June 2008


The REAL Decision ’08: THE 2008 NBA DRAFT  

By, Justin “J-Fense” Fensterman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ladies and Gentleman, Boys and Girls and Children of all ages, lets put the politics aside for one minute and talk about something that really matters; The NBA Draft.  We all know McCain and Obama have their issues and platforms to defend, but so do another entity in this country; The Chicago Bulls.  If you think choosing your next president is hard, choosing the future of your franchise is even harder.  Good luck to you John Paxon, let’s see if your selection can match the efficiency of your three-point jumper.  We all remember game six of the 1993 NBA finals when Paxon hit the game winning three to bury Charles Barkley, Kevin Johnson, “Thunder” Dan Majerle and the rest of that Phoenix Suns team that fell victim to Jordan and the Bulls.  Now it is time for Mr. Paxon to come through in the clutch once again as the fate of the Bulls future rests on this pick.   Besides the Bulls though, there are other teams in this draft that can benefit from this talented draft class.  I am proud to present, one week before the draft, my second and final mock draft.   Since my last draft we have seen players stocks plummet and rise.  Brook Lopez’s stock has fallen nearly out of the top 10 while Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook’s have risen.  But are we in store for an even bigger stunning surprise in Miami?  I’ll explain that in a moment.  Let’s get started.  I have analyzed the entire first round.

1st pick:  Chicago Bulls

I cannot stress enough how important this pick is for this team.  They had a 1.8% chance of getting it and they beat all of the odds without even having a ridiculous good luck charm present with them at the Lottery.  On one end you have an amazing point guard and on the other hand a phenomenal combo forward.  After doing my research I have to agree with realgm.com that this league is now a guard dominated league and I think in order for the Bulls to be able to run with big boys, I think that they need the same the New Orleans has, a point guard.  Without Chris Paul, that team is not what is now and I still think that you can go either way with this pick and still have success.  If you hear of Ben Gordon being traded to the Knicks or another team, don’t be surprised.  That event will clinch Rose as the number one pick.  Experts are pretty split down the board and the Bulls can’t go wrong with either player.  I have made a final decision though and I’m not 100% confident but it makes the most sense.  J-Fense Pick:  Derrick Rose

2nd Pick:  Miami Heat

The latest rumors say that the Heat might pull a fast one at the draft and leave Beasley on the board if Rose is selected at one.  This shocked me because a player like Beasley is very valuable and a great asset to have on a team.  Hey Pat Riley, I think all of that gel that you’ve been putting in your hair over the last 30 years has finally reached your brain and is effecting your decision making.  The Heat are considering taking OJ Mayo over Beasley with their pick.  I like Mayo, but I like Beasley more.  Imagine a front court of Beasley, Marion and Mourning or Earl Barron, sounds good.  I just don’t think Mayo and Wade can co-exist in the backcourt.  It doesn’t make any sense.  If the Bulls pick Beasley first, reports say that the Heat will select Rose.  J-Fense Pick:  Michael Beasley

3rd Pick: Minnesota Timberwolves

Bottomline, the T-Wolves need a shooting guard.  They have none.  I hope OJ Mayo likes the Midwest because that is where he will go if the Heat don’t pick him at 2.  If by chance, Riley picks Mayo, just pick Beasley and figure a way to transfer Corey brewer into a shooting guard.  A backcourt of Randy Foye and Mayo would be stellar. J-Fense Pick: O.J. Mayo         

4th Pick:  Seattle (for now) Supersonics

I would just like to say that the rally was very impressive to keep the Sonics in Seattle.  Gary Payton was there along with 3,000 other Sonics faithful.  This pick has already been decided so don’t expect any surprises.  With the fourth pick in the 2008 NBA draft, the Seattle Supersonics will select Jerryd Bayless from the University of Arizona.  I still don’t think Bayless will save the Sonics from their assumed fate, of moving to Oklahoma, but hopefully for the team, him and Kevin Durant will mesh well together.  J-Fense Pick:  Jerryd Bayless

5th Pick:  Memphis Grizzles

  Memphis needs a big guy.  Kwame Brown, Darko Milicic, and Jason Collins (sorry Tommy T), are all failures.  You can go one of two ways here as there are two big men out there who have had impressive workouts and no Brook Lopez is not one of them.  I’m talking about Anthony Randolph and a certain nephew of the lead singer of the greatest American classic rock band ever, The Beach Boys, KEVIN LOVE!  He looks a lot like his uncle Mike Love but that’s besides the point.  Right after the lottery, experts had this guy going between picks 9-14 and now the experts have changed their tune on Love.  Love is an excellent inside player and is easily seen as averaging a double-double and his workouts have been very impressive.  Anthony Randolph is not only an accomplished scorer, but he can also play defense and has nice ups.  My only beef with him and this is why his stock has fallen a bit, he doesn’t play up to his height.  He is nearly seven feet and didn’t average 10 boards last season.  That’s a bit problematic.  I have faith though that both would make this team better.  I have to go with the guy who I think is more aggressive.  J-Fense Pick:  Kevin Love

6th Pick:  New York Knicks

I am sorry but to all you Italian New Yorkers, the “Italian Stallion” Danillo Galinari will not be selected with this pick.  His stock has fallen tremendously.  He is too raw and the Knicks are not willing to take the risk.  There are reports that that out of anyone that has worked out with New York, Donnie Walsh was most impressed by Russell Westbrook.  I called this guy a few weeks ago to be a possible selection and now it appears he is a finalist.  However, there is another player in this draft that has impressed me time and time again and his name is D.J. Augustin.  Bottom-line:  The Knicks need a point guard of some sort and I think Westbrook would fit the system well but I like Augustin better because he is a natural point guard.  The Knicks have enough scorers and now they need someone who can create and penetrate.  J-Fense Pick:  D.J. Augustin

