An Analysis of the Big Player Transactions During the Off-Season

By: Sean Speirs

     As we finish the month of September and enjoy the last dwindling days of the MLB and the beginning of the NFL season, believe it or not the 2008-2009 NBA season is right around the corner.  Official Pre-Season games start the first week of October, with the season hitting full-on by the end of October and early November. 

     However, there was still the presumptuous off-season, where teams in both the Western and Eastern Conferences accepted the arrival of new teammates (through trades or free-agency) while also bidding farewell to old ones. 

     Here on the SportsZone blog I will go through/analyze the teams in both conferences and honor those who made the biggest moves that will not only change the face of their organization, but also add to their game-style in a positive manner. 

     I will also go through the teams who pulled the biggest flops of the summer and did not attempt to strive for the best transaction when they needed one the most and/or made a transaction that did not satisfy their needs in the end.

     For this week, I will begin with teams in all of the divisions in the Western Conference.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

THE GOOD:

1.  Houston Rockets

          Notable Additions: Ron Artest, Brent Barry, Joey Dorsey (Rookie Forward)

          Notable Loss: Bobby Jackson

     Result:  With the acquisition of Ron Artest from the Sacramento Kings this summer, the Houston Rockets finally have a “Big Three” to call their own (Tracy McGrady, Yao Ming, and Ron Artest).  Although Artest has not been the perfect off-court athlete in recent history, he still has pent-up basketball talent that could potentially deem him a superstar (if he were to ever leave the rapping behind and play serious basketball).

     In 57 games with the deteriorating Sacramento Kings last season, Artest was still able to produce season averages of 20.5 points, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game.  Artest also fills the shooting/power forward position Houston has needed for years.  He will ultimately bring in the ability to drive to the hoop, hit the outside shot, create space, rebound, and draw defenders away from other Houston players, such as Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming.  All in all, this is the time for redemption for Artest.

     The Rockets also were able to acquire veteran-guard Brent Barry, who will come off the bench and be another outside sharp-shooting threat alongside PG Rafer Alston.  With all of these acquisitions, the Rockets only main loss (besides potential young talent) was vet guard Bobby Jackson, who went back to Sacramento in the Artest deal.  In actuality, it was not a big loss for the team, since Jackson has passed his prime a long time ago (only averaged 8.7 pts, 1.5 assists and 1.7 rebounds last season) and was actually dragging down the back-up guard spot behind Alston.

     If you are a Rockets fan, the only thing you should worry about is whether or not this Big Three will be able to stay healthy.  McGrady (back), Yao (foot), and Artest (back, hamstring, knees) are probably the three biggest injury prone athletes in the Western Conference, let alone the NBA.  With this in mind, the Rockets did take a risk in getting Artest.  However, something needed to be done so that the Rockets can be a serious contender in the powerful Western Conference.

     It finally looks like they will be.

 

2.  New Orleans Hornets

          Notable Addition:  James Posey

          Notable Loss: Chris Andersen

     Result:  After a huge 2007-2008 season and becoming one of the most deadly teams in the West, GM Jeff Bower and the Hornets continued their momentum this summer, and may have acquired the final piece this team has thrived for during their playoff run in April/May…deadly swingman and 3-point sharpshooter James Posey.

     Posey (who has won two championships with the recent Boston Celtics and ‘05-‘06 Miami Heat) knows his way around the NBA when it comes to the playoffs and Finals.  He also knows when to step up, hit the big shots, and become a role-player when his team needs one.  With Peja Stojakovic and CP3, Posey will be another outside threat as a shooting forward who will specialize in finding the open spot for the three-ball.  Also, with three deadly outside shooters on the court, opposing teams will stretch out their defense, giving Center Tyson Chandler and Power Forward David West better opportunities underneath.

     Amongst this acquisition came the loss of F/C Chris Andersen to the Denver Nuggets.  Again, this is no big deal since he only played in five games last season averaging 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds per game.  In the end, the Hornets did not lose anything major this off-season (they even extended CP3’s contract).

     The only question is whether or not Hornets Head Coach Byron Scott will position Posey as a starter or as the sixth-man off the bench to continue the high momentum of a game.  Although that answer may yet to be seen, it is obvious the Hornets are already thinking playoffs with their new addition (acquired someone who has experience with winning the rings), while some columnists are even seeing them winning the overall NBA Championship this season.

     If they do win it all, then the Hornets truly had a profitable summer. 

