In the very first story on this site we discussed the epic Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal which Nadal won in 5 sets in what some, including John McEnroe call the greatest match of all time. Tonight, or rather this morning at 3:30 AM EST (replay Sunday morning on ESPN) the two will meet again in the finals of another Grand Slam, the Australian Open. Federer can surpass Pete Sampras on the all-time Slam wins list after disposing yet again of a trimmer Andy Roddick. Nadal had to hang on in a marathon 5 set match over Fernando Verdasco. It should be another epic match with Nadal not wanting to lose his recent edge over Federer and Roger wanting to show is still the undisputed number 1.
You can see a tale of the tape between the two here.
In other Aussie news, Serena Williams blew through Safina in 59 minutes like a dumptruck to capture her tenth Grand Slam title.
Serena destroys Safina for Aussie Open title, 10th overall Slam [CBSSports]
Saturday, January 31
In the very first story on this site we discussed the epic Wimbledon final between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal which Nadal won in 5 sets in what some, including John McEnroe call the greatest match of all time. Tonight, or rather this morning at 3:30 AM EST (replay Sunday morning on ESPN) the two will meet again in the finals of another Grand Slam, the Australian Open. Federer can surpass Pete Sampras on the all-time Slam wins list after disposing yet again of a trimmer Andy Roddick. Nadal had to hang on in a marathon 5 set match over Fernando Verdasco. It should be another epic match with Nadal not wanting to lose his recent edge over Federer and Roger wanting to show is still the undisputed number 1.
Friday, January 30
Recorded on Tuesday, we're not posting until today due to some technical difficulties. It was a rough week for the production staff here at the ASD, because one of the interviews we recorded also fell victim to technical difficulties, but we still want to thank Walt for his time. In this episode, we breakdown a pretty big football game, look at a national championship coach that may have reached the end of his rope, and recap some of the recent college basketball games. We also welcome a new special guest to discuss Fedor, Brock Lesnar, and UFC 94.
Cleet reveals some books he won't be buying, and Catfish revisits a serious issue facing football. As always, you can download it HERE. Leave your comments and let us know where we went wrong or how good we look.
Sadly, we are at our Mr.Green NFL pick of the year. Come now, dry your eyes, pick your head up and wipe that nose, face the end of football season like a man. The storylines may have been a little more dull than usual and the Cardinals may have come out of nowhere, and the Steeler fans may be annoying and even more so if they win, but we still have the chance of an entertaining game. If you are a true sports fan, you could give two shits about who is singing the sponsored pre-game show or what Springsteen will open with at halftime, you only care about watching the game and that is why the Super Bowl has become almost unbearable for those who follow football all year long. It has become so bloated with corporate partnerships, desperate attempts to reach all audiences, and media hype that it is not just a football game. It is painful if your team is in it, especially if it is a closee game; trying to focus on what is going on the field when you have Joe Buck and Troy Aikman waxing poetic about inane storylines and celebrity gossip makes you want to stab yourself with the cheeseknife coated with hotwing sauce. Just as in the BCS title game I will be rooting more against one team that for another one, so if the team I loathe jumps ahead, the 30 minute halftime show is going to seem like an eternity. More diatribing and my pick for the game after the break.
Regular Season: 158-97 (.614)
My all birds Super Bowl fell short as the Ravens could not seal the deal. I have done my best this year to avoid as much media coverage as I could these past two weeks and for the most part I did. I started this ritual last year since my team was in the game and believe I will follow it from here on out on every Super Bowl. In fact in my opinion the best way to get through the two weeks before the Super Bowl is to ignore it as much as possible. This does not mean refusing to speak about it or listen to the radio or what not, but just thinking of the game in the context of your own mind and then trying your best to enjoy it on Sunday. This may be an emo approach, and I'm not saying do not enjoy whatever function you are heading to for the game, but you want to watch the game don't you? If you want to be social and try to score by all means buddy, just don't come walking around on Monday like you broke down the game film overnight. If someone says to you at any point "I don't like the game, I just like the commercials" and they don't have breasts you are well within your rights to punch them in the face.
First, my breakdown of the game:
On offense the obvious key is to protect Warner. This is not groundbreaking news, the quarterback has to remain upright in order for the team to win. Can the O-line hold off Harrison and Woodley? Another key is to get Edge and Tim Hightower involved early, but they cannot just expect to do the basic handoffs and create a solid running game. Remember how great Darren Sproles was playing going into the Chargers divisional game in Pittsburgh? 11 rushes, 15 yards. You're not going to establish your running backs with simpe handoffs against theis defense. Arizona is going to have to run screens, draws and get Hightower one on one with Steeler tacklers just like the Titans did with Chris Johnson, forcing it up the gut will not work. If you ask most people they probably could not name a single offensive lineman for the Cardinals, but they have to play very well for the Cards to have a shot and not just in pass protection. If Warner is on his game, the line does not need to give him tons of time, Kurt is one of the best at releasing the ball a split second before he gets hit and getting it there on time. The Titans defense was relentless in Warner's Super Bowl with the Rams, but he got off a pass just before getting leveled which lead to Isaac Bruce's winning touchdown. In Super Bowl 36 against the Patriots, the defense rarely blitzed and dropped 5,6, and sometimes even 7 defensive backs in coverage. The Steelers do not have the personnel to do this and besides, blitzing is what they do best. The blitz is coming and if the Cardinals get down early or into 3rd and long, the pass rushers will pin their ears back and make life tough for the passing game. Seeing as how Larry Fitzgerald is going to be blanketed, Catfish's point of emphasis on Anquan Boldin will be huge, and also look for the tightend Leonard Pope to be a factor early.
On defense for the Cardinals, just like the offense, it starts up front with the play of the defensive line. Getting to Roethlisberger is not enough, they have to put him on the ground while he still have the ball in his hands. Baltimore got plenty of pressure on Ben, but with the protection he was seeing all year he knew how to escape it and make plays down the field. The Cardinals need sacks, not hurries. Willie Parker had a great Super Bowl 40, and if the Steelers get running early, they will slow the game down and prevent the Arizona offense from getting on the field. A final key for the Arizona defense is to be physical and set the tone early. Pittsburgh prides themselves on being a tough team and hard hitting, Arizona needs to show that they can match that intensity. I would almost suggest a 15 yard penalty on the Steeler's first possession unless they have good field position, that or a jarring hit on a wide receiver would send the message.
For the Steeler offense, run the ball early and often. Given the numbers, Ben can get you a game-winning drive and can steer a steady ship, but you do not want him tossing it all over the field because he can throw picks. Give him a solid run game and he is deadly. Setting up play action and utilizing Heath Miller will keep the defense off-balance, especially if Roethlisberger has time or makes time to throw. Pittsburgh usually has someone on offense step up and make a big play and they will need it for this game. Santonio Holmes can blaze(see what I did there?) down the field and perhaps Limas Sweed will emerge as the Whiskey Tango Foxtrot player of the game, especially if Hines Ward is unable to be effective.
The Steelers defense hardly needs breaking down. Dick Lebeau is 71 years old and looks like he is 56, his players love him, and his defensive schemes have shut down almost every opponent. So the Steeler D just needs to do what it does. Hit hard, shut down the run, and get Warner on his back. With two weeks to prepare and watch Larry Fitzgerald burn Asante Samuel and Panthers linebackers, I'm dying to see how Lebeau and company are going to approach this. My guess would be to have Polamalu shade over to Fitz all night. Troy can definitely break up or catch those jump balls that Larry has been snatching out of the air. This will leave a large burden on the other Pittsburgh defensive backs: Townsend, Ike Taylor, Gay, and Mcfadden. But if you are going to give up yards in the air, you have to believe they don't want it to be by Fitzgerald's hands(claws).