7th Pick:  LA Clippers

There seems to be three people who the Clippers are interested in:  Eric Gordon, Russell Westbrook and Danillo Galinari.  The reason why coach Dunlevy likes Galinari is because apparently his basketball IQ is amazing.  I still wouldn’t pick someone based solely off of that.  I personally like the other two options for them.  Shaun Livingston is too injury prone to depend on so I think someone who can play the point at least a little bit would be good for them.  That is why I think Russell Westbrook is a great fit for them.  He not only can play the point, but if the Clippers need him to score he will.  He will need time to develop but I think he will fit well with their system.  J-Fense Pick:  Russell Westbrook

8th Pick:  Milwaukee Bucks

Experts say that this situation is confusing but I really don’t see why.  Chad Ford says the Bucks biggest need right now is a small forward to help out Desmond Mason.  Oh, and don’t worry about Michael Redd.  Scott Skiles assured him that he wouldn’t be traded despite the rumors so that won’t effect the Bucks pick.  I think the Bucks should go with a guy like Danillo Galinari.  I really am confident he would fit better for them than Joe Alexander.  I think with his B-ball IQ, he can really help this team out on all ends.  If the Bucks don’t take him, the Nets will.  If worse comes to worst, you start Mason until Galinari develops more.  He could be a good role player off the bench because of his quickness and versatility.  J-Fense Pick:  Danillo Galinari

9th Pick:  Charlotte Bobcats

The Bobcats are a big man away from becoming an unbelievable force in the East.  I am very excited about this team and Portland personally.  My original pick for the Bobcats was Kevin Love, but experts say that he will be picked by Memphis so I think the next best player for them is Brook Lopez.  Lopez is 7-3 and with Okafor by his side, just Lopez’s presence will help on the defensive end.  Okafor is a confident scorer and rebounder.  That front court of Gerald Wallace/Adam Morrison, Okafor and Lopez would be amazing with J-Rich and Felton in the backcourt.  Lopez is the most sensible pick for the ‘Cats and he will step up this team on the defensive end and take care of the garbage points as well.  J-Fense Pick:  Brook Lopez

10th Pick:  New Jersey Nets

The Nets need to build on their frontcourt.  They have the scorers taken care of between Jefferson and Carter alone.  I think you need to add more depth because when I look at their front court of Williams, Boone, Kristic and Swift, the only reliable player I see is Williams.  This is why I think the Nets should pick Anthony Randolph which would add a lot more depth and pep to their step.  They don’t have to start him right away because they have other players that can fill the void temporarily, but long-term I think Randolph can be the Nets PF of the future.  Him, along with Sean Williams, can make a fantastic front court along with Jefferson unless the Nets decide to start Kristic instead and have Williams continue coming off the bench.  Rumor has it though, that the Nets have “guaranteed” Danillo Galinari that he would be their pick if he was still on the board.  Rumors are not always true though.  J-Fense Pick:  Anthony Randolph

11th Pick:  Indiana Pacers

Indiana can go one of two ways.  They can either select a sharp-shooter in Eric Gordon or PF Marreese Speights.  This all will depend on Jermaine O’Neal and where to place Dunlevy and Granger.  Will Jermaine O’Neal be a pacer next season?  Nobody knows.  I really want them to select Gordon, but I think because A. they don’t know what will happen with J.O. and B.  because Dunlevy and Granger can play the 2 and the 3, I think that for liability reasons, the safe bet and the best bet for the Pacers would be to go with Speights.  J-Fense Pick:  Marreese Speights

12th Pick: Sacramento Kings

The Kings are also in a messy situation because the on and off rumors of Ron Artest being traded have surfaced yet again.  This could effect their pick.  Unfort. I do not think Eric Gordon would fit well on this team because they seem to have enough at the guard-small forward spot.  I think they should concentrate on getting a power forward because they need defense.  If the Pacers do select Gordon with their pick, I would say that the Kings should pick Speights, but if not, I think the next best avalable PF for them would be Darrell Arthur.  They could also take a risk and draft JaVale McGee but I think Arthur has less bust potential then McGee. He is also more of a PF then McGee and that is the position that they need because Brad Miller is still a force at Center.  Arthur is quick and explosive and can play both ends of the floor.  J-Fense Pick:  Darrell Arthur

13th Pick:  Portland Trailblazers

Portland will most likely trade their pick because they have just about everything they need.  I can see them trading to a team who wants to draft either Eric Gordon or Joe Alexander.  I think Joe Alexander would be a great fit for this Portland team if they do decide to draft.   However, Portland has a good thing going at the 3 spot with Martell Webster and Travis Outlaw.  At the point guard spot they have Steve Blake and Jarrett Jack.  I have severe doubts that this team will be selecting at 13 because they have a great system ready for them and the only thing they lack is veteran leadership.  The team that trades with them will prob. At this point draft Eric Gordon if he is still on the board.  If I am forced to make a decision I will have to say Joe Alexander because Portland could use Alexander as a backup PF to LaMarcus Aldridge.  J-Fense Pick:  Joe Alexander (If they draft)  MY REAL PREDICTION:  The team that trades with Portland will draft Eric Gordon or Joe Alexander

