Tuesday, October 31, 2006
1.Dallas Mavericks- You know how Happy Gilmore finally learned how to putt? Well the Mavs finally learned how to play some D last season. Oh, and they still know how to score too, thanks in large part to the big German and MVP candidate, Dirk Nowitzki. He a complete offensive player and has started to pick up his defensive game, however that's not hard to do when he did not play any to begin with. Josh Howard and Devin Harris have really stepped up their games and are a huge reason why the Mavs were finally able to get over the Spurs hump. Jerry Stackhouse provides instant offense off the bench and is one of the best 6th men in the league. Avery Johnson has provided a toughness to this team that was badly needed and the Mavs should continue to be one of the West's top team.
2. San Antonio Spurs- Perhaps the most boring team in the league. In the fun and gun Western Conference, the Spurs play more like a rough and tumble Eastern Conference team. Tim Duncan was not himself last year after being bothered by some nagging injuries. Duncan is not getting any younger but is healthy and ready to prove himself once again as one of the elite players in the NBA. PG Tony Parker (Lucky bastard, dating Eva Longoria. I hate 'em) and Shooting Flopper, I mean Guard, Manu Ginobili help make the Spurs in to a dangerous from any spot on the floor. Bench guys like Micheal Finley and Brent Barry can come in and push the pace for the plodding Spurs. It's going to be nip and tuck with the Mavs all year for the race to win this division and most likely the #1 seed in the West.
3.Houston Rockets- Not to sound like a broken record, but the key here is health. Tracy McGrady and Yao HAVE to be healthy for the Rockets to have any success this year. This team could either be a surprise contender or an absolute mess. Bonzi Wells is the wild card here, he has to be happy with his role or he can be the dynamite that blows up the locker room. This team is not deep and any sustained injuries would likely submarine any playoff hopes. Rockets should be a lower seed playoff team.
4.New Orleans/Oklahoma City Hornets- Defending rookie of the year Chris Paul made his impact on the NBA felt immediately last season and dramatically improved the play of the guys around him (David West was the biggest benefactor). The Hornets brought in a talented under achiever in C Tyson Chandler and aging dead eye shooter Peja Stojakovic to help Paul out. If Chandler can become a force in the middle and show more than just glimpses of being a special player, the Hornets stand a good chance of making the playoffs, but that's about the ceiling for this squad.
5. Memphis Grizzlies- No Pau Gasol to start the season is a bad thing. So are all the other nagging injuries that this group has. Mike Miller is better suited coming off the bench but will be pressed into starting duty due to Gasol's broken foot. The back court (SG Eddie Jones and PG Damon Stoudamire) is getting up there in age are not the stars they once were. If, big IF, the Grizzlies can hold it together in Gasol's absence, they can contend for the 8th seed. If not, a 50 loss season is not out of the question.
1. Denver Nuggets- Last year the Nuggets pretty much won the division by default and stole a #3 seed from Dallas. This year the Nuggs will have to earn not only the division, but home court for any part of the playoffs. Carmelo Anthony is coming off of a breakout season and phenomenal play with Team USA at the World Championships in Japan. Melo relished his leadership role on the team and led the US in scoring. Now if he can be the glue that holds not only Coach George Karl and combustible Kenyon Martin together, but the whole team, the Nuggs might be able to get out of the first round. Maybe he can glue Marcus Camby together after he breaks down at some point this season too. This team should win the division and make a run at 50 wins.
2. Utah Jazz- The Jerry Sloan led Jazz team has the makings of a scary good squad, but keeping the high flying Andre Kirilienko for getting hurt is a top priority. PG Derron Williams is coming into his own and Carlos Boozer is a beast when he wants to be; if he wants to be for 82 games, look out. This team sets picks about as well as any team in the league and is not afraid to play tough, teetering on dirty. If Derek Fisher can get healthy he provides a huge shooting spark of the bench and has alway been a clutch player. The Jazz could very easily win this division or they could finish right around .500 again. They could very well do both.
