Monday, July 31, 2006

Month in Review: July '06

It's the end of the first month of Da Sports Authority. Of course, our site's been active for less than a week, but hey, I can't fight the calendar. If you want a beefier report, tune in at the end of August. Meanwhile, in a very short time--founded July 26, 2006, for the record--we've made considerable progress with the site. We've got a half dozen contributors lined up thus far, all friends of mine at the University of Maryland with the exception of Ning, an old high school buddy. I think everyone besides me was new to blogging before this (I have a political commentary/current affairs blog over at Citizens Band) but it has proved easy to pick up.

Depending on the amount and kinds of posts we get on this site in the coming weeks, I may make further changes to the roster to provide better coverage. I like that we've got a healthy diversity of views and areas of expertise going on.

Below is a summary of what our writers covered this month:

JAY:
cover art from SI; Vick's shortcomings; defending A-Rod; bad news for Landis; buying a Wizards jersey; complains about fantasy football; parity in the NFL; don't trade Soriano; top paid athletes; Abreu trade; Redskins training camp schedule; Legg Mason preview

MOOSE:

sticking up for Lance; saluting Troy Aikman; two great tennis rivalries; effect of NFL free agency; the Mora meltdown

ANDREW:

proposed Oswalt-Tejada trade

KEVIN:

nothing...zero, zilch, the Big Squadoosh...ok, he's been out of town, so he gets a free pass for July

HAFIZ:

deadline situation for the O's

NING:

ideal Team USA roster; an inexpensive NBA starting roster; inexpensive NBA reserves

It's none other than Big Jay, your site founder and editor, taking home the first month's award for prolific output. Dinner on me for next month's top dog if you beat me in quality and quantity.

Anyway, I think we're off to a very good start. If you haven't already, check out the site meter located at the bottom of the right sidebar to see the number of visits this site is getting, where from, and other details like that.

That's pretty much all my observations so far. I'm looking forward to another month on Da Sports Authority.

The Best Team (Cheap) Money Can Buy, Part II

Continuing my earlier post on The Best Team (Cheap) Money Can Buy:

The Bench

Sixth Man: I can think of no better sixth man than Andre Iguodala ($2,201,640). His ability to finish is unquestioned, but he brings even more to the table in his rebounding (6 a game last year), distributing (3 assists as the third passing option behind Webber and Iverson), and defense (1.7 steals per game). He also adds a much-needed dimension of three-point shooting to the team, averaging 34.3% from beyond the arc over the course of his short career.

Instant Offense: Can there be any question? The essence of clutch, Ben Gordon is undoubtedly the league's best at putting up points in a flash (except, perhaps, Flash, but he is out of my price range), and seems to do better in a bench-role until the fourth quarter anyway. At $3,862,080 he is more expensive than three of the starters on this team, but having him on this team means an extra 5-6 wins a year, and that's enough for me.

The Distributor who at Times may be Even Better than the One on the Floor: In New Orleans, Paul had Speedy Claxton to spell him, and at times Claxton seemed to be more effective than Paul, especially against teams with superior transition defense. I, however, will take a different tack; to beat transition defense, all you need to do is run past them even faster. As Steve Nash is too expensive for this team, I picked up his talented and lightning-fast backup, Leandro Barbosa, for a mere $1,679,733. Barbosa also adds the dimension of possibly playing alongside Paul and Diaw, putting three distributors on the floor and running teams even more ragged.

Just a Bargain: The top 8 players have enough star power, but I noticed that we need more complementary scoring. That was when my eyes fell upon Nenad Krstic at only $1,080,480 and with two years left on his deal. This guy can play; during the playoffs this past year, there were games where he outplayed at least two, if not all three, of New Jersey's Big Three. Like Diaw, he has the range to draw his defender away from the basket, setting up Howard in the low post in the half-court set.

The Freak: Every team needs one; a ridiculously athletic finisher to swing the momentum when the game looks like it's slipping away; a backup player with a thirst to be on Sportscenter with insane dunks and blocks. That player is the Hawk's Josh Smith, at $1,460,640. Smith finishes like few others in this league, and erases enough mistakes to make a difference. I remember watching this guy and speculating how spectacular he would have been in college, where he could sprint and not have to pace himself. Now, as a bench-energy guy on this team, I will know.

The Enforcer(s): Ryan Gomes ($664,209) and David Harrison ($960,840) are my back-up low post presence. For two years now, Harrison has been tearing up the competition in summer league competition, and Gomes was solid in limited time with the C's last year. As these two players together cost lesss than eight of the twelve players on this team alone, I figured I could take a chance while bringing in two big bodies to help keep Dwight Howard out of foul trouble.