 

3.  Los Angeles Clippers

          Notable Additions: Baron Davis, Marcus Camby, Jason Wiliams, Eric Gordon (Rookie Draft)

          Notable Loss: Elton Brand, Corey Maggette

     Result:  The Los Angeles Clippers are the only team on the “GOOD TRANSACTIONS” list that got hit hard with a dramatic off-season.  Their star PF Elton Brand looked like he was going to accept a contract extension with the team, especially after rumors reported that the Clippers got the interest of (and eventually signed) Golden State free agent PG Baron Davis.

     Unfortunately for the Clips, Brand left for the Philadelphia Sixers.  To top it all off, SG Corey Maggette also left for the Golden State Warriors.  This created a huge gap in the team.  It was obvious that the Clippers were in a bad situation that would set back the organization instead of moving forward.  They only had one star PG in Davis and one true big-man in Chris Kaman, while there were holes to be filled in the other positions.

     So what did GM Elgin Baylor do in response? 

     He acquired blocking machine Marcus Camby, Indiana rookie Eric Gordon, vet-guard Jason Williams, SG Ricky Davis and young prospects. 

     These transactions help fill the team, and give them a new beginning, a huge accomplishment for the organization/team.

     With the help of Camby inside to compliment Kaman, the Clippers are bound to continue crashing the boards and getting rebounds (as well as blocking—Camby averaged 13.1 rebounds and 3.6 blocks last season).  So defensively the Clippers will continue to build, and ultimately become a force to be reckoned with.

     As for offensively, Baron Davis will lead a backcourt that will consist of Gordon and Ricky Davis, as well as Jason Williams, handling the bulk of the scoring for the team.  Baron Davis himself can carry a team, but it will be interesting to see how rookie Gordon responds and if he will be able to handle the different playing styles in the NBA.  Ricky Davis and Williams will also have to prove that they still have game left in them by keeping pressure offensively on the boards and around the perimeter.

     Also, is there a possible Clippers Big Three in the making (B.Davis,Camby, Gordon)?

     What’s amazing is that GM Baylor proved that any problem could be fixed, even if a team loses their superstars.  Also, it was obvious this off-season that the Clippers did not want to become another Memphis Grizzlies or Sacramento Kings in the league. 

     Good for them.  Next subject to tackle on the list…the shady coaching philosophy from Mike Dunleavy, but that is for another post.

     Nonetheless, the Clippers have a lot to prove (whether or not they will have an effective bench), but because of their bounce-back in the off-season, this team deserves to get high accolades when it comes to honoring those who made big moves in player transactions this summer. 

 

THE BAD:

1.  Denver Nuggets

          Notable Loss: Marcus Camby

          Additions: Chris Andersen

     Result:  After analyzing every-team in the Western Conference, the Nuggets get the most disappointing off-season award.  After such a promising rise in the last few years, acquiring star G Allen Iverson (AI), watching F Carmelo Anthony increase his skills, and making playoff appearances, one would think the Nuggets would have tried to make a strategic move this off-season that would not only increase their offensive power, but to also help out their big-men under the boards.

     Unfortunately the total opposite happened.  The Nuggets lost their Center and only defensive presence…Marcus Camby.  Camby ended up signing with the LA Clippers (above I have went through his amazing stats he averaged last season in terms of rebounds and blocks), leaving a huge gap in the Nuggets lineup. 

     In a time of what should be panic and fright, the Nuggets do not pull a “Clippers” and bounce back from this loss.  Instead, the Nuggets main acquisition (besides their not so good rookie draft pick) of the off-season is Chris “Birdman” Andersen. 

     Birdman Andersen?!?!?!

     Andersen was booted out of the NBA in 2006 due to drug abuse and violated the anti-drug policies of the league.  He was re-instated last year with the Hornets and only averaged 1.2 points and 1.8 rebounds towards the end of the season.  Not saying that Birdman was not a good player back then, but as compared to today’s standards, it may take while for him to get back in the groove of things. 

     How will this guy fill the Camby gap?  As a matter of fact, the Nuggets STILL need to fill this gap (and trust me, Kenyon Martin is not the answer).

     If the Nuggets don’t act accordingly and search for a F/C that can be a true powerhouse underneath, expect to see this team crumble as there is no one able to step up and be a part of the AI and Anthony duo (and these two players will not be able to carry this team alone).

     At least the other teams in the Western Conference have nothing to worry about in Denver.

 

2.  Sacramento Kings

            Notable Loss: Ron Artest

            Addition: Bobby Jackson

     Result:  Believe it or not, once you thought it couldn’t get any worse for the Sacramento Kings, it did this summer.  The organization basically handed Artest away to Houston, and in return received Bobby Jackson (who will most likely end his career in Sacramento, unless traded again). Now while some fans might enjoy the fact Jackson is back with the Kings, in actuality, it will slow down the Kings.

