of the draft with Luck and RG3 penciled in, the luster is off this one a bit. That said, it's still worth watching. There is intrigue at the first "real" pick of the night at #3 with Minnesota trying to move out of the pick, there is talent everywhere (I love Morris Claiborne), and the Falcons can get a starter in the 2nd round if they choose correctly. Tune in if you'd like. 
  • NBA - Mavs @ Hawks - 8:00 SportSouth - If the Hawks win, they clinch home-court for the Boston series. If the Hawks lose, all eyes will be in Boston to see if Milwaukee can knock off the Celtics.
  • MLB - Red Sox @ White Sox - 8:00 MLB - Doubront vs. Humber - A chance to see how Phil Humber reacts following his epic perfect game performance. 
  • NBA - Knicks @ Bobcats - 8:00 TNT - This game will draw TNT's worst ratings of the entire season for 2 reasons. First, it's going head-to-head against the NFL Draft, but secondly, because only true basketball fans would be intrigued by the worst team of all-time shooting for that mark.
  • NBA - Spurs @ Warriors - 10:30 TNT - You'll be seeing a lot of Patty Mills and Charles Jenkins here. You're welcome.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

4/25: Metta Suspension, etc.

Greetings all... slightly short on time today, so let's get moving...

  • Metta World Peace (aka Ron Artest aka Ron-Ron) is suspended 7 games for his vicious elbow to James Harden's head. The reaction I've read/heard has been wide-ranging from "not nearly harsh enough" to "about right" to "too much", and while that's the norm in today's culture, I thought it was fairly reasonable. I probably would've given him 8 games if I was going to hand out a 7-game suspension since it is somehow possible for him to return in a Game 7 of the First Round series now (what?!), but the length is reasonable. One note is his repeat offender status, and I'd be curious to know what part that played because a) his other offenses were a pretty long time ago, and b) he's done so much good work in the league since then. At any rate, let's wrap this story up now.
  • Atlanta Wins! The Braves got a 4-3 victory on the strength of a decent outing from Mike Minor (3 ER in 6 IP and one dreadful pitch to Juan Rivera in the 1st), and a game-winning triple in the 9th from Martin Prado. Matt Kemp is one of the best players on the planet, but an atrocious base-runner (at least in this game), and that didn't exactly help LA here. Shout-out to Tyler Pastornicky with 3 hits to raise his average to a more respectable .227 as well. And back in Atlanta, the Hawks inched by the Clippers 109-102. Chris Paul (34 points, 8 assists) was the best player on the court as usual, and Blake Griffin exploded for 36 points, but the rest of the paper Clips didn't do much, and the Hawks got nice output from Joe (28 points), Teague (21 points), and Josh Smith (18 and 10 with only one 3 point attempt). Keep in mind that Al Horford is rumored to be returning on Thursday against Dallas, so that is something to keep an eye on going forward, but this was a nice win for the Hawks.
  • The Falcons are on the verge of a deal that would bring CB Asante Samuel to town. The former Patriot and current Eagle defensive back has been an above-average corner for a long time, and would be a very nice addition in the nickelback role. The rumored compensation is either a 5th or 6th round pick depending on where you look, and that's a really nice amount to be giving up for a starter-level CB. One note is that he's due 20+ million over 2 years, and that would have to be restructured for cap purposes. Nice move.
  • The Jazz clinched the final West playoff spot with a 100-88 win over Phoenix last night. Utah got 3 double-doubles from their frontcourt trio as Jefferson went for 18/16, Millsap went for 26/15, and Favors provided 13/11 off the bench. I think we've seen the Derrick Favors coming-out party recently, and he was great by all accounts last night. If there was ever a spot to take advantage of San Antonio, it's probably up front and with these 3 guys, they could provide some issues for the Spurs in Round 1. 
  • Yu Darvish (Yu!!!!) went 8 1/3 innings of shut-out ball while striking out 10 Yankees to get a win for Texas last night. The full array of pitches was on display here, and Texas has to like what they've seen so far since the 1st inning of his 1st start. That's a scary, scary roster.
What to watch for on Wednesday...
  • MLB - Angels @ Rays - 7:00 ESPN2 - Wilson vs. Hellickson - Matchup of lefty studs here, and all eyes are on Albert Pujols whether we like it or not. I'm vehemently against the constant "what's wrong with Pujols?!" talk this early in the season, and I'm hoping he puts it to bed soon.
  • NBA - Clippers @ Knicks - 8:00 ESPN - Chris Paul is worth watching always. That's about all I got for this one.
  • MLB - Braves @ Dodgers - 10:00 SportSouth - Beachy vs. Lilly - The best pitching matchup of the series doubles as the rubber match of the 3-gamer. Beachy has been the best pitcher in the majors this year by the numbers, and we'll see if he can keep it up. 
  • NBA - Spurs @ Suns - 10:30 ESPN - This one lost a lot of luster with the Jazz clinching last night, and I'd expect both teams to sit a lot of guys. ESPN is thrilled!

2012 NBA Awards

Greetings everyone! As the season comes to a close in the Association, it's time to present my annual awards, so let's get right to it...

  • Rookie of the Year - Kyrie Irving, PG Cleveland - This is an absolute lock to be honest. The only knock on Irving is the fact that he's played in only 49 games, but with the divide between his production and everyone else's, there's no dispute. Irving has averaged 18.7 points, 5.5 assists, and 3.8 boards to go along with a very nice 21.1 PER on the season while carrying a bad Cleveland team to respectability when he was in the lineup. It's clear that Cleveland picked the right guy at #1 in June's draft. 
  • 6th Man of the Year - James Harden, SG Oklahoma City - Pretty easy choice here for me. Manu Ginobili is the perennial favorite in this category (and an amazing player), but with him only playing 33 games, it would've been a challenge to go in that direction, and with last year's winner Jason Terry taking a step back across the board and Lamar Odom basically falling off the planet, it was Harden's for the taking. The bearded one 16 points, 4 boards, and 4 assists per game while posting a 21 PER in just 31 minutes a night and doing all of that as the 3rd scoring option. I absolutely love his game, and while the closest comparison I can come up with is to a young Ginobili, we still forget (probably because of the beard) that Harden is only 22 years old and still hasn't peaked. Big time player.
  • Defensive Player of the Year - Lebron James, SF Miami - If you aren't watching Lebron on a nightly basis, you're missing out. I'll forget the offensive end of the court for now and focus on the absolute terror that Lebron is on the defensive end. There's absolutely no chance he'll win this award because a) everyone hates Lebron, and b) this award is earmarked for big men who put up numbers in rebounding and blocked shots, but if I was asked who the best defensive player in the league is right now, I'd choose Lebron. He wreaks havoc with his length, plays passing lanes, and carries himself at a level defensively that no other star in the league (sans Dwight) can match. If Dwight didn't get shut down and/or have the ridiculousness off of the court, I probably would've gone with him because a rim protecting big with his athleticism can turn an entire game, but Lebron is quite deserving.
  • Most Improved Player - Nikola Pekovic, C Minnesota - You're probably thinking, "huh?" when reading this but let me explain. Pekovic posted the league's #7 PER among centers at 21.2 (well above-average) just one year after posting a below-average rating of 11.3. In 2011, he averaged 5.5 points and 3.0 rebounds on 51% shooting while in 2012, he averaged 14 points, 7 rebounds, and a 56% field goal clip while posting a 60+% true shooting percentage that placed him in the top 20 in the league regardless of position. His promotion to an above-average center seemingly came out of nowhere, and it hasn't ceased since the loss of Rubio (the original "reason" for his success in the media). I'm off the grid here, but he's my guy.
  • Coach of the Year - Greg Popovich, San Antonio - If you listed the rosters of all the NBA teams at this moment, where would the Spurs rank? There are a handful of teams (Miami, OKC, Chicago) with undoubtedly more talent, and a big group of teams that you can argue for (LAC, LAL, Memphis, etc.), and yet the Spurs have posted the West's best record. Did I mention that this team that is anchored by an aging Tim Duncan and a 34-year-old Manu Ginobili (who's only played in 34 games, no less) in a lock-out shortened season that had the most ridiculous schedule imaginable? Or that this team is starting Danny Green, and playing guys like Gary Neal, the washed-up Stephen Jackson and Patty Mills? I think this is a no-brainer among no-brainers, and if Pop doesn't win the Coach of the Year this year, he'll never win another one. 
  • Most Valuable Player - Lebron James, SF Miami - As Bill Simmons so eloquently chronicled a couple of weeks ago, this is a pretty lackluster MVP race. Lebron had it absolutely locked up until his production dipped slightly about a month ago, but no one had the juice to catch him, and the numbers are still staggering. His PER of 30.8 would be good for the 10th highest mark in the history of league, only trailing himself (twice), Michael Jordan (4 times) and Wilt Chamberlain (3 times). 27 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists per game while being the best perimeter defender I've seen all year, and doing it all on a team with a 72% win percentage that sports exactly 3 above-average NBA players is enough for me. I don't care if you hate Lebron, think he's "soft" or not "clutch", he's the best player on earth, and the most deserving candidate for this award. 
  • 1st Team All-NBA (the way they actually vote on it) - Chris Paul (G), Kobe Bryant (G), Lebron James (F), Kevin Durant (F), Dwight Howard (C)
  • 1st Team All-NBA (the way they should vote on it by positions) - Chris Paul (PG), Kobe Bryant (SG), Lebron James (SF), Kevin Love (PF), Dwight Howard (C)
  • 2nd Team All-NBA - Russell Westbrook (G), Dwyane Wade (G), Dirk Nowitzki (F), Kevin Love (F), Andrew Bynum (C)
  • 3rd Team All-NBA - Tony Parker (G), Deron Williams (G), Lamarcus Aldridge (F), Josh Smith (F), Al Jefferson (C) (Note: Derrick Rose didn't play enough games for me to qualify)
  • 1st Team All-Rookie - Kyrie Irving (G), Ricky Rubio (G), Klay Thompson (G/F), Chandler Parsons (F), Kenneth Faried (F/C)
  • 2nd Team All-Rookie - Isaiah Thomas (G), Marshon Brooks (G), Kawhi Leonard (F), Derrick Williams (F), Tristan Thompson (C)
  • 1st Team All-Defense - Avery Bradley (G), Andre Iguodala (G), Lebron James (F), Luol Deng (F), Tyson Chandler (C)
  • 2nd Team All-Defense - Mike Conley (G), Tony Allen (G), Serge Ibaka (F), Kevin Garnett (F), Dwight Howard (C)
And there you have it... Argue among yourselves... 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

