Saturday, June 30, 2007

Saturday 06/30 A.M. (Very) Quickie:
Bonds 750, NBA Draft Hangover, "Huffing," More

Bonds: 750. With six HR to go to break Aaron's record, it is SO on. Will he break it this week? Unlikely, but you know it'll happen this month, instantly making it THE sports story of an otherwise particularly slow July. Nothing else is going on. Expect overkill.


The question now is whether it will happen before or after the All-Star Break. If Bonds still needs a handful of HR by the All-Star Game, it will be all anyone will want to talk about at the ASG. And how can MLB *NOT* include Bonds in the game?

NBA Draft Hangover: Jason Kent from the terrific FanIQ emailed me with a question yesterday that I found to be one of the most fascinating subplots of the first 24 hours after the NBA Draft:

How do Bulls fans who spent the last 1-2 years with an opinion of Joakim Noah ranging from mild annoyance to full-blown enmity do a 180 and suddenly root for him because he's suddenly "theirs?"

Here's what I replied to him:

A few thoughts:

(1) When Noah was a freshman, not playing at all and mostly sulking, I disliked him entirely.

(2) At the start of his sophomore year (two seasons ago), I sat in MSG with my wife watching the Gators foreshadow their title by beating Wake and Syracuse. I couldn't stand Noah. My wife said he's going to be a star. Shows what I know.

(3) By the 2006 NCAA Tournament, I had come to appreciate his energy and selflessness, his team orientation. He's obnoxious, yes, but his life is an error of enthusiasm, which is entirely forgivable.

(4) End of 2006 Tournament: I believe.

(5) 2007 season and tournament: I find him a little too over-the-top (a game-killing technical waiting to happen), but he always rode the fine line. He maintained that team-first orientation and, despite (a) more scrutiny and loathing than any other player this year and (b) a decreased role within the team as his teammates got a lot better, he was a star on a double-title team.

Here's the upshot: When he's theirs, you hate him. When he's yours, you love him. I'm thoroughly enjoying watching Bulls fans who previously hated him beyond belief rationalizing how to like him.

And people call ME a Bandwagon Gator fan!!!

Here's Jason's blog post about it.

24 hours after the Draft, a few course corrections from my knee-jerk reactions to how the draft unfolded:

  • As a Wizards fan, I feel a lot better about Nick Young (mainly because I heard from so many people assuring me he was a great addition).
  • Danny Ainge is still a moron and the Celtics are still destined for continued mediocrity. (And I'm still not sold on Michael Jordan's trade for Jason Richardson, even/especially if he re-signs Gerald Wallace.)
  • After all that pre-draft build-up, Greg Oden to the Blazers feels like the most obvious and natural fit in the world.
  • I don't think Isiah is done yet, which is fun for the rest of us.
  • I think Kevin Garnett ends up in... Oakland, playing for the Warriors.

NFL folds NFL Europe: Was it a worthy experiment or a Commissioner's indulgence? Predictable answer: A little of both.

I think the league finally understands its place in Europe, following the sold-out-in-an-hour Wembley Stadium experiment – a handful of games in Europe every season.

Actually, the NFL's plan to have each team play one regular-season game per season internationally is the best globalization strategy the league could probably deploy.

MLB Stud: Aubrey Huff, who hit for the cycle in an O's win (and reminded me of the multiple seasons in a row when I was fooled into drafting Huff on my fantasy team, only to be disappointed).

MLB Stud Rookie: Ben Francisco of the Indians. Walk-off debut!

MLB Move: Milton Bradley to the Padres.

Marketing Watch: Greg Oden will wear No. 52. I'm not sure it will sell well (even in Portland) because fans can't relate to post players like they can to guards and swingmen. My prediction for the most popular rookie jersey: Whatever Kevin Durant is wearing for Seattle.

-- D.S.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Friday 06/29 A.M. Quickie:
Who Are the NBA Draft's Big Winners, Losers?

Who are last night's NBA Draft winners and losers? Let's see...

Blazers are the big winners: "Super-size" is more like it. How many players did they draft and/or acquire? It felt like more than they are allowed to carry on the roster.

Start with this: Greg Oden? Awesome. Franchise foundation. Trading for Channing Frye? A little too close to LaMarcus Aldridge, but I like the depth on the frontcourt. (And then all those draftees. Whew! Yes, I know I mentioned the Blazers having Derrick Byars for the last 90 minutes on the blog...and I was ERRONEOUS. He's on the Sixers. But who can't love the Finn?)

UPDATE: If you watch one piece of YouTube from the Draft, make it the return of Stephen A. Smith's Cheez Doodles hecklers (h/t: Deadspin). These guys are amazing. They dubbed Joakim Noah, "The People's Princess."

UPDATE 2: If you haven't weighed in yet, who is your early favorite for Rookie of the Year -- or, if you think it's Oden or Durant in a lock, your all-Rookie team? Is it so obvious that it's Oden, Durant, Conley... hmm...who ARE the other two?

Sonics win big with Durant: That alone would have made Seattle a huge winner. Then they ship off Ray Allen's shots and replace them with Jeff Green's versatility. I'm not as sold as others that Durant and Green complement each other so perfectly, but if experts like Thorpe and the Sonics GM Presti are convinced, I'll buy it: Green will thrive next to KD.

Gators get five players drafted: Worthy of a two-time NCAA champ and the best starting five in NCAA history. Horford to the Hawks was a no-brainer. Brewer to the T'wolves should give KG at least a little hope. Noah to the Bulls was inspired. Chicago will LOVE him. (Rovell says he's the biggest marketing winner of the draft.)

(Minnesota drafting Chris Richard to be Brewer's roommate was smart; he's a poor man's Udonis Haslem. And Taurean Green is a gamer; he's part of a way-too-crowded Blazers point guard situation, but I think he'll earn his spot. OK: So who wants Lee Humphrey?)

