Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Will Gil Return? Should He?

Last week, Tim Duncan signed a contract extension with the Spurs that will keep him through team at least until 2011, likely ensuring that he finishes his career in the same place he has started and where he has won four NBA championships. What's notable about the deal is that San Antonio offered Duncan a maximum-level deal for two years, $51 million, but he instead agreed to take $40 million so that the team could have more long-term salary cap flexibility.

Say what you want about the guy, but it's nice to see him
A) likely play his whole career with one team
B) leave some money on the table to help his team stay competitive.

Closer to home, we face a suspenseful decision involving our star Gilbert Arenas, who has declared his intention to opt out of his current contract at the end of the season and seek a new max deal. He says he wants to return to the Wizards, but will we be able to outbid the Lakers and others to keep him? How much room will that leave the team to improve itself? And, I hate to raise a sacrilegious question, but should Gilbert Arenas even be a Wizard next year?

Gil likes playing here, has become a superstar here, and management wants him back here. What he hasn't demonstrated here, though, is that he is more than just a one-dimensional prolific scoring talent combined with a remarkable aptitude for self-promotion. Don't get me wrong, I love Gilbert Arenas. He's made the Wizards a relevant pro basketball team in the aftermath of the Michael Jordan debacle, and he's probably the most likable superstar in his sports. I even have an autographed Arenas jersey, which he signed "To Jay" for me, hanging in a frame on my bedroom wall.

But my highest loyalty is to team, not player. And I'm unconvinced that the current formulation of the team is what will bring a championship to D.C. The same deficiencies plague the Wizards year after year, and merely re-signing Arenas isn't going to change that. Which is why I mentioned Tim Duncan. I don't begrudge Arenas or any other athlete trying to make as much money as possible (hey, it's a business), but I think this offseason Gil has a unique opportunity to push his team in the right direction.

He should make a serious threat to walk if the team doesn't make at least one or two of the following significant moves this offseason: acquiring a star big man (just tossing out names, but Jermaine O'Neal or Elton Brand sound nice), a quality three-point shooter, a serious defender or two, and even, depending on how this season pans out, a new coach (though I have long been an Eddie Jordan fan, I'm worried he might have reached his peak).

If the Wizards can prove that they are serious about winning, then it would be great if Arenas could return (preferably leaving some money on the table). Otherwise, it might not even be worth it to give him a max deal if it's just going to yield the same fringe-playoff-team results.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Torre Dons Dodger Blue...A-Rod Next?

Make no mistake, Joe Torre was a great manager for the Yankees. He should be good for the Dodgers, too, but he walks into a much more competitive division than his previous situation. Back in pinstripes, Torre just had to outduel the Red Sox, while the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Devil Rays fought to salvage their dignity.

In Los Angeles, Torre inherits a team that doesn't have the Yanks' super-talent, and the Dodgers are roughly evenly matched with the Padres, division-winning Diamondbacks, and defending N.L. champion Rockies. In fact, those other three teams were in the top four for winning percentages in the N.L. last year. Luckily for L.A., the Giants still suck.

Now that the Dodgers have made their first big splash by landing Joe Torre, the question is whether they will choose to make another splash by landing Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod opted out of the remainder of his contract with the Yankees, and is looking for a new deal that will again make him the richest man in baseball. Most speculation has him landing with the Dodgers, Angels, Giants, or Red Sox (haha). Baseball Prospectus ranks every team in the league's chances from worst (Devil Rays, Royals) to best (L.A.) here.

The Angels seem to be the chic pick, and undoubtedly having A-Rod there would be good for their team and their market. On the other hand, I hope they at least think twice before going after him. Yes, A-Rod is the best hitter in the game, but the boys in Anaheim already have a future Hall of Famer in Vladimir Guerrero, whom they want to keep forever. Their best chance to win with him then might not be to sink $350 million into A-Rod, but rather make several more incremental upgrades across the board and at a lower price.

The Dodgers, on the other hand, could get their identifiable superstar in A-Rod, pay him the big money, and make him the face of their franchise. But is there significant bad blood between A-Rod and Joe Torre?

