Thursday, April 15, 2010

Faith and Fear In Amway


What Magic fans have been waiting for since last June begins Sunday night at Amway Arena, this time with a goal that doesn’t seem absurd. They enter the 2010 playoffs with the same 59-23 record as last year’s squad, the #2 seed in the East and most importantly, home court advantage should they return to the NBA Finals. It could all be so simple…….

As a fan, I have never felt so confident in my team going into a postseason in any sport and yet, I can’t help but be nervous.

This Magic squad is every bit as good as last year’s team that made the NBA Finals and may be even better. They shoot just as well, the bench is much deeper (arguably the deepest in the league) and the defense is even better with the addition of Matt Barnes, who brought a much needed nasty streak to this team. They’ve proven they can beat the NBA’s elite anywhere, anytime and last year’s Finals defeat, in addition to the continued lack of respect from the national media that’s been on display since last year, has sharpened this team’s focus and determination.

Also consider this: Atlanta has no match inside for Dwight Howard, which allows him to either dominate or have the Magic play inside-out; Reality show housewives can’t believe how beat the Celtics look right now. Most of all, there are several factors with Cleveland that are in play. Lost in all the post-series handshake palaver last year, was the fact that LeBron played at an all-galaxy level in every game and it still wasn’t enough. Now, I would never put it past LeBron to say that he can’t do it again, but he’ll need that Herculean effort once again to put his team in position to win it all.

And for those who remember last year’s ECF, it was clearly a case of LeBron and a pack of stiffs. Mo Williams did a better vanishing act during the series than LeBron did after the series; Anderson Varejao was rag dolled in the post by Dwight and repeatedly embarrassed by Rashard Lewis and Hedo Turkoglu at the perimeter. While Danny Ferry was wise to bring in Shaq and Antwan Jamison, neither of these are a certainity. Shaq Diesel is just now working his back into the Cavs’ lineup after missing almost 2 months due to a wrist injury and as he once said about Michael Jordan before his 2nd comeback, “39 ain’t 29.” Jamison is a 2nd tier player and well worth them making that trade since they got Big Z, but as a member of a Wizards team that never advanced further than a second round sweep in 2005,we have yet to see how he’ll respond to this kind of spotlight.

Then there’s the Lakers.

As my friend Anthony over at Keeping Busy points out, “The lakers have that Yankee vibe about them, where even when they look like garbage you cant count em out”, but it feels like the invincibility that they had last year isn’t there this time. A lot of that has to do with the injuries they’re currently facing with Andrew Bynum (achilles) and Lamar Odom who just doesn’t look right. Obviously, the biggest concern is Kobe, who is battling a litany of injuries. Naturally, the first reaction is that he’s been playing with injuries for years it seems, but keep in mind, he’s dealing with this new round on top of the fact that he’s played three full regular seasons, going the distance in the last two postseasons AND the Beijing games. Add on to that that he’s been playing at the highest level for 14 years now and you just wonder at what point does it start to breakdown as we’ve seen with KG over the last year.

Thinking about all that really makes me believe this is the best chance the Magic have ever had to win an NBA Championship. Then, I look at what they’re up against in Round 1.

Not that anyone is confusing the Bobcats with the ’96 Bulls, but they’re a to do some damage. Larry Brown knows how to get the most out of a team and Stephen Jackson is one of the best playoff performers in the game (more on that in a minute).

The main concern is history. The Magic are playing the role of the team who came up just short the year before, dominated the regular season and are now looking for redemption….it doesn’t always work out for the best:

The 1994 Seattle Sonics were going to use the inexperienced Denver Nuggets as the launching pad to a championship….a funny thing happened though:

The 2007 Dallas Mavericks looked unstoppable during the regular season on the way to avenging their painful defeat in the NBA Finals the year before and nobody thought much when somehow the Golden State Warriors got into the playoffs. But the Bay Area got hyphy with a legendary upset thanks to some familiar faces in this series:

Fortunately, the Magic have two of the NoCal assailants from that team, but Charlotte has maybe the most important player from that series. When Stephen Jackson is in the postseason, big things happen. In his foray in 2003, he (in the championship-clinching Game 6 against the Nets) and Steve Kerr teamed to hit nearly every big shot for the Spurs 2nd championship. In 2005, he helped a depleted Pacers squad upset the Celtics in the 1st round and pushed the defending champion Pistons to 6 games. As you just saw, the Mavericks never had an answer for him and until this year (with a nearly brand new roster) never recovered.

