Archives for October 2008

Hawks team up with CPS to Fight Child Obesity

kane_toews.jpgtoews_300.jpg

By Paul M. Banks 

 With over an estimated one-third of American adults defined as obese, something corrective must clearly be done. Educating the next generation is one way to help fight off this epidemic. On Thursday, the Blackhawks announced a major initiative towards fighting childhood obesity: a partnership with Nettelhorst, a Chicago Public School. The campaign began this Thursday, Oct. 30, when Chicago Blackhawks team president John McDonough served as ‘Principal for a Day’ at the school. McDonough toured the facilities and classrooms and interacted with the students. “It’s a privilege for me to be able to visit with the students of The Nettelhorst School and help launch such a special partnership,” he said.

Chicago Blackhawks Charities donated $200,000 and various team sports equipment to Nettelhorst, and will additionally create a fitness center, floor hockey court, and inter-school floor hockey league for area schools in the future. McDonough elaborated on the importance of nutrition and a healthy lifestyle: “It really makes for a good student, and for somebody who’s going to be achieving a lot of things in life.”

kane_toews.jpg

The program’s goal is to instill a sense of leadership, self-esteem and self-confidence driven by active individual fitness and team sports experiences. “We admire the Blackhawks’ thought-leadership and proactive mindset in creating a partnership with Nettelhorst to offset the hardships created by decreasing government funding,” School Principal Cindy Wulbert said.
McDonough has participated in 12 ‘Principal for a Day,’ programs, which were created for community leaders to involve themselves and their organizations or associations in continued support throughout the year at their school. For adults, numerous local recreational sport and social leagues offer commercial winter floor hockey leagues, a very productive means for burning calories during the colder months.

I also participated in “Principal for a Day” yesterday too. Representing the Chicago 2016 Channel, I reported on Olympic Boxer and former WBC Lightweight Champion David Diaz returning to his alma mater, Carl Von Linne School.

The Next Blackhawks Front Office Move?

blackhawks.jpghawkser1.jpg bowman.jpg

By Paul M. Banks

In the midst of last season, former Blackhawks Head Coach Dennis Savard made an infamous rant where he called on his players to specifically be “committed to the Indian.” ”They’ve got to commit to the Indian,” Savard fumed. ”If they don’t want to commit to the Indian, let’s go upstairs and we’ll get ’em out of here.” Of course, a little over two weeks ago we learned that the Indian was not committed to Savard. On October 16th, Savard with a record of 1-2-1, was dismissed. In 147 games as Hawks coach Savard posted a 65-66-16 record. He was replaced by Joel Quenneville, former coach of the Colorado Avalanche, and scout for the organization. Under Quenneville the Hawks are 2-1-2 heading into tonight’s matchup with the Dallas Stars.  

Heading into this season of ultimate Blackhawks renaissance, it was pretty well known that Savard and current General Manager Dale Tallon were favored by late former owner Bill Wirtz, but not as much with successor and current Chairman Rocky Wirtz. So does that mean Tallon will be the next one fired? And if so, when? Only the very top of the organ-I-zation (spelled that way intentionally for proper Canadian-English pronunciation) can say for sure. One thing we can certainly expect is more influence from NHL legend Scotty Bowman, the team’s Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations who was signed this offseason. Conventional wisdom says that he had major influence regarding the coaching decision and will in future decisions to come. If Tallon is canned in midseason, then perhaps his son, assistant GM of Hockey Operations, Stan Bowman would serve as interim GM. Or maybe even both Bowmans could share job duties in this situation?

bowman.jpg

This franchise has made a dramatic improvement in almost all departments of the organization, but the transformation won’t be complete until they reach the playoffs for the first time in six years. And if Quenneville doesn’t get the job done effectively this season, it won’t be long until Bowman (by that I mean the elder, the man with nine Stanley Cups on his coaching resume) behind the bench leading the team. 
hawkser1.jpg

JETS MIDSEASON REPORT CARD

mangini_getty1.jpgjetsflightcrew.jpgfavre8jets.jpg

By Rikki Greenberg

As the NFL approaches Week 8 of the regular season, it’s time to bust out the red sharpies and do a little mid semester grading. With the New York Jets as my pupils, I take no mercy in assigning the appropriate letter grade to a group who has pumped green and white through me for the past three months (Extra credit and kissing up were not included in the following assessments).

QB             B-

Future Hall-of-Fame quarterback Brett Favre has the experience of an 18-season veteran but the erratic performance of a rookie from Southern Mississippi. Old Man River can go from 24 of 34 for 289 yards with six touchdown passes to 21 of 38 and 5.2 yards per attempt. This past Sunday’s match-up against the limping underdogs of Kansas City showcased Favre in all of his interception glory; low-lighted by the 91-yard TD return by Chiefs rookie cornerback Brandon Flowers to put the Chiefs (1-6) up 24-21 in the fourth quarter.  Let’s hope Favre can get it together in time for next Sunday’s match-up against the Buffalo Bills (5-2).

RB                 B+

The heavenly duo of running back Thomas Jones and Leon Washington seems to be working for the Green and White offense. Thomas was more bust than boom last season, but seems to have put the sparkle back into his step with a season high 159 rushing yards and a 6.6 yards per carry average against the Oakland Raiders in Week 7. This could be a big year for Neon Leon Washington (27 carries for 155 yards), who had his first career rushing touchdown against the Chiefs last

Sunday.

