Friday, April 20, 2007

Friday 04/20 A.M. Quickie:
A-Rod, Oden, NBA Playoffs, More!

"Orange and Maroon Effect" Day: My small tribute is to the right. (Other bloggers are joining in, too. See the Ladies...) I look forward to seeing the traction this gets today around the sports-blog universe. Thoughts and prayers with everyone in the Virginia Tech family.

A-Rod: MLB's Stud of Studs!
A mere few weeks ago, who would have guessed that one? Three weeks into the season, he is having a career year – just when he needed it most.

Not just to fend off the fair-weather Yankees fans, who must have whiplash from the way they've gone from hating to hearting. But, given his contract opt-out at the end of the season, $25 million a year will seem like a bargain if he keeps this up. (Don't think potential future Cubs owners aren't paying attention.)

However, consider the weekend's Yankees-Red Sox series in Boston the acid test of his hot start. The previous weeks' heroics don't mean very much if he can't beat back Boston. (Meanwhile, how blissfully amazing is it that the Yankees-Red Sox rivalry -- which overwhelmed the sport as recently as two years ago -- seems to have dimmed?)

Greg Oden turning pro: Yes, and the surprise here is...? He'll be the top pick in the NBA Draft. He'll be Rookie of the Year. He'll be a perennial All-Star. (Now: How many of those three statements do you agree with?)

Far, far more intriguing: Mike Conley and Daequan Cook will enter the draft, too – and, thus, the 2006-07 Ohio State team is truly the antithesis of the Florida team that beat them in the national title game.

Conley? I get: He played himself into the Top 15 and the first PG taken. Does it matter that he doesn't have a jumpshot? Apparently not. (I appreciate how well he played last month, but Conley is like a poor man's Mike Bibby. Consider that for a second.)

Cook? Sounds like he just doesn't want to be left out. Ironically, even as OSU's 6th Man, he could be a first-round talent (or a second-round steal). If he stayed another year in college, he'd be a Lottery pick, so some team is going to get a bargain late. (Check out his season. Or should I say TWO seasons: In non-conference play, he was a stud. In Big Ten and postseason play, he was a dud.)

NBA Playoff Picks
(In classic Quickie shorthand)
E-Semis: MIA d. DET (7); TOR d. CLE (6)
E-Finals: MIA d. TOR (5)
W-Semis: GSW d. HOU (7), SA d. PHX (7)
W-Finals: SA d. GSW (4)
NBA Finals: Heat d. SA (7) ("Re-Heat")

See yesterday's a.m. post for first-round picks.

Will the T'wolves trade Kevin Garnett in the summer before he begins his opt-out season? They say they're not planning on it. Put it this way: They SHOULD.

Time for another Shanoff-MySpace Challenge? Carmelo was one thing: I'm not sure I want to take on the TNT NBA guys. (But I do lead them by a couple hundred friends as of Friday morning.)

NFL Draft: What did I say yesterday morning? Admitting to college drug use is the new 4.35 40. The new rule of thumb is: 'Fess up and all is forgiven, particularly when the player is a first-round talent.

One toke or Sappian proportions, it doesn't matter: NFL draftniks and scouts agree – they couldn't give an ounce(!) as it relates to draft-worthiness.

Let me sum it up: The new focus on "character" apparently doesn't extend to players so talented that they would be in the draft's top half of the first round. (Well, that, or the perfectly realistic view that a little pot-smoking in college does not a Bengal make.)

MLB: Studs – Johan Santana, Jake Peavy. Dud -- King Felix to miss a few starts.

Cheerleading Scandal! Call it "Cheat-leading." Wichita State had to give up its national title after officials figured out that the Shockers used an ineligible non-student at the national championships. What kind of idiot coach knowingly lets that happen?

Jordan High School Classic: Sure, we could talk about NBA-ready talents like OJ Mayo or Eric Gordon or about unsigned studs PF Patrick Patterson and PG Jai Lewis, but I would like to point out that MJ's son Jeffrey is still unsigned. Indulge me here...

This is a no-brainer: I'm not quite sure why Northwestern didn't have a scholarship offer out to him years ago, let alone right now. This is the perfect fit. He's a local Chicago kid. He's talented enough to star at NU without being talented enough to be able to star at a more competitive school. It's the Big Ten, which – as far as I can tell – is the most high-profile conference he has been offered to play in. It's a great school (obvi). And he's Michael Jordan's son, which would get Northwestern a ton of pub, a nice bonus for the school. No big-conference basketball team could use a p.r. boost like NU. While they're at it, they can drop their adidas shoe and uniform sponsorship for Jordan Brand.