14th Pick:  Golden State Warriors

The Warriors need a big guy who can rebound.  This is where I would select either DeAndre Jordan or JaVale McGee because both are big men with tremendous upside.  The Warriors need some defensive help and they need it now which is why I think Jordan would be too much of a risk because he is underdeveloped.  I think McGee who averaged nearly three blocks a game last season for Nevada and would fit well for this team and help them step it up on defense.  J-Fense Pick:  JaVale McGee

15th Pick:  Phoenix Suns (from Atlanta)

The Suns situation is interesting because there are rumors that they are trying to trade Raja Bell and/or Boris Diaw.  Normally I would have them drafting Gordon, but I believe that Shaq and Amare alone are not enough to handle the beasts of the west.  They need an off the bench big man.  Shaq is not half of what he used to be in his prime and will need help.  The most sensible pick at this juncture would be either DeAndre Jordan or Donte Greene.  I like Jordan better, he just needs to be motivated and if Shaq takes him under his wing, he can become a beast like Shaq was.  Jordan is a seven footer.  J-Fense Pick:  DeAndre Jordan 

16th Pick:   Philadelphia 76ers

They need a PF and the next best available seems to be JJ Hickson.  Good scorer and rebounder.  J-Fense Pick:  J.J. Hickson

17th Pick:  Toronto Raptors

The Raptors want another big man who can be compared and related to Brook Lopez.  Oh yeah his brother Robin is in the draft as well and the Raptors want him.  J-Fense Pick: Robin Lopez

18th Pick:  Washington Wizards

It is unknown whether the Wiz will have Antawn Jamison on their team next season due to the fact that he’s a free agent.  I think a perfect replacement for him would be Donte’ Greene from Syracuse.  Hes a scorer, just like Jamison and also a pretty solid defender and 6-10.  J-Fense Pick:  Donte’ Greene

19th Pick:  Cleveland Cavaliers

Big Z and Joe Smith’s career’s are just about over so the Cavs need a big man.  Standing at 7-1 is Kosta Koufos from Ohio State.  He is 19 but has a lot of upside.  J-Fense Pick:  Kosta Koufos

20th Pick:  Denver Nuggets

They have a lot of scorers and this is also tough because Carmello might not be on the team next season.  Let’s assume that he is, Denver needs a young point guard and I like Mario Chalmers.  J-Fense Pick:  Mario Chalmers

21st Pick:  New Jersey Nets (from Dallas)

The board is there’s.  They can go with anyone at this point.  On my board I’d say go for Eric Gordon.  VC needs a back up and won’t play forever.  J-Fense Pick:  Eric Gordon (He will be selected earlier most likely via trade)

22nd Pick:  Orlando Magic

They are in dire need of a SG.  They have none.  Brandon Rush would be a great fit for them because it will up their scoring even further. J-Fense Pick:  Brandon Rush

23rd Pick:  Utah Jazz

They need a SG, why not pick a guy who has a great shot and can slash to the rim as well.  That is the only thing they are lacking.  J-Fence Pick: Chris Douglas-Roberts

24th Pick:  Seattle Supersonics (from Phoenix)

History has shown that the Sonics like the foreign big men.  They need a big man.  I think that due to their history, there is an international PF waiting to be selected by them.  He is 18 and is from Congo. He’s 6-10.  J-Fense Pick:  Serge Ibaka

25th Pick:  Houston Rockets

I agree with Chad Ford that at this point in the draft, you take the most talented available player.  Here is a SF from France that is said to be very talented and they can use the extra forward.  J-Fense Pick:  Nicolas Batum

26th Pick:  San Antonio Spurs

The Spurs were very successful when they had the twin towers of Duncan and Robinson.  Maybe with this pick the twin towers can be resurrected.  They do need a big man after all.  J-Fense Pick:  Roy Hibbert 

27th Pick:  New Orleans Hornets

The Hornets need another shooter in my opinion and I think Courtney Lee from Western Kentucky is the right choice.  He’s a scorer and a slasher and will work well with Chris Paul.  J-Fense Pick: Courtney Lee

28th Pick:  Memphis Grizzles (From Lakers I guess:   Not Confirmed)

In my opinion, if Memphis takes love, I think I found a decent replacement for Gasol that would fill the PF void.  Jason Thompson from Rider averaged 20 and 12 last season.  Maybe Memphis will have twin Towers of their own.  J-Fense Pick:  Jason Thompson

29th Pick:  Detroit Pistons 

If Joe Dumars wants to clean house and try something new, there is a Center out there who I have been reading about and Chad Ford also said, has been most impressive in his workouts.  He is 7-1 and from France and is compared to LaMarcus Aldridge.  J-Fense Pick:  Alexis Ajinca

30th Pick:  Boston Celtics:    

This pick matters very little to the champs.  Kyle Weaver from Washington State is a good combo guard who can come off the bench and score.  He’ll do.  J-Fense Pick:  Kyle Weaver

 

THERE IS YOUR FIRST ROUND.  THERE IS A LOT OF TALENT TO GO AROUND THIS YEAR WITH THIS DEEP DRAFT.  EXPECT A FEW SURPRISES AND YES ERIC GORDON WILL GET DRAFTED.  I PROMISE.  I JUST ALSO WANT TO GIVE A SHOUT-OUT TO MY PARTNER BEARD WAGMAN FOR CALLING THE CELTS OVER THE LAKERS.  PROPS TO YOU BEARD, GOOD CALL.

