Perfection for the New England Patriots – Not Just Yet!

The New England Patriots are STILL chasing the '72 Miami Dolphin's perfection.After finishing off the New York Giants in similar fashion as they have finished off every other team this year – Brady to Moss – the New England Patriots complete a remarkable 16-0 regular season.  Though most consider their achievement the greatest run in NFL history, I see it as the perfect backdrop for the biggest, most pressure-filled football games these players will ever experience.

If you thought Saturday night’s game was nerve-racking for the Patriots, consider the alternative outcomes:

  1. They lose; end their pursuit of perfection and go on to win the Super Bowl.  They are still considered one of it not the greatest football team ever.  Their regular season loss further solidifies the ’72 Dolphins feat in history.
  2. They lose; play well in the playoffs, make it to the Super Bowl and lose.  Their team is still considered one of the best, but more credit is given to their opponent’s win in the championship.
  3. They lose; fall early in the playoffs and their collapse is duly noted.

But they won, as expected.  Now the real games begin.  Not only are they playing for their 4th Super Bowl in 7 years.  They are playing to avoid being remembered for the biggest collapse in NFL history. With such gaudy numbers as a perfect regular season, 19.7 average margin of victory, single-season records for TD passes (50 – Brady), TD catches (23 – Moss) and team scoring (589), it seems inevitable that they will sit side-by-side with Shula, Griese, Csonka, and the rest of the ’72 Dolphins. 

The pressure resonated through the cliché – “Any given Sunday” has never been more evident. Nothing is guaranteed, and that is why they play the games!

A Quick Take on the Korver Trade

Aside from the fact that I always find it hilarious when Utah trades for, signs, or drafts someone who is really, really white to appease their fan base, the Kyle Korver for Gordon Giricek and a 1st rounder is a very surprising and intriguing trade.

 With this trade, Ed Stefanski has made a statement that this team is going to have his stamp on it sooner rather than later. Korver was a player drafted and signed by Billy King and King often reffered to him as one of their “untouchable” players. This trade gives Stefanski an expiring contract in Giricek and a 1st round pick, both of which will turn into 2 new players, of his choosing, in 2008.

 My guess is that Stefanski didn’t think a one-dimensional player like Korver was worth the money he was getting. I tend to agree, but Korver will be missed. After Iverson left, the two things that really got the Wachovia crowd going was an Iguodala dunk or a Korver 3-pointer. He was a joy to watch shoot, but frustrating to watch on the defensive end.

As for Giricek, he had a falling out with Jerry Sloan, and once you are in his dog house, you don’t get out. Here’s hoping he embraces the change and steps in as our starting SG. The couple times I’ve seen him play he strikes me a solid player and good shooter.

Stefanski’s reputation is that he is a great evaluator of talent – and after this trade, he will have a blank check and multiple first round picks in the offseason to prove it to us. Let’s hope he gets it right.

Sweet Lou – Explosive and The Key to Philly’s Future

The blow by Wade and banging on Udonis Haslem was nice.  What’s more impressive is the rapid development of Louis Williams as a real baller for the Sixers.  At 21-years-old, plenty of potential and his contract expiring this summer, Lou has made a strong case for signing him to a long-term deal.

Facts:

  • 3pt%, FT%, RPG, APG and PPG has each increased over his first 3 seasons.
  • Williams is scoring 19.5 per 40 minutes
  • His player efficiency rating (PER) at 17.73 is above league average and has also increased every season.

With that said the big question is can he run this team and play the point effectively?  As a natural scorer and pass-second guard, he will need to improve his ability to penetrate with the goal of finding teammates, limit his turnovers and adapt the score-first game he is accustomed to playing.  I believe he can. Hopefully he is learning the in’s-and-out’s from a perfect example in Andre Miller.  At 6’1 his long-term career and significant minutes will be found playing the point, not as a wing scorer. 

For the Sixers, Lou represents a tremendous asset and opportunity.  With the expectation of Miller being traded, Lou can immediately fill that spot and allow Stefanski to focus on bringing in a dynamic shooting guard and the dominant post scorer this team is in desperate need of.