There you are. After scrounging and rummaging through the cheap "dregs"' of the NBA, I've come up with this team, which weighs in at almost a million less per-year than the Bobcats' current salary. This team would definitely go to the playoffs, and perhaps even further. Why I am not an NBA GM, I will never know.

Legg Mason underway

The annual Legg Mason Tennis Classic is underway in Washington, D.C. This year's tournament features notable players such as Andy Roddick, James Blake, Lleyton Hewitt, Tim Henman, and Marat Safin. Of course, the biggest name of all though will be 5-time Legg Mason winner Andre Agassi, who is retiring this year. As I have tickets to Saturday's evening semifinal match, I'm holding onto a faint hope that I (admittedly only a casual tennis fan) will get a chance to see him play in person.

If you're interested in seeing a match, they're being played all of this week and the relatively affordable tickets are still available through Ticketmaster.

* * *
(8/1) Update: Unfortunately, Andy Roddick has pulled out of the tournament due to the injury he suffered in his match last week in Los Angeles.

O's Pass on Oswalt?!

<-- What could have been.

For those of you who have read the Baltimore Sun sports section or just heard the rumors, the Astros and O's had the makings of a blockbuster deal, shipping Tejada out to Houston in return for Roy Oswalt, Adam Everett, and Morgan Ensberg. Of course the deal fell through due to the old Orioles stand-by excuse that Oswalt's contract would be up soon (2007) and that he would cost about $2 million American more than Tejada, who is under Angelos' death grip until '09.

Seriously though, I would love to have seen this trade happen. Firstly, this is three for one deal. Let me rephrase that. It's a three Major League Starters for one deal. Not prospects coming in with the hopes that they might be good, not "live arms" down on the farm, not some kid belting 19 HRs with a .348 BA down in double-A. These are guys who have played at the highest level, and except for Ensberg, who is on the DL, can make an immediate impact.

Not to mention the fact that it's Roy F. Oswalt. Sure, Tejada's a great guy. He's leading the team in pretty much every offensive category and is a clubhouse leader as well. I can't deny that him being gone will leave a hole in the lineup. But Oswalt would be a definite boost to the O's starting five. Por ejemplo, Bruce Chen started on Sunday. Take a minute to have that sink in. Bruce Chen. And with Benson nursing a hurt elbow and Russ Ortiz being, well, Russ Ortiz, the rotation is in shambles. The Orioles could sorely use a pitcher. Erik Bedard is only one man, and he sure as hell can't save the team by himself.

Just imagine the Oriole's starting rotation next year. Bedard, Oswalt, Benson, Penn/Lowen/Cabrera, R. Lopez. The possibilities there are pretty filthy, enough so that you can forget about the RBI machine that is Miguel Tejada.

But of course, that's just another one of my pipe dreams, (Oh how I wish Cabrera could locate and throw a change-up) and I'll just have to grind through another glorious year of Oriole's baseball.

The Best Team that (Cheap) Money Can Buy

I am convinced that I can build a competitive NBA team based on the lowest team salary in the league right now. (Charlotte Bobcats, $30,110,218) This will not be a team of just the best-avaliable players, but rather will be a team that has players that complement each other well. So, without further ado,

The Starters

PG: Chris Paul ($3,380,160)- This was a no-brainer. Paul, the near-concensus starting point guard for Team USA, is just going into the second year of his NBA career, and can only get better. A model citizen both on and off the court, he is the lightning fast distributor that I choose to run my Phoenix-style offense. Although not yet a 3-point threat, (29% in 2005-2006) he has the youth and the discipline to develop into one should his team need him to do so in a half-court set.

SG: Gerald Wallace ($5,525,000)- Ask the Bobcats. This man will give you everything he has, every single day, and will fill up the stat sheets like none other when he is healthy. Averaging over both 2 blocks and two steals a game last year while pumping in 15 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, this player will bring a toughness to this team that may become its defining attribute.

SF: Josh Howard ($1,667,603)- Just as Wallace emblemizes toughness, Howard defines versatility. Capable of guarding four different positions on the floor without noticeably affecting his unorthodox, yet effective, offensive game, Howard is a scrapper with a never-say-die attitude on both offense and defense. Having played with Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry, he knows how to play off the ball, and does so as well as any other player in the NBA.

PF: Dwight Howard (4,806,720)- The centerpiece of the half-court offense. Say what you will about the NBA's transition to a finesse game, but the last two NBA champs both still had top-five power players in their interior. At only 4.8 million, 20 years of age, and seemingly unlimited upside, Howard was just too good to pass up. His rebounding, along with that of Howard (Josh) and Wallace, will make this team a monster on the offensive glass while at the same time allowing Diaw and Paul, two players who are both undersized for their positions, to stay on the floor and bring their unique talents to the game. Howard is a player who will soon demand double-teams down low, creating mismatch nightmares for Diaw, who has the range to pull his defender out to 15 to 18 feet, and Paul, who has preternatural passing skills on the drive to acrobatic finishers such as Howard and Wallace. In short, Dwight Howard is the perfect fit for this team, cleaning up the glass and probably dominating the team's half-court offense.

