Friday, February 22, 2008
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Young Swole was appalled by the actions he saw take place in Denver last night. During a crucial game between the Celtics and the Nuggets, a little kid at courtside spilled ice cream all over the court because he was not paying attention to the action. Instead he was focused on his giant bowl of ice cream and did not see Rajon Rondo headed towards him chasing after a loose ball on the sidelines. The result was a giant mess of ice cream all over the court and the kid covered in ice cream, which caused him to start crying as he was escorted from his seat.
Now Young Swole is all for enjoying a tasty treat at the ballgame, but there should be certain rules to follow when you sit in the front row. First of all, it is a privelige to be sitting this close to the action. To be that close to some of the greatest players in the world is an amazing opportunity. Therefore all attention should be paid to the actions on the court, and minimal attention to distractions like food or cell phones. Secondly, parents have to raise their kids better, so that they know how to behave at a game. The ice cream incident happened with about 30 seconds left in the half. Why didnt the dad wait until halftime to get his kid ice cream, ensuring that his son would not miss any of the action that was taking place right in front of him? Swole's bet is that the dad was too busy dicking around on his blackberry, and didnt want to be distracted by his kid, so he bought the kid ice cream in hopes he'd leave him alone. And while the kid looked like a bitch for crying about his spilt ice cream, the dad comes off even worse because he's the one who taught that kid how to be such a bitch.
Courtside etiquette has reached an all-time low in the NBA. When Swole was at a Hawks game a couple weeks ago, he saw empty seats along the court for long stretches of the game. And at the few times when the entire crowd got rowdy and stood up, the dopes in the front stayed seated, oblivious to the excitement occurring smack dab in front of them. Now the Denver Incident has given the NBA another black eye. For years we've known that older fans sit in the front row mostly just to brag about how rich they are, instead of following the game. But if the younger fans are so disinterested in the game taking place right in front of them, and would rather focus on a bowl of dippin' dots, then the NBA is in serious trouble. Swole advises that anyone with courtside seats is going to ignore the game in front of them, they should give the tickets to someone who actually gives a fuck about the actual game, as opposed to emails and nachos and unimportant text messages, someone like His Swoleness.
Tuesday, February 19, 2008
Say goodbye to Coach Kelvin Sampson.
ESPN is reporting the obvious: that Sampson is almost inevitably gone before Saturday's game with Northwestern.
Everyone in Hoosier Nation must realize it at this point. It isn't, nor has it ever been, about wins and losses. It's about lying and truthfulness and character and integrity. All the things athletics, especially collegiate athletics, are supposedly about.
Watching the game tonight got me a bit choked up in the final moments. Here was this man's last game as coach of a top-5 NCAA basketball program? Partially for phone calls, mostly for lying. Perhaps lying about a little "overzealous recruiting" as one of the dumbest announcers in sports, Brent Musberger, put it? He lost because he wanted to stay competitive in the cut-throat recruiting world, and even when caught once, he couldn't quit. He wasn't giving out $100 handshakes, no-show jobs to parents, houses or cars to stand-out players. He just wanted to talk to these kids and get them to play Sooner and Hoosier basketball. You have to feel a bit of sympathy for the guy.
His results are very respectable, but his methods were tainted. Just like frequent reader Young Illiniwek's favorite President: Richard Nixon. Successful, but shady. And for similar reasons, he must go. I think the general sentiment in Hoosier Nation is comparable to that in the U.S.A. during Nixon's resignation, too. General disbelief, pity, anger, but with a strange acceptance, too.
Maybe a baseball analogy is better: some people get crucified, like Pete Rose or Kelvin Sampson, while others get off relatively easy, like Andy Pettite, Bryan Roberts, Jason Giambi, etc. Can you really say that what Sampson has done, events and Oklahoma AND IU considered, is worse that happened under John Calipari's watch at UMass, where their Final Four appearance has an asterisk next to it?
