Crushed Optimists

We are twin brothers who grew up in Central Washington. This blog is devoted to the life of Seattle sports fans, as well as various other topics that we will espouse for your enjoyment. We could be called another OFFICIAL SEATTLE SEAHAWKS site, but we'll take our uneducated crack at the Mariners, Sonics, and Huskies as well. A Seattle Sports Blog? Must be the land... of crushed optimism!

Friday, June 30, 2006

NBA Draft Grades: 16-30

Every once in a while I get some sympathy for saps like Chad Ford, who have to go through all 30 teams at 0-dark-thirty on the East Coast. Then I remember that he gets paid a bajillion dollars (or whatever pays for that snappy haircut) to write about European prospects on ESPN's website. So screw you, Chad Ford.

Milwaukee Bucks - David Noel, F/Damir Markota, F
Chad's Grade: B
Gavin's Grade: C-
C'mon Chad, why are you giving the Bucks a break because they drafted a good "athlete"? That "athlete" in David Noel could barely crack the starting five of FRESHMEN at North Carolina. Yes, I definitely want him on my squad. What a trooper. Also, whenever you see the words, "more seasoning in Europe" accompanied by a prospect, at this point I'm going to ignore them. Apparently "more seasoning" in most sports in Europe is accompanied by (as Colin puts it) girly-girl dives. Get your seasoning in the NCAA and let's see how you do.

Minnesota Timberwolves - Randy Foye, SG/Craig Smith, PF/Loukas Mavrokefalidis, C
Chad's Grade: B+
Gavin's Grade: C
I thought Bobby Jones was traded to the Timberwolves as well, maybe I'm looking at an outdated draft sheet. Anyways, this lower grade is completely for the sake of having Randy Foye ranked higher than Brandon Roy, and letting the Blazers railroad them. Craig Smith is a beast who at least should help the Timberwolves never play Mark Madsen in a competitive game, and Chad Ford says this Loukas guy is tearing up the league in Greece. Hot damn! Tearing up Greece? Why didn't the Sonics draft him instead of that jerk from Senegal? Although I'm a big Husky fan, I'm not sure exactly what Bobby Jones can do in this league without a better jumper... even Bruce Bowen can hit that three in the corner.

New Jersey Nets - Marcus Williams, PG/Josh Boone, C/Hassan Adams, G
Chad's Grade: B+
Gavin's Grade: A-
I thought this was a very solid draft by the Nets. In Marcus Williams they draft the heir apparent for Jason Kidd, in Josh Boone they draft a center who can actually play (unlike that Krstic joker), and Hassan Adams could be a terrific energy guy off the bench. If he can find a jumper like his former teammate Iguadola, Adams can become a very serviceable pro. Now, all these guys do have attitude question marks, and it's possible Boone especially could become a bust, but at least from a talent perspective in a draft this week, New Jersey filled some holes.

New Orleans Hornets - Hilton Armstrong, C/Cedric Simmons, PF/Marcus Vinicius Vieira de Souza, SF
Chad's Grade: A-
Gavin's Grade: B-
I'm not sure why Hilton Armstrong was such great stuff. He was surrounded by decent defenders and NBA quality players, in a Big East that lacked good big men to challenge him, so he just roamed the paint and got in the way. Now he's going to get millions of dollars. Go NBA! Cedric Simmons has the dreaded "upside" label from Jay Bilas, and who know who the heck that final guy is. I'd like to see how much of that last name he wants on the back of his jersey. Since he's from Brazil, he should shorten it to one name... Vinny. Throw in an "aldo" if you want.

New York Knicks - Renaldo Balkman, SF/Mardy Collins, PG
Chad's Grade: F
Gavin's Grade: For the Love of All That's Holy, Fire Thomas
I'm not sure what you can say about this. Use your first pick to draft an undrafted free agent, and then your second to draft yet another combo guard, who you can use in tandem with Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford, Steve Francis, and Stephon Marbury to create the ultimate combo-guard lineup. That's enough to strike fear into the hearts of opponents from here to Greece.

Orlando Magic - JJ Redick, SG/James Augustine, PF
Chad's Grade: B-
Gavin's Grade: B
Pretty solid draft by Orlando, depending on what they're going to ask from these players. Redick can make threes and get beaten on the defensive end. Augustine can rebound, hit a soft 5 foot jumper, and get pushed around by Dwight Howard in practice until he cries. Both should be bench players, but serviceable. That's what you get out of this draft.

Philadelphia 76ers - Rodney Carney, F/Bobby Jones, F/Edin Bavcic, C
Chad's Grade: B+
Gavin's Grade: B+
Oh, that's right. Bobby Jones went here. All Philadelphia is going to ask of him is to be a spot defender, so he'll fit in pretty well. I liked Carney a lot coming into the draft, I thought he was a top 10 player, and he gives the team yet another athletic young scorer. Again, whoever this Bavcic guy is, he probably needs more seasoning in Europe.

Phoenix Suns - Traded everything for money to roll around in
Chad's Grade: F
Gavin's Grade: F
I know why they need the money, to resign Boris Diaw for lots of money. Still, they really have to get a backup point guard for Steve Nash. Leandro Barbosa is not the answer. He's much better off the ball. With Marcus Williams or that Spanish guy available, it was a bad move to avoid upgrading the team.

Portland TrailBlazers - LaMarcus Aldridge, PF/Brandon Roy, SG/Sergio Rodriguez, PG/Joel Freeland, PF
Chad's Grade: A
Gavin's Grade: B+
You have to hand it to Portland, they did move around a lot. Still, when they moved up to #2, they should have grabbed Adam Morrison instead of Aldridge, for the simple reason that Morrison is a far superior player. Of course, they did manage to grab Roy, but it could have been likely to get both, and that would have been the haul of the draft. I'm a little worried about Aldridge's growth. He already has toughness issues, and playing with Darius Miles and Zach Randolph isn't going to help matters. Brandon Roy, of course, will be a stud, and Nate McMillan will love having him around. I don't particularly ever see him as an all-star, but perhaps he has a Rashard Lewis type season once to crack the roster. The Blazers still don't have a point guard (not counting Dan Dickau), so they better hope this Rodriguez is ready to learn the NBA game quickly. I don't like the Joel Freeland pick at all. Three years ago he was bagging groceries. The NBA... FAAAAAAN-tastic.

Sacramento Kings - Quincy Douby, SG
Chad's Grade: C+
Gavin's Grade: D
Chad should have punished them worse for this pick. They need a backup for Mike Bibby. Their team collapses when he's gone. So instead they draft the next Francisco Garcia, who they only drafted a year ago. That seems slightly idiotic. Bad Kings.

San Antonio Spurs - Nothin'
Chad's Grade: C
Gavin's Grade: F
Ummm... Chad? Consistency? The Spurs traded their pick for a future pick and so you give them a passing grade? Can you ever criticize a team like this or are you secretly carrying Pop's love child?

Seattle SUUUUUUUUperSonics - Mouhamed Saer Sene, C/Denham Brown, SG/Yotam Halperin, PG
Chad's Grade: B-
Gavin's Grade: C
First, the negative. The Sonics should have traded this pick for something better down the road, like another pick in next year's super duper deep draft. Getting yet another center, one averaging 3.4 pts per game... in Belgium... is not exactly an exciting pick, no matter how many JJ Redick shots he swatted during drills. There was better talent available.
Now, the positive. This was a really weak draft, and I wasn't sold on the talent of anyone around except maybe Marcus Williams. Even JJ Redick I only wanted to get out there and shoot threes. So we get another center to avoid overpaying a veteran. If we need a move, we have valuable trade bait. I really felt better about the draft once we got Denham Brown, who was not conceivably worse than the other players we could have gotten at 10. I liked Brown a lot. We also forgot about that Mickael Gelabale guy we're bringing back from Europe. So we do have talent on its way to upgrade the team. So... no sexy pick... but good players coming. I'll deal.

Toronto Raptors - Andrea Bargnani, PF/PJ Tucker, PF
Chad's Grade: A-
Gavin's Grade: C
I think Bargnani was a terrible pick at #1. Take the proven scorer, especially when you already have a young and growing front line. Get some backcourt help. Then the Raptors exacerbate the problem drafting ANOTHER PF in the second round. I know Colangelo has a great track record, but this looks like a spotty start to me.

Utah Jazz - Ronnie Brewer, SG/Dee Brown, SG/Paul Millsap, PF
Chad's Grade: A
Gavin's Grade: A
I liked this draft a ton for the Jazz. Brewer and Brown are just prototypical Jerry Sloan type players. They play defense, shoot the midrange jumper, and don't slouch at the defensive end. Of course, they're also prototypical Sloan players in that they couldn't buy a three to save their lives. I think the Jazz will be one of the more improved teams this coming season.

Washington Wizards - Olexsiy Pecherov, PF/Vladimir Veremeenko, PF
Chad's Grade: B+
Gavin's Grade: D
I'm not sure I was ready for Chad to "compliment" Pecherov by saying he could be a "Keith Van Horn" type player. Yes... I'm sure that's exactly what the Wizards needed. What they could have used more was some athletic defenders. Unless Pecherov is the next AK-47, they failed this draft.

That's it, campers! What a mediocre bunch of talent! I think we're not going to see much impact in the standings next year, because most of even the better talent needs a lot of seasoning (not in Europe). Maybe I'll be proven wrong... it's happened before.

posted by Gavin @ 11:20 AM  1 comments

Thursday, June 29, 2006

The Joys of Breathing Out of One's Mouth


What the....?

Yes, dear readers, Colin is back, rising from the haze of pain medication and the wooziness of not being able to breathe through the nose and spending a little time reminding you all why you come here (hint: Gavin sucks). And, yes, that is a picture of a deviated septum.

The flow of blood has been staunched from my nose, now just being blocked by a splint and an inability to blow my nose, thus allowing the level of mucus to rise. I'm still not allowed to bathe or wash my hair.... basically, this is a 12 year old boy's dream. Lie on the couch, don't move, don't bathe, and get loopy off of pain meds.

It's just like being Rush Limbaugh except that I haven't stolen anyone's Viagra yet. Give me time.

Anyhoo, plenty has happened since last I posted, not least of which has been the explosion of offensive performance from the team that I THOUGHT was the Seattle Mariners, but who have actually been performing like a major league baseball team, including one Beltre and one Meche. Part of me has been scared by this performance, even more scared than riding the Incredible Hulk roller coaster at Universal Studios or seeing an actual 50 minute line for poor saps to go into Disney World's incredibly stupid attraction, "Stitch's Great Escape", a ride where you get it all.... no humor, no plot, no excitement, and crying kids. YES!!!

Speaking of rides, a bit on this after a week at these places:

First, you all must go on the Spiderman ride at Universal. Seriously. The ride is phenomenal, combining the best qualities of Indiana Jones, Star Tours, and 3-D movies. Put it this way. You honestly feel that Doc Ock is slamming one of those tentacles directly into your sternum, and it feels great.

Second, people, I'm not going to ask this again, but if you have a kid under the age of four, for the love of Rachel Ray, DON'T take the kid to a freaking amusement park. What in the world do you hope to accomplish by spending 100 dollars doing this? The kid's not going to remember it, you're going to be stuck going on stupid rides like Winnie the Pooh and Peter Pan, and everyone else has to be around your stupid kids. Wait until the kid is 48 inches tall and then take them. Until then..... pretend that the backyard is a gateway to another dimension or something. C'mon, kids are great at IMAGINATION, so allow them to express that in a way that doesn't cost you ridiculous sums of money.

