Season Half Way Done

These two will put on a show, no strings attached.

Tonight.  LeBronKobe.  ‘Nuff said.

The last time these two teams met, Kobe scored more than LeBron, but the Cavs handed the Lakers a backyard beat down to the tenth degree.  And I … enjoyed every minute of it.  The game happen to fall on Christmas Day, and I treated the Cavs victory like a present from the NBA.  Thank you.

But … the NBA giveth … the NBA taketh … Let’s break down the first half of the season shall we, as we go over the highlights and low-lights of what has taken place during the 2009-2010 season, thus far.

Highlights

The time is now.

The Oklahoma City Thunder were supposed to be a few years away from making a splash in the highly competitive West.  If the playoffs were to begin today, the Thunder would be the seventh seed.  I guess the kids in Oklahoma City are thinking, to hell with waiting for our turn.  Of course Kevin Durant is in the center of all their success.  He is the cornerstone, he is the franchise.  It’s funny how the NBA never gives the Most Improved Player award to super-stars in the making, but Durant is worthy of this award.  How he’s raised the level of his play within the first three years of his career is truly remarkable.  Most of thought he’d be good, but man … he’s good.  Of course it’s not just him, Russell Westbrook has been solid at the point, averaging 7.5 assists per game and Jeff Green, despite his recent struggles, has been a reliable contributor on both ends.  The Thunder, along with the Grizzlies and now maybe the Bobcats, are teams you might not want to run into in the first round of the playoffs.

Zebo be playing some ball in Memphis!

Speaking of the Grizzlies and Bobcats, hats off to them too.  When you think about Memphis, they are one point guard away from perhaps having the best starting five in basketball.  No knock on Conley, but he isn’t exactly mesmerizing with his play.  But, I guess he doesn’t have to be when you have Mayo, Gay, Randolph and Gasol in the lineup along side of you.  The Grizzlies have been one of the hottest teams in the league since the turn of the decade, and are just one and a half games back from the eighth seed in the West.

The other "Larry Legend" is coaching it up in Charlotte.

Larry Brown is at it again.  This is why I’ll take Larry Brown over Phil Jackson in a heart beat.  Larry Brown has never had a Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen tandem.  Or a Shaq and Kobe duo.  His super star in Charlotte is Gerald Wallace.  Now Gerald Wallace is damn good, and he should have a spot on this year’s All-Star team, but he’s no Kobe.  The Bobcats, in typical Larry Brown fashion play great defense, but have the ability to score with the best of them.  The Bobcats have the luxury of playing in the East, so their 21-19 record is good enough for fifth best in the conference.  As long as Stephen Jackson (more on him later), Raymond Felton and the newly awaken Boris Diaw can continue to play inspired ball, the Bobcats should see their first post-season action in franchise history.

Will Steph turn out to be the best point guard in a draft rich in the position?

Now this isn’t the 1996 draft class, which in my opinion is still the best ever.  This isn’t the 2003 draft class either, which is a close second to ’96.  But when all is said and done, the 2009 draft class may prove to be the best ever at the point guard position.  Let’s recap the draft picks and review their rookie seasons.

  • #3 – James Harden (OKC):  Solid reserve.  Played his way into more minutes.
  • #4 – Tyreke Evans (Sac):  The reason Kev Mart is on the trading block.  Front runner for ROY honors.
  • #5 – Ricky Rubio (Min):  Could have been the top of the class … we’ll have to wait and see how this pans out.
  • #6 – Jonny Flynn (Min):  Good scorer, good potential, too inconsistent right now.
  • #7 – Stephen Curry (GS):  Maybe the biggest surprise, he’s the only one of this bunch who resembles a true point.
  • #10 – Brandon Jennings (Mil):  Lightning quick, can score in bunches.  Has cooled off from hot start.
  • # 18 – Ty Lawson (Den):  Excellent backup to Chauncey Billups.  Showed flashes of brilliance in Billups absence.

Low-lights.

He used to be "Agent Zero" now he's just a "zero."

Gilbert Arenas.

I don’t really have to say much except this … you signed a 111-million dollar contract a few years back.  You’ve been essentially getting paid a ridiculous amount of money for quite frankly, nothing, after you’ve sat out the last two seasons with a knee injury (which wasn’t his fault to say).  You still have $80-million remaining on your contract (for now) and you’ve made big strides in returning to your once electrifying self on the court.  Then you decide to throw it all away by being an idiot.  Done.

