3- New York
8- New Jersey
2- LA Clippers
4- Oklahoma City
6- San Antonio
7- LA Lakers
NBA Finals: Clippers over Knicks
MVP: Dwyane Wade
Rookie: Ricky Rubio
Lastly, make sure you avoid Al Jefferson in your fantasy draft. This guy makes terrible offcourt decisions, like dating this 38 year old nut. This beauty was arrested last week on charges that she bit Al. Stay away from both of them.
*Maybe I'm old school but I am not a fan of all the flair NBA players are wearing these days. And, yes I know I sound like a greybeard when I say that. I would estimate that a quarter of the players in the league wear either two arm-sleeves or two knee pads with half of that total wearing both. No matter how much clothing you wear now, no one is forgetting about those short shorts of the 80's.
Next week, the Jacksonville Jaguars will host the Indianapolis Colts in a seemingly innocuous season finale.
A closer look, however, will show this to be the most important game of the week. In fact, the future for a number of teams rests on the outcome.
First, the Jaguars. If they win this game, they will hand the Colts Stanford QB Andrew Luck. That means for the next 10-12 years, they will have to face Luck at least twice per season. A win for the Jags would also mean a drop from the fourth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to as low as tenth overall depending on the outcome of a slew of games these next two weeks.
Now, the Colts. A win in this game would likely cost them Luck. By my count, this would keep one person in the organization happy - Peyton Manning - and even that is a stretch as he won't be playing for too many more seasons and must understand the business of football by now.
Eyes in Minnesota and St. Louis will also be fixated on this riveting 2-13 vs 4-11* matchup. Within the last two seasons both the Vikings (Christan Ponder, 12th overall in 2011) and Rams (Sam Bradford, 1st overall on 2010) have spent high first round picks on franchise quarterbacks. While it's likely too soon to pass final judgment on how good these two are, it is widely believed, although not by this author, that Luck is the best quarterback prospect to come along in 20 years. Would either team be willing to take their chances with Luck?
*Assumes Tennessee will handle business in Week 16 against the Jaguars.
Lastly, the rest of the league. There might be a couple win-and-in games in Week 17 but the chances of a team which needs to win their last game just to get into the playoffs advancing very far is low. There are definitely counter-examples to this - like Green Bay just last season - but I'll stick to my thesis that the Jax-Indy game will be more meaningful a decade from now. Put more bluntly, no team winning a win-and-in game this season will advance to the Super Bowl.
As a gambler, I'm extremely curious what the line will be. It's a game that neither team wants to win and will be a great example of winning the war but losing the battle... or something like that. Where's Cadillac Williams when you need him?
Florida International -4: This game is being played in St. Petersburg, FL so the crowd should be on the side of the Golden Panthers. FIU is also the better team in this matchup. They have playmakers on offense (T.Y. Hilton, Wes Carroll) and a top-20 defense in the nation. Marshall struggles to move the ball on offense, and they allow almost 90 more yards per game and they amass.
Boise State -14: Are the Broncos disappointed to be playing in the Las Vegas Bowl? Of course they are. However, they lost one game (by one point) all season and one game all of last season (by three points). Kellen Moore has accumulated more wins as a starting quarterback than anyone else in FBS history. He won't let this team throw in the towel. On the other side, we have an Arizona State team that seemingly cannot wait for this nightmare season to be over. After a 5-1 start, the Sun Devils skidded to a final record of 6-6. They have lost their last four games on just saw their coach get fired. I don't see the motivation.
Western Michigan +3: Broncos WR Jordan White had more receiving yards this season the top four Boilermaker wide receivers combined. QB Alex Carder led a lethal aerial attack that averaged over 330 yards per game. On the flip side, the defense struggled to stop anyone with a pulse as they allowed over 430 yards and 28 points per game. This game is being played in Detroit so it can't be considered a home game for either team, but I think Western Michigan has the added incentive of trying to knock off the Big 10 squad.
Time constraints are preventing me from writing a full "11 Things" article, but here are a few thoughts.
-Tim Tebow is Christ. Impossible to argue so don't even try.
