Saturday, May 31, 2008

NBA Finals Preview

With the seemingly inevitable matchup of Lakers- Celtics now all wrapped up with the Celtics victory Friday night, I will now take a look at the match up of these two teams.

Point Guard: These two teams match up fairly well in this area. On the Celtics side you have the athleticism and youth of Rondo combined with the big game experience of wily veteran Sam Cassell. On the Lakers side you have the veteran Derek Fisher who has 3 championship rings to his credit, and you have the young Jordan Farmar who provides instant offense off the bench. In this area I give the Lakers the advantage because with Fisher (the starter) you know what you are getting with him. You are getting someone who runs the offense like it is supposed to be run, and is a very good spot up shooter. With him, what you see is what you get. Farmar provides scoring and playmaking off the bench. When he's going well it is a major plus for the Lakers.

On Boston's side of the coin you have Rajon Rondo. While Rondo is a good defensive player with good physical attributes ranging from top notch quickness and long arms, he is often maddeningly inconsistent and often makes bad decisions. He often plays undisciplined, has a very limited jump shot and altogether offensively provides no threat on the court. Cassell has had a shaky playoff run, but can warm up at any given time. He also has a wealth of playoff experience, and that helps.


Shooting guard: Kobe is the best player in the NBA. There isn't a single person in the NBA, that Boston could have on their team that would give them the advantage at the 2 spot. That being said, Ray Allen is no slouch. Although Allen has struggled in the post season, he still is arguably one of the best shooters in the history of the NBA and can score with the best of them. While Allen certainly will not be guarding Kobe, Kobe will probably be guarding him. It is important for Allen to make Bryant work defensively, and for Rivers to get Allen involved in the game by calling plays for him. Bryant will get his but it is imperative that Boston makes life as difficult as possible for him.


Small Forward: Paul Pierce has been waiting ten years for this moment, an NBA Finals as a Boston Celtic. Finally, his moment has arrived. He is the heart and soul of this Boston team, the straw that makes the Celtic drink stir. He is the best player on this team, and played an instrumental role in getting them here.

On the other side you have the combination of Luke Walton and Vladimir Radmanovic. Luke Walton has a variety of different skills. He can shoot the ball, he is a good passer and his defensive skills are underrated. He is also a very heady player, as he always seems to do the right thing on the court. Vladimir Radmanovic brings outside shooting whenever he is on the court. He doesn't bring much else, but he doesn't have to as his role on the team is that of a sharpshooter. Walton/Vlad is a productive combo that can hold their own on the court, but Pierce is near the top of the class in the NBA.


Power Forward: This is the most intriguing matchup of the entire series as you have the Defensive Player Of The Year, Kevin Garnett, going up against one of the most talented players in the NBA, LaMar Odom. LaMar's play could be a determining factor in the series. He is known to be wildly inconsistent as sometimes he can look like an upper echelon player, then at others look like he has never played basketball in his life.

Kevin Garnett is a top power forward in this league as he is excellent on both ends of the floor. He can post you up, even though I'd like to see a lot more of that in this series from him, he can take it outside and of course his length and athleticism all make him great offensively as well as defensively. LaMar Odom is a great rebounder, a decent scorer, has excellent handle and poses match up problems for most people. While Garnett has the advantage in this area, it would not surprise me to see Odom raise his game a notch and make this even.


Center: While on paper this matchup is completely lopsided as you have an All Pro caliber talent in Pau Gasol going up against a fringe starter in Kendrick Perkins, it isn't as lopsided as you would think. Gasol is a very skilled big man offensively. He can pass, he can shoot, he can attack the basket. There isn't much that Gasol can't do offensively. For the most part defensively, Gasol struggles. I think Perkins will give him problems on the low post both offensively and defensively. Gasol isn't the toughest hombre around, so Perkins physical play on the low post will give him some problems. Perkins defense on Gasol is another key in this series


Coaching: Phil Jackson has 9 titles. He is arguably the best coach in the NBA. Doc Rivers is a poor strategist but a great motivator. He is basketball's Herman Edwards.


