Articles By Charlie Miller

All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /columns/around-nl/2010-nlcs-preview
Body:

Giants ace Tim LincecumNLCS
San Francisco Giants vs. Philadelphia Phillies

Game 1 – Sat. – 7:30 – at Philadelphia
Tim Lincecum v. Roy Halladay

Game 2 – Sun. – 8:00 – at Philadelphia
Jonathan Sanchez v. Roy Oswalt

Game 3 – Tue. – 4:00 – at San Francisco
Matt Cain v. Cole Hamels

Game 4 – Wed. – 7:30 – at San Francisco
Madison Bumgarner v. Joe Blanton

Game 5 – Thur. – 7:30 – at San Francisco
Tim Lincecum v. Roy Halladay

Game 6 – Sat. – 3:30 – at Philadelphia
Jonathan Sanchez v. Roy Oswalt

Game 7 – Sun. – 7:30 – at Philadelphia
Matt Cain v. Cole Hamels

Game 1 features one of the best pitching matchups we’ve seen in the postseason of all-time. Defending two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum of the Giants faces the Phillies’ Roy Halladay — he of a regular-season perfect game and postseason no-hitter. Following matchups of Jonathan Sanchez and Roy Oswalt, and Matt Cain and Cole Hamels plaster the scoreboard with zeroes.

But starting pitching is the only area in which the Giants can hang with the Phillies. The Giants have been resilient in fighting their way through a tight NL West race. They thrive on playing close games, having to battle through every at-bat. The battling mentality will serve them well in Philadelphia, but it won’t be sufficient to plate enough runs to keep up with the Phils’ potent lineup.

Defensively, the Phillies are better than solid, both in the infield and outfield. They won’t beat themselves. The bullpen is deep and closer Brad Lidge had been unflappable of late, reminiscent of the 2008 postseason.

If the series makes it back to Philadelphia, which is doubtful, the Phillies will end in Game 6.
 

Teaser:
Two of the best pitching staffs in baseball will take the mound in the NLCS, which starts with a Game 1 showdown between San Francisco's Tim Lincecum and Philadelphia's Roy Halladay.
Post date: Friday, October 15, 2010 - 12:52
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /columns/lighter-side/sports-lite-1
Body:

“I am the way, the truth and the Sports Lite.’’ Not to, you know, brag or anything, but how many other columns out there got some love in the Bible? …

The latest on the Brett Favre saga: Favre’s marriage has been listed as questionable on the Vikings’ injury report. …

Favre completed his 500th touchdown pass the other night. Well, not counting the short skirts in the front office. …

For the record, I’m a big Favre fan. I don’t know if this stuff is true, but since he hasn’t denied any of it, I’m thinking he got caught with his pants down. His sweatpants, too. …

Come on, Brett, this is the 21st century. At least make something up. Tell them somebody spiked your water bottle and made you hallucinate. Either that or you’re a devout Mennonite like Floyd Landis and you’d never do such a thing. …

What, you think the media are being rough on Favre? I can’t wait to see what sign Packers GM Ted Thompson draws up for the Vikings’ visit to Lambeau next week. …

NFL officials have been trying to get through to Jenn Sterger to no avail. Let me guess. She’s on a conference call with the editors at Playboy. …

Teaser:
Jim Armstrong discusses Brett Favre's "issues" in a way that only Bill Clinton could love. That and more from the Lighter Side of Sports.
Post date: Thursday, October 14, 2010 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/making-dynasty
Body:

The Making of a Dynasty? Yes

by Ethan Skolnick

Basketball, even at the highest level, is a simple game based on simple strategies and even simpler arithmetic.
Your offense is only as dynamic and efficient as the number of players who demand a double-team. Double-teams increase the likelihood that somebody will get a clear and open look at the basket — on balance, in rhythm and unforced. After all, even average NBA players can exploit that extra space to score.


So if you have a star, you can probably produce enough points to make the playoffs. But it’s hard to go much further. The Heat have been one of those teams the past two seasons, with Dwyane Wade carrying almost all the load. Historically, to contend, NBA teams have needed two legitimate stars, forcing defenses to pick their poison, which is why Pau Gasol’s addition to Kobe Bryant’s Lakers was so impactful.


What if you have three? What if you have three of the league’s top-10 talents, all entering or in their primes?  What if you have three players who have shot high percentages even when flanked by teammates that few defenses feared?  


Here’s what happens, and will happen for Pat Riley’s Miami Heat: You win a championship immediately, in the first season that those three stars are on the same side.


After all, the Celtics won a championship in their first season (2007-08) after adding Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to Paul Pierce, and all were in their 30s, all about a half-step slower than they’d been a half-decade before. Wade, 28, is currently better than Allen was when he got to Boston. LeBron James, 25, is better than Pierce was then. And if Chris Bosh, 26, isn’t clearly better than Garnett was, he likely has much better days ahead.
As for the skeptics who wonder whether this will work? Well, they need to get working calculators.


Wade demands a double-team. James demands a double-team. Bosh demands a double-team. Last time we checked, the NBA doesn’t allow the sixth man to enter the game until a starter leaves the floor. So you can’t double-team all three at once, even if you wanted to, even if you were comfortable leaving the Heat’s other two players entirely alone. That means that at least one of them, at virtually all times, will have single coverage. And, quite simply, that’s basketball suicide. Bosh has a varied offensive repertoire, and has been one of the league’s most consistent and efficient frontcourt players from his second season forward — even while playing with no one better in Toronto than a bored Hedo Turkoglu or a declining Jermaine O’Neal.


Wade and James are among the league’s three most difficult perimeter assignments, not just because of their skill level (Wade’s first step and James’ strength) but also because of the respect they garner from the officials. When they’re not at the rim, they’ll be at the line. Think their games aren’t complementary? James has never seemed comfortable in the late-game killer role. Wade thrives on it. James loves to pass. Wade has shown a willingness to share when he trusts his teammates. How could he not trust these guys?


So it really doesn’t matter which other two players are on the floor — after landing the Big Three, Riley could have just chosen the complementary pieces out of the American Airlines Arena crowd. Instead, he piled on. He added three of the league’s premier shooters in Mike Miller, Eddie House and James Jones (whose wrist has finally healed) to stand out on the 3-point line and dare opponents to ignore them. He loaded up the frontcourt with solid screen-setters, starting with Udonis Haslem, Joel Anthony and Jamaal Magloire, to free the Big Three on the rare occasions they don’t do so themselves. And he brought back Carlos Arroyo to bring the ball up the floor and give it to a rested James or Wade to take it from there.


Sure, you say, but defense wins championships. Well, this has the potential to be a strong defensive team. Anthony has been one of the league’s best shot-blockers on a 48-minute basis. Haslem and Magloire are physical and tireless positional defenders. The Heat missed out on acquiring a proven irritator of opposing swingmen, someone like Matt Barnes or Raja Bell, who signed with the Lakers and Jazz, respectively. But Wade and James have both shown that when they are energetic and enthused, they can dominate on that end. They should both be more energetic because they’ll get more rest, not only on the sidelines but also when on the floor, since they aren’t responsible for creating every shot for themselves or someone else.


And you can bet they’ll both be enthused.


Nothing motivates like negative press, and the trio — Miami Thrice, the Triple Play, the Heatles, whatever — has heard plenty of that since this officially came together on July 8. They’ve heard that they colluded, to the detriment of fair NBA competition. They’ve heard that they each ran from the responsibility of leading a franchise, taking the easy way out. They’ve heard, from legends like Magic Johnson and Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley and Reggie Miller, that yesterday’s stars would never have joined forces like this.


“I’m going to have a lot of stuff in my locker,” James says of the criticism. “I like that. It’s on.”


It will fuel them, getting them through the boredom of the 82-game slog. Until they can take a run at the team on top.
“We know the Lakers are the defending champions, two-time defending champions, and they’re a very, very, very good team,” Wade says.
They are. But this team will be great. A dynasty. Starting now.


The Making of a Dynasty? No
by Michael Murphy

Oh, it’s tempting. Very tempting.


Seeing two-time reigning MVP LeBron James joining 2006 Finals MVP Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh in Miami makes you want to hand the Heat the NBA title. Not just one, either. Two. Three. Four. However many they want to win — an endless string of championships, parades and good times on South Beach.


It’s a breathtaking glimpse of the new world order, NBA-style.


Yes, it’s very tempting.


But let’s not get carried away with the coronation just yet. Sure, James, Wade and Bosh make up the best power trio since Cream, but don’t be too surprised if this super-collider experiment turns out to be a relative dud.


Will they be entertaining? Yes.


Will they win a lot of games? Definitely.


Are they a lock to win the title? Hardly.


Make no mistake, nobody’s saying that it can’t work. Even if the Heat fielded only the Three Kings and went 3-on-5 every night (and some will insist that Miami will be doing precisely that), you’d still have to throw them into the discussion of potential champions.


But history tells us that the road is going to be tougher than most people think.


Yes, this bold experiment has been tried before, and for the most part, the previous efforts have failed to meet the incredible expectations.
In 1968, the Los Angeles Lakers put together what then was the greatest collection of individual talent ever to play on one team. Wilt Chamberlain, the most dominant offensive force in the history of the game, joined Jerry West and Elgin Baylor to make the first real superteam.


Just like today, there was much hand-wringing and gnashing of teeth over how the Lakers were going to be an unbeatable juggernaut, win a slew of titles and destroy the sanctity of the game. Didn’t quite work out that way. The Lakers were derailed by Boston in the Finals, with Bill Russell leading the aging Celtics, a true team, to one last, dynasty-closing championship. It wasn’t until three years later, after Baylor retired nine games into the 1971-72 season, that the Lakers finally won their championship.


In 1976, Julius Erving, the LeBron James of his time, joined the Philadelphia 76ers, which featured All-Stars George McGinnis and Doug Collins. There was similar fanfare, but the Sixers, who won “only” 50 games, were shot down by Bill Walton’s Portland Trail Blazers in the NBA Finals.
In 1996, Charles Barkley hopped on board with the Houston Rockets, joining Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler (later replaced by Scottie Pippen) to form another dazzling constellation of superstars. But the team couldn’t develop the proper chemistry and never advanced past the Western Conference finals.


Of course there have been a few examples of power trios that actually worked. The Chicago Bulls teamed Michael Jordan, Pippen and Dennis Rodman, a dynamic trio that won three straight championships. But it worked well because Rodman never got in the way offensively, preferring to stick to defense and rebounding while leaving most of the shots — and the glory — to Jordan and Pippen.


And the Boston Celtics wrung an NBA title out of the teaming of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen and Paul Pierce. Garnett and Allen were done-it-all veterans nearing the ends of illustrious careers, so they were willing to subjugate their egos in pursuit of the only thing that had eluded them, a ring, which they got in 2008 to cap a glorious 66-win season.


But as the Lakers, Sixers and Rockets clearly illustrated, it’s not just about adding superstars together. No, the area to watch is chemistry, which is why Miami’s experiment could blow up in their faces. James, Wade and Bosh are not end-of-the-line veterans. No, they’re young studs who have always been the No. 1 options for their teams. How will that be addressed in the locker room and team huddle?


And each of these three has always been the last guy to trot onto the floor — usually after an elaborately choreographed signature routine with his teammates — during the pre-game introductions. What now? And don’t for a second think that anything that trivial doesn’t matter, because in the ego-driven world of professional sports, it does.


Indeed, everything matters.


Who’s the facilitator and who’s the finisher? Who takes the last shot? Who has the ball in his hands at the end of the game? And how long before the respective families, friends, “advisors,” and “team members” start counting up the shots, headlines and column inches? How long until the ties that bind these three mega-stars together start fraying?


Sure, they said and did all the right things during the 2008 Olympics, but that was a very short sample with the outcome all but assured, not the under-the-microscope pressure of an 82-game season and playoff run.


Then there’s the ridiculous pressure on the coach, who knows that most fans expect them to go 82–0. And how long before the “other” teammates grow tired of their relative invisibility? It all contributes to friction in the locker room, where many of the Heat’s games will be won and lost.
Whatever the result, the Heat did all the right things to position themselves for what will certainly be a very memorable stretch.


“The road to history,” James wrote on his Twitter account, “starts now.”


Let’s see where — and just how far — that road takes them.

Teaser:
Post date: Wednesday, October 13, 2010 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/western-conference-notebook
Body:

Ranking the Offseason Moves

1. L.A. Lakers Mitch Kupchak’s key offseason moves included re-signing Derek Fisher and replacing backup point guard Jordan Farmar with Steve Blake. He also brought in former Laker nemesis Matt Barnes and backup center Theo Ratliff. All three newcomers will help improve Phil Jackson’s rotation.

2. Dallas Mavericks The biggest move here was re-signing Dirk Nowitzki, but Dallas also added size and shot-blocking by re-signing Brendan Haywood and unloading Erick Dampier, Matt Carroll and Eduardo Najera in exchange for Tyson Chandler and Alexis Ajinca.

3. Houston Rockets Daryl Morey brought back restricted free agents Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry and added Brad Miller as insurance for Yao Ming, who returns from a year-long absence.

4. Phoenix Suns Despite losing Amar’e Stoudemire to free agency, Phoenix was able to fortify the front line by re-signing Channing Frye and acquiring Hakim Warrick and Josh Childress. The Suns also traded for Hedo Turkoglu to replace some of Stoudemire’s scoring.

5. Oklahoma City Thunder  Inking Kevin Durant to a long-term extension amid all of the LeBron chaos was one of the more deft moves made this offseason, and the Thunder also added vets Morris Peterson and Daequan Cook to fill key roles for Scott Brooks’ ever-improving rotation.

 

All-Western Conference Preseason Team

First Team

Kobe Bryant             G            L.A. Lakers

Tim Duncan             F            San Antonio

Kevin Durant             G            Oklahoma City

Pau Gasol            F            L.A. Lakers

Deron Williams             G            Utah

Second Team

Carmelo Anthony            F            Denver

Yao Ming             C            Houston

Dirk Nowitzki             F            Dallas

Chris Paul             G            New Orleans

Brandon Roy             G            Portland

Third Team

Andrew Bynum             C            L.A. Lakers

Rudy Gay             F            Memphis

Manu Ginobili             G            San Antonio

David Lee             F            Golden State

Steve Nash             G            Phoenix

All-Rookie Team

James Anderson             G            San Antonio

DeMarcus Cousins             F            Sacramento

Xavier Henry            G            Memphis

Quincy Pondexter             F            New Orleans

Tiago Splitter            F            San Antonio

 

 

Coaches on the Rise

Alvin Gentry

Phoenix

Gentry landed the Suns in the Western Conference Finals last season.

Scott Brooks

Oklahoma city

The reigning Coach of the Year leads a hungry team into the 2010-11 season.

 

Coach on the Hot Seat

Don Nelson

Golden State

Nellie became the all-time winningest coach in NBA history last season, but new owner Joseph Lacob won’t have much patience if the Warriors produce another losing campaign.

 

One More Year

Phil Jackson

L.A. Lakers

After leading the Lakers to the franchise’s 16th title, coach Phil Jackson — the owner of 11 championship rings — opted to return to the sidelines in pursuit of what would be an amazing fourth three-peat as a head coach. In announcing his decision, Jackson said the 2010-11 season would be his “last stand.”

