Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The Fat Man Has Sung; Now We Wait for the Player to Be Named Later

According to SFGate , Bengie Molina has been traded by the Giants to the Texas Rangers. The deal will be completed Thursday and immediately makes Buster Posey the full-time catcher for the G-Men.

The Giants lose the slowest man in baseball and gain Chris Ray, middle reliever who used to strike people out, and the dreaded PTBNL (player to be named later). Chris Ray is kind of decent and adds depth to the middle relief crew. He has been OK for the Rangers so far this season but there are some troubling stats sitting underneath his solid 3.41 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. First is his K:BB ratio. It's 1. Yup, Ray has walked as many hitters as he has struck out; that would be 16 each in 31.2 IP. This represents a career-worst mark in this stat.

Ray after issuing a bases-loaded walk. Why did I pick this picture? No reason really.

How to spin this? Well, he must be getting his outs on the ground, right? Not really. According to FanGraphs, he is allowing more fly balls (51.5% of all batted balls) than at any point in his career.  Of course, one can point to his 7.7% HR/FB, a new career-low. But then, you are faced with the fact that he has been extremely lucky, especially when you consider his home park has been the launching pad in Arlington. His BABIP stands at .214, insanely low. Ray has been the beneficiary of a lot of at 'em balls. I have to wonder if that kind of luck will continue with the Giants' geriatric outfielders patrolling the sward at AT&T Park.

This leaves us with the PTBNL. The names dropped at SFGate were lefties Chris Davis and Jarrod Saltalamacchia.  The former is power-hitting first baseman, with a love of the long ball and the strikeout. He was sent down after just 48 ABs earlier this season and has been hitting at AAA ever since. He plays excellent defense at first but has been a K-fiend at every level of play. On the plus side, he has hit for average and power at every level of play. Well, unless you count the majors. But whose quibbling? This year at Triple-A Davis is hitting .327 with six HRs and 30 RBI in 44 games. Good on the average but the power seems to have been lost somewhere between Arlington and Oklahoma City. He is striking out less but Davis' value comes from his tremendous power. This cyclopean talent clubbed 36 home runs in 129 games between Double- and Triple-A in 2007. He has shown promise at the big league level as well, hitting 17 dongs in 80 games in 2008 when he was first called up. That kind of pop is something the Giants could use.

My vote for PTBNL. Despite the K:BB, WAR and ISO.

The other option is Mr. Saltalamacchia, owner of the longest last name in baseball history. Unfortunately, he is also the owner of an arm that has struggled to throw the ball 60 feet and six inches to the pitchers' mound. Really. Check this report from the Oklahoma City RedHawks web site:

RedHawks catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia would be back in the major leagues if he didn't have a problem throwing the ball - not to an infielder, but back to his pitcher.

In Salty's last game, Tuesday night at AT&T Bricktown Ballpark, 12 of his throws back to the pitcher landed either short of the mound or in center field. He had five errant throws in the first inning alone.

"He's just got to keep playing until he gets it right," RedHawks manager Bobby Jones said. "I don't know what else to do. It's a shame. It's definitely what's keeping him here. He's blocking the ball well and swinging the bat well. He's just got to figure it out. It's a shame."

To be fair, reports are that Salty has cleared up these issues but nonetheless has not returned to the big league club. While the Giants could use more depth at catcher, they have a greater need at first base. Posey and Eli Whiteside should cover every available game at catcher, leaving precious little for Saltalamacchia to do in San Francisco. The seamstresses in the Giants employ will be glad if the team passes on him. Davis is a hell of a lot easier on the hands than Saltalamacchia.

It takes nimble, child-like fingers to stitch the name just right.

As for Bengie, he moves to hitter's haven and should see a definite improvement in his offensive numbers. Fantasy owners in AL-Only leagues should be all over him. Wait, I am one of those. Be right back. Molina will be missed for his expert handling of a young pitching staff. Also, until this season he has been the most reliable bat in a terrible Giants lineup. He has looked slower both at and behind the plate this season but I like his chances of rebounding for a solid half-season with the explosive Rangers. On the plus side for the Giants, they should immediately cut down on their double-plays and increase the number of infield hits. Last, I am not sure how happy Molina was about being Giant this season. This is based on nothing more than speculation but Bengie was the man for the past three seasons. He was the best hitter and a seasoned vet other players looked up to. This season he was a rental, holding Buster Posey's spot until the rookie was ready. I don't think he liked being that position. On the Rangers he will again be the man behind the plate and should see a lot more of his fly balls head over the wall. Then he can do what he does best: jog slowly around the bases.

