Running around to Give you the Reacharound

4.30.2009

The Lords of the Ringless: Top 10 Players Deserving Championships

Ah, yes. That elusive ring. There can be only ten...

Basketball playoffs are here and your boys at Sue's couldn't be more excited. Unless college football were somehow on but hey, WHOA-ly SHIT the draft was this weekend! Nothing like the NFL Draft to leave the taste of college football in your mouth, whetting your appetite so to speak.

So with the NBA playoffs in full swing, baseball and all it's wonderful early-season story lines, the NFL Draft, Tiger Woods playing in the Wachovia Championship, the startling plummet of Roger Federer's dominance (what's with the crying and throwing of the racket there, Rodge?), and something called "NHL Playoffs" (allegedly) all materializing before our hungry-for-sports little eyes, which of these juicy subjects will we tackle here at Sue's?
Apparently, there...is...crying...in Tennis

None of them! Come on, you know us better than that! We're in our element making the seemingly irrelevant relevant, so why would we take the easy route and espouse on current (sporting) events? No, no. What you're about to be served is a feast of athletes who - through completely arbitrary but assuredly accurate means Runaround Sue's has decided - deserve to win a championship. The only criteria is that they have to be an active player.

Other figures, such as years in the league, were of course considered. Apologies to bowling and yard darts enthusiasts, but we're sticking to the Big Three sports, here. Besides, I personally don't give a shit if Beckam wins an MLS Championship, do you? Also apologies to the lesser-known but perhaps just-as-deserving players that are unlucky enough to play positions like center or right tackle, where Sue's will clearly overlook your accomplishments with little regret. In reverse order of how deserving the players are, let's go!

Editor's Note: All suggestions and counterarguments are more than welcome

10. Alex Rodriguez
Total Seasons Played: 15 (Drafted in '94, first full season in '96)
Closest He Got to a Title: American League Championship Series, 1995, 2000, 2004
Discovered he made the List,
and immediately congratulated himself with a kiss.


A-ROD?! Yes, especially considering recent reports and the upcoming tell-all book, it may be shocking to see Rodriguez on our list. Postseason choker, steroid user, cougar chaser. We get it. But Sue's is in the business of measuring on the field talent as objectively as possible.

But while you sit and scoff at A-Rod's inclusion, this is probably a good time to mention the people he beat out: Randy Moss, Vladimir Guerrero, Grant Hill, Trevor Hoffman and Tony Gonzalez were all considered but eventually beat out by A-Rod and the rest of the ringless warriors noted below.

At 32 years old, A-Rod is a 12-time All Star, 3-time AL MVP, 2-time Golden Glover, 10-time Silver Slugger, has ranked in top 3 in OPS 5 out of the last 6 years, ranks in the top 50 all time in runs scored (42nd), total bases (38th), home runs (12th), RBIs (30th) and even hit by pitch (22nd). If nothing else, there's athletes out there that you want to win just so you can stop even the slightest bit of rooting interest you have in them (see: Paul Pierce, et. al.).

9. Terrell Owens
Total Seasons Played: 13
Closest He Got to a Title: The Super Bowl, 2004

Oh, I'm just down on my knees with my hands cupped asking for it with this one, aren't I. We did our best to keep off-the-field behavior from influencing the list, but the fact is off-the-field behavior influences on-the-field action. With that in mind, hand-picking the years T.O. didn't make a circus out of his team still merits him consideration on this list.
The reaction we received when we told T.O. he wasn't on our initial list.
Hence, the revision

Forget the fact that Owens detonated a suicide bomb (literally, when you look at those years' stats) on two separate teams (we're going to let the Cowboys mini-soaps go), and remember that this has been one of the best wide receivers in the game for the past decade, and deserves consideration when bringing up a top ten, or, perhaps even top 5 best receivers of all time list. Owens single-handedly took the 2004 Eagles from "Hey, we're pretty damn good" status to the "We're the best team in the league" sauntering mentality you need to be the best. He also completely backed it up on the field and gave Donovan McNabb his best year in terms of statistics.

In 2000 playing in 14 games with the San Francisco, Owens averaged 103.6 yards per game. That's ridiculous. He's also a 6-time Pro Bowler and member of 5 First Team All Pro squads. He also:
  • Is fifth all-time in receiving yards
  • Is 2nd all-time in touchdown receptions (led the league 3 different years)
  • Is 6th all time in receptions
You don't have to like Terrell Owens. But if you really believe that if you were putting together a team and you could handpick 6-7 of T.O's best, least-team-dissolving seasons and wouldn't? You're just a fool.

8. Brian Urlacher
Total Seasons Played: 9
Closest He Got to a Title: The Super Bowl, 2006

Spots 7-10 of this List changed so many times it may as well be a woman 15-minutes before she chooses her shoes and heads out the door. Not to spoil your perusal through the List, but let's just say Urlacher ganked Randy Moss' spot. More on that later.

Urlacher's spot, while seemingly obvious and hard to disagree with, is ironically difficult to validate as well. As one of if not the premiere defensive force(s) in the NFL for the past decade, Urlacher's achievements and contributions are less quantifiable and - therefore - harder to lay out. But you know Sue's. We 'gown try.
An inappropriate time to wistfully wish we could put Vick on this List?

The 9th overall pick in the 2000 NFL Draft, there is only one among the players drafted ahead of him (notables: LaVar Arrington, Chris Samuels, Plaxico Burress) that you could argue for having on your team in his stead - stutter steppin' Jamal Lewis. As far as those drafted after him...Shaun Alexander? Maybe John Abraham? We're not one for hyperbole here at Sue's, but it's clear that one could argue Brian Urlacher was the class of the 2000 Draft.

But being the captain and, more importantly, vocal leader of an elite defensive squad is again hard to quantify concretely if you want to give Urlacher his true due. The visceral viciousness required to have a bunch of other highly-skilled badasses look up to you and get pumped in minus 40 degree weather is just...frightening. Still not satisfied? Think "visceral viciousness" is a bit over the top? Don't you remember?

As stated. Frightening.

Still doubtful? Look, Urlacher's a 6-time Pro Bowler, 4-time 1st Team All Pro. And if you're still not convinced? C'mon. How would you feel having your one shot destroyed by Rex Grossman?