Keys to the series:

-Kobe Bryant's defense on either Ray Allen or Paul Pierce- If Kobe can neutralize one of those guys, it forces points to come from another source. Who would that be?

-Perkins low post defense on Gasol- Perkins can rattle Gasol with his physicality, but Gasol has incredible skill for a man his size.

- Ray Allen actually getting plays called for him, getting him into the flow- You would think this is self explanatory but then you remember that Doc Rivers is the Celtics coach.

- Rondo playing under control- Even though you wonder if this is possible, if Rondo plays controlled basketball the Celtics will be VERY tough to beat.

PREDICTION: Although I truly feel that from top to bottom the Celtics are the better team, the fact that the coaching match up is completely lopsided in favor of the Lakers, and the fact that the Lakers have the best player in the NBA on their side makes me go with the Lakers.

Lakers in 6

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Intangibles, what are they? Can they be documented?

Intangibles. I don't think I can watch a full quarter or inning or a sporting event without hearing this word.

Before we begin let's take a look at what the word 'intangibles' actually means

in·tan·gi·ble (n-tnj-bl)
1. Incapable of being perceived by the senses.
2. Incapable of being realized or defined.
3. Incorporeal.

So why all the fuss over something that can't be touched, heard, or felt, or defined?

At first I had an indifferent feeling towards it as it seemed to be just a phase where people talked about these said intangibles. Then as I started to hear about this word at a somewhat nauseating rate, I realized something. The word "intangibles" is mostly used to talk up a player who lacks statistically or physically. The "scrappy" role players who do the little things that are required to win games and have sustained success. Do you ever hear the word intangibles when it comes to discussing Alex Rodriguez or Peyton Manning? No.

During the Lakers-Spurs Game 2, about 4 minutes into the game Doug Collins made reference to the word 'intangibles' when talking about Spurs center Fabricio Oberto. He made reference to his rebounding and defense as the source of this wealth of intangibles that Oberto has. That leads me to ask how are rebounding and defense intangibles? You play good defense on someone and if it limits someone's scoring production then is that not a tangible result? You take someone out of their comfort zone offensively while making them work hard for what they get or just flat out render them ineffective, how is that intangible? That can be documented. As far as rebounding, there is a statistic that keeps track of it. Also, offensive rebounds lead to second chance points which are also tangible, and defensive rebounds end offensive possessions for the other team.

I wonder why the use of this word is so prevalent nowadays among journalists, other media members and fans alike. Is it so that the lesser talented, harder working players can have their own category so to speak, such as Wayne Chrebet and Wes Welker? What about the guys who struggle producing on the field but happen to play for winning teams like Vince Young. With Wes Welker, his blocking skills as well as his route running are considered to be his intangibles. If he blocks well, the running back springs a big run, it is documented. It can be seen, the direct result of good blocks is good runs. If Wes runs a good route and gets open, he catches the ball. That goes towards the "rec'' section in the statistics. It is a documented number. It is a statistic you can recognize and realize. With Young, his poise and leadership is often cited. If guys play harder for a certain quarterback, then does that not affect their production as a whole in a positive manner? If the defense plays noticeably better for Vince Young than for Kerry Collins, how is that intangible?

I don't know where the overuse of the word intangibles started or why it did, but all I know is that they don't exist and cannot be realized. If this is the case, why are they talked about? Are we going to start talking about the Tooth Fairy, Santa Claus, and the Seven Dwarfs as well?

Friday, May 23, 2008

With the #1 pick in the NBA draft the Chicago Bulls select............

Could a team be any luckier than the Chicago Bulls? In each of the past two seasons, they have owned a top 10 selections thanks to the great executive Isiah Thomas, who decided to trade two lottery selections for a lazy, overweight center with a heart problem. Neither one of those picks has panned out yet as Tyrus Thomas is untapped potential, and Joakim Noah is basically a more free spirited Ben Wallace (no offensive game whatsoever).