(I read the school is interested in making him a "preferred walk-on." I'm not sure what that means, but I've seen the NU players who have earned full-blown scholarships, and they ain't great. Maybe "preferred walk-on" is a euphemism for "you'll be treated like a scholarship player, but since your dad is mega-rich, you can afford to pay the tuition and not take up a valuable scholarship spot.")

I'm imploring Northwestern AD Mark Murphy and coach Bill Carmody to MAKE THIS HAPPEN. I'm just not quite sure what they're thinking in NOT doing it.

Finally, one housekeeping note: I will be taking a short vacation early next week, but (1) I have lined up some guest-bloggers to file posts, and (2) I will probably be unable to resist checking in, as news/inspiration warrants.

-- D.S.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Thursday 04/19 A.M. Quickie:
Bring On the NBA Playoffs (Please!)

UPDATE: Tomorrow is planned to be "Orange and Maroon Effect" Day. Wear the Virginia Tech colors, or put them on your blogs. I'll try to have some color changes on the blog -- what I'm really trying to find is a link to the "VT ribbon" jpg that I can put on the sidebar tomorrow. Just thought I'd pass that along to those who hadn't heard about it yet. (Update: Here's one from reader/blogger Travis Liles. And here's another.)

Distracting thoughts while contemplating what the love-child of Rosie O'Donnell and Jason Whitlock would look like...

NBA: End of Regular Season/Start of Playoff Season!

This NBA season has been totally lame. The top highlight was Henry Abbott's True Hoop blog being acquired by ESPN. (That's not to dis Henry in the slightest, but to show how thin the season's on-court highlights have been. Go True Hoop!)

When the league's uber-fan, Bill Simmons, has to resort to naming "The Fans" as his league MVP, it's the ultimate sign the sport has plummeted this year. (Snarkily, one might ask, "What fans?" Doesn't Bill like to say that there are only 10 "real" NBA fans left anyway?)

That said, with the exception of the way the NBA continues to schedule the first-round games to be dragged out as interminably as possible, the first round of the NBA Playoffs actually shape up with some truly compelling match-ups:

Mavs-Warriors (Golden State plays -- and is playing -- precisely the kind of way that can shock Dallas... and they will.) Warriors in 7. (Yes, I know this is put-down-the-pipe crazy.)

Suns-Lakers (Nash-Kobe II? Delicious.) Suns in 6.

Spurs-Nuggets (I think the Spurs will win the West, but Denver is hot enough to shock.) Spurs in 7.

Jazz-Rockets (Eh, they can't all be compelling.) Rockets in 7.

Cavs-Wiz (Rematch from last season, this time with the Wiz without Gil Arenas – or Caron Butler. Seemingly an easy route for the Cavs, but you never know. Spoken like a truly misguided Wiz fan.) Cavs in 7 5. (Commenters have showed me the error of my ways, and that was before 9 a.m.!)

Raps-Nets (Vince Carter back in Toronto? Delicious.) Raptors in 7.

Heat-Bulls (Defending champs vs. the team with the most potential to assume the title mantle in the future.) Heat in 6.

Pistons-Magic (How about "Darko's Revenge?" If he can't motivate for this, he can't for anything.) Pistons in 5.

Feel free to add your own picks/analysis in the Comments now. Complete NBA playoff picks, through the Finals, coming tomorrow.

MLB Stud: Mark Buehrle, who not only pitched a no-hitter, but faced the minimum 27 batters.

MLB Dud: Felix Hernandez, who left the game in the first inning with elbow trouble. (Cue ominous bullpen music.)

Virginia Tech Update: More from VT student Nick D. of The Dugout and AOL Fanhouse.

NCAA: Panel votes to ban text messaging to recruits. This is ludicrous: It's how teens communicate. Come up with a way to deal with it besides simply trying to forget it exists. (I guess you could call it the "Meyer Rule," for the way Urban Meyer became so effective – so publicly – with texting.)

NCAA Spring Football: Mike Conley Jr. will be an honorary coach of Ohio State's spring game. (Greg Oden couldn't do it.) Jim Tressel sure gives good pander. Conley says his extensive experience with football video games will help him call great plays. Like many of you, I actually have always wondered what would happen if teams gave the play-calling reins to someone with an expertise in football video gaming.

NFL: Finally fined Brian Urlacher for wearing a "Vitamin Water" hat at the Super Bowl. Hope whatever they're paying him was worth the $100,000 fine.

NFL Draft: The hot trend? 'Fessing up to college pot smoking at the combine. (1) The NFL p.i.'s will find out anyway; (2) you get tons of credit for being "mature"; (3) it gets the issue out on the table early and out of the way by April, when momentum really matters.

