Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Carmelo Anthony is a New York Knick....finally

Mercifully, the Carmelo Anthony drama has come to an end as the Denver Nuggets traded him to the New York Knicks Monday night. The Knicks sent F Danilo Gallinari, F Wilson Chandler, C Timofey Mozgov, PG Raymond Felton, a 2014 first round draft pick and 2 second round draft picks to the Nuggets in exchange for F Carmelo Anthony, PG Chauncey Billups, F/C Shelden Williams aka Mr. Candace Parker, G Anthony Carter and F Renaldo Balkman. Minnesota also received Eddy Curry and Anthony Randolph in the deal while sending F Corey Brewer to the Knicks.

I like Carmelo Anthony as a player. In my eyes he's the best pure scorer in the game, and there isn't a single thing offensively he can't do. I admit I wasn't on board with this trade a week ago, but when I thought about it, I realized that only one of these players really had a long term future with the team (Gallinari), and that put me at ease. I don't think the Knicks handled it as well as they probably should've but given the magnitude of the player at hand, and the uncertainty of the current CBA something had to be done. As much as the tired 'You could have signed him in free agency' card gets played, Anthony wasn't going to pass up $65 million. If the Knicks were going to get him they needed to do so now, and they did exactly that.

The Knicks also upgraded their point guard spot, getting Chauncey Billups to replace Raymond Felton. Felton is a tough guy, a leader, and I enjoyed watching him play but he can't shoot and he wasn't a long term option at PG anyway. I like Felton but at the very least Billups is a lateral move. Billups is also a knock down shooter from three. Neither one of them is going to be here after next season, so that isn't overly significant one way or another, but I think it helps the Knicks in the short term.

Wilson Chandler is a solid player. He can credibly guard three positions, he can shoot it, he can get to the rim and overall is a solid basketball player. Denver got a nice player in Chandler, and his versatility is a weapon for any basketball team. From the Knicks standpoint, Chandler is a restricted free agent and the Knicks had to renounce his rights to open up space down the road. He wasn't going to be a Knick after this season so that loss is minimal. I think the Nuggets made out well as a whole since there was no way Carmelo was going to come back to the team in the offseason.

Danilo Gallinari is the only part of the trade that hurts for me. Gallinari is already a solid, albeit inconsistent, NBA player who can shoot the ball, put the ball on the deck, and is an underrated defender who is a still developing 22 year old. I like Gallinari and am sad to see him go. I think he has a bright future in the NBA and I personally enjoyed his flair for the dramatic as well as his charisma. I also thought, if somehow the Knicks could have kept him, he would've been a nice piece to go along with the current team. But as the old adage goes, "You have to give to get". As sad as I am to see Gallinari go, I'm even more happy to see Carmelo Anthony arrive.

I thought the Knicks should've drawn the line at Mozgov on general principle alone but at the same time how would Donnie Walsh and Mike D'Antoni ever be taken seriously again if their claim to fame was 'We wouldn't trade Timofey Mozgov for Carmelo Anthony?' Answer? They wouldn't be, unless Timofey Mozgov turned into a top center in the NBA.

The rest of the trade isn't even worth discussing (Eddy "I eat a cheeseburger for every million I steal" Curry, Anthony "Splinters" Randolph).

Did the Knicks give up a lot from a "this year" standpoint? Yes, now the Knicks have absolutely no front court depth. Chandler, and Mozgov were both important in that particular regard. But this trade isn't about this year, it's about competing for jewelry in the near future. Whether or not the Knicks will be, we don't know, but they are closer to that ultimate longer term goal now than they were yesterday.

The Knicks started on the "Let's get two superstars" goal, three years ago. Now they completed that goal, with a third superstar in mind. What's to complain about? I think the first time Mr. Anthony drops 45 on 60% shooting while single handedly winning a game, you'll hear a lot of 'Who did we trade again?' sentiments.

One thing we can all agree on, is the relief that this drama is finally over. After long last, Carmelo Anthony is home. Knick fans, rejoice. In the words of Ice Cube, "Today is a Good Day".

Monday, February 7, 2011

Aaron Rodgers is just NOW elite? Really?

Now that the Green Bay Packers have won football’s ultimate prize, I have heard sentiments from many that this cements Aaron Rodgers as one of the league’s elite quarterbacks. And to those sentiments I have to ask, where have you been hiding the last three years? And why is it that a TEAM accomplishment defines what an individual does? Fact of the matter is, Rodgers had elite numbers, and elite ability long before the clock read :00 on Sunday night. People become too wrapped up in championships and comparing people from that standpoint. How many people does it take to win a championship? How about sticking to comparing individuals.

ESPN’s Michael Smith had a great quote on twitter on the other day that pretty much sums up how I feel on the matter of Rodgers’ greatness. “In a team sport I do not define a player's greatness by how many championships his TEAM has won. I WATCH a player and determine if hes great,” Sometimes people become a prisoner to the “rings” argument. While it is certainly relevant, I think it’s far down the list of tools to determine a player’s greatness. Individual productiona and the good old “eye test” should be the biggest determining factors.

