Friday, April 10, 2009

Bigger Dance

I’m a regular participant in Sports Radio 950 KJRAM’s Bigger Dance. Yes, it’s slightly misogynistic and definitely juvenile, but hey, they have great prizes! Sadly, I’ve never finished any higher than 1,500 or thereabouts. I used to be terrible at this contest because I’d try to guess the ladies that the callers would have picked and I always guess wrong. I’d overestimate how much people liked Angelina Jolie and pick her to go too far even if I don’t like her myself. Last year, and certainly this year, I can’t even do that because I have no idea who most of these ladies are. Actually, that’s a blanket statement. I just did a cursory look through the names and decided that I don’t know “most” of them. Is that really true? Let’s put it to the test. Below, I’m going to go through each entrant, 1-64, by name only, to see who I really know and don’t know:
  1. Hayden Panettiere – I might be able to pick her out of a lineup, but probably not. I know she’s the girl from that NBC show “Heroes,” but I’ve never seen it. She was also the coach’s annoying little daughter on that terrible “Remember the Titans” movie. Incidentally, it’s really weird that Avon Barksdale was the star linebacker on that team and those “football” scenes that they shot were simply embarrassing.
  2. Keeley Hazell – I’ve heard this name before, but there is no chance I could tell you who she is.
  3. Isla Fisher – drawing a blank here.
  4. Megan Fox – I know that she’s molten-lava hot because I’ve seen photos of her, but I don’t know why she’s famous. Is she an actress? Is she a model? I have no idea.
  5. Elin Nordegren – Tiger’s wife and like a three-time runner up in this event.
  6. Alessandra Ambrosio – no clue, sounds like a model though.
  7. Jennifer Love Hewitt – what’s she doing here? Is she still relevant? I’ve always liked her, but isn’t she passé by now?
  8. Jessica Simpson – she is too, and has added some lbs according to Eminem’s new video. Speaking of which, nice to have the guy back. I read some stories about him being riddled with acne and gaining 80lbs by eating Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse takeout every day. Does it seem weird to have takeout at a “fancy” steakhouse?
  9. Beyonce Knowles – Yes, I do know who she is and that video with JT and Samberg for “Single Ladies” is fantastic.
  10. Freida Pinto – She’s got to be a foreign model. Is she dating a soccer player or something?
  11. Natalie Gulbis – the golfer lady who is good looking… for an athlete, but nothing special.
  12. Emmanuelle Chriqui – I don’t know her.
  13. Eva La Rue – or her
  14. Mila Kunis – She’s an actress, but with an axe over my head I couldn’t tell you what she’s been in
  15. Shakira – the singer from Brazil who moves this way and that.
  16. Kate Walsh – Is she the woman from that terrible “Gray’s Anatomy” show?
  17. Nicole Scherzinger – this isn’t very fun anymore.
  18. Gisele Bundchen – Tom Brady won’t be the same
  19. Reese Witherspoon – I don’t understand her appeal at all.
  20. Brooke Burke – but I do understand hers.
  21. Adriana Lima – Explain Marko Jaric again to me, please.
  22. Sarah Palin – sigh. Tina Fey would be a better entrant.
  23. Brooklyn Decker – I don’t get her. I guess she’s good looking, but she’s got a real alien-like quality to her.
  24. Jessica Biel – she does too, if aliens were drop-dead gorgeous.
  25. Danica Patrick ­– please, she’s weak.
  26. Salma Hayek – But she’s not. She’s still bangin’ out 45 HRs and 140 RBI.
  27. Eva Mendes – I’ve always been a fan.
  28. Marisa Tomei – She was part of one of the best scenes from “Seinfeld” when George was “making out” with her on the couch.
  29. Kate Beckinsale – I know who she is, but not really. She’s been in some horrid movies, like “Pearl Harbor” but I’m not that confident that I could pick her out of a crowd.
  30. Halle Berry – I’ve been a fan since “Boomerang.”
  31. Melissa (The Bachelor) ­– this doesn’t help me, no clue.
  32. Vanessa Hudgens – nope.
  33. Ana Ivanovic – she’s a very fetching tennis player.
  34. Jennifer Aniston – like Salma, she’s still killing it. She’s better looking now than she was 15 years ago.
  35. Julianne Hough – no idea.
  36. Bar Refaeli – she’s on the cover of SI’s swimsuit edition.
  37. Penelope Cruz – still hanging on, but she’s fading sort of fast. I saw “Vicki Cristina Barcelona” recently and she annoyed me in it.
  38. SaraJean Underwood – what?
  39. Jessica Alba – she’s great.
  40. Scarlett Johansson – I saw her in 2001 or so in that horrible movie “Ghost World” and I can’t believe that she’s so popular now. She came on strong a little bit ago and I appreciated that she looks like a normal woman, but she’s fallen out of favor with me recently, I’m sure she’s devastated. Oh, she was also annoying in “Vicki Cristiana Barcelona,” I just didn’t like that movie.
  41. Rosario Dawson – I do like her though…
  42. Eliza Dushku – I’m not sure why she’s on this list.
  43. Angelina Jolie – I understand that a lot of people find her attractive. I’m not one of them.
  44. Anne Hathaway – she seems cool. I like her range as an actress, but she seems like a one-and-done type to me.
  45. Erin Andrews – in danger of overexposure, but that’s fine by me.
  46. Yvonne Strahovski – does she play the piano? Who is she?
  47. Britney Spears – get real.
  48. Katy Perry – I just read something about her lately, but I can’t remember who she is.
  49. Lisa Gangel – local news person. Whatever.
  50. Blake Lively – no idea.
  51. Kristen Bell – no idea.
  52. Kim Kardashian – she sits on pillows.
  53. Rihanna – she got abused lately by her boyfriend or something, but I don’t know what she looks like and there is no chance that I’d be able to name or recognize one of her songs.
  54. Taylor Swift - ?
  55. Leryn Franco – She’s a javelin thrower from… Peru? Something like that.
  56. Miranda Kerr – clueless.
  57. Marisa Miller – she’s probably the best looking person on this list.
  58. Eva Longoria – her run is over.
  59. January Jones – I love “Mad Men” and her character has gone off of the deep end. I’m dying for that show to get going again in the summer.
  60. Maria Sharapova – like Natalie Gublis, she’s pretty … for an athlete. Otherwise run-of-the-mill.
  61. Kate Hudson – I don’t get her.
  62. Carrie Underwood – or her.
  63. Keira Knightley – I detest this 50 lb waif. Aside from being a less-attractive Natalie Portman, what exactly makes her special? I find that that she would be able to play an 11-year old girl, convincingly, a bit troubling.
  64. Rebecca Stevenson – I think she’s a local news person, but I’m not sure.