(I think this goes back to two things: Initially, the cautionary tale of Warren Sapp, who dropped based on draft-day rumors of pot-smoking. More recently, Luis Castillo admitting to steroid use up-front, yet still being a first-round selection. Agents saw the sea change.)

Colin Cowherd does it again: Last week, it was violating FCC regulations. This week it's hate speech. The funny thing is: He's not even a clever bigot. (Then again, I suppose most bigots rarely are.)

Here's the quote: "Olbermann is bright and talented and a really good broadcaster, but he's about as middle-america as a transgender film festival. He's a Northeast Intellectual Baseball Guy....he doesn't speak to the NFL fan at all!"

(1) There were plenty of ways to describe K.O. as not a fit in Middle America besides hate speech of ripping on the transgendered, who are an easy target for bigots/bullies. New ESPN ombudswoman LeAnne Schreiber could make her living on Cowherd alone.

(2) Olbermann doesn't speak to the NFL fan at all? I think the millions of fans who watched him talk about the NFL during the Golden Era of SportsCenter would disagree. And Cowherd's own bosses might resent the idea that an "intellectual" doesn't work for NFL fans; after all, they just named one of the great football intellectuals to sit in the "Monday Night Football" chair.

Video Games: LaDainian Tomlinson turned down "Madden '08" cover. Keep saying it's about the "money." Yes: If "money" means "curse." (h/t Darren Rovell)

-- D.S.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Wednesday 04/18 A.M. Quickie:
"We Are Virginia Tech"

Virginia Tech tragedy, cont'd: I don't usually embed video clips, but this one says (and does) more than I (or anyone) could write about the Virginia Tech tragedy. Hopefully, you've already seen it:

Here's the link.

Here's another must-read post from The Dugout and AOL Fanhouse's Nick D, a Virginia Tech student. (Fanhouse's Michael David Smith has a great take, too.)

MLB Studs: The Nationals, for wearing Virginia Tech hats yesterday in their 6-4 loss to the Braves. (Affirming that sometimes, a team can claim victory, even in defeat. I've never been prouder to be a Nats fan. All 4 weeks of it.)

MLB Duds: The Cardinals, whose 6-7 start is the worst by a defending W.S. champ since the '98 Marlins. (But these Cards weren't imploded in the offseason like that Florida team was, so what's their excuse?)

Matsuzaka Watch: 10 Ks in 6 IP will be forgotten after his bases-loaded walk sent home Toronto's game-winning run. (But don't blame Dice-K: That was in the 4th inning; where was Boston's vaunted lineup to score more than 1 stinking run?)

Sosa Watch: Well, of COURSE Sammy hit a home run in his return to Chicago. Too perfect.

NBA Regular-Season Finale: The Warriors basically have a play-in game tonight. They can lock up the 8-spot in the West with a win over Portland. (Don't the Blazers have a vested interest in making sure their rising division rival makes the playoffs and doesn't enter the Draft Lottery, where GSW has even a smidgen of a chance of walking away with a franchise player?) Meanwhile, I know the Warriors beat a tanking Mavs team, but I still like Golden State to upset Dallas in the first round of the playoffs. (GSW swept DAL this season.)

(Of course, the Warriors could actually vault the Lakers into 7th if GSW wins and L.A. loses to the Kings. Warriors-Suns would tilt the scoreboard; Kobe-Cuban would tilt the media machine.)

NBA East: Wow, the Wizards are struggling enough that the 6-, 7- and 8-seeds are all up for grabs in tonight's season finale, meaning the 1-, 2- and 3-seeds don't know who they are playing yet. (Whoops: We don't even know who the top seeds will be; the Cavs could still get the 2-seed.)

NBA: Jerry West leaving Grizzlies. Well, that happened about 3 years after I thought it would. (Ah, yes: But will he regret it when they land Oden or Durant? Maybe he's got one more blockbuster trade in him to ship out Pau Gasol for a totally revitalized roster.)

More NBA: David Stern banishes ref Joey Crawford indefinitely, including the playoffs. That's for effing with Tim Duncan. (Actually, that's Stern asserting his authority and enhancing his already substantial cred with the fans, teams, players... and refs.)

NBA Draft: By winning last night, the Hawks have assured themselves of the 4th-worst record in the league. If the Ping-Pong balls follow, they will have just won their way into giving the Suns the No. 4 pick in the Draft. Forget losing: The Hawks can't even WIN right.

NFL Draft: I saw a Mock where the Texans got RB Adrian Peterson. That would be smart (even with their signing of Ahman Green in the offseason).