IU will move on, probably with Dan Dakich, maybe, just maybe (but not likely), with Kelvin Sampson. And maybe they'll go far this year. But unless they win it all, and perhaps even if they do, this year will go down as one of the darkest in IU history. Maybe even worse than the year 2000. We just have to stand up and face it like true fans, and support the program. And hope that looking back in a few decades, the Hoosiers regroup from this with a new leader and new purpose, and hopefully minimal NCAA infractions.
Probably the most dramatic sports landscape to watch this spring will be the Western Conference in the NBA. 9 teams have a legitimate shot at 50 wins, and any of them could reach the finals, or be going home after the first win. What lies ahead out west? GDB breaks it down.
Power Rankings (In order of Projected Finish)
1. Phoenix 37-16. Wednesday night Shaq will debut for the Suns against the Lake Show. Finally we will get a glimpse of what the most talented team in the west will be like when the greatest center of the last 15 years is added to the mix. Shaq obviously is not the same player, but he still knows how to play with other good players, and if he can provide a defensive presence and get 10 boards a game, Phoenix is championship material.
2. Dallas 35-18. Jason Kidd is finally a Maverick, thank god that drama is over. This team is going to become much more explosive and will probably play at a faster tempo, but its going to be hard to match up with the teams with big frontcourts when the only big guys on the whole roster are Erick Dampier, Brandon Bass and soft ass Dirk Nowitzki. Kidd is going to help them in the regular season and will push them to the division title, but the Mavs may still need to add a big body to match up in the playoffs.
3. Utah 34-19. No team has been hotter over the last month than the Jazz. While Kyle Korver is nowhere near the player that the other teams in the west have added, he has fit in perfectly with the Jazz system by providing an outside shooting presence who can play off of Boozer's inside game and Deron Williams penetration. With so many question marks surrounding the other teams in the west, the Jazz might be as close to a sure thing as there is. Look for them to keep up their run of good play and win the Northwest Division.
4. San Antonio 34-17. The Spurs have looked about as ordinary as a 34-17 team can, but it would be stupid to ignore them in the playoffs. Tim Duncan is still one of the best big men in the league, Manu Ginobili is a cold-blooded assassin, and if Tony Parker is healthy he can control the tempo which becomes so important in the playoffs. This is the time of the season where the Spurs always start their push and you can never count a team with championship experience.
5. New Orleans 36-15. One of the most exciting teams in the league has made huge strides this season. Thanks to Chris Paul playing like an MVP, the Hornets have raced to the best record in the west. The problem is, many of the players on this team have never played in games with as much pressure as they will over the next few months. While a drop from 1 to 5 may not look good, this team will still be a factor in the playoffs regardless of who they face thanks to the brilliance of CP3.
6. Los Angeles Lakers 35-17. No team improved themselves by giving up as little as the Lakers did. Pau Gasol provides Kobe with his best low post option since Shaq left and when healthy the Lake Show may be the prohibitive favorites to emerge from the west. Unfortunately, Andrew Bynum is having trouble recovering from his knee injury and now Kobe has a torn ligament in his hand which will have a big effect on his game. As tough as the west is the Lakers cannot make a deep push without all their pieces healthy, which does not appear likely for the rest of this year.
7. Golden State 32-20. Simply because of the way this team plays, the Warriors will continue to win games and make the playoffs. There is no guard combo in the league better than Baron Davis and Monta Ellis. They control tempo so well that every game they play turns into a track meet, in which Golden State can beat anyone.
8. Denver 32-20. Young Swole is choosing Denver over Houston for two reasons. First, it appears they have more to offer in the Andre Miller sweepstakes than Houston does, and if the Nugs get a pass first point guard to go with their finishers they will be extremely dangerous. Second of all, Denver plays in a much easier division than the Rockets. They will be playing games against the Sonics and T'Wolves, while the Rockets have to battle the Mavs, Spurs and Hornets. As close as the west is this year, this difference in opponents could be the edge the Nugs need.
9. Houston 32-20. The second hottest team in the league is on pace to win over 50 games, and yet may come in 4th in their division. It finally appears that Yao and T-Mac have figured out how to play with each other. Unfortunately, its pretty much a given that one of them will miss extended games down the stretch with injury. But if those two can stay healthy, or if the Rockets add a reliable third contributor to compliment the big two, they could sneak into the playoffs.
