Sunday, December 28, 2014

NFL's Black Monday Is A-Comin'

Black Monday in the NFL is the date, right after the end of the regular season, that sees coaches and general managers fired.  Some years, there is a huge chopping block.  Other years, it is rather calm.

To me, this will be one of those calmer years.  Sure, there will be firings, but not to the insane extent that we've seen before.  So who is on the hottest of seats?

OH YEAH, THEY'RE GONE

Jim Harbaugh, 49ers:  This hasn't been a secret all year long.  Not only were there grumblings in September that Harbaugh had worn out his welcome, but the Niners would put up a disappointing 8-8 record.  With suitors in Oakland and Michigan waiting for him, he shouldn't be out of work long.

Rex Ryan, Jets:  Ryan has been barely holding onto this job the last two years and this horrid 4-12 season makes the decision so much easier.  Like Harbaugh, Ryan will land on his feet somewhere.

Marc Trestman, Bears:  Chicago shockingly took the Dumpster Fire Award away from the Redskins this season, and that's not an award you want to win.  That franchise is a mess.  The once proud defense is in shambles and an offense filled with playmakers looked pedestrian.

Mike Smith, Falcons:  Smith has been one of the most successful coaches in Falcons history and was Coach Of The Year in 2008.  But his history of poor game management and the team's shocking fall into the abyss makes it where Atlanta must move on.  With your job on the line, it doesn't help to get spanked at home by a division rival in a winner-take-all game.

Tony Sparano, Raiders:  This comes with a caveat.  Sparano is an interim coach and Oakland will replace him if they feel they can find a better coach.  However, there is some sentiment in the organization that Sparano has the team on track and could retain the job if no big name wants the gig.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Comparing Players Can Be Fun ... But It's Useless


Sports, by nature, is competition.  Teams and athletes compete to see who is better.  In most cases, we get a winner and a loser.  In a world filled with gray, sports is pretty black and white.

When we start comparing players off the field, we get into a tough debate.  While it is usually fun to say this person is better than that one, it is just wasted time and energy.  Sometimes it can distract everyone from the greatness of both.

Kobe Bryant just passed Michael Jordan in career scoring.  That fact re-opened a decade-plus long debate about who is better.  To most, Jordan easily bests Bryant.  He won more titles, didn't lose any Finals, won more MVPs, more scoring titles, more efficient and was a better teammate.  Ah, but Kobe fans can say that he went to more Finals, was a better shooter, hit more game-winners and dumped 81 points in a game.  And the argument begins.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Sportz Assassin's College Football Playoff

Okay, forget that controversial nonsense going on in real life!  Let's try my playoff!

It's the same one I've had for years now.  Twelve teams make it with the champs from each of the "big five conferences" in and the top ranked champion from the non-"big five conferences".  Add in six at-large bids and we are all good.

I'm seeding according to the AP rankings.

FIRST ROUND BYES

1-Alabama (SEC champ)
2-Florida State (ACC champ)
3-Oregon (Pac 12 champ)
4-Baylor (Big 12 champ)

12-Kansas State at 5-Ohio State (Big Ten champ)
11-Boise State (MWC champ) at 6-TCU
10-Ole Miss at 7-Michigan State
9-Georgia Tech at 8-Mississippi State

Here would be the television schedule:

DECEMBER 20
Ole Miss at Michigan State   12p
Kansas State at Ohio State  3p
Georgia Tech at Mississippi State 6p
Boise State at TCU 9p

DECEMBER 27
Michigan St/Ole Miss at Florida State 12p
Mississippi St/Ga Tech at Alabama 3p
TCU/Boise St at Oregon 6p
Ohio St/Kansas St at Baylor  9p

JANUARY 3
Semifinal #1  1p
Semifinal #2  4p

JANUARY 12
National Championship Game  8p

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Big 12 May Need To Expand ... And Here Is Where

Would the Big 12 look west for a new member?
The biggest loser on college football's Selection Sunday was the Big 12 Conference.  Baylor and TCU tied for champions of the league and both were the first two teams out of the Final Four.  TCU had the committee's love last week but Baylor owned the tiebreaker.  The Big 12 commish didn't do his league any favors by wavering on declaring a champion since Baylor was the champ but declaring that meant possibly screwing TCU out of playoff berth.

Turns out neither is going.

Look, when there is a four team playoff and five "big time" conferences, someone gets left out.  The Big 12 feels that being to lone conference of those five that doesn't hold a championship game hurt them.  They may be right.  Not only was the declaration of a champion muddled a bit, but it cost the league a showcase for their best teams.

Alabama played Missouri, Florida State beat Georgia Tech, Ohio State stomped Wisconsin and Oregon blew out Arizona.  Those losing teams were all ranked.  Alabama, FSU, Ohio State and Oregon are in the playoff while TCU, who blew out lowly Iowa State, is not.

The Big 12 is licking its wounds and is looking to change this from happening again.  Right at the very top of the list is expanding from 10 to 12 teams, which would enable them to have a championship game.

So who could they go after to get to those 12 teams?  Let's take a look at the candidates:

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Sportz' College Football Playoff Race (Dec 1)

Forget that College Playoff Rankings crap. I like my postseason better.

I've done this for a few years now. My playoff is 12 teams where the champs of the big six conferences are automatically in, the top ranked champion from one of the other conferences and then five at-large bids (no more than three teams from one conference allowed). I seeded them by using the now-defunct BCS standings.

 With the new way of college football, there is no BCS standings (I'm using a variation of that for this exercise) and there are now a big five conferences and not six. So, we will use the champs from those five leagues, the top champ from a non-five league and then six at-large bids.

 And here is what I got:

 FIRST ROUND BYES

1-Alabama (SEC champ)
2-Florida State (ACC champ)
3-Oregon (Pac 12 champ)
4-TCU 

FIRST ROUND GAMES

12-Boise State (MWC champ) at 5-Baylor (Big 12 champ)     6p
11-Mississippi State at 6-Ohio State (Big Ten champ)             3p
10-Kansas State at 7-Michigan State                                         12p
9-Wisconsin at 8-Arizona                                                          9p

What is interesting is that this weekend we will see Wisconsin play Ohio State, Arizona facing Oregon and Baylor hosting Kansas State ... meaning there will be a ton of movement among the playoff seedings before my final playoff bracket.  Plus if Missouri upsets Alabama, the Tigers will then qualify for a playoff spot and most likely knock Mississippi State or one of the losers of the aforementioned games out of the postseason.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

If UAB Folds Football Program, Where Will Conference USA Look To Next?

UAB may shut down their football program this week.

There are reports out there that the University of Alabama-Birmingham will be shutting down their football program.  That is a rather shocking bit of news since everyone seems to believe college football is such a cash cow no matter who the school is.  It is sad news for the students at UAB, their players, coaches and fans.

So what will become of UAB's membership in Conference USA?

Word is that Conference USA commissioner Britton Banowsky said that the other schools in Conference USA won't support having UAB as a member if they don't have a football program.  That means that UAB, if it drops the sport, will have to find a new conference to join and C-USA will have an opening to fill very quickly.

Conference USA, in it's hierarchy at the college football table, will most likely look to poach from the Sun Belt Conference.  The league will have 14 schools for football next season but played this season with 13 members (Charlotte will make the jump from the FCS).  They could just stick with that.  If they didn't, the Sun Belt would most likely be where they'd look.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Mark Cuban Wants To Realign The NBA

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban is always thinking outside the box ... I appreciate that ... and his latest idea is rather interesting.

He is tired of the Western Conference being so much better than the East.  For example, his Mavericks finished as the 8th seed last season in the West, though they'd have been the No. 3 seed in the East.  His idea is to swap teams around.  Send the Bulls, Pacers, Bucks and Pistons to the West and the Mavericks, Spurs, Rockets and Pelicans will move East.

Sure, those three Texas teams plus New Orleans would look a bit silly east of those Great Lakes teams.  I also don't understand why Memphis wasn't included in this since they are the easternmost team in the Western Conference.  But it would solve some of the problem.  The Spurs have won five championships since 1999 and is a title contender this season.  The Mavericks won a title in 2011 and have been a routine playoff team.  The Rockets won titles in 1994 and 1995 and have an outstanding core of Dwight Howard and James Harden.  The Pelicans are young and talented and feature the next big star in Anthony Davis.  Not to mention those three Texas teams have outstanding front office leadership.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

No, Do NOT Realign The NFL Playoffs

Look, I've always been one for changing things up.  Just go through this blog from ... I dunno ... 2004 until now and you will see me realigning divisions, conferences and playoffs.  So I'm not that old guy that wants everything to stay the same.