C: Boris Diaw ($1,870,501)- Diaw, the reigning most improved player award winner in the NBA fits perfectly into this fast-paced attack; he has just played-and flourished-in the Phoenix system as a secondary distributor to Steve Nash, a role he would reprise here to Paul. As stated above, Diaw has the range, speed, and athleticism to pull his defender out of the paint, thus spacing the court and making the slashing and low post games of each of the two Howards more effective. A bit deficient on defense and rebounding for a big man, these deficiencies will be covered up somewhat when Dwight guards the more dangerous power player on defense, and Josh and Gerald lock down the most dangerous perimeter threats, thereby preventing the other team from exploiting Diaw's lack of physicality on defense.

I'll discuss the reserves in my next post.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Redskins Training Camp

It's that time of year again! NFL training camps are opening, and this year I'm hoping I might get a chance to catch the Redskins at practice down in Ashburn, VA.

Below is the published schedule for when fans are invidted to attend practices (which usually run 1.5-2 hours):

Mon., 7/31 - Open Practice, 4:00pm
Tue., 8/1 - Open Practice, 4:30pm
Wed., 8/2 - Open Practice, 4:00pm
Fri., 8/4 - Open Practice, 10:00am

Saturday, 8/5, is an open scrimmage between the Redskins and Ravens at FedEx Field at noon

Mon., 8/7 - Open Practice, 4:30pm
Tue., 8/8 - Open Practice, 4:30pm
Thu., 8/10 - Open Practice, 4:00 pm
Tue., 8/15 - Open Practice, 4:30pm

Note that the schedule is subject to change. Visit Redskins.com for latest information.
Parking and admission are free and you're allowed to bring your own food and drinks, so gas aside, it's a relatively inexpensive experience. Plus, the chance to get autographs from Joe Gibbs, Santana Moss, Clinton Portis, et al. is a big draw to me. For more details and a printable Fan Invitation, click here.

Abreu to the Yanks

In a not-very-surprising move, it appears the Yankees have acquired OF Bobby Abreu and SP Cory Lidle from the Phillies in exchange for four unspectacular minor-leaguers. The Yankees are taking on the entirety of both of their new players' contracts, which includes a hefty $15 million to Abreu for next season.

Abreu, a 32-year old outfielder who hits for high average and medium power (stats), should work out well for his new team. While Abreu's HR count has fallen off quite a bit this year, he's still on pace to have about 100 RBI. Oh, and his 20 SBs so far don't hurt.

On the other hand, I hope the Yankees aren't expecting to get too much out of Corey Lidle (stats), a mediocre journeyman starter who will shortly join fellows like Carl Pavano, Jeff Weaver, Sidney Ponson, Javier Vazquez, and (I hate to say) Randy Johnson on the list of flop pitcher acquisitions.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Big Money Ballers

Earlier this week, Sports Illustrated published its annual "Fortunate 50" list of highest paid American athletes. The list takes into account not just salary and bonuses or winnings, but money from endorsement deals as well.

Who's the big shot who sits at #1? The same guy who took the spot previously: Tiger Woods, who made a staggering $97 million last year. The top 10 on the list include Shaq (the highest paid NBA player, narrowly beating out Kobe), Carson Palmer (the NFL's top moneymaker), Derek Jeter (tops in MLB over teammate Alex Rodriguez), Dale Earnhardt Jr., and annoyingly to me, Michael Vick.

For some reason, SI places non-American athletes like Ichiro, Beckham, Yao Ming, and Maria Sharapova on a separate list. The most notable of these is Formula One driver Michael Schumacher, who racked up an impressive $80 million.

Check out the whole story here.

You Kidding Me?! Playoffs??

"Playoffs? Don't talk about playoffs!"

I'm sorry, I just saw this again and have to post it:

Soriano Must Stay

Keep him, please.

What has been a nagging but primarily emotional thought in my head for weeks--that the Nationals should hold on to star slugger Alfonso Soriano--is starting to look rationally compelling. In the absence of Nats GM Jim Bowden pulling a Herschel Walker-like trade and getting enough talent to stock a half dozen teams, shouldn't the Nationals hold onto a guy who's hitting .290 with 32 HRs and 25 SBs in just over a hundred games?

