Articles By Charlie Miller
1. Two franchises in the National League — Atlanta and Arizona have collected the Cy Young award four consecutive seasons. But only one franchise in the AL has won as many as three consecutive awards. What American League team had three consecutive Cy Young winners?
2. Who is the only active major leaguer to have won a batting title in the 1990s?
3. From 1970-2000, only two Hall of Famers won National League batting titles. Can you name them? Hint: One player won eight titles, the other won just one. OR Hint: Between them, they won nine titles.
4. In the 1970s, Hall of Famers won or shared home run crowns nine times. In the 1980s it was 10 times. But in the 1990s only once did a Hall of Famer win a home run title. Can you name him?
5. Scoring 150 runs in a season has been accomplished 14 times, but just once since Ted Williams did it in 1949. Who is the most recent player to eclipse 150 runs in a single season?
6. Who is the only player active in 2010 to have won a home run crown in the 1990s?
7. Who are the only teammates to ever tie for the league lead in home runs?
8. Can you name the only two battery mates to win Gold Gloves in the same season twice? Hint: They did it for different teams.
9. Who was the last player to lead the majors in home runs with a total of less than 40?
10. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson is the only player to win the MVP award in both leagues. How many pitchers can you name that have won the Cy Young award in both the American and National League. There are four.
1. Toronto Blue Jays, 1996-98 with Pat Hentgen and Roger Clemens twice
2. Alex Rodriguez, .358 with Seattle in 1996
3. Tony Gwynn is the easy answer, winning eight titles. Billy Williams of the Cubs won the NL Batting title hitting .333 in 1972.
4. Ryne Sandberg of the Chicago Cubs hit 40 home runs to lead the National League.
5. Jeff Bagwell crossed the plate 152 times for the Houston Astros in 2000.
6. Ken Griffey won four with the Seattle Mariners in 1994, 97-99. Griffey retired during the 2010 season.
7. Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig each swatted 46 in 1931 for the Yankees.
8. Kenny Rogers and Ivan Rodriguez, Texas 2000, Detroit 2006
9. Stormin’ Gorman Thomas swatted 39 homers in 1982 to lead the majors.
10. Roger Clemens (1986-87, 91, Tor. 1997-98, N.Y. Yankees 2001, Houston 2004) Randy Johnson (Seattle 1995, Arizona 1999-2002), Pedro Martinez (Mon. 1994, Boston 1999-2000) and Gaylord Perry (Clev. 1972, S.D. 1978).
Let there be Sports Lite. …
Now this is getting downright ridiculous. First, the NFL bans its players from helmet-to-helmet hits on wide receivers. Now the league says players can’t hit on defenseless cheerleaders. …
The Broncos added a new dimension to their offense last weekend by implementing the Tim Tebow package. The Vikings, meanwhile, are hoping Roger Goodell doesn’t suspend Brett Favre’s package. …
If he gets bounced, Favre would become the first NFL player ever to miss a game because of an attempted pulled groin. …
Tebow, by the way, ran for a five-yard touchdown with the help of some key blocking by his 10 disciples. …
No really, I’m not making this up. Favre is the 28th-ranked passer in the league. On the plus side, he’s making some serious jackamundo for the old alimony fund. …
With the NFL trading deadline a few days away, the Raiders reportedly have put their entire roster up for sale. Hence, their new team slogan: Commitment to eBay. …
So far, all the Raiders have been offered is a seventh-rounder for the dude with the eye patch. Not that it’s all bad in the business department. An Elvis impersonator last week offered Al Davis 50 bucks for his wardrobe. …
With the race for the Cup winding down, NASCAR officials can’t figure out why TV ratings have been shaky at best. Um, because it’s NASCAR? …
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner is kicking himself for not buying the Mariners before the trading deadline to make sure Cliff Lee would pitch in pinstripes. …
In case there was any doubt in your mind, Lee will be pitching for the Bronx Bombers next season. The Yankees also plan to purchase Venezuela and Puerto Rico to provide depth for their bullpen. …
Let me see if I’ve got this straight. The Yankees paid $82.5 million for A.J. Burnett? What would he have gotten if they actually wanted him to pitch? …
The Badgers hammered Ohio State, but Wisconsin fans weren’t happy last weekend. Why? They still have bar time in Madison. …
Give it a rest, all you Buckeye bashers. Terrelle Pryor isn’t overrated in the least. He just isn’t very good. Though, to be fair, he did hit Bucky Badger in stride on that one sideline route. …
Oh, before I forget, that poor sap reporter who Urban Meyer went Freddie Krueger on a few months ago asked me to mention something: Mississippi State 10, Florida 7. …
Giants lefty Madison Bumgarner has faced some tough questions from the media during the playoffs, including this one: Do you, like, have a brother named Tiffany? …
Ryne Sandberg apparently was bummed out that he didn’t get the Cubs’ manager’s gig. Um, Ryno? You might want to check out the last century of highlights at Wrigley Field. …
Having lost the Throes Bowl in Minneapolis to fall to 1-4, Cowboys coach Wade Phillips has switched to the run-and-hide offense.