Molina was just fast enough on this day in Milwaukee:

Posey was drafted to be the everyday starting catcher and now that day has come. I know Tim Lincecum will miss Bengie behind the dish but I am betting Posey wins him over quickly. Molina wasn't blocking balls in the dirt like he used to and Posey's athleticism will make a difference here. This deal will be a positive for the Giants if  they land a left-handed bat who can help a struggling offense. I am hoping, for all his flaws, that bat is Chris Davis.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Lego My World Cup

One the best by-products of this year's World Cup has been the Lego animations of various moments of big games. What, you thought I was going to talk about the vuvuzela apps (yes, there's more than one)  for the iPhone?

Here's the US v England (3.5 stars):

England v Germany (2 stars but only because it's in German):

"Nein. Nein. Nein Nein." I don't speak a word of German but even I know in this series of neins the announcer was convincing himself (and no one else) that Lampard didn't score.

And one fan's reaction to the above game (4 stars):

Why is Lampard's disallowed goal such a big deal historically? Note the the poster in the previous video and keep it in mind as you view the following: 

England v West Germany, 1966 (4 stars):

Points awarded for use of black and white as well as the flickering "filmic" effects used in this one. There will be more lego footie, no doubt, and if the referees oblige us, we will have plenty to laugh about.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton Aren't BFF

Yesterday, Evan Longoria did what many of B.J. Upton's fantasy owners have wanted to do all season: He got in Upton's face and told him to quit dogging it. Longoria was pissed because Upton was poorly postioned in center field when Rusty Ryal clocked a drive to left-center. Worse, Upton made a hemi-gluteal effort to cut the ball off and what was likely just a double turned into a triple. Longoria shared his feelings about the play in the dugout after the inning. See the video below:

Upton showed more effort going after Longoria than he did Ryal's drive to the outfield. Of course, he only gave maximum effort after he was safely restrained by Willy Aybar and had Matt Joyce standing between he and Longoria. My dad had a word for guys like this: pussy. My dad also a word for guys who sported incredibly bad haircuts like the one seen on Evan Longoria: son.

Part of me feels for Upton. He was the number 2 overall pick in 2002 and has been hyped as a four-and-a-half-tool guy for years. He's not a five-tool guy because his defense was never considered great.  He started out as a second baseman prospect but that went so poorly, he was moved to the outfield. For all the misadventures on the field, Upton's ability to hit for power and his speed have never been doubted. Fantasy baseball jakes like myself have been waiting on Upton to mature for years. He's just 25, so it might still happen but the prospects aren't looking good. After his breakout 2007 campaign (.300/24 HR/22 SB in just 129 games) it has been a steady decline. Only his speed has remained. This season he is hitting just  .223 and is getting worked by teammates, Joe Maddon, his manager, and the local papers.

To make matters worse--and I'll bet this played a role in his explosive reaction to Longoria's dugout critique--the Rays were playing the Diamondbacks when this happened and, no doubt, his brother, Justin, the Diamondback's left fielder saw the whole thing.

As a Sox fan, I love it. In fact, the worst thing that could happen is the Rays do something sensible and trade his half-ass to another team and improve the clubhouse morale. If Upton is as bad as it seems, this could hurt the Rays and put a significant drag on the team. The Sox, as beat up as they are, will take it.

Of course, the national media is piling on and my sources tell me Carlton Fisk called Upton after the game, telling him, "If you don't play the game right, I'm going to kick your ass."

Deion Sanders could not be reached for comment but I have reached out to Upton and suggest he demand a trade...of Evan Longoria.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Uh Oh, It's Udoh

Yesterday, I asked how the Warriors would screw this up and they have responded in all their wretched unglory. As we stated, the two clear position needs for this team were and are center and small forward. What do the Warriors do? They draft Ekpe Udoh, the power forward from Baylor.

Get ready for many more awkward Udoh moments.

If you watched the tourney this spring, you may recall him as the big guy who blocked a lot of shots for Baylor and threw down some nice dunks. You may have been intrigued enough by this mobile big man that you looked up his numbers. When you did, you found he averaged 13.9 points, 9.8 boards and a whopping 3.7 blocks per game. Lottery Pick Summary: Power forward with a funky foreign name, excellent defensive timing, a nose for the glass and limited offensive game.