I know what the conventional wisdom is--the Nats are building for the future, and common sense dictates that Soriano be traded for prospects whom this new team can build around in the coming years. I'd resigned myself to this, and thus it was earlier this week I reacted with chagrin but not surprise that he had been shipped to the White Sox in exchange for Brandon McCarthy. That hasn't panned out yet, so the waiting game continues. Meanwhile I think we've reached a point where Soriano's play has dictated that he should be the Nationals future.

Of course, it's hard to believe we're here. Nats fans had to deal with our own mini-T.O. crisis early this spring when it appeared a sullen Soriano was not taking a shine to his new team and was refusing to be moved to the outfield. Fast forward a few months and now we've got a guy who is excelling on the field, and more importantly, is happy. Soriano has stated repeatedly in recent days that he wants to remain with the Nationals. Imagine that: a star player who doesn't mind being saddled on a last-place team starting out on a rebuilding effort. Folks, we've got one, and he wears number 12.

Seeking affirmation for my faint hopes, I found Thomas Boswell's column on Friday to be a salve to myself and anyone else looking to grab onto a glimmer of hope. Soriano wants to be here, and his teammates and manager want him here. They have a high probability of re-signing him after this season if they don't trade him now, and even if bolts via free agency, they get a couple of high draft picks. Boswell presents a case that makes keeping Soriano this year appear to be a safe bet.

Problem is, B-o-s-w-e-l-l doesn't spell Bowden, the name of the man who will be making the decision. Now I'm sure he's struggling over this one, and if some team really does make a great offer that benefits our team, go ahead and do it Jimmy. But please keep in mind that sometimes the best move is to sit tight.

* * *
(7/30) Reader JOHN BROOKS writes in: Right now, I doubt Soriano will be traded before the trade deadline.

The Yankees, Angels, and Tigers are the only three teams seriously interested in Soriano. Any trade for Soriano to LA would include Howie Kendrick and Scott Shields.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Will the O's Make a Move?

Dis-gust-ing. The Orioles take a 4-2 lead into the ninth, and give the ball to normally reliable closer Chris Ray. What happens? He loads the bases and gives up a grand slam to, of all people, seldom-used reserve Russ Gload (subbing in for Paul Konerko) and the Orioles lose the game. All blame should not go to Chris Ray, however, because this was the third day in a row that Sam Perlozzo has had him in. Thus, the Orioles' meager 2 game winning streak is up, leaving a bitter taste in my mouth. A friend of mine who's a Twins fan is equally disappointed, hoping that the O's could help the Twins pass into first in the wild card race.

In related news, the trade deadline is coming up, and the Orioles have a few players who other teams are looking at. Jeff Conine, Kevin Millar, and Javy and Rodrigo Lopez. So far, offers from the Mets and Phillies for Rodrigo have fallen apart. I certainly think the O's should do something, and the deal for Rodrigo was agonizing. I still can't believe it: Bobby Abreu or Pat Burrell for Rodrigo and a prospect? Unfortunately the Abreu deal appears to have stalled, and Burrell invoked his no-trade clause, saying he would only agree to be dealt to the Yankees or Red Sox.

Everyone though is still talking about Miguel Tejada. Will he or won't he go? The O's front office is saying no and I agree. He's still under contract until 2009, and I think he's the best shortstop in the league (sorry Derek Jeter). The Astros were supposedly offering Brad Lidge and others. But Brad Lidge doesn't fit anywhere in the O's plans at the moment, and the Astros would probably have to clean out their farm system to get Miggy.

Regardless, the Orioles should make some deals before July 31st. I wouldn't mind if all of the players mentioned above were dealt, so long as we got decent returns. It's either that, or we make a run even better than the Twins, catapulting us back into the race. But that's about as likely as Bruce Chen winning the Cy Young award.

Parity in the NFL

What Moose touched upon earlier today, though he did not mention it by name, is the controversial issue of parity in the NFL. Parity is the term used to describe a state of equal talent distribution across all teams in the league. The NFL, much more so then any of the other professional leagues, is known for aiming for and having success at achieving a relative level of parity.

There are more teams with higher winning percentages (seems like 8-8 is the de facto record for half the league now) and many more instances of teams that struggled one year improving rapidly. Examples include the Patriots and Rams from earlier this decade, the Chargers from a couple years ago, and the Bengals and Bears from the most recent season. Parity in the NFL has been hailed for generating more interest in teams by hometown fans, because their hopes of seeing success and improvement by their team are more likely to be realized. (These fans are not, presumably, from Detroit, Oakland, San Francisco, Cleveland, or other terribly-run franchises.)

Of course, not everyone's a fan of the leveling that free agency, and more importantly, the NFL's salary cap (and salary floor, ahem, MLB) has wrought. This guy, sounding like Moose under a pen name, put it real well:

"To hell with parity - I miss the juggernauts. I miss watching teams dominate the regular season, creating a playoff atmosphere dripping with anticipation and the chance for eternal grid-iron glory. Those playoff games were events, match-ups of incredible teams that could give rise to that other d-word, dynasty. Dynasties, or the threat of them, make the playoffs that much more enticing.