3.Seattle Supersonics- Can the Sonics play any defense? They were dead last in points allowed last season. Late last season addition Chris Wilcox did add some toughness to this team to go along with arguably the best pure shooter in the game, Ray Allen and all star forward Rashard Lewis. This team has to get some production from someone not named Allen or Lewis to be a threat to make the playoffs. Scary to think that this team won 60 games just two years ago. Making the playoffs is a success for this team.
4.Minnesota Timberwolves- Will he stay or will he go now? Rumors have circulated the last year or so about Kevin Garnett wanting out of the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Will the additions of PG Mike James and rookie Randy Foye help him stay? This team looks as explosive, and I don't mean that in a good way, as any team in the league. It's almost if they have become the home of the head cases (Not quite, Portland still hold a firm grasp on that beloved title). Ricky Davis is an all-star caliber player when wants to be, but he's also a colossal pain the ass. Kevin Garnett is still one of the top players in the league but he's no longer a pup. Will his drive to win it all force a trade to a contender? Stay tuned, this is going to be a story this season.
5.Portland Trailblazers- Yikes. They still have the market cornered on loony toon players. Zach Randolph being the leader of the pack. Million dollar body with a ten cent head is the term, I believe. Hopefully rookie guard, and likely rookie of the year winner, Brandon Roy can avoid the inherent poisoning that comes with being a Trailblazer and help this team out of the cellar of the Western Conference. Darius Miles has never lived up to his potential and is the match to Randolph's gasoline. This team finishing anywhere close to .500 would be a gigantic success.
1.Phoenix Suns- This team plays like they were shot out of a canon, due to the up tempo pace the two time MVP Steve Nash plays at. The Suns proved they can win, at least in the regular season, with out big man Amare Stoudimire last season. To make a run at the Spurs and Mavs they need a healthy Amare. The Suns run teams ragged and simply try to outscore the opposition, bur come playoff time that becomes a tougher task. The trio of Nash, Stoudimire and swingman Shawn Marion is about as exciting as it gets. Marion is one of the best rebounders in the league despite being 6'7". The Suns should run, run, run, runaway with the Division title and be a threat to win the West.
2.Los Angeles Clippers- Finally the best team in the Staples Center. This team is hard nosed and smart, led by the wily vet Sam Cassell. Cassell seems to be getting better with age and has helped the Clips get over the hump. Elton Brand may be the most underrated player in the league and now that he's on a winning team he is starting to finally get his due. He's a constant 20-10 player and is nearly impossible to guard one-on-one. C Chris "Captain Caveman!!" Kaman is the best center no one has heard of. He's a ferocious rebounder and has nice touch around the rim, nicer than Reggie Evans touch, that's for sure. The Clippers will challenge the Suns for the division title and should be some where around 50 wins.
3-5 Again, throw these team into a hat and pick. Between the Kobe led Lakers, Sacramento Kings and Golden State Warriors none of them present a threat in the West. The Warriors have great talents, but they are a seemingly cursed franchise. Phil and Kobe miss Shaq more than either will ever admit to, but at least Kwame Brown is playing better right? The Kings had a great push after acquiring NBA crazy man Ron Artest. When Artest is on, or not recording an disastrous rap album, he's damn near unstoppable. He's got a great offensive game and might be the best defensive player in the league. Problem is he's crazy. Like mental hospitable crazy. He was on his best behavior last year, but much like Terrell Owens, it's only going to last so long before he blows up. Any of these teams making the playoffs is a success for the season. They then get the ever so fun task of playing the Mavs, Spurs or Suns in the first round. Ouch.