WR Hines Ward(Questionable- Knee)
DB Deshea Townsend(Questionable- Hamstring)
OLB James Harrison(Questionable- Hip)
DE Travis LaBoy(Questionable- Bicep)
DE Antonio Smith(Questionable- Knee)
WR Anquan Boldin(Probable- Hamstring)
WR Steve Breaston(Questionable- Ribs)
OT Mike Gandy(Questionable- Ankle)
As a Patriots fan and a person who lives in a city full of Steeler fans, particularly their scary female contingent I can honestly say I will be rooting against Pittsburgh. I'm sorry if that makes yins angry, but I am not alone in my sentiment. When we watch the game on XM's 60" 61" HD TV, myself, he and Catfish will be cheering Warner, the Almighty, and the Cardinals on. Here's hoping they can defeat the evil Steelers before we are faced with this:
That being said, my pick is the Steelers. I think the Cardinals coaching staff is strong and will come out with a good game plan because of the Whisenhunt factor, but in the end, the Steelers defense makes the difference. The Cardinals will hang in their early but the Steelers force mistakes and pull away in the second half by two possesions. All I can do now is sit back and hope I am wrong. Enjoy the game everyone.
(Photoshops courtesy of KSK)
Thursday, January 29
Here at ASD the loyal readers (all 4 of you) know that we like to be held accountable for how off our predictions are. It's acutally enjoyable for us to look back on what he hit on and what me missed when it comes to a picking games. Before this year's NFL season began Catfish offered up his predictions for the upcoming season and since we are doing this before the Super Bowl, you can already guess his picks were not that dead on but he did get a few right and he opened with a pretty prophetic statement:
"...all it takes is a blown ACL, a nagging hamstring, or one sultry succubus and all my plans are foiled."
See how he did after the break.
Here is a rundown of Cat's picks with my not so harsh commentary:
AFC East (Teams shown in order of projected finish)
NE Patriots - 16-0 last season, they've earned the easiest schedule
NY Jets - Spent the money to be a wildcard team, will their pickups be worth more than the loss of Johnathan Vilma?
Buffalo Bills - Take the under, every week.
Miami Dolphins - 1st round pick on a burner, pickup a QB that can't throw further than 15 yards. Magic.
Ha!, right off the bat, he had Miami to finish last, but who didn't have the Pats winning this division.
Pittsburgh Steelers - Purely on the strength of Hines Ward being the greatest blocking WR in the history of football. Ever. Period.
Baltimore Ravens - The Joe Flacco / Ray Rice era has begun.
Cleveland Browns - Braylon Edwards, the highest scoring WR in fantasy football, but can the defense stop anyone?
Cincinnati Bengals - Got 85 problems, but Tatum Bell aint one
You were right! Hines Ward is the greatest and he led his team to the division and beyond! He had some great blocks this year, just ask Keith Rivers.
Jacksonville Jaguars - This bandwagon is getting a little too full for my liking
Indianapolis Colts - The window for Peyton to be able to carry a team is closing starting this year.
Houston Texans - Opportunistic D, should see Super Mario's Sack total rise. Need Andre Johnson to play a full year, before I push them for the playoffs.
Tennessee Titans - This week Norm Chow showed what a great offensive coordinator he is, and he couldn't make it work with VY.
Faith in the Jags was not yours alone Catfish. Looks like you were right on VY but you forgot about Kerry Collins.
San Diego Chargers - Merriman could sit and they'd still be here.
Oakland Raiders - JeMarcus has to have a good year, before he Culpeppers on us, right?
Denver Broncos - Mike Shannahan tans so much his skin has become Teflon, it's the only possible reason why he has avoided any speculation about his job security.
Kansas City Chiefs - They play to win the games, but not this year.
Nice, Merriman did sit and they were there!
Dallas Cowboys - If Romo fails this season, it won't be crying TO talking about him.
Philadelphia Eagles - Would love to slot the 1, will anyone complete a pass against them this year? Just don't feel comfortable to bet on DNabb5 and BWest to make it through a whole season, healthy.
New York Giants - They were supposed to lose the Super Bowl, so the loser curse still works.
Washington Redskins - Porn stars don't win Oscars, and Zorn stars don't make playoffs.
That Zorn line was golden, and right. Romo failed and he is getting slammed.
Minnesota Vikings - Please AP stay on the field.
Green Bay Packers - Talented D leads the way.
Detroit Lions - Having two great WRs, they benefit from Martz leaving.
Chicago Bears - The Neck Beard doesn't make it past six games. Then it's return of the King.
AP was on the field and you nailed another one but your neckbeard prediction was off. He did not make it past his sixth bottle.
Carolina Panthers - A very capable offense, largely overlooked. Will the real Pepp please return to the field?
NO Saints - Still not enough weapons to make Bush an effective RB.
TB Buccaneers - Too many old guys, too many young guys. Wearing the wheels off your draft picks will do this to a team.
Atlanta Falcons - Matt Ryan should pull a Mariah Carey and get his legs insured.
Right again on the winner, wrong again on second place.
San Francisco 49ers - The footing is not good.
Seattle Seahawks - Questions at RB and WR, and they still get defaulted to this spot.
Arizona Cardinals - Want to pick them to win, but I don't have the marbles.
St. Louis Rams - Steven Jackson is back, but does it really matter?
You have no marbles!
Jacksonville over New York Jets
Indianapolis over San Diego
Philly over Minnesota
New Orleans over 49ers
Philly did beat Minnesota, and well, at least Indy played San Diego.
Jacksonville over Pittsburgh
New England over Indianapolis
Carolina over New Orleans
Philadelphia over Dallas
Here's where things turned dicey.
Jacksonville over New England
Carolina over Philadelphia
You're lack of faith in Reid and McNabb was well placed.
Carolina over Jacksonville
Not while John Fox is at the helm, that's right I said it.
Unless you had other things going on last night or do not enjoy college basketball, you missed some great finishes in ACC country. The games of Duke-Wake and UNC-Florida St. came down to the wire after all four teams battled hard, but as is seen so often come tournament time, a team has to be solid during crunch time if they want to win and advance. Although these games were not elimination games and merely affected conference standings and nonessential national rankings, it is a good reflection of how calling the right play, execution, and knowing your opponents strengths and weaknesses can win the game...or lose it.
Case in point, let us look at the final plays in both games. First we have the Carolina-FSU match-up. Florida State has been known to knock off highly ranked teams at home before. The Seminoles trailed in the game by 13 but battled back and had the ball with the game tied at 77 and 16.3 seconds left. There was a shot clock issue so they could not hold for the final shot. But they ended up having Tony Douglas launch a 3 trying to lean into Tyler Hansbrough for a foul as their final shot. Douglas is a guy whom you want taking that final shot, but no penetration and leaning into Tyler, you really think the refs are going to give you that call? The far worse error committed by the Noles came on the subsequent play in my opinion. Watch the video and look how far back the defense is off Ty Lawson. The FSU guards are practically at halfcourt. They allow Lawson to catch the ball and turn with no resistance and then do nothing to slow him down has he gets from one end of the court to their three-point line in 3.2 seconds. The shot was not a high percentage floater but there was no valid challange on Lawson or the shot. Tyus Edney had more defense played on him than Lawson did on the final drive. It should be no surprise that Ty Lawson is one of the fastest player if not the fastest with the ball. Bad execution at both ends by Florida State, and they lose their chance at an upset.
Next we have Duke and Wake Forest. The video provided via TBL shows the final two minutes but let's focus on the final inbounds play (3:26 on the video). Wake head coach Dino Gaudio drew up an amazing final play. Gaudio went the best match-up, his big players against Duke's inferior big men. With Duke playing man to man, Wake emptied out the middle of the floor and had James Johnson roll of his screen to the basket. The Duke defender was playing on the opposite side of the basket from Johnson because most likely he was going to try to help on Jeff Teague, who everyone thought surely would get the ball. Johnson ended up being wide open for the winning lay-up. Duke battled back from being down 13 but 4-24 from behind the arc is not going to get it done.