A Major Announcement...

Greetings everyone... I teased this announcement this morning, so I'm delivering on it now...

I have taken a staff writing position over at It is an Atlanta Hawks blog centered on the Fansided blog network, and I'm thrilled about becoming a contributor to that site.

What does it mean for this blog? Not a lot of change! I will likely tone down my Hawks coverage in this space (to save it for SDS), but I'll still be here hitting on topics throughout the sports landscape, so don't fear (all 2 of you that actually were), I'm still here.

Thanks for your continued patronage, and please check me and the other guys out over at Soaring Down South!

4/24: Jurrjens, Arkansas, etc.

Greetings everyone... my apologies for yesterday... back in full this morning and stay tuned later today (or tomorrow possibly) for a major announcement...

  • Jair Jurrjens is headed to Gwinnett. Just hours after he lasted only 3 innings in the Braves 7-2 loss to LA,  the 2011 all-star was optioned to triple-A and rightfully so. He's been a trainwreck this year to the point where I actually almost hoped he was hurt simply because it would explain what was wrong with him, but instead of DL'ing him, they've sent him to Gwinnett, seemingly insuring that Randall Delgado will stick in the rotation once Tim Hudson comes back (with Medlen as option #2). It's been a swift fall for JJ, and I hope he can put it together in Gwinnett. On another Braves note, I actually loved what Fredi did with the bullpen after the JJ debacle, letting Livan throw 61 pitches in 4+ innings, and following him up with Durbin to save the 'pen in a game where they didn't need anyone else. Well done for once.
  • Saints GM Mickey Loomis has been popped (by ESPN) for illegally tapping into opponent's sideline conversations during the 2002-2004 seasons. First of all, there's been sweeping denial from many, many people on this, but in the midst of the bounty controversy, the Saints absolutely did not need this right now. The best part? I hate the Saints. Moving on...
  • Arkansas has hired John L. Smith for a 10-month contract to replace Bobby Petrino. This one made me laugh simply because I best remember Smith for his hilarious on-field interview when he was about to leave Louisville for Michigan State and he acted like he didn't understand the line of questioning like a senile old man. Brilliant stuff from a now-SEC head coach.
  • MLB Check - Jake Peavy is back? A complete game 3-hitter for the former Cy Young winner, and he's been dominant in starting 3-0 for the surprising 10-6 White Sox. Nice to see there. The Yankees upended Texas in Arlington by a score of 7-4 behind a nice bounceback game from Sabathia, a homer from A-Rod, and 4 hits from Derek Jeter (who's now hitting .411 on the year). Don't sleep on the Bronx Bombers. And finally, the Giants swept the Mets on the backs of two different pitching performances. In the early game, the much-maligned Tim Lincecum managed to go only 5 innings, but allowed just 1 run and did strike out 8 guys despite 5 walks in a 6-1 win, while in the late game, the dominant Madison Bumgarner got his 3rd win with 7 innings, 3 hits, and only 1 earned run allowed. 
  • A look at the Association - Charlotte fell to a comical 7-57 with a blowout 101-73 loss to the horrible Wizards, and it suddenly seems like a lock that they won't win another game. Philly clinched the 8 seed in the East with an 18-point road thumping in New Jersey. Iguodala led the way with 15 points, 7 boards, and 9 assists for the Sixers. And finally, San Antonio obliterated Portland 124-89 to clinch the West's top seed. No one played more than 26 minutes for the Spurs, and somehow Pop achieved both of his goals by a) resting everyone, and b) still having home-court throughout. Boom.
What to watch for on Tuesday...
  • NBA - Clippers @ Hawks - 7:30 SportSouth - Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are in town and that's enough.
  • NBA - Heat @ Celtics - 8:00 TNT - This one will probably hurt the ratings of the game above it, and I'm interested to see if the C's go all-out here. 
  • MLB - Yankees @ Rangers - 8:00 MLB - Kuroda vs. Darvish - Yu!
  • MLB - Braves @ Dodgers - 10:10 SportSouth - Minor vs. Harang - Mike Minor was dominant the last time out, and I'd love to see a repeat performance. 
  • NBA - Suns @ Jazz - 10:30 TNT - This is suddenly a huge game for the West race to the playoffs, and a must-win for both teams.

