NBA Free Agency Frenzy Predictions

June 30, 2010

The Free Agent Class of 2010, is possibly the greatest class of free agents ever.  LeBron, Dwyane Wade, and  Chris Bosh headline a ridiculous class of talent. Other talents include Joe Johnson, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carlos Boozer, David Lee, Dirk Nowitzki, Paul Pierce, and Rudy Gay.  Outside of Gay, all will be unrestricted free agents able to sign with whomever they please (that can, of course, afford them). With that said, here are some predictions on where they land:

LeBron James – Chicago: Chicago really is the perfect landing spot for LeBron. Its a great city with worldwide appeal, it has two great young talents in Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah, they can sign LeBron and another max player, and they could contend instantly. Outside of going to Miami with Wade and Bosh, there is no other better choice for LeBron.

Chris Bosh – Chicago: Its assumed that Bosh goes wherever James does, so my two picks need to line up. Also, the perfect fit for Bosh too. He gets to play power forward and play next to a great defensive and rebounding center in Joakim Noah.  If it isn’t obvious yet, the Bulls are going to be the title favorites for quite some time.

Dwyane Wade – Miami: I don’t anyone expects Wade to leave Miami. In fact, he’s been lobbying free agents to join him in Miami.  The Heat can re-sign Wade and two other max contracts so the Heat look to be in good shape.

Joe Johnson – Atlanta: 24 hours ago I would have said New York. However, now Atlanta is throwing the 6 year max at Johnson so it appears that the Knicks may have to work out a sign and trade to acquire Johnson. The problem is that New York really doesn’t have any desirable talent. I’m guessing Johnson takes the most money and stays.

Amar’e Stoudemire – Miami: Stoudemire hinted in a recent tweet that he would be leaving Phoenix.  I think Miami wiffs on LeBron and Bosh, but there’s no way they end up with nothing. While Stoudemire can’t play defense or rebound, he’s an offensive force and will be a nice Robin to Wade’s Batman.

Carlos Boozer – New Jersey Nets: The Nets are actually a much more talented team than most realize.  Brook Lopez will be a stud center his entire career and Devin Harris is a talented point guard who flourished under Avery Johnson before.  Derrick Favors figures to be a talented power forward, but is nowhere near ready.  Boozer will produce until then and create a formidable frontline for the Nets.

David Lee – New York: Its highly possible the Knicks miss out on every major free agent.  David Lee is a solid 20/10 player every night, but in no way a franchise player.  The Knicks would have to renounce his rights in order to sign a second max contract, but until they are ready to do that they will retain his rights.  Doing so allows them to sign him for a 6th year and more money.

Rudy Gay – Miami: I can’t see Miami missing out on the opportunity to add two major pieces.  Gay is still only 23 and a solid scoring threat.  He probably isn’t good enough to be the 2nd option on a title contending team, but certainly good enough to be the 3rd scorer on such a team.  A Wade, Gay, and Stoudemire trio would be disgustingly athletic and with some pieces added around them ( a shooter and rebounder) they’d be a top contender.  The Clippers and Timberwolves also figure to be contenders to sign Gay.

Dirk Nowitzki and Paul Pierce both opted out of their contracts just to resign for more in the long term.

Ultimately, the next few days are going to shape the NBA’s future for the next decade.  Nobody really knows what will happen, but it certainly be exciting.  As a Lakers fan, I just hope to avoid the James-Wade-Bosh triumvirate.


A Changing of the Guard at Wimbledon

June 30, 2010

This first week of Wimbledon was insane enough (see: Isner-Mahut), but the chaos has continued into the second week. While it’s been exciting to watch and follow, it’s a little melancholy, as this week could be the beginning of the end of three of the biggest stars of this era.

On Monday, Andy Roddick was stunned in the 4th round, losing to some guy named Yen-Hsun Lu 9-7 in the final set. Lu is from Taiwan and is currently ranked 82nd in the world. Roddick gained lots of goodwill after coming so close to finally winning Wimbledon, but the reality is that he has a history of losing 5 setters and underacheiving in the big moments. It’s obvious that he has been overhyped during his career, which I blame a desperate American media for more than him. For most players though, he’s had a nice career, and take out Federer and Nadal and he probably would’ve won at least 1 or 2 more majors. As it stands though, he can’t get over the hump. Given that he’ll be 28 by the US Open, it looks less and less likely that he will again.