I'm going to hate to have to tell you "I told you so ..." a year from now.

Bobcats fans … I warn you now.  You’re probably thinking man … we got Stephen Jackson for Raja Bell (who was basically playing with a broken wrist and was eventually going to need surgery) and Vladimir Radmanovic (who was riding the pine hard) … what a steal, right?  Yeah it is!  For now.  This story has played out before, and he and Larry Brown are all buddy-buddy as of this moment.  But Stephen Jackson has turned into the Terrell Owens of the NBA, and eventually he’ll tear that locker room apart, and ruin your franchise.  I’m just saying, if you’re a Bobcat fan, do not invest in Stephen Jackson.

Was this photo-op even necessary?

Allen Iverson was my favorite player at one point.  That span stretched from his Sophomore year at Georgetown, until about 2003-2004.  No one was more exciting, more ground-breaking than Allen Iverson.  Just think about it, he was a little guy … who dominated.  He changed the game on and off the court.  And he did play his butt off for you too.  As much as he discredited “practice” he had a point … you knew he’d play every game as if it were his last … unless of course … he wasn’t starting.  At some point in his life, he’s going to have to realize that “life” happens.  You’re not 21 AI.  You’re not “the” man on most teams now.  How he played out his short stint in Memphis was ugly, I couldn’t watch.  After Jerry West and company extended their hand to you?  Luckily for Grizzlies fans, it probably worked out for the best that AI left.  Memphis has been playing great as of late.  They might even make the playoffs.  Apparently that doesn’t matter to AI.  He must be completely satisfied at the fact that he’s starting again.

So this is how you make the All-Star team ...

AI & McGrady are All-Star starters?  Really? Really people?  Really? This isn’t so much of the NBA’s low-lights, but more of the fans of the NBA low-lights.  Actually … it is the NBA’s low-lights.  Why is AI & McGrady on the All-Star ballad anyway?  Seriously though, to any NBA fans who voted for these two players, you should be ashamed at yourselves.  You’re basically removing two spots for worthy candidates.  Two candidates who may not ever get this opportunity to again … who knows who might get left off the squad.  Well, I guess we find out later tonight.

If AI, or McGrady for some odd reason happen to read my blog … please.  Give up your spots.  If you get voted into the All-Star game, look yourself in the mirror and be truthful.  You know you don’t deserve it.  Give up your spots.  Don’t pull a Penny Hardaway.

Honorable mentions in this seasons low-lightsYao Ming, Kelenna Azuibuke, Greg Oden, Michael Redd and Blake Griffin.  I hate when players get hit with devastating injuries, ones that end their season.  Good luck to all those players in their recoveries.  The only reason I consider this a low-light, is that we don’t get to see them play.

Happy MLK Day!

Thank you Dr. King, for having a dream ...

Happy (belated) Birthday to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  I wouldn’t even want to try to imagine what the world would be like today, if it weren’t for the likes of MLK and others.  Ones who strived for equality.

Down To The Final 4

R.I.P.

Before I begin with my post, I would like to take a moment to acknowledge the deaths of two athletes this past week.  Both passed away due to pre-existing heart conditions (enlarged hearts) which resulted in cardiac arrests.  These incidents prove that not even the professional athlete is invulnerable to conditions like the ones that cost these two young men their lives.  I constantly exercise and participate in rec leagues for basketball, and in light of these tragic incidents, I will vow to myself, to always get checked by a doctor if I feel any irregularities with my body.  This includes the little chest pains I get after I complete activities that requires me to exert a lot of energy.  I know that the only thing guaranteed in life is death, and taxes.  But death for these two young men came way too soon 😦

On to football.

I don’t feel like saying much outside of I’m shocked … but at the same time I’m not.

Let’s talk about this past weekend in order of appearance shall we?

I’m shocked that we weren’t treated to another epic shoot out in the Super Dome on Saturday.  I predicted that the Saints would win, but what I didn’t expect, was that they would do so without so much of a hitch from the Cards.  Experts said that the Cards may have been physically and emotionally drained after their instant classic of a meeting with the Packers last weekend … but I thought the opposite.  I thought they would be uplifted, and feel almost invincible after surviving to the next round.  They would ride that momentum straight into the Super Bowl, like they did last year.  I was wrong.  That’s why experts are experts, and I’m just Byron.