Then it hits you: Holy crap. The Warriors somehow managed to draft Adonal Foyle again.

Remember me?


How about now?

I would love to say there is almost certainly a trade to follow, what with three power forwards on the roster: Udoh, Anthony Randolph and Brandan Wright--yes, he is still on the Warriors. But we are talking about the Warriors here and I am not sure God even knows what comes next.

Udoh has the ability to be a solid defensive four in the NBA. But he is 23, so don't expect a surge in skills. He is what he is: a shot-blocker who will clean the glass and score the occasional putback or wide open mid-range shot. A decent add for any team's bench.

The Warriors needed more. My suggestion, despite the soft tag, was they pursue Greg Monroe. He is big, skilled and would have been nasty in the pick n' roll with Steph Curry. Not happening.

Why did the Warriors take Udoh? My guess is they were tired of drafting risky potential as they did with Randolph and Wright, who haven't exactly played up to their potential, and wanted something more assured and solid. They succeeded. They are now driving a brand new Nissan Sentra.

The Warriors Motto: We Don't Build Excitement

Please somebody buy this team and save them from themselves. For another take on this pick, check out Golden State of Mind. I think you'll find they feel similarly underwhelmed.

Celtics Draft: Before and After

With the 19th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft the Boston Celtics select...Avery Bradley from the University of Texas.

And most Celtics fans went, "Who?" The unsurprising part is that most Celtics fans knew exactly who Luke Harangody was when he was selected in the second round: "Big white guy with the flat top. A little round in the chin. Plays for the Irish. Hard worker. Good scorer. Love him."

Even dedicated Celtics bloggers were a bit unsure after Ainge's selection of Bradley:

Bradley should fit in well with the Celtics. He is an extremely athletic combo guard who plays ridiculous defense. While his size, 6-3, 185 lbs, makes him a point guard, he is not known for breaking defenders down off the dribble or creating for teammates. On the other hand, he has freakish, orangutan arms and is capable of guarding taller shooting guards. My concerns are the lack of playmaking and ballhandling skills and the fact that he shot just 43.2% from the field in his lone college season. It should be noted he shot an acceptable 37.5% from three-point land, indicating he has range if not consistency. What gives me confidence is his athleticism (37-inch plus vertical) and his love and talent for defense.

Smell that vertical.

Danny said he was sure Bradley would be gone before the 19th pick and most mock drafts agreed with him. For posterity I thought I would post a few mocks' takes on where they thought Bradley would be taken.


NBA FanHouse: 13th (Toronto Raptors)
"The Raptors need everything but a sweet-shooting center at this point, with Jose Calderon have joined Hedo Turkoglu in disfavor. Bradley reportedly had a positive workout in T-Dot, and while his NBA development is a real question mark, the signs are positive enough for a team to pick him up in the mid-first. Maybe Bargnani can teach him how to shoot."

Sports Illustrated: 18th (Oklahoma City Thunder)
"With Dwyane Wade handling the ball most of the time, the Heat need a Derek Fisher-like shooter at point guard. That makes Bradley their man. Driving to the basket isn't his strength, but he has three-point range and will defend, which is another priority for the Heat. He's not a pass-first point guard, but they can live with his limitations."

NBA Soup:  18th (Oklahoma City Thunder)
"Many mocks have Bradley dropping out of the first round due to his erratic play, small stature, and lack of a true position. While all of those knocks are fairly warranted, it’s also quite clear that Bradley is young, athletic, and oozing with potential. If he’s able to come off the bench as a role player in his first season, he could shine."

Hoops Addict: 13th (Toronto Raptors)
"He’s the closest thing to Monta Ellis I’ve seen in the college game, an unreal athlete, with a soft touch, incredible body control, long range jumper, basically he’s got it all. He’s going to be one of these guys that we hear NBA scouts go back and forth on non-stop before the draft. He’s not a true point guard, which means that I believe he’s going to be the guy more than anyone else that needs to find a team that’s the right “fit,” for him. The absolute ideal circumstance would be Sacramento, where he won’t have to be a ball-handler and playmaker, go off of Tyreke Evans and guard true point guards."