Back to Rodgers, in my eyes he’s been elite for the last two years. Here are his last three years (first three years starting in the league, mind you):

2008: 63.6% completion percentage 4038 yards 7.5 YPA 28 TD 13 INT 93.8 QB rating
2009: 64.7% completion percentage 4434 yards 8.2 YPA 30 TD 7 INT 103.2 QB rating
2010: 65.7% completion percentage 3922 yards 8.3 YPA 28 TD 11 INT 101.2 QB rating

We all saw what we did in the postseason this year, and even last year in a losing effort. I can understand not wanting to jump the gun in 2008 when he first came on the scene because many players, regardless of the sport, flame out after a really good initial year. But after putting up 86 touchdowns and 31 interceptions, there are still people out there who needed MORE to be able to call this man an elite quarterback? Really?

As far as his ability, there is nothing Rodgers can’t do. He has excellent pocket presence, he has one of the strongest arms in the sport, he is mobile, he has arguably the quickest release in the sport, is one of the most accurate QBs in the game and is cerebral on top of that. I completely understand not wanting to crown someone too early before they have accomplished too much but Rodgers three year stretch is top of the line comparatively speaking in the history of the league yet NOW he’s elite because his TEAM won a Superbowl? Really? I just believe too many people put far too much stock into team success and thus far late to the punch bowl in situations like this, where a player has been playing at an elite level for three years.

I'm not saying he's the best QB in the league (though I believe it can be argued that he is), or that he'll be the best quarterback ever or anything of the sort. I'm just saying that looking at what he brings to the table, he's been near the top of the league for a couple of years. His last three years are no accident. I personally rank him right there with Peyton Manning as the two best quarterbacks in the league. I'd probably give Manning a slight edge, but it's close. And when it comes to natural passing ability, Rodgers is as gifted a passer as the NFL has to offer.

I hope Rodgers stays healthy and continues on his already torrid pace, and rewrites some of the history books. He’s exciting to watch as he, in my eyes, is the game’s most gifted passer regardless of what his team just accomplished in winning Superbowl 45.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

SB XLV Wrap Up

Superbowl XLV wrap up

-Great game. It wasn’t necessarily the most well played game but it delivered when it came to the excitement. It came down to the last possession and you can’t ask for much more out of a Superbowl.

-Before I get started on the game, I’ll talk about the commercials, the anthem and the post game performance. As far as the national anthem, Christina Aguilera completely botched it and it’s a shame. I wonder how that affects the people who bet on how long it would last. As far as the commercials, the only one that I liked was the Kim Kardashian commercial. I think we all know the reasoning behind that one. The Black Eyed Peas halftime performance was absolutely dreadful. Janet Jackson’s “display” in 2004 ruined the Superbowl forever.

-Aaron Rodgers performance was truly magnificent. Mike McCarthy basically put the game on his shoulders, and Rodgers took that responsibility and played a great game. Despite six drops by Packer WRs, Rodgers still put up 300+ yards and 3 touchdowns. I mentioned in my previous entry that the Packers couldn’t be one dimensional but they were and it worked. McCarthy put everything on his best player and he came through big time.

-James Jones drops a 50+ yard touchdown every game it seems. I thought that play would end up making the game a lot closer than it should have been, and it ended up working out as such. Jones isn’t a bad fourth option but he has had several killer drops.

-I thought the Steelers should have kept with the running game more than they did. They did run the ball quite a few times but I thought they should have ran it more considering Green Bay really could not stop them on the ground. Of course, however, when you’re down 18 like the Steelers were it’s easier said than done to remain balanced.

-Where was Troy Polamalu all night? He didn’t make a single impact play. The Packers did a good job of neutralizing him and Polamalu’s incorrect guess on Greg Jennings touchdown catch hurt.

-I felt bad for Charles Woodson. It’s unfortunate he couldn’t finish out the game but I’m glad he got that long awaited ring. He’s been a good player for a long time, and also been a great teammate. Hats off to #21.

-I thought the Packers were too conservative with the pass rush on Ben Roethlisberger. I’m not sure what the splits looked like but it seemed like they had success when they blitzed him. Capers was content in rushing three and four guys repeatedly and Roethlisberger had plenty of time to pass the ball. Had the Packers lost the game I thought that would have been one of the bigger stories.

-I still find it hilarious that NOW people are coming to the realization that Aaron Rodgers is elite, just because he now has a SB ring. The guy has been elite for awhile, but as usual there are a lot of folks that are late to the punch bowl.

-The Steelers are a tough football team, and I have great respect for them. They are never out of a game and though they were down 18 points, they came back and made it a one possession game. Much props to their resiliency, as they could’ve easily folded up tent and got blown out.

-I’m surprised that on the last possession, the Steelers didn’t target Hines Ward once. He’s been their money receiver for years now, and it doesn’t get much bigger than that possession.

-Congratulations to the Green Bay Packers on winning SB XLV. Well deserved.

-Hopefully this isn’t the last football we see for over a year. Let’s pray on that.

SB XLV- Pittsburgh Steelers vs Green Bay Packers

An assortment of thoughts on the game:

-How will the Packers respond to the nature of the game? I’m not a big believer in the experience angle and it being in the favor of the Pittsburgh Steelers, but being there for the first time is bound to lead to some jitters. Will Aaron Rodgers be too charged up early? How will the rest of the Packers respond?