If Roddick’s loss was a tremor, Tuesday’s women’s quarterfinals was a full blown earthquake. Five time Wimbledon champion Venus Williams lost to unknown Tsvetana Pironkova, who until this tournament had never gone past the second round in a Slam. Now, Venus is still the number 2 player in the world and a 7 time Grand Slam champion, but recent facts show a downward trend. Other than Wimbledon, Venus hasn’t made a Slam semi in three years., and she wasn’t won a non-Wimbledon Slam since 2001. Plus, she’s now 30. Age matters less with the Williams sisters because they’ve limited their play, but age always wins in the end.

Finally, today was the end of Roger Federer’s Wimbledon run, a 4 set loss to Tomas Berdych. It’s a shock given his history at Wimbledon, but the signs were there this tournament, starting with his escpae against the who-dat Alejandro Falla in the first round. People have tried to write off Federer for a few years now, but every time he kept coming back, including this year in winning the Australian Open. Since then, he’s struggled (for him) in the spring tournaments. Most figured it was understandable given all he’s accomplished professionally and personally. What’s his motivation for non-major events? Then came the French Open and Wimbledon. In the span of a month, Federer has seen his streak of consecutive Slam semifinals snapped, lost his #1 ranking to Nadal, and now will drop to #3 in the rankings, all thanks to two losses to guys the “old” Federer would have no trouble with.

Again, age is an issue. Federer will be 29 in August. The record for champions at that age is mixed. Sampras and Connors won their last major at 31, Agassi 33, and Lendl 30. On the other hand, Borg and McEnroe won their last major at 25, Edberg 26, Wilander 24. The good news is that since the 80s there have been older champions, but once again, time and age eventually win. More importantly for Federer, the invisibility is gone, and if anyone on the men’s tour has it, it’s his rival Nadal.

Obviously, no one is saying that Roddick, Williams, and Federer are going to drop off the face of the Earth. They will still contend for Slams, and at least in Federer’s case, should win a few more. However, it shows the crossroads that tennis is about to come to. These three players are three of the five major stars of this decade (the other two are Serena and Nadal). With those three presumably starting to decline, will someone come in to fill the gaps? Tennis can only hope.

June 23, 2010 Is Why We Follow Sports

June 24, 2010

There are two main reasons to follow sports. The first is to pick your rooting interest, and with your fellow fans, go through all the emotional ups and downs, hoping for a moment that makes it all worth it. The second is to see things that have never been seen before, and may never be seen again.

On June 23, 2010, we got both.

First of course was Team USA’s last minute goal to advance to the knockout round of the World Cup. Admittedly, most of the fans glued to the TV are far from lifelong. However, in just these two weeks, the emotions have run the gamut, from the early goal against England, to Robert Green’s gaffe, to giving up two early goals to Slovenia, to coming back, to the stolen goal. In yesterday’s game, there was yet more drama, with Algeria’s early shot off the crossbar to another goal taken away by officiating, and finally Team USA’s inability to finish. With all that, it’s no surprise the pouring of emotion when Donovan scored.

The second moment (if one can call it that) was the Tennis Match That Wouldn’t End. John Isner only had vague recognition, and Nicolas Mahut had none, but that started to change the instant ESPN2 went back to Wimbledon and it was 25-25.  That was a little after noon. Over four hours later, they were still going. In a technical sense, it was a case of two bombing servers who are weak in return games. In reality, it was the personification of all those clichés coaches and commentators serve up: a show of heart, will, and never, ever giving up. In a fitting sense, just like the USA Soccer team. The match had to be called for darkness at 59-59, and today it finished with Isner winning the 5th 70-68, a score unfathomable had it not been witnessed.

In the end, these two moments, on a random Wednesday afternoon in June, featuring two sports that are not usually in the American consciousness, showed the other reason why sports can be so compelling.

You never know.

Goodell’s Pursuit of (More) Money Will Ruin Football

June 19, 2010

It has long been rumored that Roger Goodell would like to move the NFL to an 18 game regular season schedule at some point.  This would likely have to be negotiated in the new collective bargaining agreement that will be drawn up sometime soon.  It seems as if the movement to an 18 game schedule really picked up steam as Goodell has now gone on the record of saying that 4 preseason games are unnecessary.  If this does lead it a 2 game preseason and 18 game regular season it would be a horrible, short sighted idea.

