Monthly Archives: November 2009

What is up with LeBron James?

On Friday, October 13, 2009, LeBron James announced to the world that next year he will change his number from 23 to 6 to honor Michael Jordan. Whether as a Cavalier or, as many New Yorkers think, the Knicks, LeBron will have a new jersey to sell. Now, I’m not claiming that LeBron and Nike want to get the most money possible by switching jersey number, as Kobe Bryant did in 2006, because he is very likely to switch teams meaning he will have a new jersey. But I am calling shenanigans on what he is doing.

At this start of LeBron’s career, I would not have suggested that he pick 23 to wear. He should have worn a special jersey that he could wear that no one else has. Instead of when little kids see the number 23 they are split between saying, “That’s Mike” and, “That’s LeBron.” He probably should have gone with a number retired by no one, like 26, 28, or 29. That would be the best way to expand his brand.

To start off, I have a major problem with what LeBron has done and will do is when he said, “(Michael Jordan) can’t get the logo, and if he can’t, something has to be done. I feel like no NBA player should wear 23. I’m starting a petition, and I’ve got to get everyone in the NBA to sign it. Now, if I’m not going to wear No. 23, then nobody else should be able to wear it.” He went on to say that he would switch to number 6 because it was his Olympic number and the number of his favorite player, Julius Erving. Currently, there are no numbers retired throughout the NBA, although both Chicago and Miami have retired Jordon’s number. In Major League Baseball, Jackie Robinson’s number is the only number retired throughout the league. 42 isn’t retired because Robinson was a transcendent player; it is retired because he broke the racial barrier in MLB. Jordan was the transcendent player, not a barrior breaker. In the NHL, Wayne Gretsky’s 99 is retired and Mario Lemieux’s 66 is “unofficially retired”, and they both fit LeBron’s mold of a transcendent player. But then again, hockey is hockey so lets not put too much impact on that sport.

The problem is not to get players to switch from 23 because after James, Jason Richardson and Kevin Martin are the only notable players to don that number. LeBron James wants the NBA to retire MJ’s 23, but why? He was a transcendent figure for the sport, but what else major did he accomplish? Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier so that modern day superstars Ryan Howard, Albert Pujols, and Barry Bonds could play. Jordan made shoes. Also, what makes Jordan the best candidate to have his number retired? What about the two men with the number LBJ want to wear next year, Julius Erving and Bill Russell. LeBron wants to wear 6 because Dr. J was his favorite player growing up. What about Russell for his unprecedented 11 rings? Larry Bird and  Kareem Abdul-Jabbar share the number 33 and certainly made a huge impact on the NBA. So what he is saying is that his he wants to change jersey numbers to honor a player he thinks is great, only to switch to the number of his favorite player. It makes no sense.  The point here is that no number should be retired across a league unless it made an impact beyond statistics and milestones.

This has been a major topic of discussion for the last few years and will be until next fall: where will LeBron James sign? The popular choice has been the New York Knicks, but my question is why would he do that? Sure he’d be playing in Madison Square Garden every other night, but who else would be on the team? Do you really want to join a team who’s core is Danilo Galinari, Jordan Hill, Chris Duhon, and maybe David Lee? They have no talent on their team and are banking their franchise’s future  on signing two max contract players, which is highly improbable by now. And to top it off, they have no first round pick this year due to their trade for Stephon Marbury. Now to add a twist to the story. What if LeBron said that he was going to be changing his number because he already knew his team he will be signing with has retired 23 or has a player wearing it. The Hawks, Celtics, Bulls, Heat, Nets and Rockets have all retired 23 while only the Suns, Magic, Kings, Celtics, and Sixers have retired. So which other teams could have a real need for a small forward and would be a good fit for him. I have a list of four teams: The Nets, Clippers, Heat, and Trailblazers. You are probably in shock because I just suggested that LeBron James sign with the Clippers, Blazers, and Nets, but calm down and lets go on.

The Nets have a great young nucleus featuring Devin Harris and Brook Lopez along with Yi Jianlian and guards Chris Douglas-Roberts, Courtney Lee, and Terrance Williams plus a likely top-5 draft pick this year. The only thing missing from this team is a scoring small forward. They are very likely to be moving to Brooklyn in a year or two. LeBron has a clause in his deal with Nike that will double if he plays in New York or LA. Brooklyn counts as NYC. And LBJ being good friends with Jay-Z, a co-owner of the Nets, can’t hurt.

The Clippers have long been considered cursed after freak injuries to star players, top-5 pick busts, and losing season after losing season. Like the Nets, the Clips have a great core of young players, though. Baron Davis isn’t so young, but he can still play while Eric Gordon, Blake Griffin, and Chris Kaman have yet to reach their primes (Griffin has yet to play a game). Add on Al Thornton, Marcus Camby, and Sebastian Telfair, and that’s one stacked roster. He would also get that contract bonus from Nike.

Could these Olympic teammates become actual teammates in 2010?

Could these Olympic teammates become actual teammates in 2010?

The Heat in a great situation for the 2010 season. Only Michael Beasley and Daequan Cook are guaranteed contracts for the season and they have team options on Mario Chalmers and James Jones while Dwayne Wade has a player option he will likely decline. They are the only team in the NBA who can legitimately offer two max contracts, say for a combination of two of the three between Dwayne Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh. Also, what’s not to love about South Beach?

The Blazers are the wild card out of this group of teams. They currently are starting two point guards and Brandon Roy at small forward, showing little faith in Rudy Fernandez and Martell Webster. If they could muster up the cap space to land King James, they would have a great starting five of Andre Miller, Brandon Roy, LeBron, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden. The only problem is that it is highly, highly unlikely that LeBron would sign to a market as small as Portland.