7. Dirk Nowitzki
Total Seasons Played: 11
Closest He Got to a Title: NBA Finals, 2005-2006

Oh, how it pains me to place Dirk here. Perhaps I would like Dirk if he played for the Hawks? Probably. But his terrifyingly alien-like facial features - especially when he's arguing a call - and his particular style of game doesn't inspire much unforced adulation from me. Then again, I've been a Spurs fan for quite a while, and can't stand the Mavericks. So let's put that aside for a second.

First off, Dirk was drafted 9th overall in the '98 Draft, and one could argue without too much difficulty that of all the big name stars drafted in front of him - Bibby, Jamison, Vinsanity (we'll leave Jason Williams and Larry Hughes off the list of "stars" here), Nowitzki has had a better career than all of them. Only one player, Paul Pierce, who was drafted directly after Nowitzki, would I contend is a player I'd rather have on my team for their whole career. And even then, I may go with Nowitzki, as Pierce's championship last year is likely clouding my reasoning. By the way, are Pierce and White Chocolate the only stars from the '98 Draft to win a championship?

Nowitzki's teams have made the playoffs 9 out of his 11 seasons in Dallas. Her certainly never had to 2009 Dwayne Wade will his team to the playoffs, with solid rosters throughout his career:

S. BradleyM. FinleyJ. HowardS. NashD. Nowitzki (First playoff appearance 2000-2001)
D. DiopR. MarshallD. NowitzkiJ. StackhouseJ. Terry (NBA Finals appearance)
E. DampierJ. HowardJ. KiddD. NowitzkiA. Wright (Current playoff roster)


Now, doesn't that look considerably better than anything AI ever had walking out onto the court with him? Still, Dirk's shown his playoff chops, regardless of his reputation for disappearing in the big games. In 92 career playoff games, Nowitzki is averaging 25 points, 11 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game. That's pretty damn solid, especially for nearly 100 playoff games.

Nowitzki's an 8-time All Star and winner of the 2006-2007 MVP Award. He's a 3-time First Team, 3-time Second Team, and two-time Third Team All NBA player. He's been in the top 10 in total rebounds 3 separate seasons and in the top ten in points 8 different seasons. Dirk's finished the season ranked at the top of Player Efficiency Rating twice, and finished in the top 10 on 6 other occasions.

You may not like his game, but this dude's a Hall of Famer f'real. And nobody likes to see their HOFers without rings, right?
Sure he looks like he's from another planet and listens to The Hoff, but you 'gotta respect his game.
6. LaDainian Tomlinson
Total Seasons Played: 8
Closest He Got to a Title: AFC Conference Championship, 2008

You may snicker at LDT's placement on this list, perhaps due to the fact that he's only been playing for 8 years. But 8 years as a running back - and a dominant one at that - is quite impressive and at least matches 10 years as a quarterback. But OBJ! OBJ! He's soft! He's always pulling up lame in the playoffs! Unfortunately, this may be true. Either this kid has an unbeatable ability to get injured right when it counts most, or he just can't stand playing in the pressure situations. I'd like to think it's the former, but in 6 career playoff games LDT is averaging 3.6 yards per carry (84 ATT/303 YDS) with 4 touchdowns (plus 16 receptions for 157 yards). Not exactly what you would want from your "Get This Guy a Ring" running back. Let's look at something else.
When it comes to Tomlinson's campaign to join the
"Who Deserves a Ring" list, LDT has an in-your-face style

Let's look at the 5 Pro Bowls in 8 seasons, First Team All-Pro for 3. Let's look at:
  • Finishing in the top 6 in Rushing Attempts 7 different seasons
  • Finishing in the top 10 in Rushing Yards all 8 seasons of his career; 4 seasons in the top 3
  • The league's leading rusher two years in a row, 2006-2007, and currently second among active players
  • In the top 7 in Rushing Touchdowns all 8 seasons of his career
  • Rushing Touchdown leader 3 separate seasons (2004, 2006, 2007) and current leader among active players
  • In the top 10 for 6 seasons in Rushing Yards Per Game
  • Finishing in the top 10 all 8 seasons in Total Touchdowns; in the top 3 for five seasons
And if that's not enough he single-handedly won fantasy seasons for schmucks everywhere that didn't know a thing about football except to draft LDT over the course of 3 seasons. You want LDT to win the big one before he retires. He's got maybe 2-3 years left to do it before he's Edgerrin James'd. If you're not rooting for this kid to get a ring before his last visored break-away run, you may not have a soul. He's certainly earned it.

5. Donovan McNabb
Total Seasons Played: 10
Closest He Got to a Title: The Super Bowl, 2004

Why does it seem like so many pros on this list are the, "Aw, shucks. Lost another one." guys? I think that's the point but it's getting a bit depressing pointing out all of these amazing players that never won a championship. I'll take that as self-confirmation that I'm doing a good job.

McNabb was the 2nd overall pick in 1999; he was picked ahead of superstars like Edgerrin James, Champ Bailey, Tory Holt, Daunte Culpepper and Jevon Kearse. Unfortunately the immortal Tim Couch stole the #1 pick spotlight from him.

McNabb's been to the playoffs 6 out of his 10 seasons, and has a 9-6 (about a 67% winning percentage) postseason record. Not too shabby. It's odd that he hasn't made the Pro Bowl for the past four seasons, even though he's had career highs in completions, yards, yards per catch (also met career low for interceptions [6] and set career low for fumbles [3]) and has not had a noticeably significant statistical drop-off from his Pro Bowl years. This is because the perception of Donovan McNabb has changed, ever since he lost the Super Bowl. He had one year with a minimally-destructive T.O. to make it work, and you've GOT to say he made the most of it going 13-2 as a starter that season on his way to leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl (and remember, he won in the playoffs without T.O.). But now McNabb has this (somewhat) unfair spectre of not being able to win the big game hanging around him like a gold-digging hoodrat anxious for a boob job. His uncanny ability to Willy Beamen all over the field in pressure-cooked situations has probably added to his Legend of Big Game Impotence.

More Video at iamboredr.com

McNabb throws up a wobbly one?

But other than that one year with T.O., honestly people, we're looking at McNabb's best receivers being Freddie Mitchell, Reggie Brown and Kevin Curtis. Clearly, his running back Brian Westbrook has been his best receiver throughout his career. And that's pretty sad.