However, I'm not big on this talk of the NFL realigning their playoff format.

A little background.

Right now, the AFC North has the Bengals at 7-3-1 while the Browns, Steelers and Ravens all sit at 7-4.  One of those teams are guaranteed to miss the playoffs.  Depending on what the Chargers and Chiefs do in the AFC West, two or all three of those 2nd place teams will miss the postseason.

Meanwhile, the first place team in the NFC South is the Atlanta Falcons with a record of 4-7.  Barring either they or the Saints going 4-1 the rest of the way, the division champion will most likely have a losing record.

Yes, the 4-7 team has a better shot at the postseason than the 7-4 teams.  And, guess what?  That 4-7 squad will actually host a first round playoff game!  Is it fair?  Probably not.  Those Falcons are not a playoff caliber team and the Browns, Steelers and Ravens are much more deserving.  But that's the way it is laid out right now.

I'm fine with that.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Ten Year 'Anniversary' Of The Malice At The Palace

                       

Ten years ago today, the Malice At The Palace happened.  Watch above to relive the moment.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Sportz' College Football Playoff Race (Nov 16)

Forget that College Playoff Rankings crap.  I like my postseason better.

I've done this for a few years now.  My playoff is 12 teams where the champs of the big six conferences are automatically in, the top ranked champion from one of the other conferences and then five at-large bids (no more than three teams from one conference allowed).  I seeded them by using the now-defunct BCS standings.

With the new way of college football, there is no BCS standings (I'm using a variation of that for this exercise) and there are now a big five conferences and not six.  So, we will use the champs from those five leagues, the top champ from a non-five league and then six at-large bids. 

And here is what I got: 

FIRST ROUND BYES
1-Florida State (ACC champ)
2-Alabama (SEC champ)
3-Oregon (Pac 12 champ)
4-Mississippi State

FIRST ROUND GAMES
12-Marshall (CUSA champ) at 5-TCU                     6p
11-UCLA at 6-Baylor (Big 12 champ)                      9p
10-Kansas State at 7-Ohio State                            3p
9-Michigan State at 8-Ole Miss (Big Ten champ)     12p

SECOND ROUND GAMES
Michigan St/Ole Miss at Florida St                        9p              
Ohio St/Kansas St at Alabama                             12p
Baylor/UCLA at Oregon                                        6p
TCU/Marshall at Mississippi St                             3p

Monday, November 17, 2014

Sad Times Again For A Redskin Fan

I've been a Redskins fan since the early 1980s.  That means I've seen the glory days of the franchise with their trio of Super Bowl titles from 1982 to 1991 ... and the tundra that has been the last two decades.  I've seen the amazing Hogs, Doug Williams' brilliant second quarter of Super Bowl XXII and that dominant season on 1991.  I've also watched the team I love turn into a laughingstock on and off the field.

Joe Gibbs.  John Riggins.  Timmy Smith.  Art Monk.  Darrell Green.  Charles Mann. Ricky Sanders.  Gary Clark. Mark Rypien.  Brian Mitchell.  RFK Stadium. Jack Kent Cooke.

Heath Schuler.  Jason Campbell.  Desmond Howard.  Patrick Ramsey.  Trading away Champ Bailey.  Steve Spurrier.  Albert Haynesworth.  Sean Taylor's murder.  FedEx Field.  Dan Snyder.

Well, there was Joe Gibbs again.

It makes no sense, really.  Sports teams do go into funks, but this is rather ridiculous.  Since 1992, the January of the Skins last Super Bowl victory, the NFL has added the Panthers, Jaguars, Texans and the Browns again.  The Rams and Raiders left L.A., the Oilers left Houston and the original Browns turned into the Ravens.  Those Ravens, which play up the street, have won two Super Bowls since becoming a franchise while the Redskins have only won just three playoff games since they won Super Bowl XXVI.

Why, after 23 years, am I venting on my blog that I've run since 2004 right now?  Because yesterday's game just felt differently than most of the 219 regular season losses we've suffered since beating the Bills in 1992.  Losing to the abysmal Tampa Bay Buccaneers ... at home ... after a bye week ... seems like a bottom.  I mean, it is one thing to just be a bad team with a slim ability to win NFL games and playing this bad.  It is another when you were wins over Minnesota and Tampa Bay (very winnable games) from being 5-5 right now and in a playoff chase.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

If I Expanded The NFL To Six More Teams ...

Earlier, I wrote about if I expanded the NFL by eight teams, who would those teams be and where would they go.  What if eight was just waaaaay too much and the NFL just wished to expand by four teams?  That may be more likely.

Using that earlier article, I'm going to use these as my new four franchises:  Los Angeles, London, San Antonio and Portland.  Frankfort just misses out but would be strongly looked at down the road if the London franchise works out.  Toronto just misses out due to Buffalo getting a brand new owner and not trying to steal some of their fan base.

To me, if the NFL did this, they may not like having the eight division format anymore.  That would mean half the divisions would have five teams and the other half with four.  The NFL would look something like this if they went to that:

NFC EAST:  Dallas, NY Giants, Philadelphia, Washington
NFC SOUTH:  Atlanta, Carolina, New Orleans, San Antonio, Tampa Bay
NFC NORTH:  Chicago, Detroit, Green Bay, Minnesota
NFC WEST:  Arizona, Los Angeles, St. Louis, San Francisco, Seattle
AFC EAST:  Buffalo, London, Miami, New England, NY Jets
AFC SOUTH:  Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Tennessee
AFC NORTH:  Baltimore, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh
AFC WEST:  Denver, Kansas City, Oakland, Portland, San Diego

I just am not a fan of that.  Could the NFL ... which is watching a very bad NFC South race that could end up with a sub-.500 champion ... decide to go back to a six-division format?  Maybe.  That NFL could look like this:


If I Expanded The NFL To Eight More Teams ...

If the NFL expanded to 8 more teams, of course
L.A. would get at least one of those teams.

If I expanded the NFL to eight more teams, who would I pick?

First off, let me just say that I'm not unsatisfied with the 32-team member league at all.  I like the setup of the 32 teams in eight 4-team divisions.  I love the schedule and the whole deal.

But, ya know, let's just say that it was going to happen.  And you can't just add two or four teams, right?  I wouldn't like the 1980s way of having two four team divisions while the other four had five teams.  Let all the divisions have five teams.

So who would I pick to make a 40-team league?  If any league could pull it off, it would be the NFL.  Oh, and I may go a bit out there with my new league.

Now, how do I do this?  In adding eight teams, should I make two new divisions of four teams?  Or should I add a fifth team to each division.  I'd rather do the latter, but it may be tough to do since I'm going a bit wild with some of my franchised cities.  Also, I'm going to go on the naive premise that no one is relocating.  I know that Los Angeles is trying to lure the Rams, Raiders or Chargers back to town but for this exercise, none of that is happening.

First, the cities I'd want to see teams in.

-LOS ANGELES:  LA is going to get a team if the NFL has to buy the team themselves and run it.  It will happen one way or another.

-LONDON:  The NFL also seems hellbent on placing a team in London as well.  I've been a bit torn on this since I'm not sure if London would truly support a team that was there all the time.  These few games they get a season are event games that see people from all over Europe attending.  Would that last with a permanent team?  Which leads me to add ...

-FRANKFORT:  If you are going to put one team in Europe, I think you should put a second team over there as well.  Why Frankfort?  Well, when NFL Europe was a thing, Germany really supported American Football.  The Frankfort Galaxy drew very well and the league ended up with teams in Berlin, Cologne, Dusseldorf and Hamburg.

-SAN ANTONIO:  San Antonio did a great job hosting the Saints during Hurricane Katrina, Texas is a football crazy state and they've long been the bridesmaid while other franchises use them as leverage for a new stadium.

-PORTLAND:  Portland is a great town and certainly has the wherewithal to support an NFL team.

-TORONTO:  If we were going to have some international flavor, Toronto deserves a team.  They've hosted Bills games for a while now, football is popular in Canada and we Americans are used to having Toronto in our sports leagues (see: Maple Leafs, Blue Jays, Raptors).

-SALT LAKE CITY:  I think this one is a no-brainer.  Utah has been a great NBA area and football would seem to work just as well.  Like I've always said, the NFL isn't like other sports where it is impossible to get free agents to go to smaller or less desirable markets.