Sfavre8jets.jpg

WR                  B

The wide receiving corps of 9-year veteran wide receiver Laveraneus Coles, former North Carolina wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery and second-year wide receiver Chansi Stuckey are doing it big for the Gang Green offense. Despite a hamstring injury suffered at the beginning of the season and a concussion during Week 7 against the Raiders, Coles proceeded to come through for the Jets. The one-handed grab in the end zone with a minute left in the fourth quarter allowed the Jets to come out on top against the Chiefs last Sunday with a 28-24 victory. I feel fairly confident in the play-making abilities of J.Co (36 for 430 yards with 3 TDs) and Chansi “Take a Chance on me” Stuckey (19 for 225 yards with 3 TDs) because they are good route-runners, can break tackles in the open field and the Big Cheese can depend on them most of the time.

TE                     C

The tight end position has had its fair share of injuries so far in the season from Chris Baker out with a back injury and Bubba Franks out with a hip injury. Cue rookie tight end Dustin Keller from Purdue and Mangenius finally has a man to fill the position. Given the Jets have their two best players out and Keller has never played in the NFL until this season, the expectations aren’t set too high. Keller has shown promise -two end zone grabs in his NFL debut- meaning the Jets know they have a go-to man when nobody else is available.

OL                       D+

Oh the offensive line. Where do I even begin? The offensive line can be described as horrible at worst and mediocre at best. The Jets have a well-respected, pretty talented quarterback whose occasionally shown flashes of brilliance leading up to this point in the season. This could be Old Man River’s last year and the O-line plays like they want him to get knocked out sometimes.  Last Sunday’s attempt at protecting the Big Cheese against one of the worst pass-rushing defenses in the league was hot garbage. Should I mention the three Jets turnovers and three sacks versus the lowly Raiders in Week 7? Oy!

DL                          C

The brouhaha in Jets camp surrounding newly acquired nose tackle Kris Jenkins around was enough to fill an entire segment of Sportscenter.  The front-three is similar to the offensive line in the sense that it’s hard to expect a steady performance from week-to-week.  When Jenkins was taken out in the first quarter due to a back injury against the San Diego Chargers in Week 3, the defense collapsed and the Jets lost 29-48. Of course, we’ve seen him get schooled when healthy as well. (The Jamarcus Russell rolling out of the pocket and firing a long TD pass comes to mind) The 350-pounder had seven sacks for Carolina in 2003 compared to just one sack with the Jets since the start of this campaign.  Jenkins should be pounding quarterbacks to the ground like he did in Carolina.

mangini_getty1.jpg

DB               B

Strong safety Kerry Rhodes has really come into his own this season. The lean-mean tackling machine had eight tackles and a sack against the Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday and a total of 41 tackles through seven games. Rhodes covers receivers like peanut butter on jelly, corrals the ball like it was meant for him and brings down guys whichever way he can. Other standouts include rookie cornerback Dwight Lowery (39 tackles, 1 forced fumble) and strong safety Eric Smith (25 tackles, 1 interception).

ST                   B+

This highlight here is Neon Leon Washington who has done a great job lately at returning kicks for the Green and White. Since the match-up with the Bengals during Week 6 of the regular season, Washington has returned three kicks for 20+ yards. The future for Washington is blindingly bright (this could be his breakout season) and I feel confident that he will keep up the productivity and continue putting the Jets in good field position.
jetsflightcrew.jpg

Fantasy Finds

greenphillies1.jpgsoxman010.jpgorton2.jpg

Soxman’s Fantasy Football Weekly
 

Another win in my money league improves my team to 5-3 on the season, which is good enough for a 4-way tie for second place. 

Our first place team has a 6-2 record on the season. Meanwhile, I fall to 5-3 in my IDP league as the “benching” of Plaxico Burress was the scoring difference.
 
So how did I do it?
 
My hero and without a doubt the best quarterback in the NFL so far this season, Drew Brees threw for 339 yards with 3 TDs.
 
Despite not finding the end zone, Clinton Portis rushed for 126 yards to become one of the top fantasy scorers on the season.
 
Remember how I said no matter what happens, I was starting Roddy White from now on?  Payday!!!!  He rewarded my loyalty by grabbing 113 receiving yards and 2 TDs.
 
I also had my fantasy disappointments.  For the second week in a row, Marques Colston, let me down.  In a London Showdown where there was a scoring explosion on both sides, Colston had 56 lousy receiving yards.
 
Soxman’s Sleeper of Week 8 is Huge!
 
Remember my advice on grabbing Leon Washington is you needed a flex running back?  Washington had 67 rushing yards, 34 receiving yards and two touchdowns.  You can thank me later.
 
Now the Fun Begins
 
Well, you truly learn just how good your draft and subsequent team management has been when your star players have their bye weeks or go down with an injury.  Enter week 9 for the Gridiron Grinders.
 
Drew Brees, Colston, and Nate Keading are all on their bye weeks.  Joseph Addai could be out for a third straight week.  Matt Schaub gets the starting nod against a defense that has been tough against the pass in the Vikings.  The rest of my substitutes are covered in my sleeper picks and starts for week 9.
 
Week 9 Sleeper Starts
 
Quarterback
 
Kyle Orton
Don’t look now, the Bears have a real quarterback.  He playing the Lions at home, who are ranked 31st in the NFL against the pass.

orton2.jpg
 
Chad Pennington
Still available as a free agent in almost all leagues, Pennington faces a Denver defense that is horrible against the pass and whose best players are beat up.  He could put up some decent flex points.
 
