May 2008


As the countdown to the NBA draft has begun, the Chicago Bulls are stuck between two studs coming into the NBA.  Derrick Rose, a Memphis point guard, and Michael Beasley, a Kansas State combo forward.  It’s a really difficult choice for many reasons.  Everyone knows that the NBA has become a guard dominated league, and the best teams in the NBA, aka the teams still in the playoffs all have solid to great point guards.  The Celtics are excluded because they have three legit superstars on their team, though I will put in a bid for Rajon Rondo as I think him and the Cavs, Daniel Gibson do have potential to be excellent pg’s.  The Spurs have Tony Parker, who has proven himself time and time again to be a great play-maker and and a solid defender.  The Lakers have Derek Fisher, who is responsible for the triangle offense of the Lakers back when they had Kobe and Shaq.  He is a proven winner and has multiple rings to show for it.  Chauncey Billups is a former finals MVP, he was the main reason the Pistons won the title back in ’04 and I think without him, Detroit is not nearly as good.  Now let’s talk about the Chicago Bulls.  The Bulls have an oppertunity to take a great pg in Derrick Rose, but the problem is that they are flooded at the guard spot with players like Kirk Hinrich, Chris Duhon, Ben Gordon and Larry Hughes and even Thabo Sefolosha.  That is a flood almost as big as one that a hurricane would cause.  But can the Bulls really pass up Derrick Rose, a premier pg?  This guy reminds me of Chris Paul.  He can turn this team around.  The bulls ended last season with a 33-49 record.  Yuck.  I think Rose would be the perfect solution for this team, but then they must get rid of at least 2 of those guards.  Hinrich and Duhon both have value.  A team (like the Knicks) could use one of them.  Trade them and keep Rose in Chicago.  Afterall he is from there.

Why the Bulls might go with a guy like Michael Beasley is simple.  An all-around player.  This is the kind of guy that if you needed him to be a clutch performer and play center in a big game.  He would do it.  Magic Johnson did it in 1980, his rookie season after Kareem went down.  Magic played center in game 6 of the 1980 NBA finals and was successful.  This guy is a lot like that.  He can shoot, ball-handle, rebound, block and lead a team.   Kansas State over USC in March madness was no fluke.  (Sorry Wagman).  Beasley led that team passed USC, rightfully so.  Some of the Bulls forwards include Andres Nocioni, Luol Deng, Drew Gooden, Tyrus Thomas and they can switch around Joakim Noah as well.  Between Deng and Gooden alone, they can provide a fantastic combination of speed, defense and shooting.  Why waste your pick on a player who in a sense you already have.  Also, even though he’s been a dissapointment thus far, Tyrus Thomas could turn out to be a good player afterall, so if the Bulls did take Beasley, they would be putting Thomas on the back-burner where his athletic ability will be wasted. 

In conclusion, there is no wrong way the Bulls can go, and so far a few of the experts are saying that they are thinking Beasley, but if you want my opinion, to be able to compete in this league with the best, you need a good playmaker and that is why I think that if the Bulls do select Derrick Rose, he will make all of those forwards, including Tyrus Thomas a lot better.  J-Fense Pick:  Derrick Rose

By, Justin “J-Fense” Fensterman

With so much going on in the sports world, welcome to my weekly summary of the most important events of the week in everything that is sports…

As the baseball season reaches the 50 game mark, I have a few observations:

1. Johan Santana is not the pitcher he was made out to be. For someone who is pegged as the greatest pitcher in baseball, he has been awfully hittable the past season and a half. Over his past 43 starts, he has given up 44 homeruns. That is over one per game, way too many for an ace to give up. Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s a great pitcher, but there has to be a reason why the Yankees would not include both Philip Hughes and Ian Kennedy in a deal, why the Red Sox refused to part with both Ellsbury and Lester, and why the eventual deal was such a steal for the Mets. I think we’re about to see a massive decline over the next two years from Santana.

2. Josh Hamilton and Lance Berkman both have legitimate shots at winning the famous “Triple Crown”. Hamilton leads the AL in batting average, RBI’s, and Homeruns, while Berkman leads the NL in HR’s and RBI’s and is only second to Chipper Jone’s incredible impersonation of Ted Williams’ batting average (he’s currently hitting .412). While neither will win it, its fun to see the feel good stories from of these Texas Terrors.

3. Will there be playoff baseball in New York? As of right now, not a chance in hell. The Yankees have no pitching beyond Chien-Ming Wang and Mariano Rivera. The bullpen is a mess and the rotation is full of has beens and rookies who are not quite ready for prime time. I’d look for them to rebound but not as much as they did last year. The Mets on the other hand should be dominating the NL East. On paper they are the second best team in the National League (second only to the Chicago Cubs) and should be blowing away the competition in a division in which every contending team has its flaws. I don’t expect Willie Randolph to last the season and the Mets to not make the playoffs again this year. At least there will be no collapse.

For those who love and follow sports closely like myself, there is nothing better than witnessing an instant classic and watching one player to see what he or she will do next. This past week saw three such instances: The reemergence of hockey as an entertaining sport due to Sid “the kid” Crosby, a classic game seven in the NBA, and an even better game played for the UEFA Cup Championship. Hockey has needed a marketable star for quite awhile to build a new fan base. Sidney Crosby is just that person. As the heir apparent to “Super Mario” in Pittsburgh, the NHL should be marketing this guy like Lebron James, David Ortiz, and Dwayne Wade are marketed. Get this guy on TV pronto! Also, the match-up between the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Detroit Red Wings in the NHL Finals is a dream match-up for those who love hockey. Both of these teams have the talent, tradition, and fan base to reinvigorate hockey to upgrade it from a “C” level sport to a “B” level sport.

