Sunday, October 31, 2010
This World Series game had a special feel to it. First of all the winner of this game would control the series. If the San Francisco Giants win they are up 3-1 with Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain going in the next two days. While if the Texas Rangers win they'll steal back momentum, even the series at 2-2 then have Cliff Lee go in game five. This game was indeed a special feel to it.
Another reason this game had a special feel to it was before the game. Two former United States presidents took the pitchers mound to throw out the first pitch. The 41st US president George Herbert Walker Bush(1989-1992) who played in two college world series for Yale in 1947 and 1948 was there along with his son. George Walker Bush(2001-2008) the 43rd president in US history was also owner of the Texas Rangers in the early 1990's. In fact George W. Bush was the only owner to vote against the Wild Card. His first pitch in game three of the 2001 World Series was probably the highlight of his presidency given the circumstances. Well George W. Bush threw out the first pitch as his dad watched(Who is a huge Astros fan by the way). The crowd cheered and that is when everyone realized this is more than just a normal baseball game.
The problem is somebody forgot to tell rookie 21 year old Madison Bumgarner. Bumgarner of the Giants has had a good solid postseason facing a lineup that is ready to bust out who chased another lefty starter the day before. The Rangers had Tommy Hunter who was not good in his first two postseason starts. At the end of the day we saw yet another low scoring game which featured a shutout.
Rookie Bumgarner shuts out Rangers 4-0; take series lead 3-1
The Texas Rangers in 81 home games in the regular season and then an additional six playoff games were shutout a grand total of one time the entire year. So the odds of them getting shutout when facing a rookie number four starter were probably a thousand to one if not higher. Well Madison Bumgarner pitching in the World Series on the road after two former presidents were throwing out the first pitch seemed unfazed. In fact he was quite dominant. He shut the Rangers out in eight innings and puts the Giants one win away from their first ever World Series title since moving to San Francisco over 50 years ago.
The Giants offense despite on paper not looking to be very good finds a way to get the job done. In the third inning Aubrey Huff hit a two-run homerun to put the Giants on the board 2-0. Huff who played in over a thousand games in his career before finally reaching the playoffs this season had to feel good on that blast. The Rangers starter Tommy Hunter could only last 4 innings but allowed just those two runs.
In the seventh inning the Giants scored again when leadoff hitter Andres Torres who slumped in September but scored earlier in the game on Huff's homerun delivered a big hit. Torres hit the ball to deep right as the ball kept traveling and the ball hit the wall and didn't go over which allowed Edgar Renteria to score from first base to extend the lead to 3-0. In the bottom half of the inning offered the only drama for the Rangers. With Hamilton on at first base who reached on an error. Vladmir Guerrero came to the plate and on a full count Bumgarner threw a change up to strike Guerrero out for the third time. He then allowed a base hit to Nelson Cruz bringing in the potential tieing run in Ian Kinsler. Bochy gambled and left Bumgarner in there and Kinsler line out to left field. That would be the only time all game Texas would have a runner on second base.
In the top of the eighth Buster Posey would hit a homerun that would appear to be an easy out only the ball kept traveling to centerfield and was gone. That was Posey first career postseason homerun to give the Giants a commanding 4-0 lead. Bumgarner would again continue to cruise through the eighth. Bumgarner final line was 8 innings, 3 hits, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts. In the ninth inning closer Brian Wilson who hasn't had a save opportunity this series retired the Rangers in order and struck out two batters.
The Giants the team of misfits as they call themselves are just one out away from a World Series championship. In August they trailed the San Diego Padres by six games, then punched their postseason ticket on the very last day of the season. After the Giants blew game two in the NLDS at home many thought the Braves would eliminate them, nobody gave them a chance to beat the Phillies and in this series nobody thought they could contain the bats of Texas.
This pitching staff is the best staff we have seen the 90's Atlanta Braves which featured Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and some years Steve Avery, Pete Smith, Kevin Millwood, and Denny Neagle. The Giants top four starters are all under the age of 28 so expect this team to last a while. They have a good young bat who you'll see in All-Star games for years to come in Buster Posey who became the first catcher to catch a shutout and hit a home run in the World Series since 1983. Madison Bumgarner who was just their fourth starter is only 21. He became the third youngest pitcher to win a World Series game.
Now the Giants have been here before back in 2002 they were up 3-2 and winning that final game is always the toughest. It is not out of the question with Cliff Lee and C.J.Wilson pitching that the Rangers can still force a game seven. The Giants will do everything they can to avoid that since Sanchez has struggled this postseason. The Giants will turn the ball to their ace Tim Lincecum who failed to win the clinching game in the NLCS has a chance to have the city of San Francisco go crazy. The Giants have a chance to go crazy tomorrow with a victory. The Rangers will have their last chance to see their team play for the 2010 season. This could also be the last time they ever see Cliff Lee pitch for their team again.
The Seattle Seahawks(4-3) continued their road problems as they were crushed by former AFC West rival Oakland Raiders(4-4) 33-3. In a game that saw the Seahawks offense amount just 162 yards of offense, including a pathetic 47 yards rushing most of which came at the end of the game. The Seahawks were sacked eight times on the day and couldn't sustain any drives. The Seahawks defense finally worn down from being on the field all day gave up 20 points in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders led after the first quarter 3-0. The Seahawks offense had negative 14 yards offense in the first quarter and went three and out four times. Midway through the second quarter the Raiders offense who was getting stuffed themselves started to turn the game around. Facing a third and nine from the Seahawks 38 the Raiders called a draw play since Seattle on third and longs likes to play nickel and dime coverages and blitz. Michael Bush ran for eight yards setting up a fourth and one. Instead of kicking the field goal head coach Tom Cable elected to go for it. One fourth and one the Raiders threw the ball to fullback Marcel Reece who played wide receiver at the University of Washington while in college. Reece split out as a receiver and Jason Campbell split two Seahawk defenders somehow as they collided with each other. Reece then ran 30 yards for the touchdown to give the Raiders a 10-0 halftime lead. Seattle had just 46 yards of offense reminding fans of the Washington Huskies yesterday or Washington State Cougars depending who you cheer for.
With the Seahawks trailing 13-0 they squandered their last chance to make this a game. Facing a third and eight from the 10 yard line Matt Hasselbeck hit Mike Williams who didn't have a reception at the time right in the numbers for an easy touchdown. Instead Williams dropped the pass and the Seahawks had to settle for a field goal. Kicker Olindo Mare hadn't missed a kick in 28 tries but having missed earlier he missed another kick from 31 yards out. Instead of cutting the game to 13-7 in two plays Seattle had nothing. The Raiders would take over.
In the fourth quarter the Seahawks defense was tired and already without Brandon Membane, defensive end and run stuffer Red Bryant was hurt. For the first time all year the Seahawks got destroyed against the run. The Raiders erupted for 20 points in the fourth quarter. After leading 16-0 Jason Campbell hit top 10 pick from the 2009 NFL draft Darrius Heyward-Bey for a 69 yard touchdown pass. Michael Bush added the final touchdown with a four yard rushing score to give the Raiders a crushing 33-3 win over the Seahawks.
The Raiders dominated this game sacking Matt Hasselbeck eight times. Hasselbeck was 13 of 32 for 160 yards, no touchdowns and an interception that hit Deon Butler in the numbers and popped up in the air. His opponent Jason Campbell was 15 of 27 for 310 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 120.9.
The Seahawks couldn't run the ball starting running back Marshawn Lynch was held to just seven yards rushing on nine carries, Justin Forsett wasn't much beter as he had 11 yards on just five carries. The Raiders pounded the ball on the Seahawks with Darren McFadden ran the ball 21 times for 111 yards while Michael Bush had 51 yards on nine carries. All told the Raiders out gained the Seahawks on the ground 239 to 47. The Seahawks were destroyed on the line of trenches.
All in all, the Seahawks must improve on the road if they wish to win the division and win a playoff game. The Seahawks look great at home as they are 3-0 but on the road they are just 1-3 now. The Seahawks offensive line has to get their act together. They have still yet to produce a 100 yard rusher this season. The Seahawks next week face the best defensive line they'll see all year long. The Seahawks must find a way to protect the quarterback better or next week will be a long day.
- The Seahawks need #6 pick overall Russel Okung badly. Tyler Polumbus simply isn't getting the job done as Hasselbeck had no time to throw the ball. When Hasselbeck did finally get a pass off it was often the receivers were dropping the passes. Only one time a receiver made a play and Golden Tate hurt his ankle on the play. The defense line can't sustain injuries like that. Both sides of the war of the trenches were dominated by the Raiders.
- Leon Washington was about the only bright spot on the game. Washington led the team in rushing with 29 yards on just five carries. He also had 114 kickoff return yards(28.5) and 81 punt return yards(27.0). He came to play unfortunetly nobody else did.
- The Seahawks defense allowed several big plays. They allowed in total eight plays of 20 yards or more. Seven plays of 30 yards or more and four plays of 40 yards or more. The Seahawks allowed a 30 yard reverse to Heyward-Bey, 30 yard touchdown pass to ex Husky Reece, McFadden busted a 49 yard run, Reece caught a 51 yard pass, Bush caught a ball that touched five different players then scampered for 55 yards, McFadden added a 20 yard run, Heyward-Bey caught a 69 yard touchdown pass then Reece again had a 31 yard run.
- The Seahawks were destroyed by Marcel Reece the former Husky dissapointment. Reece had two carries for 32 yards and three receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. If only Willingham could have gotton this much production out of him he might still have a job.
- Mike Williams who had 21 receptions the last two games had just one reception. Often times he was standing on the sidelines as he appeared he didn't want to play. That is what separates true #1 receivers from pretenders. I thought Williams got over that but being lazy is in his nature and he didn't want to be at the game. You would think playing a team who left him unemployed for three years he would be motivated but the exact opposite happened.
When you add it all up the teams in Washington this weekend lost 116-3. So if you are a fan of the teams in this state Halloween truly was a scary weekend for you. The Seahawks are better than this though as they were injured all week long. I'm confident we'll see a different team next week as this team is an entirely different team at Qwest Field compared to the road. This isn't just a Pete Carroll thing either they happened under Mike Holmgren. I haven't lost confidence in Carroll he is doing a great job with the Seahawks and still has the team in first place for now.