Running Backs
 
Not much in the sleeper department here as regular starters also have favorable match-ups.  So if you are really short on backs, I suggest the following:
 
Tim Hightower
Hightower is really not a secret anymore this season, but he is becoming very close to being the fulltime back in Arizona as Edgerrin James is on the “edge” of losing his job.  The Cardinals also face the Rams this week so it could be a nice week for Hightower.
 
Ryan Torain
High risk or high reward here.  Watch to see if he gets the starting nod over Michael Pittman.  If he does, he could put up some decent points.  Pittman is worth grabbing as well but has been snatched in many deeper leagues.
 
Wide Receiver
 
Don Avery
He caught six passes for 163 yards and a touchdown in a Week 8 loss to the Patriots. He appears to have developed chemistry with Mark Bulger and is looking like he could overtake Mr. Holt as the go to wide-out.
 
Tight End
 
John Carlson
He does not have the best match-up in the world this season, but a good passing defense can be a good thing in terms of the number of targets that a TE gets.
 
Kicker
 
Matt Prater
Even though it will likely be cold and windy in Denver, Prater is 17 for 18 in FG attempts and has a strong leg.  The Broncos have a high-scoring offense that should mean lots of extra points for Prater.
 
Well that’s it for tonight.  Keep moving the chains and focusing on positive gains.
 
Congratulations to the Phillies!
 
Soxman

soxman010.jpg

greenphillies1.jpg

Southeast Division Preview

wade.jpgstan-van-gundy-3.jpgmagicdancers_megantn.jpg

By Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson

Atlanta Hawks:

Key Additions: None

Glad that they re-signed Josh Smith. He is a versatile guy that now has ‘the man status’ in the Atl. But he may think in the back of his mind that his former teammate Josh Childress may have gotten a sweeter deal by having his housing and all his taxes paid for by the team that he plays for everyday? Anyhow, the Hawks gave the Celtics a run for their money in the first round of the playoffs last year. Don’t you all remember the sleepless nights that the Celtics were having?
Moving on, the pairing of Joe Johnson and Mike Bibby is so appealing to me. It just seems so cool to start two great basketball minds together. My concern is coaching with this team though. Is Mike Woodson the coach that they need? This team has young athletic guys that like to run the floor. It will be interesting to see how Zaza Pachilia will play this year with all the things that are going on in his native country.

Charlotte Bobcats:

Key Additions: D.J. Augustin, Resigning Emeka Okafor, coach Larry Brown

This team is a good team, not just because they have Larry Brown as their coach. They are also a good team because they will be accountable to each other. Larry Brown’s new coaching style allows the team captains to be more vocal. Accountability and communication are important things amongst teammates. Look for Gerald Wallace to have a good season. He doesn’t necessarily have a certain position, but he plays hard and fills up a stat sheet every night. Raymond Felton will also have a good year especially because a fellow Tar Heel is his coach and will push him harder than the rest of his teammates. The Bobcats are a team that a lot of people may sleep on. Watch out Eastern Conference.

Miami Heat:

Key Additions: Michael Beasley, Mario Chalmers, Shaun Livingston

The Heat are filled with youthful talent and a veteran (well I guess you can call him that now) leader in Dwyane Wade. They will most assuredly win more games than they did last year. They drafted well by getting both Beasley and Chalmers. Beasley will be fine because of his self-confidence and his desire. Chalmers I foresee as more of a 2-guard than a point guard, contrary to popular opinion. Hopefully Shawn Marion will stay in Miami, there are rumors he will be traded before the deadline. If he is traded there will be a lot of suitors as he will come out having a tremendous year. By the way, don’t sleep on Dorrell Wright. He is maturing as a player. Overall, this team will be exciting to watch.

stan-van-gundy-3.jpg

Orlando Magic:

Key Additions: Mickael Pietrus

This is still a young team. They are a dynamic young team, but still inexperienced. They upgraded tremendously by nabbing Mickael Pietrus from Golden State. The Magic were surely in need of a wing player, but they will miss Carlos Arroyo. Dwight Howard will have a great year, as he is realizing his potential. Great year ahead for Howard and a playoff visit is a lock in for them.

magicdancers_megantn.jpg

Washington Wizards:

Key Additions: Dee Brown, Juan Dixon

Injuries is what seems to hurt this team time after time. Arenas’ knee surgery hurts them. Look for Caron Butler to step up immensely in the absence of Arenas. The great core of Caron Butler, Antawn Jamison, and DeShawn Stevenson has played consistently together during long stretches of Arenas’ injuries. They need to come into the season swinging if they hope to get a higher seed in the conference and not have to play Cleveland AGAIN!

Well, there you have it: The Scoop on the NBA Eastern Conference. It will be an exciting season. Whatever you do, make sure you have a Slam Dunkin season and I will catch you on the rebound this time again next season for another preview!

wade.jpg

Atlantic Division Preview

knicks-nets.JPGkinicks.JPGboston_celtics.gif

By Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson

Boston Celtics:

Key Additions: Patrick O’Bryant, Bill Walker

Last year’s team is pretty much the same except for James Posey’s departure. That is a big loss for them. This team loses mental toughness and a premier perimeter defensive stopper (think an East Coast Bruce Bowen, but coming off the bench). I do like the addition of Patrick O’Bryant. The former Golden State Warrior is a great fit for this team and their shared belief of team defense. Additionally, look for Paul Pierce to continue to be a great scoring threat, but also look for him to become an even greater defensive player. Also look for Ray Allen to have a solid year. He is the type of player that is routine-oriented. He is now comfortable with his teammates and will have excellent chemistry. Kevin Garnett will have a solid all around year, as usual, which is a tribute to his dedication and passion to the game. New Orleans Hornets big man Tyson Chandler may be his only competition for Defensive Player of the year honors at the end of the year.