Now this season, they miss the playoffs by four games, end up with a little more than a one percent chance to get the number one overall selection and by a leap of faith they end up winning the lottery and gaining the first pick in the draft. Once the news came in Kirk Hinrich had to feel a little bit uneasy as it is very possible that he will be traded to make room for point guard phenomenon Derrick Rose. Tyrus Thomas also might be affected, in the event that the Bulls select F Michael Beasley from Kansas State.

This draft is widely considered a two man draft. The two men who make this draft are PG Derrick Rose from Memphis, and F Michael Beasley from Kansas. These are the two special talents in this year's draft. Rose led Memphis to the National Title Game as a freshman this past season and has the makings of a "Cornerstone" point guard, someone you can build your franchise around. Beasly, on the other hand, carried a relatively talentless Kansas State team to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Kansas State hadn't been past the first round, in 20 years.

Rose has all the qualities you want from a point guard. He is an unselfish, pass first leader who is easily coachable. Rose has good size for a point guard at 6'3 and 195 LBs. He has top notch athleticism, and is a terror in the open court as his handle, speed and body control give defenders fits. He gives 100% on both sides of the floor. He is a tough defender whose long arms and lateral quickness gives other point guards a lot of trouble. He has good decision making skills and excellent court vision. He can thread passes into tight spots with the best of them. He is cool under pressure and proved throughout the NCAA tournament that he could come up big when his team needed him the most. His jumper is a bit inconsistent but it is above average, and his free throws can definitely use work.He compares rather favorably to Jason Kidd in his prime.

Michael Beasley is a very intriguing offensive talent. There isn't much on the court offensively that he can't do. He can face a defender up, he can post them up, he can shoot the midrange jumper, he can shoot the three. Beasley's offense repertoire is very good. You have to wonder though, how will he do in the NBA where the athletes are just as good? He won't be able to just "out athlete" everyone much like he did in college. His offensive game is good, but it can use a little practice to polish it. His right hand can use some work, his post moves and his court vision along with a willingness to pass the ball can stand for improvement. The guy averaged 1.2 APG last season, which is a testament to lack of court vision and having little to no confidence in his teammates. Beasley is all over the boards, especially on the offensive end, as he averaged four offensive rebounds per game this past season. Even though he is a bit undersized for the power forward position in the NBA, he makes up for that lack of size with a 7'1 wingspan and good strength. With a little refinement to his game, Beasley could definitely be a top player in the league fairly quickly.

As far as what the Bulls should do, I feel they should take Derrick Rose. In my opinion, he is a rare breed of point guard because of his speed, size, offensive ability, leadership and defensive ability at a very important position on the court. Also, with Rose, he makes everyone better. Tyrus Thomas, the guy who Beasley would take minutes from, stands to gain the most from drafting Rose, as Rose will get him the ball in spots where he can succeed. Ben Gordon would also benefit from it, as he would not have to be relied on to handle the ball as much nor would he have to work as hard to create his own shot. Rose can immediately turn the fortunes of this franchise with his breathtaking skill set along with his leadership abilities

Rose or Beasley? No matter what Chicago does, they are right. I just think that Rose is too good to pass up.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Pennington vs Clemens

There is a QB controversy in New York City, and it features two quarterbacks who struggled mightily last season. Chad Pennington and Kellen Clemens both split time last season, struggling while the Jets posted a miserable 4-12 record.

In the 2006 draft, Eric Mangini's first year on the job, GM Mike Tannebaum selected Kellen Clemens with the 49th overall selection. With Chad Pennington coming off of surgery that offseason, and with Patrick Ramsey also on the roster as insurance, the Jets drafted Kellen Clemens with the idea that he may be the quarterback of the future.

In the ensuing 2006 season, the Chad Pennington-led Jets went 10-6, surprising the football world by quarterbacking the Jets to the playoffs. When the Jets got to the playoffs, they suffered the worst loss in franchise playoff history at the hands of the New England Patriots, 37-16. Since that day, the Jets fan base, as well as prognosticators, have questioned Chad's ability namely his physical ability. Chad has never had sterling physical ability dating back to his breakout season in 2002, but after the two surgeries any arm strength that he had was all but sapped. His arm strength has been a major issue for the last two seasons, as his ability to throw the ball outside the hashmarks has been questioned. His ability to fit the ball into tight spots has also been criticized, as defenses can play close to the line of scrimmage in anticipation of the short passes. The defenses can crowd the box and jump the short routes since Chad poses little threat deep down the field or deep down the sidelines. This was never more evident than last season, when Chad struggled leading the Jets to a 1-8 record during his starts, leading the offense to a mediocre 16 PPG, which is near the bottom of the league.