Is it possible that the combination of Peterson and DE Mario Williams is better than the woulda-coulda-shoulda combo of Reggie Bush and the best-available '07 DE (say Adam Carriker or Jamaal Anderson)? Who's going to argue that Bush is a better every-down RB than Peterson?

(On second thought, forget it: He won't last until Houston at No. 10. Pro Football Talk is throwing the 7-spot – Vikings - out there, if Peterson isn't gone earlier via trade-up.)

College Football: Wait, is the NCAA really going to get rid of the "unlimited text" plan for hard-working coaches? That must set a record for reactivity by the NCAA. (But get this: They're going to allow the coaches to continue to email players unlimitedly. Guess what: A coach with a Blackberry can email a kid with a Blackberry or EnV or Treo or whatever just as easily as he can text him.)

Arena League QB throws 800 TDs: I'm a day late on this, but if the Pro Football Hall of Fame is going to consider Warren Moon's CFL career in judging his Hall bonafides, wouldn't this Arena QB at least merit a sniff? (To position yourself as the Hall for ALL things Pro Football and not have the most prolific Arena player in it seems wrong.)

Do you remember the post where I compared Gilbert Arenas to Barack Obama? The geniuses at Wizznutzz (who helped me produce the Florida T-shirt you see in the upper-right corner – get yours!) have produced a companion T-shirt. Click here for a link to the must-have shirt of the 2008 Presidential campaign.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Tuesday 04/17 A.M. Quickie:
Today, We Are All Hokies Fans

The tragic Virginia Tech massacre remains at the front of my mind -- and I'm sure many of yours. It's awful in a way that makes a mere blog post about it seem (even more) superficial, even with the most heartfelt intentions.

I was certainly relieved to hear that super-Commenter Rafael, who is down there, was OK, as was my sports-blogging comrade Nick D. from The Dugout and AOL Fanhouse, who is a student down there. (Read his account here. And here's an update post from today.)

I'm sure everyone on this blog could find a one- or two-degree connection to Virginia Tech.

It's interesting: The way most fans (readers of this blog and otherwise) relate to Virginia Tech is through sports. We "know" the Hokies -- we feel a connection to them -- because we see them throughout the ACC schedule in football, where they are a perennial Top 20 power, and hoops, where they just finished their "breakout" season.

I don't mean to diminish the heart-breaking scope of the tragedy at all by saying that it has irrevocably changed the way we will think of Virginia Tech in sports. But the school's name, when you think of it in a sports context, will always be connected to this tragedy.

You can root against the Hokies on the field or court, but -- from yesterday's tragedy onward -- at least a small piece of you will always sympathize with their students, staff and fans.

More from around a numbed sports world:

MLB: Dmitri Young gets my Stud for his day-late "42" tribute, which included 3 hits and 2 RBI in a Nats win (Nats win!) over the Braves. (Runner-up: Barry Zito, getting his first win with the Giants.)

Alfonso Soriano gets my "Dud" for the day: Who had "April 16" in the "Pricey Cubs Free Agent Gets Hurt" office pool?

Madden Jinx Watch: Vince Young is going to be on the cover of Maddden '08. That sound you hear is the collective screams of all Titans (and VY) fans who cringe at the inevitable season-ending injury.

NBA: Duncan vs. Crawford, Cont'd! Sorry I missed this yesterday. A classic episode of "WTF?!" (MJD has a clever take.)

More: I hate to say "I told you so," but it looks like the Sonics are moving. Will Oklahoma City fans get a seamless transition from the Hornets to the Sonics? (And how does that work? You're a huge adopted Hornets fan, then all of a sudden you're a huge adopted Sonics fan? Hey, it works for me -- and it's better than nothing.)

Boston Marathon: I like the story about the astronaut who ran it in space. (Good news: No Heartbreak Hill. Bad news: No Wellesley Mile.)

NFL Draft: Great rumor! The Bucs reportedly (via Yahoo) are willing to throw a ton of draft picks at the Raiders to jump from No. 4 to No. 1, presumably to draft Calvin Johnson (who, as those of you tracking the Sports Blogger NFL Mock Draft know, I/we tabbed as the Best Player Available in the draft with the No. 1 overall pick).

(Question: For these mock drafts, this one and others, are you judged by your ability to match (a) player to team or (b) player to draft slot? I'm seriously asking.)

NFLPA takes on its retirees: In theory, this shouldn't be a battle the NFLPA would win, but fans seem to care about NFL retirees about as much as the players' union (which is to say, not much).

Media: Olbermann to NBC's "Football Night in America." As I said yesterday, this is precisely the kind of smart move that can only help the show, which struggled in its rookie year.

