Monday, February 26, 2007

Revisiting My Preseason NBA Predictions, Part 1

Back in October I made some pretty bold forecasts for the 2006-2007 NBA season. Time to check up on how I'm doing past the halfway point of the schedule.

Most Valuable Player: LeBron James (original prediction), Dirk Nowitzki (revised prediction)
Voters will have Steve Nash fatigue after selecting him for back-to-back MVPs, but even if they didn't LBJ would get their votes. With the Cavs now being amongst the elite teams in the league, LeBron is in an perfect position to put up the individual numbers and have the team success to secure his first MVP trophy. The Lakers will not have enough wins for Kobe to contend, and voters feel Dwayne Wade's production is largely assisted by Shaq.

Two factors all but eliminate King James from POTY honors. Firstly, his team isn't very good. For right or for wrong MVP voters love to go with a winner, usually a player who plays for an upper-echelon squad (55+ wins). The Cavs at their current pace won't even get to 50 wins. And that's while playing in arguably the worst conference in sports history. The second reason LeBron won't win is because the team's lack of success and failure to play an uptempo offense (perhaps the two are correlated). James' effort and intensity have regressed this season. While his numbers are as outstanding as ever they won't be enough. It's a two-man race between Dirk and Steve Nash with Kobe trying to spoil the party.

Rookie of the Year: Brandon Roy, Brandon Roy
Roy will likely supplant Martell Webster or Jarrett Jack early in the season. He was the best prospect in the draft and will prove it with his play. Randy Foye of Minnesota is also in contention for the ROY, as he should get significant tick.

Brandon is starting to separate himself from the rest of the pack. Randy and Andrea Bargnani have picked up the pace for a so-so rookie class, but Andrea has yet to crack the starting rotation in Toronto and Randy has been inconsistent since taking the PG role from Mike James.

Defensive Player of the Year:
Ron Artest, Marcus Camby
Artest is simply the best defender in the league. Ben Wallace, Bruce Bowen and Andrei Kirilenko take a backseat to Tru Warier's tenacious guarding. As long as he stays on the court, Ron will dazzle people with his defensive skills. A dark horse contender is Gerald Wallace, who averaged a ridiculous two steals and two blocks per contest last season.

Ron, not surprisingly, has been dazzling on the defensive end. His ferocious D has him leading the league in steals. Camby leads the NBA with 3 blocks per game and is fourth in rebounds per game. If the big guy stays healthy, he'll get the nod over Tru Warier.

Sixth Man of the Year: Shaun Livingston, Leandro Barbosa
Livingston will continue his apprenticeship under Sam Cassell, but that doesn't mean he will have a limited role. Because of his size, Shaun can and will play multiple positions. He's a marvelous passer and good rebounder. As his jump shot continues to improve, so will Shaun's status as one of the league's best coming off the bench. Look for his numbers to take off.

Shaun continues to struggle with his jumper. The problem is compounded when coach Mike Dunleavy puts Cassell at the point and Livingston at the two guard. At that point Shaun idly watches from the wing while the offense runs through Sam. Barbosa have been sensational this season, averaging 17 points and 4 assists while coming off the best of the league's most thrilling team.

Coach of the Year: Jeff Van Gundy, Jeff Van Gundy
The much-maligned Van Gundy can lead the Rockets to 15 more wins than last season. A healthy Houston team stands to be the most-improved squad in the league, and Van Gundy will earn his share of credit, whether he deserves it or not. Other candidates include Chicago's Scott Skiles, Utah's Jerry Sloan and even New York's Isiah Thomas.

The Rockets are on pace to win 52 times this season, an 18-game improvement over 2006. Considering Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady have both missed significant time this year makes Van Gundy's a near-lock for the award. The Jazz are heading toward a 14-game improvement under Sloan. Thomas has brought credibility and moderate successs back to Gotham basketball.

Most Improved Player: Darko Milicic, Kevin Martin
If Darko plays substantial minutes, the productivity will be there. He's already one of the best blockers in the league. Darko bulked up ten pounds over the summer, which bolds well for an emerging interior game to complement his perimeter play. Box scores of 12/8/3/3 should be a regular occurrence for Milicic.

The bungling of Brian Hill has all but wrecked not only Darko's playing minutes but also the immediate (and possibly long-term) future of the Magic. Milicic hasn't taken full advantage of his time on the court, leading to inconsistent play. Meanwhile Martin has nearly doubled his scoring average from a year ago. Virtually all his statistics (including FG%, 3P% and FT%) are career highs. He's gone from a decent player to near All-Star.

Executive of the Year: Carroll Dawson, Carroll Dawson
The Executive of the Year Award tends to go to the GM whose team improved the most from the previous year. Dawson should be the recipient in 2007, considering the Rockets will be that team (again, assuming they stay healthy). The decisions to acquire Shane Battier and draft Steve Novak will also pay immediate dividends.