-OKLAHOMA CITY:  Same as SLC.  The NBA has shown that this is a great sports town and they could certainly support an NFL franchise.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------


Stop It With The College Football Playoff Rankings!!!!!

The college football playoff committee is entrusted to pick the new
four team playoff, but why do we need them to pick these teams now?

Every Tuesday, ESPN and the sports world sets aside some time to unveil that week's college football rankings.  The committee who sorts through who will ultimately make the playoffs keeps releasing their "rankings" even though we are a month away from actually having all the information in front of us.  Then ESPN and the rest of college football fans and media can break it all down as if this really was a thing.

It is silly.

Does the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee gather together in January and release their tournament bracket each week even though none of it matters until the actual selection Sunday?  No.  So why do we have to have this weekly update over who is their top four teams to get in ... and why do we need a full Top 25?

I know, I know.  You can scroll down and read my imaginary 12-team playoff race and think I'm a hypocrite.  Sure, there are zillions of bracketology sites for the NCAA Tournament.  But that is just media and fans getting a grip on what could happen.  That, again, isn't the actual tournament committee coming up with their official bracket at the moment so we can gripe about it.


Sportz Assassin College Football Playoff Race


Forget that College Playoff Rankings crap.  I like my postseason better.

I've done this for a few years now.  My playoff is 12 teams where the champs of the big six conferences are automatically in, the top ranked champion from one of the other conferences and then five at-large bids (no more than three teams from one conference allowed).  I seeded them by using the now-defunct BCS standings.

With the new way of college football, there is no BCS standings (I'm using a variation of that for this exercise) and there are now a big five conferences and not six.  So, we will use the champs from those five leagues, the top champ from a non-five league and then six at-large bids.

And here is what I got:

FIRST ROUND BYES
1-Mississippi State (SEC champ)
2-Florida State (ACC champ)
3-Oregon (Pac 12 champ)
4-Alabama

FIRST ROUND GAMES
12-Marshall (CUSA champ) at 5-TCU                     6p
11-Michigan State at 6-Baylor (Big 12 champ)        3p
10-Nebraska at 7-Arizona State                                9p
9-Auburn at 8-Ohio State (Big Ten champ)             12p

SECOND ROUND GAMES
Arizona St/Nebraska at Florida State                        12p
TCU/Marshall at Alabama                                        3p
Ohio St/Auburn at Mississippi State                         6p
Baylor/Michigan State at Oregon                              9p

Sunday, October 26, 2014

NFL Coaches On The Hot Seat (Pre-Halloween Edition)

REX RYAN, JETS:  Ryan has survived the ax the last two years, but it seems all but inevitable that Ryan will be out of Gotham Green after this season.  They are 1-7 and Ryan's usually stout defense is giving up over 28 points-per-game.  Ryan has also wasted away two top quarterback picks in Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith.

MIKE SMITH, FALCONS:  I thought Atlanta's sad sack season of 2013 was an aberration.  Injuries and bad luck just strangled them.  Well, the 2014 Falcons are checking in at the halfway point with a 2-6 mark and they just wasted away a 21-point lead to the Lions in London.  Smith's Falcons have been close to a Super Bowl but didn't push through, meaning he doesn't have the kind of cache to survive this kind of nosedive.

MARC TRESTMAN, BEARS:  Chicago was supposed to contend for an NFC North title and a possible Super Bowl berth.  However, these Bears are mired in a slide where they've lost 4 of 5 games and two of their three wins have come against bottom feeders Jets and Falcons.  This pasting by the Patriots this Sunday doesn't help matters.  Chicago's saving grace is that they still face the Lions and Vikings twice each and the Packers once more ... making a surge up the standings possible.


Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Redskins Are 1-5 ... And Check Out Who Also Sucks

You are what your record says you are.  So despite how you want to frame it, the Washington Redskins (my favorite team) is 1-5.

Who else sucks?  Five other teams have 0 or 1 wins on the season and none of them are who you want to be associated with:

ST. LOUIS (1-4):  The Rams have been competitive this year, but they are the lone team to lose to the Buccaneers.

TAMPA BAY (1-5):  The Bucs have been horrid this season.  Tampa Bay has lost a game 56-14 and 48-17 this season.  No one has given up more points than Tampa's 204. Ugh.

NEW YORK JETS (1-5):  The Jets are a mess.  Whether it is Geno Smith cussing at fans or missing meetings because he's at the movies, it is Michael Vick saying he wasn't prepared to play when called upon.

OAKLAND (0-5):  The Raiders are scoring an NFL-low 79 points this season.  And they are the Jets only win on the season.

JACKSONVILLE (0-6):  Those Jags.  People even pegged them as a possible surprise team this year.   They are averaging a league low 13.5 ppg this season, are being outscored by 104 points this season.  They are bad.

So I'm watching these teams as if they are in their own division.

Jets 1-0  (W Raiders)
Buccaneers 1-0  (W Rams)
Redskins 1-0 (W Jaguars)
Rams 0-1 (L Bucs)
Raiders 0-1 (L Jets)
Jaguars 0-1 (L Redskins)

W11: Tampa Bay at Washington
W13: Oakland at St Louis
W14: St Louis at Washington

Monday, October 6, 2014

NBA 2014-2015 Predictions (East)

LeBron is back in Cleveland.  But can he bring with him
the success he had in Miami?

Later this month, the NBA season will be underway.  So let's look at how I ... the Sportz Assassin ... see the Eastern Conference unfolding (check the West here).

1-CHICAGO BULLS

Good:  The Bulls are a tough bunch.  They are defensively sound and won despite being limited offensively.  They get Derrick Rose back, who looked great for Team USA.  They also get Doug McDermott to be the off-ball scoring threat they've longed for.  Oh, and Pau Gasol is a perfect compliment to Joakim Noah on the baseline.  I really like this team.

Bad:  Rose has played just 49 games in three years for the Bulls.  This is a decent team without him, but Rose turns them into a legit contender.  Can you trust him to stay healthy?

2-CLEVELAND CAVALIERS

Good:  You go from missing the playoffs to adding LeBron James and Kevin Love.  How can it get any better than that?  Oh yeah, you resigned Kyrie Irving to a long term deal and surround them all with guys like Mike Miller, Shawn Marion and Brandon Hayward.

Bad:  Aside from LeBron, none of their starters ... okay Anderson Varejao ... has played in the postseason.  There will be an obvious learning curve that may stunt their growth at times.  Plus, there will be a big honeymoon period right now so there isn't the pressure to bring home an immediate title like there was for LeBron in Miami.

3-WASHINGTON WIZARDS

Good:  The young Wizards finally found success last year and hung on to Marcin Gortat in free agency.  They also added Paul Pierce, which gives them huge playoff experience as well as a guy that can rise to the occasion.

Bad:  Not much, except for the fact that they have arrived and are now expected to win.  Can they handle that?

4-TORONTO RAPTORS

Good:  Kyle Lowry returns.  So does a very talented and cohesive roster.  DeMar DeRozan gained valuable experience with Team USA.

Bad:  No one will respect them, which is fine.  While they are a team that plays together, do they have enough go-to guys to make a difference when the playoffs come around?


Cincinnati TV Station Gets Their Panthers Mixed Up



Cincinnati's NBC affiliate, WLWT, must have someone in the graphics department that doesn't know their football.  The Bengals, who lost badly to the Patriots last night, will face the NFL's Carolina Panthers next Sunday.

The graphic says that the Bengals will instead play the Eastern Illinois Panthers.  Who?  Yeah, wrong Panthers.

Eastern Illinois plays in the NCAA Division I FCS in the Ohio Valley Conference.  Eastern Illinois is currently 1-4 this season.  According to the OVC's website, those Panthers will be a few miles south next weekend as they'll face Eastern Kentucky in Richmond, KY.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

NBA 2014-2015 Predictions (West)

The Spurs are the defending champions.  But will the be the
best in the West this coming season?

Later this month, the NBA season will be underway.  So let's look at how I ... the Sportz Assassin ... see the Western Conference unfolding.

1-OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

Good:  Kevin Durant is coming off an MVP season.  OKC is coming off a season where Russell Westbrook missed a lot of time due to injury and Serge Ibaka missed key games in the postseason.  Anthony Morrow was added to help stretch defenses.

Bad:  Thabo Sefalosha is gone and he was their premiere perimeter defender.  As good was the Thunder have been, the core have been to just one Finals.  With KD's free agency looming, will there be some weirdness among the team?

2-SAN ANTONIO SPURS

Good:  They are defending champs who have been to the Finals two straight years.  They know what they are doing.

