Monday, June 04, 2007

Talk About Your All Time Backfires

"My love must be a kind of blind love
I can't see anyone but you."

Wow. That's really all I can say to sum up what happened last night. In what I have deemed a "street wandering" game, the Yankees were able to comeback from a 5-4 deficit to beat the Sox 6-5, taking two of three in what could very well have been a season-changing series for the Yanks, who now sit 12 1/2 back. Sure, it seems like a lot of games, but again, remember who you're dealing with. It's not technically over yet, and we may have done a little bit to "awaken a sleeping giant." Sure, they're old, they're hurt, but on last check, they wear pinstripes, and for whatever reason, those lines seem to seek into the bloodstream of whoever is wearing them, forcing them to play over their potential, especially in clutch situations (it may have taken a leave of absence in 2004 though). Although yesterday was totally devastating, it not surprise me in the least bit that it went down the way it did. In fact, if you're a Red Sox fan through and through, what honestly can surprise you anymore? The game, seemingly, was where we wanted it. Jonathan Papelbon, who just got Jeter to ground out, and Abreu to go down swinging. Then, with an 0-2 count in the top of the ninth, things seemingly were under control. With Mariano Rivera waiting in the wings, and the game tied up, it seemed as though we were going to get into an epic confrontation with the man who once was considered the best closer in the game, with the guy who now holds that title. We were a strike away from that happening, and then, that Yankee magic reared its ugly head again, and hope was officially gone for the Sox. We've seen it before. The Sox were just one strike away from sending the game to the bottom half of the ninth, and although the score was tied at five, there was a great confidence considering who was coming up the next inning (Ortiz, Ramirez, Youkilis)...but the Sox never got to that point. Sure, they still had the same order coming up, but being down a run, it simply has a different feel, especially against Rivera, who, despite maybe having lost a mile per hour or two, is still a great pitcher, and his season has been saved due to the fact that he has built up the confidence that he had in seasons past, but seemed to be lacking this year, especially in the first month. In any situation, you would much rather be heading into the ninth all tied up instead of being in any kind of deficit. So this brings us back to that 0-2 pitch to Rodriguez. Pap threw it exactly where he wanted it, the gun read 95 MPH, everything seemingly was perfect...and then, what was "perfect" turned into the Sox', and their fans', worst nightmare. Here was A-Rod, a guy who everyone in Red Sox Nation belittles on an hourly basis (daily would not really sum up how bad we ride the guy), and, basically, Public Enemy #1 on every non-Yankee fans' list (Bonds may have some argument on that one), and this is the guy to do it to us? Sweet irony is all I can say...well it's not really sweet at all, but irony definitely describes what happened last night. Sure, A-Rod is a talented player. On this site, I broke down and called him the best player in the game today because...well...he just is, but with that being said, there is no way I figured he would park one off of Papelbon, the newest "favorite son" in New England, especially on an 0-2 pitch. I just assumed that Pap was going to blow smoke by him, and that we would end up in the bottom of the ninth, and pull out a victory over Rivera, but it simply was not meant to be that way. There are some instances where I really wish that wall out by the bullpen was a foot or two higher. A-Rod's hit just seemed to keep carrying and carrying, and for the majority of that shot, I thought "ok, extra bases, no big deal...we'll get Posada...hopefully, and then that will be it," but it didn't work out like that at all. The ball barely cleared the fence, A-Rod trotted around the bases, Yankees fans went crazy, and for those of us pulling for the good guys, we were stunned and silent (this effect is magnified when you're at a Boston bar, and there is a majority that take ragging on A-Rod to an art form). So the Yanks, especially A-Rod, get the last laugh in the series, one New York desperately needed to at least reassure themselves that they are still in it. Personally, I would have wanted to see the game end up a better way, but truthfully, I expected the Yankees to take two of three in this series. In the long run, two wins against us is going to go a long way for them, and therefore, they were fighting in that game like their season was on the line, because, in many ways, it was. If the Yanks left Fenway and lost two of three, putting them down 14 1/2 games, they would have gone into U.S. Cellular on Monday at an all-time low. There would basically have been no recovery from that. Now, in taking two of three, not only has New York gained ground, but it has raised numerous issues about both clubs. Going into last night, Pettitte had been dominant against the Sox in his career, and when he took the ball last night, he probably realized that his bullpen was hurting from Saturday's game, especially Scott Proctor, their best middle reliever, who had to have been shell-shocked from all that went on. Therefore, it was just assumed that if the Sox could get to him and have a lead, that the Yanks' 'pen would break down again, and the Sox would hold their lead until the end...and then the exact opposite happened. True, the Sox were able to get to Pettitte early, as they, despite not scoring any runs, were able to drive up Pettitte's pitch count and ultimately, that led to his undoing in the fifth, where the Sox got three consecutive singles from 'Tek, Wily Mo, and Coco to load up the bases. Then, Dustin Pedroia, again, came through with a bases-clearing double to center, making the score 4-3. Then, Papi came up and hit a liner out to right, which Abreu somehow misplayed, leading to Pedroia scoring, and Ortiz ending up on third, although you have to think that anyone else, even a healthy Papi, would have wound up at home, but because Ortiz's hamstrings have been acting up, he couldn't quite make it happen. In any event, Youk was able to drive him in via sacrifice fly, giving the Sox their first advantage of the game at 5-4. Pettitte only lasted 4 1/3, giving up five earned on seven hits, and could only throw 83 pitches. So the bullpen came in, and it was almost a given that they could muster two or three more runs to cushion the lead, but the problem was that the Yanks' bullpen actually decided to make a guest cameo last night, and gave up no earned runs over the last 4 2/3 innings. Simply amazing. Throwing in everyone but Proctor, they were able to keep the Sox to just four hits. Then, over this time, two of the Sox' best guys from the bullpen, Pap and Okajima, gave up the tying and winning runs. First, Okajima, who came into relieve Brendan Donnelly for whatever reason (Donnelly came on to face A-Rod, got him to pop out, then was yanked in favor of Hideki to pitch to Posada). Hideki blew his first save of his career when he gave up a single to Matsui in the beginning of the eighth, then Robinson Cano, who I'm convinced would be an outstanding player if he didn't make so many bonehead plays, came through with an RBI triple to knot the score at five. So now I'm thinking "ok, if it comes down to bullpen vs. bullpen, I'm not scared." Well, perhaps I took the Yanks a little too lightly on this. As Okajima was able to get through the rest of the eighth, Bruney was brought in for the bottom half, and, although he got himself into a bit of a jam with Crisp on second and Lugo on first with two outs, still pitched tremendously, as he had done all series, and really, all year long. Bruney was able to get out of it, sending the game into the ninth, and the rest, as they say, is history. Still, the Sox have a big lead, but this was definitely a big side-track to Boston's quest to win a division title and finally dethrone the Yanks, who have won nine straight dating back to 1998.