Combine him with a solid player in Gerald Wallace who has been there since day one in Charlotte and has been eagerly awaiting this moment and the Bobcats have a chance to do huge damage.

I genuinely believe that if the Magic get through the 1st round, that they will win it all. It's the team nicknamed after its owner that scares the hell out of me.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

2010 NCAA Tournament Running Diary Day 1

It's the best 2 days of the year, and it wouldn't be the same without thousands across the country doing a running diary of it, so allow me to join the crowd. I also haven't had a chance to post my picks and upsets, so here goes: Final 4 will be Kansas, K-State, West Virginia and Baylor. Cinderellas (no further than the Sweet 16 in any case): UTEP, Cornell and Siena.

12:21 P.M.: BYU-Florida will come down to two players, the Cougars' Jimmer Fredette and Florida's Chandler Parsons. If either one has a sub-par day, it will be an early exit for their squad.

12:29: BYU's offensive strategy so far seems to be have Fredette collapse the defense and kick out to his perimeter guys.

12:36: I'm starting to worry about Dr. Dre. First a Dr. Pepper ad and now HP. Did Suge extort him out of more royalties?

12:40: I mentioned it's important for Parsons to step in order for UF to have a chance, but they're also going to need contributions from Erving Walker and/or Kenny Boynton as we just saw there.

12:48: Florida's interior D establishing themselves as the half has gone. Notre Dame and Old Dominion are still getting their footing, sloppy game so far.

12:55: These Gators are looking more like the underachieving 01-05 squads who had no toughess and less like the bullying national title squads.

12:59: Looks like Notre Dame is more than happy to keep winning in 50-45 fashion. Which is fine against ODU, but that won't fly against Baylor.

1:03: Florida's early success from 3 is starting to fade. Meanwhile, Villanova is having trouble getting going, just 13 points with 5 and a half to go in the 1st half.

1:06: Florida withstands a 14-5 run by BYU to trail only by 2 at half.

1:19: Villanova looks like they're just waiting for Robert Morris to realize who and where they're playing, except RM doesn't look the least bit scared. The Wildcats' offense looks way too stagnant.

1:28: My brother, who is going to UF next year and claims to be a die-hard fan, even after watching the game for a half still can't name 5 players on the team. Gator fans are the best, Jerry, the best!

1:33: Given that I hadn't seen them play this year, BYU's defense has been a lot stingier than I expected, especially on the interior. That said, they need to do a better job of challenging the perimeter if they're going to a hang for the win here.

1:45 P.M.: Minor note that I'm being a stickler for. Kevin Harlan keeps mentioning that Vernon Macklin is helping a frontline that's been decimated by players leaving early. Not entirely true, while the three that won the back-to-back titles, they already wpuld've graduated in 08, and the other 2 (Marreesse Speights and Nick Calathes) were overrated at best.

1:52: Two eye-opening statistics at the 10-minute mark for Florida: no one in double-digit scoring and 0 assists/4 turnovers for Erving Walker.

1:58: Credit to BYU, every time Florida looks like they're about to make it close, they've been able to match it with a big play of their own. Dumb foul though on the layup on Walker.

1:59: For such a close game, this Notre Dame-Old Dominion game is near sleep-inducing. Somebody get Mike Tirico to call this one.

2:05: Another 3 by Florida gets it to 3. But Fredette makes up for it on the other end. If I'm Kansas State, I'm feeling pretty nervous about potentially facing this kid.

2:06: While Parsons has been kept in check, Kenny Boynton is keeping the Gators alive. He looks gassed however, checking Fredette on the defensive end and carrying the load on offense.

2:10: A Redick-like (Duke Redick I might add, J.J. is cool with me now) effort from Luke Harangody today, 0-7. That won't cut it as an 8th man in the NBA.

2:11: Bad possession by ND there, they didn't have to get the 3 there.

2:12: And they get bailed on a missed 1 and 1 by ODU.

2:15 P.M.: Horrendous shot selection by BYU and the Gators are looking for a killshot.

2:16: What a game of can you top this going in OKC!

2:19: I'm really look forward to the sudden emergence of Gator fans who haven't watched a basketball game in 3 years talking all sorts of noise.