 

Time to Shine

The following players are primed for big seasons in 2010-11.
Expect to see a few in the All-Star Game.

Stephen Curry           

G            Golden State

Eric Gordon

G            L.A. Clippers

George Hill

G            San Antonio

Robin Lopez

C            Phoenix

Luis Scola

F            Houston

Marcus Thornton

G            New Orleans

Russell Westbrook

G            Oklahoma City

 

 

 

Sliding Back

Don’t be surprised if the following players take a step
(or, in some cases, another step) backward this season.

Ron Artest

G            L.A. Lakers

Baron Davis

G            L.A. Clippers

Derek Fisher

G            L.A. Lakers

Kenyon Martin

F             Denver

Emeka Okafor

C            New Orleans

Tony Parker

G            San Antonio

Hedo Turkoglu

F            Phoenix

 

 

Under-the-Radar Signings

David Lee, Golden State (six years, $80 million) 

A first-time All-Star last season with the Knicks, Lee’s offensive skills will shine in Golden State’s system.

Hakim Warrick, Phoenix (four years, $18 million) 

Warrick’s talents will be showcased in the up-tempo Phoenix attack.

Darko Milicic, Minnesota (four years, $20 million) 

Another nonsensical offseason move by David Kahn resulted in the former No. 2 overall pick stealing money from the Wolves.

Wesley Matthews, Portland (five years, $32.5 million) Give the undrafted rookie credit for making the most of his minutes in Utah.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 18:38
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/eastern-conference-notebook
Body:

Ranking the Offseason Moves
1. Miami Heat  It doesn’t get much better than re-signing Dwyane Wade and adding LeBron James and Chris Bosh —and convincing all three to take less than max dollars. Miami also re-signed Udonis Haslem while bringing in Mike Miller, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Juwan Howard and Eddie House to fill key roles.

2. Boston Celtics  Quietly, the Celtics brought back their core — coach Doc Rivers, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen — and re-upped role players Nate Robinson and Marquis Daniels. The addition of the O’Neals — Jermaine and Shaquille — gives Boston some support down low while Kendrick Perkins works his way back from knee surgery.

3. Chicago Bulls  Chicago hit a home run by hiring Tom Thibodeau as head coach and became the Utah Jazz of the Eastern Conference by inking Carlos Boozer, Kyle Korver and Ronnie Brewer. The addition of Kurt Thomas helps mitigate the loss of Brad Miller, while C.J. Watson will help spell Derrick Rose.

4. Milwaukee Bucks  Scott Skiles’ squad will have help in the scoring department after bringing in Corey Maggette from Golden State, and re-signing John Salmons. Keyon Dooling will give Brandon Jennings a solid backup following the departure of Luke Ridnour. The Bucks also added some interior depth with Drew Gooden and Jon Brockman.

5. New York Knicks  Knicks fans were hoping to land two max players last summer but will have to settle for one in the form of Amar’e Stoudemire. New York also landed Raymond Felton via free agency and Anthony Randolph, Ronny Turiaf and Kelenna Azubuike from the Warriors in the sign-and-trade deal for David Lee.

Time to Shine
The following players are primed for breakout seasons in 2010-11:

Jeff Teague, G, Atlanta
Joakim Noah, C, Chicago
Brandon Jennings, G, Milwaukee
Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey
Terrence Williams, F, New Jersey
Anthony Randolph, F, New York
Andray Blatche, F, Washington


All-Eastern Conference
First Team
Chris Bosh, F, Miami
Dwight Howard, C, Orlando
LeBron James, F, Miami
Rajon Rondo, G, Boston
Dwyane Wade, G, Miami

Second Team
Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee
Joe Johnson, G, Atlanta
Paul Pierce, F, Boston
Derrick Rose, G, Chicago
Amar’e Stoudemire, F, New York

Third Team
Carlos Boozer, F, Chicago
Danny Granger, F, Indiana
Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey
Jameer Nelson, G, Orlando
Gerald Wallace, F, Charlotte

All-Rookie Team
Ed Davis, F, Toronto
Derrick Favors, F, New Jersey
Greg Monroe, F, Detroit
Evan Turner, G, Philadelphia
John Wall, G, Washington

Coaches on the Rise
Tom Thibodeau, Chicago
The defensive specialist’s style should translate well in Chicago. He’ll also have a lot of talent to work with.

Avery Johnson, New Jersey
After the Nets’ near-record losing season, there’s nowhere to go but up.

Scott Skiles, Milwaukee
Skiles’ hard-nosed approach nearly landed the Bucks in the second round of the playoffs even without Andrew Bogut and Michael Redd.

Coaches on the Hot Seat
Jay Triano, Toronto
After losing the services of Chris Bosh and Hedo Turkoglu, Triano won’t have a whole lot to work with this season.

Jim O’Brien, Indiana
O’Brien has presided over three straight losing campaigns in Indiana, and things aren’t likely to turn around anytime soon.

Erik Spoelstra, Miami
Spoelstra is Miami’s coach … for now. With the legendary Pat Riley peering over the railing of his front office seat, the onus is on Spoelstra to prove he can lead a team constructed to win big and win now. Remember that Riley replaced Stan Van Gundy early in Miami’s 2005-06 championship campaign, so the precedent has been set if Spoelstra hits a rough patch.

Sliding Back
Don’t be surprised if the following players take a step
(or, in some cases, another step) backward this season.

Ray Allen, G, Boston
Leandro Barbosa, G, Toronto
Elton Brand, F, Philadelphia
Richard Hamilton, G, Detroit
Devin Harris, G, New Jersey
Josh Howard, F, Washington
Rashard Lewis, F, Orlando

Under-the-Radar Signings
Mike Miller, Miami (five years, $29 million)
Miller will get plenty of open looks in Miami with opposing defenses concentrating on the Big Three.

Kyle Korver, Chicago (three years, $15 million) 
Every team needs a good shooter, and Korver is an excellent one. He shot an NBA-best 53.6 percent from 3-point range last season.

Amir Johnson, Toronto (five years, $34 million) 
What has Johnson proven to deserve this kind of money? He finished the season strong but still averaged just 6.2 points and 4.8 rebounds in 2009-10.

Joe Johnson, Atlanta (six years, $124 million) 
While the market was willing to reward a player of Johnson’s caliber, the question has to be asked: Was the 29-year-old really worth max dollars?

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 18:32
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /columns/national-notebook/nba-penny-wise-dollar-foolish
Body:

Penny Wise

1. LeBron James (Miami) six years, $110 million

A King’s ransom? Not quite, as the Heat got the best player in the game to sign the dotted line for less than the maximum amount.

2. Dwyane Wade (Miami) six years, $107 million

Not only was Wade willing to share his turf with two other superstars, but he also agreed to share some of his dough, leaving money on the table when he re-upped with the Heat.

3. Chris Bosh (Miami) six years, $110 million

Most people felt that Bosh wasn’t a max contract type of player. Luckily for Miami, Bosh apparently agreed, as he’ll try to scrape by on $110 million over the next six years.

4. Derek Fisher (Lakers) three years, $10.5 million

He may be an old man and not a “true” point guard, but he fits perfectly in the Lakers’ triangle offense, and most important, Kobe Bryant trusts him.

5. Carlos Boozer (Chicago) five years, $80 million

That’s a lot of money ($80 million) for a guy who resembles a pylon on defense, but the Bulls need an offensive big man to team up with defensive-minded Joakim Noah. Boozer is a guaranteed 20 and 10 guy who cost the Bulls $20 million less than Amar’e Stoudemire would have.

6. Ray Allen (Boston) two years, $20 million

He may have been hot and cold in the playoffs, and is getting long in the tooth, but overall, Allen’s game has been fairly consistent over the course of his Celtics career. Even better, considering he made $18 million last season, this new contract gives Boston a “two years for the price of one” discount.

7. Anthony Morrow (New Jersey) three years, $12 million

At 25 years old, Morrow appears ready to have a breakout season, which makes him a perfect fit for the Nets’ young, rebuilding team. New Jersey got him in the prime of his career for the bargain basement average of $4 million per season.

8. Ronnie Brewer (Chicago) three years, $12.5 million

Similarly, Chicago got a bargain of its own — the 25-year-old Brewer. You don’t get starting shooting guards who can bring it at both ends of the floor for this cheap very often.

9. Randy Foye (Clippers) two years, $8.5 million

Foye might have had an off-year last season in Washington, but he gives the Clippers a versatile guard, capable of playing either spot in the backcourt and lighting up the scoreboard.

10. Matt Barnes (Lakers) two years, $3.7 million

Barnes has always been a thorn in Kobe Bryant’s side, so the Lakers came up with a solution — sign him as a free agent. To get him out of Kobe’s hair alone is worth his $3.7 million contract. He’ll also be good for some offense off the bench.

 

Dollar Foolish

1. Joe Johnson (Atlanta) six years, $124 million

Johnson is 29 years old, shot under 30 percent from the field as the Magic swept the Hawks out of the playoffs and left the court to the sound of hometown boos. Atlanta thought this added up to a six-year max contract.

2. Rudy Gay (Memphis) five years, $82 million

The consensus is that the Grizzlies paid Gay a lot more than any opposing suitor would have. Now where’s the money going to come from when teammates O.J. Mayo and Marc Gasol see their contracts expire over the next couple of years?

3. Tyrus Thomas (Charlotte) five years, $40 million

Thomas has already played four seasons in the NBA and has never come close to reaching the potential teams saw in him. Do you really want to gamble $40 million that the light bulb is going to go on now?

4. Jermaine O’Neal (Boston) two years, $12 million

The Celtics must have been so impressed with the four points and six rebounds that Jermaine O’Neal averaged against them in the playoffs last season that they just had to give him $12 million to play for them.

5. Amar’e Stoudemire (New York) five years, $100 million

So this is what $100 million buys you in the NBA today — a player with bad knees, bad eyes and bad defense.

6. Amir Johnson (Toronto) five years, $34 million

Johnson has career averages of 15 minutes, five points and four boards per game. In Canada, this is worth $34 million. So why again does Toronto have trouble attracting free agents?!

7. Kyle Lowry (Houston) four years, $24 million

Houston decided it was a good idea to pay their backup point guard (Kyle Lowry) more than twice what they are paying their starting point guard (Aaron Brooks). Brooks ought to ask to move to the bench so he can get a pay raise.

8. Travis Outlaw (New Jersey) five years, $35 million

Outlaw managed to play in only 34 games last year (and shot under 40 percent from the field) due to a foot injury. This earned him a contract worth more than double his last one (for that, his agent deserves a raise, too).

9. Richard Jefferson (San Antonio) four years, $39 million           

Jefferson proved to be a horrible fit in San Antonio last year, having his worst season since his rookie year. Yet he surprisingly opted out of his contract. But what’s even more surprising is that the Spurs handed him $39 million to stick around.

10. Brendan Haywood (Dallas) six years, $55 million

Haywood is an average player at best whose prime years are behind him. However, Dallas locked him up until he is 36 years old, at which point they’ll have paid him $55 million. Such are the perks of being a 7-footer.

Teaser:
This summer’s NBA free agent frenzy certainly didn’t disappoint, with drama — and dollars — in abundant supply. While Miami came out of the scrum with the jewels of the class (and a much lighter bank account), they weren’t the only ones spending the greenbacks, as the losers of the LeBron James sweepstakes still had to spend their money on someone. But was all this money wisely spent? Here are the ten best deals (Penny Wise) and biggest rip-offs (Dollar Foolish) of the Summer of LeBron.
Post date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 18:16
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /college-basketball/wizard-wisdom
Body:

Wizard of Wisdom

John Wooden left this Earthly plane on Friday, June 4, but the 99-year-old, 10-time national title winning former UCLA coach transcended the world of sports long ago.

A combination of the honest Abe Lincoln of hoops and the Dalai Lama of Los Angeles, the “Wizard of Westwood” was not just college basketball’s most accomplished coach, he was one of America’s wisest men and most respected elders at the time of his death.

Granted, Wooden’s achievements on the hardwood — as a player and a coach — are what most will remember him for. Not quite six-feet tall, Wooden was a three-time All-State selection and 1927 state champion at Martinsville (Ind.) High School before becoming a three-time All-American and unofficial 1932 national champ at Purdue.

After spending 11 years as a high school coach — two at Dayton (Ky.) HS and nine more at South Bend (Ind.) Central HS — Wooden coached two seasons at Indiana Teachers College (now known as Indiana State) before taking over for Wilbur Johns at UCLA in 1948. The rest is history.

Over 27 seasons as coach of the Bruins from 1948-75, Wooden led UCLA to an unprecedented 12 Final Four appearances, winning an NCAA-record 10 national titles (1964, ’65, ’67, ’68, ’69, ’70, ’71, ’72, ’73, ’75), including seven straight from 1967-73. At the pinnacle, Wooden’s Bruins won 88 consecutive games from Jan. 23, 1971 until the streak ended Jan. 19, 1974 — posting back-to-back undefeated 30–0 seasons in 1971-72 and ’72-73 during that remarkable run.

Wooden’s golden era was fueled largely by a pair of 7-foot superstars — New York City prodigy Lew Alcindor, who would later change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and red-headed San Diegan hippie Bill Walton, who would become the coach’s most public and devout follower.

In a piece entitled “Tribute to Coach” on Wooden’s official website, CoachWooden.com, Walton put his surprisingly poignant thoughts about the iconic leader on paper while he was still alive:

“It’s usually sad to say goodbye to those you love when it’s time to go. Not so with John Wooden. With him, it’s always about the next time, the next event, the next game. John Wooden still has the enthusiasm, energy, industriousness, initiative and love of life that allows him to get up every day, quite early I must add, even though the legs are now failing him, with the attitude of ‘We get to play basketball today. Let’s go.’

“I thank John Wooden every day for all his selfless gifts, his lessons, his time, his vision and especially his patience.

“This is why we call him coach.”

Although his 10 rings and 620 career wins at UCLA are incredible, they are only drops in the vast ocean of the teacher Wooden was. His “Pyramid of Success” philosophies and the love he had for his childhood sweetheart and wife of 53 years, Nell — even after she passed away in 1985, Wooden would write a love letter to her on the 21st of every month — speak volumes about a man whose life spanned a century but whose values never changed with the times.

Born on October 14, 1910 in Hall, Indiana, John Robert Wooden carried himself with a patient dignity and sincere humility that demanded respect and inspired awe in many until his death on June 4, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. However, Wooden has left behind a legacy of words to live by:

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.”

“Talent is God-given. Be humble. Fame is man-given. Be grateful. Conceit is self-given. Be careful.”

Be more concerned with your character than your reputation, because your character is what you really are, while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

“Don’t measure yourself by what you have accomplished, but by what you should have accomplished with your ability.”

“Failing to prepare is preparing to fail.”

“Your greatest strength is your greatest weakness.”

“The carrot is mightier than the stick.”

“Ability is a poor man’s wealth.”

“The worst thing you can do for someone is to do something for them they can and should do for themselves.”

“Don’t let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do.”

“If you’re not making mistakes, then you’re not doing anything. I’m positive that a doer makes mistakes.”