The bottom line is, coaches need their players prepared for these situations and make sure they know all possible scenarios in practice and after they come out of timeouts. Coaches only get 20 hours of actual court practice time during the week so it has to be maximized and end of game situations needs to be part of that preparation.
Recap of last night's action. [Deadspin]
Wednesday, January 28
Not even the NBA is prepared to acknowledge the Bobcats' existence and we wonder why so many other basketball talking heads know so little about the team. This is from last night's "Game of the Week" on NBA TV (FOX LA feed)...
Direct from the Bobcats as posted on Bobcats Planet...
"Gerald Wallace was diagnosed with having 30-40 percent of his left lung collapsed and a non-displaced fracture of the fifth rib following a CT-Scan at Centinela Hospital in Los Angeles. He did not accompany the team to Portland.
Wallace had a chest tube inserted into the lung to help restore it to functional capacity, but will remain in the hospital over the next 48 hours for observation. Additional information about his progress and a timetable for his return will be updated in the coming days ahead."
It's been awhile since we paid attention to our adopted ASD NHL team and not surprisngly, Buffalo has been playing well while we ignored them. Well it's time to extend my icy lips for what is sure to be another Cleet kiss of death. Buffalo has won 4 of its last 5 including a 10-2 pounding of the Oilers last night in Edmonton. It was the worst home loss in Oilers history. The Sabres sit in 7th place currently in the Eastern Conference, 4 points behind Philadelphia and 3 ahead of Florida. Right-winger Drew Stafford scored his first goal ten seconds into the game and ended with a hat-trick.
The quote of the game goes to Oilers coach Craig MacTavish who used one of my favorite words to describe the beatdown, “It was a debacle of monumental proportions.” Anytime an event can be described as a debacle, it's a good thing, unless you are on the receiving end of said debacle.
The Sabres face a tough team in Calgary on the road tonight.
Stafford has hat trick in Sabres’ rout of Oilers [Yahoo!]
That's right, the Charlotte Bobcats defeated the Lakers 117-110 in double overtime last night in the Staples Center in Los Angeles. It was the third straight win for the Cats in the Staples Center and 5th win in the last 6 against the Lakers. LA had won 14 of their last 17 and owned an NBA best record at 35-8 but great performances all around were enought to outlast the best team in the west even after they let a lead slip away in regulation. Raymond Felton was one assist shy of a triple-double , and Boris Diaw was one rebound and assist away from one as well. Emeka Okafor had 18 and 11 including 6-7 from the line.
Kobe Bryant finished with 38 points but fouled out in the first overtime. Pau Gasol shot just 4-16 from the field. The Lakers' furious 4th quarter comeback was aided by poor free-throw shooting from Charlotte and the Lake Show took a 6 point lead in the first OT. The Bobcats battled back however and now improve to 12-10 since they traded away Jason Richardson for Diaw and Raja Bell. "That was a heck of a win; it was a heck of a performance," coach Larry Brown said of his Charlotte team. The Bobcats get no rest as they must turn around and play at Portland tonight.
Another point of concern was a flagrant foul by Andrew Bynum on Gerald Wallace with a minute to go in the fourth quarter that sent Wallace to the floor.
Wallace was down for minutes and walked very slowly to the locker room. The early indication is that Wallace suffered a collapsed lung. It would be a huge hit to the Bobcats momentum to lose Wallace for any amount of time but it does not take the shine off a gutty performance and a great win.
Tuesday, January 27
The University of Miami football team's offense has not exactly been squeezing the charmin out of opposing defenses the past couple of seasons. Head coach Randy Shannon made strides to remedy that situation as the Hurricanes have named Philadelphia assistant coach Mark Whipple as offensive coordinator. Whipple is 51 and before being an offensive assistant on the Eagles' staff he was the quarterbacks coach for Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh for three years which included their Super Bowl victory. His college coaching experience includes the UMass where he was 49-26 and led them to a Division 1-AA championship in 1998. His overall winning percentage in college is .672.
Whipple will be taking over a young but talented Miami offense. Jacory Harris is now the definite starter with Robert Marve transfering and he needs to make big strides if the Canes will contend in the coming years. Whipple will also have the tandem of Graig Cooper and Javaris James in the backfield along with young, physically imposing wideouts. Mark knows the expectations that come with the job as he stated, "Our goal is to win a national championship. It's been a goal of mine for awhile now."
With Whipple molding the offense with NFL experience including time spent under Ken Whisenhunt, and veteran defensive coordinator Bill Young on the other side of the ball, Randy Shannon should make strides with a 7-6 team that was very young last year. Miami was ranked 52nd in offense in the nation last year and 101st the year before under former coordinator Patrick Nix. With the players already in place and more top recruits on the way, Miami should contend nationally in the years ahead and if they do not, it will be Shannon who is replaced.
Mark Whipple Named Hurricanes' Offensive Coordinator [Hurricanesports.com]
In a recent NBA.com article, they took a look at the top defenses in the league. Not surprisingly, the likes of Boston, Cleveland, Orlando made the list, but also a slight surprise the Lakers were included. It's not a shock that the hometown Cats were not included, but just how do the Cats stack up? I can't go any further without acknowledging the help of Brett from Queen City Hoops and the Team Rankings.com staff for all of their assistance in compiling the numbers. Now, on with the show.The top five teams were compared in eight defensive categories: Defensive rating, Pace, Defensive Rebound Rate, Opponents Turnover Rate, Opponents Paint %, Opponents Fast Break %, Opponents Free Throw Attempts per Possession, and finally Blocks per possession.
5. LA Lakers
When comparing teams, it's only between these five teams and the Cats, unless otherwise noted.
Defensive Rating - It appears that the primary (only?) determinant in the NBA.com rankings was the Defensive Rating (points allowed per 100 possessions). According to defensive rating, Charlotte finishes just outside of the top five at seventh in the league, allowing 102.1 points per 100 possessions (1.021 per possession). This puts them in elite company, trailing only these five teams and San Antonio in this regard, and puts them fourth in the Eastern Conference. Given the amount of flux on the roster this season, Coach Brown's focus on defense already shows signs of paying off. Their 106.5 rating of a year ago would put them 26th in the league today.
Pace - (Possessions per Game) Not surprisingly, three of the top defensive teams play at a slower pace. Only the Lakers and Magic rank in the top half (7 and 13) of teams in the league and the Cavs and the Rockets are both in the bottom third (25 and 21). The Bobcats are even lower at 27th (91.5 pace), but they've improved from the start of the season when they were last for the first couple months. The Cats slower pace hasn't hindered their ability to keep up, however, in many of the other statistical categories.
Defensive Rebounding Rate - (Percentage of available defensive rebounds attained ) This is one area where the Bobcats lag behind, but not surprising when considering the front lines that these teams have grabbing boards for them. The Celtics (76.4%) and Rockets (75.2) are two and three in the league, and the Lakers are the only team out of the top half, barely at 16th. The Cats are 21st in the league, grabbing 72.3% of available rebounds, but given their relative lack of height (and complete absence of a power forward to start the year), teams have been often more willing to crash the boards against the Cats.
Opponents Turnover Rate - (Opponents' turnovers per 100 possessions ) Just as defensive rebounding has been a weakness, this has been a strength for the Cats. They're 9th in the league (13.9), and trail only the Celtics (14.4) and Cavs (14.3) amongst the leaders. The Cats do a markedly better job than Oralndo and Houston, who are both in the bottom five in the league. With the addition of Raja Bell and Coach Brown allowing Gerald Wallace to take more chances on the defensive end, the Cats number could even increase.
Opponents Paint % - (Percentage of opponents' points scored in the paint) Boston (36.7%) and Orlando (37.7%) are head and shoulders above the other teams in this regard, and thanks in no small part to the presence of Kevin Garnett and Dwight Howard. The Cats are currently 4th (39.5%) trailing Cleveland by mere percentage points and well ahead of LA (40.7%) and Houston (41.9%). One thing that this stat doesn't tell, though, is the percentage of opponents inside shots. The Cats and Cavs opponents have shot 35% of their attempts from close range, compared to only 31% for the Magic. With that said, Charlotte, Cleveland and Orlando are all in the top 3 defensive FG% for shots in the paint, two of the teams just happen to be doing it against more shots.