By, Justin “J-Fense” Fensterman   

 

 

Advertisements

Instead of dedicating a column to just the finals, as I’m sure one of my colleagues will, I’ve decided to talk about a few things.

First, I just want to bask in the glory of the Celtics winning it all.  I believe my analysis was One-Hundred Percent correct, and Paul Pierce as my Finals MVP was a no-brainer.  Thank You very much. 

The two things I did not expect was to Ray Allen find his shooting stroke and become the most consistent player on either team offensively and then for Ray Allen and Paul Pierce to effectively render the Lakers useless because Kobe was taking 25 shots and only scoring 25 points.  By keeping him from the line, it forced Kobe to take more shots than he wanted, limiting the touches for the other players around him.  There is a reason that the Lakers did not score as much in this series than they did in any other.  Everybody’s scoring was down and that is the great team defense that the Celtics played.  The same as Football, Defense Wins.  Period.

I also have to give props to Doc Rivers on a masterful coaching job (did I just really say that?).  He stuck to what he knows, and that is motivation.  I don’t believe I saw the Celtics run an offense except for the high screen and roll (that the Lakers could not defend) and Ray Allen running around 50 screens.  I think he showed that he is not as bad of a coach as I and others make him out to be, but actually a middling coach who can rise up to the occasion and outcoach lucky bastards who have the two greatest players of their generation playing for them (Shaq and MJ, there is a reason that Kobe has not won without Shaq and Shaq has won without Kobe.  Why doesn’t anyone give Shaq the props he deserves and proclaim him the player of the period of time after MJ?  Kobe just isn’t good enough to win it without him, and he never will, the same with Phil…he is never going to win another championship with Kobe).  Doc just flat out bent Phil over and said, “I am your daddy!”  Memo to Phil: it’s ok to make in-game adjustments like taking out Lamar Odom because he can’t stretch the floor and playing a line-up that consists of Fisher, Vujacic/Radmonovic, Kobe, Farmar/Walton, and Gasol/Turiaf.  That is what I would’ve done.

Yet, the real reason that the Celtics won (last point about this game, I promise) was not because of the play on the court, but the comraderie off the court.  The difference in the desire can be seen in the bench players and those in street clothes.  Every possession, the Celtics bench was standing, cheering, and into the game, as if they were playing.  I can’t count the times I saw Brian Scalabrine or Eddie House jumping up and down and cheering on their teammates.  The same goes for Sam Cassel.  Everybody bled for each other and represented what it truly means to be a team.  I can only hope this continues because it was a treat to see it and all high-school and younger kids should take notice.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

In addition to the Celtics taking the NBA Championship, the second team in New York fired its coach.  By second team, I mean the Mets.  And I just gotta say I think this is one of the biggest mistakes that the Mets could have made.  I can understand maybe firing Rick Peterson because the pitching staff, mainly the bullpen is not performing up to par, but the Mets were just beginning to get on a roll by winning 3 out of 4 and get some positive momentum.  They had something to play for (Randolph’s Job) and were motivated to make sure that he kept it.  Now they have nothing to play for and if last nights game was any indication of things to come, it does not look good.  I was actually discussing this with my father the other day and we both came to the conclusion that Mets are going to struggle to finish .500.  I just don’t seem them being competitive unless they turn the switch on now.  I can only hope I am dead wrong.

Also, what a classless way to handle the entire situation.  Sometimes, I wish it were possible to fire an ownership group.  The Wilpons seem to be just as clueless as Jimmy Dolan over at MSG on the correct tact and timing to fire coaches.  The Wilpons jumped the gun way too early and have a history of leaking things to the press.  This became such a bad situation that I feel happy for Willie that he finally has this monkey off his back and can now focus on getting a job with an organization that will value his class and great baseball mind.  I only hope he does not land in the NL East.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

The other major sports event of the past week or so was the PGA US Open that was an instant classic.  I’m gonna be honest, I’ve become so inundated with Tiger Woods that I hope he loses every tournament, but I know he is going to win if he is within one or two strokes on the last nine holes.  Yet, while I enjoyed watching Rocco Mediate, Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood, and a few others battle it out over the five days, I almost wanted to punch my computer screen on Monday while I watched the playoff at work (by the way…kudos to IBM, NBC, and ESPN for putting the stream up for free and in wonderful quality.  Why can’t all sports do that?  Was that so hard?).  The reason: the fabulous announcers that NBC employed kept telling me how much of a classic this was, how great Rocco Mediate was, and how even greater Tiger Woods was (in addition to how mentally tough he was…give me a break.  Yeah I’m sure he learned mental toughness on the links as a child.  I think that was dumbest thing I have ever heard…even if it was said by his dead father – no disrespect to Earl Woods).  Broadcasters, and this happens in every sport, please learn to shut up and stop ramming the same 3 talking points down my throat.  SILENCE IS GOLDEN!  Learn from that proverb.  Its not awkward unless you make it that way.

By the way…Rocco Mediate, where have you been all my life and why isn’t mic’d up all the time when he is playing.  He was so funny and insightful…much more so than those so called “expert” broadcasters.

____________________________________________________________________________________________

And finally, some things to watch this week now that the Never Ending Basketball Playoffs are over:

Euro 2008: Jump on the Netherlands Train and watch them take the tourament by storm.  They are so dominant offensively that it doesn’t matter that there goalkeeper is really old and that their defense is middling.  I see them beating Portugal in the finals (really, I just want to make fun of Ronaldo again)Watch them and the rest of the tournament this week on the ESPN Channels and ABC.

