Thursday, May 21, 2009

Conference Finals and Gridiron LeBron

Since I’m pulling for a Denver v. Cleveland final it makes perfect sense that both teams would go on to lose their opening games.

But here is what I saw ...

I saw a determined, strong as a bull, Carmelo Anthony. He’s an absolute beast to handle in the post and there isn’t enough praise to heap on his wildly improved three-point range.

A pretty bad game out of Chauncey Billups (and certainly out of J.R. Smith), right down to missing free throws (including two-in-a-row) which was almost jarring to see. He, like Anthony Carter, failed to close out on LA threes and it ended up costing them the game. I don’t see a need to double anyone but Kobe occasionally because Denver’s big guys (Nene, Martin, Birdman) can manhandle LA’s big guys (Gasol, Odom, Bynum) straight up. Of course Gasol and Odom are going to win some battles, but don’t give Fisher, Farmar, and Ariza consistent wide-open threes, because those are the only shots that they can make. I saw too many occasions where Chauncey or some other guard could have at least given a token close-out, but didn’t. They can’t do that again. Those threes got LA back into the game, but if Denver doesn’t shoot terribly from the line, they win that game going away. I’m still confident that they will take this series. I don’t see LA getting that lucky again – of course, I don’t see Kenyon Martin shooting the ball as well as he did the other night either… but I do believe that Melo will continue to indefensible.

I’m surprised that Orlando was able to take that game from Cleveland, but only in the result. These two teams look very even to me, and here I thought that Orlando would be lucky to win one game. I have a soft spot in my heart for Rashard because of the whole Seattle thing, and he really looks fantastic. I love watching him take the ball strong to the hoop, which is enabled by his fantastic jumper. He’s a tough cover at 6’10 and as agile as he is. His defense is bad and always has been, but that’s not where his value is. Dwight Howard is a physical marvel, but I stand by my proclamations that his post game is garbage. I did see a decent-looking running hook shot out of him (with touch) that surprised me, but I only saw it once. He’s mostly a dunking machine, which is working well for him to the tune of 30 points last night… Mikaele Pietrius looks great, by the way. He looks nothing like any Euro player that I’ve ever seen, of course, he’s not white, but still. His mentality is completely different than most Euro players. He’s aggressive and strong and athletic. I like his game and he looks like he could, at the very least, make LeBron work on offensive (and some on defense). He should be playing 35 minutes a game.

Now, to Cleveland… that fourth quarter was disgusting offensive basketball. The four corners, let LeBron hold the ball at the top of the key for 22 seconds jab stepping, and launching a terrible fadeaway 23 foot jumper just isn’t working for me. He was screaming-teakettle hot for awhile, hitting every midrange jumper he tossed up. He also nearly catapulted himself to the ceiling after that backdoor dunk. One other thing, that helpside swat of Howard’s shot was so incredible because you could see it coming as LeBron crept away from his man when it was clear what Howard’s intentions were. I love watching him play… except when they run the four corners offense. Then it’s horrible to watch. LeBron is the best player in the game not just because he can score, but because he creates so much trouble for the other team. Limiting him to that stupid offense hurts their team. His teammates need to be in constant motion to that he can hit them as they get separation from their man. LeBron’s gifts are showcased when he gets easy buckets for himself or his teammates, not when he’s forcing nochance fadeaway jumpers. Those types of shots lead to losses because their deflating and no one else is involved. It’s just a bad scene.

Speaking of LeBron, given that he is 6’8 and anywhere between 260 and 275, couldn’t he play (and excel) just about anywhere on the field in the NFL except offensive line, defensive tackle, tailback, or fullback? Here is how I see it:

Quarterback: He has tremendous court vision and I see no reason why this wouldn’t translate to the NFL. Is there any part of you that thinks that he can’t throw a football 70 yards in the air? He has great anticipation, a key component for a QB’s accuracy. He is commonly mentioned as one of, if not the fastest guys in the NBA. He has great size. He is a great leader. I have no doubt that he’d be a Pro Bowl QB. I say this without pause even though I’ve never seen him throw a football. You see, I know how to spot talent. That’s my gift.
NFL Comparison: Ben Roethlisberger + Michael Vick