2:20: ODU hangs on to beat Notre Dame by 1. I picked the Irish, but I'm not entirely surprised, cosnidering that ND basically got that 6-seed by haviing a nice run in the Garden last week.

2:24: Very surprised that Chandler Parsons missed that shot after the reputation he's built this year. Meanwhile, Robert Morris isn't going away.

2:28: Physically, Florida looks better prepared to survive OT.

2:31: If Robert Morris hangs on for the upeset, it's not because Scottie Reynolds and Corey Fisher didn't start, it's because they took this team lightly. 'Nova seems to still be waiting for Robert Morris to lose this game, instead of them trying to win it.

2:38: Florida showing the tougher effort here in the OT, as evidenced by the last few loose balls.

2:39: Excellent last-shot strategy by Florida there. And to think Billy Donovan could've been coaching the Magic....whew.

2:43: Boynton fould out and it now falls on Chandler Parsons to keep the Gators alive.

2:46: Near panic as March Madness On Demand crashed for 2 minutes during the RMU-Nova game. Tied with 52 seconds.

2:47: Looks like Villanova may get a reprieve as they'll have a chance for the last shot with 25 seconds left. 20+ turnovers may be ultimately what do in the Colonials.

2:50: I've never been a fan of having the last posession and lettin g the clock run all the way down to 6 or 7 seconds before making your move, you leave yourself no room for a 2nd chance.

2:51: Shades of Courtney Lee in Game 2 of the Finals there. You know, minus the holding and the goaltending.

2:55: At least The Ivan Brothers ads won't get very tired really quick.

3:00 P.M.: Billy Donovan has yet to win an NCAA Tournament game since robbing the Orlando Magic at gunpoint. The Magic have won 52, 59 and (as of today) 48 games respectively in those 3 years, made it to the NBA Finals last year and have a chance to do it again this year. Thanks again, William!

3:03: Scottie Reynolds just picked a good time to make his 2nd field goal of the game, that may have just ended the dream for RMU.

3:08: They're still alive after 2 free throws and a layup off an inbounds steal makes it 68-67. There's something different about this 15-seed team, most other low seeds would've gone into "well, that was nice, but it's over now" mode.

3:15 P.M.: Villanova got away with some questionable clock management after that block and quite frankly,I don't know what Robert Morris was doing on that last shot. That said, 2 overtime games and a game that went down to the final shot to start the day, we're off to a much better start this year than in the past few years.

3:25: Murray State leads Vandy by 4 at half. Not as shocking as some think, because Murray State has 30 wins on the year and the Comoodores are vulnerable away from their gimmick-court.

3:37: Freshman Gilberto Clavell helps Sam Houston State to a one-point lead over my Final Four pick, Baylor at half. Fun fact: Clavell comes from Florida Air Academy, my high school's archrival in basketball. FAA also produced Walter Hodge (played on Florida's 2 championship teams), Sasha Kaun (starting center on Kansas' title team), Rihards Kuksiks (starting SG at Arizona State), Evka Banilius (guard at South Carolina), amongst others, as well as Kuamaine Osbourne a guard who currently plays there who will be going to Sam Houston State next year. Not surprisingly, my school has beaten them just once in the last 11 years.

3:54: Vanderbilt is getting bullied inside by Murray State, this is starting to look like a repeat of the Siena game in '08.

4:07: The new guy for CBS, Spero Edes, isn't too bad. He gets a goos game to start with in Vandy-Murray St. Unfortunately, he has to work with Bob Wenzel who is thoroughly bland.

4:09: I really hope that A.J. Ogilvy is rocking that 'stache for ironic reasons only.

4:30: This is the first NCAA Tournament that I've watched in HD and I can already notice differenbt things. For instance, in HD, you can notice the shirt collar tightening around Kevin Stallings' throat.

4:36: Bad call by the Murray State guard there, should've gone up straight to the basket.

4:41: Murray State has a chance for the winner with 4 seconds left. Look for a screen and slash to the basket.

4:43: A picture-perfect buzzer-beater....nice!

4:55: Sam Houston State has nothing to be ashamed of, but Baylor has too much shooting and too many athletes, which is why I have them smoking Duke to go to Indianapolis next week.

5:00 P.M.: Done for now, but I'll be back between 8 and 8:30!