Friday, April 20, 2012

4/20: The Mike Minor Show

Greetings everyone! Forgive my absence yesterday, as duty calls, but we're back...
  • Braves 10, D-Backs 2 - Mike Minor had the best start of his young career last night. 8 innings (we'll get to that), 5 hits, 2 runs (1 ER), and 9 K's for Minor and for the final 4 innings, he was on utter cruise control. I have absolutely no idea why Frediot left Minor in for the 8th with an 8-run lead and Minor having thrown 102 pitches (finishing with 112), but because Minor cruised through the 8th, the decision doesn't look as bad. The most important thing for me? 9 K's and 0 walks. Minor's control isn't always there, but he was masterful in this one. I should also mention that Freddie Freeman has fully woken up from the slumber, and went 3 for 5 with 2 homers and 5 RBI in this one to carry the offense. Every starting position player had at least 1 hit, and this was a beautiful night except for the Dan Uggla pop-up incident.
  • Dwight Howard is having back surgery and will miss the entire season. This move will trigger a sudden yearning for every team in the middle of the East playoff picture (Hawks, Celtics, Pacers) to face the undermanned Magic in Round 1, but in the big picture, it does solve a lot of questions. There had been an underground swell about whether Howard was actually hurt with his back issues, but with surgery now on the books, it's tough to question his effort level (at least in this area). For those asking if Orlando has a chance to compete in Round 1 sans Howard, I would say no, but if they have to pick an opponent, my guess is that they'd still want the Hawks as long as Al Horford isn't a factor.
  • MLB Check - Curtis Granderson went off last night. 5 for 5 with 3 homers for the Yankees CF, and he was mashing in their 7-6 win over the Twins. It was the first time in Yankee history that a player who hit 3 homers also went 5-5 (or better) for the night, and that's a sizable history. Felix Hernandez was his old self last night, throwing 8 innings of shutout ball with 12 K's, before Brandon League blew a save in the 9th and cost him the win. For those questioning King Felix's velocity, he put that to bed for another 5 days. Texas is looking like the best team in baseball, after a 10-3 road win in Detroit behind Yu Darvish. Darvish looked very good through 6.1 IP allowing just 1 run and 2 hits while striking out 5, and the bats in Texas are unquestioned. And finally, Matt Kemp belted his league-leading 7th homer to lead the surprising Dodgers (now 10-3) over Milwaukee in Milwaukee. He's on a ridiculous pace, and 50 homers isn't out of the question here. 
  • Larry Brown is coaching basketball again. The hall-of-fame former coach of just about every NBA team as well as Kansas is taking the reins at SMU. He's 72 years old, but I'm not sure if they could've ever hoped for a better situation, at least in the short term, than bringing Brown in. Very interested to see how that meshes, especially in that part of the country.
  • NBA Check - Indiana outlasted Milwaukee 118-109 last night to clinch home-court in the first round of the playoffs. That's big for Indy as they look to advance for the first time in a long time, and Danny Granger's 29 points led the way. Houston dropped a heart-breaker in New Orleans (105-99 in OT) to lose their 6th straight game and put them a full game out of the playoff race behind #8 Phoenix and tied with Utah for 9th. Speaking of Phoenix, the Suns got a 93-90 home win over the Clips to take the 8-seed alone for now. Jared Dudley led their scoring with 18, but Gortat's 14 and 14 and 13 points (in 16 min) from Sebastian Telfair keyed the offense. Finally, Lebron is the best player alive and he showed it again last night with a 27 point, 10 rebound, 6 assist assassination of Chicago. The Bulls were without Rose (again) and it's a real concern at this point of whether he'll be even near 100% come playoff time.
  • And a more somber note. I haven't had the opportunity to touch on Pat Summitt's retirement yet, and before anyone utters a joke about women's hoops, let me get this out there. Pat Summitt might be the best college basketball coach of all-time, and please notice that I didn't say "women's" before I said "basketball". Her final record stands at 1,098-208, she won 16 conference titles, made EIGHTEEN final fours, and won an absurd 8 national titles. Big-ups to Pat Summitt on a wonderful career, and we can only wish her the best of health in the coming days as she continues her battle with Alzheimer's and Dementia. Prayers for her.
What to watch for on Friday...
  • MLB - Yankees @ Red Sox - 3:00 MLB - Nova vs. Buchholz - Despite the fairly wretched pitching matchup, this is the first Yanks/Sox battle of 2012, and that's enough to warrant a look.
  • NBA - Celtics @ Hawks - 7:00 ESPN - These teams are very likely squaring off in round one so this will be the appetizer, and these teams don't like each other at all. I love it.
  • MLB - Dodgers @ Astros - 8:00 MLB - Lilly vs. Happ - Matt Kemp!
  • NBA - Lakers @ Spurs - 9:30 ESPN - Speaking of playoff matchups, I'd love to see this one. Two old teams, but there's no one I like watching more than San Antonio, and the Lakers front-line is a terrible matchup for them if Bynum and Gasol have it going. Must-see TV. 
  • MLB - Braves @ D-Backs - 9:40 Peachtree TV/Fox Sports - Beachy vs. Cahill - Two young guns squaring off, and I'm thinking Beachy will want to remind everyone that he's been better than Mike Minor after last night's wizardry.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

4/18: Hoops, Braves, etc.

Greetings everyone! A lot to get to from Tuesday...
  • In the Association - Indiana got 24 from Danny Granger to spur their 6th straight win with a 102-97 decision over Philly on the road. The bigger story for me in this one is the absolute apocalypse that Philly has become and that they only have a 1.5 game lead over Milwaukee for the 8th spot. It was be a disaster if they missed the playoffs after their start to the year. Detroit beat Cleveland by 39 points, and led by 50 in the 3rd quarter. That's all you need to know from that game. Rudy Gay's 28 points led Memphis to a road win in Minnesota and a little closer to home-court in the first round. Tony Parker put up 29 points and 13 assists to lead the Spurs to a road slaughtering of the Lakers. The 112-91 tally was the worst loss of the year for LA and it came at home. I continue to believe that San Antonio is a force to be concerned with for the entire league come playoff time. And finally, Carmelo Anthony dominated in a 118-110 home win for the Knicks over the Celtics. Melo finished with a triple-double of 35 points, 12 boards, and 10 assists on 13-24 shooting, and it proved (along with 20 points on 9-10 FG from Tyson Chandler) to be enough to hold off a throw-back game from Paul Pierce (43 points) and all 5 starters in double-figures for Boston.
  • The entire Kentucky starting five has declared for the NBA Draft. Anthony Davis is the lock #1 pick and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist is a very likely top-5 selection that could go as high as #2. After that, it's a little more dicey by Terrence Jones is a lottery possibility, Marquis Teague is possibly the top-rated PG in a very weak PG class, and Doron Lamb could sneak into the first round. So. Much. Talent.
  • Is there anything more irrelevant to discuss in April than the NFL schedule? It was released last night. You've probably seen your team's route by now, and I'm not talking about it until July, at least.
  • Braves 9, Mets 3 - The Braves managed to bounce Johan Santana after 1.1 IP in the shortest outing of his career. It was 6-0 after 2 innings, and the Bravos never looked back. Randall Delgado cruised through 3 innings before hitting a hiccup in the 4th with 2 runs and allowed 3 in 5.1 IP, but secured the win. I loved seeing Jason Heyward in the 2-spot and even if it was just because Prado was out of the lineup, it's progress. Also, Kris Medlen was lights-out in 2.2 IP to bridge the gap to O'Flaherty, who pitched the 9th. The countdown of days until the Chad Durbin release is in full earnest.
  • MLB Check - Gio Gonzalez had the pitching line of the night with his 7 IP, 2 H, 0 ER, 8 K performance for Washington in a 1-0 win over Houston. He out-shined Wandy Rodriguez, who was pretty darn good himself (allowing only 1 ER), in the pitcher's duel. Texas absolutely throttled Boston 18-3 in Fenway led by 2 homers from Mike Napoli and 5 RBI from Josh Hamilton. Jon Lester took the brunt of it, and while I'm not overreacting on Boston, I think Texas is a gauntlet. Did you know that the Dodgers were 9-1 before their loss last night? Javy Guerra blew a save chance in the 9th to result in a 5-4 loss to the Brewers, but at 9-2, LAD is the surprise of the season so far. And finally, Jamie Moyer became the oldest pitcher to ever win a major league game with a 5-3 win over the Padres. Moyer is 49 years old. That's still ridiculous.

What to watch for on Wednesday...