-Marion Barber was put on this Earth to make Christ look good. He cost the Bears the game today by not going out of bounds with under two minutes to play. Not his fault. God made him do it.
God's Will, not Marion Barber's, be done
-During the Denver game, they showed a clip of kicker Matt Prater making a 70-yard field goal during pregame warmups. Would have been really cool to see him attempt one of those in the game.
-San Diego was one miracle away from being a game out of first place with three to play. Now, they are two games out and need help from either Buffalo or Kansas City in order to reach the playoffs. Can't see it happening.
-Ryan Succop's pathetic attempt at an onside kick (it went two yards) epitomizes how bad the Chiefs are. Man, that was ugly.
-The Jets took advantage of today's favorable schedule. They beat the
last place Chiefs and then sat back and watched their closest wildcard
competitors fall to each of their respective first place opponents:
Cincinnati (lost to Houston), Tennessee (to New Orleans), and Oakland (to Green Bay).
-Early in the year, Detroit started slowly and was forced to win from behind. Today, that script was reversed. I'm excited to see what this offense can do when they are firing on all cylinders for all four quarters.
-If the Josh Freeman honeymoon wasn't over already, it is now. Tampa Bay is terrible.
-Raise your hand if you can figure out the Eagles or the Dolphins. Me either.
-The loss of Greg Jennings could be huge. On the bright side, the Packers really don't need him for five or six weeks.
-The 49ers ineptitude in the red zone today might have cost them the number two seed in the NFC. They have zero shot of beating New Orleans in the SuperDome so San Fran better not slip up the rest of the way.
-Good for Pats' offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien for calling out Tom Brady, who was in the midst of calling out wide receiver Tiquan Underwood after a red zone interception. That was a terrible throw, and it looked like Brady was blaming someone else.
-How cool would it be to have the reputation of being "the strongest man on the planet"? Cris Collinsworth bestowed that honor on Giants DT Linval Joseph.
-Speaking of the Giants, there was no volume on the television I was watching during the first quarter of tonight's game. I can't figure out why the JPP sack was ruled a safety. Romo was clearly out of the end zone when he was tossed backwards. If the referee ruled that Romo was choosing to run backwards, why was the play blown dead as soon as he fell down?
-James Harrison deserves to be suspended not just for his Thursday Night cheap shot against Colt McCoy but for the multitude of fine-earning hits he has made over the years, just like N-kong Suh.
-Seattle will beat St. Louis tomorrow night, 33-to-who cares.
You are the Commissioner of the National Basketball Association, not my Assclowns Fantasy League. What are you doing vetoing deals, especially a deal that seems to be fair for all parties involved. For my money, the Hornets would have actually made out better than the other teams involved, but who am I to say?
Neither the players nor the owners trust you anymore. Time to go.
[Editor's Note: While we are at it, can't the Rockets and Lakers each send a second round pick to New Orleans so this trade can be processed? It won't solve our Commish issue, but at least we can all get on with our lives.]
Walsh did a very nice job ridding the Knicks of their awful contracts, but I have two bones to pick with his recent work.
First, on April 28, 2011, New York re-signed Chauncey Billups to a one-year $14.2 million contract. Now, less than eight months later, Billups is being amnestied. This seems to be the white elephant in the room because I haven't heard anyone discuss the fact the team just threw all this money down the drain. To top it off, Billups is telling teams not to claim him through the waiver process in hopes he can double dip (get paid the full $14.2m from the Knicks plus whatever his next team agrees to pay him). In order to spite the Knicks, he has also reportedly discussed signing with the Miami Heat for the veteran's minimum, screwing the Knicks over yet again.
Second, Walsh just gave balky-backed Tyson Chandler a four-year $60m+ contract. Yes, the guy plays defense, something foreign in these NYC parts. But, are you really committing to TC instead of making a run at a legitimate franchise player next offseason? Is the Stat-Melo-Chandler trio good enough to win the East without a bona fide point guard? I just don't see it.
Morey is the Billy Beane of the NBA.
