Saturday, April 25, 2009

Saturday 04/25 (Drafty) Quickie

Lions sign Stafford: $41 million guaranteed. Whoa. Expect much discussion over a rookie salary scale in future seasons. Stafford may be remembered as the last to truly cash in.

The No. 1 pick in the draft no longer holds any mystery. I have this dream that every team now signs the player of their choice, and the draft simply happens all day long, rather than at 4.

The Rams are (sort of) on the clock. There is this rumor they bought Mark Sanchez a plane ticket to St. Louis on Sunday, but most folks think the Rams are trying too hard to be clever.

The Rams won't draft Sanchez. And no team is going to be bluffed into (over)paying to move up to No. 2 to get him. If Seattle is serious about taking him at No. 4, KC at 3 may see some action.

I noted earlier this week that I will be cheering for several players -- Knowshon, Derrick Williams, Cornelius Ingram. But, obviously, my main attention is on Percy Harvin.

Will he slip out of the first round entirely, as the "experts" are predicting? Or is all the noise about his pot-smoking (and, of course, injury history) just a "smokescreen" (ugh) from teams that want to see him slide to them late in the 1st? There was this one crazy rumor on PFT that he could go as high as No. 7 to the Raiders -- so that would be ahead of Crabtree and/or Maclin? No way. But I could definitely see Harvin going in the 1st round.

It's Draft Day! I'll be checking in via Twitter, either found on the right or right here. Enjoy the day.

-- D.S.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Must-Read: Chuck Todd Talking Sports

Chuck Todd. Talking sports. Amazing. (Huge h/t to RCS -- great questions.)

Why Erin Andrews Rules Sports Media

Erin Andrews is about to ascend to the very top of the sports media landscape. She is already the nation's sideline reporter for virtually everything -- this weekend she adds the NFL Draft to her resume. She is featured in video games. She is, of course, the sports blogger prom queen.

There are few in sports media who match her existing visibility (Berman, Patrick, Kornheiser, Vitale) and none -- none -- who match her potential to extend her brand, virtually everywhere and anywhere.

But people who base it on her sex appeal -- or obsess over it -- have completely missed why she is where she is right now. It is about her accessibility: Both literally, on the sidelines buffered between student sections and player benches -- and metaphorically: She is wholesome. She is likeable. She is nice. She is a fan.

You don't want to sleep with her -- you want to watch a game with her.

I spent a few hours watching EA up close last night, and my theory was re-confirmed. Here's the column about it.

-- D.S.

Tim Tebow Meets Barack Obama

I may have to save this one.

Friday 04/24 A.M. Quickie:
NFL Draft, Erin Andrews, Celtics, Curry

Who will be the top name to know at this weekend's NFL Draft? That competition leads today's SN column: Matt Stafford? Mark Sanchez? Mel Kiper? Todd McShay? Erin Andrews? Percy Harvin?

I'm not convinced Stafford is the best player on the board -- though I have finally come around that he is the best QB. But what about OT Jason Smith? Or LB Aaron Curry? Or Mike Crabtree?

Percy Harvin seems to be the big candidate to be this year's Brady Quinn -- the former first-round lock who plummets through the 1st round... maybe even into the 2nd?

(Don't buy it: Injuries? Off-field issues? That's media fodder. The teams that actually study tape are probably still rubbing their eyes at what a home-run hitter Harvin is. He'll go in the 1st, and that team will get a steal. Ack: Quickie Jinx!)

Meanwhile, the media storyline has its own intrigue: To what extent will Mel Kiper be nudged aside by Todd McShay? Will Erin Andrews steal the spotlight from the Green Room?

Saturday afternoon and night is about 8 hours of this stuff. Just sit back, relax and take it in.

*The Bulls are done.
*The Jays are still rolling.
*Sox-Yanks? Ugh. We're back to that again?
*Curry: Will go in the NBA Draft Top 10.
*USC Spring Game: Barkley will leave the game with way more mojo and fan support than Corp.

Complete column here
. Check the Twitter feed all weekend for draft commentary.

-- D.S.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Must-Read: Chad Ford on Dikembe

Chad Ford is/was one of my favorite people at When he left full-time hoops-writing to pursue teaching and university research, I never heard the full story -- until now.

He was inspired, in large part, by Dikembe Mutombo -- Dikembe's injury and sudden retirement was an emotional moment for Chad. Read this and you'll understand why. (And probably feel a little worse about your own likely more superficial existence...)