When Bush isn't focused on this ... he can be one helluva football player.

I was shocked at how well Reggie Bush played.  Was this his coming out party?  I don’t want to jump the gun on him quite yet, but if the Saints have the USC Reggie Bush in their back field, and not the “will never live up to the hype” Reggie Bush, well then … it’s a whole new ball game folks!

I won’t be shocked if Kurt Warner retires.  He was already considering it prior to this game, but after this vicious hit … it might be a formality.

Business as usual this past Saturday for the Colts General.

I was not shocked at how well Peyton Manning played.  Granted he threw two picks (even though only one just counted) to the Ravens … they were intercepted by Ed Reed.  Ed Reed is like the Peyton Manning of defenses.  The guy makes reads, he’s intelligent, and he’s gifted at his position.  That didn’t come to a surprise to me at all, and Ed Reed owns Peyton Manning on a personal level, but the Colts continue to own the Ravens over all.  Minus Ed Reed from this game, and Manning dominated.  He looked like the MVP he kind of deserves.

I was shocked at how well Brett Favre continues to play.  I must admit, I am one of his biggest doubters, but at this point, I think I’ll just shut up about Favre.  He’s had my respect, he has it even more now, but … I still hate him.

Now this is the Tony Romo I'm used to seeing in the playoffs

Now this is the Tony Romo we're used to seeing in the playoffs.

I hate Brett Favre … a lot.  But probably not as much as I hate Tony Romo.  Well, I take that back, maybe I hate them equally.  So when watching this game, I already knew that I lose no matter what the outcome.  But, I was not shocked at how bad Romo would play.  What … the guy wins one playoff game, and all of a sudden he’s a “clutch” performer?  All of a sudden, he’s the quarterback you turn to when you want to get the “job done” ???  NO.  He showed his true colors and folded under the pressure, like he usually does.  Even Romo was entitled to one playoff win … he got it.  Now we can get back to the way things were.

Favre to Rice has been money for the Vikes ... wait 'til AP joins the party.

Favre to Rice has been money for the Vikes, wait 'til AP joins the party ...

Another shocker from this game.  I felt no impact from AP at all.  That’s scary if you’re the Saints.  If he goes off, along with the streaking Favre, then it will be the Vikings partying by the Bayou next weekend.

Darrelle Revis might be the most valuable player in the playoffs thus far.

SHOCK.  But … not really.  The shock comes from the team that upset the Chargers.  The Jets.  Revis is a pimp.  His subjects, any wide receiver in the league.  Any.  He’ll shut them all down.  The Jets have held two potent offenses to low scoring out puts, and I truly believe Revis is the reason.  When he takes a way one side of the field, and shortens the field, the Jets D is at an advantage, as there’s less room for opposing offenses to operate.  It’s going to take a quarter back like Manning next week to find and exploit any weaknesses (if any) in the Jets D.  Anyway, the Colts should be thanking the Jets.  Not only do they have a chance to exact revenge on the team that ended their “perfect” season, but now they won’t have to face the Chargers.  The Colts have had little success against San Diego over the past few years, including an early exit in the playoffs last season, at the hands of the Chargers.

Could the 2010 playoff edition of the NY Jets, be the NFL version of the 2007 Golden State Warriors playoff team?

But.  Remember when the Dallas Mavericks had a chance to defeat the Golden State Warriors in the final game of the 2006-2007 season?  If the Mavericks won, the Warriors would have been eliminated from playoff contention that year.  If the Warriors won, they’d play Dallas in the first round.  That night, Dallas rested their stars.  They ultimately buried their own grave … and the rest was history, as Oracle Arena was explosive during that amazing first round series upset.

The Colts had a chance to eliminate the Jets from playoff contention in week 16.  They rested their stars.  Could this be a move that haunts them?  Could the 2010 Jets playoff team, be the NFL version of the 2007 Golden State Warriors playoff team?  I’m just saying …

In reality, I believe the Colts will win, but Reggie Wayne won’t have a big hand in it .. I wonder why?

While I wouldn't call Rivers Tony Romo ... he hasn't exactly delivered the goods when it's counted the most.