The offensive line definitely struggled throughout the course of the season, as Chad was sacked more in his nine game stint this past season than any other nine game stint in his career. They didn't open up many holes for Thomas Jones as he averaged a shaky 3.6 YPC, and scored a whopping total of ONE touchdown.

That being said, in big situations Chad's lack of physical ability was clearly evident, as was his inability to ever lead a team down to score in a situation where the defense knows you are going to pass. Against the Bengals, down 7 with less than two minutes to play, Chad threw a pick to Jonathan Joseph on the sidelines that turned into the six points, showing his lack of zip on those passes outside the hash. Against the Giants, once again on a pass outside the numbers, Aaron Ross jumped an out pattern and took it back to the house. While bringing the team back from a deficit was never a strong point for Chad, it has never snowballed to the point where he continually threw backbreaking interceptions like he did this past season.

After week 9, Kellen Clemens took the reigns at quarterback and also struggled for the remainder of the season as he often looked clueless out there and had issues with his accuracy. He threw five touchdowns and ten interceptions in his seven starts, while the Jets won three of them. Kellen showed flashes in some of these games, namely against Baltimore when he led the team back from a 20-3 deficit in the 4th quarter, and had opportunities to tie the game. Unfortunately for Clemens, McCareins dropped two potential game tying TDs, and therefore the Jets lost that game 20-13.

Against Washington, in his first home start, Clemens took a beating from an angry Washington defense, but showed poise, hanging in the pocket and making tight crisp throws for the majority of the game. Once again Clemens showed a penchant for late game heroics, leading the Jets to a game tying field goal with 15 seconds left in the game. With the game tied at 20, the Jets received the ball on offense and drove to the Washington 45. On a critical 3rd down, Jerricho Cotchery dropped a pass that would have put the Jets into field goal range. After getting the ball back, Washington pounded the ball and pounded it some more all the way to a game winning field goal.

While Clemens did show flashes of good he did also show flashes of sheer incompetence, which was never more clear than on National TV Thanksgiving Day against the Cowboys. Clemens had his worst game of the season, leading the team to three points, while throwing for 142 yards, and an interception that led to a Terrance Newman touchdown. Clemens performance was very uneven as the QB, as he was Jekyll and Hyde.

Now my viewpoints on this QB battle

1) With Clemens you do not know what you have as he has only played half a season. Right now, the guy is bad, but you don't close the book on a quarterback after a half a season.

2) With Chad Pennington starting the Jets are 32-32, and a losing record since his second shoulder surgery.

3) Pennington does not have the ability to lead a productive offense, as is proven by the fact that since 2002 he has never led a scoring offense that was better than 15th in the league.

4) Clemens attacks everywhere on the field while Chad cannot due to his limitations physically.

We know what Chad is, a mediocre QB who has hit his ceiling and is not getting any better. His presence doesn't help the WRs as often they are walloped trying to catch a pass due to Pennington's lack of arm strength. It doesn't help the running backs as they have to continuously run against crowded boxes.

I think that Kellen Clemens will beat out Pennington for the starting job, but it won't be easy as Pennington is a favorite of the team and the coach. I honestly think that Pennington should be released before too long. You give Clemens the reigns, then sign Daunte Culpepper as a backup.

The best you can hope for with Chad Pennington is a 10 win season and a divisonal round appearance in the playoffs. If that happens, then Clemens is done as Jet since he can't beat out Pennington, and then you have to start all over in finding a franchise quarterback because Pennington is not it.

Starting Pennington, even if he wins a few games, is the equivalent of a short term gain for a long term pain.