10. Portland 28-24. The Blazers have tailed off as of late, as many predicted they would do. If they manage to win 45 games this year, this season will still be a great success. Portland can look forward to having maybe the best inside/out duo in the NBA since Kobe and Shaq were in LA next year when Greg Oden joins Brandon Roy, but they will have to do without a playoff appearance this year.
11. Sacramento 23-28. It appears that the firesale has begun in Sac-Town. Odds are Ron Artest will be moved before the trading deadline, possibly to Denver or Phoenix. After that happens this will become Kevin Martin's team which will make the Kings much less volatile but also not as good.
12. LA Clippers 17-33. Its hard to believe the Clip Joint was in the 2nd round of the playoffs a mere 2 seasons ago. Now they are back to where we expect them to be, but Swole still feels there is talent on this team. If Elton Brand and Shaun Livingston can come back healthy next year, the Clippers could make a playoff push even in the rough and tumble west.
13. Minnesota 10-41. Don't look now but Al Jefferson may be turning into the best power forward in the whole NBA. Its sad he has such a garbage group of teammates around him, but if Kevin McHale can draft well this spring (thats a big if), the T'Wolves may be contending again in the near future.
14. Seattle 13-38. Fuck Clay Bennett, thats all Young Swole has to say about the Sonics.
15. Memphis 14-38. At this point I think its pretty safe to say that Uno the Beagle could run a team better than Chris Wallace. Young Swole would like to know what he sees in Kwame Brown that the rest of the world doesnt and adding Javaris Crittenton when he drafted Mike Conley 5th overall was a stroke of genius. At this pace, I'd expect the Memphis Tigers to beat the Grizzlies in a few years.
3 Players to watch in the 2nd half
1. Kobe Bryant. The best player in the NBA west of Cleveland is going to have to play the rest of the season with a torn ligament in his pinky. Nobody doubts his competitive nature, but this injury could seriously affect his shooting, and if Andrew Bynum doesn't come back as quick as scheduled its going to be hard for him to carry the offensive load with this injury.
2. Shaquille O'Neal. The biggest X factor, literally and metaphorically, in the whole league. If he stays on the court and controls the paint, Phoenix could finally make the finals. If he wears expensive suits more often than his jersey, the Suns could be out in the first round.
3. Andre Miller. Young Swole is well aware that he is in the Eastern Conference, yet odds are he is going to be moved, and two of his biggest suitors appear to be the Nuggets and Rockets. Denver is offering Kleiza, JR Smith and Nene, the Rockets are dangling Rafer Alson, Bonzi Wells and Shane Battier. If Miller ends up on one of these squads, they instantly become a title contender and make the west even that much tougher.
Swole's Second Half Prediction
The western conference could go in about 20 different directions in the next two months, and every single direction will be exciting. Young Swole thinks when it all shakes out, the Suns will defeat the Jazz in the conference finals and finally make the NBA Finals. Shaq's intelligence on the court is vastly underrated, and his presence alone will make Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire that much more dangerous. The Jazz have been playing the best basketball in the NBA lately, and Deron Williams keeps maturing into one of the best players in the entire league. They have the talent and the experience to get through the gauntlet and make the WC Finals. The Suns will win in 6 though and match up with Detroit in the finals.
Monday, February 18, 2008
All-Star Weekend is over and with that begins the start of the 2nd half of the season. Lets preview what lies ahead in the East and see which teams will make the playoffs, and who's going fishing
Eastern Conference Power Rankings
1. Boston 41-9. Basketball is back in the Hub City, thanks to The Big Ticket and Jesus Shuttlesworth arriving in town. The Celtics had an amazing start to the season and are the only team left with less than ten losses. The Big 3 have done their job, but what has made this team formidable is the development of young guns like Rajon Rondo and Big Baby Davis as well as the veteran presence of Eddie House and James Posey. Questions remain however. Can the 3 big veterans stay healthy and have enough energy for a big postseason push? And will Rondo be good enough to carry the Celtics to the finals?