Bad: They are all a year older and that motivation of letting a title slip away from them isn't there anymore.

3-LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

Good:  The Donald Sterling mess has been resolved so not only is that storyline not hanging over their head, but they went from a cheap owner to one that wants to make good on his hefty investment.

Bad:  They lost some depth and they haven't really added that "it" role guy to help bring it all together.

4-DALLAS MAVERICKS

Good:  The Mavs are a talented bunch that added Chandler Parsons and Raymond Felton.  There is a lot of depth with guys like Devin Harris, Jameer Nelson, Al-Farouq Aminu and Brandan Wright coming off the bench.

Bad: But is Felton right to lead this offense?  And is this team too old?  It is starting Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler in the power spots.


Friday, October 3, 2014

I'd Like To See NHL Add Two Teams, Go To 8 Divisions

If you know my blog, I like tinkering around with divisions.  In the NFL ... keep them the same.  In baseball, I'd like the old NL and AL East and West.  In the NBA, just give me a Western and Eastern conference and screw the divisions (or go back to the 4 division format of yore).

In the NHL, I'm torn on the newer four division format.  The NHL, unlike the NBA, employs a division heavy scheduling format.  So making smaller divisions makes sense.  That's why I wasn't as angry at the six-division format the NHL had that the NBA still uses.  I don't like the current format where the two divisions in the Eastern Conference have 8 teams and the two in the West have 7.  That's not very fair when half the teams in the East get into the playoffs and 57% of the teams in the West do.

That being said, I'd like for the NHL ... as which has been rumored all summer ... to add two new expansion teams and make the conferences even at 16.  Those franchises will be, I decree, in Seattle and Houston (I'm not against Las Vegas, Quebec or Toronto getting ones either, but I think those two are the favorites).  There.

Now go against what I usually want and actually expand out like the NFL (the only other major league with 32 teams) and have two conferences with four divisions each.  Since, like the NFL, intra-division scheduling is weighted, I like this a lot.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

NORTHEAST:  Boston, Buffalo, Montreal, Ottawa
ATLANTIC:  New Jersey, NY Islanders, NY Rangers, Philadelphia
CENTRAL:  Columbus, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Toronto
SOUTHEAST:  Carolina, Florida, Tampa Bay, Washington

WESTERN CONFERENCE

MIDWEST:  Chicago, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis
SOUTHWEST:  Arizona, Colorado, Dallas, Winnipeg
NORTHWEST: Calgary, Edmonton, Seattle, Vancouver
PACIFIC:  Anaheim, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Jose

I like this.  Again, the NHL isn't like the other leagues where they really depend on geography to help with travel and align divisions accordingly.  And the scheduling is easy:

SIX games each against division teams.  Play each three times at home and three on the road.  (18 total)

FOUR games each against the teams in the same division.  Two at home and two on the road. (48 total)

ONE game against each team in the other conference.  Play half the teams at home and half on the road.  I'd like it to split each division so you'd play two teams in one division at home and two on the road.  That would allow, say, for each Western team to play a game in New York every year and every East team to play a game in the Los Angeles area.  I'll have the splits below. (16 total)

There is your 82 game schedule.  Simple, eh?  Then the champs of each division makes the playoffs with the four best non-winners from each conference making up the wildcard.  Those teams qualify for the playoffs, but seed them by total points.  There you go.

Okay, here are your splits:
Boston/Buffalo, Montreal/Ottawa, NY Islanders/NY Rangers, New Jersey/Philadelphia, Detroit/Toronto, Columbus/Pittsburgh, Florida/Tampa Bay, Carolina/Washington, Chicago/Minnesota, Nashville/St Louis, Arizona/Dallas, Colorado/Winnipeg, Calgary/Edmonton, Seattle/Vancouver, Anaheim/Los Angeles, Las Vegas/San Jose

That's what I would like to see.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Derek Jeter Tour Overblown?

When you are rich, people just give you things
We are winding down the Derek Jeter era for the Yankees Major League Baseball world and many are asking the question of whether the Love Tour is necessary.  To me ... no.  While Jeter is a Yankee legend and one of the better players of our time, this is much too much.

First off, the tour itself.  I hate them, unless you are really one of the all-time greats.  I mean GREATS.  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar deserved one.  So did Jeter's teammate Mo Rivera.  Chipper Jones?  Not so much.

That isn't to belittle those other players.  Jones and Jeter are sure fire Hall of Famers.  Any player that means a lot to an organization should get some special occasion during the final homestand.  I'm one of those people who understands not only HOFers like Jeter and Jones are important to their teams' fans but gutty guys who won't make it into Cooperstown also can get some love.  Dave Concepcion in Cincinnati?  Or even a Derek Fisher in Los Angeles.  Cedric Maxwell in Boston.  Those guys and many others mean a lot to their franchises too.

Jeter is above those guys and I understand that but is a run of gifts really necessary?  Did the Reds really need to give Jeter framed jerseys of Concepcion and Barry Larkin, the two best shortstops in Cincinnati history?  Or that the Chicago Cubs gave Jeter the number 2 from their ancient hand-operated scoreboard?  Especially when Jeter played about 5 games in Wrigley.

I remember when Kareem Abdul Jabbar did his tour in 1988-1989 and he came to Charlotte.  The Hornets were in their inaugural season and Jabbar was making his first ever trip there ... yet the team gave him a rocking chair.  Welcome to Charlotte!  Sorry we didn't get to know each other better!

Unlike Keith Olbermann, I'm not going to go into Jeter's status among the greatest of the greats.  I know he is transcendent but he isn't Jabbar, Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky or Walter Payton.  I also know he's had a Hall Of Fame career for the biggest sports franchise in our country.  I get ESPN's fawning over the tour (moving game times to televise the Yankees).  I know he's important to the Yankees which means he's supposed to be important to us.  Maybe not as much as Roger Clemens sitting in George Steinbrenner's box, but important.  

Jeter is a pretty pure guy and in an era where we can't even celebrate our greatest players, I can see why people latch onto his legacy.  To me, Clemens, Barry Bonds, Ricky Henderson, Ken Griffey Jr and Tony Gwynn were the best players in my time.  There are others, but that was my wheelhouse.  None of them got victory tours for a variety of reasons (steroids, jerks or broken down at the end of their career).  So I get the need to express your admiration for a clutch player who played "the right way".

This, however, is right after Mo Rivera's victory lap ... which was deserved a bit.  Again, I'm not a fan of these things but if anyone should had one, the greatest reliever in the history of baseball should be one to do so.  But is this going to be a trend?  I mean, Chipper Jones had his in 2012, Rivera in 2013 and Jeter in 2014.  I mean, will David Ortiz get one when he retires?  I mean, he was a huge part of the Red Sox winning three World Series and ending a near century long championship drought.

Let's just have a national conversation about who deserves to have these tours.  I mean, Kobe Bryant will retire soon and I don't want to know what the fans in Denver will have to give to him.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Hurricane Hugo Hit 25 Years Ago Today. How Sports Have Changed

Hurricane Hugo hit Charlotte overnight on September 22, 1989.  I was a 14 year old junior high football player when that happened and it was quite the event.  No power or school for nearly two weeks.  Gas lines, fallen trees, showers by candle light.  Ahhhh.

I'm a sports nerd, so I look at things in a different way when it comes to timelines.  How did our sports look back in September 1989?

NEW FRANCHISES

These franchises didn't exist at that time:  Miami Marlins, Colorado Rockies, Arizona Diamondbacks, Tampa Bay Rays, Carolina Panthers, Jacksonville Jaguars, Baltimore Ravens, Houston Texans, Anaheim Ducks, San Jose Sharks, Minnesota Wild, Nashville Predators, Atlanta Thrashers/Winnipeg Jets, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, Ottawa Senators, Columbus Blue Jackets, Toronto Raptors, Memphis Grizzlies and Charlotte Bobcats.

The Orlando Magic and Minnesota Timberwolves were set to debut the following month.

RELOCATED FRANCHISES

Since then the Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans.  The Montreal Expos became the Washington Nationals.  The Cleveland Browns moved to Baltimore and became the Ravens, but then got a new Browns team back.  The Houston Oilers are now the Tennessee Titans.  The Los Angeles Raiders are now in Oakland and the Los Angeles Rams are in St. Louis.  The New Jersey Nets now reside in Brooklyn.  Seattle Super Sonics are now Oklahoma City Thunder.  In the NHL, the Winnipeg Jets became the Arizona Coyotes, Quebec Nordiques became the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota North Stars became the Dallas Stars, Hartford Whalers became the Carolina Hurricanes.