What I Really Want for Christmas

1. Chad Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, or any other elite WR the Eagles can get their hands on– Plain and simple, Donovan deserves another chance with a quality wide-out. He toiled through Todd Pinkson, Charles Johnson, Torrence Small etc, etc and still led us to playoff wins. The ONE year he had an elite WR, he had 104.7 QB Rating and we went to the Super Bowl, only to lose to a truly great football team. He is better than the majority of NFL QB’s and can be spectacular with a game breaking WR. Hopefully the Eagles take a break from their stubborn nature and give McNabb the weapon he needs. Getting rid of him is not the answer – yet.
2. A healthy starting rotation for the Phillies – As exciting as the So Taguchi signing is, the Phillies 2008 campaign will rest on the shoulders of their non-improved starting rotation. Luckily, there were so many injuries in the rotation last year that this crew can improve simply by going out there every 5th day. Unfortunately, the “crew” consists of 2 guys with a history of DL stints (Hamels and Myers), an unproven sophomore (Kendrick), a legitimately 45 year-old man (Moyer) and some combination of Adam Eaton, Chad Durbin and somebody so good, the last-place Giants didn’t protect him in the Rule 5 Draft (Travis Blackley, career ERA, 9.35).
3. That anybody but the Patriots or Cowboys win the Super Bowl – I tried to write a paragraph explaining this, but my dislike is just so engrained in my being that I couldn’t gather words to do so adequately.
4. That David Lee and Kyle Lowry get traded to teams that don’t suck – These two guys are a joy to watch, but their teams are so un-watchable they don’t ever make national TV. The world at large needs to see these kids play – they define leaving it all on the court.
5. That Notre Dame football is playing on New Year’s Day in 2009 – and that they deserve to be there- Notre Dame has a tendency to be placed in bowl games they shouldn’t be in because they are a huge draw for the bowl and the TV network. The result is they often play better opponents, lose, and look like, well, they didn’t belong there in the first place. Next year, I would love to see us in a bowl game for our play on the field, not the monetary benefits off of it.
6. Villanova makes the Final Four, at some point – For a city so in love with college basketball, Philadelphia hasn’t had the chance to go crazy for a final four weekend since Villanova took home the title in 1985. The current Nova team is filled with an exciting young core, a very good coach and a bright future (more on this in a future post). They are currently ranked #16 – and don’t have a single senior on the team. They will be good for a couple years, and have the potential to be great.
7. A Championship – For God’s Sake – I was born in 1983, the year the Sixers won the NBA title. Since that title, the 4 Philadelphia teams have played in 84 playoffs series (or games for the Eagles) and 7 championships. They have won 0 titles. If I could only get one thing for Christmas, I’d want to know what it feels like to have a team you love win a title, just once.

Is Roy Hibbert Overrated?

Roy Hibbert is Overrated, Period!“I need to make myself more assertive” was the line Roy Hibbert gave after a 6 point, 6 rebound effort (if you can call it that) in a loss to #2 Memphis. That lack of aggressiveness has been the knock on this guy since he entered the college basketball spotlight.   At 7’2, 275 pounds that is not what any coach or potential GM wants to hear from their starting center.

In arguably the toughest game on G-Town’s schedule, and for Roy Hibbert his strongest and most physical individual opponent in Joey Dorsey, he succumbed to his natural weakness – passiveness. Only attempting 8 shots, he was a non-factor and while I was watching the game looked invisible on the court.   Believe me, NBA scouts were watching and took note of his ineffectiveness vs. a college foe that mirrors his likely competition at the next level.

In Georgetown’s first 9 games of the season Hibbert has been an underachiever at best for a pre-season All-American and prospective top 15 NBA draft pick.  

  • Only 1 game with 10+ rebounds this season – and it was just 10
  • Only 1 game over 17 points (vs. William & Mary, a 2-6 mid-major)
  • 26.6% is Hibbert’s 10+ rebounding percentage in 79 games from his sophomore through senior year; for a 7-footer that plays just over 24 minutes per game that’s just not good enough
  • 12.2 PPG over those same 79 games – weak! 

Considering Hibbert has yet to prove himself as a consistent and dominant big man on the college level; would you draft Roy in the top 15 if you were an NBA GM? Competitive fire and assertiveness are inherent traits developed at a young age for basketball players. And his shortcomings in those areas make him a bigger gamble than most college analysts have yet to recognize and report on.

My all-time NBA team: Can you beat me in a 7-game series?

The Big O invented the fade awayI challenge everyone to a NBA 7-game series.  I want to see how my twelve guys match up against yours.  I won’t have who I think are the 12 best players although I definitely will have a few.  I am starting 3 guards, but don’t think you can take advantage of me at the small forward spot.  And I have a fortress in the paint, starting 2 centers.