I did better than I thought. I know roughly 68 percent of the names, and I figured I’d come in around 50 percent. My ignorance may help me this time around though, because knowing too much about someone may cloud my judgment. Speaking of clouding judgment, I forgot to mention one woman who I always picked to go too far—the mighty one herself, Heidi Klum. By any objective standard that woman is the most gorgeous person alive, maybe ever, yet she never advanced very far and now she’s not even in the field, which is probably for the best, at least for me.

Anyway, I look forward to finishing well out of the money again this year.

If you’d like to join my “office pool” here is the info for the one I set up:

Pool Name: Who Are They?

Password: dunno

Why, VY?

I was wrong about Vince Young. I remember thinking when he was at Texas that he had a nasty-looking throwing motion, that he played in that gimmicky spread offense enabling him to see the field easily and complete a high percentage of his passes, and that nearly all of his big plays came from what he did with his feet, rather than his arm. Those were the negatives, and I discounted all of them because it seemed like he had a good enough arm, enough accuracy, and most importantly those intangibles that sports people like to talk about: heart, desire, and the ever nebulous “leadership qualities.” We heard stories about how he saw his teammates slacking off during an early season practice after their win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl the previous year and said something like, “The Rose Bowl is over, y’all!” and made everyone spring into action. I heard that and was impressed. It seemed like his teammates loved him and that he could be a rah-rah kind of guy because he backed it up with his play on the field. This was a guy to follow and get behind because he’s going to be special.