8:03: Ohio, who was the #9 seed in the MAC Tournament, leading Georgetown by 13 late in the 1st half. Admittedly, Ohio is a sentimental favorite of mine because I have a good friend who is an academic advisor to the team.

8:10: You wonder how long these shots will keep falling for Ohio. Unless you're an NBA team, it's hard to keep draining 3's over a sustained period of the game.

8:17: I know taking care of a 6-seed isn't exactly a priority of the commitee, but isn't it strange that Washington, who was one of the last teams in, gets to play in San Jose?

8:38: A badass alley-oop off the glass from Cooper to DeVaughn Washington for Ohio. This might be their night to make history. Well, since the Gary Trent days anyway.

8:44: Very surprising that the Hoyas seem to be getting zero calls around the basket tonight.

8:51: I feel like Northern Iowa would be a huge probelm for any #1 seed this year except Kansas. Too bad that's what UNI could be looking at.

9:03: Call me crazy, but if Ohio holds on and they face Tennessee, the Vols are just streaky enough that the Bobcats could continue their miracle run.

9:11: The one thing in Georgetown's favor is that they haven't packed it in yet. Meanwhile, the Rebels' guards are keeping them in it.

9:16: Too bad the Magic are playing tonight. Otherwise, Stan Van would have to be quite impressed with what we're seeing from the Bobcats at the arc.

9:19: The most surprising part of this game is that considering Georgetown's advantage is their size and to say that it's non-existent tonight would be generous.

9:30: The winning shot by UNI might've been one of the balliest shots I've ever seen.

9:38: annnnnnnnnnnnnd there's Washington when they're good.

9:43: Who's been in school longer: Lazar Hayward at Marquette or Edgar Sosa at Louisville?

9:44: Normally I'd call this an abject implosion, but Marquette is used to this by now.

10:00 P.M.: Quincy Pondexter with the potential dagger....was there any doubt?

10:15: Screw it, I'm ditching SDSU-UT for the Underachiever Classic aka Wake-Texas

10:37: I took Texas in this one based on the fact that I've never seen a team play less inspired than Wake has under Dino Gaudio.

10:50: Not a bad half of basketball by SDSU, but the Vols' D has been exceptional tonight.

11:01: I'm filling in my friend Anthony over at Keeping Busy, who's a sports fan but doesn't follow the college game on all the highlights of today and it's like showing someone what the latest gadgets can do.

11:04: So much for that, Texas-Wake is just straight up dull.

11:09: Just a tip to the networks: when there's a potentially gruesome injury on the court like the one we just saw in the New Mexico game, turn the courtside mics off. I'm pretty sure I just heard that I didn't think a human could make.

11:33: What is it about Kansas being a #1 seed that makes 16 seeds step their game up?

11:39: As soon as I say that, the Jayhawks flex their muscle on both ends of the floor, especially Marcus Morris getting nice with back-to-back swats.

11:45 P.M.: Arinze Onuaku likely out for the weekend for Syracuse. The door for Florida State to do major damage just swung open.

11:49: Maybe it's me, but I feel like Wayne Chism should be said a little more carefully.

11:58: Wake leading Texas by 2 with 2 to go. WHO WANTS IT LESS?

12:00 A.M.: Somehow, I just don't see things ending well for Tennessee's Brian Williams. Just a hunch. Hey B-Dub, avoid changing your faiths at all costs.

12:02 A.M.: Great block by UT's Avery Bradley to keep their season and J'Covan Brown immediately comes back down and ties it with a 3. I foresee a deadly Demon Deacon turnover coming.

12:06 A.M.: Good interior D by Wake to hang on to the lead.

12:07 A.M.: Wretched defensive strategy by SDSU on that possession as it looked like they were willing to let the Vols run out the shot clock down (leaving no less than 9 seconds on the game clock) and they paid for it when Goins nailed the 3.

12:10 A.M.: Damian James gets away with a big-time walk and gets the foul.

12:12 A.M.: Texas and Wake going to OT......they must be pissed.

12:22 A.M.: As OT drags on in the Big Easy, Montana's hanging around against a New Mexico that I honestly still know nothing about.

12:30 A.M.: Another one to the wire on this day as Wake wins in the final seconds. They're pissed that tehy'll have to play another game.