One of my articles from a couple of days ago was titled "Should I Stay Or Should I Go?," which of course was in reference to the ongoing saga that is Kobe Bryant and his indecision. Well, you can throw another name to that list. Billy Donovan really has me completely thrown here, and I don't think I'm the only one. Since signing a huge, multi-year deal to coach the Magic last week, Billy Donovan has requested that he be released from that contract, as, apparently, he wants to return to Gainesville to coach the Gators. I mean...I don't get it. What is going on in this guy's head. Who are you, Bobby Cremins? (see, I get those USC references in there when I can, if you don't know, now you know). The point is that Donovan is totally suspect now no matter what happens. Even if he goes back to Florida, I would think this is going to affect his public perception everywhere outside of Gator Nation. If he ever had any intentions of ever coaching in the NBA, they have been greatly altered after this latest debacle. You know, he may have failed, but still, at one point in time, if you are truly a great coach, and you have aspirations of coaching at the next level, what is the point of going back to the college game when you are offered a pro deal? I think Donovan actually believed that there was going to be a "better" situation that would come along in the NBA, and when that came, he didn't want to be held down by a contract with Orlando. I think that he was trying to hold out for a position in perhaps L.A. or another playoff contender, which would have made his transition from college, where he was at the coaching pinnacle, to the NBA a lot easier. Going from a great team to another great team, Donovan would not have to endure the hardships that many before him had to endure. However, here's the thing about that: How can he tell if Florida is still going to be any good by the time th). So do contracts mean anything anymore? And also, what could have possibly changed Donovan's mind in three days? The fact that Orlando has no first round pick this year? The fact that Hedo Turkoglu is their second best player? I mean really, what happened? See, I really think Donovan believes that, as a coach, he's probably peeked. Realistically, what else can he do? He knows he's got basically no chance of three-peating next year, and furthermore, his next run at greatness may be off in the far distance, so what's holding him back? Truth be told, I really think he took a look at his mentor, Rick Pitino, and saw what happened to him when he went to the pros, and decided that this was not the right step for him...but still, he signed the contract, and then, poof, he's's magic! Ok, that wasat opportunity comes around? Sure, Florida always will come through with a good record, but will they ever get the kind of talent to make another big run in March? In any event, if this was the case, and mind you, I have absolutely no idea what is going on in this guy's head (few do), but if this was the case, he would be taking an incredibly big chance, because he had to have known that there was going to be a public backlash for recanting on the contract and returning to U of F, and with this backlash, Donovan likely will be levied with a five-year ban from coaching in the NBA to cover Orlando, who had him under control for five years, but if they decide to release him from his contract, it could almost be labeled as "collusion" if he returned before those five years were up. I'm going to leave it at this: I have always felt that once someone signs a contract, that should be the end of it. If you feel like you're not making enough money, that's too bad. If you want more, work your butt off under your original deal, and then, when re-negotiations come around, your body of work will determine if you are "owed" more money. You should honor a signed contract, even if in your heart of hearts, you are having second thoughts about it. Call me old-fashioned, but I still believe in loyalty and being true to your word, two things that were missing from these dealings.

