Sports Goggles

Archive for December 2007

2007: The Year In Retrospect; January-February

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bondsbell.jpgLet’s see, I’ve tasked myself with rehashing 2007. So, for the next week I’ll be chronicling the stories that made 2007 what it was. I’m sure my list will look, in total, quite a bit different from anyone else’s. But here’s to taking you through the year SOMM/TSF/SOMM/DWil-style…..

January, 2007

January 1: The year began in the wee hours of the 1st. Darrent Williams was killed when his limousine, which also contained Jevon Walker, was shot up. On January 1, the story was breaking news. As the day wore on the full details surrounding his death were just beginning to be reported. The story culminated in this article.

Also that day, both then Arizona Cardinals head coach, Dennis Green, was fired. Oh yeah, in a harbinger of things to come, so was Atlanta Falcons head sideline prowler, Jim Mora.

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Boston Celtics at LA Lakers: The Lakers Prove They Have a Long Way to Go to Become an Elite Team

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paulpierce.jpgThe Los Angeles Lakers starting lineup against the Boston Celtics took the floor of the Staples Center looking like five John Stocktons. It was 80s night at the Staples Center and the Los Angeles Lakers lineup comprised of Kobe Bryant, Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher, Andrew Bynum, and Trevor Ariza, along with the rest of the team, appropriately donned short-shorts.

“We’re a much better team than the one that played in Boston,” Kobe Bryant said before the game.

Problem is, so are the Celtics. Even without point guard Rajon Rondo (hamstring pull) LA could manage only five points in the first five minutes of the first quarter and faced a 13-5 deficit, partly due to some over-anxious play, partly due to Boston’s defense. However, two foul shots by Bryant, a hustle rebound and put back by Bynum, and a dunk by Ariza, and the Lakers were solidly back in the game.

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Spotes Notes, 12.30.07: New England, 16-0; Jeff Capel Has Oklahoma on the Go; Key NFL Game Picks; Neuheisel Goes Home

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tcoughlin.jpgBy halftime, the New England-New York Giants game was already the most over-hyped regular season game in NFL history. The 1972 Miami Dolphins promised the Giants they would send champagne. While the game was aired on the NFL Network, NBC, and CBS, ESPN kept its nose in someone else’s affairs by using a running crawl to keep up with the game. Eli Manning was anointed to god status – “I wanna see what they (New England) do to stop Eli,” gushed an ever-grinning Deion Sanders. “”They took the running game away from Eli and he’s beating them. I want to see how Bill Belichick adjusts to Eli,” winked a smirking Marshall Faulk. Aaron Ross was one of the best cornerbacks in the league and the Giants defensive line was impenetrable.

Meanwhile, barely mentioned was a serious knee injury to center Shaun O’Hara and an almost unreported knee in jury to middle linebacker Kawika Mitchell. With the potential loss of the middle of their team, quiet as kept, New York might have officially forsaken a Super Bowl run to supply themselves with a short-term ego boost.

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New York-New England: No Envy for Tom Coughlin

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coughlin.jpgThe one statistic that stands out in the New England Patriots run to perfection has nothing to do with New England. This is the stat that should convince New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin not to play his starters tonight: every team since the Indianapolis Colts that has played the Patriots has lost the following week.

As New England’s win streak has progressed, the pressure on their opposition has increased. Each week, each Pats opponent has placed more and more emphasis on their game against New England. And each has suffered serious repercussions the following Sunday or Monday. Miami, the Patriots most recently vanquished opponent plays Cincinnati tomorrow, so we will see if the record stands.

Further, no team assured of a berth in the playoffs playing a wild-card game next week should play their starters today or Sunday. That means the New York Giants (today), Seattle Seahawks, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers need to play their backups. The same goes for San Diego, Pittsburgh, and Jacksonville. That the Giants, perhaps in some small part, have been talked into playing frontline players, is sad. Tom Coughlin needs to realize that if his team comes out and is stymied by the New England Patriots, it can certainly negatively affect them next week in preparations for their wild-card game.

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NBA Power Rankings: 11-20

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marvinw.jpgIf you missed them, click here for 1-10. Now, teams 11-20.

11. Denver, 17-11: The Denver Anthony Iversons, or the Carmellen Anthonsons are playing like a team — that’s been together for nearly a whole season. The Carmelo Anthony-Allen Iverson experiment is moving along swimmingly. With those two plus a relatively healthy Kenyon Martin, and a steady Marcus Camby, George Karl has the uptempo offensive (106.8 ppg) team he enjoys coaching. Defensively though, the Nuggets range from middling to abominable (102.9 ppg). Only Golden State at 13.8 allows the opposition more offensive rebounds than does Denver (12.9). The Nuggs are also first – 24.4 – in assists allowed per game. It is a testament to the offensive prowess of Iverson and Anthony that Denver is above .500. The Warriors and the Nuggets are the only two teams near the .500 mark that approach this combination of offensive rebounds and assists allowed. With so little room for error, Denver will win a few in a row – and lose a few in a row. It is reflected in their schedule so far and will continue to be throughout the season.

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NBA Power Rankings: The Top 10

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monte.jpgNow that I’ve caught up with the happenings in The League, it’s time to lay down my power rankings.