Opponents Fast Break % - (Percentage of opponents' points scored on the break)Another area the Cats have excelled at this season, is not giving up easy buckets. They're second to only Boston (11.17%) at 11.24%. Perhaps the most impressive of the bunch, LA allows 11.4% of fast break buckets, but given their much higher pace could be argued to be more impressive.
Opponents Free Throw Attempts per Possession - Houston, LA, and Orlando (.207, .207, .215) are all ranked in the top ten, with Cleveland 17th (.238), the Cats at 18th (.238) and Boston at 26th (.254). If I was a homer, I'd point to flex in the roster and having a rookie playing substantial minutes, but the team has had far too many facepalm fouls from veterans and rookies alike. Also, with the team trailing late as opposed to many of these teams up late, the Cats find their rate higher than most. If anything stand out, it's Boston's 26th ranking. Not exactly championship defense being played giving up that many free throws.
Blocks per Possession - The King and his Cavs actually out-pace Dwight Howard and the Magic here, at second in the league (.075). The Cats find themselves dead in the middle at 15th in the league (.061), just behind LA (.063) and Boston (.062). Much of the love for the Bobcats middle of the road ranking has to go to Emeka Okafor (who should be an All-Star). The addition of Diaw has not only helped Emeka on the offensive end, but also on the defensive end, where he's been able to avoid foul trouble after the trade as well as Mek's getting accustomed to Larry Brown's system.
For those of you that like spreadsheets here's a breakdown of all the categories with team rank to the right of each stat (where applicable).
Another important note for Charlotte fans, with the exception of the slower pace, the team has improved, sometimes marginally and other times dramatically, in all of these statistical categories from a year ago. The Bobcats are not in the discussion of elite teams in the league, but with Coach Brown at the helm, and with more time for the pieces to gel, this team is beginning to have the makings of an elite team, at least on the defensive end of the floor.
After extensive negotiations, we've joined forces with Bobcats Planet. We're now hosting another weekly podcast, but this time focusing on everyone's favorite NBA team in the Carolinas. You can go HERE to check it out. We've already gotten a lot of positive response and much thanks to Ziggy and all the guys over there for getting us involved. We've even made it on to iTunes (now if our staff here would get off their asses...). Listen in and drop us a line on the new "Ham Biscuit" Hotline.
We here at ASD like to bust our friend Xtra Medium's chops. Pull his string, or leg as it were. Give him the business if you will time to time. The truth is that XM knows his sports and knows as much about the NBA as just about anyone. His most famous case of verbal misstep was while we were sitting at Catfish's kitchen table circa late 1990s, when he bodly declared that "Allen Iverson is good." His most recent incident took place earlier this NBA season when LeBron had secured a triple-double. I forget the line but the rebounds and assists were 11 and 10, leading XM to state that it was a "shitty" triple-double because he barely eclipsed the double-digit mark in two of the categories. You see, getting a triple-double is getting a triple-double, no matter what the total is and we have been harassing XM ever since. So when Chris Paul missed a quadruple-double by 3 steals, he should know he will hear about this one. CP3 had 27 points, 15 assists, 10 rebounds and 7 steals in the Hornets 101-86 win last night agaisnt Philadelphia. Only four players have ever gotten the elusive quad-dub, and they are:
Nate Thurmond, October 18, 1974, Chicago vs. Atlanta; 22 points, 14 rebounds, 13 assists, 12 blocks.
Alvin Robertson, February 18, 1986, San Antonio vs. Phoenix; 20 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 steals.
Hakeem Olajuwon, March 29, 1990, Houston vs. Milwaukee; 18 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists, 11 blocks AND March 3, 1990 (3 weeks earlier than his other one) Houston vs GoldenState; 29 points 18 rebounds 10 assists 11 blocks
David Robinson, February 17, 1994, San Antonio vs. Detroit; 34 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 10 blocks.
This is keeping in mind that blocks and steals did not become an official stat until the 1970s.
Paul falls three steals shy of quadruple-double. [CBSSports]
Monday, January 26
Sorry to burst the Coors Light twins bubble, but this is not about them. The Virginia Military Institute Keydets are atop the standings in the Big South at 16-3, 8-1 in conference and the twin combination of Travis and Chavis Holmes are a big reason. To say VMI plays an up-tempo style of offense is a bit of an understatement. The Keydets lead the nation in scoring offense thanks to their unique offensive scheme of shooting deep, early and often. The Holmes twins became the all-time scoring twin combination in NCAA history during VMI's 92-85 win over High Point on Saturday in which they totaled 47 points together. They have 3,262 combined career points and have Keydets headed in the right direction for a NCAA Tournament bid. With an early season victory at Rupp Arena over Kentucky under their belt VMI could be a tough opening round match-up come March. The twins had an interview with ESPN's First Take last week. You can watch the interview here.
I went and saw an idependent film last week and reviewed it for our friends over at Arts á la Mode. The movie is titled 4th and Long and its an amusing mockumentary of people's obsessions over high school football and also an interesting character study. If you have a chance to see this one make sure you do, drugs are not required to enjoy. My review is after the break.
It is undeniable that football has become the secular religion of American culture. Every weekend, teeming masses of sports fans tailgate with friends, root for their team and occasionally act like idiots in the process. Tim Vandenberg’s 4th and Long is a mockumentary that follows three men who are entirely and insanely passionate about their local high school football team. The story follows their tales of devotion to their team and their quest to resurrect the program after it is cut by the local school board.
Larry is an overweight football fanatic for the New Hanover Wildcats who works in the school’s library. He never got the opportunity to play football because his parents would not allow it so he now lives out his fantasy through the experiences of the team. Larry is simple-minded yet attempts to be thoughtful, though his circular logic lands him in moments of sheer bewilderment to the dismay of those around him.
Charles or “The Chuck” as he is known is a somewhat senile old man who has been following New Hanover football since his younger days when he claims to have hung out with the great Sonny Jorgensen. It seems his only reason for living is the Wildcat’s football team. Chuck often gets caught up in moments of deep reflection lamenting an accident that claimed his wife, and the way his life has ended up in such disarray.
Nathan or “Coach D” represents the young, energetic and unfiltered version of an American football hooligan. He was an assistant coach on the team until he had a drunken run-in with the cops. His manner of dealing with the young players was too much over-the-top insults and red-faced yelling. Not surprisingly, Coach D’s misguided passion does him in when he is fired from the team, but it cannot stop him for rooting for his beloved Wildcats.
The film takes an in-depth look at the three men’s lives and how they live for the football team; how that in turn keeps them from living a functional life. Football is their only escape from the mistakes they’ve made and their shortcomings. The film, of course, is humorous and it delivers some fantastic laughs as you follow the escapades of the characters, but at some points you find yourself shaking your head at their constricted lives. In the end, though, the message is that football serves as a focus and outlet for these lonely/sad/misguided people. The characters are likable and I found myself rooting for them to be happy in their own simple ways.
Of course, the main thurst of the film is humor and there is no shortage of that. The small town football feel is captured brilliantly by director Vandenberg using the city of Wilmington, North Carolina as a backdrop. The actors are well cast and down to earth, and seem real enough to exist in any similar township in our country. There are some scenes that drag on too long but overall the film is a great watch for the sports fan or even for those who wonder what the fuss about football is all about.
4 Shacklefords(out of 5)
I am doing my usual recovery job at the office and Catfish is currently giving his computer mouf to mouf in an attempt to salvage it. So before we get rolling this week, here is a look back at some of the events that transpired over the weekend.