Once again, the sizzle has turn to frizzle come playoff time for the Chargers

With that said, the 2010 playoff Chargers continued to follow suit with past Charger teams, as they once again crashed into a brick wall, after riding their hot streak into the playoffs.  They are now infamous for this.  If they weren’t already.

So … my prediction for the Super Bowl now is … Saints.  Colts.  But now that both teams aren’t undefeated coming into the match, it lost some of its luster.  Oh well.

Fantasy Byron Ball

I just want to take a moment to let everyone know that I currently stand in first place in both of my fantasy basketball leagues.  I don’t expect that to be the case for the entire season, but I do intend on winning them both.

In one league, my team “Paranormal Activity” has been in the top two since the season began, and it looks as if only one other team even remotely poses a threat to me.  That would be “Foyled Again.”  I beat him two weeks ago.  That league is called the Realest Basketball League.

But the more important league to me, “ThE KiNgS Of ThE YaY III” in which I have appropriately named my team “Defending Champ” (b/c I won ThE KiNgS Of ThE YaY II) I have finally wrestled back first place.  This league is competitive throughout, and it wouldn’t surprise me if 7th place moved to 3rd place within the span of two weeks.

Big match up this week though.  I face the #2 team, and a good one at that.  I do have one advantage, as the “Thrillas from Manila” will be missing good production from Anthony Randolph this week.  Perfect timing for me.

With that said, I feel confident in the way I built my team (even w/o Arenas) and I am hoping A.J. Price eventually takes over the point in Indiana.  I picked him up off the waiver with the advice of my buddy Leets.  Kid’s got potential.

If anyone wants to give me fantasy advice, feel free to chime in!  Thanks.

Wild Card Weekend

Saturday

Well right on cue, all my NFL post-season predictions have gone the opposite of what I figured.  Please refer back to my earlier post a few months back.

The Jets defense did all the hard work, while Sánchez gets the girl.

In order of appearance, we begin with the New York “Football” Jets, and that impressive defense of theirs.  The media will always paint the quarterback’s as the darlings of the league, and no defensive unit in their right mind would want to be called the “darlings” but the Jets defense are.

Don’t get me wrong, Sánchez was big in the win, and by big, I mean he didn’t turn the ball over once.  But, with a running game as strong as the kind that the Jets pose, Sánchez had easy pickings with the play action.  Rex Ryan simply put Sánchez in a position to succeed.

But it was the Jets defense that impressed me.  Specifically Darrelle Revis.  I love Chad Ochocinco, and not just for his antics off the field, but because he’s a gamer, and he delivers big time performances.  But he was virtually a non-factor on Saturday.  Darrelle Revis was the reason.  When one player can take away the other team’s biggest receiving threat, it gives their defense such an advantage.

Look no further than the ’94 San Francisco 49ers, when “Prime Time” took away one side of the field for them.

With that said, look for the Jets fairy tale season and playoff run to end next weekend.  At least they erased the notion that they were unworthy to be in the playoffs anyway.

Tony Romo can't finally point to a playoff win.

On to Dallas and Tony Romo.  I’m not that impressed.  But he was able to take advantage of an over turned ruling on an interception in the first half, that might have changed the complextion of the game.

With that said.  Philly didn’t have any life in them.  They seemed disinterested in the game.  They were once the most exciting team in the NFL, and maybe even the hottest team going into the playoffs prior to the previous Dallas game to end the season.  But it was all an illusion, and Dallas saw through it.

I can’t really comment much on this game, because I felt highly disappointed.  I picked the Eagles to make the NFC title game, but I was obviously misguided by some late regular season magic.

Sunday

Wow … just as I predicted the Ravens man-handled the Pats.  It started with the opening play, when Ray Rice gashed through a hole and took it 83 yards to pay dirt.  New England’s opening possession resulted in a Tom Brady fumble deep in Patriots territory, forced and recovered by Suggs.  The Ravens punched it in to the end zone again, and this game was pretty much over.

Rice has run by, around and through defenders all year. New England was no exception.

If the Ravens can somehow jump ahead in these games, that defense will take care of the rest.  It’s a big “if” though.

I couldn’t help but notice that Randy Moss seemed as if he gave up today …

Kurt Warner, the "ageless one" put on a show alongside Aaron Rodgers in what was the most exciting Wild Card game ever.