For those lucky enough to watch game 7 of the Cavs/Celtics series, you witnessed two players who absolutely willed their team to victory, with only one winning out. I remember watching the game with my friends trying to predict how many points Lebron James and Paul Pierce would each have at the end of the game. I boldly stated each would finish with over 50, no problem. The battle between these two players was something I have never witnessed as an NBA fan. I am not old enough to even try and discuss the Bird/Magic rivalry and Michael Jordan never truly had someone he could call his equal, it makes me smile being able to watch two players at the top of their game pushing so hard to win that nothing can stop them. I love that vibe and can’t wait for more of it if any combination of Boston and SA/LA make the finals. Could you imagine KG vs Timmy D in the post? Or Kobe and Pierce going at it all night? Bring it on!

However, the only thing that topped that performance was the UEFA Cup Championship between Chelsea and Manchester United. This was one hell of a soccer game, that had fantastic finishes, gut-wrenching saves, and skill that makes you wonder how the players control a soccer ball the way they do. But, as I watching the game, I couldn’t take my eyes off of one player: Cristiano Ronaldo, the world’s greatest flopper and owner of a mullet. I believe he is the greatest athlete in the world and was playing with the soccer ball like it was a yo-yo attached to his big toes. As a soccer player myself, I couldn’t even fathom attempting half of the moves he performed with such precision that it made me giddy like a little school child. The game is on ESPN360.com and i recommend you spending some quality time with the world’s most popular game.

Before I leave, three things I am looking forward to this weekend:

1. Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones and Cate Blanchett as the villain. Thats all I need to be motivated to see this.

2. Game 2 of Lakers and Spurs. Game One was awesome and I believe every game in this series will be played with as much intensity and fire as game one. Welcome to SEVEN GAME SEVENS!

3. Memorial Day bbq’s and beach days. The first true of summer is here and I plan on honoring my troops the same way they would most likely enjoy a summer afternoon if they were home: drink some beer, grill some dogs, and chill out in the sun all day long. I can’t wait.

Happy Memorial Day!

BEARD

Rain Assists Manchester United in Winning the UEFA Champions League

By: Sean Speirs

 

     It is 1:30 A.M. and rain is flooding into the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.  Jeers and roars are coming from the crowd.  Manchester United star Cristiano Ronaldo has just missed an easy go-ahead penalty shot. The taste of victory is in reach.  You are Chelsea center back John Terry, and all you need to do is make one more goal in order to win the European Champion Clubs’ Cup.

 

     Unfortunately, for Americans, this scenario does not sound exciting.  For those unfamiliar with the sport, it most likely sounds confusing.  Questions might arise, such as:

 “Who is Cristiano Ronaldo?” and “What is a penalty shot?”

 

     While most Americans were preparing for the American Idol finale on TV last night, they missed an exciting European soccer event…the UEFA Champions League Final (Union of European Football Association), which is equivalent to America’s NFL Superbowl in Europe.

 

     The UEFA Champions League is a tournament style match-up that pits the best of Europe’s soccer clubs (a.k.a. teams) against one another.  The last club standing is awarded the European Champion Clubs’ Cup, the most prominent trophy a club team could receive in the sport. 

 

     This year marked the first in UEFA’s 52-year existence that had two English clubs in the Champions League Final game.  The two clubs were Manchester United F.C. (Football Club) versus Chelsea F.C.

 

     Both clubs are fleshed out with great soccer players, but the most notable ones include Manchester United’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Chelsea’s Didier Drogba.  Ronaldo’s accolades include receiving the 2007 English Player of the Year Award and Young Player of the Year Award, while Drogba was the top scorer in the 2007 English Premier League with a total of 20 goals.

 

     Before this final match, predicting the outcome was up in the air.  No one had a clue to who would come out on top.  Both teams had advantages and disadvantages that were matched by one another.

 

     And that leaves us to yesterday’s UEFA battle, where the pouring rain in Moscow created a dangerous/slick soccer field that created problems for both teams to control the flow of their offensive attack.

 

     The match was quiet until the 26th minute, where Ronaldo scored his career 42nd goal as a header off of a pass from teammate right back Wes Brown. 

 

     However, Chelsea answered back with a goal of their own in the 45th minute that was created by an attempted shot from midfielder Michael Essien, but due to the sleek and wet field, was reflected by a Manchester United defender to an unmarked teammate midfielder Frank Lampard who finished the shot.

 

     By the end of the game, which went into extra overtime, the score was tied 1-1, with a total of 8 yellow-cards and an ejected Drogba who was given a red-card during the 116th minute.

 

     Since the match continued to be a tie game after regulation and overtime play, both teams had to go into a penalty shootout.  This is where 8 players from each club individually go up against the opposing goal-keeper in a standalone one-on-one shootout.

 

     As the event started, each club scored their respected penalty shots without trouble; until it was Ronaldo’s turn.  As stated before, Ronaldo is known for having an amazing and impressive soccer season this year…but he is also known for being a tricky player and pulling off impressive dribbling and acrobatic shooting moves when they matter the most.

 

     In this situation, in order to throw off Chelsea goal-keeper Petr Cech, Ronaldo stopped his approach in mid-motion, delaying his shot before following through with his kick.  Unfortunately, such a trick was no use, as Petr Cech successfully blocked Ronaldo’s shot.

 

     Advantage was officially for Chelsea.  Manchester United fans were one step away from calling it quits.  Rain continued to fall.  Chelsea kept making their shots, while Manchester was trying to catch up. 

 

     Then it was Chelsea defender John Terry’s turn.

 

     As the chances of a Chelsea win was seen from the horizon, one would think that making the game winning penalty shot would be easy.  That is, however, if you do not consider the other factor that has been lurking throughout this whole game…rain.

 

     As John Terry approached his shot, he slipped due to the wet field and miss-hit his shot, which ended up ricocheting off the right goal post.

 

     There was new hope for Manchester United, and a chance for a win that they rightfully took due to a diving save by Manchester United goal-keeper Edwin Van der Sar, who blocked the shot Chelsea’s next penalty shooter Nicolas Anelka took. 