I trust that LeBron isn’t as stupid as a high school drop out, so I think he had something planned when he said that he would make the switch from 23. I think that he knew that he had something in mind, and that was going to play in South Beach with Dwayne Wade. It has been well documented, as I did in the Shaq Theory, that D-Wade is a great teammate and won’t hog the ball as much as a player like Kobe will. The Heat fit the bill for a team which has retired the number 23, for Jordan in fact, and won’t necessarily have a player wearing the number 6. Mario Chalmers, who currently is wearing six, isn’t guaranteed a contract with Miami, but if he returns, will likely give up six to James.

On November 24, Dwayne Wade said of his dream teammate, “If I could pick one player in the league today to play with, and most people think I’d say LeBron James, I would pick Dwight Howard.” Was he softening up an opponent he would play the next night or talking from his heart, who knows, but I’m sure that he wouldn’t mind playing with LBJ.

LeBron James is a great guy who likely does honor NBA history, but I just don’t think that he would switch numbers from the one he has worm since at least high school just to honor arguably the greatest player ever. I respect King James, but I think he is up to something

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Week 12 NFL Picks

This is Thanksgiving week and there are several things we should be thankful for as NFL fans: we no longer have to see JaMarcus Russell starting, soon we will be hearing from Mercury Morris about how no team will ever be as good as the ’72 Dolphins, and we are not Browns fans. Home teams in CAPS.

Get ready Lions fans

Get ready Lions fans

PACKERS (-10.5) over Lions
It’s a shame that we have to watch the Lions on Thanksgiving, but we shouldn’t take away the only thing that is decent to their fans. This could have been a decent game if Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson weren’t hurt. This will be another bag-over-the-head game for Lions fans.

Raiders (+13.5) over COWBOYS
The Cowboys are favored by nearly as many points as they have scored over the past two years combined. Doesn’t make much sense. The Raiders have an improving defense starting with Nnamdi Asomugha, Richard Seymour, and Tommy Kelly. They also have a solid running trio of Darren McFadden, Justin Fargas, and Michael Bush. I don’t like them enough to win, but enough to keep it within two TDs.

BRONCOS (+6.5) over Giants
Both teams are in must win mode around this time. The Broncos have lost four straight after a 6-0 start and the Giants have lost four of five after starting 5-0. But, there is no way that I can give nearly a touch down to the Giants when the Broncos are feeling underappreciated at home.

Buccaneers (-11.5) over FALCONS
At first you’ll probably want to go with the Falcons at home, but that is a ton of points to give. Michael Turner is still out and Matt Ryan is in the midst of a sophomore slump. Rookie Josh Freeman is hitting his stride and the Bucs are slowly getting better. I’ll take the point here.

Dolphins (-3.5) over BILLS
The Dolphins don’t seem to be affected by the loss of Ronnie Brown and are still running strong. One question I have is why aren’t they putting their faith in second rounder Pat White to run the Wild Cat. But all questions aside, they are definitely more than 3.5 points better than the worthless Bills. This is the Lock of the Week.

BENGALS (-13.5) over Browns
Last week was a trap game for the Bengals. After beating the Ravens and Steelers, Cincy had to go across country to face a team they didn’t respect, and they lost. The Browns are no match to the Bengals, who want to prove to the world that beating the Ravens and Steelers was no easy task and they are for real.

Seahawks (-2.5) over RAMS
Marc Bulger and Julius Jones are out for this game, but Bulger is more important to his team’s success. Justin Forsett has filled in well, if not better then Jones while Kyle Boller is not a good replacement for Bulger, not that Bulger is good though. Steven Jackson, and I’ll say it again, has the only half way decent scoring potential. I think the ‘Hawks have nothing to sweat here.

Panthers (+3.5) over JETS
This will feature a matchup of the two most inconsistent quarterbacks in the league: Jake Delhomme and Mark Sanchez. Sanchez is on the way down with six picks in two games while Delhomme has only thrown one pick in the last four. The Jets are bad, okay. So is the Sanchize. What has he actually done? Two good games versus Miami and Houston? C’mon Son!

EAGLES (-9.5) over Redskins
Redskin fans can’t go through much more pain then they did last week, shutting out their arch-rivals until the last three minutes when Tony Romo leads a go ahead drive. Add on losing Ladell Betts for the year, and DC was probably pretty cranky on Monday. So with Clinton Portis still out, the ‘Skins will be handing the rock off to Rock Cartwright. Sounds like a boxer, doesn’t it?

Colts (-3.5) over TEXANS
How can the undefeated Colts be only favored over the Texans by 3+? Houston has been so inconsistent this season, when you think they are for real, the flop, and when you think they are awful, they show up. Missing Owen Daniels hurts, but facing Peyton Manning hurts even more.

CHARGERS (-13.5) over Chiefs
Who woulda guessed that the Chiefs would beat the Steelers last week? Not me. But that sure doesn’t make them contenders.

49ERS (-3.5) over Jaguars
This really isn’t an appealing game at all, but someone has to watch it, and I feel sorry for them. But hey, who isn’t excited for Mike Sims-Walker vs. Michael Crabtree? Any takers? No?

Cardinals (+.5) over TITANS
People everywhere are claiming that they never lost faith in Vince Young, and I won’t say that. I do like what he has done, but does this make him a franchise cornerstone? Isn’t Chris Johnson just opening the field for him, finally? Does a game average of 192 ypg really appeal to you when he played against Jacksonville, Houston, Buffalo, and San Fran? I’ll take the Cards here who have been great this year on the road.

VIKINGS (-10.5) over Bears
The Bears are in a bad spot with Jay Cutler and Matt Forte not looking like the Jay Cutler and Matt Forte of last year and no first- or second-round draft picks. Brett Favre is a shoe-in for MVP now with a 17 TDs to only 2 interceptions. He has made Sidney Rice into a Pro Bowler and teams can’t drop back to stop him because they have All Day Adrian Peterson.