Knicks Trade: I give Isiah credit. Zach Randolph is the interior bruiser to Eddy Curry's big-softie style. (Yeah, they give up on Frye, but David Lee was better than Frye anyway.) They take on Randolph's monster contract, but that's par for the course for Isiah.

Michael Jordan screws up (yet) another draft: I am no fan of Brandan Wright, but trading cheap young size for an expensive older guard is ludicrous. (Hello: Gerald Wallace?!)

The Celtics make a wrong move to win now: Teaming Ray Allen with Paul Pierce makes me wonder how this isn't anything different than "Sonics East," with Pierce playing the role of Rashard Lewis to Ray Allen's designated gunner. What a mistake. That team isn't winning the East, and I'd be surprised if they made the playoffs next season.

Milwauk-Yi: Pretty good marketing slogan, no? Wait: You say Yi's handlers don't want him playing there? And that the team hasn't really seen him work out? Eh, who cares: It's China. And haven't you heard? The NBA in China is going to be bigger than the NBA in the U.S. (No, seriously: I'll be surprised if he ever puts on a Bucks uniform. Way to go, Larry Harris.)

More picks I liked: Mike Conley (Grizzlies...c'mon: who didn't?); Acie Law (Hawks -- ditto); Marco Belinelli (Warriors); Morris Almond (Jazz); Derrick Byars (Sixers, though he's yet another swingman). I'm a sucker for "team fit."

More picks I didn't like: Nick Young (Wizards); Wilson Chandler (Knicks); Alando Tucker (Suns). Happy to be proven wrong.

Meanwhile: For a draft so touted for its plethora of big men, didn't it feel like all those swingmen sort of blurred together? How many teams got anything more than incrementally better through the draft itself? Portland. Seattle. Atlanta (maybe).

Draft Fashion: My "Best Dressed" of the night was an easy one – Joakim Noah. Original, innovative... and only he could have pulled it off.

The Head Chick in Charge has the entire fashion report on the night right here from her live-blog last night. If you haven't read it yet, scroll down or click here.

Lost in the NBA Draft Mania...

Frank Thomas hits HR No. 500: Joins exclusive club and punches his ticket for the Hall of Fame. (And then he celebrated by getting ejected from the game. Classy!)

Craig Biggio gets Hit No. 3000: Another exclusive club. Another Hall of Fame ticket punched.

Michelle Wie continues to struggle: To say the least. A first-round 82 (tying her worst score ever) in the first round of the U.S. Open.

Hockey Hall of Fame: Mark Messier was one of the great no-brainers I can think of. One of the biggest personalities in NHL history, too.

Kobe Video: Eh. What was all that fuss about?

Cold Pizza sexual harassment lawsuit against Jay Crawford and Woody Paige: That's just not good.

-- D.S.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

2007 NBA Draft Live-Blog/Live-Comment!

Here we go! From pre-draft build-up to mid-draft mania to post-draft mockery, check out the comments for user analysis, and keep up with all of the draft fashion with guest-blogging expert Head Chick in Charge from Leave The Man Alone. With the next pick...

12:08 Good lord, this thing is finally over. But if Tirico can do it, I can do it. Remember, Mike. It's EEE. Not YEE.

Clearly, Joakim wins for "Most Creative" ("Worst" seems too harsh). I had even money that Noah's hair wouldn't fit under his hat. But Stern thinks of every thing. Damn you, commissioner. Damn you.

I am disappointed that ESPN didn't show more of Noah's family from the Cameroon. Noah foretold that they would be dressed to the nines. I was amped for some dashiki action.

And I am still adamant that Noah should have treated himself to a Dominican press and curl. Why waste a trip to New York?

All in all, Joakim was crispy at 7:00. At 8:30, he was a crispy mess. Without Bumble & Bumble conditioner, his 'do didn't hold. And seersucker wrinkles easily, as we southerners know.

Best hoochie dress in entourage goes to the Italian.

And my best dressed. Stern doesn't like hip-hop, but the "Wipe Me Down" award goes to...

NICK YOUNG.

The white on black was inspired. He looked different from everyone else. His suit fit great. His choices were original. Everything was perfect. Bold choices are rewarded. I wasn't expecting this. Young came out of nowhere.

It hurts my heart not to give the Wipe me Down honors to Al Horford. He looked great too. But he was fine from the start. So he was cheating. He was the George Clooney of the draft. But it wasn't enough.

Brandan Wright was also in the running. He was the only one to sport a vest. The grayish brown purple thing worked and he still looked great when he appeared on camera an hour after he was picked.

So, thank you, Dan. And, thank you, readers of Dan for indulging me. Let the spirit of Michael Irvin's tie knots be with you.

11:59 Who is this Grek guy keeping me up all night?! Even Spike Lee has gotten a designated drived and headed home. The Greek is called Giorgos Prentizis. He wears a white blazer with a lavender tee shirt and dark pants. Miami Vice reruns are in full effect in Greece.

11:26 Every time Adam Silver appears on screen, his ears appear to get bigger and bigger. He's clearly excited to be at the draft.

11:21 Oooooh. Much better shot of Brandan Wright. His shirt has a pucker texture. Very interesting. And his suit has a nice shadow stripe. And he's still wearing the vest. He was the only vest of the night.

11:10 Some are speculating that Spike Lee was toasty at the draft. Why else was he hollering "Zeek knows how to pick players in the draft!!!!?" But maybe it was Lisa Salters camisole glimpse. A few buttons had been undone. I think Spike was just nervous.

10:54 Adam Silver is the new deputy NBA Commissioner. He has no standard issue so I'll tell u what he's wearing. He's wearing a dark suit with a light orange tie and shirt. He looks narrow. He reminds me of a sewing needle. He was greeted by the crowd with chants of, "We want Russ!"

10:50 Gabe Pruitt, up all night. Gabe is wearing a mustard colored suit and striped tie. I think it has some pink in it. Looks fine. Nothing special. I guess Stuart Scott and his cufflinks have exited for the evening. No interview for Gabe.