Lets get on to more important things shall we? The NBA season is upon us and tips off tonight with the Bulls vs. Heat at 6pm MST and the Suns vs. Lakers at 8:30 MST. The Bulls-Heat match-up has some interesting story lines. For the Heat fans, the ring ceremony and raising of the 2006 World Championship banner are greatly anticipated, not to mention seeing basically their entire roster come back to defend their title. The Bulls meanwhile, have added star C Ben Wallace, a free agent this off season, for defensive and rebounding help and some needed interior toughness. While Wallace may not be able to hit the broad side of a barn from the charity stripe he's a tenacious rebounder and one of the best defenders in the NBA. The Heat feature NBA Finals MVP Dwayne Wade and the ultimate (and aging) big man in the NBA, Shaquille O'Neal. Bolstered by long time NBA vets and former all-stars, Gary Payton and Alonzo Mourning, the Heat are the favorites to win their division and should be a favorite to win the Eastern conference.
Suns -Lakers should be a wide open game with lots of offense and pretty much no defense. Kobe and Steve Nash in prime time is a dream match up for most NBA fans. The Lakers finished last season on a roll and hope to build off that momentum this season, problem is both the Suns and Staples Center co-tenant Clippers are better teams than the Lakers and are in the same division. Someone other than Kobe Bryant is going to have to step up for the Lakers to have a chance at being anything more than a 7th or 8th seed in the playoffs. The Suns, assuming Amare Stoudemire is healthy, should be a top seed in the Western Conference come playoff time but they still need to figure out how to play defense and get by the Spurs and Mavs.
Now on to the division breakdowns
1. New Jersey Nets- Assuming the trio of Kidd, Carter and Jefferson can stay healthy, they should dominate this weak division. The continued growth of C Nenad Krstic is a bonus to this team. Another 3rd seed in the playoffs is pretty much a guarantee.
2-5 Mix em up and throw them in a hat and pick. The rest of this division is terrible. Maybe the Celtics can step up and actually play to their talents level this year. Perhaps Isiah Thomas can get over the disaster that was the Larry Brown hiring and prove that he's worthy of being an NBA GM. Isiah spends money like a drunken sailor in a Singapore whore house and has the highest paid and most under achieving roster in the NBA. Hey, at least they dumped Jalen Rose's near 17 million dollar salary. The Philadelphia Allen Iverson's should be the same one man gang we've seen over the last few seasons. Lot of AI and not much else. The real story here will be to see if Iverson makes it past the trade deadline in a 76ers uniform. Oh yeah, there's this team in Toronto that has one of the best young players in the league in post player Chris Bosch. Bosch is a 20-10 type player but gets no attention playing north of the border. It's a damn shame too because kid has crazy game.
1. Detroit Pistons- Led by star PG Chauncey Billups the Pistons will have to fight off challenges from the young Bulls and the Lebron James lead Cavaliers. The Pistons are known for their defense, but how much will they miss Big Ben Wallace? Nazr Mohammed is half the player that Wallace is but the Pistons still have the other Wallace, Rasheed and super sub Forward Antonio McDyess. This team should be contending for the Eastern Conference crown once again.
2.Cleveland Cavaliers- One word: Lebron. Lebron James is THE NBA superstar right now. The scary part is he's only going to get better and may already be the best all around player in the NBA. Scary thought for someone that's just 21 years old. If Larry Hughes can stay healthy, this team can be a threat to Detroit and win the division.
3. Chicago Bulls- Da Bulls are one of the chic picks this year because of the new addition mentioned above, Ben Wallace. The Bulls have a bunch of young talent with Ben Gordon, the John Stockton-esque Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng and Andres Nocioni. Rookie Tyrus Thomas will provide some highlight reel plays throughout the season and will be one of the more exciting first year guys in the league. If .everything comes together for this team they could threaten to win the division crown, but are probably another year away
4. Milwaukee Bucks- Jack Sikma, Sidney Moncrief and Terry Cummings lead the Bucks....er wait...my bad, 80s flashback. Second year C Andrew Bogut and sharp shooter Micheal Redd lead this team and the off season aquisition of F Charlie Villanueva should bolster the front court. The Bucks biggest problem is they play in the ultra competitive and talented Central division and the teams above them are just plain better.