RAVENS (-2.5) over Steelers
I hate to pick against the Steelers, especially when I can take points with them, but they are a totally different team with Polamalu out. 3-4 teams need a great safety like Ed Reed, Bob Sanders, Rodney Harrison, or Troy Polamalu to succeed, and Tyrone Carter is not the answer. Neither team has been impressive at all this year, but I’ll take the Ravans at home.

Patriots (+3.5) over SAINTS
The Game of the Week is on Monday Night, as it should be. Two high powered teams with not so good of defenses in the Super Dome. When it comes to big games, I’ll take the Hoodie, despite the Indy game, over Sean Payton. I’ll take Brady over Brees. I’ll take Moss and Welker over Colston and Devery Henderson. And I’ll take the points over giving the points. You get the picture.

Season: 81-65

Last Week: 9-7

Lock of the Week: 5-5

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Week 11 NFL Picks

The second week of Thursday night games are here and teams we thought were good (Broncos and Ravens) are turning sour while teams we thought were awful (Panthers and Titans) may not be that bad. On to Week 11. Home teams in CAPS.

PANTHERS (-3.5) over Dolphins
The NFL Network has a commercial for this game: The Wildcat comes to Carolina (shows Ronnie Brown handing the ball off to Ricky Williams)…here kitty, kitty. Well the problem is that Brown will miss the game with an injured ankle. So will we see just the Pistol with Pat White, or Williams in the Wildcat? Also, the Panthers could and should be 7-2 with victories over New Orleans, Buffalo, and Dallas. Look back at those games.

LIONS (-3.5) over Browns
The Lions have been favored to win twice this year, and they should be very proud of that. But they were playing the Rams and now the Browns, so that’s not really saying much.

49ers (+6.5) over PACKERS
Green Bay’s record since November 2, 2008 is 7-11. Who did they beat? Chicago twice, Detroit twice, St. Louis, Cleveland, and now Dallas. Not too impressive, now is it?

Steelers (-9.5) over CHIEFS
The Steelers lost Troy Polamalu for the second time this year (he is getting Larry Fitzgerald’s half of the Madden Curse, too) when he re-injured his knee. But the Chiefs will also be missing a key player: Dwayne Bowe. Bowe was suspended four games for using PEDs, so Kansas City will be depending on Chris Chambers, Bobby Engram, and Sean Ryan. I’ll give you the 9.5 points here.

Redskins (+11.5) over COWBOYS
Okay, so maybe Miles Austin isn’t that good after all. Since his Week 5 explosion for 250 yards, he has amassed 171, 61, 49, and now 20 yards receiving. Flash in the pan? Perhaps, perhaps not. The Redskins, unlike Austin, have showed up as of late. They beat Denver by ten without Clinton Portis. Portis’ replacement Ladell Betts has been great with at least 90 total yards and a touchdown in each of his past two games. Gimme the points.

Falcons (+6.5) over GIANTS
Since when have the Giants been good? They lost their past four games, so did they get better over the bye? No. But Atlanta, and especially Matt Ryan, have been exposed and star runningback Michael Turner is likely going to miss the game. Still, the Giants aren’t as a touchdown better than the talented Falcons. 

Saints (-11.5) over BUCCANEERS
The Bucs seem to be turning it around with Josh Freeman at the helm. He is poised, strong, and has a rocket arm. But you know the team is bad since they are depending on Kellen Winslow, Sammie Stroughter, and Antonio Bryant. Their defense is still awful, and there is no way they can stop the Saints’ offense, even if New Orleans hasn’t been able to cover their spreads recently. 

When MJD took a knee on the 1, it cost up to 10,000 fantasy owners a win. It did give the Jaguars 1 win in real life, though. Also, how can you complain with 20 fantasy points?

When MJD took a knee on the 1, it cost about 10,000 fantasy owners a win, but gave the Jaguars a win in real life. Also, how can you complain with 20 fantasy points?

JAGUARS (-8.5) over Bills
They Jags may be bad, but they are 5-4. The Bills are bad and 3-6. They just fired their head coach (Dick Jauron) and are switching back to Harvard  grad Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB. Maurice Jones-Drew will go off today, and likely won’t have to take a knee on the one yard line, like he did last week.

Colts (+.5) over RAVENS
After what each team did last week, how can the Ravens be favored, even by less than a point. The Colts beat New England, considered by many to win it all, and the Ravens couldn’t score against the atrocious Browns’ defense in the first half. I hate to say it, but the Ravens are overrated on defense, they are rapidly aging.

VIKINGS (-11.5) over Seahawks
I picked Seattle as a sleeper pick at the beginning of the year, and reasserted that last week, as I picked them to cover the spread in Arizona. They couldn’t even keep it within single digits. This team is bad. The Vikings are the opposite…very good. Brett Favre has shockingly only thrown three picks this year and Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, and Bernard Berrian have formed a very solid receiver trio. I’ll take the Vikes here, especially since Seattle won’t have Julius.

CARDINALS (-8.5) over Rams
The Cards finally showed up at home this season, and the Rams kinda put up a fight. Steven Jackson is an animal, but after him, you’re looking at Donnie Avery, Randy McMichael, and  Brandon Gibson. Not good. As for the Cardinals, Beanie Wells had his best game of the year with 127 total yards and two touchdowns. Look for a blowout of Texans-Raiders proportions.

Chargers (-2.5) over BRONCOS
The Broncos can’t seem to support their bandwagon with so many people on it. Since most of Sports Nation accepted Denver as a legit contender, they have lost three straight. Kyle Orton is the Kyle Orton we actually knew, and the same goes for their not so solid defense. Would I be surprised if they pulled out this huge division game at home? No, but I can’t go with them for now.

Bengals (-9.5) over RAIDERS
What does this team have to do for you to like them? They beat the Ravens and Steelers twice, Bears, Browns, and Packers. One of their two losses came on a freak touchdown to Brandon Stokley.  They are second in points allowed and ninth in yards allowed. They are legit, whether you believe it on not.