By Mike Beacom
Hard to believe but Kansas City’s rookie tight end Tony Moeaki has more catches than veteran wide receiver Dwayne Bowe (18 to 15). If there is a silver lining for Bowe’s fantasy owners it’s that he has made big plays this year, evidenced by his 17.3 yards per catch and two touchdown catches of 40-plus yards.
Jacksonville’s defense allows more passing yards per attempt (8.8) than any other team in football, and has given up a league-worst 14 passing scores. Big-play receivers like Lee Evans and DeSean Jackson have had their way with the Jaguars so far.
Fantasy owners need to have faith that Bowe can build off of last week’s 108-yard effort. This may be his most favorable matchup of the 2010 season.
Here are a few other fantasy players facing favorable matchups in Week 7 (all of the players listed are considered backups or ‘fringe’ starters in most fantasy league formats):
Jay Cutler vs. Washington’s pass defense
Cutler is an unwanted man right now. He doesn’t rank among the top 15 in the league in passing yards, or the top 20 in touchdowns. So much for Mike Martz’s genius, eh! This week provides the signal caller with an opportunity to save his season. The Redskins allow the second-most passing yards per contest and do not possess enough speed in their secondary to keep up with the Bears fleet of receivers. No longer feeling the effects of his Week 4 concussion, Cutler will give the Redskins defense trouble.
Justin Forsett vs. Arizona’s run defense
Marshawn Lynch may be in Seattle colors now, but it means little if he is unable to out-perform Forsett, as was the case last week. Maybe the acquisition has motivated the 25-year-old back, who had his best game of the season last week. This week, Forsett hopes to feast on a Cardinals defense ranked No. 29 in rushing yards allowed per contest (140.8). When Forsett faced Arizona in Week 10 last season, he caught five passes, scored a touchdown and gained 123 yards on just 17 carries.
Jabar Gaffney vs. Oakland’s pass defense
Eddie Royal’s status is in question this week, leaving the door open for Gaffney to post bigger numbers. The ninth-year receiver has just one big game so far, but has consistently posted solid catch and yardage totals. In fact, he’s had at least 80 yards in each of the past two weeks and has caught five or more passes in each of the past four. His biggest knock is that he has only caught one touchdown (Week 1). Gaffney must like his chances this week against a Raiders secondary that has allowed 12 passing scores (30th in the league).
Davone Bess vs. Pittsburgh’s pass defense
Brandon Marshall has been a catching machine for the Dolphins, but Bess still gets enough attention to be helpful to fantasy owners. He has caught a touchdown in each of the past two weeks and is on pace to approach the 1,000-yard mark this season. Pittsburgh may own one of the league best run defenses, but that isn’t true of their pass defense (No. 24). Heck, Pittsburgh made first-time starter Colt McCoy look special last week. Miami’s Chad Henne is a better passer than McCoy and has better weapons, including Bess, who had five catches, 85 yards and a touchdown against Pittsburgh in the final week of the 2009 season.
Roy Williams warned us. Told us before last season his Tar Heels weren’t top-five material. Probably didn’t deserve the top 10, either. But did we listen? Nope. It’s hard to pay close attention when coaches poor-mouth their teams, but we should have believed Old Roy on this one. Instead of defending its 2009 national title with gusto, North Carolina stumbled, finishing 20-17 and a dismal 5-11 (T9th) in ACC play.
As the ’10-11 season dawns, UNC is ready to get back into the national discussion. It won’t be easy. The offseason transfers of David and Travis Wear hurt, and the dismissal of Will Graves from the team just before practice began is a big loss. Still, thanks to the arrivals of a some quality newcomers, most notably Harrison Barnes, Carolina will still be dangerous. Here’s how Williams sees things as the season commences.