 

     With a total of 14 penalty shots taken and Van der Sar’s save, Manchester United gained advantage and the win; crowning themselves UEFA Champion League Champs.

 

     After an exciting match-up and outcome from one of the greatest sports events ever played, it is sad to think that only a handful of Americans know the whole story of and behind the meaning of this one game.

 

     If only American Idol had pushed back their finale an extra day…

Sean Speirs

 

Images Courtesy of YAHOOSPORTS.COM

Head Coach Mike D’Antoni Should Begin to Worry

By: Sean Speirs

     Mathematical probabilities are something our society depends on.  Luck is something our society hopes for.  As for Knicks Head Coach Mike D’Antoni, he is going to need some luck this off-season; the same luck that the Chicago Bulls, against all mathematical odds, had last night during the 2008 NBA Draft Lottery. 

 

     According to the math, the Bulls had an initial 1.7% chance of being top ranked, but according to luck, they came out with the overall No.1 draft pick.  The Knicks (on the other hand without luck), with a 7.6% chance of the top three spots, came out with the No.6 draft pick. 

 

     For Mike D’Antoni, seeing the Chicago Bulls receive that first pick is equal to seeing the “popular girl” in high-school losing the Homecoming Queen competition to the “class nerd”.

 

     This leads to the classic “What If” case scenario that must be running through D’Antoni’s mind.

 

     Less than a month ago, Mike D’Antoni, former Coach of the Year, left the Phoenix Suns to look for a new coaching job.  After picking up Center Shaquille O’Neal (in what some consider an unnecessary trade) and falling to the sixth seed in the Western Conference during the regular season, the Suns were eliminated from the NBA Playoffs this post-season by defending champions San Antonio Spurs.

 D\'Antoni

     Just days after the devastating blow, Suns General Manager Steve Kerr openly stated that the organization will search for a new Head Coach, even after D’Antoni had a 253-136 record in more than four seasons with the Suns.  In response, D’Antoni began to interview with teams who had open coaching positions. 

 

     In such a confusing situation in Phoenix, one would give respect to D’Antoni for leaving the Suns organization.  After all, why would one of the most talented offensive-based coaches in the league continue to stay with a team that does not want him anymore?

 

     After leaving Phoenix and going to a few coaching job interviews, D’Antoni’s future sat on the shoulders of the Chicago Bulls (33-49) or the New York Knicks (23-59).

 

     Now with such a decision to make, one would analyze the following:

 

-D’Antoni: D’Antoni’s style of play includes a quick offense that takes up an average of 7 seconds (about a 1/3) of the 24 second clock (or at least what D’Antoni aims for); due to quick fast breaks, pick and rolls, or speedy inside/outside jumpers. Although not given much respect, D’Antoni’s style of defense can also be praised, as long as his “Big Men” (Center and Forwards) grab defensive rebounds and immediately outlet pass to the One or Two Guard (Point or Shooting) to create the fast break.

 

The Chicago Bulls: The Chicago Bulls are a young team with players such as Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, and Loul Deng.  However, the Bulls were plagued by a season of low percentage shots taken/made both inside and outside the 3-pt. arc.  This style of play was mainly what the Bulls went for, the three-pointers and/or jumpers.  However, due to their youth, under the lead of D’Antoni’s style of play, the fast-break and quick offensive game-plan would have quickly been adapted to these players in Chicago, and much more affective.

 

The New York Knicks: The New York Knicks have been going through a rough patch the past couple years, with problems such as unsuccessful winning records, multiple player injuries, and of course, the Isaiah Thomas era.  The Knicks are also a reasonably older team, with sluggish players such as Eddy Curry, Zack Randolph, and Stephon Marbury (who has had a bad run with D’Antoni in the past when they were both in Phoenix).  It is unknown to predict how D’Anotni’s quick offense will pan out in New York, and whether or not these sluggish/older players will be able to keep up with such game-play.

 D\'Anotni pretending not to be shocked

     After seeing D’Antoni’s possible outcomes, it is unfortunate to see the successful coach agree to President of the Knicks Donnie Walsh’s offer to coach New York’s team (even when a brighter future would have been with Chicago, especially since they clinched the first pick of the NBA Lottery).

 

     At this point, D’Antoni must be worried.  After signing with a losing team in hopes of getting a high draft pick, and instead devastatingly receiving No.6, the only other hope D’Antoni has is either a blockbuster trade this offseason or waiting two more years in hopes for landing Lebron James after he becomes a free agent.

 

     All that D’Antoni needed to do was to give his decision time, pan out his options, and wait until after the draft.  That would have been the smartest decision since D’Antoni would be in the back-seat seeing where his “vehicle” was going.  Instead, D’Antoni rushed into the driver’s seat without taking into consideration the only factor that takes place during the NBA Draft Lottery…luck.

 

     By waiting until after the draft, D’Antoni would have probably gotten and accepted a better offer from Chicago, and would have been going to a team that was once considered in the beginning of this season to be one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference.

 

     With his final decision, this New York Knicks team is now D’Antoni’s biggest challenge he will have to overcome in his career.

 

     Hopefully, D’Antoni can conquer the odds, make some smart decisions this off-season with what he has to work with, and give the New York Knicks a clean slate.

 

     Besides, waiting two more years for King James is not that bad…right?

Sean Speirs

 

 

Images Courtesy of AP Bill Kostroun and YAHOOSPORTS.COM

 

Before I get into dissecting this matchup, I just wanted to give some brief thoughts about last nights game between the Pistons and Celtics.

1- How bad did Chauncey Billups look? He was extremely tentative and was outclassed by Rajon Rondo, who Billups should own night in and night out. If he plays this in game two, I’m changing my prediction to Celtics in five. Likewise if Billups is healthy and Rondo is keeps outplaying him.