PATRIOTS (-10.5) over Jets
The Pats are angry from their Week 2 loss to the Jets and last week to the Colts. Unlike in Week 2, the Jets aren’t any good. Kris Jenkins is done for the year, Mark Sanchez is actually a rookie, and Braylon Edwards may be in a new uniform, but he’s still dropping passes. New England is 11-0 coming off a loss, so that’s not going to change this week.

Eagles (-3.5) over Bears
At this point in the season, this has to be a must win for both teams. They are both in the hunt for a Wild Card spot, and Philly could even challenge for a division crown. They both are depending on young skill position players, LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin for the Eagles and Jay Cutler, Matt Forte, Devin Hester, and  Johnny Knox for the Bears. But at the of the day, the Eagles need this one more since they are actually a good team. This is the Lock of the Week.

TEXANS (-4.5) over Titans
 Are the Titans all of a sudden great and we’re going to ignore their first six game? I think not. They are not in the same class as the high-powered Texans, even without Owen Daniels. Tennessee beat Jacksonville, San Fran, and Buffalo, not exactly world beaters. The Texans will take care of business at home.

Season: 72-58

Last Week: 9-6

Lock of the Week: 4-5

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Top 10 MLB Players on the Move

Players will be allowed to sign with their new teams on Friday and trading season has already started, so let’s take a look at the top 10 players who will be wearing a new uniform next season.

1. Roy Halladay – Phillies
Halladay was nearly dealt to Philadelphia at the Trade Deadline, but the Phillies opted for Cliff Lee for a cheaper price. Had they dealt for him last season at the deadline, they probably would have had to give up top pitching and hitting prospects Kyle Drabek and Dominic Brown, along with rookie sensation J.A. Happ. With a few less months of Doc, Philly will only have to give up Drabek and Brown. At best, Drabek could be Halladay, and they won’t need Brown if they have Jayson Werth, Shane Victorino, and prospect Michael Taylor.

2. Matt Holliday – Red Sox
Many fans think that the Yankees will be after Holliday, but corner outfielder is not an area of need. They would like to keep the DH position open to give an off-day to Posada or A-Rod every few days, assuming they sign either Johnny Damon or Hideki Matsui. Boston needs to muscle up their lineup, especially in the Left Field vacancy, unless they want to go with Jeremy Hermida. They will pony up and sign Holliday for a $110 million contract over 6 years.

3. John Lackey – Mets
The major players for Lackey will be the Angels, Red Sox, Yankees, Mets, and Dodgers, all major markets. Lackey should do what Cliff Lee and CC Sabathia did, although they were both traded, and sign with in the NL, which is far inferior to the AL. The Mets will be able to give Lackey the bigger contract, around $90 million for 6 years, and he will be form one of the better 1-2 punches with Johan Santana.

4. Jason Bay – Mariners
After the Red Sox sign Holliday, the major players for Bay will be the Yankees, Mets, Mariners, and Giants. The Giants don’t have the money after giving huge contracts to Barry Zito and Aaron Rowand; the Yankees, again, won’t have the motivation, and the Mets have a poor hitters ballpark. The Mariners think that they can compete next season with a team featuring Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, and now Jason Bay. He will get a slight better deal than Boston offered over the summer at $80 million over 5 years.

For Boston to contend with the Yankees, they'll need to revamp their lineup starting with Gonzalez

For Boston to contend with New York, they'll need to revamp their lineup, starting with Gonzalez

5. Adrian Gonzalez – Boston
New Padres GM, and former Red Sox assistant, Jed Hoyer wants to redo his club to put his mark on the team. After Theo Eptstein, Hoyer knows the Red Sox minor league system the best. He and Theo will be able to to work out a deal, which will be easier since they each know who the other likes. Look for a deal that includes Lars Anderson, Michael Bowden, and another player, either Ryan Kalish or Stolmy Pimentel.

6. Chone Figgins – Angels
At first glance, the Phillies would be a great fit for Chone, but they already have two leadoff quality hitters in Jimmy Rollins and Victorino. The White Sox already said that Figgins was too expensive for their taste, so the Cardinals and Mets are the only other major suitors. Figgins was perhaps the most important hitter in their playoff run, so they really need to bring him back for around$ 4 years/$48 million.

7. Curtis Granderson – Cubs
The Tigers will be cutting costs this off-season, possibly trading Granderson, Miguel Cabrera, and Edwin Jackson. Granderson, who was born just outside of Chicago, would be a perfect fit for the Cubs, who need an outfielder to replace the soon-to-be-departed Milton Bradley. Because Granderson won’t come cheap, the Cubs will have to part with top prospects, in this case, Jeff Samardzija and Josh Vitters. But in the end, we all know what is better than an Anderson, a Granderson.

8. Jose Valverde – Phillies
The main fault of the Phillies this year was their horrific bullpen. Valverde will be able to split time with Brad Lidge at closer, and will likely become the closer later in the season. Valverde will come at a price, though, since the Astros will almost for certain offer him arbitration, meaning the team who signs Valverde will lose their first round pick. He should sign for around $25 million over 3 years.

9. Ben Sheets – Rangers
Sheets will come a ton cheaper than he would have last year, because of his elbow surgery. He will sign for a cheaper price and does not cost his new club a first round pick. Although he is injury prone, Sheets is as dominant as any pitcher when he is on his mark. He nearly signed with the Rangers before surgery last year, so look for him to pick Texas over Boston, New York, and Milwaukee.

10. Aroldis Chapman – Red Sox
Chapman, the Cuban defector, is said to be as talented as Stephen Strasburg, with a fastball measured as high as 102 MPH and a hard slider. He has the build of a slightly lighter CC Sabathia and should excel like CC once he makes the majors. It will take some time before he hits the show, but that shouldn’t be to big of a concern. Boston will edge out the Yankees to sign the big lefty for 6 years/$42 million.

