Friday, May 30, 2008
Normally, we try and turn this into a weekend extravaganza, incorporating other festivities that we enjoy onto the itinerary in hopes of making it worth our time. Last year was the 5th year reunion, which I missed because I was working an internship with the Boston Red Sox and the game was delayed for over an hour by rain and they were playing the Yankees, which meant the game was four hours by default. This year we decided that a round of golf on Saturday would be necessary as would the standard pilgrimage on Sunday morning to the Red Apple. Amidst our rough hangovers, we rise around noon, strap on our buffet shoes and dive into the best Chinese buffet line in the upper New England area.
But this year we’ve added two more events that will truly make this weekend worth remembering. First and foremost is the EliteXC card promoted by Gary Shaw, headlined by Kimbo Slice and being shown on CBS. A truly landmark event in that it’s the first time mixed martial arts is being shown on network television. I’m excited to see Kimbo continue his development from street brawler to MMA fighter against James Thompson, whose heavy hands shouldn’t be discounted despite his glass jaw. Yet it continues to bother me that people are clamoring over the fact that Slice is fighting “another tomato can.”
Let’s set the record straight: Kimbo has three fights under his belt and has only been training for a year and a half. The people that argue he’d be defeated by any top tier heavyweight or that he has no right to be headlining this card are the same people who have joined the millions of others in watching his videos on YouTube. You are all the reason this man has risen in popularity and folklore. With another four or five fights and continued training with Bas Rutten and Randy Katami, I think matchups against these top tier heavyweights will be in line. But again, it’s his popularity, the demand to see him compete, that is the reason for him headlining his card. It’s not because his talent, ability and overall record warrant it.
The undercard itself is pretty impressive, as well. Robby Lawler and Scott Smith will put on the type of standup battle that makes MMA so exciting. While Lawler’s tactical skill likens him to a boxer in the MMA game, he’s aggressive, has great power and never turns down an opportunity to engage. Smith, meanwhile, just comes to fight and he’s got great KO power as evidenced by his last win a few months ago over Kyle Noke. He’s a former union iron worker who goes by the moniker “Hands of Steel.” This should be riveting TV.
The female fight between Gina Carano and Kaitlyn Young should be interesting. Carano is much like Kimbo in that she’s fairly inexperienced but she’s shown great ability so far and her popularity comes from activities outside of being a sanctioned MMA competitor. Obviously I’m referring to her stellar work on NBC’s “American Gladiators.” Has anyone watched her on the joust? It’s incredible how dominant she is. But the best part of watching her on AG is on the pyramid. She’ll literally pull a woman off the pyramid, then either pull her into her guard or secure a mount and hold her there until time elapses. As an MMA fan, I can’t help but smile. But her opponent, Young, is no slouch either, and her experience will prove to be a good test for Carano.
Then there’s the enigmatic Phil Baroni, the self-proclaimed “New York Bad Ass” who once petitioned himself to be “The F*cking Best Eva” after his brutal KO of Dave Menne for the UFC middleweight title. He’s fighting Joey Villasenor, and while neither of these guys can claim to be in the upper echelon of mixed martial artists, they’re exciting and TV friendly, much in the same way that Chris Leben continues to be tapped for televised PPV fights despite a so-so UFC record.
And finally we’ll be treated to another heavyweight matchup that pits Brett Rogers, fresh off a KO of Thompson in their last fight, against Jon Murphy. You can question why a guy who got KTFO’d against Rogers would be Kimbo’s opponent as a headliner. The answer is simple: Kimbo’s the main draw here and Thompson is a better matchup for him in terms of continuing his development. Rogers is a more dangerous opponent, and if he’d lost to Thompson, he’d probably be fighting Kimbo in the headliner right now. Perhaps Kimbo, with a victory of course, can take on the winner of this fight in the Fall.
I’m slightly disappointed that Shaw didn’t put a couple judo or jiu-jitsu artists on the main card, because submissions, rolls, sweeps and throws are a very exciting part of MMA. I understand why a wrestler wouldn’t be televised, because lay-n-pray is never exciting to watch. But I would have appreciated Shaw giving the network audience a broader spectrum of the game, as well. Nonetheless, these standup battles should do well in terms of excitement, and ultimately, ratings.
But the best part of Saturday night’s fights, however, is that it probably won’t have the best fight of the weekend. That’s right, everyone seems to be forgetting that CBS isn’t the only fight card available for free on cable TV this weekend. So after the fights end and you’re left wanting more, remind yourself that Versus has another WEC event scheduled for Sunday. And headlining that card is a featherweight matchup between the current Champion and rising star Urijah Faber and the first ever UFC lightweight champ Jens Pulver. “Lil’ Evil” should prove to be a tremendous test for Faber and certainly a great measuring stick as to where he stands in this sport. Faber has been plowing through his competitors, rattling off 12 straight victories since his first and only loss to current UFC lightweight contender Tyson Griffin. The “California Kid” has his eyes set on a rematch with Griffin, but Pulver should be his only focus right now. The experience, heavy hands and tremendous heart possessed by the veteran could present problems, especially if Faber can’t get Pulver to the ground and control him there. With a win, Faber will truly have arrived as one of the sports’ elite. With a loss, it will only make the division more interesting with Pulver establishing himself as a force, and a champion, at that weight.
The rest of the card isn’t as deep or talented as the CBS card on Saturday, but it’s worth watching nonetheless. Miguel Torres defends his bantamweight title for the first time since defeating Chase Beebe. He takes on Yoshiro Maeda. To the casual fan, this may not mean anything to you. But in layman’s terms, we’re talking about two guys with a combined 55-5-2 record. That’s just plain filthy. And if you’ve ever watched a boxing match at this weight, you know these guys are in 5th gear for an entire fight. Torres displayed sick jiu-jitsu and ground skills in his win on Beebe, good enough in fact that I’m hoping he does it again. Whether you’re a hardcore fan or giving MMA a shot, watching a guy like Torres on the ground can give anyone an appreciation for the skill.
Meanwhile, “Razor” Rob McCullough returns from his devastating KO loss to Jamie Varner in which he also lost his lightweight belt. McCullough takes on the guy to hand him his first professional defeat, Kenneth Alexander. While this has Rampage-Eastman 2 written all over it, it still provides an interesting storyline, especially with McCullough coming off that loss to Varner.
It should be an exciting weekend for fights, and truly a banner moment for the sport of MMA. While the UFC has certainly helped the sport grow exponentially, it’s repeated PPV telecasts and recent string of poor ratings on Spike haven’t been the most productive and beneficial instances. This weekend should give serious exposure to the game and its fighters and provide a shot in the arm to MMA in general. And it will be a great way to cap off the weekend as Rich and I continue to hang onto the dream for one day out of the calendar year. This comes from a guy who tried to bunt for a base hit in the alumni game a few years back. You gotta do what you can to get on base and help the team. I’ll post my picks below:
CBS on Saturday night
Kimbo Slice by KO in the 1st round
Robbie Lawler by (T)KO due to strikes in the 2nd round
Joey Villasenor by submission in the 3rd round
Gina Carano by decision
Brett Rogers by KO in the 2nd round
WEC on Sunday night
Urijah Faber by submission (rear naked choke) in the 3rd round
Miguel Torres by submission in the 2nd round
Rob McCullough by KO in the 1st round
Chuck Grigsby by decision
Thursday, May 29, 2008
I am so excited and nervous about the Celtics being up 3-2 in the series with the Pistons that I don't even know what to say. I don't want to jinx anything. Instead I will just watch Game 6 tomorrow night and try to enjoy it. To help take my mind off of the magnitude of that game, I've decided to update my UFC Rankings. Here is how I rank the best fighters in each weight class. Also I have added a fight I would like to see, that has not been scheduled, in each division.