Vastly overrated "innovators" whose teams have zero track record of any postseason success
On April 14, 2010, I wrote the following about the Rockets GM, and it still seems pretty accurate today.
As the Rockets' season comes to yet another disappointing close tonight, I am left asking myself a potentially blasphemous question: is Daryl Morey overrated?
On a personal level, I am enamored with Morey. I have met him twice while attending his MIT Sports Analytics Conference (each of the last two years) and came away extremely impressed both times. He's approachable, well-spoken, and genuinely likeable in a Seth Rogen kind of way. Bill Simmons christened him "Dork Elvis" for his popularity among statheads.
Professionally, Morey is credited with revolutionizing player analysis by using quantitative analysis to greatly supplement his and his scouts' views. Many in the industry believe him to be one of the game's brightest managerial stars.
In a recent edition of his "NBA Future Power Rankings Column" (Insider access required), ESPN's Chad Ford ranked the Rockets 10th, based largely on the team's "management." In fact, of all 30 teams, he rated Houston second best in this category. Granted, this category takes into account more than just the GM, but Morey clearly steers this ship.
So, where's the problem?
Simple. The performance of a GM's team, not his academic credentials (Morey received his MBA from MIT), should do the talking, and in this case, I am not wowed. Despite inheriting a 52-win team, Morey's teams have won only one playoff series in his three years.
Let's look at Morey's history.
Less than two weeks into his new role as front office boss in Houston, Morey fired head coach Jeff Van Gundy on May 18, 2007 (after the team's third first-round exit in four seasons under JVG) and replaced him with Rick Adelman. Aside from JVG's disastrous 2005-6 season, these two coaches have had virtually identical success in Houston. A lateral move for the most part - although ESPN greatly benefited since JVG has proven to be a great TV commentator.
Under Adelman, in the 2007-8 season, the Rockets finished with the sixth best record in the Western Conference and lost to the Jazz in the first round of the playoffs.
In the 2008-9 season, they finished with the fifth best record in the Western Conference and beat the Blazers in the first round of the playoffs before succumbing to the Lakers in the second round.
This year, they will not make the playoffs.
Morey might not have an open checkbook, but over the last three years, Houston has been in the top half of the NBA in terms of dollars spent on salary. Now, I understand injuries have played a role as Yao Ming and Tracy McGrady have missed significant time over the last three years for a variety of ailments. But again, the mark of success in the NBA lies in a team's performance, namely its playoff performance, and Morey's squads have failed in this regard.
Has he made good moves (his draft history includes the likes of Aaron Brooks and Carl Landry)? Yes.
Has he made great moves (ripping off the Knicks and Kings at the 2010 trade deadline)? Absolutely.
In the end though, just because a General Manager uses numbers in an innovative way, hires a dozen interns, and gets a nickname from a famous sportswriter, it does not make him great at his job.
Bottom Line: Morey might turn out to be one of the game's all-time greats. Unfortunately, thus far, the team has not markedly improved since he took over three years ago. Until that happens and the team makes at least one deep run in the postseason, I believe it is premature to call him one of the game's best.
[The Rockets missed the playoffs again in 2010-11.]
This proposed three-team deal would see the Rockets ship off Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, and at least one first round pick for Pau Gasol. Call me skeptical of yet another lateral move for a team stuck in neutral.
All goodwill this guy amassed when LeBron pimped him and the city of Cleveland last summer has evaporated in one year. Why are you complaining about the Lakers getting CP3? It's good for the NBA and might offer opportunity to your team. Anytime trades are made, there are other shoes that drop. Maybe one of the teams involved in this deal would have needed a piece to complete their new look team. Maybe they would be interested in doing business with you. Not happening now.
Your team is years away from contention. This just pushed you back further.
Geoff Petrie / Rod Thorn
Wasn't the point of the lockout to prevent deals like this from scrolling across ESPN's BottomLine:
Kings Sign Marcus Thornton for 4 years / $32m
76ers Sign Thaddeus Young for 5 years / $42m
Good Lord. What are GP and RT thinking?
(You know something is wrong when John Hollinger and I agree on something.)