Conversely, a guy like Ryan Leaf had the physical makeup to be a prototypical NFL QB because of his size and cannon arm, but he lacked these intangibles. He was hated by his teammates because he was a crybaby with a terrible attitude and lacked real confidence. VY was the complete opposite, except for the size, of course, since he and Leaf are both 6’5 and over 230. Where Leaf got by on his arm, VY got by on his legs, but had great team success because he was able to will his team to wins. Look no further than those two Rose Bowl games against Michigan and USC. He was unstoppable.

It just seemed that VY would be able to overcome his unorthodox throwing motion, learn an NFL offense, and become a star because those intangibles that he possessed are much harder, if not impossible, to develop, than a nice throwing motion. Leaf never came close to being a leader in the NFL, because he never was one at Washington State. Meanwhile, VY hasn’t developed any sort NFL-caliber arm, and hasn’t mastered an NFL offense to the degree that he can be counted on to win games—far from it. He’s been relegated to the bench and all logical signs point to him getting kicked out of Tennessee. He would be jettisoned without question if he wasn’t such a high draft pick and owed so much money, but he will be gone soon. But it’s not because he can’t throw pretty passes and it’s not because he hasn’t mastered Tennessee’s offense, which, let’s be honest, is not known as one of the most complex in the league given the amount that the team runs the ball. He’s going to be kicked to the curb because of his attitude. He’s going to be kicked to the curb because he lacks those very intangibles that I thought he had. He seems to be a crappy teammate. He seems to lack heart. He seems to lack desire. He has shown no semblance that he can be any kind of leader. Quite the opposite, he’s shown himself to be a moody, brooding, baby. Not all that different from Ryan Leaf.

So, is there something to downfalls of these two guys? Are they more similar than they appear to be? Are there any other similar causative indicators? Both were picked high in the draft (Leaf No. 2, VY No. 3), but Leaf was thrust into the starting position early, while VY took a backseat. They both played in the Rose Bowl? Yeah, but Leaf lost and VY won, in dramatic fashion. If I had to guess, and that’s exactly what I’m doing, then I’d say it comes down to the relationships that both players had with their head coaches in college.

Mack Brown at Texas is known to overly coddle his players. For whatever reason, Brown thinks that it’s best to be loved by his players rather than feared (or respected, even). He did the same thing with Chris Simms (who hasn’t turned out to be worth a damn in the NFL, spleen or no spleen), going so far as to answer difficult questions posed to Simms during post-game press conferences. Dude, you can’t protect these kids forever and they will NOT be ready to succeed once they are out on their own. They won’t know how to handle any sort of adversity if they are not faced with any early on in their careers. You can’t change their pissy bed sheets forever. Mike Price, Leaf’s coach at Washington State at the time, treated Leaf in much the same way. Because Leaf was so immensely talented, Price enabled Leaf to be the jackass that he was. He stuck up for him no matter what, and while it served both of them well while Leaf was gunslinging in Pullman, Leaf fell flat on his face when he left the nest. The same thing is happening with VY. He has no idea how to handle himself when things go wrong. It’s as if the world doesn’t understand that he’s the man and needs to be treated as such. Why should he change his ways if he’s always been the messiah?