The Coach of the 100-0 victory was fired and maintains he did nothing wrong. [CBSSports]
You probably did not notice but there was an NHL All-Star Game last night. [Puck Daddy]
This Torre-"A-fraud" thing is going to get ugly(er). [FoxSports]
Kay Yow gave cancer all it could handle, and gave a lot to those around her along the way. [NCSU]
Shows what the bookmakers know, Andy Murray is bounced from the Australian Open. [ESPN]
Arizona's Chase Budinger gets boot to face, Aubrey Coleman seems indifferent about the situation. [Rush the Court]
Catfish pointed out the Craig Morton story on our podcast, here it is in print. [The Love of Sports]
Dustin Pedroia's brother loves the kids...a little too much(allegedly). [The Sporting Blog via Deadspin]
Code Redd: Bucks guard done for the season with knee injury. [Yahoo]
This just in, Danny Granger is good. Catfish's urge to kill rising... [HoopsHype]
By the way, Granger scored 27 to help the Pacers cool off the Bobcats last night. [BobcatsPlanet]
Friday, January 23
There has been much debate about Donovan's McNabb role past and present with the Philadelphia Eagles, his place among all-time quarterbacks, and just how good or bad a football player he really is. In this installment of Point-Counterpoint Catfish and I debate where number 5 falls and what his legacy will be in pro football. Cat will be the prosecutor, alleging that McNabb is not an elite signal-caller for his generation of quarterbacks and that he has been a hinderance to his franchises championhsip aspirations. My role will be as the court-appointed public defender who will contest that McNabb has been vital to the Eagles' success during his ten year run and gets the blame all to often by the team's inability to raise a Lombardi trophy. The case is set, read the arguments after the break.
Catfish has the Floor
If the question were, ‘have you ever used the word ‘thighs’ in mixed company?’ I would have to plead guilty, but we’re not here to discuss me, we’re here to discuss Mr. Donovan F. McNabb. To suggest he’s an elite quarterback is a travesty. It’s a travesty of a mockery of a sham of a mockery of a travesty of two mockeries of a sham. In point and fact, Mr. McNabb has held the Philadelphia Eagles back from their potential.
Esquire Cleet may attempt to point at various statistics and Mr. McNabb’s rankings in various categories for the playoffs, but I ask you this, who would you rather have in the playoffs, Daunte Culpepper or Johnny Unitas? Mr. Culpepper had eight playoff touchdowns, where Johnny U had only seven in his career. Your focus should be on the fact that Mr. Unitas won three championships and Mr. Culpepper, zero. Mr. McNabb similarly has won no titles. More important than any statistic are moments.
Prosecution Exhibit A: Donovan's best playoff moment
Donovan McNabb’s most memorable moment of playoff success came in the divisional round of the 2003 playoffs. Facing 4th and 26, McNabb completed a 28-yard pass to Freddie Mitchell, getting the ball to midfield. As a quarterback, if your most memorable play is getting the ball to midfield, how successful a career have you had? To look deeper at what set up the play we can see that McNabb had two incompletions and took a sack for the 16-yard loss. Following the catch, McNabb was only able to complete two of five passes and ultimately the team would settle for a field goal to tie the game.
Prosecution Exhibit B: Completion Percentage
Donovan’s completion percentage for his career is 58.9 and he’s completed more than 60 percent in only three of his ten seasons. 58.9 percent is good enough for 41st all-time, behind the likes of Jon Kitna, David Carr, and J.P. Losman. 41st doesn’t sound terrible on the face, but we must look deeper. Of the top 20, only Joe Montana didn’t play in the league after 1998. The last ten years have produced almost all of the top completion percentages, but yet Donovan McNabb falls dramatically short. 25 active QBs have a higher completion percentage than him. Given that McNabb has largely become a dropback passer in the second half of his career, he doesn’t have his ability to scramble to fall back on.
Prosecution Exhibit C: Sacks Taken
The defendant is not only inaccurate, but he takes far too many sacks. Nearly seven percent (6.96) of the time, Mr. McNabb drops back he is felled for a loss, placing him behind 26 active quarterbacks and 91st all-time. Combined with his 41.1 percent incompletion percentage, his 2.1 percent interception rate, and the 6.96 sack percentage, means the Eagles gain nothing or lose yards on more than half of their passing plays. With the Eagles being primarily a passing team, if he was able to convert on more plays, the team would certainly be more successful.
Prosecution Exhibit D: The Eagles Defense
The Eagles defense has been one of the best during McNabb’s run as quarterback. In terms of points, the defenses has ranked in the top ten in the NFL and were ranked higher than the offense in all but two years of McNabb’s career and in the top ten in yards in six of the seasons. This team was driven by the defense, but yet…
Prosecution Exhibit E: Donovan's Contract
Donovan McNabb has had the largest cap number on the team since 2002, with the exception of this past season. McNabb’s contract has been a tremendous hindrance to the team, forcing them to release many of the defensive players (Douglas, Trotter, Vincent) that were the keys to the unit to the side of the ball that has always been the best for this team. McNabb signed a 12-year, $115 million dollar contract in 2002, which based on contract alone, makes him an elite quarterback. In three of the past five seasons, his cap number has been more or within a couple hundred thousand dollars of Peyton Manning, the best quarterback in the league. Until this season, he'd had a higher cap number than Tom Brady in only one season. McNabb is not mentioned in the same breath with these two, but on paper he's just as costly to the team. He’s paid like an elite quarterback, handicapping the team’s salary cap, but clearly Mr. McNabb has failed to deliver. I now yield the floor to the defense.
The Defense Will Now Present Its Case
We all know what a wordsmith and passionate litigator Catfish is so on that level I am unsure if I can match him. So instead I will say this, he has a very large head full of crazy ideas and slanted statistics. Huge. Beyond that, I am not here to say that Mr. McNabb is worthy of a bronze mongoloid bust in Canton, Ohio…yet, but rather I am here to verify what self-hating delusional Philadelphia sports fans do not want to accept as the truth: Donovan McNabb is the best quarterback to ever wear the Eagles’ uniform and has brough them great success that lacks only a Super Bowl title.
Defense Exhibit A: Philly Fans
Where to start? I think I will with the fans of the Eagles themselves. They are not the ones on trial, that’s what the jailhouse in their stadium was for, but I think it is an important factor to knowing why McNabb draws such harsh criticism. Let’s take a look around Lincoln Financial Field and see what type of people we are dealing with:
Right. These are not the most sensible people ever to walk the land and they are not exactly Quakers. The fans of this city believe it is an obligation to boo everyone and everything that represents their city in a sports venue. They take great pride for booing Santa Claus and pelting him with snowballs. Among those that they heckled with reckless abandon (be advised this is just a small sample of the list): Baseball Hall-of-Famer Mike Schmidt, several other members of last year’s World Champion Phillies including games during the playoffs, and Allen Iverson. The reputation for irrational fan treatment of athletes in Philadelphia speaks for itself. If you are unaware of the degree of this circumstance, I implore you to travel to Philly, visit a local tavern, order a Yuengling and ask about the Eagles and you will understand.
Defense Exhibit B: Teammates
Returning to the Iverson dynamic for a moment, his ire from the fans is perhaps most akin to the plight of McNabb since AI never was able to win a championship even after guiding them their during the 2000-2001 campaign. Iverson did not exactly have supreme talent around him during his run though. He did have Larry Brown, but just observe this list of teammates from that Finals team:
Dikembe Mutombo: Old even back then.
Aaron McKie: Local Temple boy made good, but not a star.
Eric Snow: Again a solid player but nothing spectacular.
Tyrone Hill: Good rebounder, scary persona.
George Lynch: Sorry Catfish, even though he is a Carolina boy, just a role player.
Matt Geiger: Ah, the heist of Matt Geiger, being paid for being tall and white.
Rodney Buford: Uh.
Jumaine Jones: Ju gotta be kidding me.
Todd MacCulloch: See Geiger but without the career or money.