Green Bay/Arizona was one of the finest played games ever.  Too bad it was in the first round.  Purist might argue that neither of these teams played defense, but I happen to think there was no defense against either of these offenses.

After a shaky start that was reminiscent of the Baltimore/New England game, the Packers put themselves in a hole early.  One that was so deep, you thought it was pretty much impossible to make their way out of.  I was wrong, and Aaron Rodgers turned in the greatest performance by any Green Bay quarterback in a playoff game.  WOW.  That’s all I can say.  And Finley had himself a record day as well.  What a bright future Green Bay has, and more so than ever, it’s clear they made the right decision in going with Rodgers.

Kurt Warner was equally as brilliant.  This was a shoot out, and I loved watching every second of it.  After 3 relatively boring playoff games, I was so happy to have had the opportunity to enjoy the aerial display late Sunday afternoon.

It’s one of those games in which, there was no losing team  … one team simply ran out of time.

As I’m typing this Arizona misses the go ahead field goal with 11 seconds left … whoever wins between these two today, might use this momentum to propel them into the Super Bowl.

(This game’s heading into OT, wish they did CFB style OT in the NFL)

*** THIS JUST IN ***

Game ended on a fumble by Rodgers, recovered and taken into the end zone by Zona.  After all that offense, it’s some what poetic how the defense won the game for the Cards.

I’m 2-2 for the weekend.  Not bad.

Smells Like Curry

Don’t know who’s been reading my blog, but thank you!  I know my usuals, but I’ve gotten a substantial increase in views (for my standards) and it makes me really happy 🙂 Please keep reading, and leave comments! 

 Anyway, on to what we’re all here for … my unreliable take on sports.  

The sweetest J period.

Can I go out on a limb here and say that Stephen Curry has slowly but surely made himself the front-runner for the ROY award?  And he’s done this all so quietly.Let’s look at your other options.  Brandon Jennings.  He definitely started off the hottest, but he’s cooled off considerably since his initial splash.  Dropping double nickles on Golden State and the aforementioned Stephen Curry also created a huge buzz for Jennings, and rightfully so.  He’s lightning quick and can score in bunches.  As I’ve posted in the past, he’s the new Allen Iverson, but one who actually passes.  He’s averaged 6 assists per game this season, not too shabby for the rook.  But, Jennings has slightly fallen off the radar, and his shooting percentages continuously declines with each passing game.  

Tyreke Evans.  Now in most people’s books, this is the guy.  I don’t blame you for thinking that way either.  He reminds me of Derrick Rose, but perhaps even better.  He is the definition of a combo guard, and if you think about it, he puts up numbers similar to D-Wade.  That’s a huge compliment, being compared to Wade.  Hell, Evans could even be a mini-LeBron if you think about it.  He’s hovering around 20 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, and 1.5 steals per game.  And because he attacks the rim so hard, and so often, he creates a lot opportunity for something positive on almost every offensive possession. 

 But, he’s doing this all without Sac’s main guy, Kevin Martin.  Tyreke Evans will still produce solid numbers, but the “star” numbers he’s producing now will most definitely drop.  Martin scored 30 + points per game in his 4 outings before fracturing his wrist, and there’s no reason for anyone to believe that he won’t pick up where he left off upon his return.  So unless Evans transforms from a combo guard to a pure point guard, he’ll definitely be effected by this.

Which brings us to Stephen Curry.  He’s played solid throughout the season thus far, in the midst of all the turmoil that is the Golden State Warriors.  He’s already dealt with controversy among his team mates, and has shrugged it off, and stayed positive and professional.  He is finally getting a bit of recognition, in which he deserves.  Unlike Evans, Stephen Curry can play the role of “true” point guard, and he plays it so well.  His transition from being the only scoring option at Davidson, to the lead distributor in Golden State has been effortless.  Some people just see the game in a different light, and can adapt to what ever role is given to them.  Curry, is one of those guys.  I know what people are thinking, Evans averages more assists than Curry right now … yes, for now.  Curry will surpass Evans in assists after the All-Star break.  Curry has in my opinion, the prettiest, most textbook looking shot in the NBA.  I drool over his jump shot.  For a little guy, with seemingly no athletic ability, he’s able to get his shot off with so much ease and rhythm.  It is truly a thing of beauty to watch.  And he finally feels comfortable with his shot, and the Warriors do too.  Curry has let it fly more often than not as of late, even going 6/6 from down town against the Nuggets a few nights back. 