All best to Dikembe to continue his amazing work -- and to Chad to continue his.

-- D.S.

Champ Gators Meet Obama At White House

Leading to the worst AP headline ever:

"Obama Lauds Florida State Gators" (No, really.)


On the plus side, Obama reiterated his support for a playoff -- but tactfully said that Florida would have won that playoff if it existed last season. (And they would have.)

-- D.S.

Thursday 04/23 A.M. Quickie:
Jeremy Tyler Will Save Prep Basketball

There is one huge name to know today: Jeremy Tyler.

The 6-11 prep hoops stud is skipping his senior season to play professionally in Europe. Not skipping college. Skipping HIGH SCHOOL.

It is revolutionary. It makes Kevin Garnett's prep-to-pro leap seem quaint and Brandon Jennings' vacation in Italy seem irrelevant.

It is nothing less than the most disruptive thing to ever happen to the major U.S. pro-sports development pipeline.

Obviously, Tyler is unique -- 6-11 studs aren't the norm. But you don't think that LeBron couldn't have made the jump to the pros after his sophomore or junior year of high school?

Greg Oden would have been the No. 1 pick of the NBA Draft after his junior year of high school, if he was eligible. OJ Mayo would have been a Lottery pick.

Tyler's logic is dead-on: Why should he spend a high-school year getting hacked to hell? Why should he cynically go play for one of these unsanctioned prep-hoops factories, like Findlay or Oak Hill? Why should he feed some greedy AAU system or college coffers?

How will playing his senior year of high school hoops -- or, for that matter, his one-and-done freshman year of college -- make him more prepared for the NBA than full-time pro development for the next two years?

The challenge isn't to convince him that he is wrong -- or to try to pressure future prep underclassmen not to follow him.

The challenge is to create a compelling enough system INSIDE THE U.S. that preps don't have to go to Europe to develop their skills for the NBA.

Rather than exclude college freshmen obviously ready for the NBA -- or high school seniors who will spend a year potentially watching their skills diminish, not develop -- why doesn't USA Basketball create a true development pipeline?

Take promising players as young as 14 -- America's Ricky Rubio -- and older and let them drop out of traditional high school and AAU systems, paying them to develop their games for professional play. It's basically vocational school, except the players are well-compensated.

The NBA gets better, more fully developed players. We starve the AAU and renegade prep "schools" and predatory college boosters into submission.

Let's look back and realize that Jeremy Tyler was a pioneer of the next generation of basketball -- a better generation than the skeevy one that has come before it.

That leads today's SN column, which also includes:

*Lions using Curry to force Stafford to deal?
*Dwyane Wade! Chauncey Billups!
*Make way for the Pirates! And the Royals!
*And a lot more!

Complete column here
. More later.

-- D.S.

You can call this an aberration -- or you can call it the

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Why John Wall Should Enter The NBA Draft

Wrote this a week ago, then shelved it when John Wall said he was going to college and wouldn't test the NBA Draft rules. Then Gary Parrish wrote a column about it on that is getting all sorts of attention. That'll teach me.

Longtime readers know that I am opposed to the age limit in the NBA draft. (I am for the NFL Draft, too, but that's another story for another day.)

I think the NBA draft age-limit is artificial and virtually meaningless -- and my simple response to anyone who thinks we need to force kids to play college hoops for a year is "LeBron."

The argument is easy: Let the market decide. If a prep kid declares for the draft and goes undrafted, it sends a signal to other prep kids that their best interest is in going to college.

The reason so many preps came out was because the NBA market kept sending signals that it was the right choice to make. More often than not, NBA GMs would evaluate these players and decide that -- yes -- they are most certainly talented enough to be drafted, usually drafted very high.

That brings us to John Wall. Wall is the best player in the prep class of 2009 -- if there was no NBA age-limit, he would certainly be a Top 5 pick of the 2009 draft. Perhaps even the No. 1 overall pick.

(Folks who know Wall's game say he is a better version of Derrick Rose. So there you go. You could draft Blake Griffin, who is sort of like Al Horford -- no slouch, certainly -- or you could draft John Wall, who is sort of like Derrick Rose or Chris Paul. In a league increasingly dominated by great point guards, you can have one of your own.)

Meaning: There is absolutely no question -- even now -- about his NBA potential. You cannot argue in good faith that a player that would be drafted in the first round isn't NBA-worthy. The draft status alone confirms NBA-worthiness.