Coach – Chuck DalyWhy? Because he coached the greatest team ever assembled – the 1992 Olympic Dream Team.  He has also proven himself by winning back-to-back NBA championships with the Pistons.

Starters:

Guard – Michael Jordan – This is my killer.  His competitiveness and will can carry an entire basketball team.  MJ in my opinion is the best player ever to grace a basketball court, no question (Bill Russell is a close 2nd).  Some may say that statement is debatable. And the main player people like to argue (not even close) is Wilt Chamberlain, since he is probably the only guy who would vote for himself as the greatest anyway.  Just about every other hall-of-famer or greatest-ever comparable would tell you themselves that MJ is the best.  That by itself should be enough to end that argument. 

Guard – Oscar Robertson – This is my all-purpose stud.  The big O spawned the bigger combo guard who can do everything.  Score from everywhere on the court, rebound and dish.  He did something that will never be duplicated EVER.  Not only did he average a triple-double in a full season (1961-62 – averaging 30.8 points, 11.4 assists and 12.5 rebounds per game), but if you put together his first 5 seasons (400+ games), he averaged a triple-double from 1960 to 1965.  That is freakin’ ridiculous! And people are in awe of King James…

Guard – Magic Johnson – My floor leader and the best point guard of all-time – and he was really a power forward at 6′ 9.  Can play all 5 positions, sees all the passing angles and can thread the needle in every situation. At that size he can score on anyone and is the perfect guy to run the fast break with MJ (think 1992 Dream Team). Not to mention completely unselfish and all about winning.

Power Forward – Bill Russell – My second and third line of defense and the best big man and greatest winner in the history of the game.  He matches up well vs. some of the quicker bigs because he was very agile for his size and clearly held his own against the bigger guys (Wilt Chamberlain) as well. 

Side note: I have to take a moment to explain why The Big Dipper is not on my team.  Think back to game 7 of the 1970 NBA finals.  With a severely torn muscle in his thigh Willis Reed made a heroic appearance from the locker room to match up against arguably the most dominant big man ever.  Reed went on to score the first two buckets of the game vs. Wilt and inspired his team to victory.  An immeasurable display of leadership that in my opinion should never have happened.  Basketball, and any sport, is about winning, taking advantage of every (allowable) edge you have and not giving anyone a free pass.  And that is exactly what Chamberlain did in that game.  He should have PUNCHED those two shots into the 3rd row seats sending a message to the Knicks that in no way, shape or form was it their day to win.  That has always bugged me and for that reason I cannot have Wilt on my team.

Center – Moses Malone – This is my bruiser.  My relentless rebounder, shot blocker and post defender.  I had to start him because he was the missing piece that led the Sixers to the 1983 championship; he is my hometown guy.  He is going to make sure nobody comes down the lane for any freebies and dominate the boards.  This guy actually had 15 OFFENSIVE rebounds in a playoff game. Wow.

Bench:

Isiah ThomasThis was a tough pick for me.  It was between Isiah and A.I. (check his career playoff numbers and you won’t be as surprised why this was a bit of a dilemma).  Ultimately it came down to winning, and although Iverson is my dude, Isiah is the proven champion.  Not that I would be losing much as Thomas was just as electric with the rock as the “Answer”.

Reggie Miller – In this day and age you can’t win without a consistent threat from beyond the 3-point line.  You saw how the US team struggled in the last Olympics because they didn’t have a shooter.  Well, here is the best in the history of the NBA.  And if somehow I end up down 3 late you can be assured Reggie will be ready to nail that clutch triple at the buzzer.  That is if MJ lets someone else shoot with the game on the line anyway!

Larry BirdThis quote sums up why Larry “Legend” (not to mention it’s Larry “Legend”) is on my team – “The one thing that always bothered me when I played in the NBA was I really got irritated when they put a white guy on me,” Bird said. “I still don’t understand why. A white guy would come out (and) I would always ask him: ‘What, do you have a problem with your coach? Did your coach do this to you?’ And he’d go, ‘No,’ and I’d say, ‘Come on, you got a white guy coming out here to guard me; you got no chance.’ For some reason, that always bothered me when I was playing against a white guy.” “Disrespect,” Magic said. Said Bird: “Yeah, disrespect.” Full 2-on-2 interview

Kevin GarnettI had to have at least one current player on my team, and right now this is my favorite.  His energy, unselfishness and ability to do just about everything from the power forward spot are the reasons he fits well on this team.  I needed a strong passing big man to play the high-low game. As well as hit the pick-and-pop jumper when he sets perimeter screens.