12:35 A.M.: Montana's Anthony Johnson is 0-11 from the field and they're still only down 3? Maybe it's their night.

12:40 A.M.: Mismanaged posession by Montana. Don't know why they were forcing into traffic there and it may have just cost them their shot at the upset.

12:43 A.M.: This has been the best day of tournament basketball since the weekend (they're tied together in my book) of the Elite 8 back in 2005 that featured 3 overtime games.

12:46 A.M.: Another poor offensive decision by Montana with another chance to tie it.

12:50 A.M.: After 12 hours and 40 minutes of pure, unadulterated college basketball bliss, Day One has come to an end......just wow. Even better, I get to spend part of Day Two breaking it down with a college coach.

Be sure to check in throughout the tournament for more updates!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

INT That A Bitch

In one of the biggest I told you so moments in recent history, Brett Favre submarined the Minnesota Vikings' chances at a championship with a fatal interception in the final seconds of regulation, giving the Saints a reprieve and ultimately a 31-28 victory in overtime. Unless you were a purple and gold backer, a member of ESPN or Peter King, you knew this was coming at some point. Like an average action movie, you can almost pinpoint when they're coming. With that in mind, and hell, who doesn't enjoy kicking a man when he's down, I present to you Brett Favre's 5 Greatest Meltdowns:

5. 2004 NFC Wild Card vs. Vikings

Technically, this shouldn't count because the play (at 2:11) was called back due to the fact that he was beyond the line of scrimmage and he actually completed it to his own team. However, this play defines the media's verbal french-kissing session with the Wrangler QB for the last 5 years. Whereas Eli Manning or Jay Cutler will get crucified for, when the Silver Fox makes these plays, you'll hear the following:

"There he is, playing like a kid in the backyard!"
"He's playing with reckless abandon! What a warrior!"
"He's just having fun out there! He'd play the game for free!"
"He's having painkiller withdrawls!"

Ok, I made that last one up, but you get the idea. Thanks to Randy Moss' pantomime-shit in the end zone later in the game, this stunt largely went unchecked.

4. 2001 NFC Divisional Playoff vs. Rams

The Ol' Gunslinger ties a playoff record with 6 INT's in a 45-17 loss to The Greatest Show On Turf. You can excuse a couple of these because the Pack were in such a huge hole and he had to throw; Not to mention, even if Favre has a perfect game that day, it may not have been good enough against that Rams squad. But it's hard to leave a 6 INT playoff game off this list.

3. 2007 NFC Championship Game vs. Giants


Favre's 2007 season was supposed to be one of the best farewells in sports history. After a disastorous '05 season and an average '06, it appeared he one left in the chamber as he came back with one of his best seasons. With the help of the newly discovered Ryan Grant, the Packers went 13-3 as Favre threw for 28 TD's. His apparent blaze of glory into the sunset even caused his on-again/off-again boyfriend, Peter King, to be the only writer who did not vote for the record-setting Tom Brady as MVP that year.

On it went to the playoffs, and the Pack blew out Seattle in the Divisional round, providing us with another signature moment with his underhand TD pass to Donald Lee. He started off the bone-chilling NFC Title game with a 90-yard strike to Donald Driver. After Lawrence Tynes shanked a potential game-ending FG to end regulation, Favre was picked off by Corey Webster in his own end of the field and this time, Tynes converted as the Giants would go on to pull off the upset of upsets. Sadly, it seemed as if the final play of Favre's career would be one that cost his team their season. Stop me if you've seen this movie.

2. 2003 NFC Divisional Playoff vs. Eagles

This is was about the time where the media's love affair went to the next level. Credit where it's due, in Week 16, less than a day after Favre lost his father in a tragic car accident, went out on Monday Night Football and threw for 4 TD's and 399 yards as the Packers smoked Oakland 41-7 in one of the most inspirational performances of my lifetime. In the season's final week, they would run past Denver and with Minnesota leading 4-12 Arizona 17-6, it seemed all was lost....until:

SIDE NOTE: As awesome as Paul Allen and his partner's call was Sunday night, this still takes the crown.

The Packers won the Wild Card game the next week against Seattle 33-27 in OT on an Al Harris pick 6 moments after Matt Hasselbeck's infamous "We want the ball and we're gonna score!" prediction and you couldn't but help to start to wonder if there were higher powers at work.