2- Where is Ray Allen’s shot? Why is he in this slump? Has he been hitting the gym and taking extra shooting practice? I believe something is going on in his head that is distracting him during the game. What it is , I can’t figure it out but I have an idea: He knows he can’t live up to the expectations set by the fans and teammates and is faltering when it matters. Pressure is something he can’t handle. Every year besides 2000-2001 and 2004-2005, none of his teams, when he was the first option, made it out of the first round (both of those years he made it to the Conference Finals). Even now as the third banana, he can not handle the expectations set upon himself and his team.

3- The Pistons need to get the ball into the paint. John Hollinger of ESPN wrote a great article explaining this (His article is point 8 on the Daily Dime). He can articulate this thought much better than I can.

Now, onto the Lakers and Spurs…

While this isn’t the matchup everyone wanted to see here, I believe that this is going to be the best series of the playoffs. All of the ingredients are there: The reigning MVP, a top-3 greatest Power Forward of all time, two of the greatest coaches, Los Angeles, and a heated rivalry that has been waiting to be reestablished.

Guards: Advantage Lakers

That should really say Advantage Kobe. Kobe Bryant is the best player in the world right now. Defenses can’t stop him, they can only hope to contain him to 30 points. So far he is averaging 33 points a game in the playoffs and has led the Lakers to an 8-2 record during that time as well (the best in the league). I wish I could say more but then I have to snap back into reality. Derek Fisher showed last year on the Jazz how valuable he is and he is proving it even more so this year. Its not that he is a stat stuffer, its more like he understands how to play the game correctly and will always put his team in a position to win. Couldn’t say that about the Laker’s starting point guard last year. Additionally, Fisher is a veteran of the Triangle Offense and runs it better than anyone else in the league.

This is not to say that Spurs back court is weak. Tony Parker has become a top-5 point guard this year and is only getting better. He can abuse opposing guards with his quickness or knock down the long range J. In my humble opinion, he is the toughest matchup for the Lakers. For the two-guard spot, its tough to say who starts. I’m putting Manu Ginobilli as the starter just for the simple reason that he was the Spurs leading scorer this year. And he plays too much to be a sixth man. He is just as quick as Parker, deadlier from long distance, and capable of handling the point guard duties. However, like most European players (Yes, I know he’s from Argentina), his defense is suspect and I don’t know who he is going to match up with defensively (Radmonovic I guess?).

Forwards: Advantage Spurs

This should really say Advantage Tim Duncan. As much as Kobe means to the Lakers, Timmy D means that much to the Spurs. He is their anchor on defense in the paint and he has the ability to take over games with out even touching the ball. Not to be forgotten is Bruce Bowen who is considered to be the best on ball defender in the league (I believe he is a dirty no good cheater, but thats just my opinion). He is going to have the glorious responsibility to shadow Kobe wherever he goes and attempt to stop him. While he does have little value on offense, he does have the ability to spread the floor for the Spurs and knock down the open three.

The Laker’s front court presents difficult match-up problems for the Spurs. Both Vladimir Radmanovic and Lamar Odom are 6-10 and extremely athletic. This alone should cause nightmares for the Spurs. However, Radmanovic is the worst starting player left in the playoffs and is completely useless on the defensive end of the floor. His only use will be to shoot open jumpers and subsequently miss them. Lamar Odom on the other hand is perhaps one of the best third options in the league. He rebound, drive, defend, and handle the point guard duties. His only weakness is that he can not handle pressure situations. If I am the Spurs, I am fouling him at the end of the game and putting him on the line and force him to win the game for the Lakers.

Center: Advantage Lakers

Pau Gasol has made the Lakers into the best team in the NBA. He gives them the high post presence that they have lacked for awhile. Moreover, his passing ability affords the Lakers to run their offense through him. He can dominate games with his scoring, passing, and rebounding. He is a complete player and has made this team almost impossible to beat.

Whoever the Spurs put at center (whether its Kurt Thomas or Frabicio Oberto) won’t really matter because like Bowen, their main assignment will be to play hard defense, rebound, and score second chance points. Thats it.

Bench: Advantage Neither

Both of these teams have strong benches that are well coached and well used. The Lakers go four deep with Jordan Farmar (PG), Sasha Vujacic (SG), Luke Walton (F), and Ronny Turiaf (F/C). Each of these players has a specific role and fills it well. Farmar is going to be leading this team very soon and is doing an effective job running the second unit. Vujacic add toughness and a Eurotrash aspect that is fun. Turiaf provides the energy, defense, and rebounding off the bench. However, Walton is the real wildcard here. I believe he is the fourth best player on this team and should be starting. He is like a whiter, smaller Lamar Odom because they have the same skill set. He can pass, run the offense, and do the little things that teams need in order to win. I would look to him to making a difference in a couple of games.

The Spurs on the other hand utilize most of their bench players with Michael Finley (G), Jacque Vaughn (PG), Ime Udoka (SF), Robert Horry (PF), and Kurt Thomas (F/C) all seeing minutes. Finley, Horry, and Thomas all provide even more playoff tested veteran leadership and intangibles that always seem to put the Spurs on top. The real wild card here is Udoka though. He is a more athletic version of Bowen and will be relied upon to provide valuable minutes as the Kobe Bryant defender du jour. He is also dangerous as a three-point shooter.

Coaching: Advantage Neither

At least in the West, neither coach will make a mistake that will put the other team in position to win. We saw that multiple times out East with Flip Saunders and Doc Rivers. Both of these coaches have multiple rings and know what it takes to get the most out of their players. I think the mind games they play off the court will be just as entertaining to watch as what happens on the court.

FUN FACT: Dating back to 1999, the Lakers (2000-2002) and Spurs (1999, 03, 05, 07) have accounted for 7 of the 9 NBA Champions (Detroit won in 2004 and Miami won in 2006).