McNabb's been to 5 Pro Bowls in a row (2000-2005), finished in the top 10 in completions 3 times (most recently last year), the top 10 in touchdowns four times, the top 10 in passer rating 5 times, the top 10 in passing yards per game 6 times and has never finished in the top 10 in interceptions thrown. Not bad for someone who hasn't had an outstanding wide receiver corps. As a matter of fact, Mrs. McNabb's little boy is currently 30th among all NFL players in rushing yards.

Donovan McNabb just seems like one of those genuinely nice guys. He lost at least an entire season because of the bullshit Owens created in that locker room, and while (maybe) you can blame it on a lack of clear, overt leadership on the part of McNabb, it certainly wasn't him that created the strife. If you can think of one active quarterback in the NFL that is more deserving of a ring than 5-time conference-title-playing McNabb other than Mike Vick, Sue's is all ears.

4. Allen Iverson
Total Seasons Played: 13
Closest He Got to a Title: NBA Finals, 2001

The first pick in a 1996 NBA Draft that included Marcus Campy, Stephon Marbury, Ray Allen, Antoine Walker, Kobe Bryant, Peja Stojakovic, Steve Nash, Jermaine O'Neal and Derek Fisher (what happened to drafts like these?), AI is a basketball player certainly like no other that ever played in the NBA.

But my, MY what an awkward time to put AI in the top 5 of such a prestigious list. We all know about the long-and-recently-significantly-added-to list of AI character transgressions. Most notably and hmorously his aversion to practice.

But he really do go out there and die for that game.

We talkin' 'bout practice? I'm 'sposed to be a franchise playa. But straight up like the above caption suggests, Allen Iverson gave everything he had to the game of basketball, making the playoffs 8 out of his 13 seasons with teams that included starting rosters like this:

M. GeigerG. LynchA. McKieT. RatliffE. Snow
T. HillA. IversonG. LynchD. MutomboE. Snow (finals run)
T. HillA. IversonE. SnowK. ThomasK. Van Horn
S. DalembertA. IguodalaA. IversonK. KorverK. Thomas (Webber year)


And of course the two with Carmello. Can we get this guy some help? No offence to Keith Van Horn or 'Ol Beat-up Webber, but AI deserves to win a championship just for having to play his ass off with busters like this for 80% of his career. Iverson's a 10-time All Star, winning the MVP in 2000-2001. At 6" absolutely nothing he was selected to the All-NBA team on 7 occassions, won the scoring title (2004-2005) and was in the top 10 in minutes played per season 6 different years. To top it off, AI led the league in minutes per game 7 times, points per game four times and has been in the top 10 in steals 10 out of his 13 seasons.

As has been discussed on Sue's, if AI doesn't embrace a new off-the-bench role with a contender, he has absolutely no chance at winning a championship. You 'wanna talk about a gamer? AI is the scrappiest professional athlete I've ever known, and his contempt for practice aside he plays his ass off during the game. Even if he detonated any shot at the Pistons reaching the Eastern Conference Finals this year and walked away from his team in an unprecedented move for a Superstar, AI deserves to have a ring before he retires.

3. Steve Nash
Total Seasons Played: 13
Closest He Got to a Title: NBA Western Conference Finals, 2003, 2005 and 2006

Poor Steve Nash. His best shot at even an appearance in the NBA Finals was with a peak-Dirk on the 2000-2004 fired up Dallas squad. Unfortunately for this little futballer he was unlucky enough to be not only in the same conference, but in the same division as a peak-Timmy D and the Spurs. He then moved on to the SSOL Suns teams (2004-2007) that were quite frankly the most entertaining basketball team to watch in my lifetime...perhaps the most entertaining team period. One of the saddest things about Nash is, unless he latches onto a team as a back-up, I don't see him winning a championship. The Suns are clearly unstable and rebuilding, and picking up an aging point guard to start doesn't a championship team make, typically.

I've heard many a times that Nash didn't deserve his consecutive MVPs. Debate it all you want, but he still won them. He's also a 6-time All Star and a 3-time All NBA First Team member (twice All NBA 3rd team, once All NBA 2nd team). Then you have his 8-time appearance in the top 5 for free-throw percentage and 8-time appearance in the top ten for assists (including leading the league on 3 occasions).

When's the last time you heard Nash complain about anything? I understand Canadians are conflict-averse by nature, but this 'lil guy just seems like someone you wouldn't mind having coach your kids in soccer or basketball. Not that we should consider that when deciding if he's among the most deserving of a championship, but if none of the figures above work for you that sweet ass soccer-style header-alley-oop to Amare in the 2005 dunk contest clearly pushes him over the edge.

Talk about a heads-up play!

2. Jason Kidd

Total Seasons Played: 15
Closest He Got to a Title: NBA Finals, 2002 and 2003

Jason Kidd is absolutely, positively, without question a future Hall of Famer. Other players on this list you may be able to disput, but Kidd is a sure-fire IN to everyone that didn't right the short bus to school. A 9-time All Star player, Jason Kidd is quite possibly the best passing and rebounding point guard of all time. Kidd also earned the 1994-1995 Rookie of the Year, an impressive accomplishment when you consider the likes of Glenn Robinson, Grant Hill, Juwan Howard and Yinka Dare came into the LIG that year too. Kidd happens to be a 6-time All NBA Team member, as well as a 9-time All Defensive Team member. Kidd never won an MVP, which is a damn travesty, but is the league-leader in active players' accumulated minutes. He led the league in assists on 3 separate occasions (5 times if you're looking at APG), and is the active leader as well.
For whatever reason, the Kidd family made after-dinner clean-up an all inclusive family affair. Yep. Even in his home life, Jason Kidd brings new meaning to the phrase, "dishing it."

Hell, he's been in the top 10 in total steals 10 separate years, and in the top 5 in total assists nearly every year he's played. But, more impressive is that he took a teams starting Todd MacCulloch, Kerry Kittles, Keith Van Horn and Kenyon Martin (2002) and Richard Jefferson, Kenyon Martin, Kerry Kittles and Lucious Harris (2003) to consecutive Finals appearances, respectively.

For this reason and his overall brilliance Jason Kidd is Runaround Sue's runner-up as the athlete most deserving of a ring.