NBA Draft: On June 26th, the world will finally have the answer to Beasley vs. Rose.  Watch the NBA draft…if you havn’t had enough yet.  Hopefully our draft expert J-Fense will come out with a final mock draft with the correct pick of Michael Beasley going to Bulls. 

MLB:  Interleague play is heating up.  This weekend features marquee match-ups like Philadelphia vs Texas (the two best offenses in Baseball) and the three best inter-city rivalries in Baseball: The Cubs vs the White Sox, the Angels vs the Dodgers, and the Subway Series aka the Mets vs the Yankees. 

Should be a great week or so of sports.  Enjoy!

Also, I’m going on vacation for the next two weeks so unfortunately this massive column is going to have to tide you over until I get back from relaxing.  Until then…

BEARD

 

With Summer upon us and the never ending Basketball Playoffs almost over (what…you thought this would be a basketball column after last nights amazing comeback by the Celtics?  Don’t waste your time here and read a much funnier account of anything that I could do), America’s Pastime takes front and center in the sports world. Just recently, I have started watching a couple of games a week, mainly New York Mets games unfortunately. And I must say, this season just seems weird. Everything seems upside down. The Florida teams are over five-hundred and contending for division leads and the two Chicago teams are now at the center of the baseball universe by having the two best teams in baseball. Big name stars such as David Ortiz, Jake Peavy, Travis Hafner, Rafael Furcal, Alex Rodriguez, Alfonso Soriano, and Albert Puljos have or are currently on the disabled list. Big market teams like the New York Mets, the Yankees, the Detroit Tigers, and the Dodgers are all struggling and underwhelming fans.

But disappointment should be expected, because if everything played out the way it was expected, why would people watch?

But I have been struggling more and more to find a reason to watch baseball this season. The game just seems slow and boring. Now that the Yankees are finally playing down to their pitching, there is nobody to hate anymore (even though Hank is doing his best George Steinbrenner impersonation).  The injuries are piling up and every pitcher seems to be unable to grasp the concept of holding a lead (or at least every Mets reliever…all three of them who came in after Johan Santana pitched seven shutout innings yesterday afternoon, let in a run, with Billy Wagner blowing his third straight save by giving up two runs in the ninth.  I thought he was supposed to be good.  What gives?)

And yet it goes deeper than that…

I know this article is probably 3-6 months too late (I don’t even remember when the Mitchell Report came out, it just seems so long ago, but still so present), but after the steroid scandal rocked the baseball world, the sport just hasn’t been the same for me.  Baseball lost so much credibility after the steroids scandal, I just don’t know anymore if my boyhood heroes were clean, and that bothers me. 

I remember watching Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa battle it out for the home run record in the summer of 1998 and believing that these two players were not just ordinary human beings but super-humans capable of extradorinary feats of stregnth (sort of like Frank Costanza’s perfect world model for the Festivus celebration). 

This story always stuck in my mind.  My parents went away on a vacation when I was in Middle School to Paris and when he came back, the first thing he told me was that when he was in the airport, multiple people came up to him and asked him for his autograph thinking he was Mark McGwire.  Now, my father is not nearly as big as McGwire but his face looks similar and he was wearing a Cooperstown shirt (for all those who don’t know what Cooperstown is, its the Baseball Hall of Fame).  I always thought that was so cool and my father and I joked about it constantly. 

Now though, after it was revealed that McGwire possibly used steroids (and its not like his testimony in Congress was reassuring), that story embarrasses me because it connects my father to a disgraced baseball player and a dark time in the sport. 

The titans of baseball just don’t seem legitimate.  I mean, look at these guys.  They’re almost as big as football players, and in some cases, much bigger (I’m talking to you C.C. Sabbathia).  Maybe its the evolution of the athlete, but I don’t buy it.  Thats the thing I used to like about Baseball, these average looking guys would go out and destroy people with their intensity and sheer talent.  Now, the talent level is down, the testerone level is up, and the average fan can no longer connect to the star player on their team.  These guys are no longer average joe’s just playing some ball but highly pampered athletes with designer drugs. 

Mr. Selig, please do something!

But I guess baseball will come back strong.  There have always been scandals.  Pete Rose gambling on games, the White Sox throwing the 1919 World Series, and the Cocaine scandal of the 1980’s are just a few. 

Still I don’t know if baseball can recover from this and remain credible. 

BEARD

PS- And in a theater near you this summer: the NBA where “Scumbag ex-refs have more credibility than the Commish Happens”… I mean WOW, who would’ve thought that David Stern would’ve screwed this up?  Really?  You can’t do better than this?  Scumbag ex-ref is embarrasing you!  You gotta focus and keep your eyes on the prize!