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Tonight, We Were All Colts Fans

I don't have any particular affinity for Indianapolis, but man, oh man, I wanted to see New England lose tonight. The matchup between the undefeated Colts and Patriots was the most highly anticipated regular season game in years, and this "Hype Bowl" lived up to the billing. That was an old-school clash between two titans playing hard-nosed, slugfest football at its best.

I thought the play of the game in what would be a glorious Colts victory was Gary Brackett's ridiculously controlled interception of Tom Brady early in the 4th quarter, which quickly led to a Peyton Manning TD and a 10-point Colts lead.

It wouldn't last. The $%!$ing Patriots turned things around pretty quickly. Brady was ruthless down the stretch, not afraid to air it out. He threw two TDs in less than five minutes to put the Pats' back on top. Then, when it came turn for the defense to hold the Colts, they were as good as gold: the Colts' would-be comeback drive ended with Manning being stripped of the football.

Patriots 24, Colts 20. Gift wrap the rest of this season and let them have it.

* * *

Now let's pay homage to some stud performance from elsewhere around the league:

- Minnesota's ADRIAN PETERSON had the most epic game of his fledgling career. The rookie set the NFL single-game rushing record with 296 yards against the Chargers today, including TD runs of 64, 46, and 1 yards. Since I have both Peterson and Tom Brady on my fantasy team this year, is it any wonder I'm in first place with a soon-to-be 8-1 record? Peterson video highlights.

- In that same game, San Diego CB ANTONIO CROMARTIE set the record for the longest play in NFL history when he returned a missed FG by Ryan Longwell 109 yards for a TD. Just last week against the Texans, Cromartie returned both a fumble and an interception for touchdowns. This dude, a first-round pick in 2006, is exciting.


- The DETROIT LIONS deserve some dap. Am I dreaming, or are they actually 6-2? Today they absolutely mauled the Denver Broncos, jumping out to a 44-0 lead before surrendering a garbage-time TD. (Eerily reminiscent of last week's 'Skins-Pats, no?) I still don't believe that either the Lions or the 7-1 Packers are as good as their records indicate, but they stand in the top tier of the NFC right now. Don't miss 340-lb. DT Shaun Roger's hilarious 66-yard TD return:


- While a 4-4 record might not seem that impressive, you gotta be impressed by the NEW ORLEANS SAINTS' play of late. After starting the season 0-4 and getting people ready to call them the 'Aints again, they have now rifled off four consecutive victories. Look out, Brees and Colston are heating up, and this could be the team to watch out for in the second half of the season.

Redskins-Jets Live

12:40pm - I will try and record my observations of the Redskins-Jets game live...unless we start losing badly, in which case I usually am too occupied throwing things at my TV. (People wonder why our screen is cracked...)

12:54 - The FOX pregame show had a video showing Michael Strahan's recent sightseeing trip around London, during which he gave his best attempt at something that vaguely resembled a British accent. I loved when he stoped random passers-by near Big Ben to ask "Excuse me governor, can you direct me to the nearest loo?" Of course, when Strahan came to the Underground and saw the famous "Mind the Gap" sign, I wonder if he thought they were talking about his teeth?

1:03 - Jesus. It doesn't matter that the Jets are giving QB Kellen Clemens his 2nd-ever start and that WR Laveranues Coles is out with injury. The 'Skins will find way to give up points...Leon Washington just took the opening kickoff all the way. Jets 7, Redskins 0.

1:13 - Shaun Suisham just nailed a 46-yard field goal. A few plays earlier, Jason Campbell did a great job avoiding two Jets rushers, scrambled, and appeared to hit Santana Moss on the left sideline. Unfortunately, Moss didn't get his second foot down in bounds, and the drive sputtered out. I'm not too disappointed, because this is the first time all season that we scored on our opening drive. Jets 7, Redskins 3.

1:22 - Wow. Simply wow. Game Break lets us know that LaDainian Tomlinson just scored the 107th rushing touchdown of his career. He just passed Jim freaking Brown for 4th on the all-time list. G.O.A.T.?