1. Randy Couture
2. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
3. Fabricio Werdum
4. Brandon Vera
5. Frank Mir
6. Gabriel Gonzaga
7. Heath Herring
8. Cheick Kongo
9. Brock Lesnar
10. Shane Carwin
Yes, I still have Randy Couture in the top spot. He is still the Champ right? But what a terrible division. The 9th best guy hasn't won a fight in the UFC and it was hard to find a 10th heavyweight at all. The loss of Tim Sylvia and Andrei Arlovski quickly made this weight class one of the best to probably the worst. Don't worry, 40 year old Mark Coleman is coming back, not in August as planned though, he got hurt.
Fight I'd like to see: Randy Couture vs. Nogueira (chances I know unlikely)
1. Quinton Jackson
2. Dan Henderson
3. Maurcio ‘Shogun’ Rua
4. Chuck Liddell
5. Forrest Griffin
6. Lyoto Machida
7. Wanderlei Silva
8. Keith Jardine
9. Thiago Silva
10. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou
This division is stacked. 10 quaility guys here with Rashad Evans and others knocking at the door. Tito Ortiz would still be on my list, but he confirmed that 100% he would move on. I'm going to miss Tito and feel that he has some great fights left in him. When was the last time Rampage fought? Damn reality shows kill some of these match ups. You can make lots of intriguing fights though from the light heavyweights.
Fight I'd like to see: Wanderlei Silva vs. Lyoto Machida
1. Anderson Silva
2. Dan Henderson
3. Rich Franklin
4. Nathan Marquardt
5. Yushin Okami
6. Chris Leben
7. Patrick Cote
8. Jason MacDonald
9. Nathan Quarry
10. Michael Bisping
Not a lot has changed in the past month or so in the middleweight division. It's really Anderon Silva at the top then a serious drop off. Not sure what weight class Dan Henderson is going to stick to, if he'll stick to one at all. Leben vs. Bisping would have been awesome, you know, if Leben didn't have to go to jail. I'd still like to see it, but not as much as...
Fight I'd like to see: Dan Henderson vs. Rich Franklin
1. Georges St. Pierre
2. Jon Fitch
3. Matt Serra
4. Matt Hughes
5. Josh Koscheck
6. Diego Sanchez
7. Marcus Davis
8. Karo Parisyan
9. Thiago Alves
10. Mike Swick
Perhaps the deepest division in the UFC there are a ton of great welterweights. GSP has proven he is the cream of the crop, and maybe there is a potential GSP vs. Penn II in the works. Well first St. Pierre will face Jon Fitch. The rest of the guys in the top 10 all want shots at the title, but it may take some time. Less than two weeks away from Hughes vs. Alves and Davis vs. Swick. It'll be a great day for welterweights on June 7th.
Fight I'd like to see: Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra
1. BJ Penn
2. Sean Sherk
3. Joe Stevenson
4. Kenny Florian
5. Roger Huerta
6. Tyson Griffin
7. Clay Guida
8. Spencer Fisher
9. Nate Diaz
10. Frankie Edgar
No question about it now, B.J. Penn is the best lightweight in the UFC. An impressive win over Sean Sherk proved that last weekend. The idea now is for Penn to face the winner of Florian and Huerta when those two fight in August. Will he fight GSP or the winner or both? Time will tell. I'm also not convinced anyone else can beat Sherk in this division. Looks top heavy to me.
Fight I'd like to see: Joe Stevenson vs. Nate Diaz
Tuesday, May 27, 2008
This first group of sporting events I associate with those stupid “games” that you can win an obscene amount of tickets/ tokens. All you have to do is like freeze a coin with you mind and presto. It only takes one, but you end up losing like 5-10 bucks, saying “you’re so close.” Well I have given up on those machines much like the following events from the weekend.
The Indy 500, NASCAR’s Coke 600, the College Lacrosse Final 4, and the Stanley Cup Finals. I extend a hardy handshake to Scott Dixon, Kasey Kahne, Syracuse University, and the Detroit Red Wings. That’s really all I have to say to all of them. Nice work.
I had some interest in the Boston Red Sox and the rest of May baseball. This is like Ski-Ball. Always sounds good, and you have to do it while your there, just like keeping up with major league baseball. But come on, MLB in May? Is it really do or die? No, fantasy baseball keeps everyone interested in it before the All- Star break. The Sox took a 7 game winning streak in to their 10 game road trip. Well they got swept by the upstart Oakland Athletics. Luckily for Boston Bartolo Colon brought his A game (what a steal this guy was, doesn’t matter what happens next, but really, the Yankees didn’t need him, really? He won the Cy Young in 2005.) Anyway Colon went 7 strong and the Sox got a road win. Still the Rays are in 1st place. How bout them Rays?
Tampa Bay and Florda are currently in 1st place in their respective divisions, 1 day after Memorial Weekend. Just thought everyone should know.
The following two sports spectacles were what made this weekend so impressive. This is the Lazer-Tag, NBA Jam, and crazy Fighting/ Shooting Games. The reason you go, the reason you love sports. From Friday-Monday you had alternating Western and Eastern Conference Finals in the NBA. Lakers vs. Spurs and Celtics vs. Pistons, what it was supposed to be, the best four basketball teams in the league. And on top of that you had UFC 84 ill will on Saturday night. I’ll start with the mixed martial arts.
UFC 84 provided a number of intriguing and important match ups. How would Wanderlei Silva respond to his 3 fight losing streak? Could Tito Ortiz leave the UFC with a win over unbeaten Lyoto Machida? And who is the rightful champion at 155? Short answers: violently, no, and B.J. Penn. Slightly longer answers: Wanderlei Silva had not won a fight since July 2006. Despite losing to very tough opponents, Mirko Cro Cop, Dan Henderson, and Chuck Liddell, the buzz was that Silva is no longer the dominant fighter he was when he dominated Pride. Well Keith Jardine was coming off his most impressive victory of his career, and figured with a win over the Ax Murderer he could be in contention for a shot at the light heavyweight belt. That until he lost viciously and explosively to Silva in just 36 seconds. At one point in the match, Wanderlei had his left hand on Jardine’s throat pinning him to the mat while he pummeled him with hard right shots. It was intense. Wanderlei Silva is back!
Tito Ortiz faced the undefeated Lyoto Machida in the final fight on his UFC contract. Tito’s well documented relationship with UFC President Dana White leaves very little room for a potential return to the organization that saw him as one of their most dominant champions. Ortiz lost a 3 round decision, and nearly pulled off a late win, but Machida scrambled out of a triangle choke by Tito. It will be very interesting to see what happens to both men following that fight.
In the main event B.J. Penn defeated Sean Sherk, putting to rest the question of who the real champ is. Sherk had his belt stripped when he tested positive for steroids, and allegation he still denies. The 3rd round bell momentarily saved Sherk, but he could not get up and Penn was awarded the victory via TKO (Knee and Punches). Word is Penn would fight the winner of the August fight between Kenny Florian and Roger Huerta; however in his post fight interview Penn asked the crowd if they wanted him to fight welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. The sold out arena responded with a resounding yes. Who knows perhaps Penn vs. St. Pierre II could happen.
UFC 84 overlapped with Game 3 of the Eastern Conference Finals for about an hour and a half. And although they were not in an octagon, the fight in the Palace proved finally that the Celtics can win away from the Garden. After losing home court advantage to the Pistons in a 103-97 loss in Game 2, the pressure was squarely on the Celtics. 0-6 on the road to Atlanta and Cleveland, could they possibly win in Detroit? With their 94-80 win in Game 3 a huge weight had been lifted off the entire city of Boston. They were now guaranteed a game 5 being tied 2-2 at the very worst. Well they did lose Game 4 last night, but it is now a best of 3 series with 2 games in Boston.