“Don’t look at the scoreboard.”

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

“It’s not so important who starts the game, but who finishes it.”

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.”

“Don’t be afraid to fail. The greatest failure of all is failure to act when action is needed.”

“It isn’t what you do, but how you do it.”

“Make each day your masterpiece.”

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 15:46
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /columns/national-notebook/college-basketball-national-notebook
Body:

By Ken Davis
Athlon Sports Contributor

The NCAA Tournament always arrives with the promise of surprises. Some come in the form of upsets on the court. Others develop into stories behind the scenes. The 2010 version has yet to begin and already there has been an unexpected development. Not a full-blown controversy, but certainly a matter of intrigue for one No. 1 seed.

Last week at this time, who knew that a major focal point for NCAA fans would be the injured right quadriceps of Syracuse center Arinze Onuaku? The injury didn’t happen until Thursday night when Syracuse lost to Georgetown 91-84 in the quarterfinals of the Big East Conference tournament. Onuaku received intensive medical treatment all weekend and Syracuse reportedly kept the NCAA basketball committee informed on his condition.

Sunday night the Orange received the No. 1 seed in the West Regional. Essentially, the committee stated that Syracuse dropped to the fourth No. 1 overall because of the uncertainty over Onuaku’s status. Not a major seismic shift on the S-curve. Still, the impression was that the center would be ready to play.

But less than 18 hours after the field was announced, Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim went on ESPN and said Onuaku won’t play Friday against Vermont in the first round and probably would be on the bench if the Orange advance to the second round.

“We’re not counting on him this weekend,” Boeheim said on ESPN. “He’s made good progress, but I’m not overly optimistic [about Friday].”

By then, the question was who knew what -- and when. During a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon, NCAA committee chair Dan Guerrero said he didn’t feel misled by Syracuse.

“I believe they provided the information they felt was appropriate at the time,” Guerrero said. “There’s no reason for us to question anyone’s integrity in that circumstance. They made the decision that they made to sit him.”

On Sunday, Guerrero had said with an injury of that magnitude, the committee tries to get as much information as possible. “We feel that he’s going to be able to come back, based on the information that we have. They’ve earned a No. 1 seed,” he said.

Injuries are an interesting element in seeding. The committee had much more time to evaluate Purdue without Robbie Hummel and the Boilermakers clearly paid a price for that. Purdue, at one time a possible No. 1 seed, was given a No. 4 and sent to the South.

Syracuse (28-4) did have an incredible season, but Onuaku’s injury is just one doubt surrounding the Orange heading into the tournament. Before the loss to Georgetown in Madison Square Garden, Syracuse lost its regular season finale at Louisville. No team has ever won the national championship after failing to win at least one game in its conference tournament. Certainly that can be overcome, but Syracuse has a rotation of just seven players with Onuaku. Boeheim said Kris Joseph, the Big East’s Sixth Man of the Year, will move into the starting lineup.

Syracuse, which features its 2-3 zone defense and has been an excellent transition team this season, has had excellent chemistry. Onuaku is Syracuse’s career field-goal percentage leader (64.9) and is averaging 10.7 points and 5.2 rebounds. Joseph is averaging 11 points but that chemistry could change and the minutes for the other Syracuse players will have to be adjusted by Boeheim.

“He’s a key part of our team,” Boeheim said after the injury.

Vermont defeated Syracuse in the first round of the 2005 tournament when Syracuse was a No. 4 seed. History isn’t likely to repeat itself. But Syracuse’s problems could increase the longer Onuaku is out and his effectiveness could be a question the entire tournament.

Vermont has one of the most explosive players in the tournament in Marqus Blakely, the two-time America East player of the year. The Catamounts also have Maurice Joseph, a Michigan State transfer and older brother of Syracuse’s Joseph.

Surprise.

Coaching Carousel Set In Motion

If Monday was any indication, it appears there will be many coaching jobs opening up -- and soon.

It came as little surprise that Iowa parted company with coach Todd Lickliter after only three seasons. Hawkeye fans had been unhappy with Lickliter and 22 losses made it impossible for athletic director Gary Barta to bring him back for a fourth season. The school has an exceptional passion for basketball but all the losing had resulted in home games being played before a half-empty arena.

Lickliter had four years left on a seven-year contract worth $1.2 million a year but Iowa will pay him only about $2.4 million total, Barta said. Lickliter did not attend the press conference announcing his firing.

Two other coaches fired Monday had much longer tenures than Lickliter. Charlotte fired Bobby Lutz, who had been at his alma mater for 12 seasons and is the school’s all-time winningest coach with a 218-158 record. Kirk Speraw also was the winningest coach at UCF but he is now unemployed after 17 years. UCF finished 15-17 this season but Speraw’s mark there was 279-233 with four NCAA bids. Hard to believe either would stay without jobs for too long.

One coach who isn’t going anywhere right now is UConn’s Jim Calhoun. Despite a report before the Big East tournament that Calhoun was retiring, he announced last week he had reached an agreement on a contract extension with the school he has led to two national championships. Calhoun still has to finalize everything by signing the new deal but he told reporters Monday the announcement was necessary because rumors of his retirement were hurting UConn in recruiting.

Planting The Seeds

Considering the overall weak perception of this year’s field, it had to be easier for the tournament committee to select the at-large bids that it was to put the pieces of the bracket together. There was plenty of evidence of that across the top two lines. Kansas and Kentucky were assigned the top No. 1 seeds but their path to the Final Four clearly is tougher than that of Duke or Syracuse.

Kansas, the overall No. 1 seed, is in the Midwest with No. 2 Ohio State, No. 3 Georgetown, No. 4 Maryland and No. 5 Michigan State. Throw in Oklahoma State and Tennessee, the only two teams to beat the Jayhawks this season, and it promises to be an eventful ride for Kansas.

The general consensus is that the Midwest is the toughest of the four brackets.

“There’s lots of challenges,” Kansas coach Bill Self said. “I look at the bracket, and I know the committee does a fabulous job, I don’t think they did us any favors. But I’m sure every coach in the field probably feels the same way.”

Think of the all-regional team that could be put together in the Midwest. Along with Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich at Kansas, you’ve got Ohio State’s Evan Turner, Georgetown’s Greg Monroe, Maryland’s Greivis Vasquez and Oklahoma State’s James Anderson. Houston, in the tournament for the first time since 1992, is in the Midwest as well. Aubrey Coleman, the nation’s leading scorer, leads the Cougars.

Joining Kentucky in the East is No. 2 West Virginia, the winner of the Big East tournament. Some would say New Mexico is seeded too high at No. 3 but Steve Alford’s team is tough. Wisconsin, Temple and Marquette are also in the East. There are teams there that can run with Kentucky and there are physical teams that could push around the Wildcats more than they want to be.

When Ohio State came up on the Selection Show as the No. 2 in the Midwest, Calipari told his players: “We wanted Ohio State.” Really? How strange. Maybe Coach Cal should call Self and work on a swap. Not sure how that would settle with West Virginia coach Bob Huggins, who didn’t think his Big East tournament champions got enough respect with a No. 2 seed -- especially lumped in Kentucky’s region. And when you look at Villanova’s No. 2 seed in the South with No. 1 Duke, you’ve really got to agree with Huggins.

Spotlight on NIT

Still trying to figure out the top four teams that just missed the NCAA? The bracket for the National Invitation Tournament provides a pretty good clue. Illinois, Arizona State, Virginia Tech and Mississippi State received the four No. 1 seeds in the NIT.

It will be interesting to watch the attendance figures and the television ratings from the NIT with those four schools and some other traditional powers, such as North Carolina, Connecticut, NC State, Memphis and Seton Hall in the field.

Illinois coach Bruce Weber must feel like the coach with the worst luck in the nation. After the Illini (19-14) missed out on an at-large bid to the NCAA it would seem a No. 1 seed for the NIT would be good news. Instead, Cirque du Soleil is booked to start a run of shows at Assembly Hall on Wednesday. That means the Illini will open NIT play on the road, at No. 8 seed Stony Brook.

Stony Brook (22-9) won the America East regular season championship but lost in the semifinals of the conference tourney. Coach Steve Pikiell’s team is pumped up about the school’s first postseason experience.

“For us, this is just a huge opportunity, nothing our community has ever felt,” Pikiell told The Chicago Tribune. “The students are lined up outside my office now, getting their student lottery tickets.”

It's not likely Stony Brook will make it, but Madison Square Garden would welcome the Long Island entry, along with UConn, North Carolina, and either St. John's or Seton Hall to the NIT Final Four on March 30. Lost in all the discussion of NCAA Tournament expansion is the future of the NIT, which is now run by the NCAA.

The NIT has to be part of the equation.

“We’ve had a very good experience with the NIT. The question is how can these two events coexist and coincide?” Greg Shaheen, NCAA senior vice president for basketball and business strategies, said in December.

Best NCAA Tournament First-Round Games

Midwest: No. 7 Oklahoma State vs. No. 10 Georgia Tech
West: No. 8 Gonzaga vs. No. 9 Florida State
East: No. 4 Wisconsin vs. No. 13 Wofford
South: No. 6 Notre Dame vs. No. 11 Old Dominion

Pick Your Upset (5 vs. 12)

Midwest: No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 12 New Mexico State
West: No. 5 Butler vs. No. 12 UTEP
East: No. 5 Temple vs. No. 12 Cornell
South: No. 5 Texas A&M vs. No. 12 Utah State
(Our choice: UTEP over Butler)

Second-Round Games We Want To See

Midwest: No. 5 Michigan State vs. No. 4 Maryland
West: No. 7 BYU vs. No. 2 Kansas State
East: No. 3 New Mexico vs. No. 6 Marquette
South: No. 1 Duke vs. No. 9 Louisville
(Upset special: BYU over K-State)

Final Four Predictions

Kansas over Syracuse; Kentucky over Villanova

Championship Game

Kansas 79, Kentucky 73
 

Teaser:
Ken Burns' final notebook looks at Arinze's Onuaku's injury, a glimpse toward the postseason and the coaching carousel.
Post date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 12:25
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /columns/bracket-breakdown/bracket-breakdown
Body:

March 12, 2010 Bracket

Mitch Light has updated his projected March Madness bracket all week. Here's his Friday version, which is the final edition before Selection Sunday. Make sure to sign up for the Athlon Sports Bracket Breakdown game.

Notes:

No new automatic bids were handed out, but Memphis played its way out of the field by virtue of its loss to Houston in the C-USA quarterfinals. Washington, which beat Oregon State, takes the spot for now. Marquette moved up another seed after beating Villanova in the Big East Tournament. Villanova dropped to a No. 3 and was replaced by Ohio State. Clemson’s loss to NC State bumped the Tigers down from a No. 8 to a No. 9. Northern Iowa is now the No. 8 in the Midwest.

Teaser:
College Basketball Editor Mitch Light updates his projected NCAA Tournament brackets each week.
Post date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 12:17
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /columns/elite-8/par-3-tee-shot
Body:

 
 
 

Instructor: Rob Akins

Since a tee shot on a par 3 is very similar to an approach shot on a par 4, it’s critical to master it, since it will stand you in good stead on other parts of the course. It’s like a two-for-the-price-of-one kind of skill.

Here, you can see that I’m on an elevated tee looking down at the hole. The first thing I do is engage in my pre-shot routine. I do some reconnaissance; I check the wind and soak in all the details I can — pin position, where the good “misses” are around the green. This is the most critical time in executing a good shot. I pay attention to me and what’s going on internally. If I’m at all uneasy, now’s the time to fix it, before I address the ball.

Mentally, you’re always either positive or negative on the golf course; there’s no neutral frame of mind. You need to get in a positive frame of mind and visualize what you want to happen with the shot. You should be able to close your eyes and visualize yourself executing the perfect shot.

I take a practice swing as I’m still standing behind the ball. Then, I re-focus and see the shot as I approach the ball, and I keep seeing it until the moment of the swing.

Set your club down, build your stance, waggle, see your target and pull the trigger.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /columns/waiver-wire/waiver-wire-5
Body:

By Matt Schauf

RapidDraft.com

As we get deeper into the season, waiver claims tend to lean more heavily toward injury reactions than simply emergent players. Seeing as how Week 5 presented some particularly impactful injury situations, I figured I’d change up the format a bit this week and react.

Joseph Addai, RB, Colts

The fact that he finished Week 5 padless on the sidelines had to worry plenty of Addai’s fantasy owners, but the running back at least said on Monday that he thinks he’ll be all right. We can never fully trust such proclamations, of course, which suddenly makes Mike Hart a relevant character.

Hart is a limited runner with a career 3-yard rushing average, but he scored the lone touchdown in Sunday’s victory over the Chiefs, and we all know that playing for the Colts creates scoring opportunities for anyone on the field. With Donald Brown inactive the past two weeks and Addai at least iffy at this point, Hart is worth claiming in deeper fantasy leagues. Of course, if one or both of the backs typically ahead of him on the depth chart prove fine for Sunday, Hart isn’t a player worth saving.

Jermichael Finley, TE, Packers – hamstring injury plus knee scope

Green Bay’s big-play tight end will apparently miss at least three weeks, and who knows how much more. Not long after he went down on Sunday, backup Donald Lee suffered a chest injury that is expected to cost him two weeks or so as well. The pair of injuries obviously creates opportunities for rookie third tight end Andrew Quarless, but how many fantasy owners want to trust a position to a first-year player who has been third on his own team’s depth chart to date? Quarless did draw six targets and caught four balls on Sunday, but he had seen just one target through four games to that point.

In the same game, however, James Jones garnered eight targets, his largest total of the season so far and tied for the team high in the game. With the tight ends out and Greg Jennings playing lackluster ball so far, there should be room for Jones to produce a bit more. At the least, he should be added by owners looking to fill a roster spot with an upside receiver. Of course, his immediate relevance figures to be affected by Aaron Rodgers’ status following his Week 5 concussion.

Digging a little deeper, Jordy Nelson drew some solid attention in training camp as a potential possession receiver and could find some more work under present conditions. Deeper leagues should keep an eye on him and perhaps make a preemptive claim.

Mark Clayton, WR, Rams – done for the year with a torn patellar tendon

Who would have guessed that the fantasy world would be rocked come Week 5 by an injury to Clayton, heretofore pretty much a first-round bust? His injury, though, takes away the guy who led the Rams in targets by 10 through four games.

In his absence, Danny Amendola drew an absurd 19 targets against the Lions, catching 12. That makes him an obvious add in any point-per-reception league in which he’s still available. Of course, a receiving average that looks more like Jamaal Charles’ rushing rate displays Amendola’s limitations. That should create opportunities for players such as Laurent Robinson, Brandon Gibson and Mardy Gilyard – the latter two of whom drew six targets on Sunday.

Now, everything in St. Louis figures to be inconsistent at best, but Robinson and Gibson make for decent bench options in PPR leagues, in that order. Neither is going to become a weekly starter, but each could get into the mix. Gilyard is your man in a deep league in which you’re simply looking for a wild card. Return duties add another area for potential big plays.