10:37 The Finnish are crunk! Petteri Kobonen went very basic. Black suit. Blue tie. No flair. But lots of enthusiasm in his handshake though.

Fraschilla's hair is back. It's clearly wilted under Bucher's pressure.

10:32 Is Dickie V crying? What's that glistening on his cheek? Why was he the only analyst that didn't have to wear a jacket? ESPN the Shirt is not proper attire for the draft.

10:20 Aaron Afflalo is still here! He's got on a medium gray suit with a Black shirt. Black and gray tie. Sorry, but I think his momma bought him that tie from the flea market. He's going to have to do better, but he looks okay.

10:05 Let me take this moment in garbage time to compliment Mark Jackson. I shouldn't penalize Mark just because everybody at the desk wore dark colors. Mark has on a very nice navy blue suit with lavender pinstripes. He's got on a lavender satin tie and lavender pocket square. He's wearing nice wide lapels. The pinstripes show up boldly on the tv screen. The fit is expert. He "pops" everytime he comes on the screen. He's clearly the best dressed male analyst. Take that, Bucher! And Stephen A has got to stop with the jackets that are too big for him. Kenny Smith learned this lesson. SAS has got to learn too.

Lisa Salters is the best dressed female analyst. Lisa is clearly inspired by basketball season. Really, she's looked great all year. She tried to do something different with the gold jacket. At least she wasn't wearing paisley and pinstripes like everybody else. Although she didn't have much competition as far as females go. Rachel Nichols coasts on her raven locks far too much as an accessory.


9:53 Wilson Chandler makes the long walk from the audience in a pin striped suit with a striped look. Very straightforward look. Nothing special.

Spike Lee likes the pick. And he also finds Stuart Scott to be humorous. Clearly, he is one of us.

9:51 Spike Lee gives Isiah Thomas the vote of confidence.

Salters gold jacket looks better in different light. Plus she's giving you a little sex appeal with the camisole glimpse. And I say Lisa wins best hair so far. Take that Bucher.

Wait a minute... Stevie Franchise gets to play with Oden. Does this matter?

9:42 I think Ric Bucher believes he has better hair than Fran Fraschilla.

9:38 Jim Gray broke Kupchak! He answered "No" when asked whether anyone on the team was untouchable. Right after he said they agreed to keep discussions with Kobe private. Loose lips sink ships. See you in the parking lot tomorrow, 24.

9:31 SAS does a Dickie V impression while debating Dickie V. Am I drunk?

9:28 While someone yells incessantly...

DP said "Joakim Noah's attire, brought to you by Tom Wolfe"

Brian says "Zach Randolph + NYC > Pac-Man Jones + Strip Clubs"

9:25 Marco Belinelli just made his presence known. Black suit on black tie on black shirt. Reeks of cockiness.

He has a girl wearing a hoochie dress in his row. He didn't even need a table to pull her. He kissed her and smacked her on the ass. 3rd hoochie. 1st ass smack of the night. We'll see how this trend develops.

9:14 First. Time. Ever. Knick fans happy. The Knicks have traded for Zach Randolph (and others). Have fun on the left coast, Stevie Franchise.

9:12 Nick Young is wearing white on black. A nod to Gilbrt? Gilbert wore this color combo at his birthday party. Nick is wearing our first sportcoat of the night. He is wearing a white jacket with black pants. Very light gray shirt. Black and white striped tie. Black pocket square. His look is like no one elses. Everything fits great. He looks extremely dapper.

And he had a girl in a hoochie dress at his table. 2 hoochies tonight so far.

9:06 Rodney Thornton is modelling a cream on white ensemble. Cream suit with cream tie and white shirt. Everything fits well. He's no Al Horford, but he looks good. He learned a few things at Eastern Washington.

9:00 Al Thortnon has on a muddy brown suit. Yellow shirt with an oranged striped shirt. Orange pocket square. This definitely reminds me of Kevin Durant's ensemble. Did any of these guys coordinate before they left for the club?

Thornton's mom slightly rejuvenates the white trend. She has a white dress/jacket ensemble on.

8:54 Julian Wright sports yet another texture on pinstripe combo. Julian has on a light gray satiny suit with subtle pinstripes. His tie is some weird tapestry/jacquard looking pattern. It looks like something with a medieval influence. Looks good, not great.

-1 for letting Stuart do his Stephen A impression again.

8:50 Speaking of haircuts, Billy Knight has an unwieldy afro and needs to join Brewer and Stephen. Maybe they can get a group discount.

8:46 Thaddeus Young is the first no show of the night.

Corey Brewer and Stephen A apparently have the same barber. They both might want to consider getting a barber under the age of 65. Go shorter, Stephen. You are pretty. Believe in yourself.

8:38 Another sad sonofabitch drafted to the Hawks. And another paisley on pinstripes combination. Acie Law wears a gray pinstriped suit, lavender shirt and paisley tie. This look is so five picks ago.

Still, I'm sorry Acie that you have to play for Atlanta.

Acie did have the first hoochie of the night at his table (unless you count Joakim's mom, MILF #1). There was not a tight shot of her and no indication of her relationship to Acie. But she had on a very, very short dress. But I would too if I was sitting in a room full of millionaires.

8:32 Spencer Hawes sports a classic look and actually looks good. Dark blue suit. Blue shirt with white collar. White pocket square. White striped tie. Needs a little more Michael Irvin in that tie knot though.

8:26 Good God! Is that Joakim Noah's music?! Joakim is clearly the fashion risk taker of the night. Is he crispy or a crispy fried mess?

Joakim is wearing a brown and white seersucker suit. The lapel has brown trim. I was hoping for Snoop like spiral curls. But Joakim sported soft waves. It looked good at 7:30. Now he looks like a light skinned Homey the Clown. And he has on huge brown shoes to complete the clown look.