Out West the Spurs lost after having a 20 point lead in Game 1 then got blow out of Cali by 30 in Game 2. But it’s still the Spurs. Ask the Hornets about being up 2-0 with big impressive numbers. I said Celtics vs. Spurs when the playoffs began and I’m going to stick with it. Would I like to see Celtics and Lakers like everyone outside of Detroit and San Antonio, of course, but how can you count out the Spurs. Game 4 tonight is going to be huge, and if Manu can play like he did on Sunday this one is probably going 7 too.
In the end it was an unbelievable sports weekend. As we look ahead here at the Sports Brief coming up on our sports schedules: NBA Conference and League Finals, MMA on CBS with Kimbo Slice this Saturday, UFC 85 June 7th, more 1st half MLB, and the June 26th NBA Draft.
Friday, May 23, 2008
BJ Penn (champion) v. Sean Sherk
This is a terrific match-up between a champion and former champion who truly hate each other. Stylistically, I don’t think this is a good one for Sherk. He’s short and will be up against a considerable reach advantage for Penn, who is a far superior striker. And while Sherk will certainly be the better wrestler in this fight, he’ll be playing right into Penn’s strength. “The Prodigy” is clearly the most flexible fighter in all of MMA, and his jiu-jitsu is world class. If put on his back, he’ll be able to neutralize the attack of Sherk and possibly even submit him.
But I don’t think the fight will go there. Sherk, like Matt Hughes, has yet to evolve from a wrestler with a tremendous ground-and-pound to a well-rounded mixed martial artist. Because of that, I think Penn will either score a takedown or pull Sherk into his guard then sweep, taking top control and working his way to a victory. Just look at St. Pierre’s dominant victory over Sherk at UFC 56. Penn, who arguably may have won his fight with GSP (after which GSP went to the hospital), should have the same success.
Penn via T(KO), referee stoppage due to strikes.
Keith Jardine v. Wanderlei Silva
It bothers me that this is Jardine’s first fight since his shocker over Chuck Liddell at UFC 76. But it’s intriguing, because Liddell is the last opponent for both of these guys. Jardine has to be bitter that Forrest Griffin, whom he destroyed in their fight, leapfrogged him for a shot at the Light Heavyweight title. Silva, meanwhile, needs to win here in order to make himself relevant in this division in the UFC.
This will assuredly be an all-out standup war, much like the fight between Liddell and Silva. “The Ax-Murderer” is an exciting fighter who lays it all on the line, win or loss, in every fight. He applies pressure and constantly works. While Liddell kept him at bay with the jab, using his reach advantage and counter-striking ability, Jardine doesn’t have the same technical prowess as Liddell. His kicks are what did in the “Iceman”, and they were successful because Liddell stayed on the outside trying to box and counter. Silva won’t be doing that here. We’ve seen in the past that Jardine’s defense is like a sieve, particularly against the likes of Houston Alexander who dominated him in the clinch and inside. I like Silva to use his superior cardio and apply constant pressure, working inside the jab and kicks to put the “Dean of Mean” to sleep.
Silva via KTFO in the 2 nd round.
Tito Ortiz v. Lyota Machida
I’m actually nervous about this fight. Tito is by far my favorite MMA fighter, and this is a fight that will have me on pins and needles until it’s over. Machida is an underrated, technical fighter who frustrates opponents and constantly outscores them; this is why most of his wins have come by decision. He’s defeated a murderer’s row of opponents, too, including Rich Franklin, Stephan Bonnar and a bloated BJ Penn.
Ortiz, meanwhile, hasn’t fought since July of ’07 when he gassed against Rashad Evans and would have won the fight had he not grabbed the fence. After a long layoff and an appearance on “Celebrity Apprentice”, Ortiz claims to be fully healthy and ready to go. It’s also a contract fight for the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy”, and his feud with Dana White will come to full boil at UFC 84: Ill Will. I can’t help but think that Machida will grind out yet another decision here. But I’m not going to do it. I think Ortiz is in fact motivated and will provide his best performance in years. Look for him to pressure Machida the entire fight and display a vastly improved cardio. I can only hope to join Ortiz in his celebratory “grave digger” ceremony after a victory.
Ortiz via T(KO) in the 2 nd round
Wilson Gouveia v. Goran Reljic
Gouveia is on a four fight win streak in the UFC after a tough decision loss to Jardine back in ’06. Reljic, meanwhile, is a UFC newcomer who comes with five submission wins in seven victories, no defeats. For Gouveia, I think he’s okay here. He’s a jiu-jitsu practitioner and has never been submitted. If he can avoid whatever strikes Reljic throws at him, I think Gouveia should be able to secure victory here. He was impressive in his last win over Jason Lambert which was a spectacular knockout, and I think he’ll continue to prove his mettle in the UFC on Saturday.
Gouveia via Decision
Thiago Silva v. Antonio Mendes
Remember way back when Silva was supposed to fight Rashad Evans on this card? And then Evans got bumped to fill in for Mauricio Rua as the main event against Liddell at UFC 85? And then Liddell got injured and James Irvin was supposed to fight Evans even though it was no longer a main event? And then Irvin got hurt and Evans got scrapped? Remember? Doesn’t that suck for everyone involved, from Silva to Evans to the UFC and the fans. Imagine if that fight was still on this card?
Instead, we get Mendes, a Brazilian riding an 11-fight win streak and 14-2 overall record. This should be a good test for Silva, who has terrific striking ability and showed some explosive ground and pound against highly touted, and now overhyped, Houston Alexander. I personally think Silva is a BAMF and don’t think he’ll have a letdown here. This guy was probably an assassin or enforcer in a past life, or this life even, and I think he’ll put on another impressive performance. Look for an explosion early on, but Silva will prevail.
Silva via T(KO) in the 1 st round
Ivan Salaverry v. Rousimar Palhares
Palhares by submission in the 2 nd round
Rameau Sokoudjou v. Kazuhiro Nakamura
Sokoudjou via Decision
Rich Clementi v. Terry Etim
Clementi by submission in the 2 nd round
Jon Koppenhaver v. Yoshiyuki Yoshida
Yoshida via T(KO) in the 1 st round
Jason Tan v. Dong Hyun Kim
Tan by submission in the 3 rd round
Christian Wellisch v. Shane Carwin
Carwin by (T)KO in the 2 nd round
Please note that these are only my picks. Rich is too nervous about the Tito fight to write anything for this weekend’s card. But he did want me to say hello and also pass along that he’s going Penn, Wandy and Tito. Enjoy, and let me know what you think will happen with this weekend’s fights.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
This is a continuation from last week’s article where I listed the best players currently in the NBA who have never made an All- Star team. The opposite of that, you guessed it, the worst players to be named All- Stars. This was much trickier. I limited it to guys I would me more familiar with, so you’ll only see All-Stars from the 1990 season until now. I am also not arguing the fact that they had a great season (or half season) the year or years they were selected, rather its players you would not associate with being an All- Star. I don’t want to list players who had a number of great seasons, but then faded in their careers, so people more forgot they were even good (Stephon Marbury, Derrick Coleman, Mookie Blaylock, Terry Porter, Sam Cassell, Ben Wallace, Otis Thorpe, Kenny Anderson, Hershey Hawkins, and Rickey Pierce.). If injury was the main reason they didn’t make more All- Star teams (Kenyon Martin, Tom Gugliotta, Shareef Abur-Rahim, and Antonio McDyess) you won’t see them on this list either.