5. Indiana Pacers- Shootem Up, shootem up!! And I'm not talking about taking shots behind the arc either. The Pacers continue to make headlines for all the wrong reasons. Stephen Jackson was involved in an early morning shootout outside of a, ahem, gentlemen's club in Indianapolis last month. Aside from F Jermaine O'Neal, the Pacers don't have a superstar on the roster but do have some good veterans and a great coach in Rick CarlislekeK. If O'Neal can avoid the injury bug that's plagued his career the Pacers should be competing for a playoff spot. A division championship seems to be a reach for this team.
1. Miami Heat- The defending champs are primed to not only repeat as the division and Eastern Conference champs, but quite possibly as NBA champs. The Heat centerpieces are D-Wade and Shaq, with a great supporting cast of veterans such as Antoine Walker, Jason Williams,Alonzo Mourning, Gary Payton, and James Posey. The only way this team stumbles is if D-Wade has a lengthy injury that keeps him out of 20+ games. This team can score and play nasty defense. The coach aint too shabby either...some dude named Riley.
2.Orlando Magic-Are these guys the Arizona Cardinals of the NBA? A young stud team that the pundits are high on that falls on their face or a team that's ready for prime time? I say the latter. Dwight "Don't call me Schrute" Howard is a budding superstar and rapidly becoming a dominant inside force. Howard should get some good support from former superstar and oft injured SG Grant Hill. The former all-star and Duke studis said to be healthy and in great shape (where have we seen that before?) and is joined by fellow Dookie, rookie sharpshooter JJ Reddick.
3. Washington Wizards- Too bad gmaes are not played on paper, because this is a pretty talented and loves to run. Gilbert Arenas is a flat out stud, Caron Butler can fill it up and Antawn Jamison is still one of the top PF in the East. This team is just good enough to challenge for one of the last playoff spots and that's about it.
4-5 Charlotte Bobcats and Atlanta Hawks- Both teams are young and not very good. The Bobcats have talents, but that talent spend more time on a training table than on the court. Adam Morrison should be a contender for the ROY award. The Bobcats have an over abundance of bigs and not much help for the 2 and 3 positions. Maybe they can move a big for a 2 guard? The Hawks don't seem to have any direction what so ever. They whiffed in last years draft by not drafting Chris Paul and getting yet another tweener in Marvin Williams. Williams had his momments last year, but still seems like he a ways from reaching his potential. Joe Johnson can fill it up from anywhere on the court but will need scoring help from Willimas and PF Josh Smith. Speedy Claxton is not the answer at PG for this team. Maybe once management is done squabbling and figures out what direction they want to take this team, other than into the ground, we will see the Hawks rise and become a good young team. Don't hold your breath.
Next up, the Western Conference
Monday, October 30, 2006
This past week of college football helped a handful of team realize their goal of appearing in the BCS Championship game was still in reach. Ohio State continued to dominate and appears to be the best team in the country. Michigan played a sloppy game against Northwestern but still remained undefeated. The match up between these two hated rivals on November 18th will determine at least one of the two teams that will play in the BCS Championship Game in Glendale, Arizona, January 8th. USC's loss to an average Oregon State team you could see coming from a mile away, or in my case about 1,200 miles away. The Trojans had struggled in their previous three games to put their opponents away and now have the daunting task of playing #22 Oregon, #10 Cal and #9 Notre Dame, all at home before their last game against crosstown rival UCLA. There's quite possibly another loss in those four games for the Trojans somewhere, effectively elimanating them should they lose one more time.
The teams that benefited most from this loss? That would be the two undefeated Big East teams West Virginia and Louisville who face each other on Thursday. The winner of this game will then need to get by undefeated Rutgers (Yes, you read that right, undefeated Rutgers) to insure a spot in the BCS Championship Game. Rutgers could easily throw a monkey wrench into either Louisville or West Virginia's plans to get to Glendale. If some very strange scenarios develop, Rutgers could be knocking on the BCS Championship Game door if they win the Big East and are undefeated.
So who's rooting for Rutgers?