Third, there might not be a place where you can see some worse acting then in amusement park stunt shows, and it doesn't get any lower than "The Adventures of Sinbad" at Universal. Just imagine about ten Keanu Reeves all pretending to hit each other while flashes of light happen at various points on the stage.

Fourth, the next time that your stupid twin brother decides to hold the rest of the family hostage and stay to see a ridiculous fireworks show at the Magic Kingdom.... be sure to remind him of his folly for the next several thousand years. The only thing about that experience that was moderately enjoyable was watching the several hundred people in motorized wheelchairs try to navigate their way through a solid mass of people. Note to old people across the world: THAT DOESN'T WORK. JUST STAY HOME WITH ALL THE LIGHTS TURNED ON.

Finally, EPCOT still sucks, except for this awesome ride called Mission: Space where Gary Sinise leads you on a magical journey to Mars. Oh, and I find it hilarious that MGM Studios devotes the beginning of their backlot tour to Pearl Harbor and famed director Michael Bay (and I miss you...).

But back to sports....

As an American who (to the chagrin of our anonymous, and probably French, commentator) has watched some of the World Cup and, thus, can say that most of the games have sucked monkey balls, I have to say that I never thought that any sport could make me long for Dick Bavetta..... but then I found soccer refs. Seriously, any sport that prominently includes....

5. Horrible refs
4. Girly-girl divers
3. NUMEROUS 0-0 or 1-0 trips to boredom
2. France
1. Games where one team can absolutely annihilate the other team... and lose 3-0

probably doesn't deserve to rise through the ranks to capture the hearts of Americans everywhere. Basically, here's what I'll say. Europe, you can keep soccer, and we'll keep football, baseball, basketball, golf, and college athletics. Oh, and you can keep SWIFT, as well. And EuroDisney.

Onto the NBA, where it appears that Adam Morrison's moustache already has more sponsors than Star Jones' moustache. Portland appears to be on its way up, at least if Brandon Roy has anything to do with it, while Seattle appears to basically have flipped the city off while Howie Schultz poops latte's all the way to Renton. Honestly, that was the lamest #10 pick probably of all time. The guy averaged 3.4 points a game. A game. 3.4 points. And we think that he's worthy of a #10 pick? You see, only in the NBA could that happen. You would NEVER see that happen in baseball or football, because those sports care more about NUMBERS, and PERFORMANCE, while the NBA cares about LENGTH, and WINGSPAN, and POTENTIAL. Sonics, I curse you from Percodan-land.

Oh, and, yes, I'll cheer for Adam Morrison, but, man, that guy just OOZES stuck-up jock prig.

In Seahawks news, the Hawks are now scheduled to play up to 16 regular season games next year, though they must make it through a few preseason games first.

Well, I'm slipping, and the dog is annoying me, so I'm going to take him outside so he can run free, poop, and then run free some more.

I promise I'll do better next time! Gavin sucks!

posted by colin_hesse @ 3:05 PM  1 comments

NBA Draft Grades: 1-15

It's pretty hard to be upset about this draft, what with the M's hitting and then passing the .500 mark. We've actually won more games than we've lost, which is pretty odd to think about. Seems foreign. Only down side to this is the apologists who now would praise Mike Hargrove. No. Bad apologists. Must destroy Mike Hargrove. Most of our losses are because of Mike, and a few of our recent wins (two days ago) and inspite of his idiotic decision-making.

Speaking of idiots, NBA general managers usually rank pretty high on the scale. They overall did a decent job this year, but it's easy to pick role players. I've harped on this point, I know, but are there any players in this draft that we would pick as an All-Star in the next five years? I say "no".

I'll be putting Chad Ford's draft grades next to mine, just as a conversation point. If you can't make fun of Chad Ford on draft day, your world is a little darker.

Atlanta Hawks - Shelden Williams, PF/Solomon Jones, C
Chad's Grade: C
Gavin's Grade: F
You tell me what there is to like about burning a #5 pick on someone with the skill set of Shelden Williams. The first team out of the gate, and it is a prime reason why I hated this draft. Last year Williams MAYBE goes in the top 20. He's a darn good defender with limited offensive skills, and I wanted him to fill a niche in the Sonics front line. This basically puts the pressure on him to be an All-Star caliber front line player. Not him. Solomon Jones is also a yawner of a pick.

Boston Celtics - Rajon Rondo, PG/Leon Powe, PF
Chad's Grade: B
Gavin's Grade: C
Rajon Rondo sounds like a workout wonder to me. I like Bill Simmons' thoughts on him, as a point guard who can't shoot, he could follow in exactly nobody's footsteps in leading a team to an NBA title. This just means that yet another player can fall off to guard Paul Pierce. As for Powe, I liked him quite a bit as a later first round player, but the Celtics already have some undersized power forwards like Al Jefferson, but supposedly that depth is going to be used to go after Allen Iverson. If that's correct, a lot of this looks better. Until then, very mediocre effort.

Charlotte Bobcats - Adam Morrison, F/Ryan Hollins, C
Chad's Grade: B+
Gavin's Grade: A-
The Bobcats didn't go nuts and found a quality scorer to go with the rest of their talent. They also have enough defense to support Morrison's own deficiencies. Ryan Hollins can be a quality backup to Emeka Okafor as well. Overall, Charlotte has a terrific young nucleus and didn't omit any problem areas on the roster.

Chicago Bulls - Tyrus Thomas, PF/Thabo Sefolosha, PF
Chad's Grade: A-
Gavin's Grade: A-
Thomas to me is one of the few players in the entire draft who could turn out to be an above average player, and the Bulls were wise to grab him. That in and of itself makes their draft an "A", especially with as few other needs as they have. Of course, I have no clue who that Sefolosha guy is... but Chad Ford thinks he's great. Whatever. Chad Ford's success rate with international prospects is about the same as mine trying to get my dog to keep from destroying my carpet.

Cleveland Cavaliers - Shannon Brown, SG/Daniel Gibson, PG
Chad's Grade: A
Gavin's Grade: B
I love the Daniel Gibson selection here. He has some good playmaker abilities and should be able to help Cleveland never to have to put the name Flip Murray with the title Point Guard ever in their future. However, I do not like the Shannon Brown pick. I didn't like him with Michigan St and thought Maurice Ager was a far superior player. Getting some better frontcourt help for LeBron instead of yet another backup would have made more sense.

Dallas Mavericks - Maurice Ager, SG
Chad's Grade: B
Gavin's Grade: B+
Since I just showed some love to Ager, I'll give some love to the team that picked him, the Mavericks. I probably should even upgrade that mark to an A-, but it's so hard to give love to Mark Cuban. I'd rather call a foul for breathing near Dwayne Wade. Ager could play and play well next year for the Mavs. He has the outside shooting ability I discussed in the mock draft. Good pick. These picks are how the good teams stay elite.

Denver Nuggets - Nothin'
Chad's Grade: F
Gavin's Grade: I
Denver solidified their status as "team most likely to slide next season".

Detroit Pistons - Cheik Samb, C/Will Blaylock, PG
Chad's Grade: A
Gavin's Grade: Incredulous, followed by a C
Joe Dumars has apparently reached Bill Belichick status in the NBA, because Chad Ford just completely dropped his trousers for him. An "A"? For two second round picks, headlined by another C from Senegal? You have got to be kidding me.

Golden State Warriors - Patrick O'Bryant, C/Kosta Perovic, C
Chad's Grade: B
Gavin's Grade: D
I wrote it last night, Patrick O'Bryant cashed in on the NCAA Tournament to sucker a team into spending far too much money on him. No way he's a top 10 pick without Bradley shocking the world. Now the Warriors get an overrated center they don't actually need and some Serbian center to look good on the bench. Not exactly a way to push them over the edge into solid playoff contention.

Houston Rockets - Rudy Gay(Shane Battier)/Steve Novak, SF/Lior Eliyahu, SF
Chad's Grade: B-
Gavin's Grade: F
Let's think about this one for a second. You have the ability to take the player everyone believes has the most individual talent in the draft, put him in a good situation with Yao and T-Mac, and a good coach in Jeff Van Gundy, and you end up dropping him and another talent like Stromile Swift for the Preacher? What? Look, Battier is a solid player and all... he's actually the best comparison to most players in this draft. Never an all-star, but a valuable asset. That's this draft in a nutshell. This is nuts. At least Novak can shoot some threes for the Rockets, although Luther Head can do that and actually display athleticism too.

Indiana Pacers - Shawne Williams, F/James White, SG
Chad's Grade: C+
Gavin's Grade: C
They should have taken Marcus Williams, who was still available. Shawne Williams has some decent talent, though, and could make me look like an idiot soon. I have to be honest, I don't know enough about James White. Maybe that grade should be a B- or something, but it's not like Pacers fans actually read this site, so whatever.

Los Angeles Clippers - Paul Davis, C/Guillermo Diaz, SG
Chad's Grade: B+
Gavin's Grade: B+
The first grade we completely agree on. Davis spent four years under Tom Izzo and his toughess and ball handling improved. Guillermo Diaz was a borderline first round prospect. This is the type of draft good teams could have. No "superstars" asking high first round money. Two solid second round players who can step in immediately and contribute to a winning team.

Los Angeles Lakers - Jordan Farmar, PG/Danilo Pinnock, SG
Chad's Grade: B
Gavin's Grade: C
Any self-respecting Pac-10 fan should agree that Jordan Farmar was not ready for prime time. His outside jumper was spotty, he is very turnover prone, and his ball handling skills need some serious work. UCLA doesn't make one of the most mediocre runs to the final game in the history of the universe and no way he cracks the top round. The Lakers got suckered here. He needs two years in the D League plus the regular larger-than-normal NBA leap.

Memphis Grizzlies - Rudy Gay, F/Kyle Lowry, PG/Alexander Johnson, PF
Chad's Grade: A+
Gavin's Grade: A+
Have to agree here, Memphis really stockpiled some terrific talent. Again, Gay might have the most talent of anyone in the draft, and since he's not going to be asked to be even the fourth best player on the team, has a lot of room to grow. I'd love to see him and Hakim Warrick on the court at the same time. Kyle Lowry provides a good shooter to backup and eventually supplant Damon Stoudamire, and Alexander Johnson is a great reach in the second round. All in all, I don't know how you could do much better to improve your team.

Miami Heat - Nothin'
Chad's Grade: A
Gavin's Grade: A/F
I agree with Chad. This draft pick went for Shaq, which in turn went for NBA title. That makes it an A. However, the draft itself did nothing for the future of a team with a lot of age and help needed. That makes it an F. Never stand pat, especially if you want to repeat.

That's the first fifteen. More, including Portland and Seattle, later on!

posted by Gavin @ 2:38 PM  0 comments

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

NBA Draft: Live Blog

First off, I would like to say a hearty congratulations to the Seattle Mariners for making it to .500. They are playing nothing but great baseball, and it has been exciting to watch. Also, thank you to Spain and France for the best match so far of the World Cup last night. That's what I'd been waiting for.

So... Portland now has two picks in the top 10 and the #30 overall... I would consider moving up if I was them. Again, you're not finding impact players this year. Seattle's still rumored to go after a pick in next year's draft instead, since, as they tell the News Tribune, they see themselves two deep at every position. Difficult to argue with them.

4:16 - Man, I have to listen to Stephen A. Smith and Dick Vitale for how long? It's today's edition of "Who Can Scream the Loudest While Expressing Inane Opinions". Jay Bilas looks especially evil today, nice.