ATHLON SPORTS: Do you think part of last year’s trouble was that the team didn’t understand that they had to treat every season differently and can’t live off the past?
ROY WILLIAMS: No, I don’t think so. Each and every year, you want to be proud of or mad at whatever you accomplished the year before, but you have to put it behind you. Tradition is important, but each year is different.
AS: After last season’s disappointments, how happy were you with the team’s offseason attention to getting back on track?
RW: Our preseason conditioning program from September 15 on was the most difficult we ever had. I am ecstatic about how our players responded to the tests we gave them before practice began. They also worked hard over the summer.
AS: Could you be encouraged by the fact that last year’s team regrouped at season’s end and made a run to the NIT final?
RW: I was worried the team wanted to stop playing hard, but I saw some positive things in the NIT. But we’re not going to hang banners for runner-up finishes in the NIT around this place.
AS: How much of a role will your freshmen have this year?
RW: One of the tough things last year was that we had trouble scoring. The freshmen shoot well. Harrison and Reggie [Bullock] have good range and can put the ball on the floor. Kendall [Marshall] is an attacking point guard. We’re going to put a lot on them. The good news is I think they’re good. We have told them there are expectations.
AS: How difficult is it to remain an elite team, year-in and year out?
RW: I’ve been at two places as a head coach, Kansas and North Carolina, where the fans expect it. It is hard to do over a long period of time. You look at Jim Calhoun at Connecticut, Jim Boeheim at Syracuse and Mike Krzyzewski at Duke, and they do it. It’s hard to win at any point, but when you are expected to win every year at a high level, it’s very hard. I like the expectations, and they help us with recruiting kids. It’s great to have history and tradition.
AS: Agents have become a larger problem in college football, and they have been a concern in basketball. Can anything be done to keep them under control?
RW: It’s hard to know all the time what’s going on when you have 800 student-athletes, like we do at North Carolina. We talk about it a lot. I check the ticket list for home games to see who’s sitting in the players’ seats. On road games, I do the list myself. I know who’s coming and where they’re sitting. But you still don’t know. There are a select few people who have given the agent profession a bad name, and because of them, it’s hard to like any of them. The whole profession has been torn down by a few. The solution has to come from the NBA and the NFL. The NCAA has no jurisdiction over agents. Only the things that can police them are the leagues where they work. It’s probably a minority of people, but they kill the whole profession’s reputation by not doing things ethically. They know what they’re doing, my gosh, but it’s hard to legislate morality.
AS: How do you feel about the expanded tournament and the idea that it might get even bigger?
RW: I can make an argument on both sides. It’s one issue where I sit on the fence. I love the specialness of 65 teams. I love that it’s difficult to get in, even though that excluded us last year. At the same time, some teams get excluded that could make a little run. Maybe we could have been one of them. People on both sides could make arguments to me, and I could understand.
AS: How hard was it to dismiss Will Graves from the team in October?
RW: It was the most difficult two days I’ve had in 23 years [as a head coach]. I hated it for the young man. I didn’t want it to happen. I hate it for the team, because he was going to be an important part of the team. You end up punishing other people for one person’s mistake. But you have to do it. If you’re going to do things you’re not supposed to do, you have to pay the consequences.
AS: You said you were going to be “a little meaner” this year. How will that happen?
RW: I won’t do it outside of the locker room. Our preseason conditioning was the toughest we’ve had. Some of the older players have said I’ve mellowed, and I’ve been allowing them to make mistakes and saying, ‘Come on, son, you’re better than that.’ I won’t be there this year. Some teams could handle that because they were more mature. If I need to create some fear this year, I’m okay with that.
AS: Did it bother you that Duke won last year’s national championship?
RW: It didn’t bother me. I said before the season started that I thought that was the best Duke team since I’d been back at Carolina. If you’re going to say that, you can’t be upset if they win the national championship. I’m probably going to be saying the same thing this year, because they have so much back and added a marquee freshman [Kyrie Irving] who can really help them. It’s a great rivalry, and it’s a great thing for both teams to be really good, so it can be the best rivalry in college basketball. We didn’t hold up our end last year. I like it more when we win the national championship, like in 2009, but I’m glad to be part of the rivalry.
I didn’t watch the national championship game. I watched Dancing With The Stars. I was with my daughter, and it worked out well.