Michael Vick, QB, Eagles – rib cartilage

Vick didn’t get hurt in Week 5, but two significant developments affect his situation. First, word has come out that Vick appears likely to miss at least one more week. Some probably already expected as much, including RapidDraft Pro and friend Joe Namath, who said last week that a week of rest isn’t enough to heal such an injury. The other development, of course, was Kevin Kolb playing pretty well Sunday night at San Francisco.

Kolb should be added in most leagues this week and is a real starting option against the Falcons in Week 6. Vick, of course, is worth keeping around because we don’t yet know who will be the starter upon his return.

Peyton Hillis, RB, Browns – thigh

Hillis looked gimpy despite playing on Sunday and producing yet another touchdown. The smart money would seem to be on him playing this week against Pittsburgh, but it would also have to be against him or any other Brown producing worthwhile fantasy numbers.

Even if he doesn’t miss this week’s game, though, the quad strain will be an injury worth watching. Hillis already aggravated it in a game once, and if he were to do anything more to it this week, he could set Jerome Harrison up for significant use against the Saints in Week 7. Harrison has likely hit the waiver wire in plenty of leagues lately.

Dez Bryant, WR, Cowboys – ankle

Bryant played in Week 5 after leaving temporarily with an ankle injury, but he had just one second-half catch and could still be limited in Week 6. He seems likely to play, which keeps this from being a big deal, but it’s another reason to go ahead and claim Roy Williams in the few leagues in which he’s still available.

Teaser:
As we get deeper into the season, waiver claims tend to lean more heavily toward injury reactions than simply emergent players. Seeing as how Week 5 presented some particularly impactful injury situations, I figured I’d change up the format a bit this week and react.
Post date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: Golf
Path: /golf/elite-8
Body:

Instructor: Tom Ness

Where you make contact with the ball on a putt can have a profound effect on the outcome. If you hit the ball below its equator, it will pop up slightly and roll with backspin. Not what you want. I want you to hit the ball above its equator, with the shaft leaning forward at impact.

Look at the photos. In the large photo to the right, I’m in the proper impact position. Below, you can tell by the rotation of the stripe on the ball that I’ve hit it above the equator.

Tom Ness is the Director of the Golf Academy at Chateau Elan Winery & Resort in Braselton, Ga.
 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 12, 2010 - 03:21
All taxonomy terms: College Basketball
Path: /columns/qa/purdues-big-3
Body:

Athlon Sports: When you guys leave Purdue, you could be the all-time winningest class and all be in the top 10 in scoring. Do you think about your legacy at all? You really came in and re-energized the program.

JaJuan Johnson: I think about it, just because it’s our last year. You kind of look back and the past three years we had and you think, ‘Man, we’ve had a good career so far and it could potentially even be better.’ I think about being one of the best classes in Purdue history. I know (Robbie and E’Twaun) probably think the same thing. It’d be pretty cool just to be mentioned among some of the best classes.

Did you think you’d all get here — being seniors and all coming back?

Robbie Hummel: Honestly, this spring, I didn’t think that at all. I thought JaJuan was leaving (for the NBA). I think me and E’Twaun are both thrilled to have him back. I think it definitely makes our team a lot better and a lot more diverse. I think we can do a lot more with him on the court.

Who’s the best player on the team?

E’Twaun Moore: I’d say … (pause) …

Hummel: That’s a hard question.

Johnson: I think it depends on what night it is.

Moore: I say it depends on the matchup.

Some guys may not be able to adjust to having three stars on one team. What have you had to sacrifice to be in this situation?

Johnson: I think all of us probably feel like if we went somewhere else, at another school, we probably could average 20 points a game. But I think we all realize that we’re better all together. When we have three guys out there that are all capable of scoring and bringing other things to the court, it definitely helps the team.

You’re pretty popular around campus. How have you adjusted to that celebrity?

Hummel: We just have kind of leaned on each other because it has gotten crazy at Purdue with basketball. I think we’ve been able to talk to each other about it and take what E’Twaun or JaJuan says or even Keaton (Grant) or (Chris) Kramer and just kind of stay together and keep each other humble, I guess.

Johnson: I remember one time I had a dad ask me to kiss his daughter on the cheek. I thought that was kind of weird. I’d never had that happen. It was just last season. It was weird.

But you did it.

Johnson: Yeah.

I think (graduated senior) Chris Kramer was the most taunted on the road. Were you No. 2, Rob? Are you ready to move into that role?

Hummel: Yeah, Kramer, I don’t know why, maybe it was because of the way he played or the way he taunted the fans a bit. I don’t anticipate myself or any of these guys doing any of the stuff he did. So, hopefully, no, I’m not ready to move into that role.

Michigan State is pretty hostile. Weren’t there signs there last year about you?

Hummel: (Laughs) They had a picture of me and Kramer, and they photo-shopped Kramer’s head on it. It was me and my girlfriend from high school, and they put his head on her body. So it was an interesting picture. They had some other signs, too. They’re mean at Michigan State, man.

Did you get the poster?

Hummel: My mom might have one, actually.

So you think about that and you think about the money schools make off athletes. Should players get paid?

Moore: Heck yeah. You think about all the money they make and all the work you put in, you’re like, ‘Dang, I wish I was getting some of that money.’

Hummel: I don’t think it’s fair they can profit off us in a way. I know they’re giving us a free education, which is great, but the NCAA Tournament brings in $4 billion or whatever.

JaJuan, you’ve said no one else in the country plays defense like you guys do. When did you realize that was important here?

Johnson: When you first step foot on this campus, that’s the first thing we concentrate on is defense. It took time for you to actually understand the concept of everything and why we’re doing certain things. But I’d say our sophomore year we really understood why we did certain things and we saw how it affected other teams.

Was it a shock when you got here?

Hummel: Oh, yeah.

Moore: You always know defense is important. That’s what you always say, but until you go out and have to play it, learn a scheme of defense, then that’s when you realize, ‘Oh, there’s a whole lot to it.’ You have help side, force them one way, lot of different things. It probably took a little while to see how important it was.

What’s it like playing for Matt Painter?

Moore: I’d say it’s fun. One thing that I definitely like is he’s not one of them older, strict coaches where it’s either his way or no way. Sometimes, we can voice our opinion on certain things and he’ll take it into consideration.

He’s a pretty straightforward guy. Some players may not like that. Do you?

Hummel: I do. I like when I mess up, he’ll tell me what to do and how to do it. He’s a good coach. He knows what he’s talking about. I like playing for him, definitely.

Is there stuff he repeats all the time that you can’t wait to stop hearing?

Hummel: ‘Everyone wants to play shortstop and lead off.’

Johnson: ‘Go to breakfast. Go to class.’ Especially after you get back from the road at, like, one in the morning. ‘Just go to class,’ is the last thing he said.

What other Big Ten coach would you like to play for?

Hummel: I’d say Coach (Tom) Izzo.

Moore: I would say that, too.

Hummel: I have a lot of respect for him just because of what he’s done for the program up there and the relationship he has with his players.

Didn’t he send you a note or your parents a note after you hurt your knee?

Hummel: He called my dad and then called me, actually. That was pretty cool. He’s a good guy.

Besides Purdue, what’s your favorite place to play?

Moore: Michigan State, because of how hostile it is. You go in and you definitely get woken up because they’re going to be loud, screaming at you, going crazy.

Johnson: Michigan State would probably be mine, too.

Hummel: I think Michigan State is awesome. Wisconsin’s fun. Indiana was a lot of fun last year just because you can feel the hatred for you. Winning in there last year was a blast. That was probably one of the most fun games we had last year.

Toughest place to play in the league?

Johnson: I’d say Michigan State or Ohio State.

Hummel: Wisconsin is tough, too.

Johnson: Yeah, Wisconsin, definitely.

Moore: We always play good at Wisconsin.

Hummel: Not so much last year.

Who’s the best player you’ve guarded in your career?

Hummel: Blake Griffin (Oklahoma) was pretty good, but (JaJuan) guarded him.

Johnson: Yeah, I’d say either Griffin or Hasheem Thabeet (UConn).

Hummel: Kyle Singler (Duke) was pretty good.

Moore: Probably Eric Gordon (Indiana) because he’s strong, and he can shoot. He’s super athletic.

Who has guarded you the toughest?

Johnson: I would say Thabeet for me, just because he’s so long and so big.

Hummel: I had a very hard time with Brian Randle my freshman year, from Illinois. He was a good defender. David Lighty (Ohio State) is a good defender, too.

Moore: Anybody on Illinois’ team just because they play exactly the same way we do.

Most of the preseason predictions will have you guys ranked in the top 5. Are you the best team in the country?

Hummel: I think we have the potential to be. I think there are five or six teams up there that all have the potential to be the best team in the country. It just depends on how well you grow and how well you practice, really, and you can separate yourself that way.

Moore: I feel confident we’re the best team in the country. But it doesn’t mean anything until you go out and play the games and see who’s the best by playing. But I’m confident we can play with any team.

 

 

Purdue’s website has an auction, and they had game-worn jerseys last year they auctioned off. Do you have any idea how much they sold for?

Moore: I don’t know. I’d say $400.

You’re low.

Moore: $600?

It was about $500. Was E’Twaun’s the highest or lowest?

Moore: I think it was the lowest. Rob’s has got to be the highest.

JaJuan’s went for $720. Guess how much Rob’s was?

Hummel: $800. …

Keep going.

Hummel: $1,500 … $2,000 … $2,500. What??

Somebody bought your game jersey for $2,770.

Hummel: Why? Why would you do that? Two-thousand seven-hundred and seventy dollars? That’s amazing. You could buy a nice TV with that.

Moore: You could buy a used car for that.

Teaser:
Robbie Hummel, JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore form the top trio in college basketball. If all goes well this season — i.e., they all remain healthy — this special group of seniors has a great opportunity to lead Purdue to its first Final Four since 1980. That was the goal last year, too, until Hummel went down with a torn ACL in late February. The Boilermakers still managed a run to the Sweet 16, but without Hummel they simply didn’t have enough offense to advance any farther. Now healthy, Hummel and his fellow seniors and Indiana natives expect to reclaim their role as national championship contenders. Athlon caught up with the Big 3 over the summer on campus to chat about life at Purdue.
Post date: Monday, October 11, 2010 - 10:45
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /columns/mlb-power-rankings/mlb-power-rankings
Body:

1. Philadelphia Phillies

No team can match the starting pitching of Halladay, Oswalt and Hamels.

2. New York Yankees

With Pettitte healthy, the Yanks are a tough matchup.

3. Tampa Bay Rays

Can win with pitching, defense, power and speed.

4. Texas Rangers

Need starting pitching to be at its best to compete.

5. San Francisco Giants

Starting pitching still carrying the G-Men.

6. Atlanta Braves

Losing closer Billy Wagner tough break for the future Hall of Famer and the team.

7. Minnesota Twins

Missing Morneau left a huge void I lineup.

8. Cincinnati Reds

Faced juggernaut in Phillies, but defense let Reds down.

9. San Diego Padres

One of the best in baseball for 90% of the season.

10. St. Louis Cardinals

Redbird underachieved against losing teams and lost the division.

11. Colorado Rockies

Carlos Gonzalez and Troy Tulowitzki form terrific duo for the future.

12. Boston Red Sox

Injuries were devastating. They will be back in 2011.

13. Chicago White Sox

Streaky Sox couldn’t hang with consistent Twins.

14. Toronto Blue Jays

Jose Bautista came from nowhere to lead majors in homers.

15. Detroit Tigers

MVP candidate Miguel Cabrera is surrounded by youngsters.

16. Oakland A’s

Finished even .500 with young pitching and patchwork lineup.

17. Florida Marlins

Future still bright in Miami, especially with new stadium coming.

18. Los Angeles Dodgers

Disappointing season to say the least.

19. Los Angeles Angels

Rebuilding continues. Getting Morales back healthy will help in 2011.

20. Baltimore Orioles

Amazing finish under new manager Buck Showalter.

21. Houston Astros

After June 1, the Astros competed very well.

22. New York Mets

You have to believe the Mets will better next season, right?

23. Milwaukee Brewers

Desperately need pitching.

24. Washington Nationals

Even with Straburg on the shelf, the future looks good in DC.

25. Cleveland Indians

Shin-Soo Choo looks like a budding star.

26. Chicago Cubs

No cohesion; maybe a fresh start in 2011 will be the difference.

27. Kansas City Royals

Tough times continue.

28. Arizona Diamondbacks

Underachieved, but Kirk Gibson will have them better next season.

29. Pittsburgh Pirates

Even with 105 losses, Pirates have strong young nucleus.

30. Seattle Mariners

M’s wasting some of Ichiro’s prime years.

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, October 10, 2010 - 23:28
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /columns/athlete-week/roy-halladay-pitcher-philadelphia-phillies
Body:

The Giants’ Tim Lincecum 2-hit the Braves with 14 whiffs, and the Phillies’ Cole Hamels shut down the Reds in Game 3 to end their series. But clearly the Athlete of the Week is Phillies’ ace Roy Halladay. Making his postseason debut after 169 career wins, Halladay pitched the second postseason no-hitter in baseball history. Halladay needed just 104 pitches as he walked just one Reds batter while striking out eight. The walk to Jay Bruce on a full count with two outs in the fifth inning was the only thing standing between Halladay and perfection. The win gave the heavily favored Phillies a 1-0 advantage in the series they would eventually sweep.

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, October 10, 2010 - 22:42
All taxonomy terms: NBA
Path: /nba/nba-1991-draft-revisited
Body:

1. Larry Johnson

F, Charlotte Hornets, UNLV

’91-96, Charlotte; ’96-01, New York

Career:  Multi-faceted offensive player won Rookie of the Year, signed the league’s biggest contract at the time, played in two All-Star games and starred in a series of popular “Grandmama” commercials for Converse. But back trouble robbed him of much of his explosiveness. Career averages of 16.2 points and 7.5 rebounds.

Now:  Completed his college degree, and started a bottled water company, Everlasting Spring Water, in Tennessee.

 

2. Kenny Anderson

G, New Jersey Nets, Georgia Tech

’91-96, New Jersey; ’96, Charlotte; ’96-98, Portland; ’98-02, Boston; ’02-03, Seattle; ’03, New Orleans; ’03-04, Indiana; ’04-05, Atlanta, L.A. Clippers

Career: Slick New York City playmaker never became a franchise player in the pros. His best statistical seasons came in New Jersey, and he made the All-Star team in 1994. Finished in the top 10 in assists four times. Played just 36 games in the playoffs, 16 in one postseason with Boston. 

Now: Lives in South Florida. Got his college degree, after blowing through $60 million in NBA earnings. Coaches the CBA’s Atlanta Krunk and runs the Kenny Anderson Basketball Academy out of several 24 Hour Fitness locations.

 

3. Billy Owens

F, Sacramento Kings, Syracuse

’91-94, Golden State; ’94-96, Miami; ’96-98, Sacramento; ’98-99, Seattle; ’99, Philadelphia; ’00, Golden State; ’00-01, Detroit

Career: Versatile and skilled, but injuries and inconsistency marked his NBA career. Held out into the regular season, and then was dealt for Mitch Richmond, in a deal the Warriors would like to have back. Averaged double-figure scoring in each of his first seven seasons, but was a part-timer and salary cap filler after that.

Now: Lives in Philadelphia.