     It is sad to see that Artest, the Kings only player worth some value on the trading block only brought the Kings a C-List player in return, rather than a mid-to-high B-List player.  Did GM Geoff Petrie even try selling Artest on the market? 

     It seems like this team just enjoys giving away players for nothing in return.

     Trading star PG Mike Bibby to the Atlanta Hawks was bad enough for the Kings last season.  Now they truly have no one to carry the momentum of the team (do you really think Brad Miller, Kevin Martin, and Shareef Abdur-Rahim are a powerful enough trio?), which is now filled with, at best, mediocre talented players who will continue to be pressured to performing well throughout the season.  Although rookie Jason Thompson might show promise this year, he won’t be able to make a huge impact without adequate help around him.

     The Kings need to act accordingly before/during the season or they will continue to be forgotten in the NBA, especially in the star-studded Western Conference.

 

3.  Memphis Grizzlies

          Notable Loss: Mike Miller, Brian Cardinal, Kevin Love

          Additions: O.J. Mayo, Marko Jaric

     Result:  I don’t think anyone has any idea where the Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace’s mind is.  After giving up the Grizzlies only star Pau Gasol to the Lakers last season for star-less Kwame Brown, the Grizzlies could’ve only gone up the ladder of redemption.  However, it seems they went a few rungs down.

     This summer, the Grizzlies continued to shock the world by proving how they cannot partake in any player transactions.  However, they did get hopeful rookie-sensation O.J. Mayo from Minnesota in a huge deal after the Rookie Draft in exchange for veteran Brian Cardinal, sharp-shooter Mike Miller, and to-be rookie-sensation powerhouse Kevin Love.

     In actuality, the Grizzlies may have been better off keeping Love and Cardinal since they only have Marc Gasol (Pau’s brother) as their only force under the boards.  The acquisition of Mayo was gutsy, but this team already has enough shooting forwards and guards.  What they really needed were power forwards and centers.

     On paper, the Grizzlies did not make a dramatic move this summer like they needed to.  However, like I said before, no one knows what GM Wallace is thinking, and in the end this could all be part of a master plan that could actually be the start of the Grizzlies changing for the better. 

     Or at least Wallace and die-hard Grizzle fans believe such a radical idea.

     In all of this mess, the only good move the Grizzlies pulled off was that of losing Kwame Brown, and that wasn’t even a move.  Brown was a free-agent.

———

     Keep a lookout on the SZ Blog as I analyze the teams who made it big and/or flopped in the Eastern Conference this NBA off-season (as well as an overall look at the teams who were “in-between good and bad” during this player movement period).

 

BY: SEAN SPEIRS

IMAGES COURTESY OF YAHOOSPORTS.COM AND NBA.COM

             

 

 

 

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NBA Free Agents Deciding to Play in Europe; Change is to Come

By: Sean Speirs

            Money is everything.

            Professional European basketball teams have started to show up on the doorstep of some free-agent NBA athletes this off-season, offering them better contracts and overall salaries that just simply cannot be comparable to any offers the NBA could have proposed to a restricted free agent.

            And money is all it took to convince these athletes to move.

            Although Europe has always been a contender in past NBA off-seasons, premier European teams have started to realize this summer that they can offer better contracts to restricted free agents who may not have the same economic opportunity with an NBA career.

            The biggest transition deal so far has been from the Greek basketball club Olympiacos, who has signed Atlanta Hawks Forward Josh Childress for a three-year $20 million contract after taxes.  This deal also marked the biggest contract in Euroleague history.   

            25-year-old Childress, who averaged 11.8 points and 4.9 rebounds last season, was the Hawks main force off the bench all throughout the 2007-2008 season.  As his contract expired this summer, the Hawks GM Rick Sund was able to match any offer from any NBA team.  However, due to the collective bargaining agreement, the Hawks could not match an offer from any international club.

            It has not been known yet how much the Hawks tried to offer Childress back, but due to the salary cap in the NBA, it was impossible to match Greece’s overall proposal.

            In the midst of Childress’ transaction, other NBA players who were restricted free agents this summer have been following the trend.  Such players include:

            -Earl Boykins:  The 5’5” guard is headed to Italy’s Virtus Bologna for a one-year, $3.5 million contract, making him Italy’s highest-paid player.

            -Nenad Krstic:  The once New Jersey Net center signed a two-year contract with Triumph Moscow worth $9 million.