Green Bay led 17-14 with just a over minute to go when Donovan McNabb converted 4th and 26 to Freddie Mitchell, leading to a David Akers FG with :07 left to force OT. On Green Bay's first possession and approaching midfield, Favre launched a fly ball (at 3:04 in the first video of the segment)that even Manny Ramirez would've fielded without issue. With no Packer receivers in the vincity, Brian Dawkins picked it off as millions around the country watched and said "What the hell is he trying to do?" It's a signature "I'm Brett Favre, I can make this throw" that became a staple during his final years in Lambeau.

1. 2009 NFC Championship Game vs. Saints

I'm not a fan of being caught up in instant history, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a more egregious brain-lock in a brain game. Many (including yours truly) had put Favre on blast for another summer of "Will I or won't I?" and that he was washed up, but we've all had to eat crow. Bad ending or not, the man still has it.

He played within the system, excelled beyond belief and most importantly, was not making the classic Favre mistakes. But much like a troubled teenager, just when you think they've finally made that turn in their life, you find that ain't shit changed.

In my opinion, this is one of the dumbest decisions in the history of sports. You have one of the best 50+yard kickers in the history of the game in your back pocket and you're gonna try to be the hero? We shouldn't be shocked that he did that but I'm just amazed that the lone mistake he made this season came at the worst possible moment.

Favre is a first ballot hall of famer and he's one of the best to ever play the position, but his final pass for the Packers, Jets and Vikings were all season-crushing picks and that is as much a part of his legacy as the ring and records are.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Otis, My Man


The big question going into the Orlando Magic's offseason following their run to the 2009 NBA Finals was what changes would general manager Otis Smith make to a roster that came within 3 wins of a championship minus a healthy Jameer Nelson? Rafer Alston, Courtney Lee and Tony Battie were sent away to bring in Vince Carter and a then little-known reserve named Ryan Anderson. Hedo Turkoglu, Tyronn Lue and Jeremy Richardson (the last two of whom had as much to do with the playoff run as I did) were gone via free agency; Brandon Bass, Matt Barnes and Jason Williams came in.

The team has played just 1 game at full strength this year due to Rashard Lewis' 10-game suspension to start the season and Jameer Nelson's injury late in that only game together against the the Bobcats. In spite of it, it's been the new additions, and not just the big name, who have helped the Magic run out to a 17-6 record. Smith has had many detractors during his tenure as GM (including yours truly), but he needs to be given credit for helping make the Magic arguably the deepest team in the East.

Anderson was thrust into the starting lineup immediately due to the Lewis suspension and has thrived in many ways. He scored in double figures in 5 of the 6 games he started and in 10 of the 19 games he's played in, giving Stan Van Gundy another threat beyond the arc and allows him to throw many different looks on the floor with his lineup, something that could loom big come playoff time . Anderson’s impact has been immediate as seen Thursday night in Salt Lake City as Rashard Lewis deferred to a red hot Anderson for the 2nd quarter.

Bass isn't an attention getter (averaging about 9 points and 3 rebounds a game) but the dirty work he does underneath against the likes of Shaq have helped make life easier for Dwight Howard. This is critical because while Lewis and Hedo did get their fair share of rebounds, they generally didn't like fighting for them, something Bass and Barnes have no problem doing.

Barnes is an older version of Courtney Lee. As seen during his stints in Golden State and Phoenix, he can slash and create his own shot. More importantly, he is an absolute pest on D. Typically, he doesn’t draw the best offensive player, that often goes to Mickael Pietrus, but when he’s nearly glue-like on his assignments. As the Magic are likely to face teams with many offensive weapons (Boston, Atlanta) in the playoffs, Barnes could be an X-Factor.

I’d be remiss not to mention the presence of White Chocolate. J-Will was expected to provide steady minutes in relief of Jameer (and did to start the season), but has been more than serviceable as the starting point after Nelson’s injury. Who would’ve thought we’d ever see the day where Jason Williams would be playing the role of the savy veteran? Yet he’s done just that, with an over 4:1 assist to turnover ratio. Having been a part of the Heat’s 2006 championship squad, Jason’s obviously at the stage of his career where it’s strictly a ring thing. Because of this, a Nelson/Williams tandem in the playoffs has a chance to work in a way that the Nelson/Alston duo didn’t because Skip To My Lou was more concerned about starting.