4:17 - Bill Simmons is going to throw a conniption about the Portland/Boston deal. You might get Foye/Roy and instead you settle for Sebastian Telfair? What? With Portland, is stockpiling mediocre picks in a mediocre draft a good decision? You already have tons of money tied up in other players, now you will be paying high draft pick money to inferior talent too. Not that exciting to me...

1. Toronto Raptors - Andrea Bargnani, PF
Gavin's Pick: Adam Morrison
Not an exciting pick, not a sexy pick, and not worth the #1 pick. I like the crowd with the "overrated" cheer. Just the centerpiece of the lack of high-end talent here. All the clips they showed looked a lot like Vladimir Radmanovic. Yay.

On to the Bulls... I'm assuming this will be Tyrus Thomas. I sure like the 5 minute limit between picks in the NBA draft, that'll make this a lot easier than the NFL version.

Looks like the Blazers are picking up the #2 pick, probably to move up and grab Adam Morrison.

2. Chicago Bulls - LaMarcus Aldridge, PF
Gavin's Pick: LaMarcus Aldridge
Or maybe to pick up LaMarcus Aldridge, since the Blazers apparently wanted to avoid the negligible risk of Charlotte picking him at #3. Blazer fans are going to be furious if this is correct, but he is a good player, I did have him going at this spot.

Ah, the first of the "executive interviews", where they are truly excited, with no second thoughts about their picks. Everything will be perfect, men will lay down their arms, lions will lay down with lambs, all that crap. I hate these things. I also hate the interviews with the draftees... "how do you feel about being drafted?" "Hmmm.... Ka-Ching!".

3. Charlotte Bobcats - Adam Morrison, F
Gavin's Pick: Brandon Roy
Well, this was sure a good pick for Charlotte. I'm sad Morrison won't be in the Pacific Northwest, but I'm really excited to see how he does in the league. Being with an up-and-coming young team in the Bobcats won't hurt either (Okafor, May, Felton etc). The sound of rioting you're hearing is coming from around the Rose Garden as fans with pitchforks charge the Blazers team headquarters.

You know, no one will ever accuse Stephen A. Smith of being a marijuana user. Maybe speed, but definitely not marijuana. How about taking it down about a thousand notches?

Reason #10099 to love Adam Morrison, his favorite DVD? Ultimate Fighting.

4. Portland Trail Blazers - Tyrus Thomas, PF
Gavin's Pick: Tyrus Thomas
So again... not sure why the teams did this deal. Kind of funny to watch Thomas with the Blazers hat on for this fifteen second span he's a part of that franchise. But still, they could have gotten these players either way. A little confusing. If I was Portland, I'd take Thomas, like in my mock draft, because I'm brilliant.

Wow. Greg Anthony actually pointed out that the trade was unnecessary. One analytical bright spot in what looks like a night full of hot air. Speaking of hot air, Stephen A. takes the Blazers behind the woodshed. I'll be doing that later. Who's your point guard, Nate McMillan? Who? Steve Blake? You have GOT to be kidding me. (update: so they get Dan Dickau... I'm not buying it)

5. Atlanta Hawks - Shelden Williams, PF
Gavin's Pick: Marcus Williams
Well I did like Shelden Williams for the Sonics, but I think there were far better players available. They desperately need point guard help, and I hope they address this at some point to help with their offensive needs. At least Williams will help the defensive side.

Did you guys know that Adam Morrison cried? On national television? Does he cry in the EA video game? That would be funny.

That Sub-Lymonal advertising stuff definitely gets the odd East German kick down. Too bad it's an awful way to sell pop. More scantily clad women, please.

6. Minnesota Timberwolves - Brandon Roy, SG
Gavin's Pick: Randy Foye, SG
And Portland freaks out again by missing out on Roy by one pick. Obviously I love Brandon, so I love this pick. With both him and Dwayne Casey I'm going to have to cheer for the Timberwolves more next year, even if we're in the same division.

At this point if I'm the Sonics I'm looking at trading down. Very few players left I would want.

Stuart Scott might be the worst interviewer in the history of the universe.

Rudy Gay has one hell of a watch on. Fashion sense brought to you by Weird Al.

7. Portland TrailBlazers - Randy Foye, SG
Gavin's Pick: Andrea Bargnani
This is not a bad second choice for the Blazers. Fans aren't going to be happy with no Morrison and no Roy, but they did get a talented big man in Aldridge and a versatile guard in Foye. Both can actually play defense too, which Nate McMillan will like. The problem, of course, is that neither will be stars, and so the Blazers will have more money tied up in the wrong places.

Umm... Jay Bilas... players without positions have problems in the NBA. They aren't players. To me, that screams question mark. Maybe I'm just cynical... and maybe Jay Bilas is wrong pretty darn often.

Looks like we have another trade with Houston sending the pick (probably Rudy Gay) to Memphis for Shane Battier, who is definitely a player that Jeff Van Gundy would love.

8. Houston Rockets - Rudy Gay, F
Gavin's Pick: Shelden Williams
His talent is unquestionable. His effort is. If he pans out, this is the steal of the draft. If not, he becomes a mediocre always questioned mess. Memphis (if this rumor is trued) does get to add some nice athleticism, although isn't his skill set pretty similar with Hakim Warrick?

This draft has become fairly dull. No one is dropping, no real surprises, I think NBA executives just threw up their hands, decided these players weren't that great, and didn't go nuts.

9. Golden State Warriors - Patrick O'Bryant, C
Gavin's Pick: Rudy Gay
We're basically at the point in the draft where all the players tend to run together. The Warriors have had a tendency of drafting centers with "upside" and this is no different. I saw O'Bryant as a player who made a lot of money by being a Cinderalla in the tournament. I don't care if he has "good hands" like Jay Bilas mentioned, whatever the heck that even means. I think it's another notch in the "upside" belt that Bilas created.

Seattle's on the clock. Colin's on the phone. It's go time... or hopefully trade time. My top choices? 1. Marcus Williams. 2. JJ Redick. 3. Trade.

Looks now like Brandon Roy and Randy Foye are being swapped. Why the heck wouldn't they have just done that in order?

10. Seattle SuperSonics - Mouhamed Saer Sene, C
Gavin's Pick: JJ Redick
Hmmm... what the hell? Did we really need yet another young center? This is crazy. We're leaving so many good players on the board here. Apparently this is just our team saying, "We don't have a roster spot, no one gave us a good trade offer, so just sit abroad for a few years and we'll see you later." This is not good.

Well, I have to be lazy and quit the live blog and go pick up the dog from the vet now. I'm sure everyone's lives will move along quite well.

Update: I have to apologize for not being able to finish this. Thanks to our Blazers fan for commenting, I'm sure he feels better with the trade for Brandon Roy. I'll have team grades up tomorrow. I feel a little better about what the Sonics did, but not much.

Update 2: I like our second round pick, Denham Brown, SG from UConn. Let's hope we find him some playing time. What is up with the Blazers? How to do a draft while smoking crack cocaine? How many trades do you need?

posted by Gavin @ 3:42 PM  4 comments

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

NBA Mock Draft: Gavin Edition

Here's how this one goes... I don't know much of anything about international prospects, I generally distrust them because they fail miserably far too often. Therefore, I will be giving US college players the benefit of the doubt when picks come around. Also, as I stated yesterday, this is a very weak draft, so if I was any team in the top 10 I would seriously consider trading for picks next year. There isn't a single player (seriously) in this draft who can take a team to the promised land.

1. Toronto - Adam Morrison
This is a tough call. I'm not a big fan of the Andrea Bargnani rumors here, if only because I'm not sure why the Raptors want another skilled big man to group with Chris Bosh and Charlie Villanueva, especially when they have such larger needs around the rest of the roster. They need a scorer. Morrison fits that bill, and with a big enough backline his defensive deficiencies should be masked.

2. Chicago - LaMarcus Aldridge
Going with Tyrus Thomas here wouldn't be a bad move either, as the Bulls are in the enviable position of drafting a high player into a decent team. Both players are PFs with athleticism, who can push Tyson Chandler into refining his game or sitting.

3. Charlotte - Brandon Roy
I don't see a better SG in this draft, and that's what Charlotte needs. They got their point guard of the future last season in Raymond Felton, and have a rising front court with Emeka Okeafor and Sean May. Adding a versatile leader like Roy to the mix, and someone a coach like Bernie Bickerstaff would adore, would make Bobcat fans feel pretty darn good.

4. Portland - Tyrus Thomas
Portland has needs everywhere. Thomas does need a lot of work on his offensive game, but he gives the type of effort Nate McMillan loves. He will shore up the defense in a Shaun Marion way, and grab some boards in the meantime. Basically, he can create his offensive game while already being a more valuable player than either Darius Miles or Zach Randolph.

5. Atlanta - Marcus Williams
Atlanta needs a point guard... badly. If they do anything but get a point guard, this will be another wasted draft. I'm not sure why more teams aren't high on Williams, he has the size, shooting, and touch to really succeed in the NBA. In my opinion, he was the best player on that UConn team.

6. Minnesota - Randy Foye
This pick comes down to Foye and Bargnani, and (as stated above) I go with the proven commodity for the Timberwolves, who are looking to add another scorer to the mix, and might be without Rashad McCants for the season. Foye and Brandon Roy might as well be twins, their game is so similar.

7. Boston - Andrea Bargnani
Bargnani's the best available player at this point (even above Rudy Gay... more on that in a second), and the Celtics could use a little more size, since their younger bigs are a tad smallish. This is a question mark, and I personally believe the Celtics are going to trade around for something better.

8. Houston - Shelden Williams
The Rockets' could go with Rudy Gay and some possible scoring punch to go with Tracy McGrady, could go with JJ Redick to open the floor up more, but I feel they should settle with a known big man to help take the load off Yao Ming. Stromile Swift was, to be nice, a major bust. For Ming to ever come close to the hype he entered the league with, this team desperately needs a better interior presence.

9. Golden State - Rudy Gay
Finally, the Warriors can draft a player to make Mike Dunleavy obsolete. They have a similar skill set except that Gay can actually play basketball. Whether or not he can come close to corralling his talent is up in the air (I would put myself in the detractor camp at this stage) but his athleticism will pair nicely with Baron Davis and Jason Richardson.

10. Seattle - JJ Redick
First off, I say we trade this pick. This is a weak draft, we don't have a lot of holes, and we will be spending a lot of money here on a specialist. However, Redick would love playing in Seattle. Teams would be focusing so much on Rashard/Ray/Wilcox that he would be asked to do nothing but be a pinpoint specialist. That gives us the chance to be something special. Now, his defense is sub-Ridnour, and I'm not sure I like that, but beyond Ray we couldn't buy a three in enough games. Redick gives us what we need. If they aren't off the board, I also would like Morrison (yeah, right), Roy, Foye, Shelden Williams, and Marcus Williams. I do not want a center with "upside". We don't need it, people.

11. Orlando - Patrick O'Bryant
I might like Josh Boone/Cedric Simmons better here, but O'Bryant could give Orlando one heck of a front line with Darko Milicic and Dwight Howard. An actual center could turn Howard into an Amare Stoudamire-like Beast.

12. New Orleans - Josh Boone
I admit it, I like Boone a lot more than most pundits. I'm not sure what happened this year to hurt his stock, but if you're a team like New Orleans who needs another big to play with David West (Aaron Williams and PJ Brown aren't answers), I think you could do a lot worse than Boone. He will block shots and rebound, he rarely got into foul trouble with UConn, and his offensive game is decent around the rim.