And did I mention the paisley bow tie on the wrinkled shirt?

Joakim revealed that he uses Bumble and Bumble shampoo. I suggest that he try the conditioner.

At first, I liked this look. In part, I was relieved that he didn't show up in cargo shorts and Tevas. Otherwise, I generally appreciate fashion risk. This look amused me at 7:00. I'm over it now.

8:19 The first vest of the night! Brandan Wright is wearing a gray suit with stripes. With said vest. And with a lavender shirt and striped tie. His suit hangs well although he is very, very tall. He looks awesome. "I don't think Jordan wants any right now." He's right. Jordan's known for his clothes, but Brandon's lookin' real good right now.

-1 for braces.

8:12 Corey Brewer is wearing a mud colored suit with white pinstripes. He has on a orange sherbert colored shirt and pocket square with a wide striped brown and orange tie. Looks good, not great.

Mom dukes broke the white suit trend. She has started the harsh blond dye job trend though. And the heavy blush trend. We'll see how this develops.

8:06 I thought they were stalling until the next pick, but Stu is interviewing Yi. Yi tolerates Stu very well. Mike says, "He has been Americanized." Not until he does an interview with Stephen A.

8:04 Yi Jianlian goes very basic. Black suit with blue tie. His mom has very stern bangs. Yi and his party looks very People's Republic. No frills.

Mike Tirico has pronounced his name 1000 different ways.

7:58 Jeff Green goes earlier than expected at #5. He gets to join Durant in Seattle if the trade goes through. Lucky bastard. Jeff won my "pregame" fashion handicap. He went a little conservative, but looks great. The Burberry tie is a little obvious, but I like that he went with a wide lapel. Georgetown has a tradition of great NBA dressers (see Alonzo and Dikembe). Jeff does not disappoint.

Jeff's mom ALSO wore a white suit. So far she is ranked 3rd out of the 3 moms wearing white suits.

7:53 Mike Conley is wearing a tan suit with white pinstripes. He has a seafoam green striped shirt with a paisley tie. This is a little busy to say the least. But the pastel colors make it easy to look at. At least he took a chance. I might have liked this more if his jacket was more fitted. At least he took a chance.

7:48 Perfection has just been drafted. Al Horford is wearing a black suit, but it is a beautiful black suit. Wonderful fabric with a white satin tie and a white shirt. Al Horford looks outstanding. Too bad he had to match that suit to a Hawks hat.

And, speaking of the Hawks.. You may wonder what this pick means to the Hawks? Should we have picked Conley or Yi? Guess what? It doesn't matter who the Hawks pick. We're still going to suck. Al, I'm sorry. And I apologize to you on behalf of the city of Atlanta.

7:44 The downside of wearing orange and salmon is trying to match it to a green and yellow Seattle hat.

7:42 Kevin Durant up next. His suit appears to be black. He has a orange tie on a salmon shirt. Orange pocket square. Nice nod to Texas. His suit fits his slim build. Looks good, but not knocking it out the park.

His mom is also wearing a white suit, but short-sleeved. Also looks cute. But she's wearing pearls. Advantage to pearls.

7:40 Stu accuses Greg of being nervous, but Oden admits to using hand sanitizer. Protecting the commissioner already. No wonder they call him a character guy.

7:35 Greg Oden is the number one pick. This is not surprising and neither is his suit. I know it's hard to find something to go with furrowed brow though. He is wearing a pinstriped suit with a paisley tie. Blue suit with seafoam green pinstripes, with the paisley tie picking up those colors. No attempt to match Portland colors. I was hoping he would make a bolder choice given that he wore a baby blue suit for his draft portrait.

Moms is wearing white pants suit. Looks cute.

7:30 Stern is on. He's wearing his standard issue. Nothing special.

7:29 Fran Fraschilla appears smugly sporting his thick black pomaded hair.

7:25 Jim Gray appeared remotely wearing a burgundy tie, with a burgundy and gray striped shirt. So far, he's been the most adventurous male analyst. And I'm not just saying that because I wish TNT was covering the draft too.

7:22 So far, the ESPN analysts have all chosen to dress for a funeral, not a draft. Everyone is wearing dark colors, either black or navy blue. Even Stephen A, who wore a lavender jacket on the air mere days ago. Tirico has gone with subtle pinstripes. Mark Jackson with bold pinstripes. I am overwhelmed by the fashion risks the crew has taken.

7:20 Joakim calls his outfit "funky". He claims he is representing for New York. Actually, seersucker would be representing for the south. His hair is getting frizzier by the second.

7:19 After a "lean wit it, rock wit it" segway, Lisa Salters is wearing a gold satin safari jacket and I think she's gotten highlights. I'll have to see her standing up before I make a final judgment on the outfit.

7:16 Kevin Durant's momma just wiped the crust from his mouth. Emasculating or just a good assist?

7:10 Mike Tirico has already corrected someone on their Chinese pronunciation. It's EE. Not YEE. And, yes, Stephen. A. has already yelled at somebody.

7:01 ESPN has flashed the major draftees. But I'll save the individual draftee commentary for when they cross the stage. Joakim does look crispy.

7:00 Hi, everybody. It's me, The Head Chick in Charge from Leave the Man Alone. No mock drafts or scouting reports here. No, not even the detailed, in-depth analysis you've come to expect from Dan. We're just going to talk about what people are wearing, crack jokes and have fun. Hopefully, I'll get to talk about somebody's momma.

Please have fun in the comments and you can contribute directly to the snark at leavethemanalone@gmail.com

Thursday 06/28 A.M. Quickie:
2007 NBA Mock Draft, Rumors, KSK B-day, More!

NBA Draft tonight: Here we go. Tonight marks the most stocked and intriguing and potentially seismic NBA Draft of the post-KG Era, if not ever.