There have been some people suggesting that Peyton Manning deserves MVP votes this season despite not having played a single down.
NFL Magazine, a league-owned publication, went a step further and actually named Peyton their MVP.
[Editor's note: this is ridiculous for a few reasons: 1. The season is only 75% over; 2. It's a slap in the face to every player that actually PLAYED this year. I digress.]
Here are three questions / answers that I hope will stop this push.
-Would anyone vote for a retired player in any sport to win MVP? No, because it's nonsensical. In 1997-98, Michael Jordan led the Bulls to a 62-20 record and won his sixth NBA title. He retired immediately thereafter. The following year, Chicago went 13-37 in a lockout shortened season. Did everyone realize how great MJ was? Sure. Did anyone suggest Jordan for MVP? Of course not.
In 1998, John Elway led the Broncos to a 14-2 record and a Super Bowl title. He retired immediately thereafter. The following year, Denver went6-10 and missed the playoffs. Did everyone realize how great Elway was? Sure. Did anyone suggest he win the MVP? Of course not.
Manning should be treated like a retired player. We understand he's great, but that doesn't mean he's the MVP.
No one is arguing Manning is a great player; he's just not the 2011 MVP
-Do you realize how terrible the combination of Kerry Collins, Curtis Painter, and Dan Orlovsky are at this point in their careers? The fact that Orlovsky could become the first player ever to start more than five games at quarterback for two different teams that went 0-16 summarizes it nicely. Collins was a very good quarterback at one time in his career. That time is not now. Curtis Painter has hair that hundreds of men would kill for, but unfortunately he's useless as a quarterback.
-Was this team in decline already before Peyton's injury? This team doesn't go 0-12 to start the year with Manning at the helm. That much is obvious. However, the team was trending downward for the last two seasons (admittedly, they did make the playoffs in both seasons), and the roster was aging. It is impossible to say what Indy's record would have been with Peyton, but with the way Houston is playing, it's not outrageous to think they would have missed the playoffs even with Peyton. Would anyone vote for him as the MVP if the Colts were 6-6 right now? Highly doubtful.
The best way to end this debate would be for the Colts to draft Andrew Luck and keep the rest of the roster largely intact. Then, with Manning starting under center next year, working with the same guys, we would be able to see how much of a difference he actually makes.
*As a Met fan, I love that 32-year old Mark Buehrle signed with the Marlins for 4-years / $58m. There is a 0.25% chance of this contract working out well for the Fish.
He's a slightly above average starter that will give you 200+ innings a year. Ok, he's a lefty. So what? Why is there such a premium placed on lefthanders?
I know fantasy baseball is just that: fantasy. But you cannot tell me a guy who will find himself drafted after at least 60-75 other starting pitchers in next year's drafts warrants a contract of this size.
This deal stinks of Jeff Suppan, Brad Radke, and Kevin Appier all wrapped in one. And, I'm overjoyed by the stench.
(Apologies for the poor quality, but MLB is stingy with their highlights)
Buehrle is a great athlete and made one of the most incredible defensive plays I've ever seen, but that doesn't justify giving him almost $15m per season.
I wouldn't mind watching them fork over $90m+ for CJ Wilson, either.
*This is somewhat unrelated to the Winter Meetings, but it was announced today that Tim McCarver - yes, the same Tim McCarver I have decried as one of the WORST announcers in all of sports - was named the Ford Frick Award recipient for 2011. This means McAwful will be headed to the Hall of Fame for his excellence in broadcasting.
Yes, the BASEBALL HALL OF FAME IN COOPERSTOWN, NY. And, yes, Tim McCarver. What is going on here?
To put into context how much AA and its readers hate McAwful, he find himself on the Mt. Rushmore-esque masthead of terrible announcers.
Seriously, am I dreaming right now? Tim McCarver going to the Hall of Fame. WTF.
*If true, I love the Octavio Dotel / Tigers deal. That's a solid bullpen now with Jose Valverde at the back and Dotel + Joaquin Benoit setting him up.