The San Francisco Giants are feeling pretty mighty after scoring 19 runs on the Texas Rangers go on the road trip to Texas with a 2-0 series lead. The Rangers will be hosting their first ever World Series game. This is a huge game for obvious reasons. If the Giants win the Series is pretty much over while if the Rangers win there is a Series again. There was some noticable faces in the stands. As you saw in my picture I uploaded former United States president George W.Bush was at the game. Team president Nolan Ryan threw out the first pitch.
The Rangers are hoping the shift to an american league ball park can change the series. The Rangers are hoping to get their offense going after being shut out in game two. The Giants will be pitching struggling pitcher Jonathan Sanchez while Texas will be pitching Colby Lewis who defeated the Yankees twice. One team got a bit of offense early and then hung on for the victory.
Colby Lewis shuts down Giants in 4-2 victory
The Rangers needed some pitching in game three to stop the Giants sudden offensive explosion. Colby Lewis who was pitching in Japan the last two seasons has now won his last three postseason starts. Lewis had shut down the Giants for much of the evening. He also got some early support early on from the home run ball. The Rangers who didn't hit a single home run in the first two games in San Francisco finally busted out with some offense.
The Rangers got on the board early with two outs in the second inning. Ron Washington going against the manager odds started lefty Mitch Moreland against lefty Jonathan Sanchez. Moreland responded with a three run home run to get the crowd fired up and give the Rangers a 3-0 lead. Their biggest lead of the series.
The home runs kept coming out for the Rangers. When ALCS MVP Josh Hamilton belted a two out home run in the fifth to give the Rangers a commanding 4-0 lead. The Rangers were finally getting some pitching and giving the Giants a taste of their own medicine with the two out runs. They also chased Giants starter Sanchez who pitched just 4.2 innings giving up 4 runs. The Giants have scored 13 runs in the first two games with two outs. The Rangers were led by Colby Lewis who was shutting down the mighty Giants hitters.
The Giants offense mainly the top of the order were shut down. The Giants offense was held to just five hits and Pat Burrell continueing his awful World Series struck out four times and has struck out eight times in nine at bats this series. Coly Lewis had them shut out through six innings.
The Giants finally got some offense when NLCS MVP Cody Ross went deep in the seventh then in the eighth leadoff hitter Andres Torres hit a home run off Lewis to cut the lead to 4-2. All of a sudden the crowd was getting scared as the game was slipping away from the Rangers. Colby Lewis day was over but not after receiving a standing ovation from the crowd. Lewis like he did against the Yankees pitched deep into the game and shut down his opponent. Lewis pitched 7.2 innings allowing 5 hits, 2 runs, 2 walks and 6 strikeouts.
The Rangers bullpen finally got the job done retiring all four hitters they faced. Closer Neftali Feliz pitched a perfect ninth including two strikeouts to save the first World Series win in franchise history. In front of the former president and all-time strikeout king the Rangers have made this a series again.
I still think the Giants are in great shape. If a team is decent at all they always win game three at home when down 2-0. Now my favorite game in the series is always game four. If the Giants win they are up 3-1 with their three aces left in the series, while if the Rangers win it's 2-2 and Cliff Lee pitching at home in game five. The Rangers offense is still struggling they got all four runs off of home runs with two outs. That is why baseball is great because it is so unpredictable. The Rangers won this game with their 9th hitter hitting a three run bomb and a pitcher who was pitching in the Japan Leagues the past two seasons shutting down the Giants.
Saturday, October 30, 2010
When you are attending a game you have your gameday routine whatever it might be. Well for me on the ride up it is listening to the pregame show talking to my dad about what my team needs to do to get the win. We talk about how our team must catch some breaks and in the case of this Stanford game hope for a close game. Then a big fat smack to my face happens and that smack was delivered by reality. Well that is how it must have felt for the Washington Huskies(3-5,2-3) especially the four freshman who started on each side of the lines when the #13 Stanford Cardinal(7-1,4-0) not only destroyed the Huskies but punched them in the mouth.
This was a good ole fassion butt kicking delievered by the Stanford Cardinal. Sometimes on the road a ranked team will let a team hang even if it's for just the first quarter but Stanford didn't even do that today. After the Huskies stalled on their first possesion after calling a third and six draw play which of course was stuffed. The Huskies had pinned the Cardinal on their own 14 yard line.
That was the last time the Huskies had any chance of winning the game. Stanford came out passing and with future first round pick Andrew Luck that isn't a bad idea. Luck completed his first two passes for 27 yards. After Luck hit an eight yard pass to set up a third and two Luck kept the ball on a bootleg and ran for a 51 yard touchdown untouched giving Stanford a 7-0 lead. Stanford would score another touchdown when Stepfan Taylor would run it in untouched from two yards out. The line of scrimmage was dominated by Stanford as the Cardinals runners would go six to eight yards without being touched, Luck would be hit just once all game long. While the Cardinal were putting pressure on Locker and stuffing Chris Polk while blitzing the right side of the offensive line taking advantage of the Huskies starting two true freshman on the offensive line.
Stanford after leading 14-0 and Washington amounting to nothing on offense Stanford scored another touchdown. Taylor added another three yard touchdown run giving the Cardinal a 21-0 lead. Then Stanford scored another touchdown when Tyler Gaffney added a three yard touchdown run. All said and done Stanford led 28-0 at halftime. The crowd was booing and freezing cold from the constant down pour of the rain. Many fans hit the beer line at the zone including myself because the first half was just so horrific. The Cardinal had outgained the Huskies 318-46 in yards.
Stanford dominated a Washington Husky team that appeared to be playing like they wanted to be somewhere else. The Huskies for the second straight week showed no life on either side of the ball. If someone took away the jersey numbers and names I couldn't tell the difference between if this was 2010 or any year from 2004-2008. This first half was like a Tyrone Willingham performance which unfortunetly has happened before this game.
Stanford finally punted for the first time in the second half. For two consecutive weeks the defense didn't force the other team to punt in the first half. Stanford after a Locker interception settled for a field goal giving them a 31-0 lead. Then to end the quarter Andrew Luck would throw a touchdown to Zach Ertz from three yards out to give the Cardinals a commanding 38-0 lead. At the end of the third quarter the Cardinal had outgained the Huskies 410-65 leaving little doubt as to how far these programs are. The Cardinal would add a final field goal and win the game 41-0 outgaining the Huskies 471-107.
This was the Huskies first shutout loss at Husky Stadium since November of 1976 when they lost to Cal 7-0. That was Don James second season as head coach much like this is Steve Sarkisian's second season. The quarterback in that game was Pro Football Hall of Famer Warren Moon so this can happen to anyone. As Steve Sarkisian told media members in his post game news conference "We've hit rock bottom". I thought the Willingham days and the 0-12 days were behind this program. This was a hard dose of reality that has hit this program.
Last season the team rebounded from a disasterous 0-12 season that saw Tyrone Willingham fired. Steve Sarkisian was brought in and the team went 5-7 and lost four games by less than eight points. The team battled hard and never quit while changing the culture of Husky football. Then this year came around and there was high hopes probably unrealistic. The facts are this Husky team who Sarkisian guaranteed would go undefeated at home has now dropped to 2-3 at home. This year at home the Huskies have been outscored 175-111 this year at home. Not only did the Huskies not go undefeated but they have been ran out of the stadium in their home stadium twice this year.
All in all, you can't win with freshman. The Huskies going into this game I mentioned how Collin Porter and Erik Kohler are what's wrong with this team. Not that those two are bad players or that it's their fault. The fact that they were playing on Friday night lights just last year and now starting in the Pac-10 over seniors like Cody Habban and Greg Christine shows how terrible the Huskies are in the trenches. In a good program those guys would be redshirting. Had Willingham kept the home town guys like Stephen Schilling who is a captain at Michigan and David DeCastro of Stanford who is their top lineman the Huskies would be a real bowl contender. Until the Huskies get better in the trenches expect plenty of cold bowl less winters to come.
- Jake Locker is showing why Chris Polk would be an idiot to come back. Locker had he left last season could have been the top pick overall or at the least be a top 10 pick. Now he is seeing his stock falling. John Clayton thinks going into this game Locker will be a second or third round pick. Mel Kiper Jr. going into the week said Locker is a mid first round pick who reminds me of NFL draft bust Kyle Boller of California. Everyone forgave Jake after his stink bomb against Nebraska but will they after another stink bomb? Locker was 7 for 14 passing for just 64 yards passing and two interceptions. His backup Keith Price was two for three for 24 yards passing. His counterpart Andrew Luck who after seeing Locker this year will leave early you would think was 19 of 26 passing for 192 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He would also run for 92 yards on five carries with a touchdown.
- The running game was awful. The play selection on the runs were even worse. First of all get rid of the Wild Cat out of the playbook. The Huskies have the perfect "wild cat" quarterback so it's stupid to have Callier or Polk line up as quarterback in shotgun. You don't see the Eagles taking Vick out to do Wild Cat plays. Now to the rushing stats which Chris Polk was held to a career low 17 yards on 13 carries, Locker had just one yard on eight carries and Jesse Callier had one yard on four carries. Sarkisian must trust his senior quarterback Locker and not call draw plays on third and six when the ball was at midfield. The offensive line has been horrible this year but it seems like despite everyone back from last season that they have gotton worse. The good news is going forward Porter and Kohler are freshman and Drew Schaeffer is just a sophomore.
- As you saw in my post earlier in the week this was the 10th year anniversary of Curtis Williams getting injured which led to his death. The Huskies happen to be playing the team who he was injured against the Stanford Cardinal. In a sense of irony it was down pouring today and the only difference was the two teams record were switched. The Huskies back then were 6-1 heading into the game like Stanford was today and stanford was 3-4 heading into the game much like Washington was today. You would have never known about Curtis at the game though. Not one single thing was mentioned. That is the problem when you bring in outside guys sometimes people forget about our past. Sometimes people forget we are purple and gold and never wear white pants. Ultimately it was a bad move to not even mention anything about Curtis Williams. Well Curtis I'll mention you RIP C-Dub 25.
- Mason Foster is being wasted much like his whole career. Everyone will talk about how sad it is that Jake Locker was wasted but Locker also at times holds the team back. Foster had a career high 18 tackles today, 12 were solo. He has been a tackling monster this year like he has his whole Husky career. Foster will be playing on many Sundays for years to come.