  • MLB - Mets @ Braves - SportSouth 12:10 - Dickey vs. Jurrjens - RA Dickey manhandles the Braves in general, but Dan Uggla is particularly flummoxed by him. I'd give him the day off today. (Update: Uggla is not only in the lineup, he's hitting clean-up. Thanks Fredi)
  • MLB - Rangers @ Red Sox - ESPN2 7:00 - Holland vs. Beckett - Can Beckett stop the bleeding? I really like Derek Holland, and the Texas offense is going right now.
  • NBA - Pistons @ Hawks - SportSouth 7:30 - If the Hawks show up, they should have no issue dispatching the Pistons.
  • NBA - Magic @ Celtics - ESPN 8:00 - I'm going to guess that ESPN isn't very happy that Orlando is without Dwight Howard here.
  • NBA - Lakers @ Warriors - ESPN 10:30 - No David Lee, No Stephen Curry = Lakers win.


Monday, April 16, 2012

4/17: Back in the Saddle

Greetings everyone... great to be back... let's go!
  • The Braves' 5-game win streak is no more. Dillon Gee threw 7 innings of 1-run ball for the Mets to stifle the Braves offense and one stray pitch from Tommy Hanson that ended up in a 3-run Ike Davis homer broke the game open for the Mets. One positive note for Fredi Gonzalez was that this was the perfect spot to get 2 innings out of Livan Hernandez and save the entire bullpen otherwise after Hanson went 7 innings. I'm reaching here, but I'll take it.
  • MLB Check - James Shields threw 8.1 IP of 4-hit, shut-out ball in the annual Patriots Day game at beat the Red Sox 1-0, and speaking of the AL East, there is mass hysteria in both New York and Boston as the teams sit at 5-5 and 4-6 respectively. Pitchforks ready! Keep an eye on the Nationals who are 8-3 and with Strasburg throwing like he did yesterday in their 6-3 win over Houston, it's scary. And finally, Matt Wieters may be arriving (finally) before our very eyes. 3 for 4 last night with 2 homers including an extra-inning grand slam, and showing signs of his "best catcher alive" ceiling we've all heard about.
  • Has there ever been a more Jekyll/Hyde team than the Atlanta Hawks? One night after failing to show up in an embarrassing home loss to Toronto, the same Hawks team faced off with the same Raps team in Toronto and ran them out of the gym 109-87. Ivan Johnson had one of the best games of his career (if not the best) with 21 points and 8 boards off the bench, and Jeff Teague led the starters with 19 points, 10 dimes and a team-leading +26. If only the offense looked that good every night...
  • NBA Check - The Clippers clinched a Western playoff spot with a 92-77 home win over the Zombies. Chris Paul had 12 points and 10 dimes for LAC, and Nick Young posted a hilariously "Nick Young" line with 19 points, 0 assists, and 0 rebounds in 21 minutes. There are no words for that. Rough night for OKC with Durant shooting 7 of 18 for 24 points and Russ going 4 for 16 with just 9 points. San Antonio ran Golden State out of their own building last night 120-99. No player played over 25 minutes for the Spurs. I love Pop. Utah and Dallas played a barn-burner last night with a 3-OT battle that ended in a 123-121 Jazz win. Dirk had 40 for Dallas, but Al Jefferson takes "line of the night" in this one with 28 points and 26 rebounds. Yes, I said 26 rebounds. Lebron took over the game late in New Jersey last night and finished with 37 points and 7 assists. In case you had forgotten, he's the best player on earth. And finally, Dwight Howard may miss the entire season with his back issue, but Orlando got a 113-100 win over Philly led by Ryan Anderson's 26 and 16. Obviously, Orlando is no threat to do anything playoff-wise without Howard, and if he will miss the regular season (as reported) with a 50/50 shot at missing the playoffs, it's uh-oh time for the Magic.

What to watch for on this Tuesday...

  • MLB - Mets @ Braves - 7:00 Fox Sports - Santana vs. Delgado - Worst pitching matchup of the series for the Braves, but Delgado threw well in start #1, so we'll see what he has here.
  • MLB - Rangers @ Red Sox - 7:00 MLB - Lewis vs. Lester - I firmly believe Texas is the best team in the Majors, and that lineup is worth watching any night.
  • NBA - Celtics @ Knicks - 8:00 TNT - Boston is playing the best of anyone in the East right now (yes, you read that right), and the crowd will be popping in MSG.
  • MLB - Phillies @ Giants - 10:00 MLB - Blanton vs. Bumgarner - Madison Bumgarner!
  • NBA - Spurs @ Lakers - 10:30 TNT - I could watch the Spurs play all day, every day. If Kobe doesn't play, they'll likely take the Lakers to the woodshed.


Back Tomorrow...

Big thanks to Ryan for filling in... triumphant return on Tuesday morning... stay tuned!

Friday, April 13, 2012

4/13 Close Games and Randomness

Hello again!..Ryan still filling in for the work-ladened Brad...enjoy the Big Easy lol..anyways let's get the the news

  • Indians and Johnny Damon reach a deal for $1.25 million.Since Grady Sizemore can't be relied upon to play consistently(he's hurt now) they need another option and he certainly is idea how no one took a shot at him,he can still play.
  • LaMarcus Aldridge has "season" ending surgery on his hip..he's expected to be out a few months.Anytime I see the words "Blazers" and "Surgery" in the same sentence I cringe and expect the worst..god I hope I'm wrong..
And in actual playing news...

  • Madison Bumgarner had a no-hit bid ended in the 6th inning against the Rockies but still got the win 4-2.Seriously can we take a moment and look at the randomness of Jamie Moyer?..he pitched 5.2 innings,gave up 2 runs and is 49 years old!!..amazing honestly.
  • Zach Greinke got lit up for 8 runs by the Chicago I have to say whether the Brew Crew won or not?...of course not..Matt Garza got all but 1 out in the game and could barely be touched.
  • And my Halos blew another game in the late innings(I'm sensing a trend here) to the Twins 10-9. This bullpen issue isn't going to go away and it needs to be settled before games get tight.
And in the NBA
  • The Bulls beat the Heat 96-86 in OT behind Kyle Korver's 17 and Boozer's 19 and 11..oh "did Rose play?" you ask?....yes..he went 1-13 from the field and scored 2 pts and was fairly ineffective and didn't play much in the 4th and none in overtime.It's always interesting when the reigning MVP doesn't play or play well and they can still beat top teams..makes you wonder about how valuable Rose really is...but thats for another time.The Heat got 71 points from Lebron/Wade/Bosh and scored 86 if you're scoring at home 15 points from the other 6 guys.That's not going to get it done now(clearly) and definitely in the playoffs.They need more production or else one of those big 3 has to have an worldly performance every night..which isn't fair to expect.
  • The Grizz lost to the Spurs 107-97.Tim Duncan lead the way with 28 and 11 and Manu chipped in 20 off the bench..I can't wait for the playoffs and these teams get a rematch.
For the hockey heads
  • Boston beat Washington 1-0 in OT
  • NY Rangers beats up Ottawa 4-2
  • San Jose beat St Louis 3-2 in 2OT
  • Phoenix beat Chicag0 3-2 in OT
What to watch for this weekend

  • Atlanta/Orlando(NBA) 7pm SportsSouth
  • Phoenix/Houston(NBA) 8pm ESPN
  • Cubs/Cardinals(MLB) 3:15pm WGN
  • Braves/Brewers(MLB) 7:35pm PeachtreeTV
  • Regional Coverage (Cubs/Cardinals,Rangers/Twins or Angels/Yankees) 1:05pm Fox
  • Braves/Brewers(MLB) 7:10pm
  • D'Backs/Rockies 8:10pm MLBTV
  • Phoenix/San Antonio(NBA) 9pm ESPN
  • Brewers/Braves(MLB) 1:35pm
  • Rays/Red Sox(MLB) 1:35pm TBS
  • Angels/Yankees(MLB) 8:05 ESPN
  • Miami/New York(NBA) 1pm ABC
  • Dallas/LA Lakers(NBA) 3:30pm ABC

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

4/12 Playoff Races and Hockey?!!?