The Hoop Doctors: 13th (Toronto Raptors)
"After coming out of HS as the #1 prospect in the entire ‘09 class, Bradley showed signs of his tremendous upside as a future NBA player. Problem was he was widely inconsistent. Even though he was a prime candidate of improving his stock by returning for his sophomore season, Bradley decided to remain in this year’s draft even though he still has a shaky jumpshot. On the upside, he showed excellent ability to get to the rim, is in his element in the open floor, and has the potential to be an elite level defender. Toronto desperately needs a point guard and Bradley has the potential to develop into a good one. Comparison: Monta Ellis"

I love the last two, despite the differing opinions on Bradley's jumpshot. Clearly, his athleticism is elite and the Monta Ellis comparisons are swoonerific. One thing, having watched a lot of Monta Ellis here in Oakland, Ellis is not a balls out defender like Bradley is. That's right, Avery Bradley plays defense with his balls hanging from his shorts.

In case you are left thinking all the draft nerds had Bradley going either 13th or 18th (though most really did) here are a few more:

San Francisco Chronicle: 25th (Memphis Grizzlies)

Boston Herald: 20th (San Antonio Spurs)

Draftology: 15th (Milwaukee Bucks) 19th (Boston Celtics) These guys and Inside Hoops got it right.

The morning-after consensus is the Celtics did a good job this draft. Some were glowing with praise, some were more lukewarm; I found no one who thought they shanked it. Here is a sampling of opinions and grades:

Ball Don't Lie: (A) Talk about drafting for need, the Celtics turned an afterthought draft (Doc Rivers is a week and a half removed from admitting that he didn't know when his team would be drafting in the first round, and we don't blame him for that) into an actual depth-provider by finding a legitimate minutes-sopper in Bradley (a standout defender to back up Rajon Rondo) and potential frontcourt rebound-helper in Harangody.

NBA Fanhouse: (A) Avery Bradley, who could have gone as high as No. 10, slid down to the Celtics at No. 19. Boston also picked up a decent frontcourt rotation option in Notre Dame's Luke Harangody late in the second. Based on Bradley's potential as a Ray Allen replacement down the line and the fact that the Harangody pick led to a cavalcade of hilarious Brian Scalabrine-related tweets, this is a win for Boston.

Sports Illustrated: (B-) Danny Ainge has had a bit of a man-crush on Avery Bradley for weeks, hoping the explosive combo guard would get to the Celtics at No. 19. While most believed Ainge was targeting a big man to fill in for the injured Kendrick Perkins or the just-retired Rasheed Wallace, Ainge was always after the best player available. Bradley was it. Bradley can back up Rajon Rondo and his slashing ability gives Boston a much-needed punch on what will likely be a revamped bench. Luke Harangody was an overachiever in college, but if he turns out to be a good practice player, Boston will keep him around. (B) There's a lot to like about Bradley teaming with Rajon Rondo in the future. Defensively, you couldn't come up with a much better backcourt. It was important for Bradley to land on a team that didn't need him to play point full-time but would also give him the opportunity to learn the position. Harangody is a value along the same lines as Glen Davis and Leon Powe of previous drafts – a highly productive college player who should be better than Brian Scalabrine, for what that's worth. Neither was a “great” pick, but both were solid and earn a solid grade.

CelticsBlog has a typically well-informed take on the draft that's worth checking out.

Harangody is interesting to me on a number of levels. First, the obvious doofus white guy appeal, and his struggle to show he's not just another big white stiff. Second, the guy really can score and rebound. He is far from a plus leaper but anyone who put up close to 20 points and 10 rebounds throughout his Big East career has some ability. And let's not forget, Danny kills the second round. Last, in the city of Boston, do not overlook the appeal of a player who looks like much of the fanbase.

"He looks just like Marky from down the way."

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Draft Day: Boston Celtics

If the Warriors are a mess, the Celtics are, by comparison, a model franchise. However, a whole hell of a lot could happen this off-season. Ray Allen may have made (and missed) his last three-pointer as a Celtic. Paul Pierce could opt out of his contract and test free agency before he puts any more tread on his tires. Even Scalabrine could be gone (rumors say the Nets may be interested. Hey, if it gets you LeBron.) Only KG, Big Baby, Rondo, Perkins and Rasheed Wallace are under contract for next season, and Wallace has already indicated to Doc Rivers he will be retiring. Hell, Doc could be gone next season as well, though I doubt it.