- The defense has been awful after making such strides has resorted back to the Willingham like defenses. The Huskies have allowed 273 points this year for an average of 34.1 PPG. Last year the defense showed heart and would bend but not break. I understand losing two players to the NFL draft hurts you but nothing against them but if your defense can't replace two third round picks then your program is in shambles which the Huskies program is. The Huskies over the years have been awful on defense. Under Don James in his 18 years of coaching his defenses allowed over 20.0 PPG just four times, while since his retirement the Huskies have allowed under 20.0 PPG just once and that was in 1993 the year he resigned.
- The offensive juggernut which was led by offensive geru Steve Sarkisian has taken some huge steps backwards. The Huskies have scored under 20 points in four of the eight games played this season. The Huskies this year despite returning the entire offense back has scored just 174 points for an average of 21.8 PPG a far cry from what was expected. In fact that is almost 10 points below the scoring average when Jake Locker was a freshman under Willingham.
- This team accepts losing and has no fight. This group of Huskies has never tasted success and when you are in a program that hasn't won it is hard to turn it around. First sign of trouble you get that here we go again feeling. Growing up going to sporting events I always had that feeling because as a Seattle sports fan I'm used to failure. Except one sport and that was Husky football where the attitude was Rose Bowl or bust. Jim Lambright was fired despite win 65% of his games. So when the Huskies would fall down the players, the fans, the coaches attitude was no problem we have been here before we'll just overcome it. The Huskies may have tradition but those national championships and rose bowl wins mean nothing as this current group has never tasted success.
That is the problem with these Huskies from what I'm witnessing is accepting losing. Talk to any Husky in the 90's they would be one pissed off group and take it out on the next opponent. The Huskies just got destroyed last week yet there was no life out of them, the crowd was dead as it was pouring down raining and it wasn't an attractive team, the expectations from the fans and most people was the Huskies were going to lose. When you expect to lose you accept it easier. It is a sad day going to a Husky home game where I'm hoping the dawgs can keep it close with Stanford. Stanford used to be the team that UW would destroy having won 21 of the last 27 meetings. Stanford turned it's program around with a good coaching hire in Harbaugh and just like that have beaten the Huskies three years in a row and have beaten the Huskies three consecutive trips in Husky Stadium. In fact the last time Stanford lost at Husky Stadium was 2002 when Ty Willingham was still coach.
This team has just four games left in their season and by the way they have played the last two weeks it looks like they wish it could end sooner. For the seniors it is time to show some leadership and make sure there is that fifth game. The Huskies must win three of their last four games to be bowl eligible. They'll play #1 ranked Oregon Ducks next week who score 50 like it is nothing so there could be another blowout looming. What I'll be watching for is will the Huskies show a pulse. Will the Huskies fight back and put out an effort where their opponent at least respects them. Steve Sarkisian and Nick Holt took on a bigger challenge than anyone thought but they also aren't helping the process either. The Huskies have four games to get it together or they'll be home watching the bowl games during the holidays.
Friday, October 29, 2010
We just witnessed one of the biggest off seasons in NBA history. No off season saw as many changes as this past off season. The big news came when Lebron James announced that he is taking his talents to South Beach. Not since Kobe and Shaq have we seen two top five players in the NBA play on the same team, not since Jordan and Pippen have we seen two great wing players play on the same team. The Miami Heat made the most news this off season but there are still other teams ready to contend for a title.
In this upcoming preview of the NBA I'm going to focus only on teams who have a chance at winning a championship. The NBA unlike Major League Baseball or the NFL is usually a predictable sport. There are no teams that come out of nowhere to win a title. Some teams improve significantly from year to year but that is because they land some all-stars in the off season or win the draft lottery. You won't see the Charlotte Bobcats or Toronto Raptors come out of nowhere to win the title or even compete for a title. So having said that I'll break down the divisions and focus on the teams I feel have a shot at the playoffs then I'll offer up my predictions.
This division is probably the best division in basketball from top to bottom. This division features the Heat, Magic, Bobcats, Wizards and Hawks. Four of those teams made the playoffs last season while the other(Wizards) have Gilbert Arenas back and #1 pick John Wall. The Bobcats made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last season and the Atlanta Hawks have made the postseason three years in a row. Now that I'm done talking about the have nots I'll deal with two teams in the division who are thinking NBA championship.
Miami Heat: No team has had a bigger off season than the Miami Heat have in NBA history. The Miami Heat were the 5th seed in the East last season with 47 wins and just brought in several big time players. The Heat retained Dwyane Wade who many consider the third best player in the NBA today. The Heat then brought in five time all-star Chris Bosh at power forward. If that wasn't enough they became the league favorites when Lebron James announced he would take his talents to "South Beach". James is only 25 years old about to be 26 and has already won back to back league MVP's.
Lebron James has won 60+ games back to back seasons in Cleveland without playing with a marquee player. King James finally has his supporting cast as the Heat brought in Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Udonis Haslem, James Jones and Eddie House. With three all-stars including two of the best three players in the NBA it is hard to pick against this team. The Heat might struggled out of the gate as they haven't played together but look for this team to look pretty unstoppable come February and beyond. The Heat only weakness might be come playoff time they have no size in the paint besides Bosh so against teams like Orlando, L.A., Boston and maybe even Chicago they could get worn down in the paint.
Orlando Magic: The Orlando Magic again continue to be underestimated in the Eastern Conference. Two years ago they stunned everyone when they upset the Cleveland Caviliers in the Eastern Conference finals but ultimately lost to the Lakers in the NBA finals four games to one. Then last season they lost in the Eastern Conference finals to the Boston Celtics in six games. The Magic return 10 guys who were in their rotation last season and are a team that won't go away.
I put the Magic in the championship hope because of Dwight Howard. Howard has been named first team all NBA the last three seasons. He was the first player in NBA history last year when he lead the league in FG%, Rebounds and then Blocks. He has also been working out with Hall of Fame center Hakeem Olajuwon on his moves in the paint. Howard is there defensively as he has averaged over 12 rebounds a game since his second year in the league. He needs to be more consistent on offense for the Magic to be a realistic championship pick.
The Magic also feature shooters and scorers to help Howard out. The Magic are hoping to get more consistency out of Rashard Lewis and Vince Carter. The Magic could pull a trade as Orlando is a place celebrities like to live in. I don't see the Magic having the fire power to swing a trade for Chris Paul or Carmello Anthony. The Magic are a huge threat to the Heat because of Howard.
This is a pretty weak division. You have perennial lottery teams in the New Jersey Nets and Philadelphia 76ers who are playing for the future. You then have the Toronto Raptors who couldn't make the playoffs with Chris Bosh and feature no players worth talking about. That leaves me with two teams.
One team that is kind of intriguing is the New York Knicks. The Knicks lost out on both Bosh and Lebron. In fact they missed out on everyone it appeared but they did bring in Amare Stoudemire, who has been in the all-star game in his last six healthy seasons. He was also first team all NBA back in the 2006-07 season. Amare gives the Knicks that star power this franchise has lacked since Patrick Ewing. Look for the Knicks to be big players in the Carmello Anthony sweepstakes this year and down the road Chris Paul. The Knicks aren't there as of right now today for an NBA title which leaves me with just one team in this division.
Boston Celtics: The Boston Celtics last year lost a heart breaker that will last for the rest of their lives. When the Celtics blew a 13 point lead at L.A. in game seven they knew they blew a chance they'll never get back. The Celtics are still a team that nobody will want to play come playoff time. The Celtics know how to win. Three years ago when they were the original "big three" with Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen they won the NBA championship. The following year K.G. went down and they lost to eventual Eastern Conference champion Orlando in seven games after being up 3-2 in the series. Last year the Celtics upset both Cleveland and Orlando only to lose in the finals.
The Celtics made plenty of moves this off season bringing in Shaquille O'Neal and Jermaine O'Neal both former all-stars. The Celtics are a deep ball club who have plenty of big bodies to throw at teams. I haven't even mentioned the Celtics best player in Rajon Rondo who flirts with a triple double every game he plays. He is so quick and led the NBA last year in steals yet averages over four rebounds a game. The Celtics when you play them in a playoff series because they have so many fouls to give no guard will get any easy buckets. This is also a team who ended both Dwayne Wade and Lebron James season last year in the playoffs.
I think I'll give this division the nod for crappiest division since the Atlantic does feature the Boston Celtics. This division features such awful teams as Detroit Pistons, Indiana Pacers who will be starting Tyler Hansbourgh or Josh McRoberts. The Cleveland Caviliers are no longer a relevant NBA franchise ever since the decision. The other team is the Milwaukee Bucks who were a playoff team and most likely will make the playoffs again. Then again that team lacks any stars so they are pretty limited. I'll turn my attention to a team who had a nice off season but it could have been so much more.
Chicago Bulls: First I'll discuss what I like about the Bulls. The Bulls have a young up and coming point guard in Derrick Rose who was the second best player on the United States gold winning basketball team in the World Games. That was USA first gold medal since 1994. The Bulls also feature the best rebounding team in the league and got even strong by signing two time all-star Carlos Boozer.
The Bulls missed out on this off season. Just like in 2000 they struck out on the big three. The Bulls failed to land hometown guy Dwayne Wade to pair him up with Derrick Rose. Many believed heading into the off season that Lebron James was going to be a Chicago Bull but Jerry Reinsdorf couldn't pull the trigger. As it stands now I expect the Bulls to win a playoff series but not making any real noise come playoff time.
The Western Conference is strange this year as they only feature three bad teams yet realistically feature only two teams who can win a championship. This division is the prime example of that as this division features no bad teams but realistically I can't see any of these teams winning a title. The New Orleans Hornets posted the worst record in this division but still won 37 games and Chris Paul played in just 45 games. With a healthy Paul this team could be a playoff team. Memphis is the next team in line who went 40-42 and return a young nucleus that could also make the playoffs.
Another intriguing team is the Houston Rockets who went 42-40 last year but didn't have Yao Ming the whole year. The Rockets also have trade pieces to swing a trade for a Chris Paul or Carmello Anthony. The Rockets will Yao will be a playoff team. They pushed the Lakers two years ago to seven games after defeating Portland in the first round. Another team is the San Antonio Spurs who still have the same nucleus and coach who won three championships together. Tim Duncan actually have four championships but the Spurs appear to be old and haven't made it past the second round the past two seasons.