That would be the numerous 1 loss teams such as #4 Florida, #6 Auburn, #7 Texas, #8 USC, #9 Notre Dame, #10 Cal, #11 Tennessee and #13 Arkansas. Should Louisville or West Virginia both stumble and have 1 loss apiece, I'd put my money on the winner of the SEC going to face the winner of the OSU vs. Michigan showdown for the BCS Championship.
Isn't college football great?
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
So what can an 18 year old do for the direction of a program? Many things. For one, it makes other top recruits stand up and take notice. Many recruits can't see past the abysmal 1-7 record and see what coach Hawkins is building and what Colorado has to offer, but when one of the best players in the country gives his pledge to go to the top state university, these kids do notice. Another positive is that skill players, i.e. QBs, WRs and RBs want to play behind talented offensive linemen, whether that's protecting the QBs blind side, opening up a hole and pancaking a defender for a RB or giving the QB time to find the WR, it all starts upfront with offensive linemen. Ryan Miller is a big building block in getting the University of Colorado back to national prominence.
Glad to have you aboard Ryan Miller, the buff family welcomes you with open arms!
Please click here to get a glimpse of Ryan Miller
Monday, October 23, 2006
So is the "Lights Out" nick name given to recently suspended roid boy Shawn Merriman in reference to what he does to opponents or the lights being off upstairs? In this day and age of competition and short lived careers in pro sports it's not surprising that players are looking for any edge they can get. Sadly, taking the short cut hardly ever works out, see Bosworth, Brian. So is Shawn Merriman an all-pro Lawrence Taylor wannabe (hey, at least Merriman's not playing whiled coked up, he's got that going for him which is nice) or someone that had the talent elevated by illegal substances? Time will tell, but it's a shame that someone that looked to be the next dominant defensive player will for ever have a shadow of doubt cast over him due to his complete lack of judgment. Should have called Greg Anderson, he'd have taken the fall for him for a small fee.
(I'm thinking he must have been off the juice when Todd Heap dragged him on his way to a TD in the Chargers loss to the Ratbirds earlier this month, pictured above)
Turn out the lights, the party's over...at least for the next four weeks for Shawn Merriman
How good are these guys? Pretty Damn good, but will anyone outside of Bronco nation ever acknowledge it?
Assuming that my beleaguered Colorado Buffaloes offense did not steal the Browns offense's uniforms, the Broncos stifled another NFL offense on Sunday. Yes, that was the 31st ranked O in the league that the defense shutdown, but man, did they completely dominate yesterday. If not for Jake Plummer treating the pigskin like beads being tossed down to topless women on Bourbon Street, the defense would have pitched their first shutout since week 11 last year. Dammit Jake. The defense is not thumping their chest too much though because of who the upcoming opponent is; the 6-0 Indianapolis Colts lead by their fearless pitchman, er, QB Pay-me-a-ton Manning. We'll get to that match up shortly. The game in ever so lovely Cleveland got off to an auspicious start, with former Brown Gerrard Warren getting hurt (the piggie that went to market was sprained) on the first defensive snap. Fortunately that was not indicative of the rest of the blustery afternoon on the shores of Lake Erie. The defense came out and punched the Browns in the mouth, with the key play being a sack of QB Charlie Frye on fourth and 1 early in the 1st quarter. The Broncos mounted a 10-0 halftime lead and for all intents and purposes, the game was over. The Broncos were able to pin their ears back and really get after Charlie Frye, sacking him 5 times led by rookie DE Elvis Dumervil who had 3 sacks. (Dumervil in 2 games has 5 sacks, besting the team leaders from last year who shared the team lead with 4.) Champ Bailey was his same dominating self, getting yet another endzone/goaline interception. Al Wilson, DJ Williams and Ian (or Ion as Dick Enberg kept calling him) Gold stuffed former Bronco, TB Rueben Droughns all day, limiting him to 33 yards on 12 carries. Wilson had a strip of the football from Droughns that made me shout out, in my best Deebo from Friday voice, "That's my ball, punk!"