1. Ken Griffey, Jr.
Total Seasons Played: 21
Closest He Got to a Title: American League Championship Series, 1995

Griffey, Griffey, Griffey. After weeks of back-and-forth between SJF and I, we finally settled with Junior at #2. I wrote it off as an acceptable loss, because I was adamant about Griffey being in the One slot likely - at least in some measure - because he's my favorite athlete of all time. I was prepared to except that bias was a part of my decision and to allow Kidd to creep in. But then I spoke to a few other people who love Griffey nearly as much as I do, and my bias became acceptable. Regardless, the reasons for Griffey at 1 are virtually endless.
Get it? Got it? GOOD. Now up your pimp game OBJ style and get yourself a Junior-signed BAT to boot, bitches

It would be fun to try this in one breath: Griffey is a 13-time All Star who won the American League MVP in 1997 (finishing in the top 5 in voting four other years). He's a 10-time Gold Glove recipient and 7-time Silver Slugger. Junior appears in the top 50 in nearly all of those "Jeezus, What If He Weren't Injured" all-time categories like slugging % (31st), OPS (50th), games played (42nd), runs scored (38th), stolen bases (30th), doubles (45), triples (41), total bases (14), walks (44th) and RBIs (18th). And, of course, he's currently 5th all time with 613 career home runs. Ken Griffey, Jr. is not simply the greatest active baseball player without a ring, some could argue that without injury he'd be in the argument for best baseball player of all time.

"But in 21 seasons, he only made it to the playoffs 3 times, OBJ!" you might say. Well, in 1995, the closest The Kid ever got to sniffing the World Series, Griffey OPS'ed 1.488 and 1.011 in the two playoff series, respectively. He's a decidely un-Arod-esque career .290 hitter with a .947 in the postseason, so you can't really lay the blame on him. There's not much else to say about Griffey except that he's the poster boy for the "he played the game right" athlete. Remember the story about how Bonds decided over dinner that he was going to start injecting himself with Hippo steroids, and Griffey said it wasn't for him? Man, sometimes I wish Junior HAD taken steroids, if only to come back from injury a little quicker. But the lasting legacy of being 94.5% positive Griffey is clean is even better. The Kid, with his "I Love This Game" smile and backwards hat, will always be remembered as one of the more positive sports figures of his time.

And, honestly. Is there really another athlete you'd rather see crying while being hosed with champagne and hoisting the championship trophy?

(Note: All stats courtesy of baseball/basketball/football reference. As if you needed to be told)

4.29.2009

End of an Era

As the echoes of the Spurs danced off the stirrups in the distance...

There are times in life where you're thankful for your self-awareness as a sports fan. I'm not talking about the slightly embarrassed feeling you have when someone asks you how old Bobby Abreu is and you can answer in 2 seconds. It's when something happens in the sports universe, and you don't need anyone to tell you or see it on ESPN Classic 8 years later to know what you're seeing.

I know I'm watching the greatest golfer of all time - barring his injury being a permanent set back - at his peak. I know I'm watching what could be the greatest tennis player of all time. I remember watching Jordan in the playoffs and just knowing I was witnessing something special. And I know I've just seen the end of a dynasty in San Antonio.

I knew going into the game that all I could look forward to was the high-character Spurs showing grace at the end of the loss, going up to the Mavericks and shaking their hands while wishing them luck. You can count on these things from the Spurs. Teams like the Mavericks - who jump up and down on the sideline after Erik Dampier takes a break-away dunk up 17 points with less than a minute left - may not necessarily be relied upon to act so classy. Why are you acting like you haven't been there before, Mavs? Oh, because you haven't moved past the first round since 2006. I see.

I am now 89% sure the Spurs dynasty is at an end. It's a sad thing to witness in sports - the passing of greatness - but I can solace knowing I was fully aware of what I was watching for the past 10 years. Barring a shocking addition to the team, I don't see a +1 year Duncan, who looked tired and worn down toward the end of this year, leading the Spurs to another title even with Parker and Ginobli. Will they be good? Sure. Not quite good enough to be the elite team in a West that still has another 1-2 years of Strong Kobe, a Rockets squad that will be solid if they lock up Artest, and up-and-comers Portland and New Orleans gaining steam.

Thanks for the memories Timmy D.

4.27.2009

Where Bad Possum Analogies Happen

What happens when you play possum for too long


Though I would never place money against my team to lose a series or game outright, I thought heading into the playoffs that the Heat would emerge from Round 1 victorious, thus setting up a LeBron-Wade ESPNgasm in Round 2.

True, the Hawks at any given time have five of the six or seven best players on the court (the same would be true against the Cavs), but when the best player on the court is leaps and bounds better than everyone on your squad, having four really solid options out there can only take you so far. It also doesn't help when your go-to guy is doing his best impression of Steve Smith, #1 option, circa 1996-97.

As ugly as Game 3 was, and it was indeed Zaza-after-a-16-hour-coke-binge ugly, if the Hawks can win tonight they get homecourt and the momentum back heading into a rowdy Game 5 at Philips. Win tonight and all the ugly memories of Wednesday and Saturday disappear. Win tonight and I can stop having nightmares of Dwayne Wade hitting bank shots off my ex-girlfriend's bare chest. Lose tonight, and it probably makes more sense to cancel the Charter for Game 6 and put that money to hiring a new coach, because these guys aren't winning a Game 6 in Miami.

Apologies for the fluff analysis, but everything that's been said about needing to double Wade, stop running Joe isos, dishing it to Horford, inane substitution patterns and the like has already been said all over the Hawkosphere. I'm sick of it. Either 1. win or 2. fire Woodson. I'm happy with option one, I can live with option two.