By Matt Schauf
Every week folks grab the Keiland Williamses and LeGarrette Blounts of the fantasy world off the waiver wire in hopes that they luck into some gem of a bye-week cover. The wide receiver position is far more open to breakout performances, though, simply because there are more of them around and more variables involved in their production.
Just this past week we saw DeSean Jackson rank among the top fantasy scorers despite catching just one pass before leaving early with a concussion. We saw rookies Demaryius Thomas and Dez Bryant wind up in the end zone with their only receptions. We saw Mario Manningham for the first time in three weeks.
And there were plenty of other noteworthy happenings at wideout. That’s why I’m choosing to lock in on my receivers for this week’s trip to the wire and rank the top options for Week 7 and beyond.
1. Deion Branch, WR, New England
Is this an overreaction to his nine-catch re-debut with the Patriots? Perhaps, but Branch led the team with 12 targets. He previously spent four seasons working with Tom Brady and is in the middle of his ninth year as a pro. Thus, the only question with Branch should’ve been how quickly the Patriots would work him into the mix. The fact that he started his first game and led the way in targets and receptions sure seemed to answer that one. The biggest advantage that Branch has on just about everyone else in this list is playing with one of the league’s top quarterbacks. New England has a lot of options around in the passing game and more talented players than Branch in that group, but there’s something to be said for connection between quarterback and receiver. Branch has shown a lack of durability throughout his career, but you can’t look at that too much when fishing for free-agent help in Week 6. Just pick him up and use him when you can.
2. Mike Williams, WR, Seattle
This guy surely isn’t available in all leagues, but odds are that plenty of players can find Big Mike available after he tallied just seven catches and 74 yards over his previous three games. We can’t overreact to the 15 targets and 10 catches Sunday at Chicago. After all, it was only two weeks earlier that Brandon Stokley led the team in targets. That said, Williams has started all year amid a very young corps of pass catchers and drawn 14 more looks than any other wide receiver on the team (three more than tight end John Carlson). He’s not going to put up fantasy-starter numbers every week, but point-per-reception owners should be able to at least consider him in the weekly mix. For comparison’s sake, he has just two fewer catches than Tampa’s Mike Williams – a rookie who has looked terrific and emerged as a top option for a team in need – and a nearly identical per-catch average (12.4 to 12.3). Seattle’s Williams is lacking the touchdowns, and that will continue in a weak offense. In PPR, however, he clearly brings upside.
3. Robert Meachem, WR, New Orleans
Were I playing without PPR, I would most likely place Meachem at the top of this list. That he ranks just sixth on his own team in targets (one behind No. 2 tight end David Thomas) tells you a lot about the reliability of his usage. That said, Meachem has scored from at least 35 yards out in each of the past two games and plays for a team that needs to rekindle it’s deep passing game. Drew Brees has always professed to be a fan of this young playmaker, and the two connected for a touchdown once every five completions (on average) last year. Playing Meachem will mean frustrating empty weeks, but some big ones also lie ahead.
4. Danario Alexander, WR, St. Louis
There’s a chance that this ranking will look too low within just a few weeks. Alexander was a college star just last year, hauling in 113 catches on a team where no other player topped 46. That season that also included 1,781 yards and 14 touchdowns, however, also ended with him tearing up a knee. That led to a fourth surgery on that part of his body, which happened to be sore following Sunday’s four-catch, 72-yard effort.
I wouldn’t worry about that knee soreness, but at least make note of it, combine it with the fact that he’s a rookie who joined his team in-season and the fact that he’s playing with a rookie quarterback and try to keep any expectations in check. The Rams’ receiver group is searching for a leader at this point with Donnie Avery and Mark Clayton gone for the year and Laurent Robinson constantly in and out of the lineup, but there were also three other Rams who matched Alexander’s five targets against the Chargers. St. Louis activated Alexander so early because he’s a talented, big (6-5, 215) wideout who can help a young team, and there’s no way to quantify his upside right now. Just don’t break the bank for him in a typical redraft league.
5. Louis Murphy, WR, Oakland
Murphy ranks only slightly behind Alexander because he actually has to deal with a worse quarterback situation than a team starting a rookie. That fact is evident in any league that finds him on the waiver wire this week, as Murphy has followed a promising start to the year with just four catches over his past three outings. The last of those three, however, provided some hope. Jason Campbell looked terrible against the Niners in Week 6, which should make it easy for the Raiders to turn back to Bruce Gradkowski as soon as his injured shoulder will allow. Already this season, Murphy has enjoyed two five-catch games with Gradkowski under center – the first of which coming all in the second half of a game started by Campbell. Murphy disappointed in the last game he shared with Gradkowski, but the good ones plus some 2009 success is enough to breed optimism for when the two reconnect.