Since then, we also had the Vancouver Grizzlies born then move to Memphis.  The Atlanta Thrashers were born and moved to Winnipeg to become the new Jets.

NAME CHANGES

The Washington Bullets became the Wizards.  The New Orleans Hornets are now the Pelicans. The California Angels changed to the Anaheim Angels and then the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.  The Phoenix Coyotes became the Arizona Coyotes.

The Charlotte Hornets moved to New Orleans ... and then changed their name to the Pelicans, which the Charlotte Bobcats then changed to the Hornets.

That doesn't even take into account the Florida Marlins turning into the Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Devil Rays into the Tampa Bay Rays, Anaheim Mighty Ducks into just the Ducks,

LEAGUE STRUCTURES

In the NFL, we had two conferences with the East, Central and West divisions.  The MLB had just the East and West in each league -- no interleague play or wildcards -- with the division winners facing off in the LCS.  The NBA had just four divisions (Atlantic, Central, Midwest, Pacific).  So did the NHL, but they were the Adams, Patrick, Norris and Smythe divisions.

The Houston Astros have moved from the NL to the AL.  The Milwaukee Brewers moved from the AL to the NL.  The Seattle Seahawks moved from the NFC to the AFC.

STADIUMS

*Only 7 of the 30 MLB stadiums were around then.  The Blue Jays' SkyDome was brand spanking new.

*Only 8 of the 31 NFL stadiums were around then.  The newest stadium at that time was Joe Robbie Stadium in Miami.

*Only 5 of the 30 NHL arenas were around then, including classics like Madison Square Garden and Joe Louis Arena.

*Only 4 of the 29 NBA arenas were around.  Oracle Arena and Sleep Train Arena (formerly Oakland Arena and ARCO Arena) are set to be replaced.  The other two?  Bradley Center and Madison Square Garden.

Remember all the multipurpose stadiums?  Then the Braves and Falcons, Reds and Bengals, Angels and Rams, Indians and Browns, Mariners and Seahawks, Giants and 49ers, Astros and Oilers, Pirates and Steelers, Phillies and Eagles, Padres and Chargers and Twins and Vikings all shared stadiums.

Now only the Athletics and Raiders share a stadium.

TELEVISION

The NBA was on CBS.  The NFL had their AFC games on NBC, the NFC games on CBS, Monday Night Football on ABC and Sunday Night football on ESPN.  MLB was on ABC and NBC.

FANTASY FOOTBALL

This would've been a great fantasy football team in 1989:

QB-Jim Everett (Rams)
RB-Christian Okoye (Chiefs)
RB-Barry Sanders (Lions)
WR-Jerry Rice (49ers)
WR-Sterling Sharpe (Packers)
TE-Keith Jackson (Eagles)
K-Mike Cofer (49ers)
DEF-Eagles

OTHER NOTES

* Michael Jordan hadn't won a championship yet

Yeah! The Citrus Bowl Is Back!


I've been for the college bowls going back to typical bowl names.  I don't mind the sponsorships, but I hate when the sponsors become the bowl names.

Earlier this year, the Peach Bowl returned after a run where it became the Chick-fil-A Bowl.  Sure, it was a money motivated decision since the Peach Bowl wanted to be part of the college football playoff (which requires bowls to not have sponsorship-only names).  Now my other big offender, the Capital One Bowl, will go back to being named the Citrus Bowl.

Capital One has been the sponsor of the Citrus Bowl since 2001, with the name changing to the Capital One Bowl from 2003 to 2014.  I didn't like that at all.  Well, Capital One has replaced Discover as the sponsor of the Orange Bowl and, in turn, gives life to the Citrus Bowl.

Buffalo Wild Wings will be the sponsor of the Citrus Bowl, a year after leaving the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe (that game will now be the Cactus Bowl).

We got rid of the Capital One Bowl for the Citrus Bowl, the Chick-fil-A Bowl for the Peach Bowl and the John Hancock Bowl for the Sun Bowl.  All isn't great, though.  The Gator Bowl is shamefully now named the TaxSlayer Bowl.  Disgusting.

All we need is the Outback Bowl to go back to the Hall Of Fame Bowl, Russell Athletic Bowl back to the Sunshine Bowl, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl back to the Humanitarian Bowl and the GoDaddy Bowl back to Alabama Bowl.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

ESPN ... Leave Michael Sam Alone (Other NFL Notes)

Michael Sam has become the new Tim Tebow.

I'm not comparing their play, their social importance or whatever to the sports landscape or even their fanbase.  I mean that ESPN just won't leave them alone.

During the Tim Tebow Era of ESPN, his name was all over the network.  It could be March and they were name dropping him.  First Take would spend pretty much every day bringing him up in their debates.  SportsCenter would talk about him for no reason.  I'm not getting into why all of that happened, but it happened.

They are doing the same with Sam even though no one really is asking for it.  Yes, Sam is attempting to be the first openly gay player.  I hope he makes it just because he's a good player and seems like a good guy.  I hope a lot of these young guys reach their dreams too but I know that the reality is that many dreams die on cut day.  Yet Sam is singled out which is exactly what you really don't want to do.  Go to ESPN.com and their main headlines has been "Rams making cuts but Sam is still on the roster".  Nice.  What about the 17 guys who were cut?  Only two of those players, Garrett Gilbert and Mitchell Van Dyk, were mentioned by name.

Sam's name was mentioned seven times in the article and included a quote.

Please, ESPN, don't make him into a caricature.  Don't make people hate him just because you won't stop talking about him.

LAW FIRM

BenJarvus Green-Ellis was cut by the Bengals which was no surprise to anyone ... least of all, Green-Ellis.  The only shame is how the Bengals used him this preseason.  They knew they didn't want to keep him, but kept him on the roster as basically a guy to work out their defense in practice and take on the injury risk during the preseason.

That's the way the roster game is played, but it still kinda sucks.  BJGE may have a shot elsewhere as a veteran back without a ton of mileage, but I'm sure he wishes he could've had a shot at earning a job during the preseason elsewhere than being the guy who is your sacrificial lamb during the preseason.

Other interesting names that could be cut:  Mario Manningham, Champ Bailey and Stevan Ridley.

SILAS REDD-SKIN

As a Redskins fan, I'm glad that Silas Redd made the team.  I've like his running style for a while and feel he could be a guy who could be a diamond in the rough if he can stay healthy.  That's a big if, but I don't think the Redskins were making a big gamble choosing him over the other backs they cut ... including their veteran Evan Royster.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Sportz' NFL Preview


Ahhhhhhhhh!  It is that time of year again.  Football is back, baseball is in the home stretch, kids are back in school, fantasy football drafts are being held and the sound of basketballs hitting gym floor is around the corner.

After a month hiatus, I'm back refreshed to look forward to the fall.  College Saturdays and NFL Sundays.  And like every year at this time, I'm going to take yet another stab at trying to predict the NFL season.

NFC EAST
1-EAGLES*

2-REDSKINS
3-GIANTS
4-COWBOYS

OUTLOOK:
 The NFC East will be tight, but not really in the best way.  Other than the Eagles, the rest of the division is under a lot of change.  New offenses, new coaching and key guys coming back from injury will define their seasons.  Philly won the division a year ago and pretty much has the whole gang back.  They've now had a year under Chip Kelly's reign and should get off to a better start.  Adding Darren Sproles could be unfair.  The other three teams?  Well the Redskins have a new head coach and a new attitude.  If RG3 shows more of his rookie season than his sophomore one, they could make a strong push for a playoff spot.  They will need a lot more from their defense and for the offense to get to clicking.  Eli Manning was awful last year for the G-men and they got him a new offensive coordinator.  They spent a lot of money to surround Eli, but the defensive front seven is unusually weak.  I don't have them in the basement just off of Tom Coughlin.  Dallas could be anywhere.  They have the offensive weapons to win this division or this season could be a disaster.  The defense is horrid, Tony Romo is coming off a back injury that caused him to miss the win-and-your-in finale last season and Jason Garrett is still the coach.  The hope rests with Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray ... and that sounds a bit scary.