Quick Hits on other series:

  • The lucky winner of Hawks-Heat gets to face a rested Cavs team that will likely have a week off before Round 2. That should be fun. Though the amount of garbage time in this series is giving many Hawks/Heat starters ample rest in their own right.
  • Allen Iverson, thanks for playing! Good god, have you ever seen a team deteriorate so fast by adding a future Hall-of-Famer to their rotation? Mitch Richmond is jealous. I love A.I., but dude played this whole situation like a total prick. His career can go in one of two directions now: He can go to a team like the Clippers or Bobcats, get his shots and stats, and win 30 games a season, OR, he can embrace his limitations and immediately become the best 6th man in the Lig, providing what Ginobili or JT give you off the bench, only on a grander scale. Either way, his days of being a prime scoring option on a contender are long gone.
  • There's no aspect of the Celtics-Bulls series that wasn't covered in that long ass Simmons piece, so I'll just give a tip-o-dee-cap and say I'm enjoying the hell out of it as well. Even moreso since OBJ bet me $25 at even odds that the Bulls would win the series (after Game 1).
  • I've been a staunch holdout, but yeah, even I can admit it now: the Spurs-as-title-contender era is probably FIN. That's what happens when you load up your bench with 35-year-olds, insist that Bruce Bowen is anything other than a mediocre defender at this point in his career, and improbably feature Matt Bonner as a 4th option at times. I know there is a tendency to give RC Buford and Pop the benefit of the doubt when it comes to personnel moves, but it's been quite a few years since they upgraded their role players. Imagine how much better the Spurs would be with Flip Murray or Mo Evans coming off the bench to provide instant offense or defense.
  • As good as Denver looked in Games 1, 2, and the early parts of Game 3, do not count the Hornets out. Again, it comes back to that whole "when the best player on the court owns everyone else out there..." rule.
  • On the other hand, the Blazers have about as good a chance of stepping on the court in Round 2 as that possum pictured above does. A crashed bus full of prisoners doesn't empty as fast as that whole "Blazers can challenge the Lakers!" bandwagon did.
  • Even though I don't really like anyone on that team, I'm thoroughly enjoying the fact that the Rockets are about to advance to the second round of the playoffs...without T-Mac. Karma's a bitch. And yes, the Rockets do match up well with the Lakers. And no, it won't matter. Lakers win that one in six.
  • The final four minutes of these Sixers-Magic games are required viewing for any hoops-head. The preceding 44 minutes are definitely not. Whatever though...I love the first round of the NBA playoffs. Every night feels like that opening Thursday-Friday of March Madness, only involving teams and players I'm actually interested.
GO. HAWKS.

4.25.2009

Beating a Dead Horse: Stafford's Preseason Preview

I, for one, am happy that Mattie Staff has got himself a new uni.
Now I don't have to see this on television ever again. Peace out, Stafford.


We're proud and delighted to bring to you today a special guest contributor. Sue's hasn't quite convinced him to establish a witty handle that implies animality, midget sex or bodily fluids, so for now you will read him - and you will know him by the striking efficiency of his prose - as Slade.

Take it away, Slade.

It’s no secret how one Sue’s bloggers feels about Matthew Stafford. For this reason, they have outsourced this story to a self-admitted Georgia homer. I am also my own best devil’s advocate, which makes for some unfocused if not wishy-washy journalism. Hey, I’m no professional. Ever since Matt pulled a Kenny Powers, turned to his agent and said, “Get me paid, bitch!” he should leave his spirit towel at East Campus Village because he AIN'T Georgia. Plus, Joe C. could use it to wipe his brow. You know he’s sweatin’ it. Here’s what we know about Stafford: 6'-3", 238, laser rocket arm, above average wonderlic score. How does this translate to the NFL? I don’t know but allow me to hypothesize.

Congratulations on just becoming the number one pick in this year’s NFL draft. Pressure is on. You can thank Matt Ryan for that. Now the Lions have just come off a 0-16 season, a feat only replicated one other time in history (let us Gator haters pause to remember who led the ’76 Bucs onto the field every game that year… ah, our only reprieve!). OK, pressure is off. Now I haven’t seen many Lions games last year (read: none), but they could have only been a couple of well-executed plays away from at least one win. There is nowhere for the Lions to go but up…barring another winless season. Here’s what he's workin’ with: though he may be a formal rival, Calvin Johnson is a big target, an incredible athlete and will be paramount to Stafford’s success. Fortunately, Johnson does not seem petty enough to intentionally sabotage both of their careers. Matt will not have the benefit of a strong running game, like those he enjoyed in Athens. The Lions also have a new GM, a new head coach and now a new QB to complete an Obama-sized trifecta of hope. Here’s hoping he can get a couple of wins and not embarrass himself.

I expect a similar showing to the year he last stepped up the competition: 7 TD, 13 INT, 52.7% comp in his freshman year with the Bulldogs. By this, if he throws just as many touchdowns as interceptions and passes with 50% efficiency, I would call it a good first season on the job - assuming he makes it that far. The Lions faithful would probably disagree and, realistically, they would be right. Those kinds of performances do not earn one the right to start games. I would not be surprised if he gets hit hard early and throws one of his patented “ring-neck clipped by bird shot” passes at some point during his first start.

A glimpse into Stafford's pro career?

Just check Sportscenter. Every time they feature Stafford, which they did sparingly in the past few weeks, they air a clip showcasing said pass that only a receiver like AJ Green or, presumably and hopefully for the Lions franchise (not to mention the city of Detriot), Calvin Johnson.

Is Stafford overhyped? Absolutely. Over-rated? Maybe. Over-excited? I am. So he’s got his childhood dream to be an NFL quarterback. What is he going to do with this opportunity? He already has his $48 million in the bank. From what I know of the NFL retirement policies, he’ll be giving someone 4 good years.

8 Thoughts on an 8 Man Rotation That Thankfully No Longer Includes Mario West (kinda)

Close your eyes, shut your mouth and hope for the best.


Before we lose our Hawks Blogger Card, and since we attended both games at Philips, I figure we may as well throw up some thoughts on the first two games of Hawks-Heat. Get it on:

1. The Hawks have played well in both games. The Heat, on the other hand, played like shit in Game 1 (37% FG, 17% 3FG) and out of their damned minds in Game 2 (55% FG, 57% 3FG). It's very unlikely that Miami will replicate their performance of either game, and the Hawks will always win if the Heat play as poorly as they did in G1, and they (or any NBA team) will lose against a performance from D-Wade and Co. in G2. I see the Heat finding an equilibrium for the rest of the series, thus resulting in some close games from here on out.

2. I like the chances of Daequan Cook not going 6-9 from the three point line for the rest of his series. Similarly, while I'm hoping that Eminem can channel his inner-2001 when Relapse drops next month, I'm hoping the exact opposite for Jermaine O'Neal the rest of this series.

3. I've been a Hawks fan since I was 8-years-old, watched most all the games through the "Big 4 (as in four total playoff wins)" days, as well as the "Jason Terry is our #1 option? Really?" days, so I like to say that I'm not a bandwagon fan. That said, I do prefer to attend Hawks games against star-studded opponents. To those who went to Games 1 and 2 solely for the Dwayne Wade factor, they weren't dissapointed. They got to see some sick dunks in Game 1 and/or a classic playoff-Wade performance in Game 2. But from here on out, screw him.