Here's where it gets interesting: Wall's high school class graduated in 2008. He played this past year as a post-grad; that's why he wasn't on any prep All-America teams.

Does that mean that Wall has effectively cleared the NBA's hurdle that draftees have to be one-year-removed from their high school class graduation?

This may sound familiar: Larry Fitzgerald was a true sophomore when he declared for the NFL draft, arguing that he was 3 years removed from his high-school graduation because he had a post-grad year between high school and college.

Remember: This was when the NFL was obliterating legal challenges to the draft's age limit. And yet the NFL was scared enough by the argument that they called his case an "exception" and quietly welcomed him in.

(Let's also consider that even though Fitzgerald had "only" two years of college experience, he was plenty ready for the pros -- as his draft status and NFL success prove.)

I would imagine the NBA would be similarly scared by a challenge to their draft restrictions, which don't have nearly the historical or logical resonance of the NFL's version.

Besides: If Wall is so good that he would be drafted anywhere from FIRST OVERALL to, say, No. 5 (at the outside), what sort of claim could the NBA have that he NEEDS a year of college development?

I hope Wall challenges the NBA's age-restrictions -- I suspect it wouldn't be much of a challenge. Given the Fitzgerald analogue, I think the NBA would find a way to rationalize Wall's entry.

Oh, and he'd probably end up the No. 1 overall pick -- of the 2009 draft.

-- D.S.

(h/t: Mike DeCourcy)

Twitter Endorsements: Next Big Thing?

Darren Rovell makes a good point about the potential for Twitter endorsements. (I'll dub them "@ndorsements" and claim creation of the hot new phrase.)

But why limit it to athletes? In theory, anyone with a lot of followers -- the kind sports marketers are trying to reach -- would make for a good endorsement partner, especially if you're trading goods/services for a mention, rather than cash.

That could be sports-media folks or bloggers or anyone who might be considered a well-connected "influencer." They might want to start with Rovell himself! (Cough, cough: I'm always happy to offer my tweeted opinion on products I am given to test out.)

-- D.S.

Wednesday 04/22 A.M. Quickie:
Lions, Roy, Washburn, Dikembe, More

Doesn't matter who the Lions take No. 1 overall in Saturday's NFL Draft: If they sign the guy before the draft starts, they have been successful.

That's the lead of today's SN column, which also features:

*Brandon Roy is the new Tony Parker!
*Jarrod Washburn is a fantasy stud!
*Celebrating the career of Dikembe!
*"0.2" rules the NHL!

Apparently, I get a few minutes to interview Erin Andrews tomorrow night. Submit your suggested questions through the comments -- please, make them reasonable. I'd love to use some.

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

NFL Draft: Mel Kiper's Time of Year

Want a really good defense of Kiper? KSK's Drew Magary offers one here (plus a handy rebuttal). What has gone under-reported, however, is that ESPN seems to be shouldering Mel out of the way to make room for Todd "New Kiper" McShay.

McShay is sort of like Kiper 2.0 -- but a Kiper without the vast mythology that makes Mel so much of who he is: The self-assurance, the Bal'mer accent, the wild feud with the Colts, the hair. Most of which was developed well before technological and television ubiquity.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 04/21 A.M. Quickie:
Celtics, Parker, Lions, Caps, Rubio

Dammit: The Celtics-Bulls series has totally hooked me. Another game, another dramatic finish. Credit Ray Allen's 28 2nd-half points (SN column lead!). Credit the C's 21 offensive rebounds.

But you can pin that loss on Vinny Del Negro, who figured it wasn't worth it to save a time-out, just in case -- y'know -- the Celtics scored in the final seconds.

From the baseline, the Bulls were finished. From half-court -- with Ben Gordon riding an absurdly hot hand -- the Bulls had as good of a chance as there was. So, thanks, Coach.

More in today's column:
*Tony Parker is the new Chauncey Billups
*Lions logo: Now 100 percent more lively!
*Ricky Rubio: I'd take him over Griffin.
*Caps: Not finished yet!
*The Pirates are the new Marlins! (Not quite.)

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Monday, April 20, 2009

NOTY Final: Vote Barkevious Mingo

Barkevious Mingo got my vote in the Name of the Year final. How about you?

Defending Joakim Noah (Again)

It is an ongoing debate I have with a lot of people: Will Joakim Noah make a good NBA player?