Football is a gruesomely physical sport.  I’m pretty sure it would only take one Ray Lewis tackle for me to call it quits, yet these guys take this kind of physical torment play after play.  The unfortunate side effect of these great athletes violently throwing their body around is injuries. A quick look at the injury report from Week 17 games last year shows Wes Welker, Chad Henne, Charles Woodson, Anquan Boldin, and Chad Ochocinco all suffered various injuries.  Football just is a physical sport and the longer you play, the more likely you are to become injuried.

While players would still only be playing 20 games like they did before, they are now playing 2 more games where starters will play from beginning to end. That’s two more games of violent hits for an entire sixty minutes.  That, ultimately, means even more injuries.  Imagine the playoffs last year without Peyton Manning or Drew Brees.  It just wouldn’t be the same.  There’s no guarantee that star players will get hurt, but the likelihood increases with every extra game and will ultimately create an inferior product come the playoffs.

If Goodell wants to chase a few extra dollars for the league by adding two regular season games he can go for it.  Certainly it will increase revenue as teams will be able to charge more for regular season packages with the extra games.  However, if Goodell cares even the slightest bit about the quality of product his league puts on the field he will quickly squash the idea of an 18 game regular season.

Albert Haynesworth: World’s Biggest Jackass

June 16, 2010

NFL holdouts are always an interesting dynamic between players and management. While the tactics can get petty and acrimonous, overall it can certainly be understood why players like Darrell Revis and Chris Johnson want new deals. They’re playing under low dollar rookie contracts which are not guaranteed, they can be cut at any moment, and their career’s can end with an injury at any time. With such a short window to get paid and the piles of coin teams make, it’s more than understandable why players would want to grab as much cash while they can.

Then there is Albert Haynesworth. While this is not a ploy for more money, he has been a no-show at all of Washington’s voluntary workouts this spring. Yesterday, he announced his intention to skip the upcoming mandatory mini-camp, and asked for a trade. Haynesworth’s beef? He doesn’t want to play in the 3-4 defense that new coach Mike Shanahan is implementing.

Two problems here. One is that Haynesworth was just paid a $21 million bonus in April. Seriously. $21 million. The Redskins have now shelled out $32 million total for Haynesworth. They certainly have not gotten $32 million of production. Last season, Haynesworth registered 37 tackles and just 4 sacks, while missing four games and spending a lot of time sucking wind on the sidelines when he did play. Despite that, according to DC Sports Bog, Haynesworth has been paid over $55,000 per snap. That’s higher than the yearly median income in the entire country. It’s hard, if not impossible, to feel for a guy who wants out after not holding up his end of the bargain.

The second problem is the nature of the beef itself. I’m not a football tactics expert, but it seems to me a guy like Haynesworth has the size to be the perfect 3-4 nose tackle. With him clogging up so much space and attention, Redskins’ linebackers should be able to find their way to the backfield. Of course, 3-4 nose tackle don’t usually accure a lot of individual stats. It’s a classic case of putting one’s own interest ahead of the team.

When Haynesworth was a free agent last year, he indicated he didn’t want to play in a 3-4. Did he get any contractual that the Redskins wouldn’t switch to the 3-4? No. Instead he got a promise from Dan Snyder. So, not only is Haynesworth’s a jackass, he’s an idiot for trusting Dan Snyder to do anything but raise ticket prices and satisfy his own ego.

The summer will now be all about whether Washington trades Haynesworth and if so, who will take him. Pity really, as they both deserve each other for their greed, stupidity, and wasteful habits.

Haynesworth’s $32 million [DC Sports Bog]

How Should the Big Ten Divide It’s Divisions?

June 16, 2010

Now that Utah has moved to the Pac 10, giving the conference 12 teams and a title game, it appears the conference realignment is done for now. It was kind of a dud.  Just a week ago it looked like the Big XII would be no more and we’d see the Big 10, Pac 10, and SEC all be superconferences of 16 teams.  Then, somehow, the Big XII was able to muster up the cash to keep Texas and the remaining ten teams (Nebraska and Colorado had already left) stayed together. Ultimately only four teams moved. Colorado and Utah moved to the Pac 10. Nebraska went to the Big 10 and Boise Stated left for the Mountain West Conference.