The main storylines: Oden vs. Durant (sounds like that's over). Three Gators in the Top 10 (an NBA Draft first to have three players from the same team in the Top 10). Yi flexing China's market power over the NBA. Versatile forwards, dovetailing with the "new" NBA. Three quality point guards, dovetailing with another hot NBA trend. Which unlikely player will shoot up the draft board? Which player will have a Brady Quinn-like plummet? I really do love the NBA Draft. Hope abounds.

UPDATE: Listen to me with the Basketball Jones guys on their latest podcast. (The Jones podcast is the best sports podcast online -- I was so excited to join in today.)

My 2007 NBA Mock Draft: One of the biggest cop-outs in mock draft-dom is claiming you're picking who a team SHOULD take, rather than who they WILL take. So I'm saying here's who these teams WILL take:

1. Blazers: Kevin Durant
Yes, despite the "reports"
2. Sonics: Greg Oden
Shocker! Seattle gladly takes him
3. Hawks: Al Horford
Warning: SEEMS like a no-brainer
4. Grizzlies: Mike Conley
Best PG, best player available
5. Celtics: Yi Jianlian
And fans in Boston freak out
6. Bucks: Corey Brewer
Designated LeBron-defender
7. T'wolves: Joakim Noah
KG staying, will need energy guy
8. Bobcats: Jeff Green
G'town was a Brand Jordan school
9. Bulls: Julian Wright
Chicago stays local, versatile
10. Kings: Al Thornton
The old man of the draft class
11. Hawks: Javaris Crittenton
Pass on Law for local, bigger PG
12. Hornets: Nick Young
Who DOESN'T have this slotted here?
13. 76ers: Spencer Hawes
Philly's next... Todd McCullough!
14. Clippers: Acie Law
Best of Big 3 PGs available.

Shocker: Brandan Wright slips out of the Lottery!
My Team: At 16, the Wizards take... Derrick Byars.

Comments: OK, it's time to weigh in with your own official, on-the-record mock-draft predictions. (To avoid comments with a list of 30 teams and players, maybe stick with the Lottery and the non-Lottery pick you'll be most interested in tracking?)

Complete Draft coverage coming in the a.m.

Draft Rumors: Blazers will take Oden. Kevin Pritchard is apparently going to go with his head over his heart, which will drive Durant-as-1 backers (from Simmons to DraftKevinDurant.com) totally insane.

There is NOTHING wrong with that pick. Most fans agree with it. Most GMs agree with it. And it puts Portland in the best position possible to win titles. (And that's why teams play, right?!?! Heh.)

In this particular draft, however, the one downside to picking first is the lingering "What if?" in the event that either (a) Oden doesn't produce titles or (b) Durant does (or KD just looks more entertaining).

KG-Amare deal appears to have fizzled after yesterday's supernova, when – predictably – a Hawks rogue ownership partner put the kibosh on the one deal that could have turned the franchise around.

(Related: Are the Hawks considering taking Yi over Al Horford at No. 3 because of the Atlanta ownership group's business interests in China? Yi is a bad fit on the Hawks, but the universal language is green.)

But the new hot rumor is the Mavs sending Wisconsin hero Devin Harris to the Bucks for the No. 6 pick. Would the Mavs then ship the 6 and parts to the T'wolves for KG?

Draft Fashion: In 2001, I introduced the NBA Draft Fashion Report Card on ESPN.com, then filed it every year after that through last year's draft. It was my favorite column of the year. (Dan Steinberg picks up the slack with a great pre-draft fashion report.)

This year, I'm proud to move that coverage to DanShanoff.com – and proud to welcome a guest-commenter (and my first-round pick for the job), The Head Chick in Charge from the great blog Leave The Man Alone. She will be providing the best draft-fashion live-blog commentary found anywhere online. I'll chip in my own take on the draft fashion in the morning, but HCIC's is the definitive and standard-setting real-time analysis.

The Comments section of the draft-fashion post will also serve as your place to comment on all things draft in real-time.

MLB Dud: Roger Clemens doesn't strike out a player in a game for the first time in 200 starts: This is the worst omen yet that the Yankees' season is lost.

MLB Stud: Jack Cust, who had a career-high 5 RBI to help continue his breakout season.

MLB Malcontent: How come Shea Hillenbrand only shows up in the news when he's being a d-bag?

MLB Milestones: Glavine wins No. 297. No one will remember it came in an abbreviated, 5.1-inning game. They WILL remember it was a 1-hitter.

Tiger as Varsity Dad: He's skipping the Buick Open this week even though Buick is one of his biggest sponsors. However, Tiger WILL play in his OWN event, at Congressional in DC next week.

Sports Media: A few days after wowing me with his unique draft analysis, Penn center Stephen Danley lost me with his ludicrous (if spirited) defense of Alando Tucker.

And, finally: Happy first birthday/anniversary to the deviant-savants over at Kissing Suzy Kolber. If any group has proven the glowing meritocracy of the sports blogosphere, it is these guys. Unfortunately, in KSK's case, their "glow" comes from the bukkake stains resulting from their daily circle-jerk. Happy-happy, fellas.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

NBA Draft Preview, Part 2:
Gators, Yi, Sleepers, More!

Who needs contrived draft storylines when the Hot! Trade! Action! is so virile? (See post below) And yet, yesterday's NBA Draft Preview "Part 1" (Oden vs. Durant) got off to such a rousing start that it would be a shame to not publish a post on a hodge-podge of other drafty storylines. Feel free to add any more key storylines of your own in the Comments section. (Coming tomorrow: Mock draft!)

Big Storyline 2: The Gator Boys. Al Horford, Corey Brewer and Joakim Noah all taken between the 3rd and 9th picks. Not bad. Horford is the consensus "Best Player Not Named Oden or Durant." Brewer is considered the best perimeter defensive player in the draft. Noah is shat upon.

As with any draft, team fit is probably the biggest factor in each guy's success. That goes 10 times more for Noah. In the right context, he's Marcus Camby light, with worse shooting but better passing touch and love-him-if-he's-on-your-team energy. Horford and Brewer will be fine wherever they are, as long as they get minutes. Future studs, all, if not of the All-Star variety, then certainly of the Fantasy variety.