So, in the previous article as he usually does, Mr. Beard gave us an amazingly in depth analysis previewing this year’s NBA Finals between the Lakers and the Celtics.  I agree with what most of the article says especially the key matchup between Pierce and Kobe.  One thing that could effect that outcome of the series that I wished Mr. Beard expanded on was the coaching advantage.  If the NBA Finals has shown us anything over time its that good coaching wins finals.  If you look for instance at the last 17 years on which teams won titles you would see that since 1990-1991 season, Phil Jackson has won 9 titles, Greg Popovich has won 4 titles, Rudy Tomjanovich has won 2 titles, and Pat Riley and Larry Brown have also each won a title.  Notice something familiar here?  I sure do, All great coaches.  Afterall, everyone knows that Michael Jordan would not have been the player he was without Phil Jackson’s dicipline as his coach.  When Jackson took over the reigns after Doug Collins was fired, Jordan was still the “One man show” which was his reputation in the 80’s.  As the “one man show” Jordan could not take down the Detroit “Bad Boys” Pistons of the 80’s who were coached by Chuck Daly, anotehr solid coach, FYI.  When Phil Jackson diciplined Jordan and explained to him, that he was the coach and that he would not see playing time if he didn’t utilize his teammates, the following year in 1991, the Chicago Bulls swept the Detroit Pistons in the Eastern Conference Finals after losing in the playoffs to them the previous three years.  Even after Jordan retired after winning his third straight title in 1993, the following year the Bulls were still seen as a contender in the playoffs, as they pushed the number one seed of the East, The New York Knicks, to the limit.  The 1994 series was brought to 7 games, and the Knicks ended up pulling out the victory.  The point of that example was that even without Jordan the Bulls were still able to win and I claim Phil Jackson fully responsible for that.  He taught players like Jordan, Pippen, Tony Kukoc and others how to be floor leaders and it resulted in more titles than fingers on a hand (6). 

 

The Lakers:  When the Lakers signed Shaquille O’neal in 1996 and drafted Kobe Bryant the Same year, the Lakers struggled for the first three years the two superstars were together.  Del Haris coached the Lakers the first two years of that and Kurt Rambis coached the other year.  During that time, they could not even win their division with the team of Kobe, Shaq, Eddie Jones and Nick Van Exel.  When Phil Jackson came around in 1999, both Van Exel and Jones were gone and before you know it, the Lakers Won their division in 2000, Jackson’s first season as coach, and then went on to win the title that same year and then 2 more after that.  It wasn’t a fluke that the Lakers won the title in the years ’00, ’01 and ’02.  Jackson made that team better, teaching Kobe and Shaq how to co-exist and bringing up a stud point guard in Derek Fisher which would result in the dangerous triangle offense that the Lakers have had.  It was Jackson who is responsible for the Lakers success.

This year:  This year’s finals features the two top teams in the league; the Lakers and the Celtics.  Any coach, including Isaiah Thomas, can win at least 50 or more games with this Celtics team.  I know the Celts won 66 but if I’m going to include Isaiah Thomas in this stat who is the worst coach ever, I have to give some looseness to this stat, but yes Isaiah could win 50 games with that team.  If the Celtics had a decent coach they would win the series but the fact of the matter is that Doc Rivers is, as Beard stated “the worst coach in the NBA not named Isaiah Thomas”.  You are putting him up in this series against one of the top two coaches in NBA history.  It is hard to say who a better coach is/was between Red Auerbach and Phil Jackson, but I’m still going to go with Red. by a hair, but it is still debateable.  Doc Rivers barely got thsi Celtics team out of the first round against the Atlanta Hawks who were 8 games under .500.   Then, they barely got passed the defending Eastern Conference Champion Cleveland Cavaliers.  After two series the Celtics had a road record of (0-6) which is disgraceful considering the Celtics ended with the best record in the league.  Regarding the Eastern Conference Finals against Detroit, if Chauncey Billups was healthy, the Celtics would be on the golf course right now.  The Lakers had a completely different kind of road to get to the NBA finals because of how amazing the west is.  Each seed won at least 50 games.  Their first round opponent was against the 50-32 Denver Nuggets who they swept.  Their next opponent was against the 54-28 Utah Jazz who they defeated in six.  Their previous opponent was against the 56-26 San Antonio Spurs who they defeated in five games.  Let me remind you that they did all of this without Andrew Bynum.  I understand that their should have been a foul called on Fisher at the end of game four.  But, do you know how many calls players like Jordan, Wilt, Magic and Bird got in their favor back in their hayday?  You cannot say that something is a conspiracy theory because of that.  Also, didn’t brent Barry try to jump into Fisher?  Maybe that’s why the call was made.  I saw a lean in by Barry and as far as that is concerned, that could have been more of an offensive foul than a defensive one, but that is up for debate, it wasn’t the most obvious foul anyway.  

The bottom line:  The Lakers have had a much tougher road to the finals and history has shown that great coaches win titles.  Phil Jackson is one of the best in history and Doc Rivers is a loser.  He was a loser  in Orlando and let’s not forget, when he was the coach of the ’04-’05 Celtics team, they won their division but still managed to lose in the first round of the ’05 playoffs.  He has never made it out of the first round until this year, that says something.  It says how terrible he really is as a coach.  Every season he coached the Magic they were .500 or better and they still failed to make it out of the first round.  This season, has caused people to forget about his past because he is in the finals.  That team is expected to make the finals without a coach running the bench.  He gets no credit what-so-ever for this season.  I give it to the players completely.  I’m not saying to not pick the Celtics to win the Championship this year, I am just saying that history has shown that winning the NBA Finals has really come down to one thing…Good Coaching!  And that is something that the Celtics lack.

By, Justin “J-Fense” Fensterman

So I was one for two in my predictions but I still feel very about both analyses. Before we get to the Finals preview, a few thoughts about some goings on in the NBA.