4. I am a big fan of Josh Smith, Playoff Basketball Player. A vast improvement over the regular season version.

5. Not sure what's gotten into JoeJ, but he doesn't seem like himself out there. It appears that he's pressing, using more behind-the-back dribbles and jukes than normal in order to penetrate the defense and get to the basket. I also don't like him on Wade unless MoE is on the bench. Marvin has played very well considering his injury, but nobody on this roster can be as effective on Wade as MoE, and it's not in the Hawks best interest offensively to have JoeJ expending the energy on the defensive end needed against D-Wade. So basically, I'd like to see MO MO out there (sorry). Speaking of which...

6. OBJ and Bret from Hoopinion disagree with me, but I'm in favor of doubling (or at least bringing a help defender in the general vicinity of) Wade around the three point line. Again, I'll take my chances of Cook hitting 6-9 beyond the arc or Haslem knocking down 18-footers with ease. That said, switching on pick-and-rolls consistently doesn't help the defense, either.

7 I still have no idea whether or not Beasley is a future stat-sheet filler, or a lifetime enigma ala Kenyon Martin or Derrick Coleman (that can shoot 3s). Given that dude is only 20, I guess nobody really knows. Worthless thinking aloud.

8. So basically, we know nothing yet. The Heat are all over the board, the Hawks predictably looked good at home, and (gulp) they haven't yet hit the road. So there's still alot of ball to play. Just wanted to mention, however, that the home crowd on Wednesday for Game 2 was by far and away the worst Hawks home playoff crowd I've ever experienced. I'm not exactly Mr. Punctuality by any means, but when I saunter into my "adopted" seats midway through the first quarter, I plan on cheering, being loud, waving those gay towels and pretty much standing up anytime anything happens. So while I apologize to the folks that repeatedly told us to sit down and/or move during Game 2; it's not happening, brother. Go watch the game at Outback or attend a regular season game against the Clippers if you want to sit and drink your wine during a basketball game.

GO. HAWKS.

4.20.2009

Thrash Talk

In Friday's post, we posed the question to Thrashers bloggers: Should Don Waddell be fired/why does he have a job? Okay, thats two questions. But luckily, three Thrashers bloggers were lucky enough not to immediately delete our email as spam. Here are their responses:

TimmyF is bullish on leaving Waddell in his current post, and even gets into more detail on his own blog:

"Waddell stays. Here's why:

The situation with ownership leaves Waddell little room to do much of anything. He's been working on a constrained budget; you can only do so much when you're trying to hang at the salary cap floor. His trades have gotten better (the Hossa deal especially, but even the smaller trades: picking up Salmela, moving Williams, Schneider, and Christensen), he's been picking up great players in free agency and waivers (Hainsey, Peverley), and his drafting has gotten better the past few years as well (Little and Bogosian were "easy" picks, but look at late rounders like Enstrom and Postma). The most important thing he's done is to bring in players who play our coach's system and it's already paying dividends.

We had the wrong strategy ("make the playoffs") before, but now we're on the right track ("build a young, talented team"). The question isn't whether we should hold Don responsible for our past crimes, but who the best person is to build our team in the future."


I'm not sure "make the playoffs" should ever be considered "the wrong strategy," but Sean G seems to agree Waddell should stick around:

"I don't think Waddell is the problem although has not proven to be an outstanding GM. The problem is the Atlanta Spirit. They are well versed at only one thing - litigation. This group was thrown together and have never seen eye to eye. Take the obvious pain in the ass out of the way, Belkin, and they still have no clue collectively.

I think we'll find out some day that Waddell was very limited financially to do much. He has been hamstrung by the Atlanta Stooges. Don has made some good moves like picking up Rich Peverley for almost nothing. Also, people forget that the moves, (Zhitnik, Keith T, Dupuis,) he made in 2006 resulted in a playoff birth for the Thrashers. In the long term they hurt the team but....

So, my dream is that someone like Ted Turner or Arthur Blank will buy the team and run it correctly. Waddell is not the main problem."
So basically, Waddell is getting the benefit of the doubt due to the Atlanta Spirit's ineptitude? If Billy Knight wasn't afforded similar leeway, why should Waddell? When you run a team for ten years, you're going to make some "good moves." When the poor moves significantly outnumber the good moves, you have a problem.

The Atlanta Spirit purchased the Thashers in 2004. By that time, Waddell had been in charge for five seasons. Both the Nashville Predators and Minnesota Wild, who entered the NHL around the same time had seen playoff berths before 2004, and both have seen multiple appearances since then.

The NHL salary cap was implemented two seasons ago. If I understand it correctly, it is a hard cap that has leveled the playing field for all teams, regardless of mizer-ish ownership (exhibit A: the Boston Bruins). Most all hockey teams are hemmorrhaging scrilla. Lack of resources shouldn't be a Don Waddell-exclusive excuse.

Finally, the Falconer tends to agree with the consensus at Sue's:

Don Waddell is a great guy and he works very hard at his job. Having said that, you don't get extra credit for effort in the NHL, pro sports is a bottom line league and the results simply are not there. Even if you make adjustments for the Thrashers having less money to spend, if you look at points won divided by dollars spent the Thrashers still rank below the league average--if I were an owner I would insist on a better return on my investment. Finally, Waddell's continued presence at the top has hurt the Thrashers efforts to land free agents and to sell tickets. If you're going to sell "youth" and "rebuilding" it just doesn't make any sense to have the same pitchman who sold that to you the last time.

Yeah...by no means am I a "FIRE THIS MAN" kind of guy. Hell, the amount of job turnover behind NHL benches makes a job at Applebees' look stable by comparison, but I can't fathom a situation where a general manager has survived ten seasons with zero playoff wins, expansion team or not.

Thanks to the Thrashers bloggers who got back at us. One day we'll understand this hock-key thing.




4.17.2009

QUICK, HIT THIS...

Steam of consciousness yo...

*I know it was a meaningless contest, but did anyone see that abortion of a final possession by Miami during Tuesday night's Hawks game? I mean, as someone with no discernible basketball talent above a high school (OKAY MIDDLE SCHOOL) level, I always figured most NBA players were interchangeable, and given the right opportunity (i.e. all scrubs on the floor), anyone can look good out there. Not so. Those Joel Anthony-Mario West missed opportunities were like watching a world class actor on stage in broadway. It might pique your interest, tho it's ultimately a waste of time. Either way, you ain't re-creating that shit, so if you missed it, it's over.