 

4. Dikembe Mutombo

C, Denver Nuggets, Georgetown

’91-96, Denver; ’96-01, Atlanta; ’01-02, Philadelphia; ’02-03, New Jersey; ’03-04, New York; ’04-09, Houston

Career: A defensive force for well over a decade, he finished his career as the second-leading shot-blocker in history. Punctuated his blocks by waving his index finger. Eight-time All-Star. Four-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year. Career averages of 9.8 points, 10.3 rebounds and 2.8 blocked shots.

Now: One of the sport’s great humanitarians. His proudest achievement is the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital on the outskirts of his hometown Kinshasa in the Congo.

 

5. Steve Smith

G, Miami Heat, Michigan State

’91-94, Miami; ’94-99, Atlanta; ’99-01, Portland; ’01-03, San Antonio; ’03-04, New Orleans; ’04-05, Charlotte, Miami

Career: Made only one All-Star game, but was an asset for several solid squads, providing consistent scoring and quality ball-handling. Recognized as one of the NBA’s good guys, winning both the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award and the Joe Dumars NBA Sportsmanship Award. Twice averaged over 20 points in a season.

Now: Serves as a studio analyst on NBA TV.

 

6. Doug Smith

F, Dallas Mavericks, Missouri

’91-95, Dallas; ’95-96, Boston

Career: Seemed to have all the physical tools, but couldn’t put them together. Averaged 10.4 points in his second season, but didn’t rebound as his size (6'10") would suggest. Selected by the Toronto Raptors in the expansion draft, but was released before playing a game.

Now: Lives in Missouri.

 

7. Luc Longley

C, Minnesota Timberwolves, New Mexico

’91-94, Minnesota; ’94-98, Chicago; ’98-00, Phoenix; ’00-01, New York

Career: Limited as a scorer and rebounder, but was a good passer for his position, and played a valuable role in the triangle offense during the latter part of the Bulls’ championship run. Won three rings. In 1996-97, the Bulls were 49–10 during his 59 starts. 

Now: Returned to Australia, where he runs a surf and dive charter vessel and is involved in marine conservation. Won an eBay auction to name a shrimp species.

 

8. Mark Macon

G, Denver Nuggets, Temple

’91-93, Denver; ’93-96, ’98-99, Detroit

Career: A prolific scorer in college, he struggled with his shot in the pros, converting just 38 percent of his field goals. Concentrated more on defense, but that alone ­couldn’t keep him in the league. He played overseas for several years before returning to become a collegiate assistant. 

Now: Head coach at Binghamton University.

 

9. Stacey Augmon

F, Atlanta Hawks, UNLV

’91-96, Atlanta; ’96, Detroit; ’97-01, Portland; ’01-04, Charlotte/New Orleans; ’04-06, Orlando

Career: Known as “Plastic Man,” the long-limbed defender spent most of his career as a rotation player, if never a star. Averaged double-digit scoring during his first five seasons, but never more than 5.8 after that. Played in 77 postseason games.

Now: Player development coach for the Denver Nuggets.

 

10. Brian Williams

C, Orlando Magic, Arizona

’91-93, Orlando; ’93-95, Denver; ’95-96, L.A. Clippers; ’96-97, Chicago; ’97-99, Detroit

Career: Late bloomer, he was a sub for the first four seasons of his career, before breaking out in his fifth, with averages of 15.8 points and 7.6 rebounds. Good defender and efficient shooter. Changed his name to Bison Dele. Walked away from basketball (and $35 million) while still in his prime.

Now: Died in 2002, after disappearing on a sailing vessel in the South Pacific Ocean. Authorities believe that he and his girlfriend were murdered by his brother, who later committed suicide.

 

11. Terrell Brandon

G, Cleveland Cavaliers, Oregon

’91-97, Cleveland; ’97-98, Milwaukee; ’98-02, Minnesota

Career: Two-time All-Star who was considered underrated by many peers. Finished in the top 10 in assists in three different seasons. Twice averaged better than 19 points per game. Finished his career with 87.3 percentage from foul line. Knee injuries, however, cut him down in his prime.

Now: Lives in Portland, where he owns a barbershop, clothing retail store and an apartment complex. He was recently the victim of an extortion attempt.

 

12. Greg Anthony

G, New York Knicks, UNLV

’91-95, New York; ’95-97, Vancouver; ’97-98, Seattle; ‘98-01, Portland; ’01-02, Chicago, Milwaukee

Career: Solid defender and passer whose shooting touch improved over time. Was a serviceable reserve for several good teams. Averaged 4.9 points and 2.4 assists as the primary backup to Derek Harper during the Knicks’ postseason run to the 1994 NBA Finals.

Now: After years at ESPN, he’s a college basketball analyst for CBS.

 

13. Dale Davis

F, Indiana Pacers, Clemson

’91-00, Indiana; ’00-04, Portland; ’04-05, Golden State, Indiana; ’05-07, Detroit

Career: Enforcer and rebounder had a productive professional run, playing in 137 playoff games. Made the All-Star team and reached the NBA Finals in his last full season with the Pacers. Career averages of 8.0 points and 7.9 rebounds.

Now: Founder of Pro Player Holdings, a private equity investment fund serving athletes, and co-owner of R&J Racing, which competes in NASCAR.

 

14. Rich King

C, Seattle SuperSonics, Nebraska

’91-95, Seattle

Career: Great size (7'2") but not enough skill. Played 40 games as a rookie, but only 32 thereafter. Scored 135 total points, and committed 62 fouls. Suffered many injuries, and had a total of six surgeries on his knee, back, foot and thumb.

Now: Licensed financial analyst, living in Washington state, and also working for Marquis Jet, a private aircraft company.

 

15. Anthony Avent

F, Atlanta Hawks, Seton Hall

’92-94, Milwaukee; ’94-95, Orlando; ’95-96, Vancouver; ’98-99, Utah; ’99-00, L.A. Clippers

Career: Traded on draft night. Like many in his draft class, his rookie season proved to be his best work, averaging 9.8 points and 6.2 rebounds while making 78 starts. Started only 78 games the rest of his career. While he was listed at 6'9", was never a prolific rebounder. Played overseas.

Now: Performed as the vocalist at 2010 NBA All-Star weekend in the NBA Legends Band with Terry Cummings, Thurl Bailey and Luther Wright.

 

16. Chris Gatling

F/C, Golden State Warriors, Old Dominion

’91-95, Golden State; ’96, Miami; ’96-97, Dallas; ’97-98, New Jersey; ’98-99, Milwaukee; ’99-00, Orlando, Denver; ’00-01, Cleveland; 01-02, Miami

Career:  Known for the plate in his head and the headband on it, he was an energetic bench player who could score. Averaged 10.3 points for his career, in just 19.7 minutes. Played in 700 games, starting only 86 of them. Led the NBA in field goal percentage in one season, and made the All-Star team in another. Never made it out of the first round of the playoffs.

Now: Lives in Phoenix.

 

17. Victor Alexander

F/C, Golden State Warriors, Iowa State

’91-95, Golden State; ’01-02, Detroit

Career: Burly with soft hands and a soft touch, but wasn’t well-rounded enough to make a big impact. Started 59 games in his second season and averaged 11.2 points. Played several years overseas, in Russia, Israel, Spain and Greece, and was a Euroleague first-teamer.

Now:  Lives in Michigan.

 

18. Kevin Brooks

F, Milwaukee Bucks, SW Louisiana

’91-94, Denver

Career: Part of a three-team trade on draft day. Averaged just 3.3 points in 126 NBA games. Played in Australia the entire decade of the 1990s. 

Now: Assistant coach of the Wollongong Hawks of the Australian National Basketball League.

 

19. LaBradford Smith

G, Washington Bullets, Louisville

’91-93, Washington; ’94, Sacramento

Career: Started 40 NBA games. Best known for scoring 37 against Michael Jordan in a game — and getting torched by Jordan for 36 in the first half (and 47 for the game) the next time they played. Jordan later admitted that he made up a story about Smith taunting him.

Now: Runs a basketball camp in Louisville.

 

20. John Turner

F, Houston Rockets, Phillips University ’91-92, Houston

Career: The transfer from Georgetown was a surprise first-round choice, and didn’t last long. Played in only 42 NBA games, and wasn’t heard from again.

Now:  Whereabouts unknown.

 

21. Eric Murdock

G, Utah Jazz, Providence ’91-92, Utah; ’92-95, Milwaukee; ’95-96, Vancouver; ’96-97, Denver; ’97-98, Miami; ’98-99, New Jersey; ’99-00, L.A. Clippers

Career: Quick guard with good hands who settled in as a backup after starting early for the Bucks. Played in 508 games, averaging 10.1 points and 4.9 assists. Made the playoffs only twice, once with the Jazz and once with the Heat, backing up John Stockton and Tim Hardaway, respectively.

Now: After spending time as an AAU basketball coach in New Jersey, he was named director of player development at Rutgers University.

 

22. LeRon Ellis

F/C, Los Angeles Clippers, Syracuse ’91-92, L.A. Clippers; ’93-94, Charlotte; ’95-96, Miami

Career: Highly regarded high school player who struggled at Syracuse after transferring from Kentucky. The son of solid former NBA player LeRoy Ellis did not have much success in the professional ranks. Played in only 91 games, starting two. Was a throw-in to the Heat in the big Alonzo Mourning trade.

Now:  Currently living in Glendale, Calif.

 

23. Stanley Roberts

C, Orlando Magic, LSU ’91-92, Orlando; ’92-97, L.A. Clippers; ’97-98, Minnesota; ’98-99, Houston; ’99-00, Philadelphia

Career: Gifted big man often outshined Shaquille O’Neal when both played at LSU. Averaged 10.4 points and 6.1 rebounds as a rookie. But injuries, weight problems and off-court issues derailed him. Banned from the league for violating the drug policy, then reinstated in 2003, but couldn’t stick.

Now: Car broker in Houston.

 

24. Rick Fox

F, Boston Celtics, North Carolina ’91-97, Boston; ’97-04, L.A. Lakers

Career: Outlasted everyone in his first-round class except Dikembe Mutombo. Versatile, reliable player who was never a prolific scorer or rebounder, but did enough well to start or contribute on solid squads. Won three championships with the Lakers, playing heavy minutes during two of the postseason runs. Career averages of 9.6 points and 2.8 assists.

Now: Actor who has appeared in many television shows and movies, including Tyler Perry’s “Meet the Browns,” “Oz” and “Ugly Betty.”  Married to Vanessa Williams from 1999-2004; dates Eliza Dushku.

 

25. Shaun Vandiver

F, Golden State Warriors, Colorado ’91, Golden State (un-signed, did not play)

Career: Bruising player with limited athleticism, he never got to test himself in the NBA. He couldn’t agree to a contract with Golden State and went to Europe instead. Played professionally there for nine seasons, mostly in Italy and Spain.

Now: This spring, he left his job as an assistant coach at the University of Wyoming for a similar position at Boise State.

 

26. Mark Randall

F, Chicago Bulls, Kansas ’91, Chicago; ’92 Minnesota; ’92-93, Detroit; ’93-95, Denver

Career:  Marginal player right from the start, with no standout NBA skill. Finished with career averages of 2.6 points and 1.3 rebounds. Bounced around in Europe and in the minor leagues before giving it up to go into the medical billing business.

Now: Lives in Colorado, running basketball camps and serving as community ambassador for the Denver Nuggets.

 

27. Pete Chilcutt

F, Sacramento Kings, North Carolina ’91-94, Sacramento; ’94, Detroit; ’94-96, Houston; ’96-99, Vancouver; ’99-00, Utah, Cleveland, L.A. Clippers

Career: Journeyman banger never averaged more than 21 minutes in a season, and started a total of only 55 games. But he stuck around a while, and won a championship with Houston, getting action in 20 games that postseason (1995), and making a good number of 3-point shots. 

Now: Teaches and coaches in Sacramento.

Teaser:
Post date: Sunday, October 10, 2010 - 18:24
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /columns/stock-market-report/stock-market-report-2
Body:

By Paul Hickey, NoOffseason.com

As expected, four weeks into the 2010 NFL season, there are several factors affecting player values, aside from play on the field. Per usual, injuries are starting to rear their ugly heads and recently affect guys like Clinton Portis, Mike Vick, Steve Smith (CAR), LeSean McCoy and Jay Cutler. The collateral damage that can be felt by these injuries has a wide range. On top of that, several coaches are still trying to establish who their top pass catching targets are - ahem - that's you Pete Carroll and Josh McDaniels. So, let's jump in and analyze what to do about this week's key risers and fallers...

 

RISING

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins- Yes, he's rising after a gaining 70 yards and a score on 18 carries in Week 4 against the Eagles. On top of that, Clinton Portis injured his groin, leaving Torain likely to be the lead back in Week 5. However, proceed with caution here, as he has a history of injuries and is unlikely to emerge as a featured back. Sorry, but if you just picked him up, you may want to consider selling now while a slew of folks in your league are surely drinking the cool-aid.

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets- After a horrible Week 1, the "San-chize" has eight TD passes in his last three games. He is playing with confidence, hooking up with Dustin Keller and Braylon Edwards often. On top of that, he gets Santonio Holmes - who many expect to be his best pass catcher - back from suspension this week. It's not a great match-up against the Vikings this week, but owners could do worse then Sanchez against Minny's beat up secondary. His future as a fantasy performer is bright as he has teams like the Broncos, Lions, Browns, Texans and Patriots on the schedule over the next nine weeks.

Steve Johnson, WR, Bills- I guess it's time to start giving this third year man from Kentucky some love. After all, he does have three catches in each game this season and a TD in each of his last two. While guys like Davone Bess and Nate Washington may be taken above him on the waiver wire this week, Johnson is worth an add in deep formats. And something for dynasty owners to think about - if he can perform in Buffalo's offense now, imagine what he can do when they actually become respectable.

Taylor Mays, SS, 49ers- IDP owners can thank Michael Lewis' tantrum and demanded release from the team for the rookie from USC's emergence. It looks like Mike Singletary has his new starting strong safety, as Mays made quite an impression against the Falcons, recording 11 tackles (nine solo), and scoring a TD. Consider him a rising IDP star in all formats.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets- Make sure you read this. Braylon owners in all formats should deal him now. Not only has he salvaged some value by catching a TD in each of his last three games, but the Jets passing attack looks great overall. Still, it's important to realize who we're dealing with here. He's one strike away from a huge suspension, and Santonio Holmes returns from his this week, which means Edwards will surely lose some of those deep targets that have made him so valuable these last three weeks. So, while his value is up, I recommend selling high.

 

FALLING

Deion Branch, WR, Seahawks- Just as the veteran looked to be a larger part of what Seattle planned on doing offensively, the Seahawks go out and sign veteran journeyman Brandon Stokley, who led the team with four catches for 64 yards in Week 4 against the Rams. At this point, there seems to be very little upside or consistency to Branch, Deon Butler or any of the Seahawks pass catchers.

 

For more risers and fallers, check out our weekly rankings on Wednesday.