And I'm not that picky. I don't need a team to win the whole enchilada every year. I just want prolonged excellence. The Purple People Eaters, the K-Gun Offense - they both failed in four Super Bowls, but I'll take any of it these days. Dynasties brought you the Immaculate Reception, the West Coast Offense, and the NFL's all-time leading rusher. Love them or hate them, great teams are exciting. They bring out passion, fervor, exhilaration. They bring you the NFL we know and love."

He has a valid point but nonetheless I think the drive for parity has helped the NFL. Many people have argued that today's good teams aren't as dominant as the good teams from "back in the day", but I don't think anyone contests that most of the remaining teams today (again, excluding the deadweight Lions, Raiders, et al.) are at least mediocre to decent and not just plain awful, which is what they all used to be. Try telling fans in cities with resurgent clubs like Cincinatti, San Diego, Washington, et al. that parity is a bad thing.

By the way, all this just goes to show how remarkable the recent run of success by the New England Patriots was. Winning three Super Bowls in four years in the Parity Era was no mean feat. While it may be argued that those Patriots may not stack up to the other classic dynasties from years past (and nostalgia aside, that's not necessarily true), the fact of the matter is that in today's NFL it is virtually impossible to construct a team even like the late-80s 49ers or early-90s Cowboys. That's not necessarily a good or bad thing, it just means that we're playing a different game now. It's one that's proved to work best for the league and the majority of its fans.

Free Agency Ruined It

Going on what Jay said, the biggest problem with fantasy football is it is basically like free agency. It makes the individual the dominant character in the eyes of the fans. Maybe this is why Jay has noticed a decline in fantasy football, and the overall quality of football itself. Back in the day, it was all about fantasy steals. People who really knew football would know about players like Reggie Wayne before he became big and would pick him up late round. Nowadays, it's all about the stars. Virtually every fantasy draft is the same. LT, Peyton, McNabb, etc. It's getting to be quite lame.

Maybe we can put the blame on fantasy, but I would prefer to put it elsewhere: free agency. There is no team allegiance anymore. Watching football is now about following players, not teams. It has turned into the new NBA. I mean look at the Heat, they were just a team full of free agents (brilliantly put together by Pat Riley), and they won the championship. Now in the NFL, there is no team allegiance in a sport that thrives on the cohesiveness of the team more than any other game. Anybody who watched football during and before Elway's Super Bowl years knows that the game now is nothing compared to what it was then.

Steve Young made a comment on Sunday NFL Countdown about how the overall talent and skill level of the game has actually gone down. I guess fans, in their attempts to make the game fun after free agency, have made it a numbers game rather than a game of beauty. Focus on the players rather than the constantly changing teams. The game is no longer beautiful for being won in the trenches, the game is only beautiful if there are 40 points on the board. It is a sad day for a diehard football fan when the game shifts from the team to the players, and it is clear that the game is declining in quality.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Sick of Fantasy Football

This is going to sound sacrilegious, but take it from an "old timer": this country suffers from a serious Fantasy Football overload. How widespread is the epidemic? The USA Today reports "An estimated nine million Americans will play fantasy football this season...[and] will generate a $3 billion to $4 billion economic impact across the sports industry." (Emphasis added.) You know it's that time of the year when the sports magazine covers have headlines like Fantasy Preview and columnists are already weighing in on Fantasy Draft Day dilemmas.

Trouble is, that time of year seems to come earlier and earlier each year. Keep in mind that NFL teams are just opening training camp and that the start of the season is exactly six weeks away. Depth chart battles and preseason injuries are just getting started. Meanwhile, the fantasy season is chugging ahead. It might as well be midseason considering that Yahoo opened their popular leagues as of June 1!

I first began playing fantasy football in the mid-90s, assisting my dad with his team in his office league, before the Internet popularized the game and forever changed the way it was played. In those days, making transactions weren't about sorting a database by TDs scored and clicking "Add". There was no "StatTracker" or automatic scoring; the league's commissioner would spend Monday mornings going through the box scores in the paper and tally up each team's points. And someone, I'm sure, once drafted Ryan Leaf. God forbid. (Dinosaur rant ends here.)

Anyway, after a decade of playing, I've realized in the past few years that fantasy football has lost a bit of its luster. I don't know if that's because it's too popular now, or too easy to play, or because one guy will enter into a half dozen different leagues and rely only on luck, not skill. Perhaps worst is the way it's teaching a generation of football fans to watch the game: that it's okay for your hometown WR to drop a pass in the endzone because your opponent in one of your leagues has him on his fantasy team.