Dallas Mavericks: I don't believe that the Mavericks are a championship contender but they are a successful franchise. The Mavericks are the modern day Utah Jazz of the 90's. Here are the Mavericks win totals this decade starting in 2000-01 season they won 53 games,57, 60, 52,58, 60, 67, 51,50, and 57 last season. Unfortunately for the Mavericks amongst all that winning there was just two Western Conference Finals appearances and one NBA Finals appearance. In fact during the 2006-07 season the Mavericks became the team to win the most games in a season and not win a playoff series when they won 67 games.
The Mavericks still feature former league MVP Dirk Nowitzki who made the All-Star team nine consecutive years. Dirk has also made the first team all-NBA team five times. As long as Dirk is on the Mavericks and as long as Mark Cuban is the owner the Mavericks will have a deep and talented roster. Unfortunately for them they don't have another premiere player to go along with Dirk so that means they won't win a title this season.
With the exception of the Minnesota Timberwolves who could be the worst team in the NBA despite featuring one of the best rebounders in the league in Kevin Love. This Division is pretty deep and the other four teams are very close together.
The hardest team to predict is the Denver Nuggets. If the Nuggets hang on to Carmelo Anthony this is still a really good team who under George Karl has yet to miss the playoffs. I do believe Anthony will force a trade at some point and Denver will then blow up the roster. The next team is the Portland Trail Blazers who I believe to be a really good team but not a championship threat. If you want to read more about Portland read my season preview right here.
The Utah Jazz could very well be the most consistent franchise in sports and yet nobody would know it. Did you know the Utah Jazz have had just one losing season the 1983-84 season. That is incredible in sports to go over 25 years and have just one losing season. Since hall of fame coach Jerry Sloan took over in the middle of the 1987-88 season he has had just the one losing season back in 2003-04 when John Stockton retired and Karl Malone left. Unfortunately for the Jazz the NBA is a stars league so being a good ran franchise who always wins gets you nowhere. How the NBA is set up you either need to be awesome or terrible then get a top draft pick and get awesome again. The Jazz feature several good players in Deron Williams, Mehmet Okur, and Andrei Kirilenko. The Jazz also acquired Al Jefferson from the Timberwolves to take over for Carlos Boozer. Look for the Jazz to win 50+ games but not do much in the playoffs.
Oklahoma City Zombies: The Zombies or thieves as people in Seattle will refer to them as are one of two teams who have a chance at winning the title. Any time you feature a 22 year old scoring champ who is the favorite to win the league MVP you have a shot at winning the title. Kevin Durant last season at just 21 years old averaged 30.1 PPG, shot 47.6% from the field, 90% from FT's while shooting the most FT's, and he shot 36.5% from three point range. Durant is deadly and is still four years away from his prime years which makes him even scarier.
The Zombies also feature Russell Westbrook who averaged 16/8/5 with 1.5 steals a game. Westbrook along with Durant played for USA in the WBC. Westbrook every day was going up against Derrick Rose and Chauncy Billups while also working with his Kevin Durant for two months. Jeff Green also tried out for the team and was barely cut. The Zombies feature a nice young roster. The Zombies still need to get some size if they want to overtake the Lakers. They missed a great chance to fleece David Kahn and get a free Al Jefferson. Unfortunately for Sonic fans like myself Kevin Durant will someday hoist the Larry O'Brien trophy. That day is going to suck.
These division features two bad teams who can upset you. First they feature the Sacramento Kings who have two good young players in Tyreke Evans and DeMarcus Cousins but expect them to still struggle. Another bad team who should be interesting is the Golden State Warriors who with Monte Ellis and Stephen Curry will score over 110 points.
Now these next two teams could make the playoffs or miss the playoffs. First I'll talk about the Los Angeles Clippers who have a talented roster and get back #1 pick Blake Griffin who should make a big impact. The Clippers though at the end of the day are the Clippers so something will inevitably go wrong. The Phoenix Suns made it to the Western Conference Finals last year but lost Amare Stoudemire so they'll be lucky to make the playoffs. Now I save the defending champions for last.
Los Angeles Lakers: Believe it or not the Los Angeles Lakers are still the two-time defending World Champions. I know this may seem crazy but the Lakers not the Miami Heat are the defending champions.
The Lakers are looking to become the first team since the 1984-87 Boston Celtics to reach the NBA Finals four consecutive years. Before Phil Jackson started his run reaching a "3-Peat" was a hard accomplishment but now people brush it off because Phil has made it look so easy. Phil is trying to get his fourth 3-peat in his career. Kobe Bryant the reigning back to back Finals MVP and alpha dog of the 2008 Olympic Gold Medal team is looking to tie Michael Jordan for his 6th championship ring.
Typically when a team returns all five starters including key bench players and adds to that team they are the unanimous pick to win the title. This is another reason why the NBA season has been so crazy that the Lakers aren't the clear cut favorites to win the title. The Lakers are huge favorites to win the Western Conference. I don't see any team being ready to defeat the Lakers in a best of seven series in the West.
Now it is time for some predictions on this upcoming season. I didn't have very many predictions this year but hope you enjoy them anyways.
Bobby Jones: Four year starter at UW Basketball from 2003-2006, captain on Sweet 16 team in 2006
Finals: Lakers over Heat in 7
MVP: Kevin Durant
Michael Clouse: Basketball fan and friend of mine
3. Da Bulls
MVP - D-Rose
Finals - Lakers over Bulls in 6.
Mark A. Miller aka Seattlehawk94 contributer to Seattle Sportsblog
4. Jail Blazers
5. Suns of Bitches
6. Chaps and Spurs
8. Pocket Rockets
6. Magic Johnsons
Fakers over Jail Blazers
Bawwwwston over Cheat
Fakers over Bawwwwston
Kris Shellenbarger: Aka Kshell author of this blog
1. Heat*(Have a large bet that they win title over Lakers)
4. Celtics*(Regular season doesn't matter to them)
3. Hijack City(have a $100 bet they finish higher than Blazers)*
Finals: Heat over Lakers in 6
MVP: Kevin Durant
Bold Predictions: Portland will win 55 games this yaer and win a playoff series.
Bold Predictions: The Heat will survive a tough seven game series against the Celtics and overcome a 3-2 series deficit.
Bold Predictions: This will be the last year the Spurs make the playoffs as the roster will be blown up at season end.
Bold Predictions: The difference between the #2 seed in the West and the team who misses the playoffs will be just six games.
Okay guys that is my NBA preview and predictions. I hope you enjoyed reading them and check back at the end of the season to see just how badly I got the playoff teams wrong. This should be an exciting year watching so many heavy weights square off. That is how the NBA works when it is at it's best. The 80's were the glory years and they only saw four franchises win a championship and five reach the NBA finals. Look for this decade to be similar as the 80's were only a handful of teams will taste success that is why the NBA is a broken model. Enjoy the NBA while you can because next season will begin in a lockout which will be worse than 1999.
Thursday, October 28, 2010
Yesterday baseball proved to us just how strange the game can be. In a pitching matchup that featured Tim Linecum vs Cliff Lee nobody expected 18 runs to be scored. The San Francisco Giants scored just 20 runs in six games against the Phillies in the NLCS yet erupt on a pitcher who had a career playoff ERA of 1.26. Cliff Lee can shut down the Yankees the last two years, the Rays twice but couldn't even last five innings against the weak hitting Giants in a National League ball park which is a pitchers ball park.
That is why we tune in for baseball games because it truly is unpredictable from a game to game basis. The Rangers were hoping to rebound today with C.J.Wilson as in baseball momentum is all about the next days starting pitcher. The Rangers can't afford to go down 0-2 with throwing their two best lefty pitchers. While the Giants sent to the mound a pitcher in Matt Cain who has yet to allow an earned run this postseason. Both pitchers were great, one was just amazing like he has been all postseason.
Cain continues scoreless streak as Giants shutout Rangers 9-0, up 2-0
The Giants took a commanding 2-0 series lead over the Texas Rangers behind the pitching of Matt Cain. Matt Cain shut down the Rangers giving up zero runs and just four hits through 7 2/3 innings. Cain proved to be to much for the Rangers mighty bats and then with two outs the Giants erupted in the eighth inning off the Rangers bullpen who has had issues with getting that third and final out.
The Giants in a pitchers duel got on the board first when Edgar Renteria who won a World Series way back in 1997 with the Florida Marlins hit a homerun to deep left field down the line to give the Giants a 1-0 lead. With the way Cain was pitching that was all that was needed. Tim Lincecum gets all the publicity for the Giants and he deserves it but fans forget about Matt Cain. Cain doesn't get the big win totals as his bullpen either blows wins for him or the offense doesn't score enough.
The Giants would scratch out another run in the seventh. After Ross reached base, C.J.Wilson had to leave the game with a blister. Then game six of the NLCS and game one of the World Series hero Juan Uribe ripped a base hit up the middle off Rangers reliever Darren Oliver to give the Giants a 2-0 lead. C.J. Wilson day was done he kept his team in the game allowing only three hits and two runs through six innings.
The Giants would explode in the eighth for the second straight game with two outs. The inning began nicely for Rangers reliever Darren O'Day who struck out the first two Giant batters recovering nicely from his outing the day before when he allowed a three run homerun to Uribe. Buster Posey would begin the rally with just a meaningless two out base hit. Washington would pull O'Day and bring in lefty Derek Holland who was great against the Yankees. Holland would walk the first two batters he faced in just eight pitches. Despite the walks there was no mound visits or even a pitching change. Holland would then walk the bases loaded when he walked Aubrey Huff giving the Giants a 3-0 lead. Holland threw 13 pitches and 12 of them were for balls. Washington would pull him for former Mariners pitcher Mark Lowe who had a rough outing the day before.
The wildness of the Rangers bullpen continued as Lowe walked Uribe allowing another run to score giving the Giants a 4-0 lead. Renteria who homered earlier in the game got a base hit scoring Cody Ross and Aubrey Huff putting the game away at 6-0. The Giants weren't done yet as Aaron Rowand hit a two run triple in the gap off of Rangers new reliever Michael Kirkman giving the Giants an 8-0 lead. Andres Torres would cap the rally with a double scoring Rowand. When it was all said and done the Giants scored seven runs on four hits, and four walks in that eighth inning that saw four different Rangers pitchers allow a run.
The Giants would finish off the mighty Rangers shutting them out 9-0 in game two. In what was a close game turned out to be a blowout in the eighth inning. The Giants scored just 20 runs in six games in the NLCS have now scored 19 runs against the Rangers in the first two games. The Giants will head on the road up 2-0 knowing at the very worse they'll return home in game six.