And then of course, there’s Vinsanity.

The debate raged over the summer as to whether Vince Carter would be an upgrade over Hedo and so far, Carter has been equal to the task. He’s been the most consistent scorer on the team to this point and has been able to create his own shot much like Turk. Most importantly he’s filled Hedo’s role as Mr. 4th Quarter, with his biggest moment coming in their first trip to Boston, where he scored 10 in the 4th, including the go-ahead jumper with 2 and a half to go.

The faces may change, but the roles have remained the same in the Magic’s Eastern Conference title defense. I may not always agree with some of his trades and his drafting has been suspect, but credit to Otis Smith, he’s kept this team in position to finish the job in June.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Welcome to Sports Fan Hell


Being a sports fan ultimately boils down to two things: the unbridled joy of winning and the pain of losing. More times than not, you lose, it comes with territory, we all get that, it's what makes winning that much better. However, in the past 3 years for me, there's losing and then there's being repeatedly kicked in the protective cup. It's not just losing, it's having rivals win too, to pour salt in the wound, which lately has become a cement mixer. I've dubbed this Sports Fan Hell, and allow me to give you a tour. Think of it as a way to understand my incessant pessimism and whining.

It unofficially began on April 3, 2006 when Florida defeated UCLA for the NCAA basketball championship. I hate seeing UF win anything, but I didn't think much of it.Cute, those spoiled kids up in Gainesville finally have a basketball title, that's nice. Little did I know the misery I was in for:

October 19th, 2006 : It officially began when the Mets lost Game 7 of the NLCS in heartbreaking fashion to the Cardinals on a 2-run homer by Yadier Molina in the 9th inning and the season ending with Carlos Beltran striking out looking with the bases loaded. This is actually the most painful loss of my lifetime. 2006 was the season of destiny for the Mets, they had the pitching and the lineup and an 83-78 team took it from them, no one saw it coming. It took me almost til Christmas to get over it.

January 8, 2007 Florida boat races Ohio State 41-14. Great, 2 titles in 9 months, just what the trust fund babies needed. Part of the UF hate comes from being a Florida State fan, part of it comes from my friends who go to UF and never shut up about how much better they are than everyone simply by going to UF. Two titles for them is like pouring another gas can on the fire.

March 2007: Jimmy Rollins declares the Phillies, perennial September swooners, the team to beat in the NL East. When did Jimmy Rollins become good enough to be talkin shit like that? Please, like they have a chance.

April 2, 2007 : b-ball title #2 for UF and title #3 in 364 days. All of a sudden, there's a lot of blue and orange car flags around.

September 14-30, 2007 : The Collpase......already did an entry on this, and I'm not in the mood to do it again.

December 2007: Tim Tebow wins the Heisman and thus, the ballwashing begins. I can say without question that I have never hated an athlete like I do Tebow. The aw shucksness, the phony showbiz christian act, the fact that he's not a great QB and can just simply run over people at 6'5 245, yet people act like he's reinvented the wheel, the Favre-eque way announcers fawn over him. I actually danced a jig when he got that concussion.

January 6, 2008: Bucs lose NFC Wild Card game to Giants. This one doesn't bug me that much since I thought the Giants would win this game anyway and ended up doing what they did a few weeks later.

September 28,2008: The Collpase Part 2 concludes and destroys Shea Stadium. Nice to see 87 wins wasn't good enough for the Marlins this year, just like 89 and 88 weren't good enough for the Mets the 2 years prior. Karma po-lice, arrest this team.

October 29,2008 : Phillies win the World Series. Maybe the baseball gods don't exist.

December 2008: Following Monte Kiffin's announcement that he will be leaving the Buccaneers after the season to go to Tennessee, the defense takes the last month of the season off and the Bucs go from 9-3 to out of the playoffs, including blowing a 10-point lead in the 4th quarter in the final game against the freaking Raiders. I'm starting to wonder if I killed somebody in a past life

January 8, 2009: UF defeats Oklahoma for another national title, and Tim Tebow gets verbally blown by Thom Brennaman on TV for 3 hours......absolute torture.

March 20, 2009: Florida State blows a 13-point lead to Wisconsin in the 2nd half and falls in the final seconds of the 1st round of the NCAA Tourmanet. Ok, I'm reaching here, but at this point I was just hoping for ANY of my teams to come through at this point.

