Saturday, April 28, 2007

Ok, Even I'm "Drafted Out"

"When I wake up tomorrow, will you still feel the same?"

So I was so tired today that after I found out the Pats had traded out of their pick, I went back to my place and crashed the freak out. I was all done. The Draft is a grind man. Seriously, it's wicked tough to sit on a couch for five straight hours and try and pay attention to something. I don't know, I kind of like to get out sometimes, but today, I had no choice. I waited for today for the entire year, and it came, and it didn't disappoint. There were ups and downs throughout it all, with some major stories (Quinn, Ginn, Calvin...yes I tried to keep rhyming there) that emerged. But now, let's stray a little bit from the Draft, because I have a ton of time to kill before the Pats pick again.

So the NBA Playoffs have been going on, and strangely, I haven't really talked about it...until now. I happened to check out two games last night. First, Chicago took on the defending champion Miami Heat. The Heat are starting to look like the early '90s Celtics here. It just seems that there's nothing left in the tank for these guys. The Heat just looked tired and awkward, while the "Baby Bulls" were running circles around them. All of a sudden, this team looks like they have what it takes to contend for the Eastern Conference title (not going to rush into saying they are championship material yet...not too far off though). The key, in my opinion, has been the play of Ben Wallace down low, as he has neutralized Shaq the entire series, meaning the Heat have become a one-man operation, and right now, in the NBA, you need a second fiddle, because D-Wade, although amazing, simply is not good enough to make it happen by himself. The Bulls, on a whole, have been playing outstanding defense. When you factor in that three of the Bulls (Deng, Hinrich, Gordon) can go for at least 20 a night, you are going to have major issues stopping them. Wallace may not get 20 (actually, if he gets 10, it's considered to be amazing), but he knows his role, and he's picking up where he left off in Detroit, playing solid defense and crashing the hell out of the boards. The Heat had a lead last night, but the as the game wore on, and the Bulls were able to put in fresh bodies, headlined by super-subs Andres Nocioni and P.J. Brown, Chicago simply blew by the Heat, and Miami simply could never find their bearings in the fourth. With the series at 3-0 in favor of the Bulls, the Heat will try to put together a last-gasp effort to try and keep the series alive, but I really can't see that making much of a difference in the long run.

The Pistons finally put the Magic out of their misery today, completing the sweep of Orlando with a 97-93 victory. Dwight Howard is an unbelievable talent, but the Magic still need to add some more pieces around him to seriously consider making a run at a series win. Again, the Magic are going to have money to spend in the offseason, with Grant Hill's unbelievable contract finally coming to an end , the Magic will be looking for a second scorer (Rashard Lewis maybe?). Also, they tapped Jameer Nelson to be their point guard of the future, but he certainly hasn't lived up to his first-round billing yet, so Orlando will also be looking for help bringing the ball up the court (Chauncey? Mike Bibby? Earl Boykins?). Anyway, Orlando did an admirable job with the pieces they had to even make the playoffs (I know it's the Eastern Conference, but still...). And what more can anyone say about Detroit? This is a unit. Sure, they could have guys that could try and stand out ('Sheed, Rip, Chauncey...heck even Tayshaun), but instead, they band together by using their core guys mixed in with some wily veterans (McDyess and C-Webb) to create an unstoppable force. There is a reason this team was ranked number one in the East and have dominated the conference for the last four or five years. Minimizing egos equals wins, and this is especially true in the NBA. It's funny because individual players (Kobe, LeBron, T-Mac) run the league and feed to the ratings, but when it comes down to it, it's still a team game, and no one represents that more than the Pistons, who look as though they are going to roll on into the East finals. I think a matchup with the Bulls will be very intriguing, featuring Big Ben against his old team, and really, the Bulls are starting to emulate what the Pistons have done, so you will be looking at two teams with very similar strategies. Defense, FG%, and most importantly, teamwork.