Key Match-Up: Spurs Forwards vs. Lakers Forwards

If the Lakers front court can keep the Spurs less athletic big men out of their comfort zone, this series will not be as close as I believe it will be. But, as much as Odom, Gasol, and Radmanovic provide trouble, Tim Duncan is just as tough to match-up with for the Lakers. Who do the Lakers put on him? Gasol and risk foul trouble for their best post guy? Odom and watch him get abused by Duncan? If Tim Duncan can get Odom and/or Gasol into early foul trouble, the Lakers will be up a certain creek without a paddle.

X-Factor: Vladimir Radmanovic, PF, LA Lakers

If he can force the Spurs to guard him on the three point line, this will open up the lane for KB24. If puts up a 1-6 stinker like he did in Game Four of the Jazz series, then the Spurs will be able to pack it in and allow his defender to sag into the middle of floor and help with Gasol or Kobe.

Prediction: Spurs in 7

I want to pick against the Spurs…but I can’t. The big three of Duncan, Ginobilli, and Parker will be too much for the Lakers to over come. Also, look for the Spurs to take two road games (Game 2 and Game 7). However, it would not surprise me either if the Lakers took this series in five as well. But, I’m going to stick with the Spurs.

BEARD

THE 2008 NBA DRAFT LOTTERY WAS A BUNCH OF BULL…LITERALLY
By, Justin “J-Fense” Fensterman

For all of you fans who think they should not watch the annual NBA draft Lottery because they’re team has a two percent chance or lower of getting the 1st overall pick in the draft, think again. Last night the Chicago Bulls, with their 1.7% odds, took home the Number One overall pick over the Miami Heat who had a 25% chance. The Bulls needed this pick more than ever because of the horrible season they had last year. The last time they had a top two pick, they selected Tyrus Thomas, who has shown thus far that he is filled with a terrible attitude and not as much talent to match it. This year though, they cannot lose because their are two elite players in the draft to choose from who will obviously go the first two picks. Besides the two elite players, this draft holds a very deep selection of talent. As of the results from last night, I am going to give an analysis and experts opinion on what each of the 14 non-playoff teams should do with their lottery pick. As the draft gets closer, my partners and I will update you on what each team is thinking of doing with their pick.
1ST PICK: CHICAGO BULLS
The Bulls cannot lose, but at the same time these next few months will be harder for them then any other team going into the draft because they have two different players to choose from. First Derrick Rose, G, Memphis. Rose is a Chicago native, but that should not be the main reason that the Bulls would pick him, he is very versatille and can lead a team, as he did on Memphis bringing them to the National Championship. Rose is a first team All-American and has proven himself on the court. THE PROBLEM: The Bulls right now have three guards who they will try to move. (Ben Gordon, Kirk Hinrich and Chris Duhon). What happens if the Bulls can’t move them by the start of the season? They will have four guards and really no toughness on the inside. Michael Beasley, F, Kansas State: All around good combo forward. He can not only run floor, handle the rock, shoot the three, but he can also play defense. People are calling him a future smaller Kevin Garnett. Wouldn’t you like that on your team. If the Bulls do manage to move one of their guards by draft day, expect Derrick Rose to be the first overall selection of the 2008 NBA draft. Jay Bilas says they will take Rose. J-Fense says that they cannot lose with either one of these picks, but try to alleviate themselves of their guards anyway because its clearly not working for them.
2ND PICK: MIAMI HEAT
Clear and simple, whomever the Bulls do not take, they will. Imagine a backcourt of Rose and Dwayne Wade…Scary huh? Or imagine a team with Wade and Beasley on it covering all ends collectively…Still scary. The Heat can’t lose.
3RD PICK: MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES.

The Timberwolves are in a very unique position because by the time they choose the elite players will be off the board. Now I understand that Al Jefferson is considered a “Center”. But, he is only 6-10. Imagine a front court featuring Brook Lopez, C, Stanford, and Jefferson, it would completely turn them around defensively because Lopez is 7-3 and plays like he’s 7-3. Now from the other end, can Randy Foye play the point? If he can then you do not go with Jerryd Bayless, G, Arizona. In fact, he should not even be a thought to the Timberwolves. The T-Wolves need scoring so if they do not want to consider moving Jefferson to the PF position, then the obvious choice is USC’s own OJ Mayo. Mayo is a scorer and considered combo guard. If the Wolves select Mayo, they will have a nasty, quick backcourt of Foye and Mayo with Jefferson as their big guy in the middle. This is a very tough pick for the Wolves, but in the end how can you pass up a 7-3 Center, who plays like a 7-3 Center. Or, how can you pass up a scorer like Mayo. Ford says Mayo and I completely agree. (J-Fense pick: OJ Mayo), but I also think Lopez should be considered. I just don’t think you can move Jefferson because that might cause a problem in the inside, but it’s a tough call. They better decide between Lopez and Mayo though.
4TH PICK: SEATTLE SUPERSONICS
The Sonics are in a very unique position because eventhough they have three seven footers on their team (Francisco Elson, Johan Petro, and Robert Swift), are any of them a good fit for the Sonics? It’s hard to tell. Now Luke Ridnour has proven himself to be a decent point guard despite his miserable season last year (6.4 ppg, 4 assists). I think the Sonics have given up on him and are ready to choose Jerryd Bayless, who could be a good fit with Kevin Durant. If they do want another option though they could consider OJ Mayo or Lopez, but Mayo might harm the growth of Durant and Lopez would become the fifth Center on the team. J-Fense Pick: Safe bet is choosing Bayless because they have such an unbalanced team and he would seem to work best with Durant. Ford agrees with me.
5TH PICK: MEMPHIS GRIZZLES
Memphis needs a solid big man!!! Kwame Brown, Jason Collins and Darko Milicic will not cut it for them. The idle situation would be to choose a PF, but their really is no elite power forward. If they choose Lopez, they must transfer Kwame Brown into their new starting PF. They might also want to consider Anthony Randolph who avereged nearly 16 points and 8.5 rebounds for LSU. Maybe Kevin Love? Who knows. They have Mike Miller, Rudy Gay, and Mike Conley, so I do not see where OJ Mayo would fit for them. J-Fense pick: Anthony Randolph. If Brook Lopez if he is still on the board, he should be considered because they are in dire need of a big man and once they get that solid big man, they will be good again. Should they overdose themselves on Centers though? Hmmmm, tough call, see you out there.
6TH PICK: NEW YORK KNICKS
The New York Knicks prayers unfortunately were unanswered last night as they will not be selecting Derrick Rose. Now they have to go with plan B. The 6th pick is rough because it is not garenteed that a scorer like OJ Mayo will be left on the board. The Knicks need everything, but waht they need most is a consistant scorer or PG. Mike D’Antoni wants this team to run and score big. If they can get Mayo, than maybe he would be a good fit. I am throwing this out there though. There is an Italian forward who can both shoot and drive the lane, kind of like a smaller Dirk. His name is Danilio Galinari. The problem with European players is that they are very hit or miss. This guy not only brings strength, excitement and scoring, but for a 19 year old player, he has such explosiveness that would fit the D’Antoni system. Remember, D’Antoni was very successful by winning two titles overseas as a coach before coming to the NBA, so you would think he would know how to work with a guy like this and plus he played ball overseas with his father as well. Now, if you really want a PG that badley you will now want to consider Russell Westbrook from UCLA. Not only is he a 6-3 PG but he might be the sleeper of the draft and is the best prospect from UCLA. If the Knicks want a PG they should choose Westbrook for his size, and quickness. Another option could be Texas PG DJ Augustin. It is a tough call because D’Antoni is successful with foreign players but the Knicks need to focus on a PG and DEFENSE!. J-Fense pick: Russell Westbrook (For now).