And then there were two. With the first game of the NBA Finals coming up on Thursday, it's time for a bit of a breakdown. San Antonio has simply been cruising along in the playoffs, bouncing Denver, Phoenix, and Utah, all with relative ease. What has been interesting is that they have basically allowed the "star" player on each of those teams to have huge numbers, and yet, they were dominant. Here's a look at the best player on each of those teams, including their regular season stats against the Spurs, and their stats when they played them in the postseason:

Carmelo Anthony
  • Regular Season: 15.0 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 0.0 apg (only one game, so not too much can be taken from that)
  • Playoffs: 26.8 ppg, 8.6 rpg, 1.2 apg
Steve Nash
  • Regular Season: 17.7 ppg, 9.7 apg, 3.7 rpg
  • Playoffs: 21.3 ppg, 12.7 apg, 3.7 rpg
Deron Williams
  • Regular Season: 15.8 ppg, 5.8 apg, 3.3 rpg
  • Playoffs: 25.8 ppg, 7.8 apg, 3.6 rpg
So, basically, the strategy was "we'll let these guy get theirs, and as long as we are able to lock down the rest of the team, no one man can beat us." This is a fascinating concept, especially when you consider who is coming into town to play the Spurs in the Finals. The Cavs were able to comeback from an 0-2 deficit to win four straight over Detroit, capturing their first ever Eastern Conference title. You don't have to be smart like the guy I pretend to be to realize that the focus is King James, and the rest of the team is basically along for the ride. Sure, Gibson, Hughes, and Verejao have been nice compliments, but there's absolutely no way the Cavs will have any kind of chance against the Spurs unless LeBron plays even better than he played against Detroit, because let's face it: Detroit is a good team, maybe even a great team, but San Antonio is just a much better team all-around than Detroit is. They have it all. They can beat you down low with Duncan, who is arguably the greatest power forward of all time (Karl Malone may have him beat...for now), and they can go outside to Parker and Ginobili, which is where they do most of their damage, not only from an offensive standpoint, but also on the defensive side of the ball. I've always liked the kind of heart Ginobili brings to the game. He can play bigger than his abilities in clutch situations, so the playoffs suit him very well. Also, the Spurs have a guy in Bruce Bowen who is a feisty little defender, finishing second three years in a row for the NBA Defensive Player of the Year, and has made the All-NBA Defensive teams seven years in a row. The strategy to let the star have their way will probably have to change in this game though. LeBron James has tried to prove that he can single-handedly drive his team to victory, and although I fully expect James to have great individual statistics, in the end, I think the Spurs will simply have too many weapons for the Cavs to last in this series. I do see the series going to six games though, which is an incredible feat for a bunch of first-timers in the Finals. James is super-human right now though, so anything is possible.