Teaser:
As expected, four weeks into the 2010 NFL season, there are several factors affecting player values, aside from play on the field. Per usual, injuries are starting to rear their ugly heads and recently affect guys like Clinton Portis, Mike Vick, Steve Smith (CAR), LeSean McCoy and Jay Cutler.
Post date: Thursday, October 7, 2010 - 11:48
All taxonomy terms: News
Path: /other-sports/sports-lite
Body:

Welcome to Sports Lite. Ken Burns wanted to do a documentary on this week’s column, but I told him, “Go away, you creepy little man.” …

Wow. Talk about a blockbuster. Bill Belichick just traded Randy Moss to the Vikings, leaving himself as the Patriots’ only remaining headache. … That Belichick is one savvy horse trader. Tom Brady says the third-rounder the Pats got is the last remaining piece to the puzzle for the team’s 2010 Super Bowl hopes. … Amazing. The trade just went down and already the bumper sticker is popping up around the Twin Cities: “Minnesota, Land of 10,000 Sideline Arguments.” …

Some interesting names on the list of NFL leaders. Kyle Orton is No. 1 in passing yards, Antonio Gates has the most touchdowns, and the top kickoff returner is a four-way tie among everyone who’s played the Dolphins. …

Bulls power forward Carlos Boozer will miss the first two months of the NBA season after breaking his hand while answering the door bell. No word yet on whether he was chewing gum at the time. …

The baseball playoffs have arrived. Just so you know, the World Series will end on Nov. 5 or whenever the first blizzard hits Honolulu. …

A’s GM Billy Beane says Daric Barton is the best first baseman in the American League. And here we thought Justin Morneau was the one with the nasty concussion. …

Groundhog Day, the sequel: Trent Edwards, cut last week by the Bills, returning to Buffalo this weekend with the Jaguars. …

Little Caesars mogul Mike Ilitch is going for the hat trick in Detroit, finalizing a deal to add the Pistons to his collection of teams that includes the Red Wings and Tigers. My first reaction? How do you become a Little Caesars mogul anyway? I took one bite of that stuff back in the day and spent the rest of my lunch hour eating the cardboard box. …

CC Sabathia. Is it just me or are you, too, thinking the CC doesn’t stand for CalorieCounter? …

Cue up the Don Pardo sound track … “Today’s contestants win the home version of Jeopardy, a year’s supply of Turtle Wax and first place in the NFC West, where the Cardinals are tied for the top spot despite having been outscored 118-58.” …

They should have listened to Bernie Madoff instead of Scott Boras: Barry Zito, he of the $126-million contract, out of the Giants’ playoff rotation. …

The Chiefs will go into the weekend as the NFL’s lone unbeaten team. In a related development, Switzerland just declared war on the world. …

A few weeks ago we told you about the 2009 Broncos, who outscored their opponents 326-324 and finished 8-8 — 3-3 against the AFC West, 3-3 against the rest of the AFC, 2-2 against the NFC, 4-4 at home and 4-4 on the road. So what team has replaced them as this year’s parity poster boys? Turns out they haven’t passed on their crown. Through four games, they’ve outscored their opponents 87-85 and stand 2-2 — 1-1 at home and 1-1 on the road. …

NFL Players Association exec DeMaurice Smith says the owners are planning on no football in 2011. In an attempt to stay one step ahead of the competition, the Panthers have decided to take this year off, too.

 

 (Jim Armstrong is a sports columnist for The Denver Post. In his spare time, he’s a sports columnist for The Denver Post.)

Teaser:
Post date: Thursday, October 7, 2010 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /columns/winning-game-plan/matchup-memos
Body:

The Marshawn Lynch trade should do as much for former Bills teammate Fred Jackson as it does for Lynch — especially this week.

Stuck in a complicated backfield that lacked direction, Jackson is now the featured back with C.J. Spiller there to help out in a situational role. Up to now, Jackson hasn’t carried 10 or more times in a game yet — sure to change in Jacksonville. The Jaguars have allowed 4.3 yards per carry and six rushing scores (second most in the league). Last week, the unit surrendered two scores to Colts running back Joseph Addai.

Jackson is his team’s steadiest ball carrier and one of its only viable fantasy prospects. And now that he no longer needs to look over his shoulder at Lynch, he should have a much smoother finish to the season.

Here are a few other fantasy players facing favorable matchups in Week 5 (all of the players listed are considered backups or ‘fringe’ starters in most fantasy league formats):

 

Matt Ryan vs. Cleveland’s pass defense

Ryan has been so-so this year, and coming off of a one touchdown and two interception effort against the 49ers, it’s probable fantasy owners are tempted to show their franchise quarterback the bench. That would be a mistake. The Browns rank 24th in passing yards allowed per contest, and tied for 22nd in passing scores allowed (seven). A week ago, Cleveland allowed Cincinnati’s Carson Palmer to throw for 371 yards. Ryan has better weapons than Palmer, and is just as safe of a fantasy bet. His first 300-yard day of the season may be on the horizon.

Thomas Jones vs. Indianapolis’ run defense

Two backs, in one game? Possibly. But regardless of how well Jamaal Charles plays on Sunday, fantasy owners may want to consider Jones. He has out-carried Charles, 52-34, and has averaged 72.3 yards per game. This week, Jones will face an Indianapolis run defense that has been squashed by opposing backs and allows 5.0 yards per carry. The Colts have surrendered two 100-yard efforts in four games, and the Giants’ Ahmad Bradshaw averaged 5.2 yards in his 89-yard effort. Jones is still a capable fantasy back who is about to encounter one of his more favorable matchups of the year.

Mike Thomasvs. Buffalo’s pass defense

The smallish Thomas is leading the Jaguars in most statistical categories, and is coming off of a five-catch, 68-yard effort against Indianapolis. As a rookie last year, Thomas had a rotten game against Buffalo (two catches, three yards). This game won’t disappoint fantasy owners like that one did. The Bills have allowed eight passing touchdowns, 7.4 yards per attempt, and they’ve allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 66.4 percent of their attempts — all of that placing them in the bottom third in the league. It’s time for Thomas to produce a signature game.

Visanthe Shiancoe vs. New York Jets’ pass defense

Know who’s loving the Randy Moss trade? Shiancoe. Big time. The addition of Moss not only takes bodies out of the box to help running back Adrian Peterson, but it clears out the deep middle where Shiancoe can be so successful. Plus, New York’s secondary has had its share of issues when trying to cover tight ends this year (see Todd Heap in Week 1). Shiancoe has had a dismal start to his season, and has caught just one touchdown after catching 11 last season. This game should help get him back on the right track.

Teaser:
The Marshawn Lynch trade should do as much for former Bills teammate Fred Jackson as it does for Lynch — especially this week.
Post date: Thursday, October 7, 2010 - 05:00
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /columns/short-hops/who-will-be-free
Body:

by Bruce Herman

A little scheduling twiddling has accelerated the free agent process somewhat this year. Within five days after the World Series (instead of 15), you’ll know who’s on the market — except for the non-tenders, which must be revealed by December 2 (instead of the 12th). If you’re in the wait-’til-next-year (or the year-after-that) crowd, it’s not too late to start window-shopping. Here’s a handy-dandy chart compartmentalizing the available merchandise.

 

 

2011 Difference-makers

2011 Potential Front-Liners

Other 2011 Notables

Free in 2012

C

Victor Martinez

John Buck

 

Rod Barajas

 

Ryan Doumit*

 

 

Gerald Laird

 

Ramon Hernandez

 

Yadier Molina*

 

 

Miguel Olivo*

 

Bengie Molina

 

Jorge Posada

 

 

A.J. Pierzynski

Yorvit Torrealba*

Dioner Navarro

1B

Adam Dunn

Lance Berkman*

Troy Glaus

Prince Fielder

 

Paul Konerko

Russ Branyan*

Ty Wigginton

Michael Cuddyer

 

Carlos Pena

Jorge Cantu

Xavier Nady

Adrian Gonzalez

 

Albert Pujols*

Adam LaRoche*

 

 

 

Aubrey Huff

Derrek Lee

 

 

 

 

Lyle Overbay

 

 

2B

 

David Eckstein

Jerry Hairston Jr.

Robinson Cano*

 

 

Mark Ellis*

Felipe Lopez

Aaron Hill*

 

 

Cristian Guzman

 

Kelly Johnson

 

 

Bill Hall*

 

Brandon Phillips*

 

 

Orlando Hudson

 

Dan Uggla

 

 

Omar Infante*

 

Rickie Weeks

SS

Derek Jeter

Juan Uribe

Omar Vizquel

Jason Bartlett

 

Jose Reyes*

Orlando Cabrera

Edgar Renteria*

Yuniesky Betancourt*

 

 

Alex Gonzalez*

 

Rafael Furcal*

 

 

Cesar Izturis

 

J.J. Hardy

 

 

Jhonny Peralta*

 

Jimmy Rollins

 

 

Nick Punto*

 

Marco Scutaro*

 

 

Miguel Tejada

 

 

3B

Adrian Beltre*

Pedro Feliz

Eric Chavez*

Jose Lopez

 

Aramis Ramirez*

 

Melvin Mora

Casey Blake*

 

 

 

 

Edwin Encarnacion

RF/LF

Carl Crawford

Pat Burrell

Willie Harris

Nick Swisher*

 

Jayson Werth

Johnny Damon

Marcus Thames

Jose Bautista

 

 

Jonny Gomes*

 

Carlos Guillen

 

 

Austin Kearns

 

Conor Jackson

 

 

Jason Kubel*

 

Raul Ibanez

 

 

Corey Patterson

 

Juan Pierre

 

 

Manny Ramirez

 

Juan Rivera

 

 

Jose Guillen

 

Josh Willingham

 

 

Brad Hawpe

 

David DeJesus

 

 

Andruw Jones

 

Bobby Abreu*

 

 

Magglio Ordonez

 

J.D. Drew

 

 

Scott Podsednik*

 

Jeff Francoeur

 

 

 

 

Ryan Ludwick

CF

 

Rick Ankiel*

 

Carlos Beltran

 

 

Coco Crisp*

 

Grady Sizemore*

DH

Vladimir Guerrero*

Jim Thome

Nick Johnson*

Jack Cust

 

David Ortiz*

Hideki Matsui

 

Milton Bradley

SP

Cliff Lee

Bronson Arroyo*

Bruce Chen

Mark Buehrle

 

 

Erik Bedard*

Kevin Correia

Chris Carpenter*

 

 

Jeremy Bonderman

Doug Davis*

Aaron Cook*

 

 

Dave Bush

Freddy Garcia

Ryan Dempster*

 

 

Jorge de la Rosa

Rich Harden*

Edwin Jackson

 

 

Justin Duchscherer

Jeff Suppan

Scott Kazmir*

 

 

Jeff Francis*

 

Paul Maholm*

 

 

Jon Garland*

 

Roy Oswalt*

 

 

Aaron Harang*

 

Joel Pineiro

 

 

Hiroki Kuroda

 

CC Sabathia*

 

 

Ted Lilly

 

Adam Wainwright*

 

 

Kevin Millwood

 

C.J. Wilson

 

 

Vicente Padilla

 

 

 

 

Carl Pavano

 

 

 

 

Andy Pettitte

 

 

 

 

Javier Vazquez

 

 

 

 

Brandon Webb

 

 

 

 

Jake Westbrook

 

 

 

 

Chris Young*

 

 

RP

Mariano Rivera

Hisanori Takahashi

Grant Balfour

Heath Bell

 

Rafael Soriano

Octavio Dotel*

Chad Qualls

Jonathan Broxton

 

 

Frank Francisco

Jon Rauch

Matt Capps

 

 

Brian Fuentes

Jesse Crain

Francisco Cordero*

 

 

Kevin Gregg*

Jason Frasor

Ryan Franklin

 

 

Trevor Hoffman*

Matt Guerrier

Bobby Jenks

 

 

Kerry Wood*

Aaron Heilman

Brad Lidge*

 

 

Joaquin Benoit

Chan Ho Park

Joe Nathan*

 

 

J.J. Putz

Kyle Farnsworth

Jonathan Papelbon

 

 

Koji Uehara

Dan Wheeler*

Francisco Rodriguez*

 

 

Scott Downs

Pedro Feliciano

Jose Valverde*

 

 

Arthur Rhodes

 

Fernando Rodney

 

 

Matt Thornton*

 

 

 

* either player, current club or both hold an option for 2011

 

HIT AND RUN

 

Two of the three players who’ve played the most regular-season games without sniffing the playoffs will be off the list by tomorrow night: Michael Young and Aubrey Huff. Randy Winn, at 1,717, clings to the top spot.

 

This news is six weeks old, but I doubt you’ve heard it. Braves pitching prospect Brett Oberholtzer worked a game in the low-Class A South Atlantic League in which he threw 93 of his 109 pitches for strikes. I did the math; that’s 3.3 pitches per batter faced and 0.5 balls per batter faced. And the most amazing part was that none of those batters was Jeff Francoeur.

 

Before packing up for the winter, Brandon Inge set the Tigers franchise record for strikeouts, passing Lou Whitaker (1,099), who played in 1,102 (!) fewer games.

 

In a remarkable achievement that will go overlooked, the Mets’ Jonathan Niese made 30 starts and did not allow a stolen base. Only four runners even tried.

 

Pedro Feliciano broke the Mets record for pitching appearances for the third consecutive season, escalating from 86 to 88 to 92. In the process he set major league marks for outings over a three-season (266) and four-season (344) span.

 

Here’s how the White Sox negated their midseason surge and suddenly plummeted out of contention: In 18 games between September 5 and 24, their starting pitchers went 0-9 with an ERA of 6.45.

 

 

QUOTABLES

 

“As soon as I got out of the game, we started getting everybody out, so I must have been doing something wrong.” — Zack Greinke after a stinker in Cleveland.

Teaser:
A little scheduling twiddling has accelerated the free agent process somewhat this year. Within five days after the World Series (instead of 15), you’ll know who’s on the market — except for the non-tenders, which must be revealed by December 2 (instead of the 12th). If you’re in the wait-’til-next-year (or the year-after-that) crowd, it’s not too late to start window-shopping. Here’s a handy-dandy chart compartmentalizing the available merchandise.
Post date: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 17:20
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /columns/stock-market-report/value-still-available
Body:

Stock Market Report

By Paul Hickey

NoOffseason.com

 

As expected, four weeks into the 2010 NFL season, there are several factors affecting player values, aside from play on the field. Per usual, injuries are starting to rear their ugly heads and recently affect guys like Clinton Portis, Mike Vick, Steve Smith (CAR), LeSean McCoy and Jay Cutler. The collateral damage that can be felt by these injuries has a wide range. On top of that, several coaches are still trying to establish who their top pass catching targets are - ahem - that's you Pete Carroll and Josh McDaniels. So, let's jump in and analyze what to do about this week's key risers and fallers...

 

RISING

Ryan Torain, RB, Redskins- Yes, he's rising after a gaining 70 yards and a score on 18 carries in Week 4 against the Eagles. On top of that, Clinton Portis injured his groin, leaving Torain likely to be the lead back in Week 5. However, proceed with caution here, as he has a history of injuries and is unlikely to emerge as a featured back. Sorry, but if you just picked him up, you may want to consider selling now while a slew of folks in your league are surely drinking the cool-aid.