Commenters: How will the Florida guys pan out?

Big Storyline 3: Yi As In "Ee!" During the NBA Finals' ratings dud, I thought a lot about the NBA and China. Here's the upshot: If the NBA captures a fraction of hoops fans in China, it will dwarf the number of NBA fans in the U.S.

Now you understand why David Stern, Nike, ESPN and everyone else is so hot to enter the market with a basketball presence. Yi is the swingman version of Yao – and another piece in the coming dominance. If my former colleague Bill Simmons was truly a real fan of the NBA, he'd start learning Mandarin in time for the Takeover.

(Meanwhile: Given the development of Yao, why don't more fans want to see their teams in the Top 10 take Yi? Perhaps because they don't want to wait for him to develop, but I'm more resigned to the idea that it's the same xenophobia/racism that dogged Yao before -- and after -- he was drafted.)

Commenters: Yi -- Yea or nay?

Big Storyline 4: Non-Lottery Sleepers. In a draft this loaded (I'm arguing it's the most stacked draft of the post-KG Era), the talent will ripple down, not just into the bottom half of the first round, but even into the second round, where last year's first-round talents are this year's second-round steals. A few names I'm tracking:

Derrick Byars: He turned Vanderbilt – Vandy! – into a powerhouse last season and single-handedly destroyed Florida when they played in Nashville. Good enough for me.

Marco Belinelli: The league is evolving to the point where, at the very least, you better have a go-to scorer, you better have a versatile swingman and you better have a dead-eye outside shooter. Belinelli will be the shooter that has fans going, "How did my team pass on him?"

Glen Davis: Craig Smith. Paul Millsap. Enough said. Second-round tweeners are the new draft-night hotness.

Taurean Green: Before you shout "Damn your Florida bias!" consider that I found Green a far more infuriating player to watch than Joakim Noah. But Green has this freakish ability to make big shots look easy. Not a starting NBA point guard by any means, but a very capable backup.

Bobby Brown: Just watch this video. YouTube legend is the new Rucker legend. I'm only half-joking.

Commenters: Who are your biggest sleepers, from the end of the first round to the second round to the likely-to-be-undrafted-but-still-good? This should be fertile ground for each of your personal pet project players.

Again, coming tomorrow: The Mock!

-- D.S.


Wednesday 06/27 A.M. Quickie:
Oden-Durant, KG, Old MLB Pitchers, More

UPDATE! KG Trade: This is moving WAY too fast, with too many rumors and too many moving parts, to truly keep up with (see KG/Lakers item directly below, which is already stale).

The latest? KG to the Suns, with Amare ending up in...Atlanta? Huge win for the Hawks (finally, and even if they have to give up their 3/11 picks). Amare in the East makes them much tougher, just like Dwight Howard in the East makes the Magic a legit future contender.

As for the Suns, I said this last week: Acquiring KG and giving up Amare is a no-brainer. KG gives them a better chance to win now -- and the Suns need to win NOW.

MORE: Warriors dangling Monta Ellis for the chance to draft Yi? Why would GSW give up their most valuable player (given talent + cost + youth/upside) for an unproven mystery guy? Yes, Yi is THAT valuable to Golden State. It's not crazy to say that he's more valuable to Golden State than almost any other player in the NBA right now, rookie or vet. As I tried to explain yesterday (inelegantly): If you're not winning a title, marketing rules.

MORE: Allow me to be overwhelmed by today's NBA Draft/trading frenzy. The three-move combo of Amare to the Hawks, KG to the Suns and the 3, 5 and 11 picks being in the hands of the T'wolves (who use them to draft Horford, Brewer and Noah) could combine to save the NBA. /hyperbole

ORIGINAL POST BEGINS HERE:

First of all, I want to thank everyone for their spirited disagreement with my post about Oden vs. Durant yesterday, which was really about whether it's more important as a fan to be part of a multiple-time champion or to maximize your entertainment value.

(As one emailer pointed out, it's worth noting that the most entertaining, exciting, pulse-quickening team of the NBA Playoffs wasn't the champs or even the runner-up, but the Warriors. And I probably should have clarified that NEVER winning a title isn't optimal, but if neither Oden nor Durant is going to win one, I'd rather have the more entertaining player.)

If some of your sensibilities were offended, well, that's why there's a Comments section. And, as much as it like seem like I enjoy being right, I like nothing more than to be proven wrong.

Speaking of which, Part 2 of my NBA Draft Preview will be going up around noonish. I'm saving my mock draft for tomorrow morning, so it's a little of this (Gator Mania), a little of that (why Yi is a good pick) and a little of the other (handful of drafty sleepers).

Must-read: Hollinger's analysis of the NBA Draft field. If you didn't read it yesterday. It's awesome.

KG-to-Lakers trade update: So, sipping the multi-team convolution, will the T'wolves simply get Lamar Odom and Andrew Bynum for KG? Let's hope they get the Lakers to throw in their first-round pick this year, too.

Or is that Lakers rumor dead? The Mavs one sounds like a complete non-starter from the get-go, but – hey – you're crazy if you're a top West team and you DON'T float your name out there: Mavs, Suns, Lakers.

The most depressing result, of course, for all fans -- including in Minnesota -- would be if KG wasn't traded at all. What a let-down that would be.

Not coincidentally, the only team you never hear about in the KG Sweepstakes is... the champs. (Yes, it's because they have Duncan, but still. They seem to classy to beg like the rest of 'em.)

Your daily Gilbert Arenas post, courtesy of Dan Steinberg. (If you haven't seen his EA ads with Kevin Durant, they're terrific. Oh, and Gil is signing an endorsement deal with Spalding, along with Greg Oden. Nike, Spalding: Who said Oden isn't marketable?)