NFC SOUTH
1-SAINTS*
2-FALCONS
3-PANTHERS

4-BUCCANEERS

OUTLOOK:
 The South is usually unpredictable, so I'm going with that thinking again.   Like pretty much every team in the league, each of these clubs have big questions and reasons for optimism.  I'm going with the Saints to win this division.  The offense may not be the juggernaut it was a few years back, but Jimmy Graham is nearly unguardable ... and pissed.  They still have a stunning home field advantage and that defense really improved under Rob Ryan.  Call me stupid, but I'm high on the Falcons again.  Yeah, last year I picked them to go to the Super Bowl and they finished among the worst teams in the league.  But injuries just killed them last year and I feel the offense will be so much improved, even if the defense isn't.  I have the Panthers falling a bit.  Sorry, but having an entire new stable of receivers isn't a plus for me, especially when the receivers that left weren't all that great (anymore, in Steve Smith's case).  Cam Newton is a beast, but that offensive line is patchwork.  The defense is stout and would have to have an all-time great season to win the division again for Carolina.  Tampa Bay is a much improving team, but this division could swallow them.  Lovie Smith will get them on the right track, but we may not see drastic results just yet.

NFC NORTH
1-PACKERS*
2-BEARS*
3-LIONS
4-VIKINGS

OUTLOOK:
 To me, there may be no more fun division than this!  Honestly, each team will be fun to watch.  The Packers are strong, especially with Aaron Rodgers (hopefully) back to play 16 games this season.  He missed a ton of time last year and they still won the division.  The Bears offense is bonkers.  The Lions, though now without Scott Linehan, always has potential to put up video game numbers.  All three defenses have their holes, so expect some shootouts.  I separate them by history.  The Packers have shown me the confidence in Rodgers and Mike McCarthy to win a division.  The Bears have shown me the ability to hang in there but just not reaching the top.  The Lions have shown me the ability to let me down right when I think they have it figured out.  Minnesota is the odd child here, but this is a team that made the postseason two years ago and actually finished only 3 games back of the division champs.  They'll be playing outdoors this season and still have Adrian Peterson.  They also have Norv Turner running the offense and Mike Zimmer, the new head coach, one of the better defensive minds.  Again, this division should be fun!

NFC WEST
1-SEAHAWKS*
2-49ERS*
3-CARDINALS
4-RAMS

OUTLOOK:
 The Super Bowl champs reside here as do the NFC title game runners-up.  To most people, the two best NFC teams are the Seahawks and Niners.  I'm one of them.  Seattle's home field advantage is real as is their defense (though they lost some key guys).  Russell Wilson's leadership was a breakout star and Marshawn Lynch still has some left in the tank.  Remember that Percy Harvin pretty much missed all of last season as well.  The 49ers move into their new digs in Santa Clara which makes me a bit cautious of having them pass Seattle.  I know it may seem dumb, but a new stadium doesn't always equal to a home field advantage.  It may take them a while to get used to Levi Stadium about an hour away from San Francisco.  Arizona was a bit of a surprise last year (they finished 10-6), and they could be better ... especially if Carson Palmer cuts down on the turnovers.  Losing Karlos Dansby and Daryl Washington could really delay that.  The Rams, again, see Sam Bradford severely injured and it may be time to move on from the former No. 1 overall pick.  St. Louis has a very good defense, but in a league filled with dynamic offenses they just can't match that power.

NFC PLAYOFF PICKS
Packers, Seahawks, Saints, Eagles, 49ers, Bears

NFC TITLE GAME
49ers over Seahawks

-------------------------------------------------------------

AFC EAST
1-PATRIOTS*
2-DOLPHINS

3-JETS
4-BILLS


OUTLOOK:  This should be pretty easy for the Patriots to win.  Tom Brady & Co are the only team that has the look of a division champion.  The other three teams have to show me a bit.  Something about the Dolphins makes me place them second.  Despite all the crap that went on last year, Miami went 8-8.  Get rid of all that nonsense and maybe the Phins can improve.  The Jets got Eric Decker and Chris Johnson (as well as drafting receivers) to help out Geno Smith.  Even at their weakest, Rex Ryan's defenses tend to do well so Smith ... or Michael Vick ... can have success.  Buffalo is in the same boat.  E.J. Manuel now has a big time receiver in Sammy Watkins and a decent defense to help him along.

AFC SOUTH
1-COLTS*
2-TITANS
3-TEXANS
4-JAGUARS

OUTLOOK:
 Just like the Patriots will dominate the East, the Colts should cruise through the South.  Andrew Luck is nearly among the elite QBs in the league and there is talent all around him.  No, maybe it isn't Super Bowl talent but it is plenty good enough to win this sad division.  I'm going with the Titans next since I do like Jake Locker.   He may be unreliable but he's pretty good.  Chris Johnson is gone, but this Bishop Sankey could be the break out back this season.  Houston could have a great defense and guys like Arian Foster and Andrew Johnson are still there, but that offense is being led by Ryan Fitzpatrick ... who is now just a journeyman.  If he has one of his low-turnover, high passing seasons, the Texans could fight for a playoff spot.  The Jaguars will be improved, but are still looking towards the future.  I think Blake Bortles will get the starting gig soon and will have the usual growing pains.

AFC NORTH
1-BENGALS*
2-RAVENS*
3-STEELERS
4-BROWNS

OUTLOOK:  
The Bengals look to repeat as division champions and certainly have the talent to do it.  Andy Dalton got paid, A.J. Green is among the best receivers in the NFL and they have a top notch defense.  However, Cincinnati's two coordinators, Jay Gruden and Mike Zimmer, are now the head coaches in Washington and Minnesota, respectively.  How will a change on both sides of the ball affect Cincy?  The Ravens and Steelers should fight for a wildcard berth.  Baltimore took a huge tumble after their Super Bowl season and watched their star running back, Ray Rice, go through a rough offseason.  Gary Kubiak is the new offensive coordinator, so it will be interesting to see how Joe Flacco performs.  The Steelers are in the same boat.  They struggled last season, but did win their final three games to make a late playoff push and give hope to this season.  The Browns still live at the bottom, but they do have two things going for them.  That defense is pretty darn good and they will get their share of (over) exposure due to Johnny Football.

AFC WEST
1-BRONCOS*
2-CHARGERS*
3-CHIEFS
4-RAIDERS

OUTLOOK:
 Denver is the class of the AFC, to me.  Some think they could go undefeated, but I don't think that's worth the trouble.  Remember that they broke a ton of offensive records only to go down in flames in the Super Bowl.  The Broncos are truly the only team in the NFL that is in a "Championship or Bust" mode.  Anything less will be a horrid disappointment.  After the Broncos, I think the Chargers are team to deal with in the division.  They surprised many by making the playoffs last year.  I think they will be even more improved with the depth they added this offseason.  Kansas City was that team that came from the bottom and made the playoffs.  Could Andy Reid's team fall back down or will Alex Smith and Jamal Charles make another postseason run?  The Raiders could be the worst team in the NFL.  The most interesting thing about them will be the rumors of them moving to Los Angeles, San Antonio or anywhere.

AFC PLAYOFF PICKS
Broncos, Patriots, Colts, Bengals, Ravens, Chargers

AFC TITLE GAME
Patriots over Broncos

-------------------------------------------------------------

NFL OVERALL OUTLOOK

It looks like this every season, but there seems to be a glut of mediocrity in the league, which should make the wildcard races stunning, and very few elite teams.  To me, the Broncos and Patriots are by far the best in the AFC with the Seahawks, Niners and, possibly, the Packers in that league in the NFC.  I think the Rams, Raiders, Browns and Jaguars will be among the weakest teams of the league.  Everyone else is up for grabs.

I have a 49ers-Patriots Super Bowl.  Both teams lost their respective conference championship games last season.  Both have improved and may be able to knock off their opponents in my conference title game rematches.  And both can do so on the road.

I know that isn't going out on much of a limb, but I'm leaning more toward a chalk season.  Yeah, we could get some awesome stories like a Steelers rise back to the postseason, the Texans going from worst to first, an amazing race in the NFC North or seeing what Andy Reid's Chiefs do for an encore.

To me, all that will whittle down and the cream will rise to the top.  Yeah, we love to make fun of the fact that the Patriots haven't won a Super Bowl in a decade.  But they lost two nail biters and have been to 8 of the last 13 AFC title games.  The Broncos could pull a sequel of their record breaking 2013 season and they are fully a championship-or-bust team, but the Peyton Manning led squad will come up short.

In the NFC, Seattle and San Francisco are the class of the league.  I see them facing off three times with a Super Bowl berth on the line again.  This time, the Niners win it.

In the Super Bowl?  San Francisco over New England.  The Patriots yet again lose a close Super Bowl due to a big game by Colin Kaepernick.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Cavs Making Moves: NBA Free Agent Freeze Ready To Thaw?