Hello there everyone..I'm Ryan pinch-hitting for Bradley for the next couple of days.Enough about me,time to start recapping..

Touching on MLB
  • My Angels lost to the Twins 6-5 (The Angels will never lead so here's the nod from me lol) Weaver didn't have his best stuff but was still in line for the win, but the bullpen(no names *cough* Takahashi *cough*) blew it and Minny never looked back.
  • In more local news the Braves win!.., Braves win 6-3 over Astros!... remember when the torches were lit and the city was in panic?... yeah me neither... but yeah the win streak is 2 and Jason Heyward went yard and 3-4 overall... he's good... he should play more often..seems simple.
  • James Shields outduels Justin Verlander to a tune to 4-2. Verlander had it going for 8 solid innings and the Rays eventually tagged him with 4 runs in the 9th. Maybe they hung onto him a little longer than he could go but thats the risk you run when having an a great player on the hill. Regardless the ever wild Fernando Rodney closed the door for the save.
  • Nats win over Mets 4-0... Theres no way this one cracks the national (See what I did there?) interest normally but these two teams are leading the NL East for these next few days oh and Johan and Strasburg is a matchup anyone would want to see. Both pitched to a virtual draw through 6 innings but the Mets bullpen decided to blow the small margin into a big one. Of the 5 guys who came in (no more than an inning) three gave up a run... not a winning formula.
  • Toronto 3, Boston 1... Escobar was the difference in this one (Braves fans! essentially knocking in Rajai Davis whenever he got on base(they settled on just twice) and Romero pitched a great game giving up only 3 hits and 1 run in 8.1 innings. Lester pitched very well too but didn't get enough from the bats. I'm down on the Red Sox this year and this start of how they are losing is only making me semi right so far. I'm sure they aren't this bad... patience.
In the NBA...
  • The Knicks outlast the Bucks to a tune to 111-107. This was a close game until about a minute left and the Bucks just couldn't make a play to score the ball. Carmelo led the way with 32/10 and Chandler had 19/11. On Milwaukee's side Monta had 35/10/6/4 and Jennings chipped in with 22 and 7..after that?...yikes.Milwaukee is drifting into the territory of being the odd man out of the playoff race being 2 games back now.
  • The Paper Clips beat the former Seattle Supersonics 100-98.....Paul had 31 and 6 rebs...moving on
  • No Kobe? problem!..the Lakers drum the Spurs in San Antonio 98-84. Andrew Bynum had 30(yes more than 29 less than 31) rebounds! that again..30 rebounds..he also shot 7-20 from the field(ew for a post player) but when you have 30 boards..its fine. World Peace(lol) had 26 and Pau had 21/11.
  • Celtics beat Hawks 88-86 in overtime without Ray Allen..I didn't count jumpers from Josh Smith(but I bet he took more than 4) but he had 20/11/5..Rondo had another triple double(10 pts,20 asts,10 rebs) and KG had another vintage night to the tune of 22 and 12.
Hockey time!

The Flyers make a statement in game 1 coming from down 3-0 and winning 4-3 in OT..Crosby looked pretty good(you know with the concussion stuff) but after the 1st period it went all downhill from there.

Nashville hangs on over the Red Wings 3-2..the winner of this matchup is a pretty trendy pick to come out of the west..something to look for.

And the Kings take out the Canucks 4-2

Personally I think Vancouver and Pittsburgh will make the finals but just one man's opinion..rough start for both.

What to watch!

Reds/Nationals or Rays Tigers-1pm MLBTV..mid day baseball

Marlins/Phillies 7pm MLBTV..Buehrle vs

Heat/Bulls 8pm Bulls are on every other day eh?..if Rose plays it'll be watchable

Mavs/Warriors 10:30 TNT..this could be competitive?..maybe...

4/11: Braves Win, Petrino, etc.

Greetings everyone... let's get right to it...
  • The Atlanta Braves won a baseball game last night. A 6-4 tally over the hapless Astros thanks to the heroics of a returning Chipper Jones and a slammed door from Kimbrel and Venters (sort of). Tommy Hanson pitched pretty well despite pitch count issues (101 in 5 innings) to give the Braves a chance, but Chipper was the star, going 2 for 4 including a 2-run bomb in his second AB. Nice to see Uggla swing the bat well last night as well, and while Venters and Kimbrel didn't look great (either one of them), it's still more comforting to see them out there. Onward and upward.
  • Bobby Petrino has been fired (!!!!) at Arkansas. In the midst of the wild scandal that features an "inappropriate" relationship with an Arkansas staffer (who's engaged to a co-worker) and a weird motorcycle accident, it still looked like Bobby would save his job because, well, he wins. But last night, Arkansas AD Jeff Long dropped the hammer, and I couldn't be happier. If you're unfamiliar with Petrino's work, this is the same guy who left the Atlanta Falcons MID-SEASON after telling Arthur Blank he wasn't going anywhere, and did so by leaving a laminated note and was in Arkansas that evening. I disdain Bobby Petrino at a level that is difficult to accomplish for someone I've never met. Well-deserved, Bobby.
  • Ozzie Guillen suspended 5 games for his comments on Fidel Castro. It's as simple as the perfect storm here. The one place on earth (outside of Cuba) where you can't say anything about Fidel Castro is in Miami, Florida, and he should know better. Would I fire him? No, because they knew who they were hiring when they brought him in, but the suspension sounds reasonable to me.
  • NBA Check - The Celtics have it going right now. A 115-107 win over Miami that saw them do something we didn't think they could do. Out-SCORE Miami. Their defense has been lock-down for weeks, but to put up 115 is impressive, and the Garnett (24 and 9 on 11 of 14), Pierce (27/7/6) and Rondo (18 pts, 15 dimes) trio absolutely did work last night. It was like watching KG on ESPN classic. Philadelphia got a much-needed road win to snap a 4-game losing streak and try to avoid falling out of the playoffs. Lou Williams led the way with 20 in their win over Jersey. And finally, Chicago beat New York without Derrick Rose 98-86. At what point is this Rose injury a legitimate concern? Now? 5 games ago? At any rate, the Bulls got 20 from Rip Hamilton (out of the grave) to lead the way, and the Knicks offense was a mess throughout.
  • The Reds and Brandon Phillips have agreed to a 6-year, $72.5 million to keep him in Cincy for a long time. Phillips is an upper-tier 2nd baseman, but this strikes me as a bit of an overpay on the heels of the Kinsler deal the day before. Phillips is 30 years and only has one season (at age 29) of with a WAR higher than 2.6 (4.1 last year), while Kinsler is a year younger (and the deal was shorter) while never posting a WAR under 3.8 as a full-time regular in 5 seasons. Kinsler is the better player, he's younger, and signed the shorter contract. Yikes.
  • MLB Check - Clayton Kershaw returned from the stomach flu and pitched 7 innings of 4-hit ball for the Dodgers. While he earned a no-decision, LA won the game 2-1 and he was his old, dominant self. No need for alarm. Detroit is still unbeaten at 4-0 after knocking off Tampa Bay. Rick Porcello went 7 IP and allowed only 2 ER which is encouraging after the mass hysteria of the thought of him with that infield defense. I'm still concerned, but he pitched well. Boston is 1-4 after Daniel Bard allowed 5 earned runs in a loss to Toronto. I've heard varying accounts of this one, but most seem to believe that he pitched better than his boxscore. At any rate, it still defies logic for me that he's not closing for that team. And finally, Arizona remains unbeaten at 4-0 after an extra-inning win in San Diego. Trevor Cahill was pretty strong, and they got a game-winning bomb from Chris Young in the 11th to win it.

What to watch for on Wednesday...