Hakeem OlajuwonThis was a toss up between Hakeem and Shaquille O’Neal.  The deciding factors were free-throw shooting and versatility.  I didn’t want to have any weak links on this team.  The Diesel opens this team up to the Hack-A-Shaq strategy and bigger defensive mismatches against pick-and-rolls.  Really though, I just want the “Dream Shake” on my team!

Utility Guys:

Scottie Pippen

Robert Horry

There you have it.  Can anyone think of a better, more well-rounded team?

The Year of the Freshman, Part 2

Greg Oden being ridiculousA couple years ago, most high school seniors capable of dominating on the college level were going straight to the pros. Year 1 of the NBA age limit came and went without any huge impact freshman. Year 2 brought us Greg Oden and Kevin Durant, two of the greatest freshman players in NCAA history. Year 3 – well, year 3 is just ridiculous.Of the 73 programs in the major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big 12, Big 10, Pac-10 and SEC), 18 are currently being led in scoring by a freshman (24.6%). 37 of those teams have a freshman in their top 3 in scoring (50.6%). The top 7 picks on NBADraft.net’s 2008 Mock Draft are all freshman. 9 of their 13 lottery picks are freshman. The top 2 scorers, top rebounder and top FG% in the country, among the major conferences, are freshman.While Michael Beasley, Eric Gordon, O.J. Mayo and Kevin Love get most of the media attention, this is probably the deepest freshman class the NCAA has seen in quite some time. Below are 27 freshman (ranked by PPG, not talent-level), all of whom have a chance to be all-conference performers this year. Greg Oden and Mike Conley Jr. showed last year freshman can lead their team to the final four – it looks like we will be saying the same about a least a team or two this year.

  1. Michael Beasley, F, Kansas St – 24.9 ppg, 13.9 rpg
  2. Eric Gordon, G, Indiana – 24.4 ppg, .543 FG%
  3. O.J. Mayo, G, USC – 19.6 ppg, 1.9 spg
  4. Donte Green, F, Syracuse – 19.5 ppg, 8.2 rpg
  5. Andrew Ogilvy, C, Vanderbilt – 19.5 ppg, 6.6 rpg
  6. Jerryd Bayless, G, Arizona – 18.8 ppg, 4.3 apg
  7. J.J. Hickson, F, NC State – 18.0 ppg, .708 FG%
  8. James Anderson, F, OK St. – 17.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg
  9. Kevin Love, C, UCLA – 16.6 ppg, 9.7 rpg
  10. James Harden, G, Arizona St. – 16.5 ppg, 5.3 rpg
  11. Dominique Jones, G, South Florida – 16.5 ppg, 2.3 spg
  12. Patrick Patterson, F, Kentucky – 16.4 ppg, 8.1 rpg
  13. Manny Harris, G, Michigan – 16.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg
  14. Nick Calathes, G, Florida – 15.8 ppg, 5.5 apg
  15. Kosta Koufos, C, Ohio St. – 15.8 ppg, 6.3 rpg
  16. Derrick Rose, G, Memphis – 15.7 ppg, 4.1 apg
  17. Davon Jefferson, F, USC – 14.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg
  18. Jonny Flynn, G, Syracuse – 14.3 ppg, 6.3 apg
  19. Chris Warren, G, Ole Miss – 14.2 ppg, 5.8 apg
  20. Anthony Randolph, F, LSU – 13.9 ppg, 7.6 rpg
  21. Kyle Singler, F, Duke – 13.4 ppg, 6.0 rpg
  22. Blake Griffin, F, Oklahoma – 13.2 ppg, 8.3 rpg
  23. Craig Brackens, F, Iowa St. – 12.5 ppg, 6.0 rpg
  24. James Johnson, F, Wake Forest – 12.3 ppg, 10.0 rpg
  25. DeJuan Blair, F, Pitt – 12.1 ppg, 10.1 rpg
  26. Corey Fisher, G, Villanova – 11.9 ppg, 3.1 apg
  27. Austin Daye, F, Gonzaga – 11.8 ppg, 4.9 rpg
  28. DeAndre Jordan, C, Texas A&M – 10.3 ppg, 7.1 rpg