It sucks because as much as I detested Ryan Leaf, anyone could see that he was talented, and it’s cool to see talented guys perform. True fans of sports and competition, allegiances and biases aside, want to see the best at their best. Leaf was great, and now he’s adrift. It’s a shame. VY is abundantly talented and can definitely turn it around because his career is in its pupa stages, but he’s definitely headed in Leaf’s direction if he doesn’t figure it out soon. I hope that he does because he’s fun to watch, but I’m dubious.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

NBA Draft, MBA, HORSE, Crabtree

NBA Draft
I love the “this guy looks like that guy” game and the “this player is most like this player” game. I do it constantly. And while I do it for fun, I’m told that scouts do it because it’s a good way to completely evaluate a player because it sort of puts a fake ceiling on the guy’s potential. With Blake Griffin telling the sports world what it already knew by declaring for the draft yesterday, it seems like a good idea to share who I think Blake Griffin is after watching him play in the tournament. He looks and plays exactly like Kenyon Martin, except that Martin was a far better defender, especially shot blocking (3.5 blocks per game). At 6’9 230, Martin is lighter than Griffin who is 6’10 250, but for all practical purposes they have the same offensive game because they both have (or had in Martin’s case) great aggression, explosion, and suddenness around the rim. Both are very solidly built, athletic guys, and both are bad-to-terrible from the free-throw line.

Griffin is lagging way, way, way behind in the ink and jackass category, but with time, he can make up some ground. Even with the injuries that Martin suffered in his NBA career (not to mention breaking his damn leg in the Conference USA tournament), Griffin would have to be pleased with this comparison. Martin went No. 1 overall and has made well north of $100M in his career. I’m guessing that Griffin would take that.

DeJuan Blair is another guy ripe for an NBA comparison. When watching games and reading through various profiles, I’ve heard him being compared to Robert “Tractor” Traylor, which is completely unfair and actually off base. Blair is 6’7 265. Traylor was 6’8 and 300+. Traylor was, and probably still is, fat. He also didn’t hustle at all possessing an extremely lazy all-around game. It’s a mystery why he was drafted so high, going to Dallas at No. 6(!) overall in ’98 at then immediately traded to Milwaukee for Pat Garrity and the Diggler. Blair is not fat he’s just huge. He also plays tough and his teammates seem to love him.

The guy whose game Blair’s most closely resembles, from a widebody and below-the-rim perspective is Corliss Williamson. They both are big 6’7 power forwards. Williamson weighed anywhere from 245-260, putting him in the same girthy category as Blair. They both were and are tough guys who don’t seem to take any mess. Now, Williamson was drafted higher (13th in ’95) than Blair will be, but Blair’s game is so similar to Williamson’s and he may even be a better player defensively because of his long wingspan. While Elton Brand is the absolute ceiling for Blair, but a more realistic career is Williamson’s, which ain’t bad.

A very random guy that we saw too little of this tournament is Florida State’s Toney Douglas. We only saw him play against that team with no regard for decency in basketball (Wisconsin) but in that brief period, he looked great. At 6’1 195, he reminds me of a better, stronger, more explosive Mike Conley Jr. (6’1 185). Douglas is actually older than Conley because Conley left after his freshman season while Conley is a senior, but that shouldn’t lessen his NBA prospects. The biggest issue with Douglas, now that I’ve actually looked at his stats is that he didn’t create many buckets for others (only 2.9 assists/game) and turned the ball over at nearly the same rate (2.5 turnovers/game). I have no idea if that’s because of his team’s inability to score of if he hogs the ball. He scored 21.5 and shot 38% from three and 81% from the line so he’s clearly able to get his own points, but if the Wisconsin game is any indication, he’s got a pretty decent-looking game and looked to be in complete control the entire time with an abundance of (well-deserved) confidence. He probably won’t be drafted in the first round, but it won’t be because he doesn’t deserve it (just as Mike Conley Jr. didn’t deserve to go No. 4 overall), but I can see him making a team and doing some good things in the NBA. Anyway, just watching him for the short period that I saw him, I’m convinced that he’s better than Luke Ridnour ever was or will ever be, not that that means much.

Here’s an extremely random and out-of-date take that I buried in my notes awhile back regarding Matthew Bryan-Amaning, who, by all indications, looks to be a guy I may castigate until he leaves UW.