  • MLB - Nats @ Mets - 1:00 MLB - Strasburg vs. Santana - Really, really nice matchup your midday viewing pleasure. I'm very interested to Santana in start #2 and Strasburg is always must-watch.
  • MLB - Marlins @ Phillies - 7:00 ESPN2 - Johnson vs. Halladay - Speaking of ridiculous pitching matchups, here's another!
  • MLB - Braves @ Astros - 8:00 Fox Sports - Delgado vs. Rodriguez - The 2012 debut of Randall Delgado is the headliner for me, but Wandy Rodriguez owns the Braves (sub-2.00 ERA lifetime) and he's a lefty. Look out.
  • NBA - Knicks @ Bucks - 8:00 ESPN - Milwaukee is suddenly within striking distance of the playoffs, and this could be a crucial game.
  • NBA - Hawks @ Celtics - 8:00 SportSouth - Boston is off a back-to-back here, but they are playing at a very high level and at home.
  • NBA - Warriors @ Blazers - 10:30 ESPN - I wish either of these teams cared about winning this game.

One programming note... I'm off for the rest of the weekend as I am out of town, but have no fear, I've solicited Ryan to sit in, so stay tuned for some knowledge to be dropped... Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

4/10: Panic in the Streets

Greetings everyone... let's go...

The Atlanta Braves are 0-4 to start the season. In a vacuum, this wouldn't be a total disaster since a) there are 162 games, and b) the "don't check the standings until May" rule still applies. That said, the Braves finished the 2011 season on a 10-20 bender that cost them to blow the biggest lead in history in September to the eventual World Series champion Cardinals, which has placed the fanbase on high alert. What do 4 straight losses really mean? Frustration, certainly, but in the grand scheme, it's a wildly small sample and not cause for over-the-top alarm.

However, there have certainly been some Fredi Gonzalez issues already, including the maddening use of Chad Durbin (the team's worst pitcher) in high-leverage spots, playing Juan Francisco (aka the butcher) against a lefty last night and Matt Diaz in right field, and over-using Constanza as a hitter instead of the poor-hitting, pinch-runner that he is. These are cause for legitimate concern because we've seen this type of behavior before, and it's not getting better. I wouldn't suggest panic over the 0-4 record (by any stretch), but rather objectively take a look at the performance of the manager and take a deep breath about the performance of the bats and guys like Jurrjens and Minor. Take a breath, people.

Let's go elsewhere...
  • Ian Kinsler is staying in Texas for a while. The Ranger 2nd basemen inked a 5-year, $75 million deal that is one of those rare contracts that I've seen praised from both sides. He's a tremendous hitter and base-runner at a position that rewards those things greatly, and while he's still pretty young, this is a pretty reasonable contract number. Would you rather be paying Kinsler 5 for 75 or Uggla 5 for 62? I choose Kinsler.
  • MLB Check - Barry Zito threw a complete-game, 4-hit shutout IN COLORADO last night against the Rockies. This blew me away as I came across it, and shout-out to Zito for throwing a gem in a tough spot. Matt Wieters threw up a 4-4 with a homer and a double, but the Orioles fell to the Yankees 6-2 in giving them their first win of the season. Wieters was a fantasy darling preseason, and maybe this will key his breakout. The Red Sox are on the board with a win as well after a 3-run 9th inning keyed a 4-2 win, and Alfredo Aceves hung on for dear life in the 9th. And finally, CJ Wilson beat up on the Twins, sending Minnesota to join Atlanta at 0-4 in his debut. I think LAA will take 7 innings of 1-run ball from Wilson and run with it.
  • The Saints bounty appeals have been denied by Roger Goodell. There's nothing funnier to me than the concept of 1-man justice that the NFL has in place where the commish can make every decision by himself, but the appeal process of that same decision goes back to... the commissioner again? What's going to change? I'm so confused, but in this case, I love it. Down with the Saints!
  • The bizarre tales of Lamar Odom in Dallas have come to an end after the 6'10 forward was effectively sent home for the rest of the season yesterday rather than be outright released. He's been a disaster in Dallas (35% shooting for the year, worst in the league) and seems personally troubled, and while I won't joke about that part of it, he's been as bad as he could be on the court for them, and I can see them not wanting the off-court distraction. Weird stuff.
  • NBA Check - Orlando beat Detroit like a drum 119-89. Oh, did I mention that Dwight Howard didn't play in this game? That's kind of unbelievable. Memphis outlasted LAC 94-85 to come within a half-game of them in the standings. Chris Paul led the way for the Clips with 21 points but shot just 7 of 17 and that wasn't enough to handle 6 guys in double-digits from the Grizz. Kenneth Faried had one of the crazier stat lines of the NBA season so far. He put up 27 points and 17 rebounds last night against Golden State, which in itself is really impressive, but he did so... IN 24 MINUTES! Are you kidding me? That's a 54/34 in 48 minutes or a 40/25 in 36 minutes. Big-ups to my man on that one. And finally, the Spurs lost a basketball game last night in Utah, breaking their 11 game win streak. Somehow they competed (losing by only 7) without Duncan, Ginobili, and Parker in the lineup with DNP-Rest, and Stephen Jackson shooting 2 of 13 in the lineup. I don't know how they do it.

What to watch for...

  • NBA - Celtics @ Heat - 7:00 ESPN - The C's are playing defense at an out-of-this-world rate right now, but they'll be severely tested by Miami.
  • MLB - Cards @ Reds - 7:00 MLB - Lohse vs. Leake - We'll see what Kyle Lohse has after that near no-no in the opener.
  • MLB - Braves @ Astros - 8:00 SportSouth - Hanson vs. Weiland - I don't even know what to say. Come on Tommy.
  • NBA - Knicks @ Bulls - 9:30 ESPN - Chicago gets a shot at revenge from this weekend, and I think they'll convert it.
  • MLB - Royals @ A's - 10:00 MLB - Duffy vs. Godfrey - Danny Duffy is a big-time prospect still after getting banged around in 2011 and the chance to see Eric Hosmer is good enough.


Monday, April 9, 2012

4/9: Masters Wrap, Hoops, etc.

Greetings everyone! My apologies for the disappearing act this weekend... it's been a long one...
  • Bubba Watson has never taken a golf lesson or examined his swing on video. That's not a joke, and it's even crazier when you consider that he just won the Masters. Watson's eclectic left-handed swing (feet moving constantly no less) drilled a ridiculous hook off of pine straw on the 2nd playoff hole to set himself up for a 2-putt victory over Louis Oosthuizen. It was a wildly compelling back nine that saw 3 guys lead (the two playoff contestants and Matt Kuchar), some crazy heroics, and a crazily shifting leaderboard. One more note from the tournament was that Louis Oosthuizen somehow drilled a double-eagle on the part 5 2nd hole thanks to a crazy roll down the green and a brilliant shot, and then he casually flipped the ball to a fan. Yep. Big-time stuff from Augusta.
  • NBA Check - Carmelo Anthony posted 43 points to drive the Knicks past Chicago in overtime at MSG. Derrick Rose (29 points) was in the lineup for Chicago, but when Melo has it going, good luck to the opposition's defense. Boston throttled a struggling Philly team 103-79 in Boston behind 20 from KG and 15 dimes from Rondo. San Antonio won their 11th straight game to hold onto 1st place in the West, and finally, the Wade-less Heat blitzed Detroit behind 26 from Lebron.
  • Tim Tebow spoke at a church in Texas for Easter. Somehow this is lead-story national news. I have no idea.
  • Thomas Robinson is entering the NBA draft according to Bill Self. No surprise here as I thought Robinson was the nation's best player this year in and is a likely top-10 pick. I still believe he doesn't have star upside, but he's going to rebound the heck out of the ball at the next level and could be a nice player right away as a rookie.
  • The Braves are 0-3. After a mind-numbing sweep at the hands of the Mets, there is panic in the streets of Atlanta and it's a bit overboard. The lack of offense was troubling, Jurrjens and Minor didn't pitch well, and we got to see a glimpse of Chad Durbin (yikes), but it's 3 games people, and if this was in June, no one would bat an eye. For the Fredi Gonzalez hot-seat rumors, I have no idea. Would I like him fired? Absolutely. Would it be because the team is 0-3? Absolutely not. If you don't have an argument outside of wins and losses for a managerial firing, then you don't fire the manager, but I do think there is evidence to do so, even if it would take a bad start to "justify" the move.
  • MLB Check! - Jeremy Hellickson threw 8 2/3 innings of 3-hit, shutout ball to lead the Rays to a sweep of the Yankees. Small sample size (again!) but the Rays looked really good in that series. Boston is also 0-3 at the hands of Detroit after a bullpen collapse in the 11th inning resulted in an Alex Avila walk-off bomb. Get your pitchforks ready. And finally, Matt Harrison threw 6 innings of shutout ball for Texas as they dismissed the White Sox 5-0. I'm a Harrison fan, and I continue to believe that the Rangers rotation is better than everyone thinks (pending Darvish, of course).