When the series shifts to Texas the Rangers hope to regain some offense. The Rangers after winning their first five postseason games have now lost three in a row on the road. The Rangers have to hope a change of scenary will turn these games into American League like slugfest. I still believe the Giants can't out hit the Rangers but they certainly have the pitching. The pitching carried the Giants in September and in this postseason has carried them so far already pitching three shutouts.
At the end of the day nobody espected the Rangers who were throwing Cliff Lee and C.J.Wilson to return home down 0-2. I hope the Rangers can make this a series and I suspect they will. The Giants will be throwing Jonathan Sanchez who was shaky in both starts against Philadelphia after pitching terrific in game three of the NLDS against the Braves. The Rangers will hand the ball over to ALCS hero Colby Lewis who shut down the Yankees twice. The Rangers return home for three games hoping to grab momentum back. While the Giants simply hope to just win one game in Texas, two is simply a bonus. Should be fun to see what franchise ends over 50 years without a championship.
This week the Washington Huskies(3-4,2-2) host the #13 Stanford Cardinal(6-1,3-1) at Husky Stadium in a game that will feature two future first round draft picks at Quarterback in Jake Locker and Andrew Luck. This will be a game that I'll be attending and it's very rare to attend a game where both quarterbacks will be taken in the first round the next season.
When these two teams square off against each other unlike other Pac-10 matchups there isn't much history between these two teams. There are a few games worth mentioning like in 1982 when the #1 ranked Washington Huskies were upset to Stanford 43-31 losing to future #1 pick overall John Elway. That Huskies team finished 10-2 and finished the year ranked 7th in the nation in both polls. The Cardinals finished the year 5-6 losing in the famous "Band is on the field game" to the Cal Bears.
Another memorable game was in 1999 when Stanford was undefeated in Pac-10 play traveling to the Washington Huskies who had just one Pac-10 loss. The winner of this game was most likely going to the Rose Bowl. The Huskies were led by first year head coach Rick Neuheisel and quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo. Stanford was led by head coach Tyrone Willingham who at Stanford still tried as a coach. The Huskies would win this game 35-30 behind Tuiasosopo record breaking performance. Tuiasosopo became the first player in NCAA history to throw for over 300 yards and rush for over 200 yards. In fact that record still holds to this day. The Huskies would later lose to UCLA blowing their chance at the Rose Bowl so Willingham and the Cardinals would go to the Rose Bowl. That would set up the 2000 miracle comeback that put football in prespective for the rest of our lives.
October 28th, 2000: #9 Washington Huskies(6-1,3-1) at Stanford Cardinal(3-4,2-2)
When the Huskies traveled down to Palo Alto to take on the defending Pac-10 champions this game didn't appear to be very memorable. In fact the game wasn't even televised live on T.V and the crowd maybe had 20,000 fans at the game. It was down pouring rain and the Huskies were expected to win pretty easily.
Little did anyone know that this game would feature all the emotions that you could possibly have in a football game. The Huskies would experience the joy of a great comeback and the horror of watching a teammate laying on the field motionless.
The Huskies in typical 2000 fasion got off to a slow start trailing in the first quarter 6-0. The Huskies then got on the board when Willie Hurst busted a touchdown run from 17 yards out to give the Huskies a 7-6 lead. Then as the half ended after Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham called three timeouts to "ice" Huskies kicker John Anderson the Husky kicker nailed 34 yarder to give the Huskies a 10-6 lead.
The Huskies in the second half added to that lead when Rich Alexis scored a touchdown from 16 yards out on an option pitch from Tuiasosopo to give the Huskies a 17-6 lead. The Huskies had outgained the Cardinal 250-101 in yards at the time(Derek Johnson,The Dawgs of War). After the Huskies were forced to punt Curtis Williams downed the ball inside the five yard line pinning the Cardinals. That would set up a play that would be tragic for Husky fans for years to come.
As I mentioned earlier the game wasn't on T.V. so my dad and I listened to the game on radio. We were waiting in line at Jack in the Box when Stanford had a basic run play to Kerry Carter that turned out to be bigger than anyone could have imagined. After the play I remember Husky broadcaster Bob Rondeau saying "Looks like a Husky player is down" then he noticed it was Curtis Williams. I remember thinking "Oh crap, hope he can get back in there he is a really good player". Little did I know that the injury was bigger than your typical football injury. At the stadium there was mass panic.
Curtis Williams just laid there and couldn't move. As Anthony Kelly described to Derek Johnson in his book The Dawgs of War "His body was locked in a seating position in the air, like he was forzen or stunned. He fell to his back and went into convulsions. He was mouthing the words I can't breathe. Jeremiah Pharms came over to me and said to Curtis, GET UP FOLKS! DON"T LET THEM SEE YOU HURT! What broke my heart was witnessing J.P. realize that this was serious. J.P began break down OH NO, MY MAN IS DOWN! MY MAN IS DOWN! The trainer rushed out. Then Curtis began spitting up and shaking, and his eyse rolled up in the back of his head."
After the silence and prayers by both benches the sad reality is there was still a game to be played. Nobody on either side wanted to play in a game especially the Huskies defense that just saw their close friend and teammate lying on the ground not moving. The Huskies as the game wore on were hearing several rumors. There was reports that Curtis was okay to he had died on the way to the hospital(Derek Johnson, The Dawgs of War). It was impossible for the Huskies to keep that competive fire for the rest of the game. The Huskies would finally regroup as Willie Hurst would add a 22 yard rushing touchdown to give the Huskies a commanding 24-6 lead with less than six minutes to play. Then everything began to fall apart for the Huskies especially the defense who probably had other things on their minds.
Stanford started to amount a huge comeback like they had done earlier against Texas and USC. Quarterback Randy Fasani who had been pretty awful all game started the comeback by hitting DeRonnie Pitts for a four yard touchdown pass then converted the two point conversation when Fasani again hit Pitts cutting the lead to 24-14. Stanford would then onside kick the ball and recover and march down the field ending with Fasani running for a four yard touchdown cutting the lead to 24-21. Stanford would again onside kick the ball and Fasini would again score another touchdown giving the Cardinal a 28-24 lead. The Huskies had the ball with just under 50 seconds remaining needing to go 80 yards for a touchdown. Just like he had done all season long and continued to do Tuiasosopo displayed great leadership.
As Kyle Benn told Derek Johnson in the book The Dawgs of War, "Tui normally didn't swear much. We always look to him for leadership. But a couple of guys were talking in the huddle. Tui said, SHUT THE F*** UP! WE'RE NOT LOSING THIS GAME. LET'S GET THIS OVER WITH AND WIN SO WE CAN GET TO THE HOSPITAL AND BE WITH OUR BUDDY."
Sometimes you hear about a player having "it" well Tui defianetly had "it" which the current Huskies should take notes on. On the first play Tuiasosopo hit Todd Elstrom to the 45 yard line. Tuiasosopo then hit Wilbur Hooks for a gain 33 yards giving the Huskies the ball on the 22 yard line with just 33 seconds left. The team then went no huddle and Tui rolled out to his right and then saw true freshman Justin Robbins wide open in the endzone threw across body and found Robbins who hung on to give the Huskies a 31-28 lead with just 17 seconds left. I remember sitting in my garage screaming as I couldn't believe Tui just lead the team 80 yards passing three of three in just 40 seconds. Before that drive Tuiasosopo was just 12 of 23 for 136 yards and two interceptions. He finished 15 of 26 for 216 yards. Willie Hurst also ran for two touchdowns and 96 yards on the day.
The game wasn't over yet as freshman corner back Derick Johnson made a tackle on kick off at midfield. Had he not been able to make the tackle the game would have came down to field goal kicker John Anderson making a miracle tackle. Fortunately for Husky fans it didn't come down to that. The Huskies had won the game to continue their dreams of going to the Rose Bowl. There was no celebrations just questions of is Curtis okay?
Secondary coach Bobby Hauck was the first Husky to arrive at the hopsital then Rick Neuheisel followed as well. Even Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham was the next one to arrive to see if Curtis was okay. The team bus would shortly show up. There was no talk about football or the game all about Curtis health(Derek Johnson, Dawgs of War). Say what you want about Willingham and most of it is deserved you have to appreciate him going to the hospital after a tough loss to see if the opposing player is okay. He may be a bad coach but he isn't a bad person.
The Huskies would go on to beat the Purdue Boilermakers in the Rose Bowl to finish the season 11-1 and earn a #3 ranking to finish the year. The Rose Bowl game itself was emotional because for the first time since that injury the whole team saw Curtis Williams. In a risky move by Rick Neuheisel he surprised the team with Curtis Williams before the game. Several players like Pharms, Anthony Vontoure, Jerramy Stevens, Hakim Akbar, etc were crying after seeing Williams. The Huskies came out fired up and got off to a 14-0 lead. The Huskies won 34-24 and Rick in his speech said this is for you Curtis. Just thinking about that still gets me choked up.
Then on May 6th, 2002 Curtis Williams died at just 24 years old. Curtis would have his number 25 on the sidelines. Little did anyone know shortly after his death Husky Football went downhill as Neuheisel would be fired. The Huskies haven't played in a bowl game since 2002. I remember at the UCLA game I went to for senior night when they announced Curtis Williams name the ovation we all gave to him was a touching moment. I remember donating money to his cause as well.
I think the Seattle Times story was terribly done about Curtis Williams. Yes those are unfortanate things that happened but to go after someone who had been dead for five years was low class on their part. I'll stick with what happened on that game and what ultimately changed how we view football today. Whenever a Husky or a Seahawk is lying on the ground I always think of Curtis Williams.
That day showed everyone what true leadership is all about. The team could have easily folded and I'm sure a ton of players had folded. Tuiasosopo is such a legend because of games like that Stanford game. His stats weren't great in fact statistically a guy like Jake Locker is better than him but Tui had that "it" factor. The ability to rally the team even when a player basically died on the field and still get the win. It was important for the fan base and for those players to get that Rose Bowl championship to deliver it to Curtis Williams.
When the Huskies take on Stanford this Saturday be thankful that we have the chance to see two future first round picks at quarterback in Andrew Luck and Jake Locker. It should be fun to watch such greatness like I get to do in person. I also won't forget and I urge many fans to not forget about #25 Curtis Williams. Curtis Williams ten years ago today his life was changed forever. Husky Nation despite all the crap that was said about you still loves you and misses you. C-DUB 25!