Will LeBron James come back to Cleveland, or will
he break Cavs fans hearts again.
Eventually rumors can become facts.

The NBA's free agency period (a moratorium right now until July 10th) has been not much more than rumors.  The fact that Josh McRoberts signing with the Heat is getting a lot of attention tells you just how little anything concrete is happening.  No, it has been more about guessing where LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are going to go and following various owners' private jets to this point.

But now it may be happening.

Today is Wednesday, and LeBron James has a meeting set up with Pat Riley and various Miami Heat bigwigs.  Many feel that either Riley will lock in LeBron by the end of the day ... or that LeBron won't hear what he wants and will indeed move on.  Now the Cleveland Cavaliers have made a three way trade that dumps Jarrett Jack and Tyler Zeller off their books for a 2nd round draft pick -- obviously a salary cap move in order to sign LeBron.  Word is that they've also been chatting with Ray Allen, who has said he'd follow LeBron to his next destination, and Mike Miller.

To many, that destination is either Cleveland or Miami for LeBron.  While that would seem like a no-brainer to most, it really isn't.  Cleveland, essentially LeBron's home, offers a wealth of young talent right now.  They have Kyrie Irving, Andrew Wiggins, Anderson Varejao and some other young guys.  Miami, right now, has nothing.  Sure, Miami could bring the band back together but what is that?  LeBron, a guy in Chris Bosh who may not have that killer instinct to take the second in command role, a clearly fading Dwyane Wade and the same roster problems of filling the rest of the team with aging vets willing to play for the minimum or youn pups that aren't ready for prime time.  That still may be good enough to get back to the NBA Finals or even win another championship.  But LeBron didn't seem to have as much fun last year playing his rear end off while fellow star Wade rested and Bosh seemed content in his subservient role.

Granted, Cleveland won't have the same star power.  Maybe.  Irving is a rising star but he doesn't have Wade's or Bosh's status in the League or with LeBron.  However, the Cavs could turn a few of their young stars ... namely the current No. 1 overall pick Andrew Wiggins ... and turn him into Kevin Love.  Love wants out of Minnesota and the Wolves might listen if the Cavs offered Wiggins in a package.  LeBron, Love and Irving?  In the very weak Eastern Conference?  That would be better than a LeBron-Wade-Bosh trio in South Beach.

LeBron knows those scenarios and will make a very informed decision.  No one else can until LeBron decides.

The freeze.

Once LeBron's domino falls, Carmelo Anthony will get a great look at the landscape.  Does he go back to New York?  Will he team up in Los Angeles with Kobe Bryant?  Will he try to go to Chicago and attempt to make a title run with the Bulls with a shift in Eastern Conference superiority?  If LeBron leaves Miami, would Carmelo decide to go there and team up with Wade and Bosh?

Bosh.  If LeBron leaves, does he go to Houston or the Lakers or somewhere else?  If he stays in Miami, where do those teams go?  Guys like Luol Deng, Trevor Ariza, Pau Gasol and Lance Stephenson will now get serious attention from teams who finish out of the LeBron-Melo-Bosh race.  Then guys like Shawn Marion, Paul Pierce and Emeka Okafor will fall into place.  Plus there will be the trade market of Love or Amare Stoudamire.

Unrestricted free agents like Eric Bledsoe, Greg Monroe, Chandler Parsons and Isaiah Thomas will finally receive their audiences.

Once the LeBron cork pops, the freeze is over and we will finally see the rapid movement of free agency.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Just Wait On Grading This NBA Draft, Let's Look At 2009 Instead

The NBA Draft is over.  Who won?  Who had the best pick?  Who had the worst pick?  Who got the big sleeper?  Who reached?  What trade was the smartest?

Who cares.

I know that's what draft nerds always do after the NBA and NFL drafts.  We try to break it down as if we are Miss Cleo.  Was is smart for Philly to draft Joel Embiid with that foot and back injury?  Should Andrew Wiggins or Jabari Parker have gone No. 1?  Who the hell is Bruno ... uh ... whatever that the Raptors picked?  Stop it!

We love this too much.  The Oscars are all about dubbing titles on movies and roles that just came out a few months ago.  I mean, did Shakespeare In Love hold up like Saving Private Ryan did?  No, put the former won Best Picture.  We like the hurry of it.  But we need to wait a bit just like most sports Halls Of Fame do.  Hold off for five years or else we would have Sammy Sosa in the Hall of Fame right now.  Take a step back.

So instead of me breaking down the 2014 NBA Draft, I want to break down the 2009 draft to see really what did and didn't work.  Green are great picks, red are horrible picks and black are just guys who are okay (*-no longer with drafted team).

1-CLIPPERS, Blake Griffin.  A slam dunk, no pun intended.  He was a serious MVP candidate this past season and one of the most marketable players in the NBA.  Five years ago, the Clippers were moving along as the worst franchise in pro basketball history.  Now they are title contenders.

2-GRIZZLIES, Hasheem Thabeet*.  Ouch.  I don't know why we have so many bad No. 2 picks over the years.  It really is stunning.  Thabeet has basically been nothing in the NBA.

3-THUNDER, James Harden*.  Great pick and great player.  He, along with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook were supposed to be OKC's Big Three.  They were until the Thunder realized they couldn't afford all three and shipped Harden away to Houston.

4-KINGS, Tyreke Evans*.  Evans has been so-so in the NBA.  He won Rookie Of The Year, and he's put up some nice point totals but his three-point shooting is horrid and he seems to be getting worse by the year.  Now he's a member of the New Orleans Pelicans and spent much of the season as a sixth man.

5-TIMBERWOLVES, Ricky Rubio.  I have loved Rubio's game since he was featured in SLAM magazine as a 16 year old.  But Rubio's flaws have stuck with him in Minnesota.  Remember that Rubio didn't even play for Minnesota until two years after he was drafted.  From there he is barely a double-digit scorer who has a nice assist total but cannot shoot.

6-TIMBERWOLVES, Jonny Flynn*.  Yeah, the Wolves picked another point guard with their second of back-to-back picks.  Flynn played just two seasons in Minnesota was out of the league in three years.

7-WARRIORS, Stephen Curry.  Curry is one of the top two or three players in this draft class.  Yeah, and Thabeet and Flynn were drafted ahead of him.  See.

8-KNICKS, Jordan Hill*.  Hill is an alright role player who just finished up his contract with the Lakers.  Not a star but a guy who can get you some rebounds and can have a game every once in a while where he fills up the basket.

9-RAPTORS, DeMar DeRozan.  Nice pick here.  An All-Star who certainly isn't a Bruno ... uh, what was that kid's name?

10-BUCKS, Brandon Jennings*.  Jennings isn't a guy who win with ... but he's a guy that can crush a game every once in a while.

11-NETS, Terrence Williams*.  Played 78 games in his rookie season with New Jersey.  Played 75 games in the following three seasons for four different teams and is now out of the league.

12-BOBCATS, Gerald Henderson.  A guy.  He's athletic and has some good games here and there but he'd pretty much leveled off as that kind of guy.  Nothing special.

13-SUNS, Earl Clark*.  Clark has bounced around the league yet had just one solid season in his lone campaign with the Lakers.  Other than that, nothing much to see.

14-PACERS, Tyler Hansbrough*.  Hansbrough's great college career hasn't translated to NBA success.  He is most known as an enforcer that pisses opponents off.  Not really a lottery pick kind of skill.

15-PISTONS, Austin Daye*.  Daye is basically a guy who collects playing time in garbage time.  Daye was one of those guys that came out of college as an athletic lengthy kid who was nothing more than that.  We see those kinds of busts the most.

16-BULLS, James Johnson*.  Johnson is just some guy floating along in the NBA.  He bounces from team to team and thru the D-League.

17-SIXERS, Jrue Holiday*.  When you consider the crap that I just listed drafted ahead of Holiday, he is a bit of a steal.  Holiday has been an All-Star before being dealt to the Pelicans in a 2013 Draft Day deal that sent Nerlens Noel to Philly.  A stress fracture ended Holiday's initial season in N'Awlins, but he's a legit player that should be in the League for quite a while.

18-TIMBERWOLVES, Ty Lawson*.  Yeah, the Wolves had three first round picks and they drafted three point guards.  However, the best of the bunch was the one guy they traded.  Yeah, the Wolves sent Lawson to the Nuggets on draft day for a future draft pick.  Lawson is nearly and All Star who has led Denver in scoring.