*Sandy, please stay away from Brad Lidge. However, if the Yankees are willing to pay almost all of AJ Burnett's salary, take a shot on the guy. He still has strikeout stuff and would give up far few homers in Citi Field than he did at Yankee Stadium.
*I'll give you the team's offseason philosophy; you name the team. [Hint: it's been the same philosophy for the last 20 years.]
Let's not make a major splash in free agency on established, quality talent. Instead, we'll overspend on lower-level guys and make believe everything will work out. When it doesn't, we can say we tried.
If you guessed the Pittsburgh Pirates, you are a winner.
After handing an outlandish, 2 year / $10.5m deal to Clint Barmes a few weeks back, they were back to their misguided ways today, inking Erik Bedard to a 1 year / $4.5m deal AND Nate McLouth to a 1 year / $1.75m deal.
Fast forward to August when the Pirates are ineveitably out of contention again, and GM Neil Huntington can point to these moves (and the Rod Barajas signing) and say the effort was there.
It's amazing when you look at the history of awful signings they have had. These are all of the players they have given Major League deals worth at least $1m in the last five offseasons:
2006- Tony Armas 2007- Chris Gomez 2008- Eric Hinske, Ramon Vasquez 2009- Ryan Church, Bobby Crosby, Octavio Dotel (blind squirrel finds nut), Brendan Donnelly 2010- Lyle Overbay, Kevin Correia, Matt Diaz
Just because you pay someone to play like a star doesn't mean they are one.
Thank God for the Steelers and Penguins.
*At the July trade deadline, Carlos Beltran fetched a top-flight pitching prospect. Now, no one wants to sign this guy? He's not tied to any draft pick compensation. What am I missing?
*Seriously, Sandy, get your head right. I don't want to be sitting here tomorrow wondering what you were thinking when you traded away Ike Davis and Jon Niese.
*I've beaten this drum way too many times already, but I think it's garbage that there will be a rematch for the national title. We've already seen this game. Ok, I'm done complaining about this.
*I love the Illinois vs UCLA matchup in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl. Both teams fired their head coaches (Ron Zook and Rick Neuhesiel). I'm interested to see which team thought more highly of their outgoing coach.
*If you don't believe the whole BCS system is a sham, look no further than Virginia Tech playing in the Sugar Bowl. I was at the ACC Championship Game last night, and this team was terrible. They do not deserve to be anywhere near a meaningful game, after all:
1- they haven't beaten any good team this season, 2- they had their chance last night and squandered it, and 3- there are at least three (Boise State, Kansas State, Oklahoma) and maybe four (Baylor) more qualified teams that were passed over
Va Tech fans might* buy more tickets than some of these other institutions, but the BEST TEAMS should be playing in these games, not the teams with the most fans.
*I say "might" becuase Hokies fans didn't exactly show up in droves for the title game last night in Charlotte, a city within driving distance from campus.
*I know Jerry Jones is an Arkansas alumnus, but it seems like the Razorbacks find a way to play at Cowboys Stadium every year. They will take on Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl on January 6th in Dallas.
*If the the over/under for the Rose Bowl is any two-digit number, I'm taking the over. Wisconsin and Oregon are going to light up the scoreboard.
*The Urban Meyer Bowl, err, Gator Bowl between Ohio State and Florida will be a must watch as well.
Without this guy's involvement, no one would have faulted you for skipping this game.
*The Liberty Bowl between Vanderbilt and Cincinnati features the two teams that offered "Behind the Scenes" packages in Buster Olney's Vermont fundraiser. I made bids on both but lost. Maybe I'll go to this game and knock them out in one shot.
*I'm happy that teams like Temple, Utah State, Wyoming, Ohio, and Arkansas State have the opportunity to play in bowl games. Just don't expect me to watch them.
1. I know the Tebows are in first place. Under the leadership of the The Glorious One, they have won five games in a row and six of the seven He has started. They are 4-0 on the road and sit atop the AFC West at 7-5 despite having been outscored by opponents 292-256 this season. The craziest stat in my opinion: Denver has only won one game this year by more than a touchdown. Keep the game close until the fourth, and then outwill the other team. If it ain't broke...