I didn’t want to entitle this “Worst Players to be Named All-Stars,” because the reality is these guys were/are good players, but great? Instead the purpose is to get a chuckle looking at some of the names of guys who, yes, were NBA All- Stars. Here is the “Top” 25.
25. Memhet Okur
All- Star season (2007): 17.6 pts., 7.2 rebs.
Career Averages: 13.4 pts., 7.1 rebs., 1.7 asts.
I’m a fan of Okur, and his years in Detroit where he didn’t play much don’t help his career numbers. The Jazz are known for their 2 All-Stars, not 3, or 4…
24. Andrei Kirilenko
All- Star season (2004): 16.5 pts., 8.1 rebs.
Career Averages: 12.6 pts., 5.9 rebs., 2.8 asts.
That’s right AK-47 was an All- Star back in 2004. I can’t keep it straight when he’s in Sloan’s dog house or not. How good is Kirilenko? Who knows he’s had a great season, and awful season, and some in between. (Points, rebounds, and assists nearly cut in half from 06 to 07.) He’s harder to read than some of the articles on ESPN.
23. Anthony Mason
All- Star season (2001): 16.1 pts., 9.6 rebs.
Career Averages: 10.9 pts., 8.3 rebs., 3.4 asts.
Mase had some solid seasons with the Knicks and Hornets, perhaps best known for his hair cuts. Shoulders of a linebacker with the dribbling ability of a point guard, Mason was a unique player.
22. Cedric Ceballos
All- Star season (1995): 21.7 pts., 8 rebs.
Career Averages: 14.3 pts., 5.3 rebs., 1.2 asts.
Injuries hurt Ceballos career, so I already went against my qualifications to be on this list. Ced can share this spot with McDyess, guys who had 3 very solid seasons, then because of injury look extremely average the rest of their careers.
21. Horace Grant
All- Star season (1994): 15.1 pts., 11 rebs.
Career Averages: 11.2 pts., 8.1 rebs., 2.2 asts.
Obviously Ho-Grant won 3 titles as the “rebounder” on the first trio of championships for Jordan, but don’t forget he was a big part of the Magic team with Shaq and Penny that got swept out of the Finals by Hakeem and the Rockets.
20. Charles Oakley
All- Star season (1994): 11.8 pts., 11.8 rebs.
Career Averages: 9.7 pts., 9.5 rebs., 2.5 asts.
Charles Oakley was a lot of things, but an All- Star? I would write more, but there has never been a more intimidating player in my history of watching the NBA. If there was a Bad-Ass All- Star team he’d get voted in by the fans.
19. Zydrunas Ilgauskas
All- Star seasons (2003, 2005): in ’05: 16.9 pts., 8.6 rebs.
Career Averages: 14.5 pts., 7.9 rebs., 1.8 blks.
Big Z must be good, he’s made 2 All- Star teams. I don’t see it. He, along with current teammates Wally Szczerbiak (#17) and Ben Wallace helped inspire this article.
18. Nick Van Exel
All- Star season (1998): 13.8 pts., 6.9 asts.
Career Averages: 14.4 pts., 2.9 rebs., 6.6 asts.
Nick the Quick. The guy could play, but like everyone else on this list you don’t think “All-Star” when you hear his name. He actually had better seasons than the year he was selected to the team.
17. Wally Szczerbiak
All- Star season (2002): 18.7 pts., 4.8 rebs.
Career Averages: 15 pts., 4.1 rebs., 2.5 asts.
Wally World is as one dimensional a player as there is in the game today. He had a great first 6 games against the Celtics, out playing Ray Allen, but in the end he returned to form as the Cavs bowed out of the playoffs. His 15 point per game career average is the highest on this list of surprise All- Stars.
16. Brad Miller
All- Star season (2003, 2004): in ’04: 14.1 pts., 10.3 rebs.
Career Averages: 12.1 pts., 7.8 rebs., 3 asts.
Like Big Z, Miller was an All-Star not once, but twice. He even found himself on Team USA commercials. What the hell? I don’t get it either. Averaged double digit rebounds in a season just once and never scored more than 15.6 points per game.
15. Jayson Williams
All- Star season (1998): 12.9 pts., 13.6 rebs.
Career Averages: 7.3 pts., 7.5 rebs., 0.6 blks.
Not the motorcycle or white chocolate Jayson Williams, this is the “the gun went off” Jayson Williams. Check the stats and he was a monster on the boards. After 5 struggling seasons to begin his career, he put up 10+ rebounds his final 4 years in the league. Never a great offensive threat Big Jayson Williams was still an NBA All- Star.
14. John Starks
All- Star season (1994): 19 pts., 5.9 asts.
Career Averages: 12.5 pts., 2.5 rebs., 3.6 asts
Maybe the streakiest shooter in NBA history John Starks was one of the key figures in those solid Knick teams of the 90’s. New York fans certainly have their own opinions on Starks. (2-18 shooting in Game 7 of the NBA Finals vs. the Rockets.)
13. Christian Laettner
All- Star season: (1997): 18.1 pts., 8.8 rebs.
Career Averages: 12.8 pts., 6.7 rebs., 2.6 asts.
And he was on the Dream Team. Most people think of Laettner as a failed NBA player, but he did make the ‘97 All-Star team. One of the most hated players of all time (certainly my least favorite player ever) his actual NBA legacy probably falls somewhere in the middle of perception and reality.
12. Vlade Divac
All- Star season (2001): 12 pts., 8.3 rebs.
Career Averages: 11.8 pts., 8.2 rebs., 3.1 asts.
Vlade was traded for Kobe Bryant on draft day to the Charlotte Hornets, was a smoker, and a great passing big man.
11. A.C. Green
All- Star season (1990): 12.9 pts., 8.7 rebs.
Career Averages: 9.6 pts., 7.4 rebs., 1.1 asts.
This is probably his first time… on a list like this.
10. Jamaal Magloire
All- Star season (2004): 13.6 pts., 10.3 rebs.
Career Averages: 8.6 pts., 7.2 rebs., 1 blk.
How about Magloire? Slow start, couple decent seasons, and then fades away. Sucked before the Hornets and sucked after.
9. Rik Smits
All- Star season (1998): 16.7 pts., 6.9 rebs.
Career Average: 14.8 pts., 6.1 rebs., 1.4 asts.
The Dunking Dutchman. At 7’4 he only averages over 7 rebounds for a season once, and he didn’t block shots either. His 14.8 points per game career average is second to Wally’s 15 on this list, but neither one of these guys did a whole lot else.
8. Tyrone Hill
All- Star season (1995): 13.8 pts., 10.9 rebs.
Career Averages: 9.4 pts., 8.6 rebs., 0.8 asts.
Scored in double figures 5 years of his 14 year career with a high water mark of 13.8, the year he was named an All- Star. 4 years is the longest consecutive streak he ever played with one team. Journey men seldom make All- Star teams.
7. Antonio Davis
All- Star season (2001): 13.7 pts., 10.1 rebs.
Career Averages: 10 pts., 7.5 rebs., 1 blk.
Never scored more than 14.5 in a season and only once collected 10 boards a night. A very average player with an All- Star game on his resume.
6. Dale Davis
All- Star season (2000): 10 pts., 9.9 rebs.
Career Averages: 8 pts., 7.9 rebs., 1.2 blks.
Who’s more surprising than Antonio Davis, it’s got to be Dale Davis. Since when does 10-10 send you to the All- Star game. Marcus Camby must be scratching his head right now. Dale also finished his career shooting 56% from the stripe.