I can't pinpoint any one of those reasons as being the cause of my dissatisfaction with fantasy football. Many of the same arguments could possibly be made about fantasy baseball (although that game is vastly less popular), and I've been playing that for 6-7 years and enjoy it tremendously. Though I think there, the fact that it's a 162 games as opposed to 16, and the action happens every day rather than every 7, forces players to be smarter and to be more involved, and less dependent on luck.

Guys, feel free to weigh in.

Great Tennis Rivalries, Old and New

As a child, I watched one of the greatest rivalries in tennis develop, sustain itself, and come to an end. Of course, I am talking about the rivalry between tennis greats Pete Sampras and Andre Agassi. A few years ago, I laid witness to one of the greatest walkouts in sports - the victory of Pete Sampras at the U.S. Open. Frankly, I almost cried.

Today, I am watching the next great rivalry in tennis develop - Roger Federer versus Rafael Nadal. I love watching the two play. Its fierce competition, beautiful tennis, and unbelievable emotion.

We are on the verge of another U.S. Open. I anxiously wait to see more of the Federer-Nadal rivalry. To see Federer's impeccable play - his perfect forehand, his serve-and-volley style (one of the last remaining in the game). to see Nadal's relentless heart - how no play is over until he says it is, his will dictating play. It is Sampras-Agassi all over again - the same style of play, the same amazing points.

But I am torn, for after this coming tournament, I will see the end of the remaining half of my childhood rivalry - Andre Agassi. What do I hope for in this tournament? Can Agassi come back and win it all, to finish his career with another Grand Slam title under his belt? It is a pipedream, but I will still dream. At least if it does not come to pass, I see the sun rising on a new rivalry that will dominate tennis for the ages.

My Starting 5...

So a quick stab at the starting 5 for USA Basketball in the upcoming world championships:

PG: Chris Paul
SG: LeBron James
SF: Carmelo Anthony
PF: Elton Brand
C: Brad Miller

Paul: I'm picking Paul over Arenas and Hinrich because he is the best distributor of the three. Also, as he is the least removed of the roster from college, he will be more experienced at dealing with the zone defenses that he will see in international competitition. Also, he's the only point guard of the three that I've heard who has not compained about the FIBA ball, and that may say something.

LeBron: I'm sticking LeBron at the 2 because this will present even greater matchup problems than playing LeBron at the 3 for the other team. It will be extremely difficult to guard both Anthony and James at the same time with two smaller or slower players, as James and Anthony are generational talents in terms of their speed, size, and athleticism. Bringing Wade off of the bench will also let both players play at a sprint rate, as opposed to the self-pacing often seen in the NBA game. I'm electing with starting James because he is a better distributor and three-point shooter, as well as having a bit of a size advantage, but i ultimately see Coach K splitting the starts between the two depending on who the opponent is.

Anthony: Supposedly the most impressive player at the USAB camp, this is still the spot that I have the most trouble with. See, with James and Brand, the US already has enough scorers; they need stoppers. But seeing Anthony and James on the wings with Chris Paul bringing up the ball is like the Nets' Kidd-Jefferson-Carter in spades, and I believe in the perimeter-oriented international competition this backcourt trio, along with Wade, will be dominant, and will confound the opposition at the end of close games, as all three of them have that elusive game-winning clutchness that is so key. If Anthony struggles early with his shot, look for Shane Battier or Bruce Bowen (only one will likely make the team) to sub in.

Brand: The most dominant healthy low post scorer in the bunch, he has to start. He will be taller than most of the players defending him, and for those players taller than him, he will be more skilled. He is a must-have at this position.

Miller: The US needs a distributor at the high post to complement Brand's low post game, and both Bosh and Miller play in the high post, with Miller being the far superior distributor. Thus, Miller gets the nod here. Look for lots of double-switches at the power positions, as if Stoudemire and Howard a) makes the team and b) gets playing time, Brand will have to come out in favor of Bosh or Jamison (who probably will not make the team) to avoid packing the paint.

Reserves: Arenas, Wade, Johnson, Battier, Bosh, Hinrich, Howard

Out: Stoudemire, Bowen, Jamison

Stoudemire: I feel that Stoudamire's game does not translate well to the international game with knee in its current iffy state; if it does blow out or tweaks like Marion's did last week, then the team would be left with only two legitimate scoring big men in whoever is left amongst Howard, Bosh, and Brand. Keep your eye on Stoudemire for the Olympic team, however, as he 1) plays for D'Antoni's run and gun offense in Phoenix, and 2) is a top 5 in the world type of talent who is only going to get better.