*Kenshin Kawakami: 6ip, 3er; 6ip, 4er. That's what you're getting all year, Braves fans...dude is a fourth starter. You do not want this guy starting in the postseason for you. All things being equal, if the Braves are in the race mid-July, GET HALLADAY. Quit rubbin your nuts over the Braves signing some Japaneese dude with nice stats in 150ip seasons.

(UPDATE: After re-reading this post made late last night, I don't know what I was thinking. With the rotation and prospects the Braves currently have, they are the one team that probably shouldn't pursue Halladay. Call it wishful thinking on my part.)

*You know who shouldn't be in jail anymore? MICHAEL VICK.

*G-Day? Aye yi. I loved Groo's excellent post about the idiocy that plays into preseason hype, but fuck it...I want to see Logan Gray get some snaps behind Cox and switch it up scheme wise in '09. Cox ain't Shockley, he's not as talented. He's not JoeT either, he doesn't suck. He's a good QB in this system with limitations, so there is room for mixing it up...and knowing Richt's tendencies when he doesn't have a future #1 overall pick behind center, I think two QBs will see playing time.

*If Aaron Murray ends up playing, the season is a rebuilding year anyhow (ala Stafford's frosh year), so they may as well let him get his if the season quickly deteriorates early on. But I think Richt goes with a Cox/Gray platoon to start out the season. I only see Murray playing once the SEC East race is decided. Murray's skillset is duplicated by Gray, so no need to burn his redshirt unless you're building for the future. No matter what, it's going to be one interesting/scary Qb controversy all year.

*Good God that running game scares me. Folks thought that all them years of building up the running backs made the OL look good....I have a feeling it might be the other way around this year.

*Larry has been saying all year that the Hawks are better with Marvin off the bench and MoE in the starting lineup (more shots for the other starters, a legit #1 off the bench, etc). Ain't gonna lie, he's got me convinvced. Not that I think Marvin is better suited off the bench rest of his career, but when you're running iso plays on every critical possession anyways, maybe having a stopper in there on the opponent's best swing doesn't suck. Plus, if Marvin's playing with second units, as witnessed in Tuesday's Heat game, he is so immensely talented he owns the court during that time. Is it what the 2005 #2 overall pick envisioned five years down the road? Hell no. But he got that work for the time being.

*I wanna bet the Heat and make some money. But fuck it, I'd never bet against my team (UGA against a Troy State-ish team aside). I'm pumped for these games. I want to see what kind of a weird dichtonomy it is where holy shit I have no idea what I'm saying, just go Hawks. I can't wait for Sunday night. Drop us a line if you're heading to the game. We'll be walking from the Blimpie's to the Gorin's to the Gyro Wrap for a solid two hours before tipoff doing our part to stimulate the economy. And by stimulate the economy, I mean drinking beers.

*Speaking of those three CNN Center posts, what's with the cheap beer arms race? First the Gorins starts offering an excellent post-game $4, 24oz. option, then Gyro Wrap not only follows suit, but ups the ante' by pulling out a $7, 44oz BEAST of a beverage. When did these guys start following the Quiktrip business model? And can they please apply the same pricing methods to their overpriced food?

And one more bit of news on the fucking Thrashers of all teams:

*Seriously, HOW IS THEIR GM NOT FUCKING FIRED??!!??!? As a quasi-Atlanta blog, I think it's time to reach out to the Thrasher blogs and see how the fuck one could possibly justify Don Waddell keeping his job, and just start the movement. Now if this were just another ATL Spirit be-cheap case that would be one thing, but do hockey people actually think this guy is a good GM? As a casual Thrashers observer, Waddell was recently a Team USA hockey GM, no? I mean, this guy gets Top 10 picks every year and fucks them up. Even the Clippers almost made the WCF a couple years ago. I'd rather have the Thashers hire Gordon Bombay than have Waddell throw his ass behind the bench again. Can't say I blame Kovalchuk for wanting to see how shit plays out before signing an extension

*Tomorrow, Sue's embarks on a project that only a mother could appreciate. Casual Thrasher fans are gonna find out if and why Don Waddell still has a job.

Be easy.

4.16.2009

Late Blight

As reported by dozens of sources first before Sue's, Matthew Stafford will appear on Late Night With Jimmy Fallon tonight.

Wow. You're taking two of my least favorite people right now and putting them together for a 10-minute bit. I feel as if I should watch this for the sports relevancy, but 5'll get you 10 you will learn absolutely nothing from this and come away feeling about as smart as a tube of toothpaste. But then, who knows? Maybe, just MAYBE, something interesting will happen.
This can't end well. Can it?

Perhaps through some inexplicable osmotic interaction between the two of these douches, they will take on some of each other's personality traits. It wouldn't be unprecedented. I mean, it happens in the WWE all the time (see: Big Show losing to Floyd Mayweather, Jr. but somehow gaining the uber-destructive Knockout Punch, Shawn Michaels now using the Figure Four Leglock after ending Ric Flair's career, Kurt Angle lifting the Leg Lock from Ken Shamrock, et. al). Hell, Mega Man did this virtually every time he encountered someone! And let's not forget a Sue's favorite, the Highlander. Perhaps we'll get lucky and one of these twats will behead the other tonight?
Will we see some sort of symbiotic merger of personalities rivaling Mega Man proportions?

If this sort of personality switch does happen, we can only assume that Jimmy Fallon will immediately bolt from his program to join a show that pays more money but is considerably less in quality (is it possible to drop in quality from the Fallon Show?)...we'll say, Rosie comes back and he cohosts with her for a record tv contract. And Stafford? I can only assume that after each play in his could-be-short-as-hell career, he'll turn to the camera, pull of his helmet and provide the most douche-tastic smile and giggle after throwing a weak-ass interception.

Unfortunately, yes. These are the thoughts that swim through my head.

4.15.2009

Bawlin' Cawlin' 04-15-09: Special Fare Thee Well Edition

Let's revisit some of those bold, seemingly magical predictions, shall we?