Kevin Ollie: Gritty point guard but just a guy to fill time.
Roshown Mcleod: Lol.
Raja Bell: Before his skills were honed.
Pepe Sanchez: I really think this one deserves no explanantion.
Anthony Miller: Was young, even though he is nothing special now.
So Iverson had to take that roster and try to beat Kobe and Shaq in their prime? And that was the best roster Iverson ever played with in Philly! But I digress, this is about number 5.
McNabb’s fellow cast of characters are stronger than that 76er team when you look overall, but where has McNabb’s go to receiver been? There was one year of having Terrell Owens happy and not surprisingly, that was McNabb’s best year. Then T.O. had to be T.O. and as we have visited earlier, I do not think he has ever stopped being who he is and that is no fault of McNabb. Other than that, he has had such pass-catching goliaths as James Thrash, Freddie Mitchell, Greg Lewis, L.J. Smith, Hank Baskett, Kevin Curtis, and others. DeSean Jackson has been impressive this year, but he is still young and has had some key drops. McNabb’s one saving grace has been Brian Westbrook, but only when Westbrook is healthy which is not too often. At times the offensive line can look porous and that is being generous, I’m looking at you Winston Justice and Tre Thomas. The saving grace has been the Philly defense which has been a stout unit throughout Donovan’s time there. One exception is the last game however, where the defense could not stop the Cardinals from marching down the field in the fourth quarter after Donovan threw a 62 yard bomb to DeSean Jackson to give them the lead.
Defense Exhibit C: The Numbers
5 time pro-bowl selection
2000 MVP Runner-Up
2004 NFC Offensive Player of the Year
Named to the Eagles 75th Anniversary team
All-time Career Marks:
Passing Completions: 26th
Passing TDs: 34th
Passer Rating: 18th
Pass INT %: 2nd
Defense Exhibit D: The Eagles Track Record
Until McNabb led the Eagles to Super Bowl 39, the only other Super Bowl the Eagles had made it was in 1980 where they lost 27-10 to the Raiders in a laugher. Donovan has been in 5 NFC Championship games in his ten years and lost in Super Bowl 39 to the Patriots 24-21. He had 30 completions and 357 yards (both third all-time in Super Bowls), and threw for 3 TDs. Despite the rumblings and rumors, the Eagles narrowly lost the game, bottom line.
McNabb inherited a team that went 3-13 the previous season when he was drafted in 1999. He has led them to the playoffs 6 times since then when they had only been to the post-season 7 times since their Super Bowl appearance in 1980. The Eagles are 8-7 without McNabb starting since 1999, and 5 of those wins came in the Super Bowl year when the defense helped Koy Detmer and AJ Feeley go 5-1 after McNabb suffered a broken ankle against the Cardinals in a game where he played through the injury. Mike McHahon went 2-5 in place of McNabb and Jeff Garcia went 5-1 in 2006 but he could do no better than Donovan in the playoffs as the Eagles lost to the Saints in the divisional round. Many were clamoring for Garcia to be the starter after that season, but Garcia led the Bucs to a first-round exit last year and did not even get his team to the playoffs this year despite a 9-3 start. When McNabb was benched against the Ravens this season, Kevin Kolb got a chance to show the Eagles fans that have been pining for him what he had to offer as an alternative to McNabb. Kolb came in the game and promptly set a record! The record was for the longest INT return for a TD in NFL history, 107 yards by Ed Reed.
Defense Exhibit E: The 1999 Draft
Philly fans were giving their trademark boos when the Eagles picked McNabb second in the 1999 draft. They wanted Ricky Williams; yeah that would have been the sagely pick. Ignoring the fact that the Eagles’ choices at QB would have been Koy Detmer or Bobby Hoying had they not drafted a quarterback, let us examine the other quarterbacks in this class. Picked before McNabb number 1 was Tim Couch, who apparently is running for office now. Taken behind McNabb was Akili Smith, did not see too many things from him in the league now did we? Daunte Culpepper, Cade McNown, Shaun King, Brock Huard, Joe Germaine, Aaron Brooks, Kevin Daft, Michael Bishop, Chris Greisen, and Scott Covington include the remainder of QBs taken that weekend. Unless you count Culpepper’s stint with the Lions this year, McNabb is the only one left standing.
Prosecution's closing argument
No one wants to say another man has not earned his keep, and jury it is with a sincere sense of gravity that I understand what we're asking you jurors to do. His defense has tried to deflect the blame, pointing to the fans, other sports, and the failures of those of the same age, but please remember we're here not to try any of those people, we're here to discuss solely the defendant. The defense points to a comparison with Allen Iverson, but Mr. Iverson was not paired with a two-time All-Pro and arguably the most dynamic playmaker in the league for the last decade, Brian Westbrook. There is no doubt that Mr. McNabb has turned out quite a resume in terms of career numbers, but the list of 10-year starters in the NFL is short. The question at hand, is not does he have impressive career numbers, but would the Eagles be better off without him. In 2006, when Donovan got hurt, journeyman quarterback Jeff Garcia filled in and led the team to a 5-1 record to close out the season, taking a 5-5 team and leading them to the playoffs. He did so, with a cap value not a quarter of Mr. McNabb. If there's only thing you take with you into deliberation, remember that Mr. McNabb in the playoffs has 23 passing touchdowns and 23 turnovers. In closing, I would like to agree with the defense, the Eagles track record is not impressive, but perhaps their most egregious error was committing over $100 million dollars to a quarterback fails in passing, more than he succeeds.
In summation, recapitulation, totality, and conclusion Donovan F. McNabb is the greatest quarterback in the NFL. To argue that would be folly considering the greats that have preceded him and his contemporaries, but it is time to not give him credit for what he in truth is. He is a well-above average quarterback for a franchise that has not seen a championship since 1960. His numbers, playoff appearances, and success compared to his draft class support that theory. It is important to look at where the Eagles would be without him, which is a far worse position. Very few signal-callers would be an upgrade to McNabb. He has not gotten them to the mountain top yet, but he has had them in the running more often than not. Does McNabb deserve the entirety of the credit for the Eagles being a competitive team his ten years in Philadelphia? Of course not, but conversely he does not deserve the amount of blame he gets from the fans and media when the team has fallen short of a Lombardi trophy. Judge him if you must, but use proper judgment when you do.
Seven NBA head coaches have lost their jobs this season. The last two, Minnesota's Randy Whittman and now Memphis's Mike Iavaroni have been fired shortly after losses to the hometown Cats. Phoenix's Terry Porter may be unlikely to get fired, but if the Suns lose in Charlotte tonight, they may find themselves outside of the playoffs (they currently lead Dallas be % points for the 8th spot). They will have lost five of their last six, including losses to the T-Wolves and the Knicks. With two of their three core players being in the twilight in of their career if they're hoping to do anything, it needs to be soon.
J-Rich will be returning to the Queen City to face the Bobcats for the first time since the trade. The last time he played against a former team was when he was in Charlotte and lit up the Golden State Warriors for half a bill. The argument about who got the best of the trade will continue at least through the end of the year, but there is little doubt that all three of the primary pieces have this game circled on the calendar.
Heading into a long five game in nine days road trip, a win tonight could be a huge lift. The team will play one basement dweller in Indiana, two division leaders in the Lakers and Nuggets, and two twenty five win teams in Portland and Utah. The last time the Cats went to Indiana, Raymond Felton played OT hero in leading the team to a win. If the team can go at least 2-3, the road trip has to be considered a success. When the team returns home, they have a stretch of six games that can all be considered winnable, so a successful road trip would be invaluable as this team continues to fight for the 8th seed in the East.