5. Kevin Duckworth
All- Star season (1989, 1991): in 91 – 15.8 pts., 6.6 rebs.
Career Averages: 11.8 pts., 5.8 pts., 0.9 asts.
We’re into the “top” 5 now so let’s get some good ones. The center from the Clyde Drexler Portland Trail Blazer teams! Career high in rebounding for this 7 footer was 8. A lifetime 12-6 guy with 2 All-Star games to his credit. Weird.
4. Theo Ratliff
All- Star season (2001): 12.4 pts., 8.3 rebs., 3.7 blks.
Career Averages: 7.9 pts., 6.3 rebs., 2.6 blks.
7.9 points per game in his career, 7 teams played for. Bill Simmons has changed his named to “Theo Ratliff’s Expiring Contract.” The guy could block shots, but is that all you have to do to make an All- Star team. (Marcus Camby is completely shocked now.) Ratliff couldn’t score or rebound.
3. Dana Barros
All- Star season (1995): 20.6 pts., 7.5 asts.
Career Averages: 10.5 pts., 1.9 rebs., 3.3 asts.
His numbers were solid in ’95 when he made the All- Star team, but every other year? Nope. It’s safe to say his AS season came out of no where. He had nothing like that before or after. But he could shoot the 3 ball.
2. B.J. Armstrong
All- Star season (1994): 14.8 pts., 3.9 asts.
Career Averages: 9.8 pts., 1.8 rebs., 3.3 asts.
BEE-JAY ARM-STRONG! That’s right, the 4th option on the 1st three Jordan championship teams. Maybe Jordan and Pippen had a lot more help than we thought, Horace Grant, Bill Cartwraight, and Armstrong were all All- Star at one time in their career. The year B.J. was an AS though, Jordan was playing AA ball. Still, this one surprised me.
1. Chris Gatling
All- Star season (1997): 19 pts., 7.9 asts.
Career Averages: 10.3 pts., 5.3 rebs., 0.7 asts.
In baseball there’s Brady Anderson, in music there’s the B’52 and other one hit wonders, in the NBA there’s Chris Gatling. He put up 19 a game the year he made the All- Star team; his next best season was 13.7, finished in single digits scoring half of his career. He definitely deserves the biggest “WHO?” of all the NBA All- Stars of the 1990s. But hey, he’s made more All- Star teams than Deron Williams, Mike Bibby, Richard Jefferson, Marcus Camby, Jason Richardson, and Lamar Odom combined.
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
I’m trying to take my mind off the fact the Celtics look like a completely different team now then they did in the regular season. It’s frustrating beyond belief. They’re getting killed by Wally Szczerbiak, what’s left of Ben Wallace, and Big Z. In an attempt to make myself and friends feel better I said, well you know those guys were all All-Stars in there career. So it made me think, who are the worst NBA players to be selected to the All-Star team? Well those three would probably all start on that squad; why not compile a list of the best players not to have been an All-Star.
I kept it to active players, so you won’t see the likes of Rod Strickland, Byron Scott, Jalen Rose, Chuck Person, Wayman Tisdale, Orlando Woolridge, and Eddie Johnson, all who never had an All-Star selection to their credit on this list. Also a player must have at least 3 years in the league. It’s too hard to compare players that new to the league. Kevin Durant, Rudy Gay, and Al Horford also won’t be found on this list. Some of the players will undoubtedly be named All-Stars by the time their careers are over while others best days are behind them. With that said here are the best 15 players in the NBA who have never been an All-Star.
15. Ben Gordon
Season Highs: Pts: 21.4 Rebs: 3.1 Asts: 3.6
Gordon has played 4 seasons in the league all with the Chicago Bulls. He was named the NBA’s 6th Man of the Year in 2004-2005 as well as 1st Team All-Rookie. A great scorer, the former UConn Husky has averaged 19 points in 22 playoff games.
14. Andre Iguodala
Season Highs: Pts: 19.9 Rebs: 5.9 Asts: 5.7
Iguodala has improved his scoring in each of his 4 years in Philly, and he has played in 322 of a possible 328 regular season games. Like Gordon he was a 1st Team All-Rookie selection. I fully expect him to make an All-Star or 4 by the time his career is over.
13. Josh Smith
Season Highs: Pts: 17.2 Rebs: 8.6 Asts: 3.4 Blks: 2.9
He was at All-Star weekend back in 2005 winning the Slam Dunk Contest, but the Oak Hill product has yet to be named one of the conference’s best. His points per game have also improved in each of his first four years, and defensively he has wreaked havoc blocking shots in bunches.
12. Tyson Chandler
Season Highs: Pts: 11.8 Rebs: 12.4 Blks: 1.8
It was a slow start to the career of Tyson Chandler who is still just 25 years old. His best 2 seasons have been the last 2 in New Orleans with Chris Paul. Chandler has ranked in the top 3 in the league in rebounding the past 2 years, and is one of the reasons behind the surprise Hornets.
11. Corey Maggette
Season Highs: Pts: 22.2 Rebs: 6 Asts: 3.4
One year at Duke and one year with the Magic, Maggette has spent the past 8 years with the Clippers putting up over 20 points per game in 3 seasons. He’s been inconsistent, but with Brand out for nearly the entire year he was the go-to guy in LA this year. He’s a guy you could see being the perfect scorer off the bench for a great team, or the leading scorer on a bad team. So far in his career, Maggette has been the latter.
10. Hedo Turkoglu
Season Highs: Pts: 19.5 Rebs: 5.7 Asts: 5
This season was far and away the best put forth by Turkoglu hence he was honored with the NBA’s Most Improved Award. Good for him right? But any Most Improved “Award” is also a slap in the face. What a nice way of saying, wow you were awful the year before, we never thought you’d come up with a season like this. You got us. Well done, here take this trophy. My high school even changed the named of Most Improved Award to the “Coach’s Award” because we all knew the implications of “most improved.” We’ll have to wait and see if Turkoglu keeps it up next year. He was a guy many thought should have made this year’s All-Star team.
9. Jason Terry
Season Highs: Pts: 19.7 Rebs: 4.1 Asts: 7.4
Terry averaged just under 19 points per game in the playoffs for a Mavs team that lost to the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals. He has always been a solid scorer, holding a 15.9 per game career average after 9 seasons.
8. Stephen Jackson
Season Highs: Pts: 20.1 Rebs: 4.9 Asts: 4.1
Jackson is a NBA champion and came up with a 20-4-4 this season. He hit big shot after big shot along with Baron Davis in last season’s upset over the number 1 seed Dallas Mavericks. He’s certainly someone you’d want on your team, but to this point of his career he has yet to be an All-Star. Played for the Nets, Spurs, Hawks, and Pacers, but he’s really found a home with the Warriors. If he continues to play the way he did this year, it’ll be hard to keep him off the All-Star team in the future.
7. Andre Miller
Season Highs: Pts: 17 Rebs: 4.7 Asts: 10.9
A member of the NBA’s 1st Team All-Rookie squad back in 1999-2000 Miller has bounced around the league playing for the Cavs, Clippers, Nuggets, and 76ers. Eight of his nine seasons Miller has been top 10 in the league in assists including 01-02 where he was number 1 with 10.9 a game.
6. Jason Richardson
Season Highs: Pts: 23.2 Rebs: 6.7 Asts: 3.9
Like Josh Smith, Richardson participated in an All-Star weekend; in fact he was the Slam Dunk champion in 2002 and 2003. He joins Michael Jordan, Dominique Wilkins, and Harold Miner as the only 2-time champions of the event. I think it’s safe to say his career lies somewhere in between Jordan/ Wilkins and Miner. Only 27, but I think his best chances to be an All-Star were with the Warriors.