7TH PICK: LA CLIPPERS
I’m sorry, but I think it is time to cut the chord with Shaun Livingston. He is injury prone and the Clippers need a g player to run the floor. This is a simple choice because when you have a team that has upside with Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, and Al Thornton, you need someone to be able to place them and that is why I think Russell Westbrook or DJ Augustin would be a wise selection by the Clippers. Now if they have faith that Livingston can play a whole season without getting hurt, then your next option is to go with Eric Gordon because not only is he a good shooter, but with him, Mobley who avereged over 12 ppg last season, will come off the bench, making the Clippers a very deep and scary team with many options. J-Fense pick: A guard being either Gordon, Westbrook or Augustin. It will depend on if they have faith in Livingston or not. I would go with the pg because with Westbrook or Augustin, you will have immediate success, I predict.
8TH PICK MILWAUKEE BUCKS
The experts think that they should choose Eric Gordon, and I think they are sadly mistaken. Michael Redd is still in his prime and is a top scorer. Shame on the experts. The Bucks do not have a bad team, but something obviously isn’t working. Bogut proved himself this year, avereging nearly a double-double and if Charlie Vilanueva stays healthy, he will be a really strong PF. Remember they also have Yi Jianlian. What the Bucks need now is a scoring Small Forward and if they get that, they will be back in the playoffs next season. I think that if the Knicks do not take him at 6th, the Bucks might want to try out Danilo Gallinari because he is an explosive SF that is high scoring and can drive. He is a better Desmond Mason, who they already have. They need this guy because he can provide the SF role that this team needs. The projected lineup becomes Mo Williams, Redd, Gallinari, Yi or Vilanueva, and Bogut. Sounds pretty good to me. J-Fense pick: Denilo Gallinari.

9TH PICK: CHARLOTTE BOBCATS
The Bobcats are one player away from building up an empire and that player is a PF. Raymond Felton, Adam Morrison, Jasonn Richardson and Emeka Okafor are all ready to go but they need a little more on the defensive end, which is why I think Kevin Love would be their best bet. They are calling Love the next Wes Unseld who was a TOP 50 player historically. Love will not only provide, the Bobcats with what they need on the defensive end, but offensively he has some nice inside moves and once him and Okafor come iinto synch with each other, expect them to become the new twin towers. They could also go with Anthony Randolph who would be monsterous as well, but I think of the two, Kevin Love would be the best bet for the Bobcats. Expect them to be beastly next year with a lineup of Okafor, Love, Morrison, Felton and J-Rich with Gerald Wallace, Nazr Mohammed and Earl Boykins coming off the bench. J-Fense pick: Kevin Love.

10TH PICK: NEW JERSY NETS
All of you Nets fans should not be surprised with who I’m going to defend. Anthony Randolph. A strong PF who is 6-11. You already have Harris, Carter and RJ, now you need to focus on your inside game. Anthony Randolph can be trained as either a PF or C because we are still unsure of which position Sean Williams will play. With the two of them combined, (Williams and Randolph) your inside game improves tremendously and you will be back in the saddle, once the team falls in synch with each other. Another option you might want to consider incase both Randolph and Love are off the board is Darrell Arthur from Kansas another 6-10 PF. I doubt that Randolph and Love will both be off the board by the 10th pick. J-Fense pick: Anthony Randolph

11TH PICK: INDIANA PACERS
The Pacers can go with a few options. The experts think that Jamal Tinnsley is on the downside and I disagree. I don’t think you need to think long term with this team. The Pacers need a big man. Will Jermaine O’Neal be on the team next season? Who knows? They still should focus on getting a PF and that is why I think Darrell Arthur would be the most prime selection for this team. I see him working well with Jermaine O’Neal. He will not interfere and with his size, he can provide the defense Indiana needs in order to sneak into the playoffs next year. If not Darrell Arthur, then I guess they could take DeAndre Jordan who is a 7 foot center but he played for Texas A and M like an undersized ball player avereging 8 pts and 6 rebounds, but Arthur from the stats is a lot better for them because if they need Jermaine O’Neal to play center, he will and can do it. Arthur avereged 12.8 pts and 7 boards. J-Fense pick: Darrell Arthur.