 

Mark Sanchez, QB, Jets- After a horrible Week 1, the "San-chize" has eight TD passes in his last three games. He is playing with confidence, hooking up with Dustin Keller and Braylon Edwards often. On top of that, he gets Santonio Holmes - who many expect to be his best pass catcher - back from suspension this week. It's not a great match-up against the Vikings this week, but owners could do worse then Sanchez against Minny's beat up secondary. His future as a fantasy performer is bright as he has teams like the Broncos, Lions, Browns, Texans and Patriots on the schedule over the next nine weeks.

 

Steve Johnson, WR, Bills- I guess it's time to start giving this third year man from Kentucky some love. After all, he does have three catches in each game this season and a TD in each of his last two. While guys like Davone Bess and Nate Washington may be taken above him on the waiver wire this week, Johnson is worth an add in deep formats. And something for dynasty owners to think about - if he can perform in Buffalo's offense now, imagine what he can do when they actually become respectable.

 

Taylor Mays, SS, 49ers- IDP owners can thank Michael Lewis' tantrum and demanded release from the team for the rookie from USC's emergence. It looks like Mike Singletary has his new starting strong safety, as Mays made quite an impression against the Falcons, recording 11 tackles (nine solo), and scoring a TD. Consider him a rising IDP star in all formats.

 

Braylon Edwards, WR, Jets- Make sure you read this. Braylon owners in all formats should deal him now. Not only has he salvaged some value by catching a TD in each of his last three games, but the Jets passing attack looks great overall. Still, it's important to realize who we're dealing with here. He's one strike away from a huge suspension, and Santonio Holmes returns from his this week, which means Edwards will surely lose some of those deep targets that have made him so valuable these last three weeks. So, while his value is up, I recommend selling high.

 

FALLING

Deion Branch, WR, Seahawks- Just as the veteran looked to be a larger part of what Seattle planned on doing offensively, the Seahawks go out and sign veteran journeyman Brandon Stokley, who led the team with four catches for 64 yards in Week 4 against the Rams. At this point, there seems to be very little upside or consistency to Branch, Deon Butler or any of the Seahawks pass catchers.

 

For more risers and fallers, check out our weekly rankings on Wednesday.

 

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 15:54
All taxonomy terms: Fantasy
Path: /columns/waiver-wire/waiver-wire-4
Body:

By Matt Schauf

RapidDraft.com

 

Obviously, as the season wears on, it gets tougher to find good fantasy values on the wire … or at least it should. If you can run through the free agents and find a bunch of no-brainer pickups a quarter of the way into the season or more, you’re either playing with a bunch of noobs, not nearly enough roster spots or yourself (I won’t judge).

That said, there always will be a need for additions, especially as bye weeks meet with injuries. So here are some players that can be useful to leagues of varying depths.

 

Santonio Holmes, WR, N.Y. Jets

He was probably drafted in most leagues, but we fantasy players can get pretty impatient once the real games start happening. If someone got antsy and dropped Holmes for the latest Saints backup, then even those without a real need at receiver should enter a claim.

The Jets suddenly boast an improving — if not all-out “hot” — quarterback in Mark Sanchez, and yet the receiving corps is marinating in inconsistency. Jerricho Cotchery has topped three catches just once so far. Braylon Edwards made more than a third of his 12 receptions (five) in Week 2. Holmes, meanwhile, returns from suspension this week with even better downfield speed than Edwards and much more explosiveness than any of his wideout teammates. Don’t look for him to turn into an immediate fantasy starter, but there’s every chance that Holmes becomes an option by midseason.

 

Kenny Britt, WR, Tennessee

The Titans’ 2009 first-round pick started this year in the doghouse but drew seven targets in each of the past two games. Only one other Tennessee player has reached that number this season, and Nate Washington did so back in Week 1 — before Britt had broken free of the chain.

No Titan receiver will regularly put up big numbers, because the team wants to rely on the running game and has Vince Young floating passes around when it does throw. Britt’s size and athletic ability make him attractive in scoring situations, though, where he has found himself utilized in three straight games. Britt caught a touchdown pass in each of the past two outings and hauled in a two-point conversion pass in the contest before that. He’s at least a bye-week filler candidate and could progress beyond that.

 

Ryan Torain, RB, Washington

This team looked good at the start running the ball against the Eagles, but it’s tough to believe that as a case of Washington actually being ready to succeed there rather than Philadelphia struggling on defense. Nevertheless, Clinton Portis added a late-game groin injury to an already-bothersome wrist and has been a veritable injury list himself the past couple of years.

Those who snuck Torain out of fantasy drafts back in the summer might have quit on him after Shanahan’s pet opened the year on the practice squad, but he’s suddenly looking like he could be the starting back as soon as Week 5. That would mean an unfavorable matchup with Green Bay, but Washington follows with a terrific rushing matchup against the Colts. Torain is well worth adding at a low cost now, where available.

 

Michael Bush, RB, Oakland

Speaking of familiar injury situations, Darren McFadden left Sunday’s game with a bad hamstring. It might well turn out to be no big deal, but we’ve seen far too much of McFadden on the bench to ignore any ailment.

Fortunately for Bush, this happened to match nicely with his return schedule, since Oakland’s other back has already had two games to get re-acclimated. Bush scored against Houston on Sunday and got a shot from the goal line amid few carries the week before as well. The unfortunate part is that a tough trio of matchups lies immediately ahead — San Diego, San Francisco, Denver — but a potential starting runner on a team that likes to run the ball is worth owning. If you’re willing to look way ahead, the Raiders get the Colts’ doormat of a run defense in Week 16.

 

Sam Bradford, QB, St. Louis

Say you’re staring at a fantasy team that has Jay Cutler and Michael Vick as its two quarterbacks, thoroughly unsure of what your situation will be in Week 5 (let alone beyond) as we wait for their injuries to be fully figured out. I present to you the unlikely solution of a rookie passer.

Bradford has impressed pretty much anyone who has watched him so far, and the fantasy-relevant portion has been impressive, too. In the past three games, Bradford has twice finished with two touchdowns and never thrown more than one interception. He has finished three of four games with at least 235 passing yards and twice gone beyond 250. He gets Detroit in Week 5 and Tampa Bay two weeks after that. Many won’t have to be staring at a pair of injured passers to consider Bradford a starting option this week.

Teaser:
Post date: Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - 15:35
All taxonomy terms: College Football
Path: /columns/saturday-takeaway/darron-thomas-makes-huge-statement
Body:

Athlon sums up a full slate of college football with the five most important things to take away from this weekend.

1. Alabama makes a statement – Following Saturday’s victory over Florida, the gap between Alabama and the SEC looks pretty wide. The Gators were dominated by the Crimson Tide, managing less than 300 yards of offense and turning the ball over four times. Alabama’s rushing attack didn’t post huge numbers, but both sides of the ball combined for a methodical, dominating victory over Florida. The Gators were limited on offense with an injured Jeff Demps at running back and quarterback John Brantley still finding his way in his first season as the starter. The offensive line was supposed to be a strength for Florida, but has struggled in every game. Assuming both teams win out in SEC play, the Gators will have another crack at the Crimson Tide. However, this Florida team has a lot of improving to do before it can think about challenging Alabama. With the win over the Gators, the Crimson Tide now turns to a road contest at South Carolina. The Gamecocks played Alabama tough last season, losing 20-6 in Tuscaloosa. However, if Alabama continues to play like it did on Saturday night, don’t expect Nick Saban’s team to stumble along the way to a national championship appearance. 

2. Oregon pulls ahead in the Pac-10 – Stanford-Oregon was hyped as one of the most anticipated games of Week 5 and didn’t disappoint. The Cardinal raced to a 21-3 lead, but the Ducks continued to fight back and pulled away in the second half behind the playmaking ability of quarterback Darron Thomas and running back LaMichael James. Oregon’s offense wasn’t the only factor in the victory, as the defense pitched a shutout in the second half and picked off Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck twice. With the win over Stanford, the Ducks have separated from the rest of the conference and the upcoming schedule is favorable. After taking on Washington State and UCLA, the Ducks hit the road for a game against USC, before facing key games against Arizona and Oregon State in the final two weeks. As long as Oregon keeps winning, this is a team that could have something to say about the national title picture.

3. Virginia Tech, Miami win key conference road games – The ACC’s season got off to a rough start with disappointing losses in non-conference play, but the race to win the Atlantic and Coastal divisions is about to heat up. Virginia Tech rallied from a 17-0 deficit to knock off previously unbeaten NC State. The Hokies have won three in a row, with their next four games at home. The offensive line is still a major question mark, but the Hokies seem to have found some answers on defense. The last three meetings in the Miami-Clemson series needed overtime to decide the outcome, but extra time wasn’t needed this time around. Quarterback Jacory Harris certainly takes some risks with eight interceptions on the year, but also makes up those mistakes with touchdowns and big plays. The Miami defense struggled to stop Clemson running back Andre Ellington, but ranks sixth in the nation in pass defense and 12th in total defense. The Hurricanes have a big test against Florida State this Saturday, and an improving Virginia Tech waiting for them on November 20.

4. Oklahoma takes control of Big 12 South – The annual matchup at the Cotton Bowl between Texas and Oklahoma plays a major role in deciding the Big 12 South champ and usually has an impact on the national title race. However, some of the luster surrounding this matchup wore off with Texas’ defeat against UCLA and Oklahoma’s struggles against Cincinnati last week. After going 1-4 in its last five games against the Longhorns, the Sooners used 115 rushing yards and two scores from DeMarco Murray to earn a 28-20 victory. The Sooners have been involved in some close calls this year and nearly let Texas steal the victory with a sloppy fourth quarter. However, the Sooners were simply the better team, particularly on offense and Saturday’s win puts them in the driver’s seat for the Big 12 South title. After a bye week, the Sooners take on Iowa State, before heading on the road for a key game against Missouri. The Longhorns opened up the offense for quarterback Garrett Gilbert in the second half, but it was too little, too late. The bye week comes at a good time for Texas, with a date at Nebraska on October 16. The Longhorns need to decide if they can continue to use a power rushing attack that isn’t working, or open up the passing game for Gilbert. Should the Longhorns drop that contest to Nebraska, it will be the first three-game losing streak since 1999.

5. Michigan-Michigan State setup showdown – With Michigan posting below .500 records over the last two seasons, this rivalry hasn’t garnered much national appeal. However, that’s about to change this Saturday. Both teams come into this game 5-0 and riding momentum following last week’s victories. The Spartans are powered by a deep backfield, a solid quarterback in Kirk Cousins and a stingy run defense that is allowing 101 yards per game. The Wolverines have been a mess on defense all year, but continue to ride sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson. The Spartans have won the last two matchups in this series, but have to travel to Ann Arbor this Saturday. Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez has watched his seat cool with each Robinson touchdown, but a win over the rival Spartans would be a huge boost for the program. Will the Wolverines’ leaky defense finally come back to haunt them? Will the Spartans have an answer for Robinson? There’s a lot of questions surrounding Saturday’s game, but this is easily one of the most intriguing matchups on the schedule.

Other thoughts from Week 5

BYU is off to a 1-4 start and after Friday night’s loss to Utah State, defensive coordinator Jaime Hill was fired. Hill was named BYU’s coordinator in 2008 and due to his departure, head coach Bronco Mendenhall will assume the playcalling duties on defense.

An under the radar win from this week was Utah State’s victory over BYU on Friday night. This was the Aggies first win in the series since 1993 and a big one for coach Gary Andersen. Although Andersen is 6-11 in his tenure in Logan, the Aggies have made significant progress and should contend for a winning record this year.

Is quarterback Jerrod Johnson’s shoulder an issue for Texas A&M? In Thursday night’s loss to Oklahoma State, Johnson threw four interceptions, giving him eight on the season. The senior had eight interceptions all of last year. Johnson had shoulder surgery in the offseason and appeared to struggle at times with arm strength in Thursday’s game.

Six teams remain without a win this season – Akron, Eastern Michigan, Florida International, New Mexico, New Mexico State and Western Kentucky. By next Saturday, this list will be cut by at least two teams, as New Mexico takes on New Mexico State and Florida International plays Western Kentucky.

A rough start for the Big East didn’t get any better with Rutgers falling to Tulane. The Scarlet Knights continue to struggle in each area on offense, putting too much pressure on the defense. The loss to Tulane is even more disappointing when you consider the Green Wave will probably struggle to reach four wins and squeaked by FCS foe Southeastern Louisiana in the season opener.

Although LSU beat Tennessee 16-14 and stands 5-0, the seat under Les Miles continues to heat up. The Tigers rotated Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson at quarterback with mixed results and continue to underutilize receiver Russell Shepard. Another clock blunder is embarrassing for Miles, which is something that has to be corrected with Florida, Auburn and Alabama coming up on the schedule.

Should there be a running back controversy in Pittsburgh? With Dion Lewis sitting because of a shoulder injury, Ray Graham rushed for 277 yards and three scores in Saturday’s win over Florida International. Lewis has struggled all season, rushing for 143 yards and averaging 3.0 yards per carry. Graham has 492 yards and five scores, with an average of 9.5 yards per carry. Although coach Dave Wannstedt continues to insist Lewis is the starter, Graham has proven he is the better option due to the offensive line issues.

Looking ahead to Week 6

A small sample of what’s ahead

Nebraska vs. Kansas State (Thursday)
Nebraska run defense has struggled and now faces one of nation’s best backs in Kansas State’s Daniel Thomas.

Connecticut vs. Rutgers (Friday)
After losing to Tulane, it’s hard to imagine Rutgers contending for the Big East title.

Alabama vs. South Carolina
Can the Gamecocks slow down Mark Ingram and Trent Richardson?

Michigan State vs. Michigan
Can the Spartans find an answer for Denard Robinson?

Florida State vs. Miami, Fla.
Last nine matchups have been decided by eight points or less – expect another tight one on Saturday.

Tennessee vs. Georgia
Volunteers and Bulldogs a combined 3-6 and both desperately need a victory.

LSU vs. Florida
LSU’s anemic offense faces uphill battle against Florida defense.

Arkansas vs. Texas A&M
Looking for offense? Jerrod Johnson vs. Ryan Mallett should be one of the top quarterback matchups from Week 6.

Oregon State vs. Arizona
Are the Beavers starting to find their rhythm after a traditionally slow start?

Pittsburgh vs. Notre Dame
If the Panthers can’t find any improvement on offense, it will be a long afternoon against the Irish.

USC vs. Stanford
Shaky USC defense will be tested once again by Andrew Luck.

Infirmary Report

Taking a look at some of the key players suffering injuries this weekend.

Boston College QB Chase Rettig (ankle)
Colorado State RB Raymond Carter (knee)
Florida QB John Brantley (ribs)
LSU DE Sam Montgomery (knee)
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor (quad)
Rutgers QB Tom Savage (hand)
Stanford WR Chris Owusu (undisclosed)

Teaser:
Post date: Monday, October 4, 2010 - 09:03
All taxonomy terms: MLB
Path: /columns/around-nl/around-nl-0
Body:

Kirk Gibson took over as interim manager of the last-place Diamondbacks on July 1 and worked with interim general manager Jerry DiPoto. Now DiPoto is gone, replaced as general manager by Kevin Towers on Sept. 22.