Honorable mention: Dan Uggla to the Dodgers, Erik Bedard to the Orioles, Milton Bradley to the White Sox, Randy Wolf to the Mets, Andy Pettitte to the Yankees, Adrian Beltre to the Phillies, Rich Harden to the Brewers, Johnny Damon to the Cardinals, Orlando Hudson to the Mets, Miguel Tejada to the Athletics, Vladimir Guerrero to the Rangers, Hideki Matsui to the Yankees, Mike Gonzalez to the Nationals, Marco Scutaro to the Reds, Mark DeRosa to the Orioles, Mark Mulder to the Brewers, Melvin Mora to the Cardinals, and Bengie Molina to the Mets.

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The Shaq Theory

Since his rookie season in 1992, Shaquille Rashaun O’Neal has been considered one of the most dominant centers in the league, if not most dominant players altogether. But what kind of player is he off the court? And for that matter, how good is he anymore? Shaq has now left four teams on bad terms: the Orlando Magic, Los Angeles Lakers, Miami Heat, and Phoenix Suns. He allegedly stole a television series idea from a teammate and burned several bridges. Maybe a closer look into the career of Shaq Diesel will reveal what kind of player and person he really is.

When Shaq came into the league out of LSU, he was a force from the start. As a rookie, he started in the All-Star Game and won the Rookie of the Year Award while scoring 23.4 points, 56.2% shooting, 13.9 rebounds, and 3.5 blocks per game. He got better and better over the next few seasons, developing into arguably the best center in the league. In his second season, he paired up with rookie Penny Hardaway and led the Magic to their first ever playoff appearance, while averaging 29 points, 60% shooting, and 13 boards. In his third season, he even led the league in scoring and led Orlando to the NBA Finals, where they were swept byt the Rockets. In his fourth and final season with the Magic, he made his fourth All-Star Game although he missed 28 games of the season due to injury. Eventually the Magic lost in the Eastern Conference Finals to the Bulls.

That off-season, O’Neal left the team who drafted him number one four years previous to bolt to a bigger market, namely Los Angeles. Shaq was able to expand his fan base and he could also better show off his rap and acting skills. Shaq was able to match up with Kobe Bryant and Phil Jackson, winning three straight NBA Championships from 2000-2002. but ran into a rough spot with fellow alpha dog Kobe Bryant in 2003. The Lakers started out the year 11-19 and Shaquille O’Neal was hurt with a toe injury. The Lakers eventually made the playoffs, but lost in the quarter-finals to the Spurs. During that off-season, Bryant was accused of rape and had to miss training camp because he had to recover from knee surgery. The Lakers also added Karl Malone and Gary Payton, and they were anointed by most to be a lock to win it all. They didn’t end up winning, and Shaq and Kobe were at odds. O’Neal said that Kobe needed to be more of a passer and hinted that Kobe wasn’t that important to the team. One of the two had to go. O’Neal requested a trade after head coach Phil Jackson left, and he was traded to Miami for Lamar Odom, Caron Butler, and a 1st-rounder. Kobe was made out to be the bad guy, partly to do with his rape charges, but was he really the villain?

Dwayne Wade seems to be the only superstar Shaq has been able to get along with

Dwayne Wade is about the only superstar Shaq has been able to get along with

Shaq had already burnt bridges in two cities, but decided to join up with rising superstar Dwayne Wade for a chance at another championship. In his first season in Miami, he helped lead the Heat to within a game of the Finals. Shaq signed a 5-year/$100 million extension and a year after signing, he assisted Dwayne Wade to a third straight Eastern Conference Finals trip and eventually to a championship. But just like in LA, Shaq Diesel ran into problems and forced a trade. His numbers were down, for the first time ever, he didn’t make the All-Star Team, and he wasn’t getting along with Pat Riley, the coach and GM of Miami. Shaq ended up the best team player in South Beach, partially having to do with the fact that Dwayne Wade isn’t doesn’t strong of a need for shots like Kobe needed.

For whatever reason, the Suns decided to blow up their up-tempo team by trading high-flying Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for Shaq. Before the trade to acquire the Shaqtus, the Suns had the best record in the West at 34-14, but wanted a big man to match up with Tim Duncan and Yao Ming. But like most people thought, the trade didn’t work. The Shaqtus couldn’t run with Steve Nash, Raja Bell, and Boris Diaw, and they had to reconstruct their offense to accommodate O’Neal. The Suns ended the year as the 6th seed in the West with a 55-27 record, but were a shell of their old team. They were beat down if five games by the team they acquired Shaq to beat, the Spurs. The next season wasn’t any better. He nearly set career lows in rebounds, assists, blocks and points. Word came out that Shaq stole the idea to his show on ABC, Shaq Vs., from Steve Nash. Nash later said that either he or O’Neal had to go, and for Steve Kerr, the choice was easy. Shaq was so dumped off to the Cavs for Ben Wallace and Sasha Pavlovic, both of whom were bought out a few weeks later.

On to the Cavs chapter. While many thought that the move to Cleveland would lead them to the promise land. But here are some points to show why it hasn’t. Shaq, for the first time, isn’t in a warm city. Cleveland is way colder than Orlando, LA, Miami, or Phoenix. Also, Shaq is still an alpha dog, and the Cavs already have one, namely one certain LeBron James. This could bring up another Kobe/Shaq feud. Shaq has, so far, been terrible in Cleveland. He is averaging 11 and 7 while his team is 6-3, a far cry from the kind of year they expected. He has slowed down the Cavs just like he did with the Suns.

Now, lets take a look back at what happened after Shaquille O’Neal left the Lakers and Suns. Last season, the Lakers won the title and Kobe looked like he was a changed man, or he was never the bad guy. Maybe Shaq was the bully the whole time. After all, he did force himself out of four cities and doesn’t seem to get that he’s not the same dominant guy he used to be. The Suns replaced Shaq with Channing Frye, a former lottery pick considered by most a bust. They are now back to their up-tempo team before they traded The Matrix to get Shaq Diesel.