All things considered, the Celtics will have a great year. Perhaps the biggest sleeper move of the off-season was nabbing Bill Walker in the draft. He is a skilled and athletic wing man. Perhaps he can spell Allen and Paul Pierce in games. Will the Celtics repeat this year? In the words of the poetic Kevin Garnett, “Anything is POSSSSSIBBBLLLEE.”

boston_celtics.gif 
New Jersey Nets:

Vince Carter is in quite a familiar situation in the Garden State. He is the man again, similar to his tenure with the Toronto Raptors. Gone are swing man Richard Jefferson and future hall of fame point guard Jason Kidd. The only remnants from the team that showed up to training camp last year are Josh Boone, Sean Williams, and Carter. This means that chemistry is very important. The team gelled during preseason play overseas and they seemed to build camaraderie. Bobby Simmons, a former NBA Most Improved Player (and a DePaul baller) may have a decent year. Devin Harris is quite impressive. The former Wisconsin Badger is deceptively quick and plays hard. They are a young work in progress and will be exciting to watch.

kinicks.JPG

New York Knicks:

Key Additions: Chris Duhon, Danillo Gallinari

Nate Robinson is going to surprise a lot of people this year. No, really, I mean it. Coach Mike D’Antoni’s offense fits him perfectly. The offense does not necessarily encourage defense, which is not necessarily a Knickerbocker strong point anyway, but it does show that the team on Penn Plaza has some life in them. It will be interesting to see how well Eddy Curry adapts to this team. He is struggling on offense. I hope he pulls it together. Look for David Lee to have an under the radar stellar season. He is truly the energizer on that team. Coach D’Antoni’s playbook and his affable personality will allow his team to win more games. Will it equate to a playoff appearance? It may.

knicks-nets.JPG

Philadelphia 76ers:

Key Additions: Elton Brand, Donyell Marshall, Karem Rush, Royal Ivey

Philadelphia fans will have more opportunities to stop at Wawa, buy hoagies and celebrate Sixers’ wins. This team is stacked. The Sixers really shocked a lot of doubters last year by persevering and clawing their way into the playoffs. They also convinced doubters by playing the Pistons tough in the playoffs last year. Ed Stefanski is doing a great job of putting together a stellar team together from positions 1-5. Andre Miller is a solid point guard, might I add, and Iguodala finally got his pay day. The biggest aquistion was Elton Brand. He’s an east coast guy, from Peekskill, NY in Westchester County, perhaps he can get some home cooking and family support. The Sixers are one of the top four teams in the Eastern Conference. It is time for Philadelphia to do some damage.

Toronto Raptors:

Key Additions: Jermaine O’Neal

This team is an interesting group. Contrary to how many people feel, the Jermaine O’Neal acquisition was a good one. O’Neal is in a new environment and hungry to do well. Chris Bosh is going to have a great year as well. Any team that has a Colangelo at the helm will succeed. There has been talk that Andrea Bargnani will move to the small forward position…that would be interesting to see.

kinicksdancers.JPG

Western Conf In-depth: Playoff Teams

robin-lopez-hd.jpgsideshowbob.jpgjailblazers.jpg

By Andy Weise 

8. Dallas Mavericks (2007-08:  51-31; 2008-09: 43-48 wins)

Avery Johnson took the fall for the lack of success the Mavericks had following the Jason Kidd trade. The Mavericks were clearly looking for more success when they dealt Devin Harris and other pieces for Jason Kidd. The problem? The Mavs were 16-14 after the Kidd trade. Dirk Nowitzki begins his 11th season with the Mavericks and my guess is he’s the next guy to take the heat if the team doesn’t improve. Josh Howard is a mess, Jason Terry, Erick Dampier, and other vets like Jerry Stackhouse and Devean George are not getting any younger or better. DeSagana Diop, also involved in the Harris/Kidd trade, is now back with the Mavericks following a five year, $30 million deal. By the way, Diop has never averaged more than 3 points a game, averages just 4-5 rebounds and plays about 15-18 minutes a game. So why the full mid-level for five years? Unreal.
 

7. Portland Trail Blazers (2007-08:  41-41; 2008-09: 46-51 wins)

Now here’s a team on the rise in a Western Conference that has a lot of aging veterans. Greg Oden will finally see the court in a game that matters; spring 2007 was the last time that happened. LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy have proved themselves as very good NBA players and when you add a playmaker like Rudy Fernandez, the Blazers are definitely a team that will continue to improve and become a postseason mainstay for the next decade. General Manager Kevin Pritchard deserves a lot of credit for putting this team together. Of course, a little luck with the lottery helped him land Oden, but other trades, drafts and signings have helped him nab a good supporting cast in guys like Travis Outlaw, Martell Webster, Channing Frye, Steve Blake and Joel Przybilla. Another guy I like on this team is Jerryd Bayless, the Blazers acquired draft pick. Many thought Bayless could go #4 to the Thunder but when he dropped, the Blazers got lucky landing him in a draft trade with Indiana. Can a team have too much young talent? Portland might. Oh and they could be under the cap enough in 2009 to afford a max free agent. Scary!

jailblazers.jpg

bayless.jpg
 

6.  Phoenix Suns (2007-08:  55-27; 2008-09: 48-53 wins)

The Suns are going to be a different team this year because of their major change – Mike D’Antoni out, Terry Porter in. Clearly Kerr and D’Antoni wanted different things when the trade that sent Shawn Marion out for Shaquille O’Neal occurred. No longer could the Suns run like they did with Marion. O’Neal is only effective in the half-court offense (I think it’s been that way for at least 10 years) but O’Neal did one thing very well: free up Amare Stoudemire to dominate. The Suns have a two year window now with O’Neal and Steve Nash both free agents in 2010. O’Neal has already said he will retire and Nash has entertained the idea of heading to Toronto to play in his native country. Amare also has a player option so the Suns could easily be back in the dumps within a couple years.