Special thanks to Derek Johnson for letting me use his quotes. He has written such great books as "Dawgs of War" and "Husky Football in the Don James era". I recommend both books especially if you are a Huskies fan. They truly are great reads. I bought both books from his site that I linked. Best money I ever used.
Wednesday, October 27, 2010
This year the World Series features two unlikely teams. From the American League the Texas Rangers are the representatives having defeated the Tampa Bay Rays who had the leagues best record and then defeating the New York Yankees who were the defending champions. The Rangers began this postseason as the longest shot to win the World Series at 14 to 1 odds now find themselves favored over the San Francisco Giants because the Rangers feature the games best postseason pitcher in Cliff Lee.
The National League representatives are the pitching rich San Francisco Giants. The Giants are a team who reached the postseason on the very last day winning the National League west division title over the San Diego Padres. The Giants in the playoffs defeated the Atlanta Braves then the two time defending National League champion Philadelphia Phillies. The Giants in their seven postseason victories have won by a single run in six of those games. They feature their young ace Tim Lincecum who has won the last two Cy Young awards.
With Lincecum facing Lee many expected this game to be low scoring. With both teams pitching former Cy Young award winners runs would be at a premium. Then again sometimes even staff aces have off nights. Today was a game that nobody could have predicted. It's not that the team who won is shocking just the way the game played out with neither starter lasting more than six innings.
Giants hand Cliff Lee first career postseason loss 11-7 to take game one
The San Francisco Giants were hosting their first World Series game since 2002 when they lost to the Angels in seven games. The star of that team and of that series Barry Bonds was again in attendance. The Giants were taking on the Texas Rangers playing in their first ever World Series game in history. The Giants offense erupted in the fifth inning giving the Rangers a rude World Series awakening.
The Giants Tim Lincecum started the game off pretty shaky for the Giants. In the first inning after allowing an RBI single to Vladmir Guerrero that skipped off Lincecum making the game 1-0. Then with first and third and only one out Nelson Cruz hit a ball up the middle but Lincecum made a great stop on the ball. Lincecum then ran towards Michael Young but instead of throwing the ball to Juan Uribe Lincecum just held the ball which loaded the bases. Fortunately for Lincecum that blunder didn't cost him on the very first pitch Kinsler grounded it to Uribe who stepped on third then threw to first for an inning ending double play.
With Cliff Lee on the hill for the Rangers the Giants couldn't afford to give up early runs. In the second inning after allowing a base hit to Bengie Molina; who began the year with the Giants and will receive a World Series championship ring no matter; Cliff Lee came to the plate and faking the bunt he swung away ripping a double in the game giving the Rangers a second and third and one out. As Joe Buck pointed out Lee became the first American League pitcher to get an extra base hit in the World Series since Chad Ogea of the Cleveland Indians in 1997. Elvis Andrus would get a sacrifice fly to drive in Molina to give the Rangers a 2-0 lead. Normally 2-0 isn't that much but seeing how Lee has a 0.75 ERA this postseason that appeared to be the ball game.
The Giants tied up the score in the bottom of the third off of the postseason invincible Cliff Lee. Freddy Sanchez got the Giants on the board first with his second consecutive double scoring Edgar Renteria to cut the lead to 2-1. Then rookie sensation Buster Posey ripped one to left center allowing Andres Torres to score to tie the score up at 2-2. The Rangers had let Lincecum off the hook and Lee finally for the first time in his postseason career looked hittable.
The Giants exploded in the fifth inning scoring five of the six runs with two outs. Freddy Sanchez became the first guy in World Series history to get three straight doubles to begin his World Series career as he ripped an RBI double scoring Andres Torres who had doubled previously. After striking out Posey, Lee had a rare walk to Pat Burrell. Cody Ross the NLCS MVP singled to shallow center scoring Sanchez giving the Giants a 4-2 lead then Aubrey Huff singled up the middle scoring Burrell giving the Giants a 5-2 lead. That would end Cliff Lee's night in just 4.2 innings. Darren O'Day came in to relieve Lee and on the first pitch game six hero Juan Uribe belted a home run to deep left field for a three run home run giving the Giants an 8-2 lead. The crowd went nuts as the game was broken open. Lee final line would be 4.2 innings, 8 hits, 7 runs, 6 of which were earned and struck out 7.
The Rangers would rally the very next inning off Lincecum. Bengie Molina the former Giant would have an RBI double scoring Ian Kinsler then David Murphy pinch hitting for the pitchers spot had an RBI single cutting the lead to 8-4. That would also end Tim Lincecum's day at 5.2 innings. Bochy would go with Santiago Casilla who would get the Giants out of the jam and end the Rangers rally. Lincecum would leave to a standing ovation despiting pitching 5.2 innings, giving up 8 hits, 4 runs, walking 2 and struck out just 3. The pitchers duel turned into a slug fest.
The Giants would put the game away once again in the eighth inning off of former Mariners setup man Mark Lowe. The Giants would score three more runs in the eighth to extend the lead to 11-4. The Rangers would rally in the ninth scoring three runs but ultimately would lose 11-7. The game which had the over/under for runs scored was 5.5 ended up with 18 runs scored. Now in game two Matt Cain who has yet to allow an earned run this postseason will square off with C.J.Wilson of the Rangers.
The Giants are the team of destiny it appears. When their Cy Young award pitcher gives up four runs in less than six innings and still win by four runs is pretty unlikely. The Giants didn't appear to have the offense to explode as most of this team was guys you have never heard of guys you didn't want heading into the season. Don't sleep on the Rangers just yet Cliff Lee will get another start this series and I have a feeling he won't get rocked again. When the series shifts to Texas offense will be featured and I don't see the Giants winning to many slugfest type games. This series will most likely still end in six or seven games.
When the Seattle Seahawks(4-2) travel down to Oakland to take on the Raiders(3-4) it will bring back memories of the old AFC West rivalry between these two teams. The big dissapointment in 2002 when the Seahawks moved to the NFC West was they would only get to play their AFC West rivals particularly the Oakland Raiders just once every four years. That meant Seahawks fans and plenty of Raiders fans in the Northwest only get to see the Raiders play in Seattle every eight years so we have to wait another four years before the Raiders visit. The Seahawks and Raiders were usually featured on big primetime games whether it was Monday night games in the 80's or Sunday night games in the 90's it was a huge game. The Raiders lead the all-time series against the Seahawks 27-23 but keep in mind as Seattle was entering the league the Raiders were in the middle of a run that saw them win three Super Bowl championships in a seven year span.
The Seahawks-Raiders rivalry reached a peak in the 1980's that the Seahawks probably won't ever experience again with another team. When these teams played the game was usually on a national t.v. setting. In 1980 the Seahawks who finished the year 4-12 took on the eventual Super Bowl champions Raiders and lost 19-17 in the Kingdome on Monday Night football. The rivalry really heated up in 1983 when the Seahawks swept the Raiders that season beating them 38-36 at home in the Kingdome then down in Los Angeles 34-21. The Seahawks would advance to the AFC Championship game down in L.A. and face off the with the Raiders yet again and this time were crushed 30-14. The Raiders would go on to win the Super Bowl that year.
The following season saw the Seahawks exact some revenge on the Raiders. Seattle would beat the Raiders at home on Monday night football 17-14 then face the same Raiders again in the playoffs. The Seahawks offense would continue to struggle against the Raiders in the postseason. The previous year Dave Krieg was horrible and hall of fame receiver Steve Largent was held to just one catch. Well this year Krieg would pass for under 100 yards and Largent was shut out. The Seahawks despite all that would win 13-7 over the Raiders at home in the Kingdome. That would be the franchises last playoff win for 21 years.
In the 1986 Monday night game saw the Seahawks who would eventually go to the postseason shut out the Raiders 37-0 in front of a sold out Kingdome crowd. They held the Raiders to just 138 yards of offense on the day. The following year the Seahawks would beat the Raiders down in L.A. 35-13 but on Monday night in Seattle Bo Jackson came to town. The game was hyped as a Boz(Brian Bozworth) vs Bo game and Bo destroyed the Seahawks. He bulled over Boz for a touchdown then broke another one for a long touchdown run. When it was all said and done Jackson ran for over 200 yards and the Raiders handed the Seahawks a 37-14 blowout defeat at home.
In 1988 the Seahawks were making a late season run and beat the Raiders at the Kingdome on Monday night 35-27. As was the tradition it seemed like the Seahawks and Raiders would play on Monday night football but these two teams wouldn't play on Monday night again for 18 years. The Seahawks in the last game of the season needed to beat the Raiders in Los Angeles to clinch their first ever division title. The Seahawks would win in a wild shootout 43-37 clinching their first division title. The rivalry continued to be on prime time during the 1990's but there wasn't quite the same playoff implications.
In the 90's the Seahawks series with the Raiders shifted to ESPN's Sunday night football. In 1994 again in the Kingdome saw the Seahawks lose 17-16 when John Kasey missed the game winning field goal attempt. That would mark the last season former two time Super Bowl winning coach of the Raiders Tom Flores would coach for the Seattle Seahawks. In 1995 the Seahawks won 44-10 in a blow out that saw former pro bowl runningback Chris Warren run wild. In 1998 the Raiders won again in the Kingdome on Sunday night 31-18. Then in 1999 in a game that would prove crucial the Seahawks won 22-21 as the Raiders missed a 60 yard field goal attempt. The Seahawks would win the division title the following season.
This series returned to Monday night in 2006 when Seneca Wallace who was filling in for the injured Matt Hasselbeck got his first career start at Qwest field. The Seahawks won 16-0 over the Raiders. They sacked the Raiders nine times that game in a game that they also didn't have Shaun Alexander who was also injured. I'm going to talk about the last time these two teams played as AFC West rivals back in 2001 on Sunday night football.
November 11th, 2001: Oakland Raiders(6-1) at Seattle Seahawks(3-4)
This game took place at Husky Stadium as the Seahawks were waiting for Qwest field to open up in 2002. The Seahawks were just hoping to get a win to keep their playoff hopes alive while the Raiders under Jon Gruden had bigger things on their mind. The Raiders the previous year lost the AFC championship at home and were hoping to this year go to the Super Bowl. The Raiders were also hoping to avoid another letdown in Husky Stadium where they blew a 24-13 lead in the fourth quarter to the Seahawks last year. The Seahawks who were just 5-9 entering the game defeated the 11-3 Raiders 27-24 in a rainy soaked game in December.