Jamison: While I, too, am from Washington and appreciate what Antawn has done for the Wizards, I do not believe that he is defensively sound enough to make this team. While he does provide another outside threat, he is not consistent enough with his stroke to gun reliably at the international level; moreover, with the team being built around Paul, James, and Wade, he will not get enough touches to play the way that he wants in the international game. For a volume shooter like Jamison, that is a problem.

Bowen: I really feel that there are too many wing players (5 already) on this team; Bowen is just the least of them. He doesn't bring enough to the table that Battier does not already provide, and Battier is much younger. Furthermore, I replaced Bowen because I strongly believe in the need for three point guards in international play. I remember in the 2004 Olympics seeing the US players become completely confused when the opposing team switched point guards, and in doing so switched style of play. The US needs that change of pace in its arsenal, whether it be the fast-breaking Paul, the half-court, drive and kick play of Hinrich, or the additional scoring threat and sheer enthusiasm for the game of Arenas. This is why I regrettably have to leave Bowen off of the team.

Gotta Get Me a Wiz Jersey

In need of a little fan gear to wear to the Phone Booth (the delicious new nickname for the Verizon Center), I've been looking to pick up a Wizards jersey. For months I've scoured Ebay for the "Hardwood Classics" orange Gilbert Arenas jersey in a medium size, but had no luck. It appears those things sold out real fast, and no wonder: they're hot. Hopefully Mitchell & Ness (or Reebok, for the cheaper replica I'd buy) releases them again next season.

Meanwhile, I may settle for a great deal currently offered at Eastbay: customizable Wizards replica road jerseys for only $40! I'm looking to get a #0 (Arenas) with my name on the back instead of Gil's. I can see it now: "Nargundkar shoots....DAGGER! And the Phone Booth goes wild!"



Troy Aikman: Great QB

Living in the Washington D.C. area, I have heard many complaints about Troy Aikman entering the Hall of Fame, especially as a first rounder. Now, I will excuse much of this to the fact that most of my fellow colleagues did not watch football until they grew old enough to do algebra, but I on the other hand have watched since I was about four years old. Now to say Aikman is not one of the legends of the game is just ignorant. I shall answer complaint after complaint after complaint about Aikman.

Complaint #1: Aikman was a "System Quarterback." Anybody could have won in that system.

HA. HA HA HA. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. The Cowboys system was one of the most complex offensive systems in the NFL. It was a time-based offense. Aikman would throw the football right into the hands of receivers who were making a move. Let alone the tight gaps Aikman would hit Irvin or Novacek or Harper in could only have been thrown by him. You think anybody else could have done it? He was the most accurate QB in history. Indeed, Aikman was a "system quarterback", but it was a system nobody else could play.

Complaint #2: He had a great offensive line.

Yes, the Cowboys had a ridiculous offensive line. But, this is beyond the point. Any QB needs a great offensive line to win. Aikman did not depend on his line to make throws. He got rid of the ball fast and smart. Perhaps one of Aikman's greatest plays was his dump to Alvin Harper inside basically his own end zone during the 1992 NFC Championship game against the 49ers. Harper scored a touchdown on that play and the composure and brilliance of the pass that Aikman made goes down in history. Also, Aikman punished Steve Young in two NFC championship games, and it was not like Young did not have a great OL, defense, running back, or receviers either. The 92 championship game was considered one of the NFL's greatest games for good reason, and Aikman proved his ability again and again to win in big games. Let alone that game was played in Candlestick (UGH) in the rain, making it an even greater game.

Complaint #3: He had Emmitt and Irvin.

Ok this has to be the dumbest of them all. Terry Bradshaw: Franco Harris, John Stallworth, etc. Steve Young: Ricky Watters, Jerry Rice, etc. John Elway: Terrell Davis, Ed McCaffrey, etc. Yes Emmitt is a 1st ballot Hall of Famer, and Irvin damn well should have been (this is for a later post), but the freaking Steelers had like 20 freaking Hall of Famers (yes its an exaggeration) and Bradshaw is still recognized as a Hall of Fame QB. Plus, Aikman allowed Irvin's game to fluorish. It was Aikman's beautiful throws and Irvin's great hands that made the tandem. If it was not for Aikman, teams could have focused their entire game plan on Emmitt. Football is a team sport, Elway could not have won a Super Bowl w/o TD. So players succeed based on their teammates, too. This critique is just BS.

Among my generation, I am one of the few people who watched Aikman play in his prime. I recommend you do. No QB in the league played like he did. He was beautiful on the field. It is fitting that Sports Illustrated made him the cover of the Hall of Fame Commemorative Issue. It is a true salute to an NFL Legend.