12TH PICK: SACRAMENTO KINGS
They seemed to be filled at most positions. Brad Miller at Center, Artest at SF, Kevin Martin at SG are the top three on the team. For some reason though I not convinced that Beno Udrih is the future for them. He might be good for now and he was decent last year, but if they have any shot at getting DJ Augustin, take him and run. They need a solid back up pg. Also, they have no PF which might actually take priority. I actually think Donte Greene from Syracuse or JaVale McGee from Nevada would fit. Both have tremendous upside, and McGee especially has speed and is 7 feet tall and listed as a PF and Brad Miller is very slow so McGee could speed up the transition of the front court and him, Artest and Miller would become a dangerous front court. Greene is more of a scoring threat, but is plenty athletic. J-Fense pick: JaVale McGee
13TH PICK: PORTLAND TRAILBLAZERS
I think everyone can agree that this team is going to destroy next year. The board is open for them. I think if they go with a guy like Joe Alexander, you get a guy with great offense, 16.9 pts last year for West Virginia and he avereged over 6 rebounds. He is also 6-8. As the experts say, for their pick Donte Greene might also be good for this Portland team but they do not seem to be lacking in the big men category. Alexander seems like he would be the best fit to this already stacked team. J-Fense pick: Joe Alexander
14TH PICK: GOLDEN STATE WARRIORS
The Warriors need a Center and I think Marreese Speights is the perfect fit for them. He is often compared to Elton Brand and has a pretty good inside game and avereged over 8 boards for Florida and the Warriors need a defensive game. Another option to consider is DeAndre Jordan, but Speights statwise seems like he would fit better for them and work well with Baron Davis. A front court of Al Harrington, Stephen Jackson and Speights would be a great combo of height, toughness and scoring. Speights is the right man for this team because they do not have a Center right now. J-Fense pick: Marreese Speights
That is it for now, but as the draft comes closer, we will have a better understanding of what these teams want. Expect this year to be a very exciting draft because of the amount of talent in it.

Hey SportsZone fans and readers,

Welcome to “SZ: Questions of the Week”.

This feature on SportsZone’s webpage is where fans/readers will be able to answer sports questions that will be posted every week.  Readers will be able to give their opinion and might even debate with our very own panelists (who will answer the same questions), as they do on-air during the academic year at American University.  If you see a posted question that you want to take part in answering or see an absurd answer that you think is wrong,  let your voice be heard and leave a comment.  This is your chance to join the interaction and debate that is seen onSportsZone every week, only on ATV.

Thanks: Sean Speirs and the SportsZone Crew

Questions of the Week: Week 1

1) The NBA playoffs have finally reached the Conference Finals.  In the East, the Detroit Pistsons are up against the “Big 3’s” Boston Celtics (a great analysis of the matchup has been written by Sean “Beard” Wagman–see below).  Meanwhile, in the West, the Los Angeles Lakers are facing the defending champions San Antonio Spurs.  Of these two series, which teams will we see in the NBA Finals?

2) The Yankees are in an ongoing slump this season, capping it off with their recent loss to the New York Mets this past weekend.  Without A-Rod, the Yankees are 8-12 this season.  Should this team start to worry, or is this a repeat of the Yankees we saw last season (same type of slump, but came back strong to make it into the playoffs)?  Who is to blame, the players or new manager Joe Girardi?

3) Believe it or not, among all the other sports, the NHL is still going on and its Stanley Cup Finals time as the Detroit Red Wings (going for their fourth Cup since ’97)  take on the Pittsburgh Penguins (in the finals for the first time since ’92).  Who will be crowned victor in this epic series and why? 

With both Conference Finals finally set, I am here to give you my preview of the upcoming series. Today I will start with the East and tomorrow I will do the West.

Eastern Conference Finals

Boston Celtics (1) vs. Detroit Pistons

To steal from ESPN.com’s scouts inc., this is the series we have all been waiting for on the Eastern Side since the playoffs began. These are the two top teams in the Eastern Conference and both have a legitimate shot of winning it all against whoever wins the West.

Guards: Advantage Detroit (but only if Billups is healthy)

I have always really liked Rajon Rondo and to me, he really proved his worth during the series with Cleveland. He ran the offense efficiently and played good defense. Ray Allen on the other hand has collapsed into being the worst starter left among the four teams (yes worse than Vladimir Radmanovic). Everyone knew that he could not defend or drive coming into this season. However, his deadly shooting has rendered him about as useful as a poopy flavored lolli pop. In order for the Celtics to have any sort of chance in this series, he really needs to step it up.

Detroits guards on the other hand have really played well. Billups has played like the professional we all know he is. When he went down, Richard Hamilton really stepped up his game and carried the Pistons into the third round. Right now, there is nobody better coming off a screen and shooting a jumper (which used to be Ray Allen’s job).

Forwards: Advantage Boston

Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett are what makes this team go. The impact Garnett has had on this team is unbelievable and has made Bill Simmons (ESPN’s the Sports Guy –> and yes, I am gunning for that job, which will be mine some day) turn into a teen-aged girl at an N’Sync concert (wow, I am really dating myself with that reference). Pierce, on the other hand, has been on this team forever and is the only player left from the pre-Danny Ainge days. As much as Garnett brings to the table, he is the heart and soul of this team. His game seven performance against LBJ was amazing and shows that he can take over a game against anybody who tries to defend him.

Detroit’s forwards are not weak though. Sheed and Tayshaun Prince are excellent players who have the experience necessary to win. Prince has become one of the elite defenders in the NBA and regularly guards to the opposition’s best perimeter player. He is also effective at using his long arms on the offensive end of the floor where he is deadly from the corner and has a good understanding of his own personal strengths and weaknesses. Rasheed Wallace has become the Piston’s best three point shooter in the playoffs and has the “balls” to take that last shot (even though Chauncey does have ice water running through veins). His ability to knock down that jumper spreads the floor and gives space for Billups and Prince to take it to the hole.