2. Detroit 39-13. Probably the most underrated team of the season so far. While Boston has gotten all the recognition, the Pistons are knocking on their doorstep while primed for a 60 win season. By integrating a much more solid bench along with the usual suspects in the starting lineups, Detroit will not only be fresher heading into the playoffs but have more matchups to exploit against the other teams in the east thanks to the larger and better rotation.
3. Orlando 33-21. Nobody better doubt Stan Van Gundy's coaching prowess after this season. After unfairly getting run out of Miami, and being the Magic's 2nd choice behind Billy Donovan, Stan the Man has only led the Magic to the division lead while helping develop players like Dwight Howard and Hedo Turkoglu into all-star level contributors. They probably don't have enough to knock off the big 2, but they are set up to be one of the premier teams in the east for the next decade.
4. Cleveland 29-23. Want to know the difference between Lebron James and Dwyane Wade? Its being able to win 20 more games with little or no support behind you. While James has been the MVP of the league so far, he is going to need help from someone else on the squad to get this team anywhere near the playoffs. The Cavs either need to start Daniel Gibson, trade for Andre Miller, or hope that Varejao learned a jump shot while being hurt to have any chance of knocking off the top three teams in the east.
5. Toronto 28-23. The Raptors haven't been bad this year, but they have been dissapointing. After last year's breakthrough season, people were expecting them to be more than 5 games over .500 in the weak EC. The Rap Show does have the talent to make a push in the second half, but their just doesnt seem to be the same energy with the squad this year compared to last.
6. Washington 25-27. The Wizards limped into the All-Star Break, losing 8 of their last 10 games, but to be only 2 games under .500 with as many injuries as they've had is still impressive. If Agent Zero can assimilate in with the other guys when he comes back healthy, the Wiz may be the only team capable of pulling an upset in the first round of the playoffs.
7. Atlanta 21-28. The bottom of the Eastern Conference is so bad, that one trade could push any team into the playoffs. It looks like the Hawks got the jump by adding Mike Bibby who will help give a young team some leadership and some much improved point guard play.
8. Philadelphia 23-30. The Sixers are only going here because they finished the first half on a 5 game winning streak. But if they end up holding onto Andre Miller for the whole season, is there really anyone with the talent below them to pass them?
9. Chicago 21-31. The Bulls have been one of the biggest dissapointments in the entire league so far and yet they are only a game and a half out of the 8th spot. Maybe if Luol Deng can get healthy and Gordon and Hinrich make some jump shots they can salvage a lost season.
10. New Jersey 23-30. Nobody knows what this team will look like a week from now if Jason Kidd and Vince Carter get traded. What we do know is that they were a monumental dissapointment this season and blowing this team up and starting over is definitely the right move to make.
11. Indiana 21-32. Jermaine O'Neal continues to be a bitch, but the Pacers have actually been better than most thought. Mike Dunleavy and Danny Granger have thrived in Jim O'Brien's 3-point system, but there isnt much else to inspire fan support in Indy.
12. Milwaukee 19-34. For the talent they have, this team should be better. If Michael Redd and Mo Williams can stay healthy, this could be the team to go on a run in the 2nd half and sneak into the 8th seed in the east.
13. Charlotte 19-34. Drafting Emeka Okafor over Dwight Howard sure does look bad in hindsight doesn't it. As does drafting Sean May, Adam Morrison and re-signing Matt Carroll. This team should have never been created in the first place.
14. New York 15-37. One of the biggest disgraces in the league. They have some decent players, but none of them have the motivation to be any good. The best the Knicks fans can do is look forward to Lebron possibly joining their team in three years.
15. Miami 9-42. A flat out embarassment. I don't care how bad your teammates are, if you are as good as Dwyane Wade is, shouldn't your team have more than 9 wins? They'll probably just pack it in from here and hope for Michael Beasley in the draft.