Lance was the Real Deal

Don't hate on Lance. He won 7 straight and never tested positive. Plus I find it funny that all his rivals (Ivan Basso, et al.) did test positive this year. So just give it to the man who miraculously came back from testituclar cancer to win 7 straight Tour de Frances. As crazy as it sounds, it's believable with his ridiculously low resting heart rate of like 20. So, he's just a freak - leave it at that.

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JAY adds: Agreed. I have been a fan and vocal supporter of Lance Armstrong for many years now, and consider him to be an exceptional athlete. I think a lot of the slander hurled against him has to do with jealousy of his success and with the fact that he's an American who dominated a traditionally European sport. My point below was just that the Landis shocker will likely be another excuse for Le Monde or another Euro-rag to print more doping accusations about Lance.

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MOOSE adds: It's funny because Landis barely won the Tour even by doping. Lance blew away the competition year after year. It was quite absurd.

Landis in Trouble

Unbelievable. Or perhaps all too believable?

The AP is reporting that Tour de France winner Floyd Landis has been suspended for testing positive for doping. Landis was thus far the feel-good story of the year, having won the Tour last week after a remarkable late come-from-behind victory, as well as having ridden with a degenerative hip condition that will require surgery soon.

Now I'm guessing his Tour title is in jeopardy. Landis' own mother reacted by saying that "if it's [steroids], then he doesn't deserve to win." Ouch, but true.

Meanwhile, I bet my boy Lance Armstrong isn't looking forward to this news. Time for more accusations...

A-Rod Haters are Idiots

New Rule: enough with the Trade A-Rod talk.

This has to be the most ridiculous story in sports right now. For weeks, a growing number of Yankees fans and sports commentators seem determined to run Alex Rodriguez out of the Bronx. What started out as an overreaction to a minor slump has gone on for so long, it's actually affecting the man now.

Look, I'm no Yankees fan and I've certainly ragged on A-Rod many a time in the past. But the idea that the Yanks should try and get rid of the best player in baseball (or 2nd best to Albert Pujols, arguably) is incomprehensible. Lest we forget, this is the reigning AL MVP we're talking about here.

"Well, what has he done lately?" While A-Rod's numbers are off a bit this year, it's not like he's been a dud either. (He's batting .280 with 22 HRs and 73 RBI through Wednesday--projected, that's comparable to his 2004 season, and in fact, his OPS of .888 is identical.) And as PTI sub Dan LeBatard continues to point out, the guy won Player of the Month earlier this season!

What I don't understand is why none of the secure, established Bombers like Derek Jeter or Joe Torre haven't come out forcefully to the media in defense of their boy. If one of them said the word, you bet those boos at Yankee Stadium would subside. Cut A-Rod some slack and let him get back in his groove. The guy turns 31 today--he clearly has a number of good years ahead of him. Trading Rodriguez would be a huge mistake.

Blog Housekeeping Note

Currently, this site design only looks right in Mozilla Firefox. For unknown reasons, the alignment is all out of wack when viewed in Internet Explorer. I'll try and fix this by the weekend.

Michael Vick is lame

Michael Vick is lame. Before LeBron James in the NBA, this was the guy we were all supposed to be witnesses to. Hasn't exactly worked out that way. Vick may be a great athlete but he is a terrible quarterback.

I wish people would quit talking about how he can revolutionize the position of QB. Even revolutionary QB's have to be able to make good, accurate throws. They have to be able to read a defense. They have to be able to stand in the pocket and make a pass. "Superman" Vick, with his Jon Kitna-esque career QB Rating of 75.8 (Kitna's is 75.3) is mediocre at all of these things. Him and his mediocre team, which, by the way, has never posted consecutive winning seasons in its entire history.

I have nothing against mobile quarterbacks, by the way. I just don't like bad ones. Guys like Donovan McNabb, Steve McNair, Steve Young, and John Elway are/were all quarterbacks first, runners second. With Vick, it's the opposite. I think he can still be a good QB; he certainly has shown improvement in his five seasons. For him to step up to the level of Peyton Manning, Carson Palmer, and Ben Roethlisberger though, Vick and his coaches are going to have to figure out how to make this guy a smart passer without stifling his remarkable running threat.

Easier said than done.

All things considered, trading the #1 pick (rights to Vick) and winding up with LaDainian Tomlinson was the best thing to happen to my Chargers in years.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

SI Covers

Earlier today, Moose proudly showed off the new Sports Illustrated cover for the Hall of Fame induction featuring his beloved Troy Aikman. The website SI Covers Collection has prints of a ton of SI covers dating back to 1954 available for purchase. You can browse by year or by team, though I've found that the latter may not include all the available covers. (So if you know there's one that's missing, search by year, you'll find it that way.)

Here are a few I'm thinking of buying, blowing up, and framing on my dorm wall:

One Small Step For [a] Man...

Test post for site launch.