Leandro Barbosa and Boris Diaw are solid role players, but Barbosa was more effective in the run-and-gun offense. Grant Hill could fall apart at anytime so the team signed Matt Barnes who was serviceable at Golden State. Robin Lopez AKA Sideshow Bob is the center of the future so he has two years to learn as much as he can from Shaq. Suns are in a win-now mode.

sideshowbob.jpg

robin-lopez-hd.jpg
 

5. San Antonio Spurs (2007-08:  56-26; 2008-09: 49-54 wins)

Age is starting to catch up in San Antonio. Manu Ginobili is out for a good chunk of the season and if the Spurs start out slow, they’ll be playing catch up most of the season. Tim Duncan is 32 and can’t be getting much better at his age. Tony Parker is still the key for the team though. While he seems like he’s been around forever, he turned just 26 in May. He still might be the quickest player in the league with the ball and that will continue to create opportunities for teammates. Michael Finley and Bruce Bowen are still around at 35 and 37. Fabricio Oberto is 33 and key reserves Kurt Thomas, Jacque Vaughn and Ime Udoka are all over 30. So can the veteran presence really carry this team to another title?

I don’t think so. At some point the Spurs need to start putting some pieces together for the future. I like the signing of Roger Mason Jr. but comparing a team like Boston to the Spurs, the Celtics at least have guys like Rajon Rondo, Kendrick Perkins, Leon Powe and Tony Allen. I don’t see any special youth on the Spurs and Duncan isn’t going to be around forever.
 

4. New Orleans Hornets (2007-08: 56-26; 2008-09: 53-58 wins)

Chris Paul leapfrogged into the NBA’s elite player circle last year and will continue to improve as each year goes on. Is that possible? Of course. The Hornets return virtually the same team but lost key backup point guard Jannero Pargo. They added James Posey, the league’s new Robert Horry (key vet who goes to any team that wins titles). The frontcourt compliments the superstar in Paul. With Tyson Chandler, Peja Stojakovic and David West all staying healthy, this team became the West’s biggest surprise last year. No surprise as Peja finally stayed on the court and the other two proved they’re at the All-Star level of play in this league. If there’s one area where they’re thin, it’s front court depth. If West or Chandler go down, this team could drop 3-4 spots in the rankings. Melvin Ely? Sean Marks? Hilton Armstrong? Hmmm.

spurt.jpg
 

3. Utah Jazz (2007-08:  54-28; 2008-09: 54-59 wins)

Is Jerry Sloan really still coaching? After all those years with Stockton and Malone, he got lucky landing Deron Williams along with the signings of Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur. With Williams, the man-crush of this site’s founder, signing an extension before the season…the attention turns to Boozer after this year. Will he stay? Rumors have said he could bolt for Miami. At this point, I don’t know why you would want to leave the Jazz basketball-wise. With guys like Kyle Korver, Ronnie Brewer, Matt Harpring and Andrei Kirilenko at the two and three positions, you have a real good team. Is it enough to win a title? That remains to be seen. I think Utah could be a team like the Suns that will always have good teams but never enough to win it all.

If Brewer can become a dominant two-guard (the position where they always suffered Stockton/Malone era, (Unless you really thought Jeff Malone and/or Jeff Hornacek were anything special) this team will be special. Remember who was always guarding Jordan? Bryon Russell? Come on now.

2. Houston Rockets (2007-08: 55-27; 2008-09: 55-60 wins)

Tracy McGrady can’t get a team out of the first round so what do the Rockets do? Add Ron Artest, a player that when you put everything together (offense and defense), he might be one of the top five players in the league. Laugh all you want, but this guy is one of the toughest defenders and on any night can drop 25 points. Yao Ming is back from injury, Luis Scola proved to be a nice power forward and Rafer Alston just needs to hit open shots and get the ball to the playmakers. Houston is definitely my “sexy” pick for the West right now. Shane Battier will fill in if McGrady gets hurt again or Artest decides to take off a month to release another CD. At least Houston has Rick Adelman, a coach Artest really seemed to enjoy playing for.
 