I pulled this quote from Bob Condotta’s blog, the excellent beat guy for UW Football and Basketball. He spoke to Matthew Bryan-Amaning and asked him about his production during the Pac-10 schedule:

"It was just that when the Pac-10 season started, everyone started to fill in their roles, Jon and Isaiah (Thomas) and Quincy (Pondexter) were the main offensive guys on this team and I felt that maybe if one of those guys wasn't having a good scoring night I needed to step up,'' he said. "But what they needed from me and Darnell (Gant) was defense and rebounding, really.''

That’s a fair point about why he didn’t score much, he only averaged 5.4 points during the Pac-10 schedule. I get that. He wasn’t called upon to score and that’s totally cool. However, if he wasn’t asked to score and wasn’t shooting much, how does that explain shooting a ridiculously low 38.9 percent from the field as a post player? That’s atrocious. We all know that he consistently missed easy 2-footers, so I shouldn’t be surprised that he missed 61 percent of his shots, but it’s still remarkable. Does he not look when he shoots? He seems allergic to the backboard and is in love with the back of the iron. He turns what should be a high percentage shot (being 6’9 and in deep position in the low post) into a low percentage shot because it seems abundantly clear that he has no idea how to shoot a jump hook with any reliable degree of accuracy. I’m going out on a limb here by saying that someone is going to beat him out for playing time next season. A successful team cannot have its post player killing them on the offensive end. Maybe he’s left handed and hasn’t realized it. I want him to be good and UW needs him to be good, and maybe he’ll turn it around because he’ll be the unquestioned big guy for them. As we’ve seen time after time, players’ games mature as they get older. Brockman looked absolutely terrible as a freshman and while he didn’t progress all that much as an offensive player, he never had those types of physical skills. MBA has them and hopefully he’ll use them.

I watched the HORSE (presented by GEICO) competition during NBA All-Star Weekend. I love the concept and it makes sense for the NBA to stage the event outside because most people play HORSE outside, at the playground or in the hoop at someone’s house. Sadly, the event was boring and I was disappointed. The idea is cool, but there is an unavoidable flaw to HORSE that makes it kind of a crappy spectator sport. If no one is hitting shots, it’s unbelievably boring. The players don’t think it’s boring because if they keep missing, they’re hoping the other guy is missing too so that he can get himself back in the game. To make HORSE a successful spectator sport, the players themselves absolutely must be engaged and entertaining.

No one outside of NBA scouts has seen Memphis play all year (not even the good people of Memphis), so OJ Mayo was a bit of a mystery in terms of his NBA talent. I’m not talking about his NBA game, necessarily; I mean his talent to be extraordinarily cocky and entertaining at the same time. He definitely had some flashes of smack talk, I heard him say something like “it’s an easy shot Kev… no problem…” just before Kevin Durant was going to shoot. That’s the kind of stuff everyone does playing HORSE. It’s a reverse psychology thing to make people let down their guard a bit and miss an easy shot. It’s a head game and it’s accepted and encouraged—especially by me. I didn’t see any of that out of Durant or Joe Johnson. This event was missing a cutup, a person who is a non-stop jabbermouth who could back up anything he was saying. The guy that they were missing was Gilbert Arenas. He’s a motormouth of the highest order and he’s funny. He’s also been known to annoy the hell out of his teammates. I recall a story when he was a rookie where he had to bring donuts to practice, but before anyone could take one, he licked every single one. It’s a childish and stupid thing to do, but that type of attitude (annoying, but funny) is perfect for HORSE because it would throw people off their game or at least cause them to concentrate more. It really is a shame that Agent Zero was hurt this year, he’d have been perfect. Maybe next year.

Also, Gary Payton would have been an incredible contestant for this event. He had a really gross-looking “jumper” that he’d toss up with his head slightly cocked back and would have talked the entire time. Plus, GP is great with his left hand since he writes with his left hand, but shoots with his right hand. He would have melted people down with his ability and mouth, it’s too bad this wasn’t around when he was playing. Maybe they should have an NBA legends HORSE game?