Last week as we watched LeBron do his thing on the court against New Orleans, Xtra Medium and I entered into a debate after LeBron threw one down. While there is no doubt Bron Bron is operating now on a level all by himself, I contended that a man from my youth, Dominique Wilkins was the superior dunker. This was not to say that James cannot throw it down as well as just about anyone, but in my recollection Nique was as graceful yet violent dunker the league had seen. This was without having reviewed any footage, it was just off memory of what I saw as a kid and the Super Slam of the NBA tape I had watched more times than I could count. In my opinion at that time, there was no question it was Wilkins, the man who graced the back of my bedroom door on a poster I received inside a Kudos box. Man, I used to love me some Kudos. However, after viewing extensive footage of both dunkers, it is truly a close call. Since we have to take out dunk contests since LeBron it appears will never do one, the incredible Nique contest footage will have to be eliminated from consideration.
Let's look at the vitals before we go to the You Tube tape.
The King/King James-----Nickname-----The Human Highlight Reel
Akron, Ohio-------------Birthplace---------------Paris, France
250(more like 260-270)----------Weight------------------ 230
Cavs(until 2010?)-------------Main Team-------------------Hawks
Lost in the Finals------Furtherst Playoff progression-----Lost in Eastern Semis
2008-----------------League Scoring Champion----------------1986
Cockback Tomahawk---------------Signature Dunk-----------------Windmill
43------------Points in a losing Game 7 to Celtics-------------47
Now we turn to the true tale of the tube. There are various videos displaying the fantastic dunks of both players, but in the interest of balance I chose the NBA TV top ten for each. There are some left off of Nique's catalog which include the one-handed putback from the Super Slam's video which made Tim Hardaway say, "You see that, you be like Gawd!" and the one-handed alley-oop where he rose over the defender but it does show what he brought to the table. Also intersting is that Lebron's top ten has two instances of players trying to take a charge or unwilling to go up and challenge the shot, there certainly was more willingness for players to go for the block 20 years ago as opposed to today where players are more afraid of getting "posterized" or showing up on the bad end of a Sportscenter highlight than contest a shot.
Bron Bron has some great dunks though, and some I had either only seen once or twice or had forgotten about including a throwdown on Rasheed. It is amazing that some of their dunks do look incredibly similar. Wilkins to me gets the edge by the slimmest of margins and his facial served up on Larry Byrd is priceless.
First we have LeBron's top ten:
Here is Dominique's:
Tough call, feel free to give us your opinion.
Thursday, January 22
From the Rock Hill Herald, "After it appeared he was set to sign a two-year contract extension earlier this week, Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Mike Trgovac is apparently looking for another job today. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Trgovac was initially prepared to return to the Panthers for an eighth season and seventh as coordinator, but something happened Wednesday to change his mind. Since then, he’s been in discussions with other teams while in Mobile, Ala., for the Senior Bowl, looking for new work."
This means in the past two seasons, the Panthers have replaced both their offensive and defensive coordinators. Most people thought this year was a make or break year for Head Coach John Fox, but with the team making the playoffs, he appears to have avoided the guillotine. Next season, he'll be flying without a net and the buck will finally have to stop with him. One potential problem for the Panthers, is that with so much of the coaching carousel done spinning, the team has missed out on some of the best candidates for the now vacant D coordinator position. Also, with Coach Fox running out of rope with ownership, many candidates may not be interested in joining the team for what could be only a one-year stint.
Wednesday, January 21
Once again the guys over at Kissing Suzy Kolber perfect the art of photoshop, creating this brilliant depiction of Larry Fitzgerald. Fitz has gone from rarely-mentioned spectacular wide receiver to knob-slobbed by every member of the media as the best pass catcher in the NFL. The only chance the Steelers have of slowing him down is to cover themselves completely in mud and make some jungle snares, or just get to Kurt Warner.
If It Bleeds, We Can Cover It. [Kissing Suzy Kolber]
Also for old time's sake, the Predator Rap.
Sorry Duke haters, but this isn't the same Duke that has flamed out in March in recent years. This team is much more similar to the Battier-era teams. Incredibly balanced, with depth, and an emphasis on defense. It seems like ages, but it's only eight years since Duke's last title and really only the second incarnation of a team since that championship. Whether Coach K learned from his experiences in Beijing or from the failures of his previous teams is debatable, but this team is a far cry from the J.J. Redick-led teams that always fell short.
All three of Duke's championship teams have been headed by three well-rounded players. The '91 and '92 teams were led by Christian Laettner, Grant Hill and Bobby Hurley. The 2001 championship team was led by the triumvirate of Shane Battier, Jason Williams, and Mike Dunleavy. This year's trio of Jon Scheyer, Kyle Singler and Gerald Henderson display many of the same characteristics. Balanced scoring, capable of setting up their teammates, and active defense were trademarks of the championship teams and this group as well. If anything, the Redick era (so often tied to Coach K's March failings) was the anomaly.
The 2005-06 season was Redick's last in Durham and most prolific, but by the end of the season he was worn out. At this point in that season, he was in the midst of playing 40 minutes per in three straight games. In the last three games for this year's team, they've had three different leaders in minutes and no player has played more than 38 minutes. While Redick's minutes would peak in the month of February at 39.13, the effects weren't felt until March when his scoring plummeted to 22 ppg despite a season high 19 shots per game. With Redick assuming so much of the scoring responsibility and the offense being set up to create shots primarily for him, it led to their eventual eventual sweet 16 dispatch at the hands of LSU, when Redick shot only 3-18 from the field and tied a season low with only 11 points. JJ was the team's leading scorer in all but six games, with Shelden Williams as the leader in the other six (as well as a couple games where the two tied). This year's team has already had five different Blue Devils top the scoring column, much more similar to the 2001 team.
All of this does not mean Duke will be cutting down the nets in April, but they are better suited for a long stay come tournament time. Currently, Kyle Singler leads the team in scoring, rebounds, assists, and steals but with the emergence of Gerald Henderson and Nolan Smith, the team's attack has become far more balanced. One area of concern heading forward has been the team's assist to turnover ratio, at just over 1/1 (259/252). Reserve David McClure is the only player with a ratio above 2/1 at 2.3/1. This year's team is not as good as the previous championship teams, but they are cut from the same cloth.
Tuesday, January 20
Allow me to formally apologize in getting caught up with the changing of the guard in Washington and losing track of what's really important in life. Coach K and the Duke Blue Devils are number two in the most recent college basketball rankings. They play number one Wake a week from tomorrow. Set your sun dials.
Regardless of whether or not you had to work on MLK day or Inauguration Day, at least you don't have David Akers ink covering your back. Akers missed both a field goal and an extra point in the Eagles NFC Championship loss, but at least he didn't go Scott Norwood on the last play of the game. There are so many questions about the work that I want to ask. Did you just get the tattoos around your Great One appreciation or did you get the tats in 99 (because getting a rookie QB tattood on your back can be dangerous)? Did you specifically ask for the center's arm to be included? What about the holder? Is your last name Akers? Of course, people could ask similar questions about Cleet's back mural of Reche Caldwell and my Kerry Collins inspired sleeves.
Men's tennis has become dormant in the minds of today's sports landscape in America. The loss of popular personalities like McEnroe, Connors, Agassi, and Sampras have contributed but there is also another element that keeps tennis far from the consciousness: winning. The last American to hoist a Grand Slam trophy for the men was Andy Roddick in the U.S. Open 6 years ago. Roddick won his early match easily and has trimmed down in an attempt to get over the hump and claim another Slam title. Roddick, who has been the best men's hope since Agassi left, has finished second in Grand Slam finals to Roger Federer on three occasions. While Roddick has sputtered, other players like Nadal, Novak Djokovic and Andy Murray have emerged. Men's tennis is entering its best era in a while because it is the new talent is raising their game while Federer is attempting to hold on and surpass Pete Sampras for the most Grand Slam titles ever. If Roddick or any American could get into the mix, it could make for a great show, similar to the one Federer and Nadal gave us last July. The early rounds have begun in Aussie land with Federer looking sharp even though he is not his customary number 1 seed which belongs to Nadal who also advanced and Roger is not even the favorite, Andy Murray has received that title due to recent success.