So what is the moral of this story, or rather, the point of this theory? Shaq is no longer an asset to fast paced teams, they have to fit his needs. He is an alpha dog who has aged rapidly, but still demads the same amount of touches per game. Maybe Kobe isn’t that bad and Shaq is the villain. So we should celebrate the career that was for Shaq Diesel and try to forget what has happened since he won it all in 2006.

Categories: NBA | Leave a comment

Week 10 NFL Picks

Around Week 10, we have found out if teams with good record just had a hot start or are for real. Two teams that would fit that bill are the Broncos and Bengals. Are they for real? Maybe, maybe not. The Bengals have swept their season series with Baltimore and will put themselves in position for a division title if they beat the Steelers. The Broncos, on the other hand, will make us wait until Week 11 when they play the Chargers. Remember, there is still space on the Bengal Bandwagon. Home teams in CAPS.

49ERS (-3.5) over Bears

In the first game of Thursday Night Football, two mediocre teams face off to see who can stay near .500 for the longest. The Bears are at 4-4 and the Niners at 3-5, but really, San Fran is better. The Bears have no defense ever since Brian Urlacher has been out for the year. Alex Smith may not be that bad. He was drafted at age 20. Give him some time and he will succeed.

Saints (-13.5) over RAMS

The Saints nearly lost last week while the Rams had the week off. The Saints played the Panthers and their number one pass defense (at the time). The Rams have the 22nd ranked pass defense. No contest here, the only concern is if the Saints will cover the spread.

DOLPHINS (-9.5) over Buccaneers

The Dolphins may be the best 3-5 team in the past few years. They have two running backs in the top 20 rushing leaders and an incredibly hard to defend Wildcat offense. The Bucs won their first game of the year under rookie Josh Freeman. My message to the Bucs: don’t get cocky…you’re going to lose.

VIKINGS (-16.5) over Lions

Minny had 2 weeks to think about their loss at Heinz Field and the Lions had one week to think about how they blew a 17 point lead to the Seahawks, eventually losing by 12. The Vikings lost valiantly. The Lions lost horrifically. You know how this will end, and that’s not well for the Lions’ D and Kevin Smith with his mostly healed shoulder.

Jaguars (+6.5) over JETS

Just in case you didn’t know, the Jaguars are 4-4, the same record as the J-E-T-S Jets! Jets! Jets! Also, when was the last time Mark Sanchez played the game in cold weather? Home in October isn’t cold. And he played college and high school ball in Cali. It’s going to hit lows in the 40s in East Rutherford. Gimme the Jags with the points.

TITANS (-6.5) over Bills

The Bills are bad. T.O. has destroyed yet another locker room and Lee Evans is a shell of his old self. The running game is the only semi-bright spot on the team with the tandem of Marshawn Lynch and Fred Jackson. Unfortunately, the Titans can stop the run. Also, Tennessee is undefeated since Jeff Fisher donned that Peyton Manning at a fundraiser with Tony Dungy saying, “I just wanted to feel like a winner today.” This will make him a winner for the third straight week.

Bengals (+6.5) over STEELERS

How much does a team have to do to get some respect? The Bengals beat the Ravens twice, Green Bay, Chicago and the Steelers. This team has accumulated five 1st-rounders on defense and Chad Ochocinco and Cedric Benson are on fire this year. This will prove to people that the Bengals are truly for real, if they haven’t convinced people already.

BRONCOS (-4.5) over Redskins

The only thing the Broncos haven’t done this year is win in Baltimore and versus Pittsburgh, and they shouldn’t be disappointed in either loss. The Redskins, on the other hand, are awful. They lost to the Lions, Panthers, and Chiefs. Their top two offensive weapons, Chris Cooley and Clinton Portis. My only question about this game is who came up with this ridiculous line? The Lock of the Week

Falcons (-1.5) over PANTHERS

Both teams had high hopes going into the season and both teams have been very disappointing. The loser of this game is pretty much done for the year so both teams really need this division game. In reality, the Falcons are better, seeing as the Panthers couldn’t hold a two touchdown lead last game.

Chiefs (+1.5) over RAIDERS

The Chiefs finally rid themselves of troublesome running back Larry Johnson, a move fantasy owners, including yours truly, did weeks ago. New starter Jamaal Charles will get a great chance at a second impression as he faces off against the 29th run defense. One side note is that the Raiders number one pick Darren McFadden will make his first appearance since his Week 4 knee injury.

CHARGERS (-2.5) over Eagles

This would be the Game of the Week, if not for the Pats/Colts game. You get two high-powered offenses and two declining defense. In other words, we’ll have a shoot-out here. I believe more in the Chargers’ skill players, LT, Darren Sproles, Antonio Gates, and Vincent Jackson, than inexperienced first and second year players for the Eagles: LeSean McCoy, DeSean Jackson, and Jeremy Maclin. I usually ignore spreads under three, so I’ll take the Bolts here.

Seahawks (-8.5) over CARDINALS

This is a bad game to watch. The Cardinals have been up and down and so have the Seahawks. But if you take a closer look at the Cardinals, they are 4-0 on the road and 1-3 at home. In fact, they have been dreadful at home, including 20-16, 31-10, and 34-21 versus the 49ers, Colts, and Panthers respectively. Therefore, seeing as the Cards are at home, I’ll take the ‘Hawks and the points.

Cowboys (-2.5) over PACKERS

Here’s something to chew on: what is good about the Packers? Greg Jennings is having a down year, Aaron Rodgers is on pace to fall just short of David Carr’s sack record, and they are 4-4. The Cowboys are finally showing up with big play threats Miles Austin, Felix Jones, and Tashard Choice finally showing up. This line is way to small to contain the Cowboys.

The Pats and Colts will feature the Top-2 NFL QBs. Shhhh, don't tell Drew Brees!

The Pats and Colts will feature the Top-2 NFL QBs. Shhhh, don't tell Drew Brees!