Here is how the Boston Globe defines the team's needs:

Perkins could miss part of next season, while Rondo still doesn't have a true backup. So help in the middle, as well as at the point guard position, are the team's top two priorities. If Allen or Pierce leave, the Celtics will be in need of a good, young scorer. And let's not forget that the Celtics have very little salary cap flexibility, so the player they draft must be able to step in and contribute right away. No pressure, right?

I agree with most of this. I would like to see the Cs go for a center or a combo guard who can score. My guess is Tony Allen played well enough in the playoffs to make the Celtics take him back and he might sign for less with them than he would anyone else. Nate Robinson? Probably gone despite the Shrek and Donkey sideshow we all loved. If this is how it goes down, they will need someone who can man the point and hit shots. I actually think the Celtics will resign Ray Allen. I believe he wants to stay and will play for less than he could get on the market. He has a few good years left in him. Think Reggie Miller in his mid- to late-30s. The Celtics could use that so long as they don't have to pay market price.

Essentially, the Celtics need to build their team around Rajon Rondo. This means they need guys who can shoot and score. The only need that trumps this is interior defense. For this reason I like the idea of the Celtics moving down in the draft. Check this rumor from ESPN's TrueHoop:

Boston is considering two offers for its No. 19 pick, one from Memphis and one from New Jersey, a source with knowledge of the selection told Wednesday night. The Celtics are mulling over an offer from Memphis for the Grizzlies No. 25 and 28 picks while the Nets are looking at shipping the No. 27 pick in the first round and No. 31 in the second round to the Celtics for No. 19. A source close to the Celtics said earlier Wednesday that general manager Danny Ainge was looking to move No. 19 because he wasn’t enamored with the possible selections at that position.

The Grizzlies trade is the one to go for, though it will cost more as the Nets' second round pick would not come with a guaranteed contract.

 The Globe featured a number of players in their list of potential future Celtics. I found it a tad optimistic: Paul George and Gordon Hayward sure to be gone by the 18th pick. No way Indiana can let local white boy hero get past them and George has been a fast riser in all mocks I have seen.

Here are a few players not listed by the Globe that I could live with seeing in Celtic green and who would be around near the end of the first round:

Tiny Gallon: First, he has the best name in the draft. Even more so when you find out he is 6-10, 300 pounds. He played for Oklahoma and is an absolute load down low. He has excellent moves, a good mid-range shot and reminds some scouts of Glen Davis, only bigger. Well, if that comparison holds, I would take it. Fact is he is not as fleet of foot as Big Baby but is a better rebounder and would be even harder to push off the block. On the Celtics you can be assured that he will be pushed to achieve the best level of fitness of his life. The idea of a similarly-skilled, bigger Big Baby gets me fired up. He would almost certainly be available with either the 25th or 28th picks. Did I mention he hates backboards?

Armon Johnson: A combo guard from Nevada who can play either point or shooting guard. I like him as Rondo's back up. He is a lefty, quick, strong and has the size of an NBA point guard at 6-3, 190 lbs. He is an excellent athlete with three years of experience at the college level. Similar to Nate he is a fearless player who will drive the ball on bigger players and his strength allows him to finish. He is not a pure point guard but working with Rondo could help him develop better vision. Even Nate Robinson showed improved passing once he moved from the Knicks to the Celtics, so this isn't that farfetched a notion. He will be around late in the first round. Most mocks have him going early in the second round.

Hasan Whiteside: An elite shotblocker who averaged 5.4 blocks in just 26.1 minutes per game as a freshman for the Marshall Thundering Herd. He should not be coming out this season. He could use another year or two to learn some post moves as well as how to pass the ball. Shooting free throws would help too as he hit just 40% of his attempts from the line. Still, if the Celtics are worried about Perk's ability to come back, Whiteside could be a big help at one end of the floor. His name typically appears in the mid-20s of most mocks I have seen, so he should be there if the Celtics want him.

If the Celtics keep their pick at #18, I would like to see them grab one of James Anderson, shooting guard from Oklahoma State who is a great scorer; Damion Jones, forward from Texas with great toughness and rebounding despite being a bit small for a power forward; or best of all, roll the dice with Eric Bledsoe. He's the elite point guard John Wall bounced to shooting guard at Kentucky. Kid is raw as hell but is an incredible athlete and the Celtics have had some luck with underrated, speedy point guards from Kentucky.