Speaking of all this, I found it very interesting that, in an ESPN article I was reading the other day, Shawn Marion is a completely different person than I had pictured. Marion is basically just out for himself, and wants more credit than what he is given. I mean this guy is something else. First of all, he's getting a max contract. Second, he's playing on arguably the biggest offensive juggernaut of our lifetimes. Third, Phoenix is in the playoffs every year, they are led by probably the best player in the league, and will always be in contention for a title run. But yet, it's not enough for Marion. He wants the individual accolades. I mean, obviously it would be nice for Marion if he got his all-star selections, and got named to All-NBA teams, but you have to question the timing of all of this. He also insinuated that he would trade his place right now on the Suns in order to get more individual recognition somewhere else. Do you really need that right now? With the rest of the West looking as vulnerable as ever (more on that later), the timing of this is just completely wrong. Also, I think Marion is regarded as one of the best fifteen or twenty players in the league, and just because he hasn't apparently received the kind of fame he was looking for, that doesn't mean that it will never come, but it seems that until it does, Marion will feel the way he feels, which is too bad because I really don't think he understands what the general perception is for the kind of player he is, which is this: freggin' amazing.

Dallas got one of the all-time worst first round draws for a #1 seed in NBA playoff history. Playing a team that has literally owned them for the last year-and-a-half, the Mavs find themselves with their backs against the wall, down two games to one to Golden State, with their home-court advantage gone up in smoke. The Warriors are an example of a team that just matches up well against certain teams, and causes total headaches in certain situations. A perfect example is the matchup between Baron Davis and Jason Terry. Terry is simply overmatched against Davis, who is constantly driving the ball to the hoop and dishing the ball to Biedrins down low, or going outside to J-Rich or Monta Ellis, who has caught fire down the stretch. Dallas has looked, as put it, "ordinary" throughout the series. The problem has been that the Warriors have out-paced the Mavs so far, which doesn't bode well considering that the Mavs love to push the ball, and have the speed to get back on defense (I believe they were second in the league in FG% allowed). However, when you have a team that is even faster and more tenacious, that's going to be a problem. Also, to say that the Warrior fans were pumped for the game last night would be the understatement of the decade. They were rocking and rolling last night (side note: where the Warriors play is literally in the same lot as the Oakland Coliseum, which I totally dig; it's almost like a college setting where everything is in one place...very convenient). The Mavs have to win Game 4, or else they're done. What's going to make it tough is that they are once again playing in Oakland, and from all indications, these fans aren't letting up anytime soon. This leaves the door wide open for Phoenix, San Antonio, or even Houston to get into the Finals without having to play the best team in the league this year.

'Melo and the boys lost to the Spurs today, putting them down 2-1 in the series. Anytime Manu Ginobili has eleven free throw attempts, you know something is up. I would put most of the blame on Steve Blake, as he's allowing Manu to penetrate into the lane, forcing their big men (Nene and Camby) to get off their men and try and defend shots. Not good. What also isn't good is that the Nugs are only playing with eight guys, with only two guys (Najera and J.R. Smith) being the only ones to get "actual" minutes. Obviously, stamina has become an issue for them, because they looked tired down the stretch. A.I. and 'Melo both went over 44 minutes again today. These guys are used to it, but still, it has to still get to you after a while. I mean this is the playoffs. It's not as though these are just regular season games where, if you lose, there's always tomorrow. Every game counts, and this was a critical loss because Denver took one at San Antonio, and would have been in the driver's seat with a game lead and home court. Denver had a real tough time behind the arc (3-12, 25%), which is key when you consider the Spurs shot very well from outside (9-21, 42.9%). In my opinion, I would definitely try and stretch the defense, because according to those numbers, it seems like the ball gets funneled into the paint a lot. When you have Iverson and J.R. Smith on the outside, you're definitely going to want more impact from their perimeter shooting than that. Iverson is the key to this series. Tim Duncan is going to do what he does night in and night out (25 and's clockwork), so Iverson is going to have to step up and become the leader on this team. 'Melo is my boy, but I don't believe he is the one who is going to be able to light the kind of fire that A.I. can. Also, when you consider Iverson basically had to carry the Sixers on his back for a decade, I would assume that it would be much easier for him to assume leadership, and at the same time, know that he has weapons around him so that he will not be keyed-up like he was in the past. This next game is another big one, much like the Dallas/Golden State series, for the team down 2-1. If Denver can pull off Game 4, they will even up the series, and send the Spurs reeling. I would probably switch defenders and put Iverson on Manu and Blake on Parker. The thing is, I can't really tell, when Manu gets the ball, if he is thinking pass or shoot. With Parker, he definitely does his fair share of driving, but not nearly as much as Ginobili, and is also a pass-first guard, so an adequate defender like Blake will have an easier time attempting to control Parker than he would with a slasher like Manu.