Michael Crabtree
His injury to his foot notwithstanding, it seems so weird that several news outlets and football writers are lamenting the fact that Crabtree is not 6’3, but instead 6’1+ as if that’s a huge difference. Correct me if I’m wrong, but is he not bigger than nearly every DB he’ll go against next year in the NFL? Since when is being over 6’1 a detriment to a WR? Does it hurt Anquan Boldin? Just because he’s not as big as Larry Fitzgerald, a guy people want to compare Crabtree to because our minds are so limited we can only follow what’s directly in front of us. E.g. Fitzgerald was all the rage, deservedly so, in the playoffs, doesn’t mean he won’t be amazing in the NFL. So, consequently, every receiver is compared to him and anyone not fitting his exact parameters is therefore negatively impacted. It’s ridiculous. It’s lazy. And it’s all too common.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Title Game

Wayne Ellington and Danny Green are very silky three-point shooters, so much so that I’d like to take both of their jumpers on a date and just see what happens. But neither are great three-point shooters off the bounce. They are best when they spot up and knock ‘em down. They are extremely confident, and should be, but they get into trouble when their feet aren’t set and they shoot threes anyway. Against Nova, Green made a bunch in a row, but then had sort of a transition look at the basket, took a dribble and shot up a leaner from beyond the arc. Of course it didn’t drop because he was out of rhythm and shot it awkwardly, but he was so confident that it would fall (because nearly everything else was) that he pulled anyway.

If Michigan State can force him into those kinds of shots, that would be a huge positive for them. However, he is so effective off the dribble when going toward the hoop, and he neglected that part of his game entirely on Saturday. Michigan State should guard him tighter, and if they do, he can’t force shots. If he does, Carolina is going to be in trouble. One thing that Green can do and Ellington can also do, but to a lesser extent, is shoot from farther out. It’s easy to see that Green’s range extends to NBA line and beyond because he shoots so effortlessly, kind of like how Kevin Durant jacks. If Michigan State sags, he should pull. A shot from farther out is better than a contested shot for him. But he should attack the rim from the angle and utilize the glass if they body him up; he’s very good at that.

Lawson was nice again against Nova’s tough backcourt, but Izzo’s teams always play tough perimeter D. I’d be surprised if they didn’t slow him down and force the ball out of his hands. I doubt he’ll get any free looks at the hoop either from downtown. He’s been able to utilize screens, because defenders have gone under them, and hit his jumpers. I’ve got to think that Michigan State is going stay on him and go over the screens and have help in the lanes. We’ll see though.

Hansbrough showed that he gets after rebounds, but also that he has some of the most disgusting-looking post moves I’ve ever seen. That “hook” shot thing he tosses up from the middle of his torso should be sent to next Thursday by any self-respecting post defender. I can only assume that he’s able to get these off because he barrels into people and leans away, but a guy with any length at all will kill that. That said he gets to the line and makes people pay for fouling him, which is huge for a “big” man like him. As I’ve said before, he’s got a great-looking 15-18 foot jumper and that will save him a spot in the NBA, but we’re not talking about the NBA, we’re talking about tonight’s game. He’ll get his and be a factor, but he won’t be the reason that Carolina wins or loses. It’s in the hands of Ellington, Green, and Lawson. The 1, 2 and 3s make this team go.

Michigan State has been playing really well and their ferocity and determination on the boards against UConn was impressive, especially given UConn’s frontcourt. They simply got after it more and it’s very hard not to appreciate that. Their guards have been playing wonderfully and shooting really well. I would not be surprised if they took this game because they have the berries to withstand Carolina’s tidal-wave like offense. I love watching Carolina play because they are fearless and play fast, and oftentimes, smart basketball, but I’ll probably be pulling for the Spartans simply because they’re the underdog and they seem to have a little bit of magic about them. No, not the one in the stands, but he’s there too.

All that said, here’s my predicted final: Carolina 88 Michigan State 83 (Lawson MOP).

A few asides from the Saturday games:

Reggie Redding

looks like

Damon Dash

Tyler Hansbrough

looks like

J.D. McCoy from “Friday Night Lights.”

Dante Cunningham

looks like

Eddie George, right down to the swollen muscles and skeltorish face

My Zimbio
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