Well it's been fun, people. Down the amazing stretch, SJF and I are tied at an amazing 15-8 apiece. That's good enough for an above-65% hitting. Not bad for your intrepid reporters here at Sue's. Hopefully some of you out there took advantage of our degenerate scumbag gambling tendencies (I was thinking to myself how pathetic it was we bet $100+on the All Star game...then realized we've been doing it for four years running and quieted my conscience, quickly) and made an easy buck. If you didn't, well, there's never a shortage of wagers here at Sue's, so stop being a SISSY and lay it on the line, people!

This seems a good time to look back at our predictions from October. It'll be interesting to see the symmetry between Friday's cerebral look at the predictability of the NBA and our preseason predictions. Mind you, this isn't necessarily to gauge how well our predictions panned out, but more to put them all in a concise and referential location. Note to aspiring sports bloggers: it is not advisable to bury your season predictions in a 26-page G-Chat (two-parter). Now, let's take a look at those picks!

Western Conference

Random OBJ Prediction Part I: The Rockets would be a formidable team in the West, lead by a rejuvenated T-Mac
Result: 50/50. The Rockets are a team to watch in the West, currently the 3rd seed, but it has nothing to do with McGrady.

Random OBJ Prediction Part II: His love affair with T-Mac will end soon
Result: Dead on. To me, T-Mac is dead and gone.

Random SJF Prediction: The Nuggets are D-U-N.
Result: Yowzers. Well, now way we could've seen the AI-Billups trade arriving, so no shame here.

OBJ and SJF Combined Prediction: The Mavericks' run as an elite Western Conference team is over.
Result: Dallas is currently the number 7 seed in the West, and is likely looking at a 3rd-straight opening round departure from the playoffs. What's done is done.
SJF Western Conference Seeding Prediction:
  1. Lakers
  2. Jazz
  3. New Orleans
  4. Houston
  5. San Antonio
  6. Dallas
  7. Phoenix
  8. Portland
OBJ Western Conference Seeding Prediction:
  1. Lakers
  2. Rockets
  3. New Orleans
  4. San Antonio
  5. Jazz
  6. Phoenix
  7. Dallas
  8. Denver
Actual (Assuming Seeding Remains Constant):
  1. Lakers
  2. Denver
  3. Houston
  4. Portland
  5. San Antonio
  6. New Orleans
  7. Dallas
  8. Utah
So we were both pretty close, with a few key - however small - differences. We both hit on two, which is just a wee bit unfair considering the whole Lakers-at-the-top thing. But the convoluted nature of the top of the West should not be forgotten when looking at this, either. With the exception of one team each, both Joe Friday and I nailed all of the playoff teams in the West. The only difference is that, while we both thought Phoenix would be in the mix this year, yours truly still had the Nuggets in while Friday was keen enough to know Portland was going to be on there shit. Considering the 2-5 seeds in the West are separated by one game, I'd say that our stamp of "PREDICTABLE" for the NBA still shows brightly.

Eastern Conference

We produced these predictions the day after the AI trade, which had Friday drooling all over the Piston while I was slowly shoveling the last few piles of dirt on the grave that was AI's career. Just more evidence that OBJ should be your go-to guy for everything sports, and Joe Friday's a tool. And hey, while I LOVE me some vanilla Snack Packs, fuck the puddin' ya'll the proof's in SJF's retarded post praising AI as The Answer in Detroit.

Random SJF Prediction: One of the Big Three in Boston will get injured in Boston, but it probably will not be Garnett.
Result: 50/50. Not too bad, Friday.

Random OBJ Prediction: Pat Riley will not be prepared to pay The Matrix what he wants, and he'll be shipped out before the midway point.
Result: Dead fuckin' on, that's the result bitches!

SJF Eastern Conference Seeding Prediction (4-8):
1. Detroit
2. Boston
3. Cleveland
4. Miami
5. Philadelphia
6. Toronto
7. Orlando
8. ATLANTA

OBJ Eastern Conference Seeding Prediction (4-8):
1. Boston
2. Detriot
3. Cleveland
4. Philadelphia
5. ATLANTA
6. Orlando
7. Miami
8. Toronto

Actual (Assuming Seeding Remains Constant)
:
  1. Cleveland
  2. Boston
  3. Orlando
  4. ATLANTA
  5. Miami
  6. Chicago
  7. Philadelphia
  8. Detroit
Some common themes here, folks. Looks like we both had Toronto ranked, we'll say, slightly too high, and neither of us anticipated Chicago making the playoffs. Detriot at #8 would've been a huge shock to us then, as it remains so now. The runaway MOST AWESOME BADASS PREDICTION of the year? Let's just say all the shit Joe Friday gave me for picking Atlanta #5 wasn't met with a grimace on his part, but if self-dap were actually possible I'd make myself a goddamn dap sundae for seeing the Hawks coming.

OBJ Playoff Predictions:
Boston vs. Cleveland in the Eastern Conference Championship
San Antonio vs. Los Angeles in the Western Conference Championship

NBA Finals: Cavaliers over Lakers

SJF Playoff Predictions:
Boston vs. Detriot in the Eastern Conference Championship
Lakers vs. Jazz in the Western Conference Championship

NBA Finals: Lakers over Pistons

Sue's MVP Prediction:

We both agreed on Lebron. Go fig.

On to the picks!!
You just witnessed a fairly impressive display of prediction-producing prowess.

Records
OBJ: 15-8
Joe Friday: 15-8

This is it. For all the marbles, the whole shebang and ever other contrivance you could possibly come up with. I'm so geeked I can smell the excitement seeping through my jeans and running down my leg.

Today's Picks
Okay. This time we're going to make DAMN sure there's no tie, opting to go with an unprecedented THREE picks each!

OBJ 1: Orlando (-2.5) over Charlotte
What is this?? Is D-Howard not playing? Is someone injured?? I couldn't find any news WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SPREAD ALL ABOUT??

OBJ 2:
Houston (+1) over Dallas
Don't make me look STUPID for calling out how GOOD you guys were going to be, H-Town.

OBJ 3:
Denver/Portland Over 198.5
Man, oh man I was tempted to go with the Hawks losing by less than 7 to Memphis, but they balled yesterday and I'm trying to play it as safe as possible. Sorry Baby Hawks!

Joe Friday 1:
Dallas +1 over Houston

Joe Friday 2: Cleveland + 3.5 over Philly

Joe Friday 3: New Orleans +9 over San Antonio