Well, I'm officially drained. Seriously, I feel in a heap on my bed when I got home today. I literally could not move at all. As I was writing this, the Pats traded away their third rounder to Oakland for their 7th this year and 3rd next year. I mean I guess they really don't have any interest in anyone right now. I still would like to see them take a gamble on Michael Bush, who is probably the biggest name left out there (along with Antonio Pittman from Ohio St.). As for tomorrow, the Pats have 10 picks. I'm not sure about this, but I have to say that's going to be the most of anyone. Here's how they're looking right now (round-pick in round (overall)):

4-11 (110)
4-28 (127)
5-34 (171)
6-6 (180)
6-28 (202)
6-34 (208)
6-35 (209)
7-1 (211)
7-37 (247)

Here are some guys I think the Pats should take a look at tomorrow:
Michael Bush, RB, Louisville
Brandon Siler, ILB, Florida
Jared Zabransky, QB, Boise St. (please take him, I'm begging you!...Statue of Liberty play!)
Kenneth Darby, RB, Alabama
Aundrae Allison, WR, East Carolina
Dallas Baker, WR, Florida
Ben Patrick, TE, Delaware
Josh Beekman, G, Boston College
Manuel Ramirez, G, Texas Tech (just to get massive name confusions...if he has dreads, it's a lock)
Keith Jackson, DT, Arkansas
Zak DeOssie, OLB, Brown
Rory Johnson, OLB, Ole Miss
David Irons, CB, Auburn
C.J. Gaddis, CB, (gulp) Clemson
Josh Gattis, S, Wake Forest

The Pats only had one pick today, and it was definitely a bit of a head scratcher, getting the troubled safety Brandon Meriweather from Miami. I would just think that the red flags for "off-the-field" character issues would be waving pretty high and true. Again, I have a lot of faith in what the Pats do, but I kind of find it hard to root for this pick. Again, maybe it's just me, but I would have liked to have seen them take a guy that wasn't as flamboyant as a guy like Meriweather is, which is why I thought all along that Posluszny would be a perfect fit. Again, Meriweather is a tremendous talent, but I find it fascinating that they would take a gamble on him. I'm thinking they know something I don't, because if he is like the guy I envision he is, there's no way they would have taken him.

By the way, I mean I think the Niners will have a good team next year, but I'm really hoping they tank. This is what happens when you get a future first-rounder. The Niners are going to be like the pseudo-Yankees of the NFL this year for me. I'm going to cringe every time they do something good, every time they win, every Frank Gore rush, every Nate Clements pick...basically anything positive for the Niners is not going to be good for me. However, I don't think they will be too, too good, so I'm expecting the Pats will be picking around 18 or 19 with the Niners pick, and also at #32, because you know who's taking it all this year (ok, our linebackers are Vrabel, Bruschi, Thomas, and's over, forget it).

Alright, hopefully I can put something together tomorrow to wrap up the Draft/Sox-Yankees series. Have a good night all. Thanks for reading. Peace.


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