13. Philadelphia - Ronnie Brewer
The 76ers can't give up on Samuel Dalembert yet, and getting another uber-athlete who is almost the twin of Andre Iguodala would work well. With Iverson at the point, Brewer and Iguodala at the 2-3, Webber 4, Dalembert 5, the Sixers might actually be able to help address some of their defensive problems and at least play some exciting basketball.

14. Utah Jazz - Rodney Carney
Carney is another underrated player in this draft. He is smart, athletic, defends, and shoots the ball well. In other words, he's the perfect player for a Jerry Sloan system. The Jazz are definitely missing a solid athletic shooter to spread the floor, and Carney gives them that in spades.

15. New Orleans - Maurice Ager
After getting a solid Center earlier in Boone, the Hornets can draft the next shooting guard on my list in Ager. Michigan St players are smart and tough, and Ager definitely fits the mold. He also can light up the scoreboard, as evidenced in that insane Gonzaga game in Hawaii at the beginning of the season. When compared to some of the more overrated guards in this draft (looking at you Jordan Farmar), Ager presents a much better known quantity.

16. Chicago - Daniel Gibson
This could be considered a reach, but we are at a point in the draft when most players can be considered fairly equal from a talent standpoint. The Bulls have a terrific point guard in Kirk Hinrich, but getting another good ball handler in Gibson is also a necessity (ask Seattle). I like Gibson more than the other point guards in this draft, and while he had stretches of inconsistency, his potential is superior. Since again the Bulls have Hinrich (and drafted teammate Aldridge earlier in this mock draft) they can give Gibson a good role model and a good system to get acclimated to the league.

17. Indiana - Cedric Simmons
The Pacers need some frontcourt help, with the question mark that Jermaine O'Neal has become. Simmons is overrated by Chad Ford, but fits nicely in the middle of the first round. He is a slightly smaller and more athletic version of Shelden Williams.

18. Washington - Hilton Armstrong
Washington needs someone who can play defense. Anyone who watched their playoff matchup with Cleveland would say that. So of course Chad Ford has them getting a mediocre point guard. Go Ford! Armstrong can't do much offensively, but he sure can play defense. He'd be an excellent fit for the Wizards.

19. Sacramento - Kyle Lowry
I do like Lowry's game, and Sacramento needs some defense/ball handling. Mike Bibby isn't going to last forever, and if the ball doesn't move through his hands, the Kings have major problems. The addition of Ron Artest midseason helped solidify the frontline, but more out of the guard position will determine the Kings' fate next season.

20. New York - Shawne Williams
I have to be honest, I don't know what the heck the Knicks could do here to affect their team in the long run. They have so much money tied up in so many players that a rookie is going to be hard pressed to even find playing time. However, at least Williams has some athleticism and upside, perhaps going down to the D-league to get playing time will make him a solid addition in a year or two.

21. Phoenix - Sergio Rodriguez
I'm actually going with Chad Ford here. Mike D'Antoni plays an international style of basketball, needing an intelligent point guard is a must. Rodriguez is experienced in the up-and-down atmosphere, and could actually provide a backup that gives Steve Nash valuable rest.

22. New Jersey - Leon Powe
Look past the injury problems, Powe could easily have been named the Pac-10 player of the year instead of Brandon Roy. The Nets found out the hard way what happens when you depend on Nenad Krstic to be a dependable scorer in the postseason. They need more out of the interior. Powe will be important to take more pressure off Carter/Kidd/Jefferson.

23. New Jersey - Shannon Brown
After getting a big, another scorer off the bench is in the cards for the Nets. Brown can also play pretty darn good defense. If I'm New Jersey, I'm keeping these picks. They need to build depth in the worst possible way.

24. Memphis - Dee Brown
Not sure why Brown has also seen his stock dramatically decrease this season, just because teams in the competitive Big 10 focused their entire defense on stopping him doesn't mean he regressed. Memphis has the big men they need, now they need to add some more athleticism and scoring punch. Brown and last year's pick Hakim Warrick are good steps in the right direction.

25. Cleveland - Rajon Rondo
I admit it, I'm not a huge fan of Rondo. I think he's vastly overrated. Still, the Cavs really need a point guard and if Rondo isn't taken in the top 20, he probably would be worth a shot here. I'm torn, because Darius Washington might be a better pick. In fact, I'm leaning this way as I'm writing this. Either way would be better than Flip Murray.

26. LA Lakers - Taj Gray
After a so-so year, Gray's stock has fallen in the draft, and some even have him going undrafted. That, after he was the top ju-co player from two years back. The Lakers need some size, need more athleticism, need more smarts, rebounding, etc. Gray is the best player left to help them down that path.

27. Phoenix - Kevin Pittsnogle
I know, this seems like a reach. Bear with me. The Suns need more size. Pittsnogle does have size, he can defend, if not like a Bo Outlaw, he won't embarrass Phoenix. He can run, and, best of all, he can shoot the three as well as anyone in this draft. To me, he's a perfect fit for the Phoenix system.

28. Dallas - Mike Gansey
Another West Virginia man gets some love from Gavin. Dallas has most positions set, most of the depth set. It seemed to me that they ran into problems against Miami when the Heat started playing a zone and collapsing on Nowitzki. Jason Terry became the only Maverick player capable of coming close on a three pointer. Gansey can be that zone-breaker player, and has more athletic ability than he's given credit for.

29. New York - Mouhamed Saer Sene
Yep, he's an overrated center with little experience. Perfect for the Knicks.

30. Portland - Quincy Douby
At the least, Douby can score, and the Blazers need players who can score. He also gives the team another option at SG should Martell Webster continue to need time grooming his game.

If you noticed, I only have two international players on this board, meaning it isn't worth squat compared to what will happen. I predict at least two trades (probably three-four), and a lot of mediocre talent going in the lottery. Good times. Feel free to comment and bash me. I won't mind... much.

posted by Gavin @ 3:34 PM  0 comments

Monday, June 26, 2006

Crushed Optimist?

I'm sure there are many of you out there wondering just where the hell Colin appears to have gone. Unlike many of the baseless accusations out there, he hasn't been jumping from bordello to bordello in Germany, sleeping off the excess in a gutter, holding a pint of hefeweizen in his hand and snoring peacefully. The truth is, Colin doesn't snore.

Actually, the reason it's been since June 13th since we have been able to partake of his boundless wisdom is that he was in Orlando longer than I was, came back, and is having his nose broken today to fix something about a nasal passage being all crooked-like. This gives him the ability to sit on the couch and do nothing for a few days, only with an excuse this time. The down side of the surgery is that he may miss all three of the M's games against Arizona. Bad news, Colin.

So it's left to me (and El Jefe, if he can come down from his own personal vacation high) to hold down the fort. I was going to run through another NBA Mock Draft today, but realized that I just don't care as much. Seriously, this must be one of the worst drafts ever. The players are really bad as a whole. All the good young players entered last year's draft, and so we're left with a bunch of players going 1-5 who wouldn't crack the top 10 the past three years. You think I'm kidding? I love Brandon Roy, but no way he goes in the top five last year. Check this out... Andrew Bogut, Marvin Williams, Deron Williams, Chris Paul, Raymond Felton, Martell Webster, Charlie Villanueva, Channing Frye, Ike Diogu. That's 1-9 last season. I take ANY of those players over the top players in this year's draft. Two years ago? Dwight Howard, Emeka Okeafor, Ben Gordan, Shaun Livingston, and Devin Harris round out the top five (the later picks do get weaker). All this to say that if I were the Sonics, and B-Roy or Shelden Williams are off the table, I trade down for a pick next year, perhaps something to pair with Rashard Lewis (good column today by John McGrath on the subject) if the season doesn't go the right way. I'll still probably trot out my own mock draft tomorrow, but my fascination with the draft this year is slightly more morbid, in the "who is going to be paid an obscene amount of money to be a decent role player with a team for the next few years" sort of way. All that to say, if JJ Redick is still available, and willing to come over and do nothing but make threes for us with Ray, I'll probably be okay. Basically, there's little the Sonics could do to screw this up, even if I'd be a little upset if they took that Senegal player, but more on that tomorrow.

As is the case for this entire season, for good M's analysis check out Lookout Landings and USSM. Suffice it to say that I'm actually watching most games, enjoying them, and being upset if it turns out to be a loss. Mike Hargrove still ticks me off, his double switches were something an AI manager might do in an EA Sports game, and using Julio Mateo four days in a row is about as useful as bringing in Eddie to pitch in a tie game with two outs and nobody on in the ninth. If (and this is a big "if") Beltre and Sexson can continue to produce more effectively like they have been, this is a scary lineup, except against Oakland, when we will all routinely take the "we suck" juice and let ourselves be kneed in the groin.

To any and all soccer enthusiasts who weren't amused by my rant last night... boo-freaking-hoo. You tell me why I should get excited about a tournament in which every game is becoming a yellow-red enfused nightmare, where bad penalty kicks are being awarded, and where the style of play is very sub-par. I was thinking about this more after having a night to sleep off the hangover of that Portugal-Netherlands mess, and I can't believe so much as changed in four years. We saw some absolutely amazing soccer in Japan/South Korea. The US played four matches (against Portugal, South Korea, Mexico, and Germany) that were far superior to 90% of the games I've seen this time around, in terms of the officiating, quality of play, scoring opportunities, etc. It reminds me of what happened to hockey, when they instituted all those rules to help more goals to be scored. If it's the round of 16 in the World Cup, you shouldn't have only two teams score two goals (and one of them needed extra time to do it). You shouldn't have that nightmare last night, and you definitely shouldn't force me to wake up for Italy stealing a game from the Aussies with that awful PK call. What is going on here? Just read the British papers. You haven't seen a country this irritated with a team that made it to the final eight. They know England's absolutely sucked and played awful making it there. The problem is that only Brazil and Germany have actually played soccer. Hopefully it changes soon, but we're starting to run out of matches.

Finally, I'm starting to really like this Jeffri Chadiha guy from SI.com. His latest offering, five playoff teams that could struggle, reads exactly like what Colin and I would put together. First on that list? Pittsburgh. Nice.

Mock draft tomorrow, followed by M's going for .500! Go Mediocrity!

posted by Gavin @ 2:03 PM  0 comments

Sunday, June 25, 2006

What a Beautiful Game?

This is pretty apt... while I begin writing this post on the absurd Portugal-Netherlands match there is a very loud domestic disturbance across the street in the Section 8 housing strip by my apartment complex. It resembles the amount of maturity and character displayed in the 1-0 atrocity "won" by the Portugal side.

The match, in which an incredible 16 yellow cards and 2 red cards were issued, definitely did not live up to the World Cup motto, "A Time to Make Friends" (also auspiciously resembling the legalized prostitution complex of the German frontier). The easy way out would be to criticize the referee, and in true European fashion, the FIFA president did just that after the match on Portugal television. Pretty shameless on his part, in my opinion.

I am a fairly big international soccer fan, I think as evidenced by as much time I've spent blogging about it the past couple of weeks, but this has overall been a poor display of futbol and has cemented again why I only pay attention to it every few months/four years.

1. Soccer players are the weakest bunch of pansies on the planet. You breathe on them and it's enough to roll around on the carpet, clutching a hammy and grimacing like they just received a slug in the stomach. Take today's match. Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the best players in the world. He gets spiked in the thigh early on (definitely a rough foul and worthy of the card given). This spike does draw a small amount of blood. He ends up falling down and laying on the ground on three different occasions before leaving the game. Compare this to a football player like, say, Lofa Tatupu who finishes the NFC Championship Game with a concussion.