5. Richard Jefferson
Season Highs: Pts: 22.6 Rebs: 7.3 Asts: 4
Jefferson has played the majority of his career along side All-Stars Jason Kidd and Vince Carter, but he himself has never had that honor. He was a part of the massacre that was the 2004 Olympic Bronze Medal team, so that doesn’t help him. He’s still got plenty of good basketball left in him, and always seems to be a guy in the conversation as an All-Star replacement for an injured player, but hasn’t made that leap.
4. Mike Bibby
Season Highs: Pts: 21.1 Rebs: 4.2 Asts: 8.4
Bibby just turned 30, but has never celebrated an All-Star selection in his career. He was 1st Team All-Rookie like the majority of the players on this list, back in the 98-99 season, and he was a big part of those entertaining Sacramento Kings teams that had deep runs in the Western Conference playoffs
3. Lamar Odom
Season Highs: Pts: 17.2 Rebs: 10.6 Asts: 5.9
Part of the Shaq to Miami trade, Odom landed in LA and has put together some solid seasons including this one where he was 7th in the league in rebounding. In his more natural role as the 3rd scorer Odom has thrived, and is a huge part of the Lakers’ possible title run. 1st Team All-Rookie back in 99-00, you get the feeling with Odom that he never played to his potential and thus never made an All-Star team. Career averages of 15.6, 8.9, and 4.4 he’s always been good, but not great.
2. Al Jefferson
Season Highs: Pts: 21 Rebs: 11.1
Big Al has improved his points, rebounds, assists, and steals in each of his first four seasons. I understand he was doing it for a terrible Minnesota team, but 21-11 is nothing to sneeze at, especially when he could have been playing in the NCAA Tournament this year instead of battling the best in the west on a nightly basis. He was just 1 of 4 players to post a 20-10 this year along with All-Stars Dwight Howard, Carlos Boozer, and Antawn Jamison. I think it’s safe to say he’ll make his fair share if he stays healthy.
1. Deron Williams
Season Highs: Pts: 18.8 Rebs: 3.3 Asts: 10.5
Williams has only played 3 years in the league so despite not being an All-Star yet, I’m very confident he’ll finish his career with close to 10 selections. In his brief career he has already been named to the All-Rookie 1st Team, the All-NBA 2nd Team, and he finished 12th in the MVP vote this season. Williams ranked 2nd in the league in assists two years ago and 3rd this past season. Drawing comparisons to a better scoring version of John Stockton, I think it’s safe to say he’ll be off this list next February. He’s the second best point guard in the NBA today, and look out Chris Paul, he’s coming for the number one spot.
Monday, May 12, 2008
As for the most recent successful Marvel Comic Book movie adaptation, it was the real deal. Iron Man brought the noise, and no, that’s not the glorious surround sound from the CineMagic talking. Even with the lack of a well known super villain (Iron Monger played by Jeff Bridges, instead of a Joker, Magneto, Kingpin, Dr. Doom, Sabretooth, Juggernaut, Venom, Green Goblin, Dr. Octopus, etc.), you are still intrigued to see what Iron Man is up against. The action, fighting sequences, and special effects were top notch and extremely entertaining.
Robert Downey Jr. was brilliantly cast to play billionaire weapons manufacturer, genius, and playa Tony Stark/ Iron Man. Whether you are familiar with the comic series or not you will enjoy the job done by Downey Jr. There’s been some great acting jobs done in super hero roles; Christian Bale in Batman Begins (and The Dark Knight, which will raise the bar once again) and Hugh Jackman as Wolverine in the X-Men series are just two examples, and Downey Jr. is right there with his performance as Stark. He is a natural to play the part and he seems at ease in front of the camera.
The rest of the cast was solid as well. Downey Jr. clearly brings the level of play up from everyone around him, much like a Kevin Garnett with the Celtics. Speaking of the Celtics, when will they start to play well on the road? I mean are you kidding me with that Game 3 showing? Sorry. The supporting cast: Jeff Bridges, who will forever be known as the Dude was good as was Terrence Howard as Stark’s buddy Jim Rhodes. Howard will undoubtedly have a bigger role in the sequel where I expect him to fight side by side as War Machine. Gwyneth Paltrow plays Pepper Potts, Stark’s assistant that knows everything about him. She’s not supposed to be smoking hot, so they got that right, but her acting isn’t the best either. Most comic book movies you wouldn’t notice, but when she’s surrounded by the likes of Downey Jr., Bridges, and Howard you can tell. But she wasn’t bad enough to bring down the entire ensemble.
Bottom line, Iron Man is an absolute treat to the eyes and ears. It’s just over 2 hours long, and you’ll never once feel that the film is dragging. Lots of action mixed with humor. You don’t have to be a comic book fan to enjoy this movie, although I’m sure it helps. I give it a 9 out of 10, and can’t wait for the sequel.
Special heads up brought to you by the Sports Brief. If you have not seen the movie yet, make sure you stay through the end of the credits. You’ll be glad you did.
I hope you enjoyed the first installment of Rich Reviews. It will become a new addition to the Brief, where I can sound off on new films that I have seen. Maybe I’ll even save you 9 bucks in the process.
Friday, May 9, 2008
Despite the tremendous parody, upstart teams and early season surprises, there are a few managers around the league that are running out of excuses. With that being said, I’d like to see the following wheeled onto the block for their execution…ahem termination, excuse me.
Texas Rangers – Ron Washington
The Rangers are off to a 16-20 start and are coming off back-to-back shutout wins over the disappointing Seattle Mariners (read more below). That may have saved Ron Washington for now, who led his club to a 10-18 April, the worst in club history. Sidney Ponson and Vincente Padilla are simply overachieving and will likely plateau sometime soon, getting lit up every five days as they’re accustomed to doing in the real world.
There are some big names on offense, including Josh Hamilton who leads the league in RBI’s. David Murphy, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Milton Bradley are some other notables who should provide the Rangers with firepower every night. Btu the team is batting a combined .264, which is a solid .001 higher than last year and on pace for the 2nd lowest in the last eight years. Given that they’re 4th in the AL going into today, you can attribute that to a slow start across the league. But what’s happening on the other side of the ball is what’s keeping this team from winning more games.
The staff ERA sits at 4.80, 13th in the AL. Texas has surrendered the most hits, walks and highest BAA and has struck out the fewest number of opposing batters. Sure, you can point the blame at the Mark Connor. But let’s face it. Ron Washington keeps trotting out Jason Jennings, who is 0-5 with an 8-plus ERA. Jennings hasn’t won more than 9 games since 2004. And his career ERA sits at a healthy and robust 5.00. And why does Kevin Millwood still sit at the top of the rotation? I realize he used to be a big name, but how many times are you going to let the guy stay in the game and get abused as he tires? His number suck from the 6th inning on, so throw him five then hand it over to the bullpen. I don’t care if he’s throwing a no-hitter. You leave him in there, he’ll let it get away.
I will say that the bullpen, aside from the excessive use of Joaquin Benoit, has been managed fairly well. But here’s what I propose is done with the Rangers:
One night usher everyone in the organization, from the starting lineup to the interns that makes faxes in a backroom, into the ballpark. Then blow the park into the high heavens and the organization can just start from scratch. As Rich suggested, you could have Kinsler, Young, Hamilton and Murphy wait outside the stadium and wait, perhaps even lighting the fuse.
While that most likely won’t happen, Washington’s days in Texas should be monitored closely. Next time the Rangers drop 10 in a row, send him packing and don’t ever let him manage another team again. I wouldn’t want this guy coaching my brother’s little league team.