Center: Advantage Neither

Kendrick Perkins of the Celtics and Antonio McDyess of the Pistons are both big men who stick to the low post and offer defense and rebounding. Neither is much of a scorer but both teams need to be wary of offensive rebounds. Also, neither of these players are playing huge minutes right now. However, McDyess used to be an excellent player, I would look for him to make a huge difference in one game.

Bench: Advantage Boston

I really like the depth and talent of Boston’s bench. Eddie House was a revelation in Game 7 providing great energy. Leon Powe, Big Baby Davis, and PJ Brown offer great depth and versatility for the front line and can throw a myriad of different styles at Detroit’s big men. James Posey is the three point shooter off the bench and can match up against Detroit’s best perimeter player on the defensive end.

Detroit does have some interesting options though. Jason Maxiell is a more experienced and explosive version of Leon Powe and has pretty much taken over for McDyess as Detroit’s low post option. Rodney Stuckey proved he can play when he filled in for Billups over the last two games of the Orlando series. He will be an interesting matchup for Boston because of his ability to play both backcourt positions. Beyond those two, two veterans who provide a steady hand, Theo Ratliff and Lindsey Hunter, add shot blocking (Ratliff) and a reliable fourth guard (Hunter).

Coaching: Advantage Detroit

Let me just say that these are possibly two of the worse coaches in the NBA (them being Doc Rivers and Flip Saunders) and I am not going to waste mine or yours going into the details of this mind game match up. I just want to say that I hope Doc Rivers sticks to a rotation and redeems himself for one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the playoffs in round one (how do you go to seven games against ATLANTA?????).

Key Matchup: Paul Pierce vs Tayshaun Prince

If game seven of the Cleveland series showed us anything, its that Paul Pierce is the most important player on Boston. Yes KG was excellent but this always has and always will be Paul’s team. If Tayshaun can play Pierce even, then the Pistons will walk away with this series. If not, then Detroit is going to be in trouble. I would look for Detroit to utilize Prince’s long arms to try and lock him up one on one and offer little or no help as they will try to keep the ball out of KG’s hands.

X-Factor: Sam Cassell, PG Boston Celtics

Yes, he did not play in game seven. Yes, he has been horrendous so far in the playoffs. Yes, he is perhaps the ugliest human being in the world and yes, he may not even be human. But that does not matter. If he can provide ten-fifteen minutes of solid basketball then Boston should count there blessings. However, if he reverts to his ball-hogging style, then watch him ride the pine for the rest of the playoffs, leaving Boston dangerously thin in the back court.

Prediction: Celtics in Seven

I believe that is about as even as a matchup one could hope for. Both of these teams play solid fundamental basketball and great defense. I just see Boston having just a little bit more on the offensive end. And even though Boston just went through a highly exhaustive and emotional series with Cleveland, I don’t see KG and Paul Pierce letting this team down and playing with low energy..

BEARD

Red Sox Pitcher Jon Lester Pitches No-Hitter

By: Sean Speirs

As Boston Celtics fans had a sigh of relief this past weekend, Red Sox fans were witnessing poetry in motion.

 

Last night, 24-year-old Red Sox pitcher Jon Lester proved once again that he is not done pulling off miracles, as he threw a no-hitter against the Kansas City Royals in a 7-0 win at Boston’s Fenway Park.  Lester, who has a win-loss record of 3-2 and a 3.14 ERA, ended the night with nine strikeouts, two walks and one error with a total of 103 pitches thrown.

 Jon Lester Pitching Against Royals--MSNBC.com

Lester’s shut-out marked the 18th no-hitter in Red Sox history, which is the second most shutouts by any team. However, this accomplishment is not the only feat that this pitcher has pulled off in his life. 

 

In 2006, Lester was diagnosed with cancer, most notably a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.  Throughout the following year, Lester continued to condition himself into proper pitching form as he was getting chemotherapy treatment.  With such dedication and multiple treatments, Lester conquered this rare disease, which was completely cured.

 

After a full recovery, the young lefty pitcher proved his true heart and strength to the fans of Boston last October, when he had his first Red Sox postseason start against the Colorado Rockies in Game 4 of the World Series.  Lester threw five shutout innings to win the game and seal another championship season for the Boson Red Sox.

 

In conjunction with Lester’s pitching streak against the Royals last night, much credit still goes to the rest of the Boston Red Sox team, as outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury, shortstop Julio Lugo, and first-baseman Kevin Youkilis backed up Lester with impressive fielding plays that kept the shut-out game going.

 

Once Lester’s final pitch, clocked at 96 mph (the fastest pitch of the night), struck out Royals’ second-baseman Alberto Callaspo, the Red Sox team came together and lifted Lester in the air as fans congratulated him with a standing ovation that was ongoing since the seventh-inning.

 

While Lester puts down another astonishing achievement within his list of life accomplishments, this game will not only forever be remembered by Boston fans as another reason why the Boston Red Sox are “the best in the league”, but it will also be rightly viewed as an inspirational story for any athlete playing in a competitive sport while juggling life’s obstacles. 

 Lester after pitching no-hitter--YahooSports.com

According to columnist Jeff Passan, during the news conference after the game, Lester said, “I threw a couple [no-hitters] in high school…but [this] one is a little different.”

 

Little does he know, this game will never compare to any others he has pitched.  The road Lester had to endure to reach such a life career will be one of the top encouraging stories in sports history. 

 

If anything, Lester’s tale teaches those to never give up; something that all athletes need to understand when standing toe-to-toe with competition.

 

Sean Speirs

 

SportsZone Fact:  Unfortunately, for the Kansas City Royals, this is not the first time they have been told “no-no” from a pitcher.  Their first given shutout was delivered by pitcher Nolan Ryan in 1973 when he played for the California Angels.  That same no-hitter game was marked the first out of seven no-hitters Ryan will go on to pitch throughout his career.

 

Images Courtesy of MSNBC.COM and YAHOOSPORTS.COM