Murray favored? Federer scoffs at bookmakers. [SI.com]
We discussed the Ryan Clark hit on Willis McGahee on this week's podcast, and Catfish had some differing opinions than the NFL on when and where violent hits are and are not acceptable. The league will not fine or discipline Clark in any way. From CBSSports.com Clark Judge:
"There will be no fine for Pittsburgh's Ryan Clark for his hit on Baltimore running back Willis McGahee. I spoke today with Mike Pereira, the league's vice president of officiating, and he said that once McGahee caught the ball and headed upfield he no longer was subject to the rules that protect quarterbacks or wide receivers in vulnerable positions. Yes, Pereira said, the hit was a helmet-to-helmet collision, but that's a penalty or finable offense only when it happens to quarterbacks in the throwing position or wide receivers who are unprotected while trying to catch the football. McGahee, he said, no longer was a receiver in a vulnerable position once he turned and headed upfield. Hence, the hit was legal."
So basically a quarterback or 'vunerable' receivers cannot take possibly debilitating helmet-to-helmet hits that could severly injure them, but if the player already caught the ball it is fine. As we mentioned on the Shackleford Files, it is our thought that these type of hits need to be limited across the board because this is what can happen. Clark himself was out of it from the hit. This is not an indictment of Clark, who I believe is not a dirty player but needs to hit less with his head. Clark does not deserve a suspension, but a fine for leading with the hardest part of your equipment that is covering your brain should not be out of the question either. McGahee harbors no ill will toward Clark and neither do we but the NFL needs to protect all players from unnecessary head injuries.
Monday, January 19
Miami freshman DeQuan Jones displayed his athleticism Saturday night against North Carolina in Chapel Hill. He had a resounding block and a ridiculous reverse jam. Unfortunately for the Canes, North Carolina's offensive skill was on display in the second half. The Tar Heels scored 46 in the second half including 7 threes from previously quiet Wayne Ellington for the easy 82-65 victory. Miami hung around early and even had a 9 point lead that created some rumblings in the Dean Smith Center, but the Hurricanes showed as they have all year that they are just not polished enough to compete on the elite level in college basketball yet. Still an impressive dunk however and sure to be revisited as one of the best of this year. That's two unreal plays by Miami against Carolina in the last 4 months when you include this block that occured in their football contest, but as great as these are to watch, UNC won both games.
Recaps of the Conference Championship round games, a quick Super Bowl pick (we disagree), and Catfish is concerned about safety for players other than the snap-takers. We also take a look at the biggest day in college basketball during which Catfish offers love for not one but two Dookies and Cleet is concerned about safety for the Big East players. Julius Peppers wants to leave Carolina and we've got at least one person who's ready to help him pack. And as always our walk offs. Come for the sports, stay for the Marmaduke references. Drop us a line and let us know what you think. Download HERE.
Awful Announcing brings this story about the sound operator in Pittsburgh playing music while McGahee laid motionless on the field yesterday. I mentioned this to Catfish off-air before we started our podcast, but wanted to refrain from going on a tirade due to my Miami and Willis allegiances. It appears I was not the only one who noticed this ridiculousness. I do think it was classy to see the Pittsburgh players out there concerned for his well-being and the fans wishing him well as he was carted into the tunnel, but this sound guy deserves a brass candlestick to the face. Luckily Willis had feeling in his extremities and hopefully he will recover after the vicous helmet to helmet hit.
Steelers Sound Operator In Hot Water After Injury Music Choices. [Awful Annoucning]
The vomitous filth that is Super Bowl coverage has commenced. Last year I avoided all coverage from twwl and it really enhanced my enjoyment of the torturous two weeks that preceed the final relevant football game until August. Catfish and I broke down yesterday's games on this week's podcast, so today a quick list of thoughts on the teams and the game to come.
Some things you will hear too many times over the next two weeks:
Ken Whisenhunt used to be the offensive coordinator for the Steelers when they alst won the Super Bowl.
The Cardinals last won a championship in 1947.
Troy Polamalu is good.
Larry Fitzgerald is good.
Mike Tomlin is not white.
Steeler fans travel really well.
Kurt Warner has been in the Super Bowl before.
Arizona was bad for a really long time.
The Cardinals are playing the "nobody believed in us"/disrespect card.
Jerome Bettis is from Detroit.
The Arizona Cardinals are in the Super Bowl, do you believe in unlikelihoods?
I'm sure fellow Miami Hurricane Calais Campbell pictured above appreciates how special the opportunity to play in a Super Bowl is, but being just a rookie he is fortunate enough not to have played on some of the Cardinal teams of futility. With the added inauguration of this president into office, I guess Kevin Garnett really knew what he was talking about last June. Players like Adrian Wilson had what this victory meant to the team all over his face as he could not hold back the tears. The emotion that followed the 32-25 Arizona win over the Eagles on Sunday in the NFC Championship game was just as potent for the team during the game. Ordinarily I would say that it is unwise to allow emotion to drive a team so much but the Cardinals used it to their benefit. Anquan Boldin had a literal shouting match with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Fitzgerald who is normally low key was pumping up the crowd, and every play made by Arizona was followed with some sort of display. You have to play the game with emotion, but it is just a question of how much you let it guide your actions and decision-making and let it show on the surface that can determine your performance. The Cardinals let their emotions show, but also made the plays on the field. Also worth noting was Larry Fitzgerald breaking Jerry Rice's post-season receiving yard total in the first half Sunday. I think the secret is officially out on the best receiver in football.
Eagles' fans perhaps seeing yellow today.
With all the excitement surrounding the Arizona win, the lack of a flag on Philadelphia's 4th and 10 play will certainly be discussed in the city of brotherly love today. Kevin Curtis had an opportunity with both hands to catch the ball and it went through his hands, but at the same time he was falling to the ground because the defender (which was Hood I believe) had slipped and tripped up Curtis. If Hood had not stuck out his hand, it would have been a touchdown. At worst it should have been flagged. Not many people outside of Eagles' fans care too much. It was a bitter loss for the Eagles who had regained the lead with 10 minutes to go but their defense-of all things- let them down. Offensively they got what they wanted but missed on many of their chances. This could be the end of the McNabb/Reid era and if it is, I do not know where Philly should go from here.
Steelers simply more mature than the Ravens.
Mike Tomlin and Ben Roethlisberger are no longer young pups in the NFL, at least they were not on Sunday. Going up against a rookie coach and QB on the other sideline, Pittsburgh got the best of the Ravens for the third time this year 24-13 in the AFC Championship game. Big Ben did what he had to in the collapsing pocket and made the throws while Flacco did not. Tomlin had his team in control the entire game while Harbaugh had a few stumples. I thought the Ravens would bring something more effective on offense considering this was the third meeting but their strategy fell flat. The Hines Ward injury will be interesting to watch but I suspect he will play if he came back into the game after going out initially unless Pittsburgh felt comfortable with putting a player back in the game with structural knee damage. The Steelers are favored to win in two weeks and their defense is the reason. So many times we have seen a great offense clash with a great defense and usually it is the defense that wins. Early prediction has me thinking the Steelers are going to win by more than one possession.
One more thing on Baltimore.
It is a shame that the heroic effort turned in by a banged up Ravens defense that went 18 weeks without a bye was all for naught. With injuries in the secondary and their best pass rusher nursing a bad shoulder, they held the Steelers in check and gave their offense a chacne to win if they could muster two scoring drives outside of the one they produced. It is folly to second guess coaching decisions on Monday morning but I do not get the Ravens' fourth and 1 call. They tried on 3rd and 1 to go no-huddle and catch the Steelers by surprise and QB sneak it. The Steelers defense was ready and Flacco called a timeout. They then tried to rush it up the middle which went for no gain and then on fourth down went back to the QB sneak which was snuffed out. Coming up empty on that possession was huge and if the Ravens had figured out a way to go away from the Steelers strength up fron on that play, the result may have been different.