1. Los Angeles Lakers (2007-08:  57-25; 2008-09: 60-65 wins)

The Lakers had all the momentum going into the NBA Finals last year and then Boston’s defense completely shut down Kobe and Co. Andrew Bynum is back and will be a force under the middle while allowing Pau Gasol to go back to his natural position of power forward. Kobe is Kobe. He is the best offensive player in the league and wants that one ring without Shaq. Lamar Odom is getting pushed back more and more in the plans of this team and I think the Lakers missed out big on not getting Artest for Odom. That trade would have been great for the Lakers and probably would have made Phil Jackson a happy coach. L.A. lost Ronny Turiaf but if Bynum stays healthy that would easily offset his loss as the team still has complimentary backups in Luke Walton, Sasha Vujacic, Vladimir Radmanovich, Chris Mihm and Jordan Farmar. I don’t know how the Lakers don’t get back to the Finals if they stay healthy, but we shall see what happens.
shaquille-o-neal-kobe-bryant-heat-lakers-posters.jpg

Western Conference In-depth: Lottery Teams

okc_thunder.pngkingsdancers8.jpg

By Andy Weise

Goodbye, Seattle. The Supersonics are officially no more for the first time in 40 years but already there’s been news that the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Hornets and Memphis Grizzlies could be relocating to Seattle. My guess – the Grizzlies. But for now, let’s focus on the year ahead. The Western Conference is in for a bit of shake up as some of the younger teams like Portland, New Orleans
 

15.  Sacramento Kings (2007-08:  38-44; 2008-09: 18-23 wins)

For Reggie Theus’ crew, it’s going to be a very interesting year. The big summer move was trading away Ron Artest to Houston in exchange for former King sixth man Bobby Jackson, Donte Green and a #1 draft pick. Brad Miller is still around, Shareef Abdur-Rahim is now an assistant coach, John Salmons and Francisco Garcia are talented, but still very young and it looks like Kevin Martin will have to score 30 or more for the Kings to be in the game. Spencer Hawes, Shelden Williams, rookies Green and Jason Thompson are all nice young post players, but it’s going to take awhile for this team to gel. At least Beno Udrih somehow fell into their hands a year ago.
 

14. Oklahoma City Thunder (2007-08: 20-62; 2008-09:  19-24 wins)

I’m still bitter that this franchise landed Kevin Durant. Durant is obviously the franchise player, but they better start building towards something otherwise Durant could look to bolt (pun not intended) in a few years. Jeff Green is a nice piece to have alongside Durant and rookie Russell Westbrook should be a mainstay in the backcourt for many years. Nick Collins and Chris Wilcox are nothing to get too excited about but I’m sure the honeymoon period for OKC will last for awhile. They sold out their season tickets in like 45 seconds or something.

Interesting facts – Desmond Mason was with the Hornets when they were in OKC and now he’s back, just with a different franchise. The Sonics were originally the team he broke into the league with too. And he’s played for the Bucks twice. It’s just a circular motion for Mason.

okc_thunder.png
 

13. Memphis Grizzlies (2007-08: 22-60; 2008-09:  22-27 wins)

Memphis just hasn’t found much to be proud of as a franchise. Yes, they finally made the playoffs a few times this decade but they’ve found themselves back near the bottom again. The draft night trade with Minnesota landed them the much coveted guard O.J. Mayo. With Mike Conley Jr. (2007 1st rounder) and Rudy Gay (2006 1st rounder), they represent a good mix of the 1, 2 and 3 positions for the Grizzlies. Marc Gasol is an intriguing player at 7’1” and rookie Darrell Arthur and Hakim Warrick are nice forwards too. They flirted with trading for Zach Randolph but if I were the Grizzlies, I’d stay away from him. Zach never seems to find himself in good situations. Iranian center Hamed Haddadi will be another guy to watch for this year. Good young core for this team but still awhile away from doing much.

12. Los Angeles Clippers (2007-08: 23-59; 2008-09:  25-30 wins)

What looked like a genius plan (when Elton Brand opted out giving the Clippers cap space to sign Baron Davis and then resign Brand) all fell apart when Brand decided the Eastern Conference might be an easier route to success. Davis comes from Golden State and Marcus Camby comes over in a salary dump from Denver (what were the Nuggets doing?!).  Al Thornton should benefit from playing next to Davis and Chris Kaman can focus on offense now that he has Camby blocking shots. The starting lineup with those four and Cuttino Mobley is solid but after that, rookies Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan are two question marks and the rest of the bench is like this: Ricky Davis, Tim Thomas, Brian Skinner, Jason Hart and others. Jason Williams retired so this team is a Baron Davis injury away from being the worst team in the league.

kingsdancers8.jpg

The Kings will be awful, but at least their dance team will be “interesting” to watch this year 

11. Minnesota Timberwolves (2007-20:  20-62; 2008-09: 30-35 wins)

The draft night trade with Memphis definitely split some of the fan base in Minnesota. There were those that were extremely happy with O.J. Mayo, a national talent for the last 6-7 years. The other side somehow put their trust back into the front office led by Kevin McHale, Forbes #1 GM… yes. As a Wolves fan, I liked the trade. Kevin Love and Mike Miller form a nice core with Al Jefferson and the other younger pieces on the Wolves team. McHale might not have gotten the Wolves a title with K.G. but he started over in a way with Jefferson, who by the way makes half of what Garnett makes per season. Jefferson is a superstar in the making but will need others to emerge. Love and Miller are good shooters, but guys like Randy Foye, Rashad McCants and Corey Brewer need to prove they are part of the rebuilding project in Minnesota. McHale, known for throwing in first round picks when making trades, somehow collected three extra first picks that might all come through next summer. Stay tuned.

10. Golden State Warriors (2007-08:  48-34; 2008-09: 34-39 wins)

When Don Nelson left the Warriors in ’95, they went through about 8 coaches within the next 10-11 years. Nelson must feel some attachment to this group, probably because they run, run a lot and don’t stop running. Baron Davis is gone, the keys handed over to Monta Ellis who… couldn’t handle the vehicle? I’m not getting into that. Ellis is gone for probably half the season, Corey Maggette comes over from L.A. and the Warriors gave big money to Andris Biedrins so fans should expect something good. If Marcus Williams (coming from the Nets) or NBA D-League star C.J. Watson can hold the team together, the Warriors could be interesting. Rookie Anthony Randolph and second year forward Brandan Wright are the future building blocks – they might as well give them a lot of playing time right away and try to deal Stephen Jackson and Al Harrington. Outside of Portland, I think the Warriors have the best young talent in the West.