2. The acting and drama is sub-NBA. The flopping, gesturing, and complaining is one of the many reasons the NBA is my least favorite by far of the major sports, and it is no small coincidence that it also includes Manu Ginobili, who brought the Argentinian soccer flair to basketball. This is connected to #1, but does every offensive drive have to end with either the attacker or defender on the ground complaining? Does every breath of air have to knock a striker to his kneeds, clutching said hammy? It's ridiculous, happens every thirty seconds, and gets old quickly. Today's game again was filled with this crap. The players decided to work the ref and try and draw cards on one another, and were ultimately successful in making it a terrible game. Figo especially should be punched in the groin for his antics.

3. Time wasting. Imagine if an NFL team was up by ten with five minutes to go and started each possession running the ball back lateraling to one another and taking time off. We would tear them apart for being morons. Soccer players are worse. Stop the damn clock when someone gets injured or there's a dead ball. It's the only way to avoid this crap. This match must have been the fourth/fifth in a row where the goalie got a yellow card for taking five minutes to enact a friggin' goal kick. The only comparison I can think is the step in-out of the batter box/pitcher mound in baseball. It's a "veteran"move and it's lame.

The ref wasn't to blame for the Portgual/Netherlands match deteriorating, at least not fully. The players and coaches took it upon themselves to make plays as stupid as five year olds bunch balling. They got out of hand, attacked each other, violently went for the ball from behind, and deserved most every foul given. Yellow cards are supposed to curtail the behavior, and the ref was working at regaining control through their use. Unfortunately, the maturity level of the teams involved was such that nothing was going to get between them and their "fun". There was no winner. I hope England, as badly as they played today, beats the tar out of Portugal. I hope soccer tries to take back it's game, works at opening it back up for attackers to have space, for goalies to make saves, for this game to actually be beautiful. So far this World Cup has been nothing but mediocre and ugly.

On the plus side, the Netherlands did sub in a man named Jan Vennegoor of Hesselink. That's a beautiful name.

posted by Gavin @ 10:47 PM  4 comments

World Cup Round o' Sixteen

Yesterday was the beginning of the round of 16 in the World Cup, where the games matter quite a bit more, so the athleticism and physicality are really ratcheted up, making it some exciting futbol.

I've noticed just in this first round of elimination games at least one element the US definitely was missing... a playmaker. Whether it's Klose or Ballack for Germany, or Crespo for Argentina, good teams have players who elevate the style of play whenever they are involved, who can break down defenders one-on-one, who can put a ball into space for a teammate, and who can put that same ball into the back of the net instead of shooting it fifteen feet over.

The first game had the home team (Germany) going up against a Sweden side that impressed me in qualifying. I thought the Swedes could mount more of an attack than what eventually occurred. Their back line was Jeff Agoos-worthy in the opening fifteen minutes, but then again I am just bowled over by the type of precision passing Germany was displaying in the 18 yard box. It was nothing short of brilliant. To continue gushing, the Germans didn't need a turnover back in the zone to create solid opportunities. They had the spacing working. Now, the back line still needs some work, as once Sweden settled down from the attack they found some space. Once that red card (another ridiculous one, by the way) happened the game was over... and so i fast forwarded past most of the rest of the match.

The second game was also brilliant. Argentina and Mexico had their acting clothes on, as every touch became a near-death experience. Both goals in regulation came off of great set pieces (another problem the US had). Both goalies then had some incredible saves (another problem the US had), especially Mexico's, who was able to aggressively attack the ball quickly, and just displayed impressive decision making. I thought Borghetti showed the type of player we hoped Brian McBride would be, accepting deep balls with the head and flicking it on to attacking players. He was an absolute beast.

I'm excited about today. Time for more!

posted by Gavin @ 12:06 PM  0 comments

Thursday, June 22, 2006

World Cup: Mucho Disapointamento

Remember how nice I was to the US side after the Czech loss? Remember how I cautioned all of us to believe in this side, in the experience, in Landon Donovan, DeMarcus Beasley and friends?

I was wrong.

In the aftermath of this 2-1 disappointment against Ghana, regardless of how utterly absurd that penalty kick was, our team displayed an attack worthy of Iran or Togo. There was no creativity, no effort, it seemed as though we were the team playing with the lead for most of the match. Where was the desperation?

Our crosses were decidedly sub-par, Donovan's free kicks were abysmal, and our finishing rarely was on target. For the entire World Cup, our defense could not clear the ball effectively. Odd that such a simple task wasn't enough for our team, especially with a squad that shored up against the crossing routes that killed us four years ago. Today it led to both of Ghana's goals.

Bruce Arena was completely unable to rally this team, to instill any fire, to mix up any talent. If we were as deep as advertised, why was Beasley still playing when it was obvious he was unwilling to use his speed... ever? If Keller was as good as he was supposed to be, how come he could never make a key save? Memories of Brad Friedel stopping penalty kicks four years ago stir in my mind. Kasey failed to come out aggressively to stop Ghana on their first attack.

Of course, we were playing for the right to lose to Brazil in the quarters, but a win still was necessary against a lesser Ghana squad.

It seems to me that we became complacent as a soccer nation. I think it's time to shake things up. Arena has to go.

All is not lost. Good teams miss the round of 16 all the time (France last time out), and it is apparent that we were in the Group of Death (since the Czechs also missed out). In four years we will still have Donovan, we will still have Eddie Johnson, we may have Freddy Adu, we will have Oguchi Oyunwe (who I thought played very well every game). We need to reclaim that underdog mentality.

Let the soul-searching begin...

But hey, what about those Mariners?

posted by Gavin @ 9:09 AM  2 comments

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

NBA Mock(ed) Draft: Take 1

To answer:

Yes, I did notice that ESPN has the Hawks ranked #1 in their first edition of the Power Rankings.

Yes, I did see the NFC West Overview where the columnist had the gall to suggest that this was the year the Cardinals are really hyped, as opposed to last year, when most pundits managed to forget about hype in placing them firmly above the Hawks in 99.9% of their preseason predictions.

I do like clinging to the "no respect" card, so that's why I'm happy that Petey Prisco and Petey King are still around to dispense nuggets of "wisdom".

Anyways, this post started as my first go around into Chad Ford's NBA mock draft, the real version of which occurs next Wednesday. As I've said before, I'm not a huge NBA fan, and am an even less of an NBA draft fan. Still, since at least we don't have to deal with high schoolers this time around, I may actually recognize 75% of the names on the below list.

1. Toronto - Andrea Bargnani (PF)
I can't help myself. Can you honestly see any team giving millions of guaranteed dollars to a guy who looks like this? Who cuts this dude's hair?

Beyond that, I think this is what happens when there is absolutely no legitimate number one prospect in the draft. Is there honestly one player in this draft that you could see building a team around for the next ten years? I don't think so. Maybe Bargnani will be cheaper and actually enjoy living in Toronto, as long as he doesn't ever talk to Vince Carter.

2. Chicago - Tyrus Thomas (PF)
Well, Thomas showed some pretty good skills in the NCAA tournament. The guy can leap out of the building and can at least play some defense. However, his jumper is spotty at best (can you say "brick" all together now?) and definitely needs a lot of grooming. In other words, he's perfect for the Bulls.

3. Charlotte - Brandon Roy (SG)
I can't really argue with any team that chooses Brandon Roy. I think he's legitimately the best player in this draft, and the Bobcats could really use his outside athleticism, which paired with Emeka Okeafor gives them a wicked inside-out combination. Throw in Raymond Felton and Sean May and you have a team with a foundation of talent for a successful run.

4. Portland - Adam Morrison (SG/SF)
This from the "who is the person who would most drive Nate McMillan up the friggin' wall" department. Yes, Morrison can score, draw some fans, and invite opposing columnists to write that stupid Larry Bird article every other week. Yet he refuses to do the one task that Nate demands out of anyone who would get playing time... defend. I would probably go with a bigger player like LaMarcus Aldridge with this pick instead. Still, since Portland has been managed by Xenu for the past few years, don't be surprised if they go the wrong route yet again. Hey, at least Morrison doesn't beat and starve his pit bulls into fighting each other and probably won't get caught at the border going 100 mph while smoking enough weed to stun a small horse. Little victories.

5. Atlanta - Shelden Williams (PF)
At this point if I was a Sonics fan I would probably lose interest, because the two players I want in this draft (Roy and Williams) would be gone. While Ford criticizes Atlanta for this, I'm not sure why. Williams is a terrific interior defender and will help Atlanta provide some depth other than their multitude of two guards.

6. Minnesota - LaMarcus Aldridge (PF)
I'm pretty ho-hum about Aldridge. Minnesota could use him, though, to give some additional front court depth to work with KG (and possibly to replace him when that trade finally happens). He's an okay player, but I found him a little overrated. At least his shooting percentage around the basket is fairly impressive.

7. Boston - Rudy Gay (PF)
I can guarantee that whoever this pick is that Bill Simmons will whine about it. I sure know I wouldn't want Gay. I saw a ton of UConn games over the past year and I would have put Gay as the fourth/fifth best player on the court... on UConn. He doesn't take over the game, is inconsistent from the stripe, has a testy outside shot... but man, his wingspan is HUGE.

8. Houston - JJ Redick (SG)
The Rockets could definitely use a shooter, but already have one being groomed in Luther Head. Redick, to me, is just another Head. With the bust that was Stromile Swift, and some decent size still on the board, I would move in that direction. Either that or get a PG. I would definitely rather have Marcus Williams than JJ Redick, regardless of what Dick Vitale would say.

9. Golden State - Patrick O'Bryant (C)
The first "big guy on a surprise NCAA Tourney team who cashes in" pick. These stories never go well... and always seem to involve a team like Golden State. Go figure.

10. Seattle - Cedric Simmons (PF)
Ford says some people like him better than Shelden Williams. Ford's people are often wrong. I mean often. I think he just says that so we don't actually know it's his crappy opinions. I would probably trade down at this point. If not, either we do get the next best PF or (better move) the best PG in the draft, Marcus Williams, in case Luke Ridnour moves on.

11. Orlando - Ronnie Brewer (SG)
This is not a good pick. Brewer is an okay player, but a lottery pick? Are you kidding me? Randy Foye is still there, so is Rodney Carney. Either would be FAR superior to Brewer. Come on, Chad. You can do better than this.

12. New Orleans - Hilton Armstrong (C)
While I agree that NO really needs to get a center to replace Jamaal Magloire, I would be very wary about Armstrong. I think he was as much a product of the good defenders around him (and poor interior players in the Big East) than any real talent on his part. Combine that with his offensive ineffectiveness and Armstrong has "bust" written all over him. We're at 12, and already Johan Petro is far superior to the talent here... yes, this is a weak draft.

13. Philadelphia - Marcus Williams (PG)
Williams was the best player on that UConn behemoth, and the only player who ever appeared to want to win. He is an absolute steal for the 76ers at this point in the draft. I can't believe the best PG is this much worse than 12 other players.

14. Utah - Randy Foye (SG)
Again, what on earth is Ford smoking to have Foye drop all the way to the Jazz. Utah would turn backflips if this actually happened. Foye is a poor man's Brandon Roy (I wouldn't mind him for Seattle), defends, shoots, and handles the ball well. Jerry Sloan would love him.

15. New Orleans - Rodney Carney (SG)
This would help to make up for the Hilton Armstrong pick. Carney was the senior leader on that young talented Memphis team adn really impressed me this year. I would actually go so far as to call him underrated. NO would do a lot worse than Carney.