19-HAWKS, Jeff Teague.  Teague has gone from a guy that I thought would be a bust into a legit NBA player.  His rookie season saw him average just over 3 ppg.  Now he's starting for a playoff team and dumping over 16 ppg.  And unlike most guys so far ... he is still with his drafted team.

20-JAZZ, Eric Maynor*.  Maynor didn't even make it half a season in Utah before being dealt to Oklahoma City.  There he was a solid backup and has since just bounced around the league.

21-HORNETS, Darren Collison*.  Collison just signed a nice contract with the Kings, but he's not much more than a shoot-first backup point guard that rubs coaches the wrong way with his play.  Still, he's a decent talent.

22-BLAZERS, Victor Claver.  It took him three years to get over to Portland and, while he has started a few games, hasn't been much more than a end-of-bench kind of guy.

23-KINGS, Omri Casspi*.  To me, Casspi is a solid player.  Just a role guy though.

24-MAVERICKS, BJ Mullens*.  Mullens two seasons in Charlotte were very solid but he hasn't done much before or since.

25-THUNDER, Rodrigue Beaubois*.  Beaubois was a change of pace backcourt player who played his first four seasons with the Mavericks.  He spent last year in the French league.

26-BULLS, Taj Gibson.  Gibson is a solid sixth man who could be starting for many teams.  He hustles, boards, defends and does anything it takes to win.

27-GRIZZLIES, DeMarre Carroll*.  Carroll had a middling career until last year, were he started 73 games for the Hawks and was one of their defensive gurus.  

28-TIMBERWOLVES, Wayne Ellington*.  Yeah ... the fourth Wolves pick.  Ellington hasn't found that magic stroke he had in college and has found himself thrown into a lot of different trades.  He is now in ... let me see ... the Knicks.

29-LAKERS, Toney Douglas*.  Douglas never played for the Lakers but has spent his career as a backup combo guard ... though he did start 17 games for the Miami Heat this year.

30-CAVALIERS, Christian Eyenga*.  Eyenga played 51 career NBA games.  That's it.

So out of the 30 first round picks, only 8 remain with the teams that drafted them.  Only five have been to an All Star game with three of the picks (Griffin, Harden, Curry) being franchise kind of players.  Most are just guys who will play for a while then fly away into the forgotten land of NBA rejects.

Oh ... the second round wasn't much better ... though there were guys like Sam Young, DeJuan Blair, Jodie Meeks, Patrick Beverley, Chase Budinger, Danny Green and Patty Mills who were drafted.


Monday, June 30, 2014

What Is Jason Kidd Thinking?

Who are the winners and losers in the Nets, Bucks,
Kidd dance over the weekend?
I like Jason Kidd.  I liked him in high school ... and enjoyed his play in college and the NBA.  He was a sensational passer who took his biggest flaw, outside shooting, and turned into one of the best three point shooters of all time.

I thought it was a bit of a stretch for him to leave the New York Knicks as a player to the Brooklyn Nets as a head coach in a span of a day.  After the Nets started off to a horrible record, I thought he was in over his head.  Then the Nets got on a nice run and made the playoffs -- advancing into the Eastern Conference semifinals where they were eliminated by the Miami Heat in five games.

Not too shabby.  Yeah, he's got a veteran team and that helps but he did figure something out to turn that bad start into a great finish.

And then Saturday came.

Word came that Kidd wants front office control.  He wants the ability to make personnel decisions.  He wants to create his roster.  The Nets laughed that off and then Kidd wanted out.  The Milwaukee Bucks gained permission to talk to Kidd about hiring him to be their next head coach ... even though they still have Larry Drew as their current head coach.  After two second round picks later, Kidd is now the Bucks head coach, the Nets need a head coach and Larry Drew is out of a job.

WHAT IS JASON KIDD THINKING?

I get that you want to have total control of your roster.  Every coach would love that.  But that's some nads to demand to have that power.  Usually a coach and the front office work hand in hand on those issues.  While the coach doesn't get everything he wants, the front office tries to give him as much as they can.  Only the best of the best can get that kind of power.  Popovich.  Doc Rivers.  Flip Saunders.  There is your list and Saunders just put himself in as coach a few weeks ago.

For Kidd to ask for that kind of power is one thing.  Demanding it is another.  Willing to leave a playoff team like the Nets for the Bucks is a whole other thing.  Again, he is just a year removed from being a player and to ask for power like that is astounding.  Maybe he wanted out?  Maybe he really thought he deserved that power.

It looks like he overplayed his hand quite a bit.  He will be (most likely) be leaving the Nets that made the playoffs last year and was maybe going to be together for one more season for a very young Bucks team that finished with the worst record in the NBA last season.  Business wise, it could be a wise move.  Kidd got a $10M over four years last year.  He just watched Steve Kerr and Derek Fisher get $25M for five years despite they not having any coaching experience.  I'm sure Kidd will be getting a better contract than he had in Brooklyn and he'll be (hopefully) getting a longer one with such a younger team.

But Kidd broke some huge coaching rules.  One, he went for a job that was already filled.  That's a huge no-no.  I mean, it happens that feelers get sent out and all of those kinds of investigation, but to openly go for a job that was already filled won't endear him to any in the coaching fraternity.  Two, he is now known as a guy that will stab his boss in the back.  While the Nets GM Billy King didn't want to hire Kidd, he was on board until the recent power grab.  Since this was essentially an ownership hire in Milwaukee (new ownership, by the way) there shouldn't be any good feelings in the Bucks front office either.

WHAT ARE THE NETS THINKING?

Well, the Nets come out of this looking sort of smelling sweet.  They stood up to the demand and backed up their GM King.  They will almost assuredly get a better coach out of all this.  While Kidd seemed to be improving as a head coach, this is a team built to win now.  Finding a veteran coach like a Lionel Hollins could be exactly what this team needs to maximize its small window.

So they get rid of their young coach without firing him and admitting any mistake -- and actually netting two second round picks in the process -- and get a win now coach.  All the while they showed front office solidarity at a time where that wasn't so certain.

WHAT ARE THE BUCKS THINKING?

Not too sure here.  Word is that they liked the way Kidd developed as a coach in Brooklyn and felt he could be a great hire to lead their very young, talented team.  Maybe he is, but you are also bringing in a guy that felt like he deserved much more organizational power than he earned.  That, I am sure, was discussed during negotiations between the team and Kidd.

The Bucks also have damage control about Drew.  While I'm not a big Larry Drew fan by any means, he didn't deserve this.  To have a job one day and then watch this soap opera play out over the weekend only to be fired Monday morning was not right.  If Kidd becomes the guy they think he'll be and develop this young team, that might go away.  Kidd better be that guy.

WHAT SHOULD WE THINK?  

No one comes out of this looking great.  Kidd is banking a lot on his coaching ability to pull this off and, essentially, losing.  The Nets are entering free agency with a huge question mark at their coaching chair.  The Bucks just went behind their coach's back and took on Kidd's agenda.  It will be a nice subplot to the upcoming season.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

I Don't Get Soccer ... But I Get The World Cup


I like the World Cup.  I kinda, sorta get into it.  Just a little bit.  I will admit that 99% of all the soccer I will ever watch will be World Cup soccer.  I'm fine with that and I will always admit that.

That's says more about the World Cup itself than the sport.  The same way I'll watch Olympic swimming or curling is the same way I'll watch World Cup soccer.  It is a special event that does connect the world.  You have a tournament where all corners of the world come together.  You have the United States and Iran, Ghana and Spain, Chile and Korea.  Large countries like Russia and small countries like Costa Rica.

I know the Olympic have the same sort of thing and I do enjoy the Olympics better.  However, the World Cup is centered around the one sport and you can feel like you watched the entire event.  And there is no amateur or professional rules ... the best are there.

The United States won't be soccer crazy, but I've felt that it is a soccer country.  We are as patriotic as any nation on earth and love to support our athletes in any sport.  We love to be the best.  We aren't the best in soccer as much as we are getting pretty darn good.  The fact that we still love that says a lot about our love for the World Cup and our national team.

We aren't soccer crazy, but no foreign country has a bigger contingent of fans in Brazil for this tournament than the old U.S.A.  Americans are into it.

We aren't soccer crazy, but no World Cup has had a bigger attendance figure than when it was here in 1994.  Both per game and total attendance ... which says something since there are now more games in the tournament than ever before.  It also says a lot about the kind of melting pot the nation truly is.

I love the pageantry of the World Cup.  The beauty of it.

I just can't get into the soccer.

Sorry.  

P.S.  At least this year there are no vuvuzelas.