2011 Potential Front-Liners
Other 2011 Notables
Free in 2012
Jerry Hairston Jr.
Jorge de la Rosa
Chan Ho Park
* either player, current club or both hold an option for 2011
In August, Ross was merely playing out the season in Florida in front of (generously) 10,000 fans every night. But after a call from the Giants — presumably to keep the rival Padres from getting him — Ross has become a postseason hero for the G-Men. His week began Monday night with a home run and a game-winning hit to clinch the NLDS series with the Braves. He then took Roy Halladay deep twice to lead the Giants to a win in Game 1 of the NLCS. He followed with another homer off Roy Oswalt in Game 2, a Giants' loss. In three playoff games this week, Ross in 5-9 with four home runs and five RBIs.
New York Yankees vs. Texas Rangers
Game 1 – Fri. – 8:00 – at Texas
C.C. Sabathia vs. C.J. Wilson
Game 2 – Sat. – 4:00 – at Texas
Phil Hughes v. Colby Lewis
Game 3 – Mon. – 8:00 – at New York
Andy Pettitte v. Cliff Lee
Game 4 – Tue. – 8:00 – at New York
A.J. Burnett v. Tommy Hunter
Game 5 – Wed. – 4:00 – at New York
Phil Hughes v. Colby Lewis
Game 6 – Fri. – 8:00 – at Texas
Andy Pettitte v. Cliff Lee
Game 7 – Sat. – 8:00 – at Texas
C.C. Sabathia v. C.J. Wilson
The marquee matchup of the ALDS will be Game 3 in New York when postseason ace in any uniform, Cliff Lee, faces postseason veteran Andy Pettitte. Lee is 6-0 with a 1.44 ERA in his seven postseason starts. Pettitte has won 18 postseason games and was the starter in all three of the Yankees’ clinching games in the 2009 postseason.
Unfortunately for the Rangers, Game 3 may be anticlimactic. C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis must first negotiate the Yankees’ powerful lineup in Games 1&2. C.C. Sabathia will be heavily favored in Game 1, and Phil Hughes proved he was ready for prime time with a stellar start against the Twins in the ALDS.
While Lee may be a Yankee killer, he will make only two starts as he did last year for the Phillies in the World Series. He may not get an opportunity to make his second start this series.
The Yankees’ exceptional lineup and seasoned experience will be too much for the upstart Rangers. The future may be brighter in Texas than it is in New York as the Yankees are aging. But the present is much brighter in pinstripes.
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.
“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. …
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.
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
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
Carmelo Anthony F Denver
Yao Ming C Houston
Dirk Nowitzki F Dallas
Chris Paul G New Orleans
Brandon Roy G Portland
Andrew Bynum C L.A. Lakers
Rudy Gay F Memphis
Manu Ginobili G San Antonio
David Lee F Golden State
Steve Nash G Phoenix
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
Gentry landed the Suns in the Western Conference Finals last season.
The reigning Coach of the Year leads a hungry team into the 2010-11 season.
Coach on the Hot Seat
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
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.
G Golden State
G L.A. Clippers
G San Antonio
G New Orleans
G Oklahoma City
Don’t be surprised if the following players take a step
(or, in some cases, another step) backward this season.
G L.A. Lakers
G L.A. Clippers
G L.A. Lakers
C New Orleans
G San Antonio
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.
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
Chris Bosh, F, Miami
Dwight Howard, C, Orlando
LeBron James, F, Miami
Rajon Rondo, G, Boston
Dwyane Wade, G, Miami
Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee
Joe Johnson, G, Atlanta
Paul Pierce, F, Boston
Derrick Rose, G, Chicago
Amar’e Stoudemire, F, New York
Carlos Boozer, F, Chicago
Danny Granger, F, Indiana
Brook Lopez, C, New Jersey
Jameer Nelson, G, Orlando
Gerald Wallace, F, Charlotte
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.
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
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?
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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
Kansas 79, Kentucky 73
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.
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.
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.
By Matt Schauf
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. …
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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...
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.
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.