 (By the way, the refs gift-wrapped that game for Denver)

What’s impressive about what Curry did that night, was he didn’t take a single shot in the 3rd quarter, after barely touching rim in the first half.  He didn’t feel the need to try to continue to light it up.  He knew his shot was good, and he just stayed patient and let the game come to him.  More than ever he reminds me of Steve Nash in how he approaches the game.  As a Warrior fan, I’ll take a young Steve Nash in the making any day. 

Finally, he’s doing this right beside Monta Ellis.  If Curry was thrusted into a situation in which he had to be the player he was in Davidson, everyone would be talking about Curry right now.  He would be the odds on favorite to win the ROY award.  But because his job is to orchestrate the Warriors offense, and not explode for big scoring nights, he’s not mentioned with the Evans or Jennings.

I knew Curry could score.  I knew he was going to be an under-rated passer coming into the league.  Curry can dish ’em out with the best of them, and people are starting to take notice.  What I didn’t know was, he could play solid defense utilizing his quick hands (1.9 steals per game) and I didn’t know he had such ball handling skills.  He’s pretty damn sick with the rock in his hands.  He’s calm, composed, and driven.  I can’t wait to see where Curry takes us in years to come.

I was at this game!

Randomness & Sick :(

I’m not feeling too well, so hopefully writing a bunch of blurbs about all I can think of in the world of sports, will help get my mind off this runny nose, achy chest, and nauseous feeling.  Here we go. 

Is it just me ... or do you get a "Michael Scott" from The Office feel too, when you look at this pic?

Big news in the NFL.  Mike Shanahan is back, as he agrees to a 5 year deal with the Washington Redskins.  The Redskins were an absolute joke this past season, and if anyone can turn this franchise around, it should be Mike Shanahan.  I still believe Denver shafted Shanahan by firing him last season.  I thought he deserved the Bill Cowher treatment, meaning he would decide when his time was up in the Mile High.  It will be interesting to see how Shanahan will shake up the roster, because I have a feeling that he doesn’t believe in Jason Campbell much. 

Like Samson, Randy Johnson's power lies in his hair ...

Randy Johnson has called it a career.  22 illustrious seasons are now in the books, and what a career it was.  If I can only choose one word to sum up Randy Johnson’s pitching style, it would obviously be – power.  Or maybe slider.  Or perhaps “lefty” … yeah … definitely “lefty” … no-no-no, got it … MULLET

Pound for pound. 'Nuff said.

It looks as if the super-ultra-mega fight between Manny Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather will no longer be.  Talks are as dead as a door knob, and there’s no sign of revival in sight.  *Sigh* this was going to be the fight that would return boxing to its glory days … Oh well.  I will still enjoy watching Pacquiao pummel who ever else there is left for him to pummel. 

Tim Tebow may not have ended his college career in story book fashion, but a BCS record in total yards in a game during the Sugar Bowl is definitely a nice consolation prize for him.  Good job Tebow, and I look forward to your translation into the pro game.  You have many doubters, but I am definitely not one of them. 

The Future

The Lakers, Nuggets, Celtics, Cavs and Magic are the cream of the crop in terms of championship contenders in the NBA.  You can throw in Atlanta, maybe.  But two upstart teams I would prefer not to run into come playoff time, are the Thunder, and the Grizzlies.  I really like the way the Thunder play, and how they’re built.  When Durant was a rookie, I drafted him with my 1st round pick in fantasy that year.  I know, I know, stupid move right?  But I believed he was going to be what he is today, but back then.  I was just a season and a half too early.  And how about the twin towers out in Memphis, with Zebo playing some highly inspired ball.  Pau Gasol is better than both Zebo and his Geico cave-man brother Marc, but I’d rather take the tandem of Zebo and Marc over Pau and Bynum any day.  Throw in Mayo, Gay and a Mike Conley who’s been playing better as of late, and I think Memphis is a team to be reckoned with if they can put it all together. 

Quick pick for the BCS title game.  Alabama … Saban … Ingram … champions.