Hopefully, that's where the Deebo references stop, as most of us will remember that Deebo ended up getting "Knocked the f*$k out". This D has to raise it's game to another level as the high octane Colts come to Denver in the ever so cliche match up of "Irresistible force" and "Immovable Object" . The Colts come in with the best offense, statistically, in the AFC. This cast of characters has embarrassed the Broncos in back to back playoff games in Indy during the 2003 and 2004 seasons. Things have changed since then, as the Broncos no longer have to start undrafted special teamers like Roc Alexander to cover Reggie Wayne. The 2005 draft was centered around 3 cornerbacks who have each proved worthy of their draft status, led by 5'8" mighty mite Darrent Williams, who will now have the task of guarding the aforementioned Wayne. Now put Champ Bailey on the other side on perennial ALL-Pro Marvin Harrison and this should not be the lopsided mismatch from disasters past. The key is going to be getting pressure on Manning and knocking him around some. Maybe the super rook Dumervil can continue his sack barrage and put Manning on his back side a few times. So, is this D one for the ages, or just another decent D under defensive coordinator Larry Coyer? I think we'll know the answer to that questions come 5:15MST or so Sunday evening.
A side note.....If any one has a good nick name for this defense please let me know. At this point I've not been able to come up with anything good.
What a bizarre day yesterday.
First, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports that the Broncos are prepared to yank Jake Plummer in favor of Jay Cutler if Plummer falters against
Friday, October 20, 2006
It's been a rough season for this buff fan. Hell, the last year has been tough *cough*70-3*cough* and losing to a freaking 1-AA team was like a swift kick to the nether region. All that being said, the Buffs seem to have found a guy in Dan Hawkins that can lead this team and be an ambassador for Buff football, especially in the ever bizarro fantasy land called Boulder. I'll save that rant for another time. Coming into this season, I felt like a 7 win season was not only realistic but a certainty. I could have never predicted what has happened to this point. Losing to the Bobcats of Montana State felt like I was being featured on Punk'd. Seriously, where's Ashton? To compound matters, I had plans to travel to Athens GA and Columbia, MO to see CU on the road and it was seeming like a not so good idea. (I try to get to at least one away game a year and a game in Athens was a must.) CU damn neared pulled of the stunning upset of the then ranked #9 UGA Dawgs and then was overwhelmed in Columbia. However, in these two losses you could see the entire CU team getting better, finally culminating in a 30-6 victory of the Texas tech Red Raiders last Saturday. Sad to say, but I had almost forgot what a Buff win felt like. They feel really good by the way. I have tempered my expectations this season, but expect the Buffs to play more like they did against Texas Tech than they did against Montana State. This weekend provides the Buffs with a chance to have a statement win this season. Playing in Norman, OK is never easy and since Bob Stoops took over the program, the Sooners have lost 2, that's right 2 home games for a 45-2 home record in his tenure. The absence of All American and future top five NFL pick Adrian "All Day" Peterson is going to be telling. The Sooners will miss Peterson's production, accounting for nearly 50% of their total offense, not to mention his leadership and swagger. Will Sooner QB turned WR turned QB Paul Thompson be able to lead the Sooner O down the field against a CU D that befuddled the explosive "Air Raid" offense just a week ago? We'll find out tomorrow.
So here are the keys to the game (Standard Color Analyst stating the obvious style):
1. Score more points than the opposition
2. Don't commit turnovers
3. Run the ball with success
4. Win the field position battle
Don't you hate it when you see these "experts" spouting off this crap? Thanks Captain Obvious, I was not sure if scoring more points would help in winning the game.
Okay, so the keys to the game.
1. Cold beer in hand at least 5 minutes prior to kick off.
2. Food within an arm length. You are wasting valuable energy if it's not.
3. Make sure the Tivo is set to record. That way you can pause and frame by frame watch the call that the Big 12 officials completely whiffed on and bitch about it for the next 15 minutes.
Now your set!
Go Buffs, beat the Sooners!