16. Chicago - Thabo Sefolosha (SF)
Ah yes, the Chad Ford international special. At least he's waited until 16 to start with them. When they start actually panning out I'll be more in favor of them. Until that point this pick is draft bait for the Bulls.

17. Indiana - Alexander Johnson (PF)
If you need a PF like Indiana may, don't go Johnson's route. Choose Josh Boone.

18. Washington - Rajon Rondo (PG)
Rondo was a huge bust at Kentucky, yet as Ford puts it, scouts might have him ranked as the best PG in the draft? This is why I hate the NBA draft. In the NFL, if you suck in college, you're not even sniffing the fifth round. In the NBA, you can suck in college, but as long as you can jump high, you're getting millions thrown at you. FAAAAAANTASTIC.

19. Sacramento - Sergio Rodriguez (PG)
Yeah. I know nothing about this guy. If he plays crappy defense and whines a lot he's a perfect fit for the Kings.

20. New York - Shawne Williams (SF)
Shawne Williams is an unproven young commodity who is fairly undersized. In other words, he's perfect for the Knicks. Let's face it, there are zero good picks for New York. They suck.

21. Phoenix - Mouhamed Saer Sene (C)
Let's see... Phoenix... unproven young center from Senegal... amazing pick from Chad Ford. Just amazing.

22. New Jersey - Kyle Lowry (PG)
This would have been a great pick for Phoenix, getting an heir apparent to Steve Nash. Instead, the Nets can get the heir apparent to Jason Kidd. Lowry would be a steal at this point.

23. New Jersey - Shannon Brown (SG)
New Jersey really needs size here. You don't need another small player on a team with Vince Carter and Richard Jefferson. I'm sure Ford could have found another foreign player to stick here. C'mon Chad, you can do it!

24. Memphis - Jordan Farmar (PG)
Any Pac-10 fan should be able to tell you that Farmar desperately needed another year to work on his game. He does pretty much nothing well. His shooting isn't great. His passing can get into the awful range, at least in any game he played UW. His defense is sub-par. All in all, I was shocked that NBA scouts gave him enough assurances to stay. Memphis will be getting a far from finished product.

25. Cleveland - Olexsiy Pecherov (PF)
I can't believe how weak this draft is. Cleveland desperately needs a real PG, and desperately needs a real big man. If Pecherov is the best they can do, LeBron is going to be an unhappy camper.

26. LA Lakers - Guillermo Diaz (SG)
This pick cracks me up. The Lakers have holes at every position... except SG, where they have this burgeoning talent named Kobe Bryant. Have you heard of him yet Chad? Hmmmm? I think LA can do slightly better than this, like some no-name from Turkey.

27. Phoenix - Quincy Douby (SG)
Douby can run, shoot, and play multiple positions. In other words, he's perfect for Phoenix. A little bit better than a center from Senegal.

28. Dallas - Maurice Ager (SG)
Ager is a good fit for the runner-ups. He can actually shoot the ball from deep, which might help against teams like Miami who can play a sone and not allow the dribble penetration.

29. New York - Josh Boone (C)
I liked Boone, thought he was better than Hilton Armstrong. Paired with Channing Frye he could become a nice talent for the Knicks. Of course, the moment he becomes useful Isaiah Thomas will probably trade him away for an overpaid small forward. Just my thought.

30. Portland - Joel Freeland (C)
This is classic Ford, "The Blazers don't need more rookies, so don't be shocked if they take a flier on a kid who's still several years away. Freeland has been playing basketball for only three years, but he showed well enough in the Reebok Eurocamp for a team to take a chance on him with the last pick of the first round." You have to be kidding me. The Blazers were awful last year and need talent wherever they can find it. So instead of going for a kid who has proved himself in college they use a FIRST ROUND DRAFT PICK on someone who shows "well enough" in a freaking Eurocamp? What about Leon Power? What about PJ Tucker? Paul Davis? Dee Brown? Yeesh.

That's the first stab! I'll rip another by Friday and then have mine early next week!

posted by Gavin @ 2:27 PM  1 comments

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Ultimate Explosion!!

Welcome back, Gavin!

Yes, after a week of work/fun in Orlando I am back and burned to a friggin' crisp. Colin will continue to burn over in the deep south through Friday, so everyone will have to do without his particular brand of acerbic wisdom.

Not that much happened while I was out. The M's played Oakland, which meant they got stomped, and then played other teams, which right now means they were successful. Apparently everyone now realizes Joel Piniero sucks, which is about two years too late, and now we have absolutely nobody to replace him with, unless management decides that Rafael Soriano really should be pitching more than once every three days for an inning. Until then I can be mildly entertained with a ball club that is at least within spitting distance of .500 and laugh at those who believe we will actually threaten for a playoff spot.

The Hawks cut Tom Rouen, who was NEVER a favorite of the Crushed Optimists editorial staff. Rouen could directional-punt fairly well (except in the Super Bowl, when he decided to choke along with the rest of our special teams corps), but couldn't hit the ball for distance worth squat. Now that we have two young punters, including the best college punter in the nation last year (Ryan Plackemeier... hopefully the spelling is correct), it's time to say goodbye to Ol' Reliable. That does mean saying goodbye to a lot of Amy Van Dyken references, but the less Olympic swimming references I see in my Seahawks coverage the better off I am. I'm also really pleased that the Seahawks haven't had to deal with either contract messes or jerks this offseason, like Santonio Holmes with the Steelers or Plaxico Burress and the Giants (note to Giants fans... your "star" wide receiver not even attending a post season meeting and then refusing to apologize for it is probably not a good sign).

Speaking of contract messes, there are a few out there (referenced by SI.com's Jeffry Chadiha) I want to quickly throw my opinions out about.
Deion Branch - Invaluable wide receiver for the Patriots. He is definitely underpaid and the Pats continue to use this offseason to run roughshod over proven performers. While I still think they are the class of the AFC East, their aversion to actually rewarding anyone not named Tom Brady with money is closing the gap on other teams rapidly. Their offseason still sucks and this just makes it worse.
Nathan Vasher - Good cornerbacks who give you 8 picks are probably worth more than 500k. The Bears are more than welcome to stick to their principles, but when Vasher departs for more money later they are going to be mad they didn't get him long term when the price tag was smaller.
Ashley Lelie - He's making a huge mistake on this holdout. He's overrated.
Lance Briggs - Starting to get a bad trend of promising young players from the Bears getting stiffed (including their promising young head coach). Chicago is going to find themselves back in 4-12 hell if they don't make a few of these good talents happy.
Thomas Jones - Here the Bears are making a good decision. Cedric Benson is the future.

The NBA Finals have been a poorly officiated mess, especially the Game 5 debacle. Not like I'm surprised... it just seems to take games like that to open up most fans to the eye-popping mediocrity which is standard in every game and worse in the postseason. I'm still bitter about the San Antonio series last year, in which Manu Ginobili could take four steps, throw up the ball wildly, get hit by air, fall down and cry like Nancy Kerrigan, and get a foul called on the Sonics. I hate Ginobili. Bill Simmons actually has a decent article today (minus the ridiculous Red Sox reference) about that (also continues to disprove his own discussion about the Super Bowl with this refereeing talk... like he cares).

As to the World Cup, I got up at 3 in the morning the day after the Italy game to watch the recast (kept myself from knowing almost anything until then). I was truly impressed with our squad (unimpressed with the idiot ref), who were obviously the better team. A win against Ghana is almost assured, and I think Italy (who still has a lot to play for) beats a Czech team that has exactly zero strikers. Remember, we still needed some terrific saves from Keller to gain that draw. The Italians are savvy attackers. They lose when they quit defending. The Czech team will not challenge their weaknesses. I'd be pretty mad if I was a Czech fan, because this was an older team and this was their one opportunity for WC glory. Too bad injuries had to get in the way, because they showed against the US that they could have challenged all the way to the top.

posted by Gavin @ 2:31 PM  0 comments

Monday, June 19, 2006

USA vs Italia: In Retrospect

First off, I gladly eat my words from the preview on this game, saying a draw would be useless. Miraculously, Ghana destroyed the Czech Republic…nice work guys!

Now that I can objectively take a step back from all the emotion and hype (well, almost completely) of Saturday’s match/battle, I want to make a few points. Sure you’ve heard them all by now from various futbol pundits, but please remember this draw as a great match – perhaps one of the most memorable of this year’s Cup. It is frustrating that we haven’t scored a bona fide goal yet, but with nine men on the pitch for half the match and us only beginning to come into our potential by that point, I think the future (Thursday) is bright. The first game was a wake up call that rightly so put us in our place. We returned to play the next opportunity, as opposed to France ’98 when we were easily the worst team out of the 32 represented there. Bad ref or no, we didn’t allow that to be our scapegoat. Yeah, the Beasley goal was hard to see pulled back, but that was the right call. The cards were a different matter, which I’ll get to shortly, but even that couldn’t stop our heart. We pulled off a few attacks on Italy’s goal with 9 against 10 men. No World Cup team has ever scored with 9 on the field and we almost did it a few times. Although the reverse could be just as true: Ghana, beware.

Now as for our Uruguayan friend who “refereed” this match. At best his calls were hit and miss. There’s the Beasley goal, the red to Italy on the horrid and completely intentional elbow, the offside calls (thanks, linesmen), and him not falling for Italy’s theatrics concerning diving [note to Toni: Hollywood won’t be calling]. All of these things I count to the ref’s favor. Sure, most were not the popular call, but I think well done. Now for the negatives. First of all, if a ref wants to control the physicality of a match with yellow and red cards, he needs to aggressively warn players that he will have no more of what he’s seeing. My recollection of him on the field was that of an observer who would wait until things got bad and then pull out his card. I wonder if there was a language barrier there where he couldn’t say some variant of “Hey, I’m fed up with the rugby match this is resulting in…cut it out!” Just body language can communicate that, for goodness sake! But I saw none of that. A quick whistle followed up with a quickly dealt card. Often this is all that is needed to reign in a match, but the atmosphere and emotions were off the scale. Unfortunately, this referee was not prepared to do his job properly at this level and I would question the amount of his experience. Secondly, the red cards on the US were atrocious. Eddie Pope fouled his man, no question. But you expect to see a precedent on cards and I saw no consistency. Pope did come from around the guy (hard to tell if truly “from behind” – maybe it looked more that way from the ref’s angle) but he touched the ball first. The Italian made a meal of the touch and the ref bit hard on the bait. Often a referee will show some mercy to a man with already one yellow, but he had his mind made up as soon as Pope hit the ground to tackle. Again, there were no words communicated by the ref to the US team as a whole (that I can remember) and so you get a result of him calling foul after foul in a very rough game and then jumping to a card. In my mind, this could have been handled better – in the end this aspect of the game was not handled at all. Finally, since similar Italian tackles were not carded, why shouldn’t I see some bias there?

The Mastroeni red card was the worst call I’ve seen in awhile. I think anyone who is not Italian would see that it was a make up call for the elbow red called against the Italians earlier. That is inexcusable. It was a horrible challenge on Pablo’s part, but again a split decision with no precedent and no consistency the rest of the game. FIFA will of course stand by its man, but a very poor call, no doubt about it. I sure hope the Cup will not see this ref again.

So enough of the past, and on to Thursday. We must win and ironically Italy must win against the Czechs. Or if the Italy/Czech game results in a draw, we must win by a huge margin to make up our goal differential (-2 verses Czech Rep’s +1). That’s 4 goals minimum. Seeing as against Ghana Italy could only put 2 in and the Czechs were held completely (albeit as a completely different team than their first match), we must play to win in the biggest way. But chances are good and optimism, if I can speak for us all, is high. I’d sure like to see more of Eddie Johnson since the air attack with McBride seems to be quite lacking. Even Donovan up front with Beasley in midfield and a focus on quick passing more than dribbling would be a welcome change. We are a goal scoring machine that needs to wake up. On Thursday it’s GO BIG OR GO HOME!