            -Jannero Pargo:  The 28-year-old guard has signed a one-year deal with Dynamo Moscow worth $3.5 million.

            So far, these players who have decided to transition over to Europe may seem like mere role-players (not even) to any typical NBA team.  An NBA fan might even go to say “go ahead, there is no reason to keep these non-producing players in the NBA anyway.” 

            Unfortunately, for such a case, the bigger picture is not being seen. 

            When dealt in Europe, the Childress’ and Boykins’ of the NBA will have and probably continue to be treated as stars both publically and financially.  They will receive countryside recognition that may possibly be equal to that of any NBA athlete superstar here in the United States.

            Which brings about the main problem that is bound to hit the NBA. 

            What if the superstar’s in the NBA, come their restricted free-agency time in the league, want to not only receive a better salary the NBA cannot offer, but also a greater fan-base that extends worldwide?

            NBA superstars such as Lebron James and Kobe Bryant, whose contracts expire in 2010 and 2011 respectively, have jokingly pondered about the thought of relocating. 

            But when the joke becomes a serious matter, how will it affect the NBA?

            There have already been written articles that compare possible future contract moves (that may send a Bryant, James, or Wade to Europe) with the move that brought European soccer sensation David Beckham to the Los Angeles Galaxy.  An NBA superstar outcome to Europe would be just as big as Beckham’s, at least for American’s, since we seem to follow the NBA and its players more closely. 

            Although most of the NBA’s superstars are already somewhat big names in Europe, the experience of playing against new forms of competition and living in a different country could be something worthwhile and appealing to the athlete.

            When the chips are set, the overall outcome will always come down to money.  It ultimately did for the restricted free agents this summer, and probably will for one of the NBA’s super-stars in off-seasons to come. 

            At least the NBA has time to think of a way to keep their game-selling stars in the league, or else a possible Bryant-less and James-less future is in sight.  And without them or other superstar moneymakers, then there will be no money, sales, or profit driving the NBA.

            And money…is everything.

BY: Sean Speirs

IMAGE COURTESY OF YAHOOSPORTS.COM

Instant Replay Becomes Part of Major League Baseball

By: Sean Speirs

     Major League Baseball’s Commissioner Bud Selig has finally surrendered. 

     This Thursday, our nations past time will catch up with every other major national sport and include instant replay technology.  This new move is set to last through the rest of the season and post-season (while ideally being re-evaluated during the winter off-season).

     What’s the catch?  Instead of a “play-by-play” instant replay that one may see in an NFL game, the MLB’s instant replay will be used strictly for disputed home run calls, such as over the outfield fence foul balls and fan interference with potential home runs.

     In an interview with USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, Selig admits that he is “old fashioned”.  “I love the sport the way it is,” Selig said, “but the time has come for this [instant replay].”

     Unfortunately, for some baseball teams who lost because of radical home-run calls, the “time” for change has come a little too late.

     The heavy demand to include some sort of instant replay in baseball has been ongoing, and in retrospective, could have been useful in certain games in the sports’ past.  However, due to some die-hard baseball fans (including Selig) and umpires in the World Umpires Association, the sport’s pure and old-fashioned regulations were to be untouched.

     However, in mid-May of this baseball season, umpires began to call too many mistakes concerning disputed home runs hit by Mets Outfielder Carlos Delgado on May 18th and Yankees Third Basemen Alex Rodriguez on May 21st.  In these particular instances, it was not until these umpires watched the tapes after the game where they noticed that their official rulings were wrong.

     Whether or not this little technological boost will make a difference in baseball, only time will tell.  What is for sure though is that Selig is not looking to expand instant replay past home run calls (such as for pitches and tag-outs).

     “My opposition to unlimited instant replay is still very much in play,” he said to Nightengale.

     So while behind-the-plate and foul-line umpires can sigh in relief, the MLB should still remember (an be a little ashamed) that it was the last national sport to bring in instant replay to assist officials. 

     Although baseball games may be a little longer with the new instant replay process (crew chief umpire waits for an “overturned” call on a disputed home run by a retired umpire/supervisor who is watching a broadcast video feed of the game in a media office), officials are human and cannot be perfect.

     When all is said and done, instant replay in the MLB is bound to shake up the nostalgic feel of baseball, just not as bad as how the use of anabolic steroids already changed the sport.

     At least Selig is starting to understand the accessible technology around him.

     To the MLB: Welcome to the 21st Century…It’s About Time.

By Sean Speirs

IMAGE FROM YAHOOSPORTS.COM

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

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

 

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?