Seattle Mariners – John McLaren
Dude, what are you doing? I realize Mike Hargrove bolted mid-season last year and left everyone between a rock and a hard place, but the grace period has expired. And in my opinion, your time in Seattle has expired, as well. You traded for Erik Bedard in the offseason to solidify a starting rotation that was already littered with established major league pitching. King Felix, Carlos Silva, Miguel Batista and Jarrod Washburn are all capable of winning double digit games. Bedard and Felix should each win at least 15. You have JJ Putz as your closer. And while the rest of your bullpen may not be worth noting, it’s certainly not the worst thing I’ve ever seen.
Offensively, this team has more ability than people give credit for. Ichiro is the best leadoff hitter in the game. Raul Ibanez is one of the most underrated players in the game. Adrian Beltre and Richie Sexson are 30-40 homer guys despite their lack of ability to hit for average and avoid only playing well in contract years. Jose Vidro needs to play the Placido Polanco card and take some time off before coming back. And instead of having Jeff Clement go 2 for 22 in May, maybe you should look elsewhere for an alternative in your lineup.
I’m also bothered by the fact that Putz has only thrown four times since his return on April 22. I realize the save situations haven’t been in abundance, but the guy needs to work. That may be why he blew a save on May 1 and will probably blow his next save opportunity, as well.
There’s too much talent on this team for it to be 14-22 and lose three straight to the Rangers while being shutout two days in a row. When you haven’t scored for 22 straight innings, maybe you should try something different. Bunting, stealing, hit and run, things like that in hopes of creating opportunities rather than saying a prayer and waiting for them to be delivered.
Sorry, John, but it’s just not working out.
San Diego Padres – Bud Black
Let’s think about this. You have Cy Young winner Jake Peavy, 6-foot-12 Chris Young, future HOF’s Greg Maddux and Trevor Hoffman, a solid bullpen and you’re staff ERA is ranked 8th in the NL? Combine that with the worst offense in the league and you have problems. The pitching has been the biggest issue because the offense was the 2nd worst in the NL last year and the team still won 89 games. But nonetheless, you’d think adjustments would be made in your teams approach to find ways to score runs.
Bud Black has yet to do that, and he’s paying a dear price. The team is 12-23 and going to have a hard time bouncing back with Arizona playing so well and Joe Torre keeping the Dodgers in the mix. The team is 2-8 in its last ten games, is 6-9 at home and is 11 games back from Arizona. Wowzer. Good luck with alllll that.
My biggest beef with Black is his management of Trevor Hoffman. The HOF closer has thrown just three times in the last 18 games. While his 6-plus ERA is tough to fathom, you can’t help but think that his inactivity isn’t helping to bring that down and get him into a rhythm. Take, for example, yesterday’s one-run loss to the Braves. A tie game in the 9th and a perfect opportunity for Hoffman to come in and hold the fort while also getting some much needed work in. Instead they cough up a run and another potential win.
Like the Mariners, there’s too much talent to be falling behind so far, so early. Let’s shake up the clubhouse and get a new guy in there to provide a resurgence of sorts.
Others to monitor closely…
New York Mets – Willie Randolph
The injury to Pedro and acquisition of Johan Santana will both keep him on ice for now, believe it or not. The Pedro injury is an excuse and Santana is the best left-hander in the game, so that should pile some wins up nicely. But after last September’s collapse, Randolph better keep this train on the tracks. Otherwise, the leash will get shorter and shorter until the blade finally drops.
Toronto – John Gibbons
This pitching staff is awesome, led by Roy Halladay who at times seems like a comic book superhero. Four consecutive complete games and three losses to show for it. Super. This offense stinks, and with guys like Alex Rios, Vernon Wells, Scott Rolen and Matt Stairs, you’d think they’d do more. David Eckstein has been a bust at leadoff which hasn’t helped, but this a team that is picked to break through the AL East barrier every year, and fails to do so. Whether Gibbons goes or not, J.P. Riccardi better watch his back, too.
Detroit Tigers – Jim Leyland
The bullpen has been ravaged by injuries and the starting pitching has been atrocious. A lot of that is not Leyland’s fault, but he can’t continue to let the Tigers lose games. With the 2nd highest payroll and a 15-21 record, the only thing saving his job is a high powered offense and a mediocre division that lands his team only 3.5 games back. For starters, he might want to tell Miguel Cabrera to stop playing like a prima donna. According to Jayson Stark on ESPN.com, a scout had Cabrera clocking in at over five seconds down the first base line. Most guys can jog down the line that fast, which is exactly what Cabrera is doing.
Friday, May 2, 2008
We flipped a coin for the first pick, and then it went to the next two, next two, and so on. End result is an 8 man street ball squad (not street ball rules), also tacked on a coach to lead these dynamic players. Here is how the draft went with a brief reaction after each selection by the guy who made it.
Rich Keefe won the toss and deferred.
Besse 1st (1) pick: Chris Paul
Sure, I probably should have taken Kobe or Lebron here, but I’m on the Chris Paul bandwagon and at an inner city hoop game, guys like this carve up the court. He has surpassed Steve Nash as the best point guard in the game. A guy like this won’t just make no look, behind-the-back, highlight reel passes, but he has the ability to score as well as any other player on the court. In my eyes, the primary ball handler is a key position for a game at Rucker Park, so I went ahead and took the best one there is.
Keefe 2nd (1) pick: Kobe Bryant
Keefe 3rd (2) pick: LeBron James
Really thought I would end up with Kobe or LeBron, not both. I now have 2 guys who can take over a game and score at will. It’s going to be a physical game, and LeBron certainly has what it takes. These two guys worked very well together on Team USA in the qualifier, and should win himself a Gold Medal this summer. LeBron has lived up to all the hype he got coming out of high school. He has a chance to one day be the greatest player of all time. And he falls to 3? What a game.
Besse 4th (2) pick: Allen Iverson
I wasn’t surprised at all that Rich took both Kobe and Lebron. Having taken the two best scorers in the game, I needed a scorer of my own. There’s plenty in the league, but only one truly belongs at Rucker Park. A.I. looks the part, plays the part and he is the part, as like Kobe, he’s actually played at Rucker Park before. And Iverson plays every game like he’s in Rucker Park, sacrificing his body to create lanes, open shots and scoring opportunities across the floor. And his experience in a game like this with his scoring ability will be essential.
Besse 5th (3) pick: Amare Stoudemire
I wanted a big man that can score here. I debated Dwight Howard and almost pulled the trigger on it, especially after seeing these 20/20 games he’s posting in the post-season. But I didn’t want his rebounding ability to be the end all in making this pick, so I went with another bad-ass in Stoudemaire. KG and Tim Duncan were other options, but I didn’t like KG’s offense in a game like this, and Duncan is great, but too soft.
Amare gives me good size down low and was a force at C before Shaq allowed him to move back to his natural PF position. Based on my first two picks, I’m starting a trend of playing small, so logic tells me a natural C won’t work here. And I like his attitude and energy for this.
Keefe 6th (3) pick: Kevin Garnett
Besse is on his way to recreating the Western Conference All-Star team. His guards are good, but small. I have my two wings so I need to focus on bruisers up front and a point to match Chris Paul. If my life is truly on the line here, I want a guy that I can count on to play like his life is also on the line. I’ll go with KG. Intense is too light a word for Garnett, maybe “KG” should be a new entry in the dictionary. This guy won’t let me down.
Keefe 7th (4) pick: Dwight Howard
Should I go point guard here? Maybe I should have, but with Dwight Howard sitting here with all the muscle can’t pass him up. A windy day outside probably won’t effect his two handed thunder dunks he’s put on opposing big men all season. He and KG down low will be a perfect compliment. Some say all he does right now is dunk and rebound. Well with Kobe, LeBron, and KG, all I want him to do is dunk and rebound.