It appears the Pac 10 will break off into a North/South division alignment once they officially reach 12 teams.  Washington, Washington State, Oregon, Oregon State, California, and Stanford will make up the North.  Newcomers Utah and Colorado would join USC, UCLA, Arizona, and Arizona State in the South.  There is some concern that the North schools would lose a bit of recruiting presence in Southern California with this alignment.  However, if the conference continues playing 9 conference games (5 within division, 4 out of division rotating yearly), the North schools should still be able to play one game a year in South California.

Still unknown is how the Big Ten plans on dividing up its 12 teams into two divisions.  There is no easy logical way to do so.  Michigan and Ohio State would still like to play every year and have their game be meaningful.  This would also be beneficial for the conference as it is its “Super Bowl” of sorts for the year.  To make this happen, Michigan and Ohio State would likely have to be in the same division.

A East/West alignment would be difficult because it would put the three of the four most prestigious programs in the conference in the same division (Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan).  However, if the top four programs are to be split up (Nebraska being the 4th), it would mean an annual game between Penn State and Nebraska, the conference’s westernmost and easternmost schools. Ultimately, an annual Penn State-Nebraska game may have to occur because there seems to be no other way to divide the conference.  Here would be my proposal:

Division 1 – Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State, Purdue, Indiana, Illinois

Division 2 – Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Northwestern

The problem currently is that the 1st division is considerably weaker than the second one . Outside of Ohio State, none of those teams is any good.  However, Michigan should improve and Michigan State and Purdue have had their successes.  In the second division, Penn State, Nebraska, Iowa, and Wisconsin would all be regular contenders to take the division and Minnesota and Northwestern have become decent bowl-eligible teams recently.  It would be loaded.  The advantage is that it would instantly give Nebraska three natural rivals.  Penn State fans are still angry at Nebraska’s 1994 “title” (and Penn State still needs a true Big 10 rival as well.)  Nebraska used to have an annual game with Iowa and could start that once again, and Wisconsin is already hoping to begin an annual end of year rivalry game with Nebraska (apparently Brett Bielema is sick of beating Minnesota every year).  The biggest advantage of this set up is that outside of the Illinois-Northwestern rivalry, almost rivalry is kept intact.  In a conference built upon tradition, this is important.

Lakers and Celtics Go To Game 7

June 16, 2010

The Lakers dominated Game 6 winning 89-67 to set up what is sure to be an intense Game 7.  There is really no point in dwelling upon Game 6.  The Celtics aren’t going to play anywhere near as laid back as they did in Game 6.  So what can we expect going in to Game 7?

There’s no point in looking back at the games in this series to make a prediction for Game 7.  None of these Games have been alike.  Pau and Kobe carried the Lakers in Game 1. Ray Allen put on a shooting clinic in Game 2 and Rondo had a triple double.  Game 3 say Ray Allen cool down like none other, with the Lakers grinding out a win in a slooooow game.  We saw Donkey and Shrek (Big Baby and Nate Robinson) win Game 4 with a fourth quarter explosion for the Celtics. In Game 5, Boston shot 56%, nobody outside of Kobe showed up for the Lakers and it was still somehow only a 6 point win for Boston.  Game 6 saw the Celtics effectively say, “Screw it, we’ll just show up for Game 7.”  Certainly a game similar to one of those six could happen in Game 7, but we’ve yet to really see a duplicate game.

It does look like Kendrick Perkins will be out for Game 7.  Perkins is believed to have strained his PCL and ACL and will get a MRI later to check for any ligament tears.  While Bynum will probably suit up and even start, both teams will essentially be without their starting centers for Game 7.  Doc Rivers has said that either Rasheed Wallace or Big Baby will start in place of Perkins, but regardless the Celtics lose frontline depth and length with Perkins injury.  This certainly will not help the Celtics cause.

Its worth noting that in the first half of Game 6, Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, and Kevin Garnett did all shoot well.  However, they did not get any help offensively, play defense well, or rebound well and that was how the Lakers opened up a 20 point halftime lead.  Rondo should play better in Game 7 as he was almost non-existent in Game 6.  While defense and rebounding will take a hit in Perkins’s absence, it should be better than it was in Game 6.  These will certainly help the Celtics cause.

These teams are both top quality and that’s why we’ve seen each team be able to win on the other’s court and mess up each other’s normal flow of play.  Either team would certainly be a worthy champion.  Ultimately, I believe the Lakers will win.  Losing Kendrick Perkins will be a big loss for the Celtics and the Lakers’s role players tend to play considerably better at home.