What to watch for on Monday...

  • MLB - Miami @ Philadelphia - 1:00 MLB Network - Sanchez vs. Hamels - A really nice pitching matchup when you consider this is the 4th game for each team. Sanchez had a great year in 2011, and Hamels is a top-10 type guy.
  • MLB - LA Angels @ Minnesota - 4:00 MLB Network - Wilson vs. Blackburn - Our first-look at CJ Wilson in an Angels uniform.
  • MLB - Milwaukee @ Chicago Cubs - 7:00 ESPN - Marcum vs. Volstad - Volstad is excruciating to watch, but I think Marcum is an elite guy when he's healthy, and I'm interested to see that Brewers lineup sans Fielder.
  • MLB - Atlanta @ Houston - 8:00 SportSouth - Beachy vs. Happ - Please let the good Brandon Beachy stand up.
  • NBA - Suns @ T-Wolves - 9:00 ESPN2 - Such a random spot for a nationally televised game but I'll take it. Steven Q. Nash has the Suns in playoff contention (somehow) and Kevin Love is a must-see.


Thursday, April 5, 2012

Hope Springs Eternal

"A lotta room in right-center... if he hits one there, we can dance in the streets... The 2-1... Swung, line drive left field! One run is in! Here comes Bream, Here's the throw to the plate! He is... safe! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win! Braves win!...... Braves win!"

The quote above features the words of the late, great Skip Caray as he described the game-winning, series-winning NLCS walk-off single by Francisco Cabrera to give the Atlanta Braves the National League crown in 1992. This is my first legitimate sports memory, and one that attribute (in great measure) to my crazed love affair with sports to this day.

I was six years old, and had been asleep for an hour or two when the Braves came to bat in the bottom of the ninth down 2-0, and on the verge of heading home prior to the World Series. After a series of events, the Cabrera hit and Sid Bream slide occurred, and there was Skip, serenading us with those words and 6-year-old me and my father, who had graciously gotten me out of bed to watch the proceedings live, jumped and screamed around the room to the point where my mother, shaken from sleep, raced into the living room to see if I was okay. The pure joy of that moment is something that has rarely been repeated in my life, and the sound of Skip's call brings tears (literally) to my eyes each and every time I hear it.

Baseball can do that. Because of the daily grind of the sport, the emotional investment is unparalleled for professional sports in my opinion. College football fans would argue that the pageantry and tradition of their universities (even sometimes with those they themselves have attended) can bring forth passion that transcends other sports, and to a point, I'd agree, but on the other hand, 162 games over 6 months is another level of investment. When March madness ends, there's baseball to takes over in early April. When Memorial day brings cookouts and the start of summer, baseball games rule the television inside and the radio outside. On the Fourth of July, I picture "The Sandlot" and kids playing baseball under the light of fireworks. On Labor day, the season is winding down and pennant races are heating up. And finally in October, the live-and-die aspect of every pitch grinds baseball fans to dust. This is what we do.

I realize that my generation (and especially those younger than me) doesn't possess the same passion for baseball that those older than me have. It's a slower-paced game than basketball, the laziness of it can allow for this nation that has a short attention span to be unmoved by it, and there's no violence that football possesses. But as the season opens today for my favorite team, the Atlanta Braves, I'm reminded that there are still kids growing up dreaming of being Chipper Jones or Roy Halladay, and I hope they all can experience something to hold on to forever like I did with my father in 1992. Thank you so much, Dad, for waking me up.

4/5: "Playoff Hoops" and Baseball

Greetings all... going a little short this morning, but stay tuned for a post mid-morning... and by the way, IT'S OPENING DAY!
  • Miami and Oklahoma City battled last night in the NBA to rave reviews. The Heat won 98-93, but the story was the level of play throughout (consistently deemed "playoff"-level) and Lebron James playing out of his mind. 34 points, 10 boards, 7 assists, 4 steals for 'Bron and the most impressive thing was that the Heat were +20 with him on the court (next highest was +9) in 42 minutes and -12 without him in the other 6 minutes. Best player alive. Anyway, Durant and Westbrook had 30 and 28 respectively but Durant had 9 turnovers, and Westbrook shot just 9 of 26, so I think if you're OKC, you're not entirely worried by this performance as neither guy played particularly well and you were in the game (on the road) until the end.
  • The Battle of LA also took place last night and was very, very entertaining. Andrew Bynum proved to be pretty much unguardable for the majority of this one, finishing with 36 points on 13 of 20 shooting. I absolutely can't stand Bynum, for his mannerisms more than anything, but when he has it going, there isn't a question that he's a dominant post scorer. Lost in shadow of Bynum (somehow) was Kobe's 13 of 19 for 31 points including a giant baseline dagger that pretty much ended the game late. I thought the Clips played pretty well, getting 6 guys in double-figures, but not even Chris Paul's 16 assists could overcome LA with Bynum going like that. One note for LAC, Blake Griffin had, not one, but two ridiculous dunks on Pau Gasol. Youtube that, kids.
  • Baseball started again in earnest last night as the Cards spoiled the opening of Miami's new stadium with a 4-1 win. Kyle Lohse had a no-hitter through 6 innings, and really befuddled the Marlins all night (7.1 IP, 2 hits). Josh Johnson allowed 10 hits and 3 runs for Miami but did manage to escape the night healthy (we think) and that's all they wanted.
  • Jared Sullinger declares for the draft. There's no issue with this as he'll likely be a lottery pick still, but can we agree that "stock"-wise, he should've left 12 months ago?
  • The Masters is underway as we speak... don't forget this...

What to watch for..

  • MLB - Braves @ Mets - SportSouth 1:05 - Hanson vs. Santana - Opening day!! Tommy Hanson gets the ball for Atlanta, and this is a battle of injury-stricken pitchers with tremendous upside. Could be in for a gem if they both have it going.
  • MLB - Red Sox @ Tigers - ESPN2 1:05 - Lester vs. Verlander - I won't tell you that this game isn't better than Braves/Mets. Tremendous pitching matchup and two likely playoff teams.
  • The Masters - Opening Round - ESPN 3:00 - This is when you take advantage of the streaming coverage on or the iphone app, but at any rate, TV starts at 3:00 and I can hear the piano.
  • MLB - Marlins @ Reds - ESPN2 4:00 - Buerhle vs. Cueto - Yes, the Marlins played at home last night against St. Louis and they're playing a day game in Cincy today. I don't get it.
  • NBA - Knicks @ Magic - TNT 7:00 - I hope Dwight Howard plays for anyone that watches this game.
  • NBA - Celtics @ Bulls - TNT 9:30 - Boston's defensive metrics have them playing out of their MINDS lately on that end of the court, and that will likely continue if Rose is unable to go here.

Stay tuned... and enjoy...