¡Viva USA futbol!

posted by El Jefe @ 9:58 PM  1 comments

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Brasil vs Australia (live)

7th minute: Each team is playing all out; this matchup looks be be exciting the whole way through. Great shot by Kaka a few moments ago... Commentators have started the criticisms of Brasil's defense. Probably well merited and today it looks as though Australia could exploit.
10th: Ronaldo harshly fouled. Hope that wasn't intentional cause it looked very poor on Australia's part - almost at his knee, allegedly injured?

AUS needs to get a real shot off. They have great passing and movement to space, but dribblers bouncing harmlessly along the turf directly to the keeper will not win games.

14th: Again good ball movement from the Socceroos. Ref is calling everything. Trying to keep a hold on the match here...please don't go the way of the Uruguayan from yesterday!!
Where is Brasil? They have forwards playing today (and I'm tempted to list Roberto Carlos as one of them) but their midfield doesn't seem to be awake yet.

21st: Exciting stuff here again. Ronaldinho again showing why he's one of the best, especially his current best in the world ranking - and then AUS take him down perfectly with a clean tackle. Wow, who will crack first?

27th: Again, a shot right at the keeper by the Socceroos. Nothing working for Brasil here on their famous dribbling trickery...

28th: And Ronaldo denied well by the AUS defense. They have made all the needed tackles and blocks but can that continue? I'm impressed by the AUS midfield as well.
As an aside, I'm amazed that Cafu is still playing (he just got a yellow for a late, dangerous challenge). I think he's played in 3 World Cup Final games and helped win 2 of them - wow, that's experience!

30th: Funny result on the AUS attack - dude thought he heard a whistle and gave up (also thought he was offside, but nothing was called). Unfortunate.
And Ronaldo receives a yellow for shooting on goal while obviously offside. His frustration is written all over him. Don't read the papers, man!

33rd: Ok, a Socceroos shot off the turf, but again they pull my specialty and blast it over the bar by a considerable margin. On the other half, seems wherever the ball is with a Brasilian attacker, there are 3 or 4 blue (Australian) shirts so close by. Brasil needs to change their tactics and use less dribbling and more quick passing. If they would think to switch the field and go from left to right or vice-versa, they would definitely catch the Australians off guard and out of position.

37th: A strike on Ronaldo, and the beisbol kind. I'm sorry to say it, but the Ronaldo of years past would have put Brasil up 1 nil there. Kind of feel sorry for the guy right now. He's only 29, but playing like he's been the marked man for the past 10-12 years (true).

41st: Again, Brasil can't seem to do more than dribble and look for give and gos.

42nd: Great back pass to Ronaldo, who makes a good effort on the near miss shot.

Halftime: Well, Brasil have disappointed in terms of living up to the huge hype of being the smiling goal scoring machine. But I think they'll eventually connect for at least one. Same thing can be said for Australia, however.

49th: Great goal by Adriano! Ronaldo did what he should have in pulling 3 defenders to himself and then passing off. And beautiful touch ahead and strike right where he had to put it. Look for Australia to take up the physicality in the match a few notches...

57th: Oh, Kewell!! Dang, that was a tough shot but on an open goal. C'mon Socceroos! Force at least a draw to make a mediocre group more exciting!

61st: I must admit Ze Roberto is playing great defense. Refreshing to see from a country where the offense is the focus.

78th: So everything Brasil tries in the air goes way too far. How about a far post runner? Everyone is going right at the far post, but overcommits. Sure the "garbage collector" at the outside opposite side isn't the funnest position, but I think that man could have a goal or two should someone (Roberto Carlos, do you have any gas left?) take it up.

80th: Best side volley I've seen this Cup by Bresciano, I think. Good save by Dida (Keller-esque, I might add).

82nd: Brasil are hungry and Australia are tired. The former are trying to get the momentum to pay off and the Socceroos are just trying to get to full time.

84th: Stupid yellow card to Robinho - he deserved it, yes, but should have been more mature to avoid it....and argh!! Bresciano again hitting a brilliant shot! Off a set piece even.

85th: And Brasil continue to pressure. Keep up the physical presence, Australia.

86th: Viduka! A smidge less punch on that flick and he'd have a goal over the keeper coming out.

90th: That does it. Fred comes into the game and gets a goal for Brasil off the side post's assist. All academic from here.

93rd: Kaka should have made it 3-nil....Full time and Brasil advance on the win. Decent performance by Australia, but they couldn't put one in. Bummer. Now I need a goal fest from France v South Korea to lift my spirits.

posted by El Jefe @ 9:09 AM  1 comments

Friday, June 16, 2006

D-Day is now June 17th

Ok, now that I've got your attention, with the battle/showdown happening tomorrow one thing we all need a little of is optimism for our US national futbol team. If there truly are as good as we know they are, this game will showcase their talents and look very different than the Czech disaster. If the Yanks actually show up and realize they have moved beyond "warmup" matches they have a chance. And a good one, I might add. They are good enough to beat Italy. In fact, I think it's quite possible. And if we're tied 1-1 or 2-2 near the end of the game, I'd rather see us take great risks at the end of the game while trying to get the winning goal than sputter to a useless draw (same as a loss here).

But the initial 10 minutes are uber-key. Just as we saw Koller break our confidence only 5 minutes in, we can do that and more to an emotional Italian side. Did you see how they celebrated their second goal over Ghana? It was as if they'd all advanced to the Cup finals...and that coming from a horrible mistake by the defender to gift a poaching Italian striker. Ghana were in it to possible force a draw until that moment. Just dwelling on that point gives me more optimism. The first Italian goal was incredible. Given enough space at the edge of the box to touch ahead and score, any decent striker in the same scenario should at least hit near the far post like the Italian striker did. And did he ever--an incredible goal I'll credit him with (seems this tournament has quite its share of long range blasts) but the keeper was forced to react a millisecond late due to the forest of players between him and the shooter. So we'll concede a goal or two - that's just how it is playing a great side. But we are good enough to equalize and go ahead. Should we somehow score first, the momentum would be with us...

But enough of what could be. What is true is that the success of 2002 is behind. We are a different team (better, potentially) but not as unknown as 4 years ago. Sure Italy could hardly name a player on our side earlier this week, but that was before their video sessions. I am confident that Bruce Arena will have saturated our team with knowledge of all the Italian strengths and weaknesses as well.

What can I take from the Czech game? I feel Cherundolo is a liability in the right back. True he had to mark Nedved often and got schooled here and there, but we can't expect the Italian attack will be any easier. Bruce, start someone else please. Another beef I have is with our midfield, who after receiving the ball hardly turned and went to goal. If I got a quarter for every back pass... Reyna was often guilty of this, but he should be the one bringing the ball up past midfield, not our defense. He should be distributing facing the goal, not vice-versa. Beasley and Donovan started to get some passes together, but along with everyone else, they wilted in the heat of immediate pressure by the CR defenders. Quick one touch passing would have been key but you can't expect that of a team lacking that kind of sharpness. And as a last negative point, our forwards were least involved in the game. McBride might have flicked one ball on with his back to the goal, but I don't recall any other times seeing him except when he was replaced, and rightly so. I was impressed with Eddie Johnson. He brought an urgency to our attack that was obviously what Arena communicated to him before he entered the game. If the air strikes via McBride don't work out or he isn't starting, I'd choose to pair Johnson and Donovan up front or at least Landon in more of an attacking midfielder position.

So one must end with the positives of that game. I saw short flashes of brilliance by our midfield in almost-crisp passing. We can cross the ball well and maybe that will be an Italian weakness (had McBride made runs to the right post when Eddie Lewis crossed in from the left, I think we could have connected on some actual shots). And Reyna is a great leader. He seemed to be the only one playing on so many runs that I have to think the team aspect of the game will be more emphasized tomorrow.

Just like everyone else, I expect to see a different team tomorrow.
U.S. over Italy, 3-2.

posted by El Jefe @ 7:17 PM  2 comments

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

When Preseason Picks Go A Little Too Far

This is probably the first in a series of posts where I take pundits to task for predicting great things out of mediocre teams. It's starting to wear on me, this insane ritual of predicting the surprise team by placing far too much burden on them in the preseason. Today's culprit is Scouts Inc's Gary Horton, and his team is the Miami Dolphins.

In full disclosure, I should point out that Horton's already picked the Hawks to repeat as NFC Champions, and I liked that pick. So basically I'm a homer. Sue me.

"Ten games into the 2005 season, the Miami Dolphins were 3-7 and looked like a team with marginal talent. However, to their credit they somehow rallied and put together six victories in a row to finish the season with a respectable 9-7 record."

Those teams? Oakland (33-21), Buffalo (24-23), San Diego (23-21), NY Jets (24-20), Tennessee (24-10) and finally New England and Doug Flutie (28-26). This is why these arguments NEVER should be made in the history of postseason retrospective. The Dolphins played a bunch of bad teams (outside of San Diego, who inexplicably lost games like this one to erase their playoff hopes). Oakland, Buffalo, the Jets, and Tennessee were all T-E-R-R-I-B-L-E, and if we remember correctly the Patriots weren't even trying in that last game. They wanted to go play Jacksonville, and it turned out pretty well for them. And so, like Buffalo and Arizona the year before, a good finish against bad opposition makes Minnesota and Miami favorites to exceed expectations. In my opinion, it means they are a little better than mediocre, but nothing to get excited about. Let's continue...

"There is now rampant optimism in the Dolphins' camp and some believe they are poised to replace the New England Patriots atop the AFC East. Are the Dolphins that good or are we overrating them as we head into training camp?"

Yes. Yes you are. Also, please try avoid using terms like "rampant optimism". Put away the thesaurus, you're only hurting yourself.

"It all starts with head coach Nick Saban, who has total control of this organization in both coaching and personnel and is not afraid to make tough calls. Much like his friend, Bill Belichick in New England, Saban makes decisions based on facts and not emotions. He knows exactly what he needs to build this team and nothing will make him waver from what he thinks is right."

Oh Christ. Here we go with the ball washing. Gary, if you want to bear Saban's progeny, just ask him, don't make a freaking Craig's List ad. Nick Saban has coached for one season. One. How does that equal "total control" and generally isn't "total control" something to be avoided? Perhaps like his friend, Bill Belichick, who has this one guy named Scott Pioli around? Remember him Gary? Also, who exactly in the NFL makes decisions based on emotions and not facts? I would like to know, although I'm assuming it probably has something to do with anything Pete Prisco likes. Finally, the phrase "nothing will make him waver" actually makes Saban sound stupid. Just a thought.

"How many coaches have enough job security and confidence to hire two ex-head coaches as coordinators? Mike Mularkey (Buffalo) will run the offense and Dom Capers (Carolina and Houston) will run the defense."

Hmmm... Mike Holmgren? Bill Parcells? Bill Cowher? Just a few off the top of my head. For laughs, here's how that sentence could easily read... How many coaches have enough job security and confidence to hire two complete failures as coordinators?

"In typical Saban fashion, however, both the offensive and defensive schemes are already in place. Instead of forcing the players to adjust to a new system, Mularkey and Capers will have to make adjustments."

So how many coaches have enough job security and confidence to hire two complete failures and then castrate their effectiveness? Only "Waverless-Man", Nick Saban, knows for sure.