Patriots (+2.5) over COLTS

Ahhh, the Game de Jour. The undefeated but overly injured Colts face off against the two-loss but red hot Patriots. Tom Brady seems to be back in 2008 form, and they are not a team to mess with. He will be able to pick his way through the Indy secondary that is missing Pro-Bowlers Bob Sanders and Marlin Jackson. This will be a 100% fantastic game to watch. But how can you pass up the Pats with points?

Ravens (-10.5) over BROWNS

Who ever scheduled this Monday Night game should be ashamed of themselves. The Ravens get back on track and the Browns stay on their losing track.

Season: 63-52

Last Week: 8-5

Lock of the Week: 4-4

Categories: NFL | Leave a comment

MLB Postseason Needs a Makeover

With the World Series finally over, we can reflect on what was and what wasn’t. These playoffs were a huge success for Major League Baseball, with huge ratings and major-market teams going far. But there were plenty of problems that arose over the past month plus. Whether it was overextended series play, preset schedules, poor umpiring, or the need of instant replay, there are many problems needing to be addressed soon.

If one takes a look at the regular and postseason schedules, one would find a glaring difference. Each team plays 162 regular season games with only 20 off-days over the five months of play. If a team played in the maximum of 19 postseason games, they would play them over 30 days! That is more then half as many off-days as they have in the regular season. Is there really a need to change the sport just for the playoffs? The change of pace allows teams like the Yankees to skip over their fourth and fifth starters so the can pitch their best starters more often, and pitch their closer for two innings. The World Champion should have the best of everything, not just three great starters and a great closer. The Phillies can fly to New York and be ready to play that day, they don’t need an extra day to recoup and rest. If teams can play three weeks with one or no off days, they can certainly play a postseason series with less than four off-days. Baseball in meant to be played every day, not every other. We don’t need to change the game to determine the champion.

On the subject of spread out series, another big issue for MLB is the set schedules. Before the first game of the regular season, the schedule for the rest of the season is set. So even though three out of the four Division Series were sweeps and the last was done in four games. From October 12th to the 15th, between the Division and Championship series, there were only two total games. Over the ALCS and NLCS, there were only two games on the same day only twice, and there were no games on two days. The Phillies had to wait an entire week to play the World Series while the Yankees got to miss three. Couldn’t we have started the Fall Classic the day after the ALCS was finished, or at least the day after that? The Phillies long layoff likely caused the bat of Ryan Howard, which was as hot as possible during the NLCS, to cool off, as he set a postseason record for most strikeouts. In 2006, the Tigers had 6 days off before the World Series, and they lost in five games. In 2007, the Rockies had 8 days off before the World Series, and they were swept. See the pattern?

If a team can’t win a postseason series until the seventh game, they shouldn’t be rewarded with three days off, they should have to play two days later. If they can’t pitch their ace until Game 2 or 3, that’s their fault for not winning the previous series quicker. By waiting out until the scheduled times, we are really hurting the teams who win quickly, doing what they are supposed to do. Some may argue that we will be messing with the loyal fans who bought tickets to specific games and may not be able to make other games. My response is…too bad. The alternative is watching in the comfort of your air conditioned/heated house with nice sofas and no $7 beers and hot dogs. MLB can refund anyone who can’t make the newly scheduled games, and there will be plenty of fans waiting and praying for tickets to playoff baseball.

One of the major subjects of discussion during the playoffs was the poor calls of the umpires. There were five major missed calls through the three rounds of the playoffs that were completely obvious, but no one could change without instant replay. The first of those errors came in Game 2 of the ALDS between the Yankees and Twins when Joe Mauer came up to bat in the top of the 11th inning. Mauer hit a ball down the left field line that bounced about a foot into fair territory before bouncing into the stands. Inexplicably, umpire Phil Cuzzi, who was just a few feet from where the ball landed, called the ball foul. Now, Mauer did eventually hit a single up the middle, but he didn’t score on either of the two singles hit later in the inning, which he would have been able to do had he been on second. Instead of Mark Teixeira hitting a walk-off homer later that inning, the game would have been tied, giving the Twins another chance.

How can Cano AND Posada be safe?

How is Cano safe here? We wouldn't have to worry with instant replay.

The next two major missed calls occurred in Game 4 of the ALCS between the Angels and Yankees. Nick Swisher was on second base when Scott Kazmir picked him off by more than a foot, yet was called safe. Later in the inning when Swisher advanced to third, he tagged up on Johnny Damon’s sacrifice fly. The Angels then appealed that Swisher had left the bag early, and umpire Tim McClelland called him out. In the very next inning, the Yankees had Jorge Posada on third and Robinson Cano on second. Nick Swisher hit a come-backer to Darren Oliver, who threw home catching Posada in a run down. Posada got back to third, but Cano was already there, but neither were on the base. Angels’ catcher Mike Napoli tagged out both runners, who were still off the base, but only Posada was called out. It was so blatantly obvious that both Posada and Cano were safe, but no other umpire stepped up, and they couldn’t use instant replay.  Ultimately, it didn’t make a difference because Swisher was originally out a second and Cano didn’t score, but that allowed the Yankees to get to the top of their order the next inning. Also, how can we let these obvious calls slip through our fingers?

The last pair of blown calls were in the World Series, the biggest stage in the game. In Game 2, there were two different blown double play calls. In the seventh inning, Johnny Damon hit a very low line drive that Ryan Howard caught off a short hop. From where umpire Brian Gorman was standing, he couldn’t see that Howard didn’t catch the ball and called Damon out. Howard proceeded to throw over to second base where Jimmy Rollins tagged out Jorge Posada, who would have been safe on the play. Through instant replay, one can clearly tell that Howard did not catch the ball and instead of the inning being over, the Yankees would have had runners on first and second with one out. The next inning, Chase Utley came up with runners on first and second and grounded into an inning ending double play, but replays showed that Utley was safe by a half step. If he was called safe, Ryan Howard would have had a chance to tie the game or take the lead with runners on the corners. Although he struck out in all four of his at-bats, you still never want to give Ryan Howard a chance to turn a game around.