1:23 - LaRon Landry just came in on a safety blitz and absolutely decked Clemens. Unfortunately, Clemens had already gotten rid of the ball, and Landry put his helmet in the other guy's face. Cue the yellow flag.

1:28 - The defense finally stepped up, sacking Clemens on 3rd-and-goal to force the field goal. Unfortunately for us, Clemens looked surprisingly good (6-for-8 so far) on the Jets' 15-plsu ftibr. I'm disturbed that he's been comfortable in the pocket and had a lot of time to make his throws. We gotta put more heat on him.

1:44 - Just saw an NFL commercial for Pro Bowl voting. I know that's well under way but, uh, we're only halfway through the season. Seems a bit early to decide who's deserving.

1:45. - EGREGIOUS! 3rd-and-7, Clemens is pressured and takes off running downfield for 18 yards, sliding to a stop. London Fletcher comes in and whacks him. Another idiotic, avoidable yellow flag and 15 more yards gifted to Gang Green.

1:52 - Short TD pass from Clemens to his fullback. Yet another long drive where the Redskins defense just couldn't get off the field. 3rd-and-13, Clemens is chased, buys time, and finds Jerrico Cotchery for 30 yards to put 'em in the red zone. Did we forget that, until New England hit us last week, we were a league-leading defense? Jets 17, Redskins 3.

2:02 - Another Suisham field goal, this time from 40 yards out. Chris Cooley had a nice 21-yard catch-and-run on the drive, but this game is starting to feel like it's slipping away from us. We need a turnover or quick defensive stop to get some Mo back. Jets 17, Redskins 6.

2:05 - Now THERE is what gets us our Mo back! Onside kick by Suisham--didn't go ten yards, but a Jets player touched it, couldn't control it, and Rock Cartwright pounces on it. Let's make something happen!

2:18 - God damnit. 'Skins get to the Jets 4 but can't get any further, and Suisham comes in to kick yet another FG. On this drive, Campbell finally got his first completion to a WR, swinging it to Moss at the line of scrimmage and letting #89 pick up 12 yards. I'd still like to see us get away from this dink-and-dunk and stretch the field. Jets 17, Redskins 9.

2:22 - While Campbell can only throw to Cooley and Sellers (6 of his 7 completions), Clemens is 11-for-15 (98 yards, TD) with completions to 7 different guys. J.C., take note: Moss, Randle El, McCardell, etc.--those guys can catch, get the ball to them!

2:46 - Shaun Suisham's gonna get a sore foot; he just knocked in a 40-yard FG, his 4th. At least Campbell finally started to open up the field on this drive, getting the receivers involved, throwing three first downs to Randle El and Moss. Two potential TD passes, long attempts to Thrash and Randle El, were knocked incomplete due to good Jets' defensive plays, but this is what we should be doing. Now we just have to hold them on D. Jets 17, Redskins 12.

2:51 - Phew, we just dodged a bullet. Clemens found RB Leon Washington streaking down the sideline, 10 yards past our nearest defender. It should have been an easy 68-yard TD, but Washington dropped it.

3:01 - And now J.C. shows you the legs! After we held the Jets to their first three-and-out, Campbell takes off on 3rd-and-14. Not content to slide at the marker, he keeps going for 29 yards, and gets the biggest Redskins run this season. On the next play, Clinton Portis crosses the 100-yard mark for the day, the first time he's done that this season. Now we're rolling!

3:02 - Uh, scratch that. Campbell hit, Jets LB Eric Barton intercepts. @#$%.

3:18 - Potentially game-deciding play with the Jets in FG-range. 'Skins just forced a fumble on a Jerrico Cotchery catch, with Landry recovering. Jets challenge...play stands! 'Skins ball on our 36, 13:55 left in the game.

3:27 - TOUCHDOWN, Portis! Redskins football has officially taken over. A steady diet of Portis and Ladell Betts, highlighted by a 32-yard Portis run, and punctuated by a 1-yard Portis dive over the top. Campbell to Randle El for the 2-pt conversion means the 'Skins have scored 17 unanswered points and have the lead for the first time today. Redskins 20, Jets 17.