2. I know that as a fan, I would much, much, much, much prefer to have a camera placed on each of the end lines, each of the sidelines, and each of the goal lines than having them focused on each of the head coaches. CBS and Fox spend billions of dollars broadcasting these games, how can there ever be a question about what happened near a boundary? Spend the extra money and fix these cameras in position. Watching Tom Coughlin about to break into tears gets boring the 19th time we see it each game.
3. I know intelligent timeout usage is at an all-time low. I'm still baffled at the lack of clock management skills by head coaches. These guys are brilliant with the X's and O's but laughably bad when it comes to mathematics. (Editor's Note: I would be more than happy to help on your sideline Jason Garrett, Andy Reid, Mike Shannahan, Mike and Lovie Smith, or anyone else in need of help.)
4. I know the Bears will be calling Donovan McNabb if they haven't done so already.Caleb Hanie looks lost, and without Matthew Forte, this Bears offense stands no chance with CH at the helm.
Will McNabb be fitted with his FOURTH jersey in the last two years?
5. I know the Washington Redskins need to draft Robert Griffin III. Rex Grossman has negative pocket presence, and we know John Beck is awful. Mel Kiper called for the 'Skins to trade for Peyton Manning, but I think that makes very little sense. This roster is filled with deep threat wide receivers and lacks much in the way of a possession receiver. Manning would get these smallish guys killed with his questionable throws over the middle. Imagine RGIII throwing to Santana Moss, Brandon Banks, and Anthony Armstrong all day? That would be fun to watch. Much more fan that the offense being trotted out right now in DC.
Things won't get easier for Rex the rest of the way as he'll likely be without Fred Davis and Trent Williams, who were both suspended four games for drug use.
6. I know TJ Yates looked serviceable at quarterback for the Texans, but they cannot survive without Andre Johnson over the long haul. Yates made a couple questionable decisions with the ball, but he "managed the game" in a Trent Dilfer-kind-of-way (that is a compliment). Andre Johnson, however, went down with appeared to be a re-aggravation of a hamstring injury that sidelined him for almost two months earlier this year. If he's done for the season, so is Houston.
Something working nicely in Houston's favor, through Week 13, the AFC South has the least combined wins of any division in football. They are a shoo-in for the playoffs, but need AJ80 if they want to advance once they get there.
7. I know that all week I was telling anyone who would listen (not many people) how much today's Giants-Packers game reminded me of the 2007 Week 17 Giants-Patriots game. It's very fitting both games had the identical 38-35 score. New York caught a nice break when Dallas lost at Arizona today, making next week's matchup with the Cowboys a battle for first place in the NFC East.
8. I know the Browns are going to surprise some people next year. In this year's Draft, they focused completely on defense, and it worked. Next year, if they use their two first round picks on a quarterback and a skill position offensive player, they can make a run.
9. I know I was wrong about Cam Newton. I doubted this rookie when doing all of my 2011 NFL Draft prep work, and he has made me look pretty foolish.
After three more today, Newton now holds the single-season rushing touchdown record for a quarterback (13). More importantly, he has turned last year's pathetic 2-14 squad into a respectable 4-8 team that no one wants to face.
10. I know I will be sick of all the BCS Title Game rematch talk by next Wednesday. I never thought I'd say this about a national championship game, but I am not excited whatsoever. Either give Oklahoma State a shot at LSU or just give the title directly to the Tigers who already beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
11. I know the Chargers will beat the Jaguars 24-19 on Monday Night Football. I'm a little conflicted on this one. On one hand, San Diego has nothing to play for and the whole Jacksonville roster will be trying to impress their new owner and coach. On the other hand, Jacksonville is one of three teams since 1994 not to score at least 20 points in any of their first 11 games of the season (hat tip, CHFF). Talent wins out.
For what it's worth, the remaining slate of Thursday Night games is atrocious so plan accordingly.
"11 Things I Know I Know" is my feeble attempt to trump the untrumpable SI.com's Peter King and his "10 Things I Think I Think" which happens to be my favorite article each week.