This year the Seahawks were in middle of a quarterback controversy. The Seahawks started the season off 1-2 then ineffective starter Matt Hasselbeck went down. That allowed Trent Dilfer to come in and the Seahawks won two games in a row to improve to 3-2. When Hasselbeck returned Mike Holmgren insisted that Hasselbeck was the guy. The team then lost two games in a row. The Seahawks this game were going to simplify the playbook for Hasselbeck and feature second year pro Shaun Alexander who was also filling in for the injured Ricky Watters. This was another big game for this rivalry as this game was featured on ESPN Sunday night football.
After a quiet first quarter that saw the Seahawks lead 6-3 with two field goals by Rian Lindell the second quarter featured some scoring. The Raiders scored the first touchdown when Rich Gannon hit Tim Brown for a four yard touchdown pass to take a 10-6 lead. The Seahawks would respond when Matt Hasselbeck would hit Darrell Jackson for a nine yard touchdown pass to give the Seahawks a 13-10 lead at halftime. Hasselbeck would connect with Jackson for more touchdown passes than any other receiver in his career.
The second half would begin terribly for the Seahawks as they gave up a 90 yard kickoff return to Terry Kirby for a touchdown giving the Raiders a 17-13 lead. The game was pretty cold as well in the 40 degrees and the crowd wasn't so confident. Husky Stadium is a loud stadium and Seahawk fans have proven they are loud in the Kingdome and especially Qwest field. For whatever reason the Seahawk fans at Husky Stadium just weren't very loud. That would change later in the game. After a Raiders field goal giving them a 20-13 lead the Seahawks Shaun Alexander would begin to take over the game.
The Seahawks would begin to feature Alexander on the next series and Alexander would tie the game with a six yard touchdown run. Alexander would then get some revenge for Seahawks fans on the Bo Jackson run back in 1987. Alexander would take the hand off cut up the middle then was gone for an 88 yard touchdown run. As he was running he could see himself scoring the touchdown on the giant scoreboard at Husky Stadium giving the Seahawks a 27-20 lead. The Seahawks crowd was going crazy like it was a Husky win going to the Rose Bowl. Alexander in the fourth would add another touchdown run this time being just a 10 yard run giving the Seahawks a 34-20 lead. The Seahawks would eventually hang on for the 34-27 win for the rivals last AFC West game against each other.
That was probably the best game of the year for the Seahawks. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck who wasn't the pro bowl version of Hasselbeck that would would all enjoy from 2003-2007 enjoyed his best game of the year. Hasselbeck was 15 of 23 for 181 yards and a touchdown. He would also run for 34 yards. The star of the game was Shaun Alexander who set a Seahawks franchise record for rushing yards in a game. Alexander would run for 266 yards on 35 carries for three touchdowns. This was a breakout year for Alexander that saw him score over 15 touchdowns starting a streak that would last until 2005 of scoring over 15 touchdowns or more ever year.
That Raiders team would go on to lose to the Patriots in the famous "tuck-rule" game. Head coach Jon Gruden would leave after the season as the Raiders would finally reach the Super Bowl in 2002. As for the Seahawks they would go 9-7 and finish the year missing the playoffs because the Raiders lost to the Jets on the last day or the Seahawks would have faced the Raiders again in the playoffs. The Seahawks would enjoy great success in the new NFC West reaching the playoffs five consecutive years and winning four division titles in a row.
All in all, this series means a lot especially to the fans. The atmosphere at the old Kingdome when the Raiders came to town was a great feeling and that is the one shame about the Seahawks going to the NFC. I'm still glad the Seahawks are in the NFC though as odds say they wouldn't have achieved the amount of success in the AFC West as they would in the watered down NFC West. The only good thing about the rivalry last every four years is when the Raiders come to town in 2014 you'll hear such stats such as the Raiders haven't won in Seattle since 1998. Anytime you can put a burn on the Raiders I say go for it. On the flip side the Seahawks haven't won in Oakland since 1997. Here is hoping the Seahawks with that same quarterback Hasselbeck who is now a veteran instead of a first year starter end that streak over the Raiders.
Monday, October 25, 2010
The Portland Trail Blazers began the 2010-11 NBA season hoping to take the next step. The Blazers despite a crazy offseason that saw general manager Kevin Pritchard get fired and bringing in three new assistent coaches there isn't as much optimism as there was this time last year. Don't let all the turmoil fool you though the Blazers still have a very good roster. The Blazers have won 50 games or more the last two seasons and still feature former University of Washington star three time NBA all-star Brandon Roy. The Blazers appear to finally have the right mix of veterans and young players. Some of the youngsters like Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge are just hitting their prime years. Once again the Blazers season will be about if they can stay healthy and in particular Greg Oden.
Portland despite having no buzz surrounding the team could be better than the team that won 54 games two years ago. All the buzz in the west this year appears to be with the Oklahoma City Zombies despite being only the eighth seed. The Zombies also had the fewest injuries amongst every team in the west while the Blazers had the most injuries. The other teams in the division appear to have gotton weaker as well. The Nuggets at some point during the year could trade away Carmello Anthony which would make them go from a threat to a non playoff team pretty quickly. The Utah Jazz lost Carlos Boozer, Wesley Matthews to Portland and Kyle Korver. The Jazz did steal Al Jefferson from Minnesota but the Blazers can very much win this division title especially if they stay healthy.
In this upcoming preview I'll break down each position of the Blazers and try to describe each player in the rotation.
Brandon Roy: The team goes where he goes. Roy is the Blazers face of the franchise and best player. The former Pac-10 player of the year with the Huskies has achieved great success in Portland going to the All-Star game three times already in just four seasons.
Roy is also a big time player in big situations. He has hit several big game winning shots and in his only playoff appearance when healthy shined. Roy averaged 26.7 PPG, 4.8 RPG, 2.8 APG while averaging over a block and a steal a game. He was terrific in the Blazers playoff loss to the Rockets in six games back in 2008-09.
Unfortunetly for Roy and the Blazers Roy was hurt in last years first round loss to the Phoenix Suns in six games. Roy missed the first three games and Roy came back to play the teams last three games. It was obvious Roy was hurt as he shot just 10 for 33 in the three games. He was a huge inspriration to the team in game four and the atmosphere that day in the Rose Garden was incredible. Utlimately with Roy hurt they Blazers again lost in the first round to the Suns in six games. I don't know of to many teams who can win a playoff series without their best player.
The big issue for coach Nate McMillan is what do with Roy and the offense. Roy said he wants the ball to be in his hands more often. Roy wants to go back to the 2008-09 mode when the Blazers won 54 games and were the fourth seed in the Western Conference but ultimately lost in the playoffs. While Roy's other guard mate who I'll touch on pretty soon would rather have the ball in his hands and play more up tempo offense. Keep an eye on that situation.
Andre Miller: Andre Miller was the big free agent signing last summer for the Blazers and right off the bat the marriage didn't seem like it would last very long. Miller appeared to be a bad fit with the Blazers as his style of play doesn't work well with super star Brandon Roy style of play. Miller began the year briefly coming off the bench as Portland stuck with incumbant starter Steve Blake.
Miller finally found a role with the Blazers once they traded Blake along with Travis Outlaw for Marcus Camby. Miller against the Dallas Mavericks in Dallas on January 30th scored 52 points in the Blazers 114-112 win. He shot 22 of 31 that day from the field. When Roy went down Miller became the teams best player and you started to notice that LaMarcus Aldridge starting to shine in the up tempo offense. Miller also had a strong season when the dust settled averaging 14.0 PPG, 3.2 RPG and 5.4 APG. Miller is the Blazers best low post presence which tells a lot about him and the team.
Miller also had a pretty good playoff against Steve Nash and the Suns. In the game one upset at Phoenix Miller was a star. In the Blazers 105-100 win Miller had 31 points, five rebounds, eight assists and three steals. Miller was averaging 18 points a game in the teams first five playoff games then had a poor game six. Miller was just 2 for 10 shooting with 4 points in game six. That was also the game where Brandon Roy played the most minutes of the series. Miller must find a way to still play effective with Roy or he won't be in Portland very long. That would be a shame because Miller is Portland's second or third best player.
Wesley Matthews: Wesley Matthews is this years big free agent signing. The Blazers gave Matthews a 6 year/34 million dollar deal in a move that made you throw your hands in the air and go what?! Matthews this time last year was an undrafted rookie just hoping to make the team. Now he is making more money that #1 pick overall Blake Griffin. Don't let his high salary fool you Matthews can play and is a good team player.
Matthews was originally brought in to be Brandon Roy's backup shooting guard but with the Jerrad Bayless trade that will open up more minutes. At times the Blazers will run Roy at point guard and have Matthews at shooting guard. Have fun scoring on a lineup that features Roy, Matthews, Batum, Camby and Oden. Matthews last year for division rival Utah averaged 9.4 PPG, 2.3 RPG and 1.3 APG. In the playoffs though he averaged over 37 minutes a game, 13.2 PPG, 4.4 RPG, and 1.8 steals a game. When you look at those playoff numbers plus add the fact he was just a rookie you can see why Portland stole him from their division rival.
Rudy Fernandez: When Rudy came to Portland two years ago there was a buzz surrounding him. He was a youtube sensation and played great for Spain in the 2008 Olympics helping them take second to the Americans. Rudy has always been a fan favorite in Portland because of his style on and off the court. He is like Ichiro in the sense he is known by just Rudy. Now with this past summer it will be interesting how Portland reacts to him.
In the offseason Rudy who is averaging just 24 minutes a game in his two years was frustrated and demanded a trade from Portland. Rudy isn't a good fit for Portland and especially coach McMillan. Rudy is best suited for a team like the Phoenix Suns who are an up tempo team where defense isn't stressed at all. Rudy when he is on fire is a very streaky scorer and shooter. At one point during the preseason Rudy was shooting close to 60% from three point range playing himself into the rotation possibly. Rudy is an outside threat for the team and averages close to two full threes a game. Another problem facing McMillan is finding minutes for Rudy and if he does it will most likely come at the expense of Andre Miller. However you shake it there will be some good players sitting on the bench unhappy for Portland as they are loaded at the guard position.