9. Denver Nuggets (2007-08:  50-32; 2008-09: 40-45 wins)

As I said earlier, I really disliked the trade of Marcus Camby to the Clippers as a salary dump. I realize the Nuggets were in that luxury tax area where everything costs double but how do you show your team and your fans that you’re committed to winning by doing that? You got nothing back! This franchise is most likely to crumble this year and George Karl could be the guy who takes the fall. Carmelo Anthony was reportedly shopped around and Allen Iverson is in the last year of his deal, so what is going to happen with the Nuggets? Nene has played a combined 81 games the last three years and Kenyon Martin played 70+ games for the first time in three years but is nowhere near the level of play he was at when he signed the monster deal with the Nuggets four years ago. Linas Kleiza and J.R. Smith are exciting players but the Birdman Chris Andersen is not. Denver implodes before the end of the year.

kingsdancers6.jpg

very interesting to watch this year

Central Division Preview

simmonsgm.jpghughes.jpgbulls2.jpg

By Brandon “Scoop B” Robinson

I don’t think that I have ever been more excited for an upcoming NBA season as I am for the 2008-09 NBA season. This season definitely dovetails the dynamic excitement experienced last summer with the Olympics following the playoffs. The upcoming year will prove to be high octane competitive. Although I do not have the arduous task of being Mother Love like my colleague Andy Weise, in figuring out the Jigsaw puzzle cough…I mean the NBA Western Conference, I must admit the Eastern Conference is much more competitive as well. After all, an Eastern Conference team is the reigning NBA Champion. Without further ado, here’s the Scoop:
Chicago Bulls:

Key Additions: Derrick Rose

This team has some chemistry issues. The point guard position is cluttered and Larry Hughes is kind of his own man. Additionally, Ben Gordon is not necessarily the happiest camper in the world. Welcome to your first year of coaching Vinny Del Negro! Derrick Rose is a competitor and will fit in nicely with this squad. The Bulls are a young and exciting team. They will experience some growing pains.

bulls2.jpg

hughes.jpg

Cleveland Cavaliers:

Key Additions: Mo Williams

The team has had both training camp and the summer time to gel. Wally World needs to have a great shooting year, and Mo Williams is a great second option for LeBron James. However, Mo Williams has never necessarily had to pass the ball to a superstar. I’m not concerned for the chemistry as much as I am concerned about the continuity offense that they run. I am a fan of a traditional point guard, although I find nothing wrong with a scoring one. I just hope that Williams will adjust his style to accommodate others. Additionally, I like the tandem of Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas, don’t sleep on them. This will be the year that the Cavaliers will go to the Finals and that LeBron will finally get his MVP award.

Detroit Pistons:

Key Additions: Kwame Brown, Coach Michael Curry

This team is basically the same group that lost to Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals, minus Coach Flip Saunders. Is that good or bad? Well, Rasheed will play motivated like always. My only question is whether the current roster will equate to a Championship contender. Joe Dumars spoke a lot at the beginning of the summer about trading players. None of those things came to fruition, at least not yet. The Pistons are still one of the top teams in the East, and they often play with a chip on their shoulder because they are overlooked often. This season is another of those years.

Indiana Pacers:

Key Addition: TJ Ford, Rasho Nesterovic

This team reminds me a lot of the Nets. There are lots of newcomers with an overhaul of veterans. Larry Bird is looking for new beginnings in Indy. Will this team win some games? They have TJ Ford now. Will he be healthy? Is Jamal Tinsley out? All these things and more on the next episode of “As The World Turns.”

Milwaukee Bucks:

Key Additions: Luke Ridnour, Richard Jefferson, Malik Allen, Damon Jones, Coach Scott Skiles

I really really like this team. They compliment Michael Redd very well with their young core group and may do better than what most people may actually think. They have youth but are also just gushing with high basketball IQ. And it starts all the way from the coaching staff of Scott Skiles, Jim Boyland, Kelvin Sampson (save your “Mr. Telephone Man” and “can you hear he now?” comments he’s an NBA coach…no cell phone restrictions here) and company. Andrew Bogut is going to have a solid year, reminiscent of Chris Webber in his prime. And look out, the Buck does not stop there in Milwaukee.
simmonsgm.jpg

Life at the Top of the NBA Summit

jazz_stockton_240.jpgrigby.jpgderonwilliamscarlosboozer.jpg

Paul M. Banks talks with Utah Jazz President Randy Rigby

Randy Rigby has been president and chief operating officer of Larry H. Miller Sports & Entertainment Group of Companies since his appointment to the position in July of 2007. According to the profile on his organization’s website, “Rigby sets the strategic goals for the franchise as well as analyzes future growth opportunities.  On a day-to-day basis, he leads the senior management team responsible for overseeing the Utah Jazz, Salt Lake Bees, EnergySolutions Arena, KJZZ-TV, the new Fan Super Sports Network which includes KFAN and ESPN radio, All-Star Catering, Fanzz retail sports apparel stores and LHM Advertising.”
He also serves as an alternate on the NBA Board of Governors, with past experience on the board and as president of the Utah Broadcasters Association as well as the NBA Broadcasting Advisory Board.