1- The officials really screwed the Spurs in the Western Conference. That no-call on Derek Fisher in Game 4 doomed the Spurs to lose Game 5. I believe the Spurs go on to win that game if Barry goes to the line and the Spurs, with the series tied at two, go into LA feeling pretty good and probably taking Game 5. That game alone gave the conspiracy theorists more than enough amunition to last them the year.

2- The draft is coming up and my man J-Fense just wrote an interesting article about what the Bulls should do with the first pick. However, I could not disagree more with him. Hinrich has shown that he can be all-star caliber point guard and Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah have shown to be nothing more than athletic, defense orientied power fowards. I believe the Bulls must draft Beasley. He instantly upgrades their presence in the post which helps a jump-shooting team more than a point guard. If the Bulls think it through, a player who commands a double team in the post to open up outside shots for Gordon, Hinrich, Noicioni, and Hughes is more valuable than a point guard who passes to players on the wing who can not create their own shot. John Paxson, please take Michael Beasley.

3- While the firing of Flip Saunders was not much of a surprise, it disappoints me that he is the one held accountable for the actions of Rasheed Wallace. Chris Sheridan of ESPN.com wrote an article claiming that Saunders did not have the respect of his players and only McDyess played hard consistently. Well I say that is a bunch of crap and the coach should not be to blame if his players are unprofessional cry-babies. And Rasheed Wallace is the ringleader and the one to blame. Wallace has a tendency to be a malcontent and let his emotions get the better of him. I actually think Saunders did a good job of coaching in the series, it was just his most important player (sorry Chauncey and Rip) played like he didn’t care.

Now, onto the preview…

GUARDS: ADVANTAGE LAKERS

The point guard matchup here is the most important one in the series and the most intriguing. You have young Rajon Rondo who has become more important to his team than Ray Allen and the wily veteran Derek FIsher. If Rondo can play solid defense on Fisher (something he was not able to do in the Pistons series [did anybody see the way Billups abused him in Game 6?]), then I feel like the Celtics can call it a day because there is no way they are stopping Kobe. Rondo needs to keep grabbing boards, leading the break, dishing the rock, and making smart decisions (seems easy right?).

In all reality though, it doesn’t really matter what the other Lakers do because it all revolves around Kobe Bryant. He averaged just under 30 points a game in the Spurs series and that was considered a masterful job by Bruce “Dirty Mo-Fo” Bowen. Are you kidding me? There is nobody on the Celtics who can matchup with Kobe like Bowen could and the only one who gets a look off the bench who could handle him is James Posey. Is Doc Rivers going to sacrifice offense for defense and sit Ray Allen like he did in the fourth quarter of Game 6? I don’t think so, he’s not that good of a coach. And that mini-resurgence we saw from Ray-Ray was just a mirage. I can’t see him really being a factor in this series with Kobe matching up against him (very different from Rip Hamilton).

FORWARDS: ADVANTAGE CELTICS

This is where the Celtics have a huge advantage. Paul Pierce vs. the useless European that is Vladimir Radmonovic. Phil Jackson, in an effort to limit Kobe’s minutes vs. Pierce, has decided the likes of Radmonovic, Luke Walton (who should be starting and another reason why Phil Jackson is one of the most overrated coaches in the history of basketball, but that is for another time), and Lamar Odom. Only one of those three has a chance at holding Pierce up and that man belongs on KG (can you guess who?). Maybe Coach Jackson is trying to coach down to Doc Rivers’ level, I just don’t know. But expect Pierce to have a monster series offensively and to struggle defensively on Kobe (at least I hope Doc doesn’t put Ray-Ray on him).

Power Forward is another position where the Celtics have a huge advantage. KG is the heart and soul of this team and plays with enough intensity to light up the entire city of Los Angeles for 2 weeks straight. Meanwhile, Lamar Odom plays with the intensity of a wet noodle, has a penchant for missing key free-throws down the stretch, and disappears from games for quarters at a time. I also believe he is going to struggle on KG or Perkins because one is too skilled and the other is just way too big for him to handle (and by big I mean fat).

CENTER: ADVANTAGE LAKERS

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Pau Gasol is the most important Laker. This team revolves around Kobe but he is the moon to Kobe’s sun. He is perfect for this offense because he passes, shoots, and is foreign ( I don’t really know if that is important or not, I just wanted to say that). Kendrick Perkins on the other hand has the ability to be dominant for a half and then disappear for the next game and a half. He also has a tendency to let his emotions get the better of him and is susceptible to technical fouls. However, I’m higher on Perkins than most for the simple reason is that he does what he is asked of: rebound, defend, and clean up the garbage around the rim. He fits into the flow of his team and doesn’t mind being the fifth option. His humility is refreshing for a player drafted out of high school while his English skills are sort of scary (I don’t think he can handle words with more than three syllables, but who cares because neither can I).

COACHING: ADVANTAGE JACKSON

While I hate Phil Jackson and believed he has lucked into two of the greatest situations ever (MJ and Kobe + Shaq), Doc Rivers is still the worst coach in the NBA not named Isiah Thomas (can we still make fun of him? I think I still can because he is a moron and morons deserved to be ridiculed). The triangle offense is effective, even if nobody exactly knows what it is and he sticks to his rotation, which can’t be said for Mr. Rivers (does he run an offense?)