Was it the right thing to put "RIP" next to Chris Benoit yesterday, before I knew all the facts? No. At least I didn't put on a publicly televised homage to a guy who might turn out to be a murderer. What a tragedy toward his wife and son.

(Here's an interesting related blog post.)

UPDATE: This story is so much more horrifying than you ever thought it was.

MLB Old-Age: Seven pitchers in their 40s will pitch today, an MLB record: Clemens, Moyer, Rogers, Maddux, Glavine, Williams and Smoltz. It's a testament to durability, new-fangled training methods, luck and, y'know, PEDs.

MLB Stud: Carlos Ruiz, the Phillies catcher, who drove in four runs and stole home in a Philly win over Cincy. (Does stealing home count as an RBI?)

Dice-K to release an album: I'm late on this, but it only adds to Matsuzaka's awesomeness. Can you imagine Roger Clemens putting out an album? (You just KNOW Schilling wants his own record deal, too.)

Raise your hand if you thought that Troy Percival would be on the Cardinals lineup before Rick Ankiel, then consider how strange it is that either of them is even in the conversation.

Do you think Barry Bonds should be on the NL roster for the All-Star Game? I do, and Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn agree with me. MLB (and Bonds-loathing fans) can't possibly like that these two poster-guys for wholesome baseball goodness are backing Bonds on this one.

NFL: If nothing else, those retired players testifying to Congress about the NFL's draconian disability plan were far more emotionally gripping than any defense the NFL (or Gene Upshaw) might offer.

LeBron will play for Team U.S.A. in next month's World Championships: He has shoes to sell, after all. No, seriously, I'm wondering how playing in a tournament like that will affect him in the 07-08 season after his previous season lasted into June.

Holy Toledo: The NCAA is looking into problems within the school's football program, including the dreaded "point-shaving" problem. As a Northwestern alum, where point-shaving was an issue with both the football and the basketball teams, I can totally relate.

College Hoops: Most of you know that, despite my loathing for almost all things Duke-related, I am a sucker for Jon Scheyer, if for no other reason than that he's the best Jewish player in college hoops. Anyway, he stars in a student-created parody video that should make him just a little less hateable to the rest of you.

Random question: If you could own a portrait of any player drafted in the NBA Draft's Top 11 since 1985, who would it be? Which player has the most cachet or humor value or ironic value or meaning to you?

-- D.S.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

NBA Draft Preview, Pt. 1: Greg Oden or Kevin Durant?

It is the NBA Draft's biggest storyline: Should Greg Oden or Kevin Durant be the No. 1 overall pick? It's hard not to look at the last 15 years of non-Jordan NBA champs and not see the common factor of "Dominant Big Man."

(Now the fallacy of that argument is that it wasn't a great big man alone: Hakeem was unstoppable, but had a great team around him. Duncan had Robinson, then Parker/Ginobili. Shaq had Kobe. It's no given that Oden alone will automatically win titles. Just look at Wilt.)

If it's all about winning titles, then history says Oden is your guy. But I'd argue that the Finals this month introduced a radical shift to thinking in the NBA, at least FAN thinking:

Titles aren't everything. (Go ahead: Gag.)

So Duncan's Spurs won another title: It didn't register with most NBA fans (most seemed to resent it more than anything else). And even fans in San Antonio seemed a little bored with it.

No, what matters now is entertainment: There is a faction of fans out there, I'm sure, that would rather be oohed-and-ahhed with entertainment for seven months – without winning a title – than be bored en route to winning another ring.

Rings are how we measure the success of stars, but are they how we measure the satisfaction of fans? This is why we Wizards fans can live without NBA titles, but can't live without Gilbert Arenas.

The Oden-Durant debate tilting to Oden presumes that Oden will be winning gobs of titles. If you recognize that winning titles is a Jordanesque zero-sum game, Oden's titles will be at Durant's expense, along with every other player of Oden's era, including LeBron, Wade, Kobe, Dwight Howard, everyone. That's a tough list to out-perform, even for a dominant center.

So it has to be asked: What if Oden doesn't win titles? Even if Durant doesn't either, you have to further ask: In the absence of titles, wouldn't you rather have the super-thrilling swingman than the dominant (but snazz-free) center?

That's the case for drafting Durant. He may win titles. He may not. But, then again, Oden may not either. But at least with Durant, fans will likely be infinitely more entertained along the way.

Commenters: Who would YOU take, and why?

UPDATE: John Hollinger as an absolute must-read about Durant's place as the greatest college-to-NBA prospect of the last half-decade. I used to pimp Carmelo Anthony as that prospect (because of the title), but I concede the argument in the face of Hollinger's quant analysis. Count me a Durant believer. And if I was already leaning toward Durant going No. 1....well, you'll have to wait for my mock draft on Thursday a.m. (No, seriously, read the column. It's amazing. Undervalued: Fazekas, Dudley, McRoberts. Overrated: Brewer(?!?!), Thornton, Nick Young.)

-- D.S.

Tuesday 06/26 A.M. Quickie:
NBA Draft, KG and Kobe, Tank, Shaq, More!

My three-day NBA Draft lead-up coverage begins today. I have a handful of posts planned. I'll do Durant vs. Oden today, because that deserves its own day. I'll do a hodge-podge of storylines tomorrow. I'll post my mock draft on Thursday. Check back (or your Reader). Meanwhile...

Kevin Garnett to the Lakers? It would be great for Kobe, but yesterday's sizzling trade rumor – four teams – is today's squashed idea, because one of those teams – Boston – apparently didn't like that they were "only" getting Jermaine O'Neal.

Hey, the Celtics are the misguided fools who want to "win now." I thought the T'wolves were about to come out as the big winners, landing Al Jefferson and the Celtics' No. 5 pick, to go with their own No. 7 pick.

Regardless of who Minnesota drafted (or traded one of those picks for), with that deal, T'wolves fans would have had something even more valuable than Kevin Garnett: They would have had HOPE.