Wide Receiver: The position he played as a high school all-state player in Ohio. He has huge hands, unparalleled leaping ability, great size and strength, explosive speed and quickness. He’s a runaway semi-truck when he screams through the lane in hoops, I see him doing the same thing when careening through the secondary. Because he’s so tall, I’m sure that corners would attempt to get up under his pads and jam him, but because he’s so athletic and strong, he’d brush them off and fly by them. Those commercials depicting him playing for the Browns are not far off. He could also be the first player to dunk a football on the crossbar from the plane of the goal line. But would that be a safety if he crossed the goaline but never set foot in the end zone and the ball sailed out of bounds after he dunked? Technically he broke the plane, which would mean it’s a TD and he maintained possession as he was double pumping. Maybe I’ll ask the NFL what they think. For the record, I rule that a TD just for sheer awesomeness. Of course, LeBron would have to long jump 30 feet (or 7 ¾ inches past the WORLD RECORD) in football pads just to get to the back of the end zone, not to mention needing to get above the crossbar to do so. Look, I put nothing past him, not even setting a world record in the middle of an NFL game.
NFL Comparison: Larry Fitzgerald + Andre Johnson + Terrell Owens + Tony Gonzalez (in other words, the best WR in the NFL)
(As an aside, look at the photo of him and Pacman... notice anything weird about it? LeBron has a cell phone clipped to his pants... I'm saddened by this. He went from being quite possibly the coolest cat in the world to possibly 2nd or 3rd place... disappointing).

Tight End: For the same reasons that he’d be a great wide receiver, he’d be a great tight end, but would be clearly wasted here. He certainly has the size and strength to do it, but he’d be called on to block too much, which he could do, but it makes much more sense to send him downfield, constantly.
NFL Comparison: Antonio Gates + Tony Gonzalez + Shannon Sharpe

Defensive End: He would be an absolute terror getting after the QB, with his size and physicality. Because he is so fast, he’d have terrifying closing speed as well. Teams would have to game plan around him for sure. Because I don’t know how he tackles in the open field, this is the best place for him because he can just hone in and kill people without having to adjust too much. If you can’t picture LeBron putting a swim moving Jason Smith, dipping his shoulder, exploding into Marc Bulger, and subsequently wearing Bulger’s spine as a boa, then you have no eye for the inevitable.
NFL Comparison: Mario Williams + Julius Peppers

Linebacker: He may struggle here in space and because of his size, offensive linemen may be able to get great leverage on him and shove him around. That being said, since he guards point guards from time to time, I see no reason why he couldn’t handle fleet-footed WRs as well. He has fantastic body control so he’d be able to stay with shifty dudes with no problem. I also like the idea of him leaping over linemen to sack the QB. That reminds me of a story of my friend Josh who, for a time, played QB for his high school freshman team. He was lined up under center playing against North Thurston and took the snap only to be grabbed by his shoulders and yanked to the ground after each subsequent snap. The linebacker was lined up directly in front of the center and kept reaching across and throwing him to the ground. The linebacker’s name? Mike Sellers, who happens to carry the nickname “Big Mike.” Look, if you play in the NFL and the guys around you deem it appropriate to toss “Big” into your nickname, then you are one big S.O.B. At the time, Sellers was a freshman and was probably already 6’4 200+ lbs. As it is, he’s 6’4 285 starting at fullback for the Washington Redskins. I saw Sellers once at a club when we were both seniors in high school. I was 5’11 150 at the time. He was 6’4 245. He did not look like a normal human being, starting with the size of his head, which looked like an oscillating fan crossed with a pumpkin.
NFL Comparison: A much taller Shane Merriman (he’s best suited as a 3-4 OLB).

Defensive Back: He would be the largest DB in captivity, which would be so weird to see. He has such speed and range so it makes sense to put him at FS and just let him completely control the field. QBs would be terrified to throw it anywhere near him because the normal rules wouldn’t apply. QBs would never be able to put touch on a ball because he’d go up and get it everytime. Their only hope would be to throw on a line underneath or go for the deep, deep ball and hopefully overthrow him. I see him being less successful as a CB because while he’s able to stop and start on a dime and cover smaller guys, physically he just won’t be able to keep that up because the other dudes are just closer to the ground. I do like the imagine I have in my mind of him jumping about six feet in the air and picking off passes with one hand.
NFL Comparison: A ridiculously tall Ed Reed

Special Teams: He would be the best FG blocker of all time, again, just like the commercial. He’d be just like Finch in Wildcats, except he’s not a morbidly obese extortionist.

So there you have it. I guess I’ll need to him in EA Sports NCAA Football and let you know which position makes the most sense for him and report back. If you’re wondering, and I know you are, my preferences are, in order: FG Blocker, WR, FS, QB, DE, OLB, TE.

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