All of the calls are inexcusable if we have the technology to get these calls correct. The NHL had it right two years when Sean Avery stood in front of the opposing goalie and waved his stick in the goalie’s face. The next day, they outlawed his actions, creating the “Sean Avery Rule.” They didn’t wait a week to see if it would continue, or say that they would set it up next season, or test it during the preseason. They immediately put the new rule in place. That is what baseball needs to do.

Instant replay should be allowed into the game of baseball for foul ball call, home run calls, and base path calls, but not balls and strikes. Balls and strikes are more based on the umpire’s personal preference and it would be a waste of time to challenge a few strike zone calls every inning. People who oppose instant replay say that it will slow down the game. If so, why do we still allow pitchers to take 30 seconds to throw home? Each game, both managers should receive a red flag, similar to the NFL, and may use it on challenges. If they get a call right, they get to keep the flag. But if they challenge a steal in the first inning and they are wrong, the umpires keep the flag. This way, managers will be selective to how many and which plays they challenge, and the pace of the game won’t be slowed too much.

The instant replay rule should be put in place for the regular season next year, and the post-season revisions should be seriously considered. Next post-season is a long ways away, but just ask yourself if we really need to change the entire complection of the sport to determine the champion.

Categories: MLB | 3 Comments

Week 9 NFL Picks

Here we are, half way through the season, and we have learned that the Wildcat still works, along with many other things including the fact that the Lions are still terrible. We have three teams with a zero in their record: the undefeated Colts and Saints along with the winless Bucs. Will that stay the same way on Sunday. Home teams in CAPS.

FALCONS (-10.5) over Redskins

The Redskins are an awful team and the Falcons aren’t bad at all. Atlanta certainly won’t let themselves lose a third straight game and Washington doesn’t have much that they can do about it.

Cardinals (+3.5) over BEARS

The Cardinals were completely obliterated by the Panthers last week and the Bears did the same to Cleveland, but this game will way different than last week. The Cardinals have been much better on the road this year than at home, and they need to bounce back from last week. They should bounce back from their thrashing last week. Also, the Bears really aren’t that good.

Ravens (-2.5) over BENGALS

Okay, these still are the Bengals. Do you really think they’re going to beat the Ravens twice this year? I thought not. And if you haven’t already noticed, the Ravens landed their top two offensive weapons in a very successful 2008 draft, Joe Flacco and Ray Rice. Just thought you should know.

Texans (+9.5) over COLTS

The Colts are always great, but with Bob Sanders and Marlin Jackson out for the year, Matt Schaub and Andre Johnson will torch Indy’s depleted secondary. I’m not completely sold that the Texans can march into Lucas Oil Stadium and win it, but they can certainly keep it close.

Dolphins (+10.5) over PATRIOTS

I love the Patriots in this game, but not by more than a TD and Field Goal. The Wildcat is still hard to stop and Chad Henne looks like a Parcells-type QB. But the Pats are still the Pats and they won’t let up their scoring. Brady will roll over the Dolphins’ poor secondary, but unlike their past two games, it will be by less then 11.

Packers (-10.5) over BUCCANEERS

This jersey isn't exactly flying off the shelves

This jersey isn't exactly flying off the shelves

The Buccaneers are just an awful, awful team. You can measure a team by now many players on their team you might actually want a jersey of. You know the Steelers are good because you can wear a Big Ben, Hines Ward, Polamalu, James Harrison, and maybe a Willie Parker jersey. For Tampa, you are choosing between Cadillac Williams and Kellen Winslow. A side note is that 1st-rounder Josh Freeman will become their third starting QB this year. This is the Lock of the Week.

JAGUARS (-6.5) over CHIEFS

Two bad defenses, two okay quarterbacks, two pairs of solid receivers, one great running back, and one awful game to watch.

SEAHAWKS (-10.5) over Lions

See the last game with a few adjustments.

Panthers (+14.5) over SAINTS

Fact: Jake Delhomme has never lost in New Orleans. So, does that mean the Panthers will win? No, but they definitely will keep it within more than two touchdowns. What a ridiculous line.

Chargers (+4.5) over GIANTS

Eli Manning and Philip Rivers will forever be tied because of their trade on Draft Day 2004. What most people don’t know, is that the trade also landed the Chargers Pro Bowlers Shawne Merriman and Nate Kaeding. Advantage: Chargers. Back to the game, the Giants have been able to stop no one over the past three weeks, and the Chargers can certainly run up the score. Big time win for the Chargers here.

49ERS (-4.5) over Titans

The Titans are awful and the Niners aren’t. Michael Crabtree is good and Justin Gage isn’t. Vernon Davis is good while Alge Crumpler isn’t. You get the pattern. An interesting note is that top 5 draft pick quarterbacks Alex Smith and Vince Young will face off in a matchup of the busts…or late bloomers.

EAGLES (-3.5) over Cowboys

Roy Williams complained early in the week that Tony Romo wasn’t trying to get the ball to him. He then went on to say, “I’m not a T.O. I’m not trying to be a T.O. I don’t know why people are trying to put me in that category.” He’s in the T.O. category because he is causing locker room problems and dropping passes, not because he is producing, since he’s not. The Eagles are the third best team in the NFC after New Orleans and Minnesota and the Cowboys will be lucky to be the third best team to miss the playoffs.

Steelers (-3.5) over BRONCOS

I hate to keep picking against the Broncos, but they aren’t as good as the Steelers. The Super Bowl champs need this more than the Broncos, and they have more talent. A spread just over three won’t make much of a difference in my pick, either.

Season: 55-47

Last Week: 10-7

Lock of the Week: 4-3

Categories: NFL | Leave a comment

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