I wanted to make sure I had a clip of Landon Donovan's goal in stoppage time against Algeria. After the second disallowed goal in as many games, this one felt pretty damn good for American soccer fans. And, sorry, Jim Rome, you may not care, but many others do. Some prognosticators were wondering if this victory would propel soccer to the forefront of America's sporting consciousness. Jim Rome says only so long as they keep winning. He's right and wrong. The hype will only grow with each victory but the reality is soccer is here. When you see English Premier League results regularly displayed on ESPN's ticker and that channel carrying the Confederations Cup and Champions League games, it is obvious that things have changed. Ten years ago, and this would be six years after the United States hosted the World Cup (which was supposed push soccer to the forefront of America's sporting consciousness) this wasn't happening. Sorry, Romey, people care about soccer, just not the cave dwellers who call into your show.

One more thing, have you seen the ratings for this year's World Cup? According to an ESPN Press Release:

Through Wednesday, June 23 (40 games on ABC, ESPN and ESPN2), the 2010 World Cup is averaging a 1.8 U.S. rating (for the two-hour match window) -- up 40% from 2006 (1.3). Household impressions are up 46% (from 1,389,000 to 2,025,000) and P2+ impressions are up 49% (from 1,789,000 to 2,658,000).

The 2006 games were played in Germany, so it isn't a time zone issue. Sure the England vs. USA match had cache and yesterday's game was do or die, making for riveting viewing, but clearly these numbers aren't result of the circumstances surrounding individual games. More people care now. Will soccer displace American football, baseball or basketball? Hell no. But ESPN's investment in the game should indicate what it thinks its very mainstream audience wants.

And what they want is this. I would've gone YouTube but FIFA, in their blessed marketing ignorance, is pulling down every clip they find...except, of course, the shaky shots made by folks filming their televisions with  handheld camcorders.

Draft Day: How Will the Warriors Screw This up?

Today is the final day of the NBA season. Sure, the Finals finished up last week. And, yes, the Lakers beat my Celtics. I would still donate my left nut to science if it meant we could go back in time and have the Celtics corral even a few more defensive rebounds. Kendrick Perkins may be stiff as a corpse on offense but he would've taken many second chances away from L.A. just by grabbing rebounds. And with that, we will speak no more of the Finals.

There may be no more games to play but the NBA keeps our attention through today, the Draft, and tomorrow, the Analysis. After this, except for the lunatics, it's lights out until next November for fans of the NBA. And a strong case can be made that, really, it's lights out until next April when the playoffs start again.

But for now let's take a look at tonight's draft and the likely and best candidates for the local heroes, your Golden State Warriors. First, my top five.
  1. John Wall (It's guard-dominated league and Wall's speed, passing and willingness to cut the throat of opponents primes him to be a top point guard in the association for years to come. Tea Leaves: All-Star as soon as his second season.)
  2. DeMarcus Cousins (Talent trumps attitude. The kid averaged 15.1 points, 9.8 boards and 1.8 blocks in a scant 23.5 minutes per game. Arguing with his coach looks bad, yes, but a couple of things to note here: First, he argued because he cares. A skilled big man who cares? That has to count for a lot. Second, he was arguing with John Calipari, neither the world's sternest disciplinarian nor a master of Xs and Os. Calipari is the world's greatest recruiter and a firmly middle of the road coach when it comes to game strategy. Maybe Cousins was right to argue with him. Tea Leaves: Serial All-Star.)
  3. Evan Turner (Do-it-all swingman who can play the point, shooting and some small forward. Very NBA-ready and a good passer. The test will be how he handles the bigger twos and threes at the next level. Love his passing skills. Tea Leaves: Potential All-Star.)
  4. Derrick Favors (Stud athlete who played just one year of college ball. Despite the fact that he is guaranteed big dollars as a top-five pick, he should've stayed another year to hone his offensive game. In the right situation, read: low pressure with increasing minutes playing with a quality point guard, he could become a regular at NBA All-Star games. In a bad situation, he relies solely on his size and hops and never really develops his game. This would mean a few very strong years in his early 20s then a quick fade as the grind of the NBA steals some of the spring in his step.)
  5. Wes Johnson (Great defender who can pass and finish on the break. Only his age, 23, gives me pause. Johnson should enjoy a solid if unspectacular NBA career. I see a lesser version of Shawn Marion. Tea Leaves: Mini-Matrix.)
The Warriors, of course, have the number six pick. So, who will they take?  Given the lame duck status of the franchise, they will probably work to keep costs down and just keep the pick instead of using it to trade for a higher priced veteran. There are really two guys who make sense in this scenario.