Nicolas Batum: This is a player that Blazer fans are absolutely in love with. Batum was a surprise starter two years ago beating highly touted Travis Outlaw. Batum started 79 games on a team that won 54 games as a rookie. He only averaged 5.4 points his rookie year but played good defense and developed into a three point threat. Then last year Batum began the year hurt and played just 37 games. Batum when he came back improved a ton as he averaged 10.1 PPG, making 1.5 threes a game then almost four rebounds a game. Batum will also be turning just 22 years old this December.
The potential in Batum everyone can agree on is pretty big. Where fans get in disagreements is where he is going. Some Blazer fans will have you thinking he is the next Scottie Pippen which just ludacris, while others scoff at the notion that he is compared to Tayshawn Prince who is a good player on his own. If they Blazers are to make a big trade it will most likely involve Batum. Whatever you think of Batum one thing is for sure he has tons of talent and has plenty of room to improve.
LaMarcus Aldridge: If it is possible for a player to be overated and underated at the same time Aldridge fits that. Talk to some Blazer fans and they are convince he is a top five power forward in the game and can be a perenial all-star. Talk to people who aren't fans of the Blazers and they bash on Aldridge so much you forget he averaged 18 points and almost 8 rebounds a game for the past three seasons.
Aldridge has a soft reputation which started from Blazers beat writer Jason Quick. Aldridge fits the model of players today where is a great shooter. Aldridge has a jumpshot that reminds fans of Kevin Garnett in his prime years. Aldridge when Roy went down stepped up his game. In the playoffs Aldridge against perenial all-star Amare Stoudamire he averaged 19.0 PPG,6.0 RPG and almost two blocks a game. Aldridge the previous year while facing Houston who had tons of bigs averaged 19.5 PPG, 7.5 RPG, and almost 1.5 blocks per game.
Say what you will about Aldridge but he is a natural scorer. For him and the Blazers to take that next step though he must improve his rebounding. Last year in game five of the playoffs he had just two rebounds in over 40 minutes. To get to that All-Star level he has to improve on the inside and on defense. Offensively he is there with his shooting but defensively he still has a ways to go. Aldridge looking at his stats has appeared to have each his plateau which isn't necesarily a bad thing given he has averaged 18 and 8.
Luke Babbitt: Luke Babbitt is a talented 6'9" forward who can shoot the outside shot. While at Nevada last year he averaged 21.9 PPG and grabbed 8.9 rebounds while making over a three pointer a game. Babbitt the Blazers were so high on is why they traded away three point specialist and former draft lottery pick Martell Webster away.
Look for Babbitt to be a nice spark off the bench this year for the Blazers. He is a tall small forward who can rebound and shoots the ball really well. If the Blazers can trade Rudy Fernandez look for Babbitt to steal his minutes. He will contribute some this year but down the road he could be a nice 6th man off the bench for the Blazers.
Marcus Camby: The Blazers were 17-6 in the 23 games that Marcus Camby played for them. Portland traded the popular Steve Blake and Travis Outlaw to get Camby and it appeared Camby would leave at the end of the season. Camby fell in love with Portland and decided to resign with them. Given Oden and Przybilla injury status having Camby around will prove to be huge.
The knock on the Blazers is they aren't tough enough inside but with Camby that simply isn't the case. In fact when healthy I dare someone to name me a team who has a better set of centers in the NBA. All Camby did in Portland was do what he always does which is play great defense and rebound the ball. Last year for the Blazers Camby averaged 7.0 PPG, 11.1 RPG, a steal and two blocks a game. In the playoffs against the Suns Camby was a monster in the first five games. In the first five games Camby added 56 rebounds, 31 points and 7 block shots. He had a rough game six though. Camby will be asked to be the starter regardless of Greg Oden's health. When healthy look for Oden and Camby at times to be on the floor at the same time making it virtually impossible for teams to score inside on them.
Greg Oden: When you google search Greg Odens name what often comes up is "Sam Bowie", "Taken over Kevin Durant" and "Horse". The first two I"ll talk about and the last one well I'll just leave it alone.
Greg Oden fair or not fair will always be linked to Kevin Durant much like Sam Bowie was to Michael Jordan. The good news for Oden is he still has plenty of time to make people forget that he is a bust. There was once a time people mocked the Houston Texans for taking Mario Williams over Reggie Bush, the Twins for taking Joe Mauer over Mark Prior and the Rockets for taking Yao Ming over Jay Williams(the Duke point not White Chocalate). When you look at Oden's numbers the stat that sticks out the most is 82 games played in three seasons. His injuries have been true injuries two of which have ended his season.
To be fair to Oden injuries are a part of the game but to call someone a bust because of such injuries is unfair. A bust in my mind is someone like Kwayme Brown who is just plain garbage. Oden is far from garbage in fact when healthy last year all be it just 21 games he ranked as the 8th most valuable player in the entire NBA according to Jon Hollingers sabermetrics esque rankings. I'll break down Greg Oden's numbers from last year he averaged 11.1 PPG, 8.5 RPG and 2.3 BPG. He also shot 60% from the field and 76% from free throws proving he isn't a Shaq, he also played in just 24 minutes a game. Now those stats are fair but for a #1 pick overall they aren't what you'd expect. Here is what Oden's numbers would be if he played 35 minutes a game which isn't unreasonable he would average 16.2 PPG,12.4 RPG and 3.4 blocks per game. To me that looks like a game changer, those numbers are exactly what Portland thought they would get out of him when they drafted him.
No player in the NBA is as big of an X-factor as Greg Oden is. Oden if he is healthy and can give the team 25-35 minutes a game is a huge addition. If they Blazers can somehow get Oden for 50 games at 25 minutes a night and most importantly get him for the Blazers it's the equivalent of them signing an all-star calibar center. The Blazers with a healthy Oden can feature two of the top five best defensive centers in basketball. The Blazers can be an extremely hard team to score on with Roy, Batum and their centers.
As a fan of basketball I want to see Greg Oden healthy. I think he has got an unfair rap and I loved watching him at Ohio State. Oden will begin the year injured but when he comes back and especially if he plays like he did last year that is at least five extra wins if not ten.
Joel Przybilla: Joel Przybilla is the only guy on the Blazers roster who was there during Nate McMillans first season with the Blazers just five years ago. Przybilla is another defensive minded center who won't score much but he sure can rebound and block shots. Last year Przybilla averaged 7.9 RPG and 1.4 blocks in just 22 minutes. He is also recovery from an injury and played in just 30 games last year.
Last year I went to a Blazers game against Minnesota and in a game where the Blazers scored 116 points the player I came away from most impressed with was Przybilla who scored just 7 points. Przybilla ability to box out defenders was amazing. He had 13 rebounds that game in just 25 minutes. I've seen Shawn Kemp, David Robinson, Dennis Rodman, Rasheed Wallace, Greg Oden, Arvydis Sabonis and Vin Baker back when he cared all play in person and other than Rodman, Przybilla was the best at getting rebounds I had seen in person. In fact last year he started 9 games and excluding the game he got hurt in early he averaged 9.9 RPG in those starts. With Przybilla healthy along with Oden and Camby the Blazers have a good rotation at center. If you are a big man playing the Blazers you know you are going to have to work because three guys will be hammering you all game long.
Nate McMillan: This will be Mr. Sonics 11th season as head coach of the NBA. This will be his sixth season in Portland. McMillan has a 410-395 record and a 12-16 playoff record. Now McMillan's record is a bit off because he inherited a crappy Portland team and went 21-61 his first season and his Seattle teams were always very average.
McMillan enters this year as a possible lame duck coach. You'll hear how that will distract the players which I don't believe to be true. In fact his best season to date was when he was in this same position as head coach back in the 2004-05 season with the Sonics. He led the Sonics that year to a 52-30 season and won the first ever Northwest Division title. He also won the teams first playoff series since 1998 when he was on that team as a player. If players have big years in contract years why can't coaches?
I feel regardless of what happens this year McMillan won't be back next year. I feel like McMillan is frustrated with how things went this summer in particular the firing of Kevin Pritchard. Both McMillan and Pritchard helped turn the franchise around from the Jail Blazers to the guys that the city has embraced. This group is a talented young group that isn't going away. I feel like McMillan is a good coach to take crappy teams and make them good just don't know if he can take a team to the next level. NBA players especially established guys don't want to practice for three hours and have basically a drill sargent as head coach which McMillan basically is. So Portland fans appreciate McMillan while you have him because he is a good coach.
Just like last year the Blazers fan base and Paul Allen are tired of just making it to the playoffs. The expectations is to win a playoff series or else heads will roll. You already saw that with the entire coaching staff being replaced, both the general manager and assistent general manager were also replaced. The Blazers have advanced past the first round just two years since 1993. The Blazers have only been a top four seed just three years since 1993. In the NBA it is hard to take that next jump just ask the Atlanta Hawks, Denver Nuggets, Minnesota Timberwolves when they had Garnett, Houston Rockets, etc. The Blazers are trying to take the hardest step there is in sports which is go from good to great.
When healthy the Blazers match up the best with the L.A.Lakers amongst the Western Conference teams. The Blazers have three quality centers and are deep at guard. The Blazers have plenty of shooters and an all-star who has the ball in his hands late in games. Sounds like a recipe for succeess. The Blazers also have an owner who is willing to spend money, expiring contracts(Przybilla and Miller), young cheap talent(Batum), draft picks(they have bought a ton and recently acquired the Hornets first rounder) and a possible franchise building piece(Oden) to swing a huge trade. The Blazers have as much amo as anyone to make a blockbuster trade. The question is can Rich Cho do something that Pritchard was unable to do which is take a major risk that the fans won't like but help the team. Stars win in this league not depth the Blazers have depth they just need another star.
All in all, I like this team but I just don't love this team. I look for the Blazers to continue to win 50 games in fact I'll say 55 wins which is good enough to be the fourth seed in the west behind the Lakers, Zombies and Mavericks. I think the west is so tight it will come down to matchups far as who wins in the first round. This team is way better off than they were last year. Since last year the team has added Matthews, Camby, and Babbitt while losing Blake, Outlaw and Webster. The west is tough but it's time for the Blazers to finally grow up and stop using the dread "P" word and creating results. Look for the Blazers to finally win a postseason series for the first time since 2000.
I hoped you liked my Blazers season preview. I will make sure to attend a few games at Rose Garden. The Blazers crowd is at times like an overprotecting parent but the fans and the atmosphere is great especially for an NBA crowd. Well that wraps up my preview of the Portland Trail Blazers.