BENCH: ADVANTAGE EVEN

I truly believe the Celtics have a better bench, but you never know what Doc Rivers is going to do with his talent other than misuse them. The problem is the Celtics have too much talent on the bench, which could be confusing for a mere mortal. However, the rotation should consist of Eddie House, James Posey, Leon Powe, and PJ Brown. Sam Cassel can not handle being a backup and a bad one at that and Glen “Big Baby” Davis needs another year of seasoning to understand the nuances of playoff basketball. Each of those four adds energy and understands their roles on the team. PJ Brown also adds experience while Eddie House, at least from what I’ve seen, is just excited to be there.

Phil Jackson has the lesser talent, but gets more out of his players by sticking to a consistent rotation. Jordan Farmar has played inconsistently but is still getting minutes because he is a winner and Jackson does not want to mess with his confidence. Sasha Vujacic adds European toughness, as does Ronny Turiaf (is that possible?) while Luke Walton is the perfect player for this offense and should be playing 30 minutes a game but I’ll settle for him getting 20 and giving the Lakers a huge weapon off the bench.

X-FACTOR: RAJON RONDO PG, CELTICS

This one was tough to pick, but if Rondo can supplant Ray Allen as the third most important Celtic for all the right reasons, then this series is the Celtics for the taking. However, if he is the third most important Celtic for the wrong reasons (poor shooting, bad defense, and turnovers), then consider the Celtics French Toast.

KEY MATCH-UP: KOBE VS. PAUL PIERCE

While they may not play many minutes against each other, the two best scorers in this series will go a long way towards determining which team wins. If Kobe can outscore Paul by ten or more points, Kobe will add another MVP trophy to his hardware.

PREDICTION: CELTICS IN SEVEN

While most experts are proclaiming the Lakers to be the best in all the land, I think the Celtics have way too much talent to lose. Throw in home court advantage with the 2-2-1-1-1 schedule that punishes the lower seed, I’d look for the Celtics to win and Paul Pierce to take home the MVP Finals with a spectacular performance that will remind people why he is the only remaining Celtic left from the last decent Celtic team.

BEARD

Age Bound to Hurt San Antonio Spurs

By: Sean Speirs

 

     Some say that valuable experience comes with age.  Unfortunately, experience will not be enough to help the San Antonio Spurs as their old age begins to rust this off-season.

 

     After enduring a tough NBA post-season this year with series against the Phoenix Suns (4-1) and the New Orleans Hornets (4-3), the Spurs were hoping their road to another NBA championship would be less stressful.  However, MVP Kobe Bryant and his Los Angeles Lakers had a different agenda, and overthrew the defending champs in the Western Conference Finals 4-1.

 

     With their season now over, the future of the Spurs does not appear that promising anymore, especially since their squad will be one year older come next season.  Typically, one would say big deal, it is only one year.  But to the Spurs, that year could mean the demise of their championship franchise.

 

     Currently, the average age of the Spurs is 31.2, a range of two to seven years older than the average age of the other NBA teams [youngest being the Chicago Bulls at 24.2].  11 players of the Spurs 15-man lineup are 30 years old or older.  Six of those 11 will become 35 years old or older during next season, including starters Bruce Bowen (36) and Michael Finley (35), role-players Brent Barry (36), Robert Horry (37), Damon Stoudamire (34) and Kurt Thomas (35).

 

     With such an older team developing in the league, how long will it take until they cannot keep up with other, mostly younger, opponents? 

 

     The answers to this question became evident throughout all of the Spurs playoff games.

 

     Bruce Bowen could not keep up his once stellar defense against Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan suffered a slow inside game due to Hornets big men Tyson Chandler and David West, Manu Ginobli was playing through constant injuries, and Michael Finley could not find his deadly outside shot.

 

     Although the Spurs had an overall good season, clinching second place (56-26) in the Southwest Division, the true test of an NBA team is always the playoffs, whose outcomes can change the face of teams who fail to produce. 

 

     The Spurs this year was one of those teams, as the first signs of rust started to show, officially setting an expiration date for their once effective bench.

 

 

     Enough is enough.  There is no reason for this team to hold on to older players any longer that make up most of their lineup.  The Spurs already have experience from their superstars Duncan, Parker, and Ginobli (all have won 3 or more titles with this team).  By keeping older players, the Spurs are carrying dead weight that is preventing their “Big Three” and overall team from becoming a dominant future contender.

 

     –Bottom line: changes need to be made and fresh legs are necessary in order to compliment the quick style of play from starting point guard Tony Parker (26), the true future of this franchise.  What is needed, more specifically, is an agile/aggressive shooting guard/forward that can drive the ball, finish in the middle, and settle with the occasional outside jumper.  Younger Spurs Matt Bonner ( 28 ), DeMarr Johnson ( 28 ) and Ian Mahinmi (21) will never fill those needs and assets at the pace they are going, all three of these players average between two to four points a game.

 

     For General Manager R.C. Buford and Head Coach Gregg Popovich, in order to accomplish this main goal of change, the best chance the Spurs have is to let go of some, if not all, of their veteran free agents (Horry, Finley, and Thomas) and invest in a younger player through NBA draft trades.  They could also depend on a massive off-season trade that can bring over some youth and adequate help from off the bench.  Either way, expect the Spurs to try to edge their way into trade offerings and draft picks this off-season.

 

     All in all, if the Spurs got anything out of the 2007-2008 playoffs, it was a wake-up call from the future, warning them of the downfall that is about to come. 

 

    This is truly a rude awakening that cannot be ignored any longer.  If serious moves are not administered this off-season, the Spurs are in for a rough season next year.

 

     At this point, it’s safe to say that it’s time to panic.

Sean Speirs

Images Courtesy of YAHOOSPORTS.COM