"Offensively, success revolves around the health of new quarterback Daunte Culpepper. He is coming off a devastating knee injury, but the medical reports out of South Florida are positive. He is participating in throwing drills and his mobility and movement are way ahead of schedule."

Hey, the reports are good! Success! Look, if this is what it means to be a part of Scouts Inc, sign me up. I can read and jump to wild conclusions as well as anyone (read: anything I write).

"There is quiet optimism that Culpepper will be ready to play on opening day."

As opposed to rampant optimism. Apparently Miami insiders are slightly more tempered in their assessment. Either that or Gary Horton decided that the thesaurus was only making his writing appear worse than it already was.

"If that's the case, which Culpepper will we see? Will it be the one who threw only six touchdown passes and 12 interceptions before his injury a year ago, or the player who threw 39 TDs in 2004? If we get the latter, the Dolphins will be off and running."

Again, terrific job scouting. Rampant guessing. Yes, Culpepper is a crap shoot. Who really knows how good he'll be? I'm just curious if he's going to bring that whole rotating-arms-dance-craze with him to Miami. Oh, also, Gary? Remember that Randy Moss guy? Hmmm?? Oh... right... that might involve research. My bad.

"The offense will be balanced, with a strong run game led by Ronnie Brown. However, they will take more vertical shots in the passing game to stretch the field and soften up defenses."

Look, I know I'm anal. This has been shown multiple times. That's why the use of "However" bugs the heck out of me. Does the use of vertical passing denote an unbalanced attack? In which universe? The ones with NFL Executives who use emotions instead of facts? Also, this is the first note of the running attack, with little mention given to the rather large loss of Ricky Williams. Let's just gloss over that for now... it messes with the central thesis of this poorly written monstrosity.

"The Dolphins were 18th in the NFL in 2005 in average gain per pass play and would like to improve on that, especially with Culpepper's gifted deep arm."

What's that? A statistic? You have to be kidding me! A real statistic... from the head of SCOUTS INC. Culpepper's gifted deep arm might also have had a little something to do with who he was throwing it to (Randy Moss... yes, that guy again) who can pretty much make anyone look good, even Kerry Collins (if Oakland fans ever want to admit it).

"Another tweak to the passing game might be more roll-outs and bootlegs to pressure the perimeter of opposing defenses. A year ago that was a non-factor as part of the playbook because of quarterback Gus Frerotte's limited mobility. Both Culpepper and backup Joey Harrington are agile and will add another element to the offense."

That's right, campers. This "expert" just called Joey Harrington "agile". This is what passes for analysis. Here's my analysis... more roll-outs and bootlegs do not single-handedly help one attack the perimeter of opposing defenses. Playmakers do, and there is not yet substantial proof that Culpepper is ready to be that again... and from what I recall, Culpepper wasn't exactly great throwing on the run. Maybe that's just me.

"Culpepper has decent weapons to which to throw, but there is an alarming lack of depth at wide receiver. After Chris Chambers and Marty Booker, the Dolphins do not have a legitimate No. 3 or No. 4 threat. As a result, tight end Randy McMichael might have to assume a bigger role, although there is hope that rookie wideout Derek Hagan will develop quickly."

Waiiiiiit a sec. So Culpepper has decent weapons, but then he doesn't? Should anyone legitimately call Marty Booker a threat? Will Derek Hagan learn how to hold on to the football? So the point is... the Dolphins have one great WR. Still not exactly advancing the ol' thesis there, Gary.

"As good as the running game can be, Miami's coaching staff has to be concerned about depth. Brown gained 907 yards as a rookie, but he ran the ball only 207 times. Although he's added 10 pounds of muscle this offseason and seems motivated to be a workhorse, you cannot expect Brown to carry the ball 300 times. With Ricky Williams now playing in Canada as a result of his one-year suspension, the Dolphins must find someone in training camp capable of giving Brown a rest."

Aha! He mentions the loss of Ricky! And mentions the lack of depth at this key position! All great points... unless you're trying to prove that the Dolphins are poised to take out New England. Then you're not exactly making sense.

"Miami's offensive line, a huge success story in 2005, returns intact. Offensive line coach Hudson Houck took a group of no-names and turned it into a very respectable unit. This group cut its sacks allowed total from 53 in 2004 to 26 in 2005 and helped the run game improve from 3.2 yards per carry in 2004 to 4.3 in 2005. The addition of blocking fullback Fred Beasley from San Francisco was more good news for Miami's skill-position players."

A cogent point, although normally no-names have a tendency to fall back to earth a year after surprising teams (see: Falcons defense in 2005). Fred Beasley is a good addition as well.

"The biggest challenge for Miami's offensive coaching staff will be improving red-zone efficiency. In 2005, the Dolphins were 26th in red-zone touchdowns, converting only 21 of 52 opportunities. Mularkey is known as a creative play-caller who loves trick plays, which should make the Dolphins fun to watch in the red zone."

Didn't Gary just write above that Mularkey can only make adjustments, because the players aren't learning something new? Let's check. Really, I'll wait. Go for it. Hmmmmmmmmm......... M's are up 1-0 already. Nice. Are you back? Yes, I agree, these would appear to be in DIRECT CONFLICT WITH EACH OTHER. I'm starting to hate gloating after Horton picked the Hawks to go to the Super Bowl. To touch on the red zone offense, adding zero offensive weapons other than Culpepper isn't exactly going to put that on the fast track to happy-ville.

"Defensively, the Dolphins were rock solid last season in the front seven, but the secondary was another story. Saban is a secondary coach by trade and employs a very complicated scheme with a combination of coverages, but his personnel wouldn't allow him to integrate those schemes. A year ago, the lack of speed in the secondary made it difficult to play tight man-to-man coverages and blitz because Miami's defensive backs could not be trusted on an island."

Oh, this is rich. Rich I tell you. I'll explain in after he continues. Suffice it to say for now that if Saban was a good secondary coach he would be able to get good performances from the personnel he had. It's like Horton's so fully attached to Nick's posterior he can't comprehend that sometimes change in football takes time for players to adjust.

"Miami was 20th in the NFL in 2005 in passing yards allowed per game despite the fact that it produced 49 sacks up front, which tied for second in the league. To Sabans' credit, he has given his secondary a complete makeover. Gone are defensive backs Sam Madison, Reggie Howard, Tebucky Jones and Lance Schulters. The new arrivals are Will Allen, Andre' Goodman, Renaldo Hill, Deke Cooper, and rookie first-round pick Jason Allen. This new group has more speed, versatility and playmaking possibilities and should be able to handle Saban's multiple schemes."

Here's what I love. One of those slow, awful players was one Sam Madison, who went to the NY Giants. One of those incredible fast amazing players was one Will Allen, who came from the NY Giants. Let's take a look at the ol' archive for a particular article one Gary Horton wrote on May 25th... "The rest of the Giants' free-agent acquisitions revolved around their desire to rebuild the secondary. They were 27th in pass defense in 2005 and recorded only 17 interceptions. Corners Sam Madison, Jason Bell and R.W. McQuarters and safeties Will Demps and Quentin Harris not only improve depth but also make this secondary better in matchup scenarios." So in the span of three whole weeks, Sam Madison becomes a liability instead of a prominent addition. Congratulations, Sam. Congratulations, Gary, for admirably sucking up to whatever team suits your purpose. And when Will Allen, Andre Goodman, Renaldo Hill, Deke Cooper and a rookie are what you think will take your pass defense to the next level, you've missed out on some scouting.

"Up front, the Dolphins quietly are implementing a lot of 3-4 alignments. Even when they are in a 4-3 front, they tend to line up the big Keith Traylor at nose tackle. Speaking of Traylor, he is a big key to this defense. When he is right, he is an unmovable object and can neutralize the inside run. However, he is aging, gets nicked a lot, wears down and recently was arrested with a DUI charge. There is virtually no depth behind him and if Traylor struggles, this interior run defense could suffer."

Interesting that Gary should point out that, yet again, the Dolphins struggle with depth at a key position, this time defensive tackle. This is generally not the hallmark of a division winner, friend.

"Left defensive end Kevin Carter can play on the edge in both fronts and can move easily inside to defensive tackle in pass-rush situations. This is a perfect example of a defensive front with a lot of interchangeable parts."

Just no depth. This means to me a bunch of mediocre players who should be making the league minimum can play a lot because no one stands out. Or they're amazing interchangeable LEGOs that combine to make a cool looking pirate ship. Either way.

"Although Capers has the title of special assistant to the head coach, his real job is to make this Miami defense even more productive and unpredictable. He is a defensive guru with great experience in the 3-4 defense and will add some unusual blitzes and new looks out of the varied fronts to confuse opposing offenses."

So is Capers a coordinator or special assistant? Is he castrated or a guru? If the answer is "guru", can you explain how that guru helped the Houston Texans look absolutely abysmal on defense this past season, all the while looking like a monster ate his only child? His unusual blitzes and new looks sure rattled Hasselbeck... all the way to the bank!

"So how good will the 2006 Dolphins be? In my opinion, they will win the AFC East if Culpepper is healthy."

Ummm... why would you say that Gary? Nice instant caveat, though.

"They do have the challenge of adjusting to two new coaches (Mularkey and Capers), they must survive depth issues at running back and linebacker, and a totally revamped secondary must jell quickly. However, when you look at this division, the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets have new coaches and a lot of personnel questions, while the Patriots did little in the offseason to improve."

So... they have challenge one of learning (or not learning, if he's to be believed before in his "suck up to Saban" paragraph) a new system, challenge two of surviving depth issues EVERYWHERE (he didn't even talk about linebackers the entire friggin' article), replace EVERY member of their secondary, and beat the Patriots. Oh, but at least the Bills and Jets are pushovers.

"Miami has a favorable schedule, with no tiring West Coast trips and has only one cold weather game (at Buffalo on Dec. 17). The Dolphins' other cold weather trips, to New England, N.Y. Jets and Chicago, all come before the bad weather hits the East."

Again, this is what's called analysis? Discussing the weather patterns of road trips? Yes, because Miami might not have a snow game, they definitely will win the division. Your logic grabs me like a steel trap and won't let go, then steals my wallet.

"With Saban in charge, there are no gray areas in this organization. Players know what is expected of them and they either live up to those expectations or they are gone. Saban preaches conditioning in the sweltering summer Miami heat and the Dolphins test for body fat, muscle mass, and they even conduct hydration tests with all of their players. As a result, this team will be in great physical shape in September and October and should get off to a quick start."

Look out for the Dolphins! They're hydrated! Woohoo! I'm sure that gives them the edge on opening day... in Pittsburgh... maybe not.

"The AFC East race likely will come down to the Pats and Dolphins and I predict both finish with 10-6 records. Miami will win the division because of tie-breakers, while New England will make the playoffs as a wild card. A lot of people think the Dolphins are still a year away from being a legitimate playoff contender. I think they are ready now. This will become a model organization that a lot of teams will try to copy."

Here's where Gary and I agree, Miami can be a legitimate playoff contender. There is a heap of a lot of difference between legitimate playoff contender and AFC East champion. While Colin and I criticize and will continue to criticize the Pats offseason (much to the chagrin of one reader Tash), there is absolutely no way a team with Tom Brady, Corey Dillon, Deion Branch, Richard Seymour, etc is less talented than the Dolphins.

And Gary, when making "bold" predictions, stating that the Dolphins will win the division because of tie-breakers seems really weak... like you couldn't quite find enough rampant optimism to finish this article. Probably a good move.

posted by Gavin @ 6:30 PM  1 comments

 


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