Greg Monroe: The kid is a skilled athlete who can shoot, jump, and most importantly for the Warriors, pass. He has the size, 6-11, to play center and the youth--he's just 20--to improve. By all accounts, he is by far the best passing big man in the draft. He seems nice and a bit passive from the dozens of articles I have read and this isn't a good thing in the NBA. The NBA favors the angry, cocky and mean. This doesn't mean he is a pussy, rather that he needs to drink a little tough juice and learn to love contact. On the Warriors, he would add a lot of skill in the middle. He can pass and shoot from distance. I can see him working a sweet pick and roll with Stephon Curry. Best case scenario he gives the Warriors a blacker, bouncier version of Brad Miller in his prime. Worst case scenario he gives the Warriors Mark Blount with better passing. Either way, I see him as an upgrade on Andris Biedrins.

Always looking for the cutter or open shooter at the arc.

Al-Farouq Aminu: With Corey Maggette now shipped to Milwaukee in a salary dump, there is a need at small forward for the Warriors. Sure they have the electric scoring of Reggie Williams, but I wonder if with his size, he can be a  solid defender at the three. Aminu, on the other hand,  is 6-8 with 7-3 wingspan. Dude is a fucking condor.  He has great hops and with his age (just 19) he has what Digger Phelps droolingly calls, "tremendous upside." He averaged 16 points and 11 rebounds in his sophomore season.  He will defend, hit the glass and get out on the break. All good things for the Warriors. The downside? He is not a good outside shooter. I wonder, though, if the Warriors actually need another shooter on this team. With Steph Curry, Monta Ellis, Reggie Williams, Anthony Tolliver and Kelenna Azubuike to name a few, they have plenty of chuckers already. It wouldn't be the worst thing in the world to draft a hard-working, athletic stud who loves to get after it on defense. Yeah, so there is no chance the Warriors make this move. Look for them to "outsmart" everyone and take Luke Babbitt from Nevada. Hey, at least he's a good shooter.

All together now: Smell my nuts!

The Warriors are all kinds of messed up right now. Owner Chris Cohan is in tax trouble, is selling the team and his management team may have jobs only for as long as it takes the new owner to sign a term sheet. The Maggette trade was made to save money for Cohan and help whomever the new owner is rebuild the team without too many burdensome contracts. In short, the only future this group is considering is the short term. The fanbase is just waiting for the new owner to get the keys to the house.

It's so bad that the area's only major daily, the San Francisco Chronicle, doesn't even know the numbers of the positions in basketball...and there are only five:

Note to Chronicle editorial staff: The article your headline links to speaks of the Warriors' need for a small forward (three) or a center (five). One is the point guard position, and we already have a future all-star there in Steph Curry. Hey, at least you got one of two right. Good to see you care.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Shrek and Donkey

Glen Davis and Nate Robinson give some good post-game press conference:

Not much to add here. These guys clearly enjoyed each other and the moment. Celtics fans have to hope there is more of this in the remaining games in the series. Davis' role is pretty well cemented: energy guy who spazzes out in the post, gets blocked, gets rebound, gets blocked again, then somehow forces the ball through the hoop. Last night, it was mostly just the last part and, as a result, it was his best game of the series.

Nate? He just needs more minutes. Doc has been running Rondo out there like he's T.T. Boy at a porn shoot. Give the man a rest. Nate Robinson adds a level of craziness to the offense that throws the Lakers off. Most significantly, he is a threat from beyond the arc, which forces the Lakers to stretch their defense and opens up the lanes. If Doc can get Nate 15-20 minutes per game going forward, I will feel better about the Celtics' chances of beating the Lakers.

Nate, seizing the moment, has updated his Twitter avatar to reflect the latest Celtics' meme. Clearly, he and Big Baby will be invited to future pressers no matter how well they play. This ain't your daddy's Green Team.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Celtics Lose Game Three and It's the Refs' Fault

I took a quick jog through the blogs and papers this morning and the verdict is in: the Celtics were jobbed by the refs in Game 3. If you like your media mainstream, you can read about it here or here or here. If you like a blog in your pants, check out this, especially the italicized intro.