Coming off his finest performance as a pro -- 11 pts, 17 reb and 3 blocks in the Game 1 shocker -- his play of the game was Noah's foul on Paul Pierce, shooting a jumper, with seconds to play.

It put PP on the line with the game in his hands to win. It triggered all sorts of "don't foul a jump-shooter!" hysteria from the TV analysts. It was classic overzealous Joakim.

Pierce missed FT No. 2. The Bulls went on to win in OT. And David Thorpe -- one of the savviest evaluators of basketball strategy found anywhere -- thinks Noah's foul was a good one.

Now, maybe if Pierce's shot goes in and the Bulls waste the amazing performance by Rose et al, Noah is the goat of the game -- perhaps the postseason.

But the Bulls won't win by playing cautiously -- they have to play aggressively, even recklessly. That's Noah. Two NCAA titles -- and a playoff win in Boston against the defending champs.

-- D.S.

Monday 04/20 A.M. Quickie:
Rose, Lakers, 76ers, Billups, Jays, More

I think it was best to enter these NBA playoffs with couldn't-be-lower expectations. That made it pleasantly surprising to watch the Derrick Rose Show in Boston on Saturday.

And it makes Game 2 of Celtics-Bulls tonight that much more must-see (per today's SN column), if only to see if Rose can match/top his Game 1 performance -- or will the Celtics make the defensive adjustments necessary to force someone (anyone!) to beat them besides Rose.

Otherwise, Chauncey Billups was sick (8/9 3-pt, 36 pts) and it's obvious that this isn't your usual choke-in-the-first-round Nuggets team -- it's absurd to try to argue it, but given how Denver so wildly exceeded expectations this season, "Billups for MVP" is hardly THAT crazy.

Anyone see the Hawks' demolition of the Heat coming? How about Orlando's inability to finish the big game vs. Philly?

More you'll find in today's column:
*More fawning over the Marlins.
*Some fawning over the Jays.
*Yankee Stadium offers karmic payback to Saturday's obliteration.
*Matt Millen vs. Stephen A. Smith
*And More!

Complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Sunday 04/19 (Very) Quickie

For those of us who enjoy schadenfreude when it comes to Boston and New York sports teams, yesterday was a banner day. It's hard to know what to enjoy more:

*The defending champ Celtics losing Game 1 of their first-round playoff series to the Bulls in Boston, after Derrick Rose rewrote the history books and put on a show?

*Or the Yankees giving up 14 runs in a single inning to the Indians, en route to a 22-4 pasting that -- until it is displaced, which may take a while -- defines the new Yankee Stadium.

The Yankees thing was more humiliating, but the Celtics thing had more impact -- it's the playoffs and they are the defending home.

More NBA: Good for the Mavs, getting off the schneid on the road in the playoffs and solving the Spurs in San Antonio to take Game 1 and ... wow, the Rockets took that whole "up-and-coming" thing for the Blazers and showed them where they can shove it -- who needs T-Mac when you've got Aaron Brooks?... And, yes, the Cavs dominated.

MLB: What was that about Tim Lincecum being off to a slow start? 8 IP, 0 ER, 13 Ks, in what was arguably the best single-game performance by a pitcher yet this season. (The only problem for his fantasy owners? A no-decision!)

How about the team stories of the year in each league?

*Marlins: The story of the year in MLB -- the Marlins -- rolls along: Florida is 10-1 after surviving a slugfest with the Nats. Jeremy Hermida: 2 HR, 5 RBI.

*Royals: The second-best story -- the .500-plus Royals -- moved to 7-4 behind Zach Grienke's CG shutout (10 Ks) that neutered the Rangers' bats.

Meanwhile, the Dodgers won their 7th straight (Manny 2 HR). In a season of unexpected results, LA winning behind Manny isn't one of them.

Spring football: Florida's game was pretty subdued -- tons of fans, not many fireworks. The future was on display -- backup QB John Brantley throws a nicer ball than Tim Tebow (which isn't hard, let's be honest) and backup WRs Frankie Hammond and TJ Lawrence looked like future studs. These guys have all the pressure -- they'll be charged with leading a back-to-back national champion, after all. (Alabama? What? Oh, sorry: I was watching the Celtics-Bulls game and we didn't get to the Bama spring game until the 2nd quarter.)

NHL: I can't belive the Caps are going to go out like such losers. They are down 0-2 -- after playing two games in DC. What a disappointing ending after such an amazing regular season.

More later. Or catch you tomorrow morning.

-- D.S.