Will Towers retain Gibson? Chances are he will, since Towers has talked extensively with and has been impressed by Gibson, whom he didn’t really know previously. Gibson said, “I think that in the end, if given the opportunity, I can change the environment.”

Starting Aug. 17, the Diamondbacks began a stretch that included playing 32 of their final 44 games against contending teams, a stretch that made Gibson wistful and long to be playing meaningful games against those teams rather than be guiding an also-ran club.

“Ultimately, we want to enjoy this,” Gibson said. “We want to be them. Does everybody on the team understand that? Probably not. We’re getting better at it. I’ll continue to talk about it. When I watch the Giants and I watch the Rockies (before they were eliminated) and we watch Cincinnati, it brings back memories to me of what it was like to be a player and do that. I hear people say in the clubhouse, ‘We just want to have fun.’ That’s (expletive) fun! It fires me up to be able to be in this environment. Ultimately, we want to control our destiny and be that team. That’s my goal.”

Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Gibson, who was the bench coach under fired Arizona manager A.J. Hinch, has faced the most difficult managerial task, taking the helm on the fly. To which Gibson smiled and pointed out that Tracy, the Rockies bench coach who replaced Clint Hurdle as manager May 29, 2009, and guided the team to the wild card, had a lot more success than Gibson in a similar circumstance.

“As I sit and watch the games and watch how we play, and some of the things we need to do better that they just don’t understand, we need to ultimately teach them and get them to understand how to do it,” Gibson said. “I’m hoping I get the opportunity to have a fresh start and to implement things, and have a method to it and see how it works. That part’s challenging. You just can’t change everything overnight.

“But we have a really good nucleus of players here. There are some guys that I think have a similar attitude to mine about what we’re after. We have a nice foundation. So it’s doable.”

Gibson’s managerial foundation can be traced to Jim Leyland and Sparky Anderson. The latter managed Gibson when he came to the majors with Detroit in 1979. After signing with the Tigers in 1978, Gibson played for Leyland at Class A Lakeland in the Florida State League and the following year at Triple-A Evansville in the American Association.

“He had the first influence and impact on me,” Gibson said. He just treated me like everybody else. That was the message. He wanted me to learn how to play the game and do it right.”

Gibson, who is from the Detroit suburb of Pontiac, was an All-America football player at Michigan State, went out to play baseball there just to possibly increase his marketability for the NFL and became an All-America in baseball, too. He remembers Leyland picking him up at the airport in Miami where Lakeland was playing and dispensing with any niceties and small talk.

“So now I’m going down to play 50 games in the Florida State League and then come back and play my senior year in football,” Gibson said. “How much higher can you be? You’re going back to play football. You’re a star there at Michigan State. You’re an All-American in football. You’re an All-American in baseball. You just got drafted by your hometown team, the Tigers. How full of myself was I? Not that I meant anything harmful by it.

“I got in the car, and he laid into me about how he didn’t give a (darn) who I was and what the (expletive) I had accomplished at this point. ‘You got a lot to learn down here, kid. And I’ll tell you one thing — we’re going to be up everyday (on the field) at 8 o’clock. You want to go out and get (messed) up, that’s fine, but you’ll be with me at 8 o’clock. You and me, only you and me.’

“I looked at him and said, ‘Bring it on (expletive)’  We went at it like competitively. Did it all through A ball and the next year in Evansville. I’d work out at 8 o’clock with him and go home and nap and then workout with the team and play a game. He was very committed to me. What he wanted me to know was what I had accomplished meant nothing to this point because there’s other people down here who could play pretty damn good, too.”

Anyone who has ever been around Gibson, 53, knows how utterly intense he was as a player and how borderline approachable he was to those in the media. The seriousness is still there, along with an all-business attitude. It’s not as if he’s mellowed, but he has the wisdom that comes from experience, the ability to reflect and draw from the past, the ability to communicate well and an uncanny way to get right to the heart of the matter. And as for that business of making the transition from a coach one day to the manager and authority figure the next, Gibson said, “I don’t even look at it that way. We’re very adaptive to our situation; if you don’t, you get eaten up. It’s always a challenge.

“There’s probably nobody more critical of me than me; that’s how I was as a player. I’ll continue to do that,” he added. “At the same time, if take an 0-for-5 and make an error and we lose the game, you can only beat your own self up so much. You’ve got another game, for crying out loud. It’s the same as a manager.”

 

 

Ubaldo Jimenez, who is 19-8 with a 2.99 ERA, will have his third and final chance to win his 20th game Saturday when he starts for the Rockies at St. Louis.  At the All-Star break, Jimenez was 15-1 with a 2.20 ERA. But in the second half, he has gone 4-7 with a 4.15 ERA.

Jimenez was handed a 4-0 lead before taking the mound at Arizona on Sept. 22 but gave up five hits, four walks and five runs in four innings and took the loss as the Rockies fell 8-4. He gave up two homers in that game, ending a franchise-record string of not allowing more than one homer in 84 consecutive starts. Jimenez hadn’t done that since June 6, 2008.

Jimenez went 9-2 with a 3.19 ERA at Coors Field where he made his final start Monday. He gave up two runs and two hits in the first to the Dodgers, no runs and one hit in his final six innings and lost 3-1.

The day after his poor start at Arizona, when the Rockies had 11 games remaining and were three games behind in both the NL West and wild-card races, Jimenez mused about his situation.

“If I don’t win 20 and we still make the playoffs, I’m going to be happy about it,” he said. “But if we don’t make it and I don’t win 20, I’m going to be disappointed, especially the way I started the season.”

Jimenez has a career-high 204 strikeouts, the second-highest total in club history and needs six in his final start to tie the club record of 210 set by Pedro Astacio in 1999.
 

When the Phillies clinched the NL East with an 8-0 win Monday at Washington behind Roy Halladay, it gave them a 20-5 record in September (the Phillies are now 21-6 in the month). They entered September month trailing the Braves by three games.

The Phillies opted to play an eight-day Division Series starting Oct. 6, which is ideal because it allows them to use Halladay, Cole Hammels and Roy Oswalt, their three dominant starters, on normal rest in a five-game series.

Halladay, who has won his past five starts, is 21-10 with a 2.44 ERA this season and will likely be the winner of the National League Cy Young Award. Hammels is 5-1 with a 1.55 ERA in his past six starts. Oswalt is 7-1 with a 1.65 ERA in 12 starts with the Phillies since being acquired from the Astros.

 

The Dodgers are 78-81 and must sweep their three-game series against Arizona to avoid their first losing season since 2005, when they finished 71-91. Los Angeles has finished below .500 just three times since 1990 — 1992, 1999 and 2005.

“It’s always nice to win,” Dodgers manager Joe Torre said, “but unfortunately that’s the best we can do is .500.”

That possibility exists because the Dodgers swept a three-game series at Colorado, winning three games by a total of five runs. The Dodgers went 6-3 at Coors Field this season, where they are 72-60 all-time.

“We’ve had some success here,” Torre said Wednesday after the Dodgers completed their sweep. “It's never comfortable playing here, because you’re never safe. They’re capable of doing things, not only because of the thin air but because of their ability. It’s not easy to sweep, but they had a little air taken out of their sails against the Giants. That was a big series for them, and by the time we came in here, they were fighting this uphill battle, knowing they had to go to St. Louis for four days (to finish the season). And that certainly wouldn’t have been an easy task for them.”

 

The Rockies were one game behind in the National League West entering play Sept. 19. That day, the Rockies jumped out to a 6-1 lead at Los Angeles against Clayton Kershaw, who had held the Rockies scoreless for 29 consecutive innings at Dodger Stadium. Colorado ended up losing 7-6 in 11 innings, the start of a 1-9 slide that ended the Rockies’ postseason hopes (they were officially eliminated Tuesday). Eight of those nine losses were by two or fewer runs.

“We’ve been playing an awful lot of catch-up baseball over the last 10 days,” Rockies manager Jim Tracy said Wednesday after the Dodgers jumped out to a 5-1 lead in the third and held on to win 7-6 and complete their sweep, “and that’s not a very good formula for success as our record would indicate.”

 

Before the arrival of the Dodgers, the Rockies dropped two of three to the Giants.

Tim Lincecum held the Rockies to two hits and one run in eight innings and won 2-1 on Friday. Matt Cain pitched a three-hitter and won 3-1 on Sunday.

Those two wins were sandwiched around San Francisco’s 10-9 loss in 10 innings Saturday, which ended a streak of 18 consecutive games in which the Giants allowed three runs or fewer. That was tied for the third-longest streak of all-time and longest since 1917, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, and the longest since the end of the Dead Ball Era in 1919.

The 1917 White Sox allowed three or fewer runs in 20 consecutive games and the 1916 Giants did it in 19 consecutive games.

Cain held the Rockies hitless for 7.1 innings, the fifth time in his career he has carried a no-hitter to the seventh inning. His low-hit complete games are two one-hitters, including one this season May 28 against the Diamondbacks. Against the Rockies, Cain gathered steam as the game went on. He retired the Rockies in order through four innings without any strikeouts, but fanned eight in the final five innings.
Cain, Lincecum and Jonathan Sanchez give the Giants a formidable trio of starters for the postseason.

In 14 starts since the All-Star break, Cain is 7-2 with a 2.38 ERA (26 earned runs, 98 innings). Cain is 3-0 with a 1.95 ERA and four walks and 29 strikeouts in 37 innings over five starts in September, which has been a stunning turnaround month for Lincecum.

He went 0-5 with a 7.82 ERA in five August starts with 13 walks, 27 strikeouts and 27 hits allowed in 25.1 innings. In six starts in September, Lincecum is 5-1 with a 1.94 ERA and has eight walks and 52 strikeouts in 41.2 innings with 31 hits allowed.

As for Sanchez, he's 3-1 with a 1.17 ERA in five starts in September. He has 200 strikeouts in 188.1 to become just the fourth left-handed pitcher in the long history of the Giants franchise to reach 200 strikeouts. Ray Sadecki, 206 strikeouts in 1968, is the only other lefthander to accomplish that feat in San Francisco When the franchise was in New York, Cy Seymour had 239 strikeouts in 1898 and Hall of Famer Rube Marquard had 237 strikeouts in 1911.

 

Sanchez isn’t the only lefthander making strikeouts history with his club. Kershaw, who will not make his final scheduled start and whose season ended Sept. 24, finished the season 13-10 with a 2.91 ERA and 212 strikeouts in 201.1 innings. The only two left-handed pitchers in franchise history with more strikeouts are Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax from 1961-1966 — he ran off strikeout totals of 269, 216, 306, 223, 382 and 317 in those six seasons — and Fernando Valenzuela with 240 strikeouts in 1984 and 242 in 1986.

 

The Padres have gone 12-21 dating to Aug. 26 when they lost the first of 10 straight games and have seen their lead of 6½ games over the Giants become a two-game deficit with four games remaining in the season, the final three at San Francisco. The Padres are 1½ games behind in the wild card.

Mat Latos, 22, has hit a wall, going 0-4 with a 10.13 ERA in his past four starts and allowing 29 hits and 20 runs, 18 earned, in 16 innings. Latos was on the 15-day disabled list about the outset of the All-Star break but has still logged 178.2 innings.

 

The Pirates finished 40-41 at home but are a ghastly 16-61 on the road with four games remaining at Florida, where the Marlins are 38-39 and went 3-6 on their last homestand against the Phillies, Cubs and Cardinals. Pittsburgh is assured of losing more road games in franchise history for any team that played an 81-game road schedule. The Pirates have won five road games since the All-Star break — July 27-28 at Colorado, Aug. 31 at Chicago, Sept. 12 at Cincinnati and Tuesday at St. Louis.

The Pirates also have a run differential of minus 276, which far and away is the worst in the majors. The Orioles (minus 176) have the worst run differential in the American League. And in the National League, the Diamondbacks are a very distant second to the Pirates with a minus 119 run differential.

The Pirates have 102 losses, not necessarily surprising for a team mired in its 18th consecutive losing season, a professional sports record. But this is just the second time in that dismal stretch that the Pirates have lost 100 games. When they opened PNC Park in 2001, the Pirates lost 100 games. They haven’t endured this many defeats since 1985 (104). The Pirates modern-day franchise record for losses is 112 in 1952.

 

Carlos Zambrano has gone 7-0 with a 1.27 ERA for the Cubs in 10 starts since returning to their rotation Aug. 9. After his blowup in the dugout June 25, Zambrano was put on the restricted list, participated in anger management therapy and made three relief appearances upon rejoining the team. During his 10-start stretch, Zambrano has allowed 41 hits and nine earned runs in 64 innings with 37 walks and 45 strikeouts.

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Five fantasy matchups to watch (Week 4)

 

By Mike Beacom

FootballDiehards.com

 

Fantasy owners love DeAngelo Williams; they just don’t know when to trust him. He’s boom or bust, and often the complication factor is whether teammate Jonathan Stewart will get in the way.

This week, Williams will face intra-divisional opponent New Orleans, which has given up 435 rushing yards (No. 30) and 4.4 yards per carry (tied for No. 19).

When Williams last played the Saints he had one of his best performance of 2009. In that November contest, Williams carried 21 times for 149 yards (7.1 average) and scored a pair of first quarter touchdowns. By comparison, Stewart gained just 24 yards on 13 carries.

The Saints have allowed a 100-yard rusher in two of three games this year. Fantasy owners can count on Williams adding his name to that list this Sunday.

Here are a few other fantasy players facing favorable matchups in Week 4 (all of the players listed are considered backups or ‘fringe’ starters in most fantasy league formats):

 

>> Chad Henne vs. New England’s pass defense

New England ranks 30th in the NFL in opposing passer completion percentage (69.4) and is tied for most passing scores allowed (seven). Heck, the Patriots made Buffalo’s Ryan Fitzpatrick look good last week (247 yards, two touchdowns) and that can’t be easy. Henne is coming off of a strong week and could begin to push his way into the fantasy quarterback 10-15 range, if he hasn’t already.

 

>> Steve Smith vs. Chicago’s pass defense

As far as fantasy owners are concerned, it’s been a so-so year for Smith. He leads the Giants in receptions (18) but has yet to sniff the end zone. Opponents have completed 88 passes against the Bears so far (third most in the league) and last week two packer players (Jermichael Finley and Donald Driver) each caught nine balls.

 

>> LaDainian Tomlinson vs. Buffalo’s run defense

And he was going to be Shonn Greene’s backup! Not anymore. Even so, Tomlinson has yet to gain the full confidence of fantasy owners. This week, though, he deserves it. The Bills rank in the bottom third of the league in run defense and have allowed five rushing scores – tied for the most.

 

>>Donald Driver vs. Detroit’s pass defense

Driver’s numbers offer two stories: he ranks 11th in the NFL in catches, yet has one of the lowest yards-per-catch totals of any starting receiver (7.2). The thing about Driver, though, is he makes the most of what he has to work with (18 catches as compared to 23 targets) and has gained favor in the passing offense while Greg Jennings has struggled. This week he faces a Lions defense that ranks 26th in yards allowed to receivers per game (285.7).

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Post date: Thursday, September 30, 2010 - 01:39

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