The NBA Pre-Draft Camp has come to a close, and with its combine complete, and all those who want to make the jump locked in, I am going to preview the NBA Draft. Of course, this is a sore subject for me based on the fact that we're somehow picking 5th. What was interesting was that the three worst teams in the league, Memphis, Boston, and Milwaukee, each got the absolute worst drafting spot they could possibly get, and all three, at one point or another, were accused of "tanking" games at the end of the year in order to wind up with #1 or #2. It's really at this point where I have to suggest that the NBA scrap its lottery system, because it's becoming apparent that the worst teams are not getting the kind of help they really need. With Oden and Durant going to Portland and Seattle, the NBA is also going to lose a ton of revenue due to the fact that half of their season's games will be on at like 10 at night, with half of the country asleep or having too much of a good time to remember the game. Oh well, I can complain all I want, but unless the Celts pull off a mega-deal, they're not getting either, and we're left wallowing in the deep end for another decade. Alright, well, on to the preview. First, I'm going to run down position rankings, then, a two-round mock draft, covering every pick in the Draft. Of course, trades are going to happen, so nothing is etched in stone, but here's how I see it happening right now:

Player Rankings:

Point Guard:
  1. Mike Conley, Fr, Ohio St., 6-1, 175
  2. Javaris Crittenton, Fr, Georgia Tech, 6-5, 194
  3. Acie Law IV, Sr, Texas A&M, 6-4, 186
  4. Taurean Green, Jr, Florida, 6-1, 173
  5. Gabe Pruitt, Jr, Southern Cal, 6-4, 170
  6. Jared Jordan, Sr, Marist, 6-2, 187
  7. Zabian Dowdell, Sr, Virginia Tech, 6-3, 200
  8. Dominic James, So, Marquette, 6-0, 175
  9. Ramon Sessions, Jr, Nevada, 6-4, 185
  10. Bobby Brown, Sr, Cal State Fulerton, 6-2, 170
  11. Sean Singletary, Jr, Virginia, 6-0, 175
  12. Petteri Koponen, Finland, 6-4, 194
  13. Brandon Heath, Sr, San Diego St., 6-4, 181
  14. Aaron Brooks, Sr, Oregon, 6-0, 161
  15. Bo McCalebb, Sr, New Orleans, 6-0, 180
Shooting Guard:
  1. Corey Brewer, Jr, Florida, 6-8, 185
  2. Nick Young, Sr, Southern Cal, 6-7, 206
  3. Rodney Stuckey, Jr, Eastern Washington
  4. Daequan Cook, So, Ohio St., 6-6, 203
  5. Aaron Afflalo, Jr, UCLA, 6-5, 210
  6. Marco Belinelli, Italy, 6-6, 200
  7. Morris Almond, Sr, Rice, 6-6, 215
  8. Trey Johnson, Sr, Jackson St., 6-6, 216
  9. D.J. Strawberry, Jr, Maryland, 6-5, 199
  10. Rudy Fernandez, Spain, 6-6, 172
  11. Marcelus Kemp, Sr, Nevada, 6-5, 210
  12. JamesOn Curry, Jr, Oklahoma St., 6-3, 190
  13. J.R. Reynolds, Sr, Virginia, 6-3, 188
  14. Marko Tomas, Croatia, 6-8, 210
  15. Brad Newley, Australia, 6-6, 190
Small Forward:
  1. Kevin Durant, Fr, Texas, 6-10, 190
  2. Julian Wright, So, Kansas, 6-9, 220
  3. Jeff Green, Jr, Georgetown, 6-10
  4. Al Thornton, Sr, Florida St., 6-7, 221
  5. Thaddeus Young, Fr, Georgia Tech, 6-8, 210
  6. Derrick Byars, Sr, Vanderbilt, 6-7, 220
  7. Demetris Nichols, Sr, Syracuse, 6-8, 211
  8. Alando Tucker, Sr, Wisconsin, 6-5, 205
  9. Jared Dudley, Sr, Boston College, 6-7, 219
  10. Marcus Williams, So, Arizona, 6-7, 207
  11. Reyshawn Terry, Sr, North Carolina, 6-8, 222
  12. Wilson Chandler, So, DePaul, 6-8, 230
  13. Dominic McGuire, Jr, Fresno St., 6-9, 220
  14. Joao Gomes, Portugal, 6-7, 200
  15. Sun Yue, China, 6-9, 210
Power Forward:
  1. Al Horford, Jr, Florida, 6-10, 246
  2. Yi Jianlian, China, 7-0, 246
  3. Brandan Wright, Fr, North Carolina, 6-10, 210
  4. Joakim Noah, Jr, Florida, 7-0, 223
  5. Jason Smith, Jr, Colorado State, 7-0, 233
  6. Tiago Splitter, Brazil, 7-0, 240
  7. Glen Davis, Jr, LSU, 6-9, 290
  8. Josh McRoberts, So, Duke, 6-10, 230
  9. Nick Fazekas, Sr, Nevada, 6-11, 225
  10. Ali Traore, France, 6-10, 247
  11. Kyrylo Fesenko, Ukraine, 7-0, 245
  12. Stephane Lasme, Sr, UMass, 6-7, 213
  13. Herbert Hill, Sr, Providence, 6-10, 232
  14. James Mays, Jr, Clemson, 6-9, 219
  15. Ivan Radenovic, Sr, Arizona, 6-10, 224
  1. Greg Oden, Fr, Ohio St., 7-0, 245
  2. Spencer Hawes, Fr, Washington, 7-0, 230
  3. Sean Williams, So, Boston College, 6-10, 230
  4. Aaron Gray, Sr, Pittsburgh, 7-0, 270
  5. Marc Gasol, Spain, 7-0, 265
  6. DeVon Hardin, So, California, 6-11, 235
  7. Artem Zabelin, Russia, 7-2, 200
  8. Stanko Barac, Bosnia, 7-1, 235
  9. Kyle Visser, Jr, Wake Forest, 6-11, 244
  10. Darryl Watkins, Sr, Syracuse, 6-11, 260
And now, onto the Mock Draft:

First Round:
  1. Portland- Greg Oden
  2. Seattle- Kevin Durant
  3. Atlanta- Mike Conley
  4. Memphis- Al Horford
  5. Boston- Yi Jianlian
  6. Milwaukee- Brandan Wright
  7. Minnesota- Corey Brewer
  8. Charlotte- Joakim Noah
  9. Chicago- Julian Wright
  10. Sacramento- Jeff Green
  11. Atlanta- Spencer Hawes
  12. Philadelphia- Al Thornton
  13. New Orleans- Nick Young
  14. L.A. Clippers- Javaris Crittenton
  15. Detroit- Thaddeus Young
  16. Washington- Rodney Stuckey
  17. New Jersey- Sean Williams
  18. Golden State- Jason Smith
  19. L.A. Lakers- Acie Law IV
  20. Miami- Taurean Green
  21. Philadelphia- Aaron Gray
  22. Charlotte- Daequan Cook
  23. New York- Tiago Splitter
  24. Phoenix- Glen Davis
  25. Utah- Derrick Byars
  26. Houston- Josh McRoberts
  27. Detroit- Marc Gasol
  28. San Antonio- DeVon Hardin
  29. Phoenix- Aaron Afflalo
  30. Philadelphia- Nick Fazekas
Second Round:
  1. Seattle- Artem Zabelin
  2. Boston- Demetris Nichols
  3. San Antonio- Alando Tucker
  4. Dallas- Gabe Pruitt
  5. Seattle- Jared Dudley
  6. Golden State- Marco Belinelli
  7. Portland- Ali Traore
  8. Philadelphia- Jared Jordan
  9. Orlando- Zabian Dowdell
  10. L.A. Lakers- Stanko Barac
  11. Minnesota- Kyle Visser
  12. Portland- Marcus Williams
  13. New Orleans- Morris Almond
  14. Orlando- Trey Johnson
  15. L.A. Clippers- Kyrylo Fesenko
  16. Golden State- Stephane Lasme
  17. Washington- D.J. Strawberry
  18. L.A. Lakers- Reyshawn Terry
  19. Chicago- Rudy Fernandez
  20. Dallas- Herbert Hill
  21. Chicago- James Mays
  22. Portland- Wilson Chandler
  23. Portland- Marcelus Kemp
  24. Orlando- Ramon Sessions
  25. Utah- Ivan Radenovic
  26. Milwaukee- JamesOn Curry
  27. Detroit- Darryl Watkins
  28. San Antonio- Sean Singletary
  29. Phoenix- Dominic McGuire
  30. Dallas- J.R. Reynolds
These are exciting times for me right now. No, I still don't have a job, but I recently landed a gig writing for Sports Central (link is in...well..."links"). So, I will be contributing there a couple times a month, so I'm really pumped about that. In addition, I will be doing some articles for "The Daily Gamecock," the USC school newspaper, so I'm so happy that I'm getting these opportunities to get my name out there. As Chic would say: "These are the good times." I have all of you to thank for this, because without the support and the feedback, who knows what could have happened? So I'm going to continue to pursue a position in journalism, because this is great, and if I could get paid for it...well, that would be nice, and this is a hell of a lot better than anything to do with finance.

Well, that's going to do it for now kids. Plenty more where that came from, so stay tuned. Thanks for reading. Peace.


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