3:45 - After we punt, Jets take over on their 25 and 5:13 left to play. Let's see what we got.

3:56 - Well, we put our defense out there to win the game for us, but Clemens' scrambling and clutch passes almost won the game for the Jets instead. But they stalled at our 11, and Mike "Ted" Nugent kicks the game-tying FG with 10 seconds left. Redskins 20, Jets 20.

4:02 - We're headed to OT!

4:03 - Jets just won the toss, but I'm distracted because I quickly flipped to CBS only to see Chad Johnson strapped to a gurney and being carried off the field, surrounded by both Bengals and Bills players. I hope you're ok, Ocho Cinco!

4:06 - Bleh. Jets' first play, 39 yard strike to Cotchery. Gang Green is in Redskins territory...

4:09 - Man, this game will stop and start your heart a few times. 3rd-and-7, Clemens find Washington (I think?) on the left but the pass is a little low and he can't pull it in. Jets punt, our turn to try, from our own 10.

4:12 - Ahhhhhh...on a play action, Campbell has Moss open running down the middle of the field and bombs it for him. Too strong though, the pass lands a couple yards ahead of Moss on what would have been a sure TD.

4:14 - 17 yard run by Portis, and we're in Jets territory. Portis has been an absolute beast, today, and on this drive. He's six yards shy of 200 on the ground for the game.

4:18 - Refs give a tough spot to Clinton Portis, spotting the ball just shy of the 28 yard line. 4th and inches...looks like we'll bring out Suisham (4-for-4 today) to give us the game.

4:18 - [Insert dramatic timeout called by the defense right before the snap.]

4:19 - It's over. We win! Suisham ties a franchise record by going 5-for-5, this last one from 46 yards out. Redskins 23, Jets 20.

Time to switch the channel over to the Hype Bowl...Patriots-Colts!

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Wiz Drop to 0-3

Thank God I was out Friday night and missed seeing the Wizards get blown out by the new, badass Boston Celtics. K.G., Ray Allen, and Paul Pierce put the Eastern Conference on notice by manhandling the Wizards in a game that was never close. Not even close to close. The Wizards trailed 22 points at halftime, but perhaps they can take consolation in the fact they set an NBA record in this game. Not a good record though: the team missed all 16 of its 3-point attempts.

Tonight's game was an improvement, in that the team's play in this loss to Orlando was merely frustrating instead of outright humiliating. The Wizards were competitive for large segments of the game, though it seemed like every time they got on a mini-run, the Magic responded with a bigger counter-run. Our "Big Three" (whom I must refer to now as the "Little 3" out of deference to the Celtics trio listed above) continued their mediocre play. Caron (23 points) was decent, but Jamison and Arenas shot a combined 11-for-36. Agent Zero had just 10 points.

After the game, word leaked out that Arenas' surgically repaired knee isn't feeling too good. Maybe that's just an excuse for the Wizards' poor play (the last time they started 0-3 was 1992, en route to a 22-60 record). But it's symptomatic of the aura surrounding the team just now. Earlier today, the club announced that 2006 first-round pick Oleksiy Pecherov, who was supposed to be out just 1-2 weeks with a broken ankle, will be out six weeks instead.

The only bright spot thus far has been the play of Brendan Haywood, who has been the only guy on the floor wearing "Wizards" to show up ready to play in all three games. He has double-doubles in each of those games, the first time in his career he has done so in three consecutive games. Tonight against Orlando, he had an absolutely monster first quarter, scoring six points, grabbing seven boards, and blocking three shots. I hope his steady play keeps up--it's come just as I'd finally given up hope that the guy was ever gonna make productive use out of his seven feet of God-given height.

Anyway, next up for the Wizards is New Jersey on Thursday. A few days to lick our wounds and regroup. Gotta get that first win!

Friday, November 02, 2007

My One Concession to the Cowboys...

...is that the Diet Pepsi Max commercial with Jones/Romo/Phillips is pretty cool:

Why's Tony Romo yawning? He was probably up all night counting his money. Getting lapdances from Britney Spears and taking Sophia Bush out must be pretty tiring too.

@#$%ing lucky guy!