Besse 8th (4) pick: Paul Pierce
Pierce was stabbed 11 times in the face, neck and back at a late night dance club back in 2000. He had surgery to repair his lungs as a result of the attack. The following season he played all 82 games and averaged 25.3 points per game. Excuse me?
This is the same guy who earned the moniker “The Truth” from Shaquille O’Neal in 2001 and was fined last week for flashing a gang symbol. As far as I’m concerned, these are HOF credential at Rucker Park. His numbers took a dive this year, but so did everyone else’s on the Celtics’ 66-win squad. Like Iverson, he can find ways to create and score at will; he just does it with a 6’7 frame. We’ve seen solid defense this year, as well, and with his toughness I like the pick here.
Besse 9th (5) pick: Steve Nash
Rich has gone all big so far and has yet to take a ball handler. So instead of taking a guy like Duncan to add some size, I took the second best point guard off the board. I was sure he’d have to take Jailhouse Williams which was fine by me. The reason I don’t mind this pick is that we can run different sets with Paul and Nash up top. This will force us to play small, but with the top two passers in the league, scoring opportunities will be aplenty in this one. And let’s not forget that Nash can nail the 3, or 2 in this case. Either way, the last two years he’s had the second highest percentage from beyond the arc (behind Jason Kapono) and in the two previous years before that he was ranked sixth. Not too shabby. As far as his street cred? Reference last year’s playoff series against the Spurs. The guy’s a gamer.
Keefe 10th (5) pick: Deron “Jailhouse” Williams
Two solid picks back-to-back by Besse right there. Really wanted Pierce on my team, being a fan of the Celtics and great players, but with Kobe and LeBron he wasn’t a necessity. I’m glad Jailhouse slipped to me at 10. (Note: while playing at Illinois, Deron Williams was given the nickname by myself and college roommates because of his ridiculous “Jailhouse” tattoos. We were all a fan as the Illini may or may not have won us all some money that season. I have been a huge fan ever since.) This guy is right behind CP3 for best point guard in the game right now, and in Rucker Park, he certainly looks the part.
Keefe 11th (6) pick: Tim Duncan
I know the Big Fundamental doesn’t exactly scream outdoor, physical street ball. Well his 4 championship rings, great defensive, and versatile offensive game make him a must. In fact he will be coming off the bench for my team with KG and Howard ahead of him, but the winning experience will go a long way. He’s a top 5 power forward in the history of the NBA, so I can’t keep him off the board any longer. Welcome aboard Timmy.
Besse 12th (6) pick: Shaquille O’Neal
Keefe selected Duncan which I didn’t mind at all. To counter, I came back with Neon Bodeaux. So he’s not as good as the Neon we saw in Blue Chips, but he’s a big force down low and is a good matchup against any big man in a game like this. I’m not looking for him to score – I have plenty of guys that can do that already. But when in the game, he can move Amare back to PF like he did for the Suns and give us more size down low. It should clog the lane for Keefe’s team, and after seeing him flatten Tony Parker in Game 2, what’s not to love? The opposing team may be bigger overall, but if we defend on the perimeter they’ll have to come inside and meet Diesel, who should feel right at home on the court at Rucker Park.
Besse 13th (7) pick: Gilbert Arenas
I won’t lie, I almost picked him about eight picks ago. Talk about swagger, confidence and a guy that’s destined to play in a game like this. He’ll be a great scoring threat shooting from the outside and with slashers like A.I. and Pierce to go with Nash and Paul, plenty will be done to free up Arenas on the outside to shoot. And he’ll talk plenty, too, adding plenty of character and dialogue that is so commonplace at games like this. I refer back to the YouTube video of Arenas taking on DeShawn Stevenson in a 3-point contest. If you haven’t seen it, check it out: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bn6O42a5vl8
Keefe 14th (7) pick: Caron Butler
After taking Duncan with my last pick I needed some more street cred, and round out my bench. I’ll go with Tuff Juice. This guy is a force. Does everything on the court for yeah and has been a man since his days at UConn. With Arenas out most of the year and for the rest of the playoffs (we’re saying he’s healthy for this game, hence Besse just taking him), Butler has been the reason why they’re not only in the playoffs, but playing a game 6 tonight against LeBron. He’ll be a valuable guy off the bench for me.
Keefe 15th (8) pick: Carmelo Anthony
Stop snitchin’. Teaming Melo with LeBron can’t miss. Hasn’t been a winner in the NBA’s playoffs, but he’s not the main man on this team. In fact, he’s the 8th man. But with a game like his there’s room for him on my team. He can score a number of different ways and is strong enough to play in a physical game that this will undoubtedly be. Being my final pick he was up against the likes of Baron Davis, Ron Artest, Stephen Jackson, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, Chauncey Billups, Marcus Camby, T-Mac, and Shawn Marion.
Besse 16th (8) pick: Rasheed Wallace
Rasheed reminds me of Raymond from White Men Can’t Jump; the dude that sniffed out Sid and Billy, prompting him to grab his piece from the car. He also tried to rob the convenience store around the corner, but let’s not concern ourselves with that. It’s all I think of when I look at Sheed, though. He’ll come packin’ heat, no doubt about it. This guy is bad ass, and in a street game, he’s a no-doubter in my book. Size, toughness and the dude can play. I thought about Ron Artest here for his defense and BAM (bad ass mentality), but you gotta be able to score in this game, so we’ll let Ron call next.
Besse: Coach – Jeff van Gundy
What more can you say about a guy who got dragged across the floor breaking up a fight between Alonzo Mourning and Larry Johnson in ’98? Well, you can also say that he got rocked by his own player, Marcus Camby, trying to break up another fight in ’01. That one left his bloodied and battered. That’s a guy I’d wanna play for, and a guy I want coaching my team at Rucker Park.
Keefe: Coach – Stan van Gundy
My sources got win that Jeff van Gundy was coming out of the booth to coach Besse’s squad. So I thought we’d play mind games with him a bit and take Magic coach Stan Van. This is by no means saying he is the best coach in basketball, rather just some gamesmanship.
Besse: There’s no question that with both King James and Lord of the Rings, Rich probably takes this thing in an NBA. But this is at Rucker Park, not the Quicken Loans Arena. I have the two best guards in the game and a roster of scorers whose personalities and playing style blend nicely with Rucker Park. Looking at my lineup, I have more guys that play with toughness and have the ability to find and create scoring opportunities. We’re certainly smaller in size, but we can hit the 2 from the outside and I picked up guys like Shaq and Sheed that will be bangers down low. We’ll play a lot like the Rangers did in Game 4 against the Penguins, playing physical and going after his key players, ala smashing Sidney Crosby against the boards over and over again. I like our mix of skill inside and outside, and with Paul and Nash running the show, look for some serious street ball highlights en route to victory.
Keefe: Kobe and LeBron. Should I go on? I don’t care if this game is in the TD Banknorth Garden, my back yard, the moon (which would be the first time anyone has been there, but that’s a whole other thing), or Rucker park. I have the 2 best basketball players in the world on my team. Not to mention KG and Howard up front with Deron Williams at the point. Yes CP3 is better, but not enough to overtake this stacked lineup. Not to mention Duncan, Butler, and Melo coming off the bench. I like my team very, very much.
Now what do you think? Decide who’s team would win a game where the lives of the people who selected the teams are on the line. We’ll tally up the votes and see who the winner is. Remember this game is being played at Rucker Park, there are whistles, but they are few and far between. Leave a comment and let us know.
Team Besse or Team Keefe?