3 Key Players in the 2nd half to watch
1. Kevin Garnett. KG has made a huge difference in Boston this year, bringing a winning attitude and unmatched intensity to a team that desperately needed it. The problem is that he has an abdominal injury that takes a long time to heal. While he did the right thing and rested it, there's no guarantee the injury won't flare up again. With KG in the lineup, the Celts can win the east. Without him, there's no way they're beating Detroit in a 7 game series.
2. Dwight Howard. The star of the all-star game now has the pressure to carry his team into the playoffs for the first time. While the tempest with his coach over playing defense seems to have passed, its a lot to ask of such a young player to lead his team on a deep run into the playoffs. But after seeing him this weekend, don't you feel that its at least possible?
3. Gilbert Arenas. Thanks to the weakness of the conference, the Wizards are still in good shape to make the playoffs even though Hibachi has missed the last 40 games. If he can come back healthy, the Wizards are going to have as much talent as any team in the east besides the top two, and could possibly make a run in the soft eastern conference.
Young Swole's 2nd half prediction
Its pretty safe to say that the Celtics and Pistons aren't going anywhere. What is to be seen though is what teams below them are going to step up. Can Lebron get any help in Cleveland? Can the Raptors make a 2nd half push, and can any on the bottom teams make a push to become a solid team? While Swole looks for the Wizards, Raptors and Hawks to have good 2nd halfs, there's no way the Conference final isn't going to be Celtics and Pistons. There's no other team remotely close to these two and this will be evident until they finally clash late in May.
Sorry for the 24-hour delay in getting this out, but an absolutely brutal weekend in Bloomington forced me to push this back until my body had forgiven me.
So, without further delay, here are your 2008 San Diego Padres...
2007 Finish: 89-74, 3rd Place in the NL West
Key Acquisitions: Mark Prior, Randy Wolf, Jim Edmonds, Tadahito Iguchi
Key Losses: Mike Cameron, Milton Bradley
Probable Opening Day Lineup:
1) Brian Giles - RF
2) Tadahito Iguchi - 2B
3) Kevin Kouzmanoff - 3B
4) Adrian Gonzalez - 1B
5) Khalil Greene - SS
6) Jim Edmonds - CF
7) Josh Bard - C
8) Scott Hairston - LF
Lineup Grade: C-...The Padres' lineup is representative of the offense in general, many serviceable middle-tier players, but they don't have any real superstars for the other hitters to fill in around or to compliment. None of these guys hits for average or has great speed, and none of them get on base terribly often. And other than Adrian Gonzalez, there isn't any power there to generate the type of instant offense a team like this needs to succeed. On the Padre's website, in response to a poll question about the teams greatest needs going into '08, well over half (63%) think the most pressing issue finding a more suitable left fielder.
1) Jake Peavy
2) Chris Young
3) Greg Maddux
4) Randy Wolf
5) Mark Prior
Rotation Grade: A-...Any team with the 1-2 punch of Peavy and Young demands attention. Peavy is the reigning Cy Young winner, and probably would have defeated Johan Santana if Santana was with the Mets last year. He has four plus pitches and isn't afraid to throw any of them at any time. Chris Young has emerged during the last two seasons as one of baseballs best young pitchers. The Padres have surrounded these two guys with some great role-player/back of the rotation type of guys: the ageless Maddux, Wolf, and Prior. Prior and Wolf are coming off injuries, so there are question marks around them, but the potential is there for this to be the NL's best rotation. However, they also sport one of the best bullpens in the leauge, so they have the added security of being able to go to the pen early and often if they need to, and when they take leads into the later innings, have a very good chance of maintaining it.
2008 Outlook: The Padres will go as their offense goes. The pitching is good enough to hold their opponents to few runs, but their offense might still not be good enough to put them ahead in low-scoring games. This, coupled with the fact that they play in the NL's best division, doesn't bode well for their '08 playoff hopes. A mid-season trade for a big bat, or waiting to sign an impact hitter during free agency next year could allow the Pads to contend in the not-too-distant future.
Predicted 2008 Finish: 75-87, Third/Fourth Place in NL West
Offensive woes means the Pads and Dodgers will finish well behind the D-Backs and Rockies, but still ahead of the irrelevant Giants.