Weekend Remainder: I totally forgot to throw out a huge "Yes!" for Chicago being picked as the USOC's contender city for the 2016 Olympics.

-- D.S.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Monday 04/16 A.M. Quickie:
Pittsburgh Is a GREAT Sports Town

UPDATE 4: Virginia Tech shootings. Cripes. What a horrible tragedy. Thoughts and prayers with the students, staff, alums and everyone else with a connection to VT.

UPDATE 3: Keith Olbermann to co-host NBC's "Football Night in America." There is hope yet for that show, which has so much potential (but didn't fulfill it in its debut season).

: has their special "Sports Issue" up. The highlight: Their ranking of the 30 Sluttiest Athletes of All Time. (OK: So where's the bracket?)

UPDATE: The Sports Blogger NFL Mock Draft on Awful Announcing is underway. I/we had the first pick, so check out (contribute to) the reactions and watch how other participants selected. "On the clock" is one of the all-time great phrases in sports.

Anyone else's weekends disrupted by the East Coast storm?
My flight from Pittsburgh back to NYC was cancelled, so I put my wife and kid into a rental car for a "Little Miss Sunshine"-style road trip through the rain, fog and wind. Fun!

Anyway, I had an experience this weekend that reminded me of the universality of being sports fan.

Start with this: I'm no particular fan of sports teams in Pittsburgh -- Steelers, Pirates, Penguins, Pitt.

But I was in town for a wedding during a great sports weekend: Bonds 2HR at PNC (which is an absolutely gorgeous park, even in the rain), Penguins in the playoffs, Pitt holds their spring football game at Heinz Field (another gorgeous stadium). With everyone else talking about the Steelers and the upcoming NFL Draft.

And the wedding and reception were held AT Heinz Field. It was a gorgeous location – on the club level, with access to walk out into the stadium. I'm not sure if the non-sports fans appreciated it, but I was giddy about the location, as were the other sports fans in attendance.

(And more than a little jealous of the guys in the bridal party who walked into the reception with Terrible Towels. Damn: I want one! I never thought I would say that. They are pretty cool.)

But that's the universality of sports fandom: The idea of being excited about being in a city when there are a couple of great sports events in town, even if you don't go to any of them. (And if you can't get excited about going to a wedding at a sports arena, you have no sports soul.)

Anyway, I figured that if I could get so excited about being in a city that had so many sports events going on at once – and I didn't even particularly care about any of the teams – my sports fandom hasn't been totally corrupted over time.

MLB: "42" Day. Yes, the league-wide (and sometimes team-wide) "42" thing WAS pretty damn cool-looking. (Team stud: Dodgers)

Stud: Albert Pujols. (Ah: Finally!)
Dud(s): Pavano/Mussina to DL.

NBA: Here's the best-case scenario for the playoffs: The Lakers get the 7th seed so it's Kobe (50 Sunday) vs. the Suns in the first round. Meanwhile, the sizzling Warriors get the 8th seed and give the Mavs all they can handle. (Would it be crazy if I predicted that as a first-round upset?)

Meanwhile, in the East, I' quite sure the Raptors and Bulls are salivating over the chance to play the Wizards, who might enter these playoffs fielding the worst lineup in NBA playoff history. (More East: Congrats to the on-the-up-and-up Magic, who clinched a playoff spot.)

Someone explain to me the difference between tanking a game and holding otherwise healthy players out to avoid injury.

NFL: Is the end of the short-lived Culpepper Era in Miami? Seems that the Dolphins are interested in Trent Green to be their next QB.

Boston Marathon: Given the weather, an event that was already not particularly easy gets much, much less fun.

Weekend Rewind: Greg Oden going pro. I appreciate Durant's skills and all, but a team would be crazy not to pick Oden first overall. And Li'l Romeo is going to play hoops for USC. Wonder if he, like OJ Mayo, simply called Tim Floyd and said, "I'm coming, so make room."

Today's MUST-Read: In the very first edition of the promising new business magazine, Portfolio, the great Michael Lewis has a fantastic piece. Link here. (The piece is basically about the genius of ProTrade, which has long been one of my favorite online-sports media companies and has been on my blogroll since the relaunch.)

Jason Whitlock is going on Oprah to talk about our post-Imus world: No shrinking violet, Whitlock has done more than anyone in the media to raise his national profile during the Imus story. While Oprah is asking him about his provocative takes on the race side of the Imus issue, I hope that Big O asks Big Sexy about his own dabbling with misogyny.

Don't forget: If you're a Florida fan, click on this link (or the one below the T-shirt image at the top-right) to buy the hot T-shirt of the season. (There's one for Duke fans, too.)

-- D.S.