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

2012 Masters Preview

Greetings everyone! You may be thinking, "you're really going to write a preview about a golf tournament?" and I would tell you that you aren't that crazy. At any rate, this will be the only golf preview post of the entire 2012 calendar year, and the Masters is the only tournament I follow with such severity. Let's go.
  • Tiger Woods is in the field. You know this already, but after coming off of a win in his last start (his first in multiples years), he's the Vegas favorite and the guy everyone is talking about. For the doubters, remember that he came in with no semblance of confidence OR his driver last year, and still finished 4th by gutting his way through every round and doing Tiger-like things. Now? His swing is back, he's "hot" coming off of a win, and there's no reason to think he won't contend. Will he win? I have no idea and it's not as simple as the "Tiger vs. the Field" discussion anymore, but if I had to pick a guy, he's it.
  • The other favorites - Rory McIlroy led through 3 rounds last year before posting that crazy 80 on Sunday, but he rebounded by winning a major later in the year and would've been the favorite if Tiger hadn't put it together 2 weeks ago. He's certainly one of the top players in the world. Phil Mickelson is always a threat, too. He's playing out of his mind right now, has 3 masters wins (04,06,10), and can't be ignored.
  • Sleeper Picks - Luke Donald is the #1 player in the world. Did you know that? Now you do. I know that's not a sleeper by definition but NO ONE is talking about him, and he's playing incredibly well. Anthony Kim is a total homer pick by me because he's not playing well in 2012, but he's played well in Augusta in the past, and if he catches fire and gets the gallery going, he could be there. And Bubba Watson is a guy I really like this week. His length is absurd, and it's not unheard of for a lefty to do well in Augusta (Mickelson, Weir).
  • TV Schedule - Thursday and Friday: 3:00-7:30 on ESPN, Saturday: 3:30-7:00 on CBS, and Sunday: 2:00-7:00 on CBS.

Even if you don't like golf, do yourself a favor and give the Masters a chance. The scenery is breathtaking (especially in HD), the best golfers on the planet are going, and it's supposed to be beautiful in Augusta this weekend. A tradition unlike any other. Cue the piano...

4/4: Ramblings...

Greetings all... no huge stories from Tuesday, so let's go everywhere...
  • Baylor wins the women's basketball national title by crushing Notre Dame 80-61. Brittney Griner put up 26 points, 13 boards, and 5 blocks to key a ridiculous 40-0 undefeated season for Baylor. That's absurd, and I know that most people that read this are likely unmoved by the story, but when you win 40 straight games, have the best player in the country (a 6'8 post beast that dunks, no less), and win the title by nearly 20 points over a 1-seed, it's big news.
  • The NFL is going with Nike next season. Did you know that? I had actually forgotten this until yesterday when they revealed all 32 team uniforms, but there you have it. Uni Watch!
  • Red Sox closer Andrew Bailey is having thumb surgery. Already. Bailey is a tremendous pitcher when he's out there, but the injury past is hilariously checkered, and he's set to miss 3-4 months now with this one. I would be moving Daniel Bard back into the role if I was Boston, but they seem set on him as a starter, and will go with Mark Melancon (likely) or Alfredo Aceves in the 9th. Godspeed.
  • NBA Check - The Spurs' offense is a gauntlet at times. After a 125-90 road win, it's easy to say that, but it really is a thing of beauty to watch. 6 guys in double-figures and 11 guys with 5 or more points in this one led by Patty Mills with 20 off the bench in 20 minutes, and they even got to rest Duncan and Parker (23 min each). Indiana stormed past the Knicks 112-104 on the strength of a crazy 40-17 4th quarter advantage. Danny Granger led the way with 27 for Indy and Melo had 39 for the Knicks. The Heat clinched a playoff spot with a win over Philly last night. Lebron had 41 on 15-25 FG (and took 13 FTs) to lead the Wade-less attack. And finally, DeMarcus Cousins had the best game of his career last night with 41 points and 12 boards for the Kings, but Sacto fell at home to Phoenix on the strength of 20 and 10 from the wildly underrated Marcin Gortat and 18 points/12 dimes from Steven Q. Nash.

What to watch for on Wednesday....

  • The Masters Par 3 Contest - ESPN 3:00 - If you didn't know yet (somehow), the Masters start on Thursday, which means the Par 3 contest on Wednesday. I can smell the azaleas.
  • MLB Opener - Cards @ Marlins - ESPN 7:00 - Lohse vs. Johnson - The MLB season "starts" (don't forget there have already been 2 games played in Japan) with the defending champs taking on the new-look Marlins. Josh Johnson is the undisputed key for Miami and we'll learn something about him when the lights come on for real tonight.
  • NBA - Bobcats @ Hawks - SportSouth 7:30 - The league's worst team shows up in Atlanta. Hallelujah.
  • NBA - Thunder @ Heat - ESPN2 8:00 - Wade missed last night, so that dampens things a bit, but if there was ever a potential Finals preview, this is likely it.
  • NBA - Lakers vs. Clippers - ESPN2 10:30 - The battle of LA.


Tuesday, April 3, 2012

4/3: National Champs, etc.

Greetings all... let's go...
  • Kentucky is your national champion. The best team in the country all year long and the #1 overall seed doesn't always win in college hoops, but it held true here. UK held Kansas to 35% shooting, won the battle on the glass and had 11 blocked shots to key the win. Anthony Davis dominated this game on the interior despite not scoring A POINT in the first half and finishing with only 6 points, but he had 16 boards, 6 blocks, 5 assists, 3 steals, and frustrated Thomas Robinson on the other end to the tune of a 6 for 17 shooting night. I liked what Kansas got from Jeff Withey, but their perimeter guys had underwhelming nights including Tyshawn Taylor who did finish with 19 points, but was insanely erratic in the first half to aid in things getting away from Kansas. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist was electric defensively, Marquis Teague showed his improvement from the beginning of the year, and Doron Lamb made shots all night. Total team effort, and if you hate John Calipari, this was a rough night for you as he put a team led by one-and-done freshman in the title game and won it.
  • Two crazy contract extensions in baseball! Matt Cain reportedly inked a 5-year extension (in addition to the one year he had remaining) for $112.5 million in those five years. It's the largest contract ever given to a right-hander, and while I'm actually higher on Cain than most I've seen, that seems like an overpayment. On the batting end, Joey Votto agreed in principle to a 10-year, $225 million contract that would keep him in Cincy through age 38. I think Votto is the better player of the two, and hitting is usually safer than pitching, but 10 years is pretty crazy, and they did this TWO years before his free agency kicked in. Godspeed to you Cincy.
  • Ubaldo Jimenez gets "5 games" for hitting Tulo with a pitch in the elbow. This amounts to one start and he's appealing, but there had to be something in the way of suspension after the way he antagonized (throwing his glove down and waving him on) after the pitch.
  • NBA Check - The Bulls finally have a losing streak. They lost their 2nd straight game, this time at home to Houston 99-93, thanks to 21 from Goran Dragic. No cause for alarm IMO because Rose is still out, but the question now is, when is he coming back? Memphis went into OKC and broke the Thunder's 6-game win streak with a 94-88 win. OJ Mayo (can't squeeze the juice!) had 22 to lead the way for Memphis. The Clippers are suddenly alive again, winning their 6th straight with a road win in Dallas. Any time you can get 28 from Randy Foye, you're probably going to win. And finally, Minnesota may have gotten the final nail in their playoff coffin with a road loss to Sacramento. The loss wasn't the worst part of the game as they lost Luke Ridnour (their only healthy PG) with a rolled ankle that had him carried (literally) off the court. The dream is ending...

What to watch for on Tuesday...

  • NCAA Women's Title Game - ESPN 8:30 - Undefeated Baylor and Ms. Griner are taking on Notre Dame. This gets the mention because it's the title game and Baylor is undefeated. There you go.
  • NBA - Philly @ Miami - NBATV 7:30 - If anyone has wing defenders to throw at Miami, it's Philly, so that's something.
  • NBA - New Jersey @ LA Lakers - NBATV 10:30 - The Andrew Bynum spectacle (ankle, personality) continues here.