Blazers trying to trade LaMarcus Aldridge? That would suggest they are taking Greg Oden, to pair with Zach Randolph (rather than Kevin Durant, to pair with Zach Randolph).

Want to read the most refreshingly honest draft analysis I've seen all year? Check out ex-Penn center Stephen Danley's piece from the New York Times.

Oh, and here's something kind of funny: If NBA teams were drafting sports bloggers instead of players. I fell out of the Lottery to the Lakers at No. 19. (However, I would get to fulfill my dream by creating the "Bar-mitzvah Backcourt" with Kobe Jordan Farmar.)

Chauncey Billups is a free agent: If he wants to win, he should stay with the Pistons. If he wants to be more of The Man, he should go to another team. The Pistons are on the way down, not up.

NFL: The most must-see NFL moment of the offseason between the Draft and the first week of training camp comes today when Congress holds its hearings into the NFL's sketchy history handling player disability.

Bears cut Tank Johnson: Who didn't see this coming? But you have to wonder: If this happened during the reign of Paul "Let It Slide" Tagliabue rather than Roger "Get Tough" Goodell, would the Bears have cut him? I think not.

Club bouncer sues Pac-Man: Adding insult to injury (or vice versa... at this point with Jones, I've lost track), he's being sued by the strip-club bouncer who says Jones bit him back in February.

MLB Stud, Batter: Shawn Green, who hit the 11th-inning, game-winning, walk-off home run to lead the Mets over the (new-rival) Cardinals last night.

MLB Stud, Pitcher: CC Sabathia, who won his 11th game with a complete-game win over the A's.

MLB Dud: Cristian Guzman. Just when he and the Nats had it together in hopeful way, he goes out for the season with that injured thumb.

TV Watch: "Shaq's Big Challenge." Cynical NBA fans may scoff, but if Shaq can do anything to erode the grip of childhood obesity that is one of this country's biggest epidemics, I'll stand up and cheer him. Speaking of bad eating habits...

Kobayashi is out of the Hot Dog Eating Contest! Apparently, arthritis means he can barely open his mouth. Knowing about the guys who are run the competitive eating league, this is a dubious as the WWE's "death" of Vince McMahon.

Speaking of Kevin Durant, he'll be on the cover of EA's NCAA Madness '08. Like Adam Morrison a year ago, he was the most dynamic player of the previous season, but – actually IN March – his team underachieved.

(Update: I just saw the picture of Durant they used on the cover of the game. I hope that's a placeholder, because otherwise? Worst. Cover Image. Ever.)

R.I.P. Chris Benoit, his wife and his 7-year-old son, found dead Monday. Condolences to family, friends and fans of the pro-wrestling superstar and his family, who were killed under extremely mysterious circumstances that are sure to continue to be a huge story. UPDATE: Murder-suicide? Cripes, that is horrifying.

-- D.S.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Monday 06/25 A.M. Quickie:
Griffey, Clemens, Beavers, Horford, More!

Welcome AOL Fanhouse readers!


Ken Griffey is MLB's hero
: 2 HR on Sunday to lead the Reds over the Mariners and vault himself ahead of Mark McGwire on the all-time HR list, in front of a "home" crowd that loves him perhaps more than any other athlete in city history.

A healthy-ish Griffey is enjoying a late-career surge of national popularity, most likely because he seems to be a rare model of clean power in a larger pool of PED-tainted sluggers of his era.

Clemens throws middle relief: It was his first relief appearance since July 1984. Think he wanted extra money for it?

The dramatic crescendo of the appearance was his battle with Barry Bonds. He walked Bonds on four pitches. Eh: Not so dramatic.

Frank Thomas hits 499: What's more exciting to follow – Frank Thomas reaching 500 HR or Craig Biggio reaching 3000 hits?

(Which is more exclusive? The 3000-hit club has 26 members; The 500 Club has 20.)

MLB Stud: Dustin McGowan, who threw a no-hitter through 8 innings before settling for a complete-game win. (Runner-up: Beckett becomes MLB's first 11-game winner. Angling for All-Star start?)

MLB Trade Rumors: Is Trader Ken Williams ready to ship Mark Buehrle to the Mets?

Morneau Watch: Still sidelined in the hospital after that collision. Purely my own speculation, but is this going to end his season?

Rod Beck, R.I.P.: Condolences to family, friends and fans of the longtime MLB closer, who sported the best moustache of our era.

CWS: Oregon State repeats as champs. Not a bad spring for back-to-back championships in major men's college sports.

NBA Deals: Vince Carter staying with the Nets? Ugh, how depressing for Nets fans. Why is Bruce Ratner so enamored with such an unclutch player?

It's time for the Nets to rebuild: I'd start with re-dangling Jason Kidd to the Lakers for Andrew Bynum (let's see LA turn that down NOW, after all the Kobe stuff). Then I'd let Carter go, or deal him in a sign-and-trade (to the Bobcats for Gerald Wallace?). Then I'd see what I could get for Richard Jefferson. Then I'd bide my time until LeBron arrives. Sound like a good plan?

NBA Draft Watch: Today, the Hawks are working out Al Horford, who is the consensus "Best Player Available Not Named Oden or Durant."

I've been saying this for two seasons: Horford is going to be an amazing NBA player. For now, he's being eclipsed by Oden and Durant, but he is going to be a huge impact player.

(That's sort of why I hate to see him go to a woeful team like Atlanta. But he can really help that team.)

Track: Your next great American Olympic track star? Tyson Gay, who produced the second-best time ever in the 200.

Wimbledon starts today: So it's going to be Federer winning the men's side and – what – like a Williams sibling winning the women's? OK, gotcha. Ping me when the finals are on.

(At least Wimby is paying the women the same as the men... finally, and long overdue.)

NFL: If you would like to know why Laurence Maroney will be the bloggers' favorite NFL player next year – sort of an antidote to Pac-Man Jones – here's why.

-- D.S.