The Battier acquisition was nothing short of brilliant. His numbers (10 and 4 a night) don't tell have the story. Shane's the kind of strong-character, high-energy, constant-motor guy needed to make a good team great, and Dawson knew that when he brought Battier over. Surprisingly neither Novak nor Bonzi Wells have made an impact.

Part 2 will take a look at how the playoffs might unfold.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Deadspin Previews the M's

It's ugly but sadly accurate:
• Today the Mariners have possibly the worst front office in baseball. Not only have they sat slack-jawed at the trade deadline while the pennant race left them behind each of the last several years, but during this off-season they:

• Traded their terrific set-up man for a mediocre starter, straight-up.
• Traded a cheap young corner outfielder with power and an excellent young reliever (also cheap) for Jose Vidro's bloated contract and decayed legs.
• Assured Hargrove his job is safe this year.
• Agreed to pay Jeff Weaver in excess of $8 million this season. Their vision for the franchise is now defined as "abjectly stupid." Read this, and you will know the painful daily grind of a Mariners fan.

Dear God, what an abysmal team.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Thoughts from My First NBA Game

The cheap seats had a good view and I didn't get mugged on the walk home. The calzone before tipoff made everything all right. Now onto the contest (if we can call it that):

* The Suns very quickly established their offensive set: use motion and curls to clear to the paint. Then drive the lane and either 1) finish at the basket, or 2) pass to the open corners. End result? Stoudemire finishes with 22 points on 10-15 shooting, Marion had 31 on 11-17 (3-5 from downtown). Phoenix shot 8-18 from deep and threw down plenty of awesome dunks.

* Nash was having an off-night (or is still injured), but managed to finish with 13 points and 11 dimes. What an amazing player to watch in person. A few times Nash left the crowd in awe with an amazing pass or acrobatic layup, which all seemed easy to him.

* How out of hand was this game? Pat Burke -- yes that Pat Burke -- nearly had a double-double.

* Elton Brand started off hot then disappeared.

* Livingston simply can't play the two alongside Cassell. Shaun doesn't have a consistent mid-range jumper and he can't blow past his defender by a layup. He's the anti-Rip Hamilton.

* My old roommate and I constantly joked about this being Maggette's and Livingston's farewell tour.

* Arguably the loudest cheer happened in the final minutes when seldom-used Sun and former Clipper Eric Piatkowski drained a three. After the shot I discussed with my old roommate about who belonged in the theoretical Clippers Ring of Honor. He giggled when I mentioned Sean Rooks.

* When I saw Burke smack Aaron Williams with a flagrant foul I yelled, "white on white crime!"

* My stomach and wallet are grateful that I passed on a bacon-wrapped hotdog after the game. My mind thinks otherwise.

Even though it was an early blowout I had a fun time. I wasn't rooting for a particular team so it was nice just to sit back and appreciate the game.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Words of Wisdom from Ron Artest

Excerpt from the February issue of Dime:

Ron, I'm thinking about popping the question to my girl. How should I do it? -Calvin

"First you gotta have sex one last time, you know, and tell her you love her. You should probably take her out to a simple dinner, nothing too crazy. Keep it simple, because a lady is looking for the little things. If she wants to be with you forever, she'll like that."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Better Late Than Never

I finally got along to putting J.A. Adande's blog on the Links. Check out his latest post about why Valentine's Day is wack.

ESPN Snatches TrueHoop With Its Neon Claws

TrueHoop is officially a part of the Worldwide Leader. Congratulations to Henry for parlaying a passionate hobby into a (hopefully) huge payday.

Now let's all pray ESPN doesn't suck Henry's soul. Amen.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Take It for What It's Worth

Tim Povtak, a writer for the Orlando Sentinel, says on Monday's podcast that Dwight Howard might do a dunk with Jameer Nelson sitting on his shoulders for Saturday's dunk contest.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Funniest Quote of the Year, Courtesy of Mike Wilbon

As The Big Lead has indicated, the geniuses at the Washington Post have decided to put Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon on-camera and have them discuss the hot topics of the day. Groundbreaking really.

While the segments about Maryland basketball coach Gary Williams and John Amaechi liking sausage are merely okay, the PTI boys save the best for last.

The funniest segment of the video (and maybe the year) occurs when Tony and Mike talk about the crazy adulterous astronaut lady. Tony waxes about the significance of the story and how astronauts are considered the most respected and courageous people in America. The camera then pans to Mike, who stands there oblivious while eating Grandma's cookies. When Wilbon notices the camera he stares straight into the lens and screams, "She wore a diaper!"

Hilarious. It has to be seen to be believed. (right-hand side, February 7)

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Thursday, February 01, 2007

There's a Headline in My Ad

I understand corporations have to pay bills like the rest of us, but what the hell is this?

Ads in the freakin' headline? Are you that strapped for cash, World Wide Leader?

What's the next great idea? Letting people comment on articles? Oh, wha?