The bottom line is this: the referees, Bennett Salvatore, Danny Crawford and Finals-first-timer Bill Kennedy, cost the Celtics the game. Silence, you objective basketball fans masquerading as Celtics loyalists. This loss had nothing to do with the Lakers posting up Big Baby Davis at every opportunity in the 4th Quarter. It is completely unrelated to Paul Pierce's lack of rebounding or scoring. And don't tell me how unacceptable it is that the bench outplayed the starters all game long.

It was the refs, just not for the reason you think. Sources close to the last night's officiating crew have revealed to me that it was Danny Crawford who did in the Celtics, with assistance from Salvatore and Kennedy. How? He used black magic to switch bodies with Ray Allen 15 minutes before the game. This was disastrous for the Celtics as everyone knows Danny Crawford is a terrible jump shooter.

 "Which one of you will I turn into a fat toad? I'm feeling Sheed."

Crawford, it seems, is a master warlock. He has been practicing the dark arts for the past four decades and is second only to Dick Bavetta among NBA officials in his abilities. He has been working on the body switch for the past few weeks and bet Salvatore that he could do it on Ray for the whole game. Bennett was skeptical.

"How will I know it's you?" Salvatore asked.

"I am going to break Dennis Johnson's Finals record for the worst shooting performance in Finals history."

"Craw, you are one crazy motherfucker!"

"Yup, I am going to shoot every chance I get and will go at least 0-for-15. Unless Jackass Rivers benches me, that record is mine. If I hit even one jumper--and you know I won't--you win."

"You are so on!"

Crawford did not break DJ's record, shooting just 0-for-13, but nonetheless will be collecting a sack full of souls from the doubting Bennett sometime tonight.

"This whistle can summon the Hounds of Hell. Don't make me blow it, Doc."

One could  whine that this is completely unfair but it's pretty obvious that Crawford has been even-handed about his spell-casting. After all, Ron Artest shot 6-for-20 in the first two games of the series. Also, that story Ron likes to tell about seeing a guy staked through the heart? That was Crawford doing the old body switch.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Conference Expansion

The traditional conferences of the NCAA are breaking down. Both the Pac-10 and the Big Ten are talking expansion and much of it largely at the expense of the Big 12, which in a few weeks won't be able to call itself that any longer. Dan Wetzel of Yahoo Sports, and a fellow UMass alum, wrote a scathing write-up on expansion and focused, in particular, on Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and his lack of skills, intelligence, foresight, and penis. He rips him good.

The long and short of it is the Big Ten and the Pac-10 are looking to form a pair of super conferences and are actively pillaging top teams from other conferences. Recently, the battle has grown even more epic in scale. The Big Ten have reported sewn up agreements not only with top teams from the ACC and Big East but have reached north and attracted the Saskatchewan Roughriders and the Edmonton Eskimos from the CFL. The Winnipeg Blue Bombers are reportedly holding out for more money, somehow not realizing that they are in fact from Winnipeg. With that kind of aggressive marketing by Big Ten commissioner, Jim Delany, Larry Scott of the Pac-10 had to respond.

Scott considered going radical, ignoring the geographical logic of his historic conference and inviting Duke and Florida State to the Pac-10. Take that, Delany! But Scott went much bigger. Why settle for Stanford East and another school with ridiculously hot fans and ridiculously low SATs when you already have Arizona State? Larry Scott has gone intergalactic. Battlestar InterGalactica to be exact. That's right kids, he has invited the Blue and Gold teams from BSG's (the cool kids call it BSG) Triad league to join the Pac-10.

Starbuck and Apollo throwing down at Pauley Pavilion? Boomer and random mustache dude getting run out of the gym at Maples? Picture it because it's gonna happen. Of course, these teams will enjoy a distinct home court advantage as most players in the Pac-10 just haven't trained for the rigors of Triad and space travel. Insiders have revealed to me that Lane Kiffin has already been in touch with Baltar about getting a few Cylons to visit the USC campus. It's unclear if there have been any violations. But as it is with most NCAA violations, the coach will move on to next job, leaving the kids he recruited and their families behind to suffer. I almost feel sorry for Baltar.

 After years in space with only Cylons to keep him company, Baltar likes him some co-ed.