-How will the Steelers respond to the Packers spread sets? The Packers like to use a lot of four and five wide receiver sets. Teams spreading out and throwing short passes give the Steelers some trouble. After halftime of the AFC Championship Game, the Jets had a lot of success with the spread sets as Mark Sanchez warmed up and got everyone involved. I don’t view the Steeler secondary as a strength and if Aaron Rodgers gets time to throw the ball, it could be a long day for them.

-How will the Packers defend Rashard Mendenhall? In the first half of the AFC title game, Mendenhall unleashed fury on the Jets as he nearly rushed for 100 yards in the first half of the game. The Packers, for the all the notoriety their defense gets, are terrible in the art of stopping the run. They were LAST in the league in yards per carry against. The only reason that statistic doesn’t get more play is the fact that only five teams saw less rushing attempts against them than the Packers did. If the Packers let Mendenhall get off, then Pittsburgh gets the sight they want to see the most and that is Aaron Rodgers on the sideline spectating.

-Do the Packers fall too much in love with the pass? I realize that Aaron Rodgers is arguably the most gifted passer in the league and that attacking Steeler defense with a methodical air attack is probably for the best. With that said, you can’t become too one dimensional because those pass rushers will make life hell for the Packers offensive line and subsequently Mr. Rodgers. The Jets did a good job of that in the second half of the Title Game. While they were playing “catch up”, they still mixed in the run to keep the Steelers guessing. You cannot let James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley pin their ears back and give them a green light to see off on Rodgers.

-Does Troy Polamalu make an impact? As great as Polamalu is he hasn’t really had a significant tangible impact on the postseason to date. You would think, given his history and the magnitude of the game at hand, Polamalu will have his hand in a big play or two come Sunday. I believe when it comes to pure “game speed”, Polamalu plays faster than the majority of the players in the league. Obviously his foot speed complements that as well, as he runs like a gazelle. The thing about Polamalu that gives offenses trouble, is his penchant for seemingly being in five places at once. One minute, Polamalu will be at the line of scrimmage bluffing blitz and in the next minute he’s picking off a pass 40 yards down the field. He’s football’s David Blaine and it’s imperative the Packers identify where he is at all times, because if anybody can break the game open in the Steelers favor, it’s #43.

-Mike McCarthy vs Dick Lebeau. Who wins this matchup? As a football geek/enthusiast, this matchup is one of the most exciting this game has to offer. I think McCarthy’s offensive genius is truly overlooked and severely underappreciated. While he may have other issues as a head coach, I believe he’s one of the very best playcallers the sport has to offer. His offenses have always been well oiled machines. Dick LeBeau’s resume in the NFL and his time in Pittsburgh speak for themselves. After all the man is revered in football circles as the inventor of the zone blitz. The INVENTOR! Pittsburgh’s defenses have made life hell on quarterbacks for years on end, and have ranked near the top of the league for the majority of LeBeau’s stay. Does McCarthy attack the Steeler defense with spread sets, and try to exploit a spotty Steeler secondary? If he does, how does LeBeau counter? Does McCarthy run a more traditional offense with balance? What wrinkles will LeBeau have for Aaron Rodgers? It’s truly a football purist’s dream.

-While Dick LeBeau seems to have grabbed most of the headlines in the two week hiatus leading up to Superbowl Sunday, Dom Capers is no slouch. The Packers defense has ranked top five in each of the last two seasons. How will he unleash Matthews? How will he free him up? With the dearth of good CBs the Packers have they can afford to play Charles Woodson in a hybrid CB/S role, hence why he blitzes off the slot more than any player I’ve ever seen in my life. I think Capers will have a solid game plan, and it’s up to the players to go out there and execute it. To their credit, they have up until this point.

-How much damage will Ben Roethlisberger do with his legs? Although Roethlisberger doesn’t necessarily look fast, he’s awfully nimble for a man his size. He always makes plays with his legs, and has a penchant for making men miss. He will break contain every now and then and make a play but can the Packers minimize his affect on the game outside the pocket? Can they minimize the missed tackles?

-How will the Packers secondary handle Mike Wallace? While I realize the Steelers have more weapons, I think it is the most imperative to keep Wallace in check because he is a home run threat from anywhere on the field. He didn’t average 21 yards per catch this by accident. I already made mention of the Packers excellent secondary, and the exotic blitz schemes Capers will bring to the party. Will they do enough to stop arguably the most dangerous player that will suit up in the Superbowl?

Final thoughts and Prediction: I can’t really get excited for this game because of how close the Jets came to being in it. Also, I have a strong distaste for “Steeler nation” but that’s neither here nor there. I’ll still watch the game and stuff my face like I always do.

As far as the game itself, Aaron Rodgers has been red hot since the Week 16 game against the New York Giants. Ben Roehlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers will be a tough obstacle for the Packers to get over but I think the Packers win as the Steelers have issues stopping the plethora of weapons the Packers bring to the table.

Score: Packers 27 Steelers 24

Happy Superbowl Sunday!!