1. Boston, 22-3: Could this pick be any more obvious?  At present the Cees are playing the best team defense and some of the most consistent offense in the NBA. Last season’ debacle in Beantown was a blessing in disguise because it allowed Rajon Rondo to play extended minutes. The experience readied Rondo for this season and he’s all the steadier for it. The only question for Boston is will they develop bench play that won’t relinquish leads or lose touch with opposing teams when they are behind in games. Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce have to rest sometime and they need to know all their work won’t go out the window as soon as they hit the pine.

2. San Antonio, 20-7: The injury bug has finally made its way to the Spurs. Tim Duncan (sprained right ankle), Tony Parker (sprained left ankle), and Manu Ginobili (sprained left index finger) have all missed time. Additionally, Francisco Elson is battling a sore foot and Brent Barry’s calf is aching. With enough problems to tax the best of teams, Gregg Popovich and the reserves have managed to hold the team together.  If the Spurs can pull off 20 wins without their big three playing together, just think of what will happen when they’re all healthy.

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Los Angeles Lakers-Phoenix Suns: A Christmas Gift (Grant Hill Gets “Gifted” by Trevor Ariza)

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You can’t go under a screen on Steve Nash. You can’t turn your back on the man with the ball in the triangle. Christmas has given us the gift of the attacking style of the Phoenix Suns versus the triangle offense of the Los Angeles Lakers.

Brian Skinner was brought to the Suns to replace Kurt Thomas’ toughness. Grant Hill was brought in to add leadership and scoring off the bench. While both premises are true, Mike D’Antoni’s secretly hoped the addition of these two veterans would also bring added defensive toughness to his team. However, after the Lakers torched the Suns for 62 in the first half of their Christmas Day meeting, we’re still left to wonder whether the few defensive possessions Phoenix does clamp down on its opposition is enough to get them over the hump and into the NBA Finals.

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Merry X-mas Scott Skiles, You’re Fired! (Happy Holidays Everyone!)

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Happy Holidays everyone!!!

Skiles gone

Merry X-mas Scott Skiles, you’re fired! When in doubt, blame the coach. Believe that the players tuned out his hard-nosed message; kinda like Jerry Sloan’s, that irascible so-and-so. Why isn’t Sloan gone, by the way? Oh right, because he’s won —– multiple Western Conference crowns.
So Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon didn’t show up this year any more the players than they were last season. It’s not their fault they didn’t seek to improve their games, it’s Skiles’. It’s Skiles’ fault that they are both shooting under 40% from the field; that Joakim Noah, who rarely attempts a shot from more than six feet from the basket is barely scraping the 40% mark from the floor (41.7%). It’s Scott Skiles fault that they play defense with less intensity this season. It is Scott Skiles’ fault that every meaningful stat associated with Ben Wallace is down from last year.

The answer is to get rid of Skiles. One of these days I swear players will be held  accountable for their actions…. one of these days when the moon turns green.

Written by dwil

December 24, 2007 at 3:30 pm

Spotes Notes, 12.23.07: Clemens Goes You Tube; Cheating the NFL; Crooked Big Ten Official?

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Roger goes grassroots

Do you believe this man? (posted by Clemens)

Cheating the game

A note to the members of the Cincinnati Bengals, Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers (game in progress), and Philadelphia Eagles: Each of you played a rivalry/spoiler game today. You played as a team, you played smart, and executed like professionals. Bully for you. The rub is, if you played each game this season with the urgency you displayed today, you would have overcome all your injuries, all the quarterback questions, all the media scrutiny. And you would be playoff-bound.

Instead, each member of each team is playing for that most ephemeral of motivators, “pride.” All this means is that you played without pride for the better part of the season. Which means, week to week you were stealing paychecks from your bosses, cheating the fans who pay dearly – financially – to attend games and watch you, and lying to your teammates and/or yourselves.

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Assessing the New York Knicks: Time for Some Changes

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zbo.jpgThe New York Knicks are difficult to watch. They play with a lackadaisical attitude fit more for a shoot around than the game itself. Many nights in many arenas teams open in free-flow mode: one pass, open jumper, two passes, open jumper. Defense is for after muscles are loosened and minds are right. For Charlotte the game officially begins with 7:58 remaining in the first quarter with a one point lead and the score 14-13.

For New York, the score is 67-44 at the half – they are down 23 points – and the game has not yet begun.

The Bobcats shoot open jumpers the entire half. Their forays to the basket are met with minimal resistance. They regularly have second and third chances to score on possessions where they miss shots. On the defensive end of the floor, as soon as they put forth the effort to get a step closer to the Knicks shooters, the team in blue collapses. New York plays the entire first quarter without running a set play. Not one.

Their head coach, Isiah Thomas, watches dispassionately. He has seen this act before. Their last effort against LeBron James and Cleveland resulted in a 108-90 dismantling of the Cavaliers. The following day the Cleveland and Akron, Ohio sports pages were filled with talk of how the defending Eastern Conference champions were just not a very good team. In New York there was talk of how getting off to a good start equals a good game and how Thomas is charged with the responsibility for that start. Isiah Thomas cannot suit up for games, step onto the floor and play the game.

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