April-September 2009: Mets season becomes wet garbage.

June 11 and 14, 2009: Derek Fisher's daggers in Game 4 and the Lakers clinch it in Orlando. As I've said on here before, it sucked that they lost, but the fun of the Eastern Conference playoffs outweighed the end. That said, screw the Lakers, and I hope Yoko Khloe and her ugly sister Kourtney help wreck the repeat.

*Side note for June 14: The Mets lose 15-0 to the Yankees, where Johan Santana gets tagged for 9 runs in 3 innings in a series that also featured Luis Castillo's game-ending dropped pop-up. If the memory-eraser thing from Men In Black was available, it would definitely be used for that 4-5 day stretch.

The next 2 weeks: Phillies-Yankees World Series: Since my rage over this is approaching a Stephen Jackson in Detroit level, I'll let my friend Anthony sum it up: "It's the Alien vs. Predator World Series, no matter who wins, we lose."

Editor's note: This may be updated again in the coming months for the undeserved Tebow Heisman and another UF title.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

NFL thoughts 10/22

So far we know who the NFL's bottom shelf is (Cleveland, St. Louis, Tampa Bay, Buffalo, KC and Tennessee) and we're pretty sure of the elite teams (Saints, Giants, Vikings and Colts)and the 2nd tier who could be elite late in the year (New England Denver, Pittsburgh, Baltimore,Atlanta and Chicago). But what else have we learned?

- We've learned that Brett Favre is setting up Vikings fans for a massive letdown in January.

- Josh McDaniels knew what he was doing and that Kyle Orton is not just a caretaker.

-Tom Brady is just fine, and if you still don't believe that, go back and check how Peyton Manning's 2nd half was last year.

-Speaking of Peyton: no disrespect to Jim Caldwell, who I'm sure does contribute, but Manning is officially the coach of the Colts.

- Drew Brees is the most complete QB in the league in terms of mobility, poise, arm strength, and leadership

- That the Wildcat is a lot more complicated than just putting fast guys under center and running a screen pass; which is to say, the Dolphins are the only team that can truly pull it off.

- That the Niners are getting there, but they're not on the big boy level. I think they'll win the NFC West, get bounced in the Wild Card, but could make some serious noise in the next few years.

- There's a reason why Brady Quinn fall to 22nd in the draft. I couldn't have said it any better myself

- The Cowboys have gone from overrated to irrelevant very quickly.

- I'd say the Bengals are legit, but I want to see how much of an effect the loss of Antwan Odom has on their defense.

- Baltimore's suddenly mediocre secondary makes them beatable. Which is a shame, because I'd love to see what that team could do with both sides of the ball at full strength.

- Jason Campbell is apparently forever the victim of circumstance. I'd love to see how he'd look in a stable situation because it's never going to get any better for him in the District.

-Maybe, just maybe, the Eagles aren't Super Bowl material and I would've said that even prior to the Oakland fiasco.

Friday, October 16, 2009

LCS Opinions

- Last night shows the fundamental difference between the Phillies and Dodgers that still exists. If there is nothing else the Phillies have done better than any other team in the last 3 seasons, it's the ability to drop the hammer when the other team is waiting for the bell to ring. You watch them and you can tell they have this sixth sense of when they have chance to a bury a team(i.e. Howard's 2-run double in Colorado and in the 5th last night, Ibanez's 3-run shot in the 8th) and they usually do. On the flip side, the Dodgers had chances with the bases loaded in the 6th, a runner at 2nd with no out in the 7th, runners at the corners in the 8th and a lead off hit in the 9th and couldn't cash in. Outside of Cliff Lee, the rotations are even, L.A. has a better bench and bullpen, but they just can't finish, and that's why The Champs are who they are.

- Add this to the list of Phillie breaks over the last 3 years: Brad Lidge correcting himself just in time for the postseason run. Of course he would, these things always happen for the Phils.

- What will the Yankees do now that Ronan Tynan can't ice the opposing pitcher for 10 minutes in the 7th inning?

- It's essential for the Angels to take Game 1 tonight in The Bronx. I'm sure they'd feel satisfied with a split, but with the level of expectations for the Yankees right now, taking the first game would take the air out of the place and the feeling that L.A. is in their heads would be back.

- Picks : Phillies in 5, Yankees in 6......somebody kill me.