The Jazz are coming off back-to-back Northwest Division titles and reached the Western Conference Finals in 2007. Most NBA prognosticators see them taking the division again this year. They possess two players among the very best at their respective positions in 2008 Team USA members Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer. I asked Rigby about what to look for from his team this season.

    

jazz_stockton_240.jpg

deron.bmp

“There’s no question that we’ve got a young team, and we’re very excited about how Carlos and Deron along with the rest of our players have been performing. Ronnie Brewer has had a great season coming out of his rookie season to complement the other players growing and developing and coming up this season,” he responded.

I later asked him about how the Salt Lake City community, one of the smallest markets in the NBA has responded to the Jazz recent revitalization. “Our team is playing very well, the market is being very supportive of the quality of basketball we’re providing. Increase in our ticket sales. Our average paid attendance in among the best in the NBA,” he replied.

According to a Forbes.com study from last year, the Jazz were ranked #16 in NBA team value at $342 million. This is a fiscal world away from the franchise’s rough beginnings. Before moving to Utah in 1979, the Jazz suffered financially from a substandard arena lease and net losses totaling $5 million during their 5 seasons in New Orleans. But tut today the ledger shows lots of black and little to no red. Even more solvent than in the era when the Jazz were led by another star point guard-power forward combination in John Stockton and Karl Malone…

 “I’ve been with the team 24 years, as you rebuild a team there are some down times but we’ve come comeback as strong if not stronger than we were in the 90s. We’ve continued to grow, we just had an all-time record number of sponsorships, more sponsors than even in the Stockton-Malone era. We’re selling out the arena again. From that aspect we’ve been able to come back,” Rigby stated.

deronwilliamscarlosboozer.jpg

Really Specific NBA Season Predictions

kenyonmartin.jpggreg-oden-blazers.jpgbaron_davis1.jpg

Any dough head can predict an NBA champion or an MVP. It takes serious skill and foresight however to envision the specific events, turning points and finishes of the individuals and teams of the league. Sit back as David K. and Peter Christian use their crystal ball to make 5 BOLD Predictions for the 2008-09 NBA season.

1. The Denver Nuggets will be the worst team in the NBA; The Denver Nuggets will set a single game record for most shots attempted in a game; The Denver Nuggets will be the first team in NBA history to have an on-court fight with each other.

(PC) This team has the lethal concoction of 4 parts multiple egos, 3 parts bad chemistry, 1 part coach with no control, about 55 parts of losses and a sprinkle of unpredictability. If all of it comes together, expect an on-court implosion that begins with Kenyon Martin threatening to punch (or actually just punch) one of three teammates (A- J.R. Smith, B- Allen Iverson, C- Linas Kleiza) for one of the following reasons:
A – He hasn’t even touched the ball on offense because Smith has taken 39 shots (which would only trail Carmelo’s 60 and AI’s 52 on that given night)

B – He and AI argue about the validity of the bad-ass-ness of their tattoos every time down the court.

C – He becomes so frustrated with the entire team/season/situation/game and decides to take out Linas because after two seasons because he still can’t say his name without someone else correcting him.

(DK) If the Nuggets roster ends up turning into a 12-man battle royal, here are odds for winner…

2-1 Kenyon Martin- just to see him rip his jersey to the side, show off his tattoo, and pound on his chest

10-1 Allen Iverson- 1-1 odds on his posse being the first to get involved

25-1 Renaldo Balkman- his dreads are too much of a liability in a no holds barred fight

100-1 J.R. Smith- hurts his odds that 5’9 Nate Robinson handled him in the Knicks brawl. 
1,000-1 Linas Kleiza- I could see him immediately go into “duck and cover” mode

2,000-1 Nene- would tear his ACL before he even got a chance to throw his first punch

5,000-1 Chris Andersen- he’ll be too stoned to want to get in on the brawl

10,000-1 Carmelo Anthony- remember Melo’s punch and run against the Knicks?

 kenyonmartin.jpg

2. Vince Carter will Vince Carter his way out of New Jersey

(DK) This can also be referred to as “Manny Ramirezing” your way off a team.  Carter has already done this once his career when he stopped putting forth effort on the court for the Raptors until he sulked long enough to get his way and was then traded to New Jersey for practically nothing.  Now that the Nets are clearly in a re-building mode and should be one of the worst teams in the NBA, you can expect Carter to play as hard as Randy Moss did with the Raiders and force the Nets to deal him for thirty cents on the dollar. 

Shedding Carter’s three remaining years on his $9 million contract won’t be easy, but a contender looking for another scorer (maybe the Cavs who could part with Wally Szczerbiak’s expiring deal and maybe Delonte West or a first round pick) should be getting on the horn with the Nets come January.   

(PC) I’ve already publicly stated that Vince will be traded for an expiring contract, a young prospect, a draft pick and a rack of the old synthetic NBA basketballs that they used in the league for about two months before the complaining of the players became too much to endure and they had to switch back to the old basketballs. We already have current NBA GM’s sulking because the NBA Trade Machine has already dashed their hopes of landing the original “play when I want to” player at a discount.

baron_davis1.jpg 

3. Baron Davis explodes for an MVP Caliber season as he plays every game in F*** You mode.

(PC) Look, Baron has worn the fake smile on his face ever since Elton Brand snuck away to Philly shortly after convincing his pal to sign with the Clippers. Prior to that midnight departure, there were already analysts picking the Clips to be a dominant team in the West, however after Brand went East, those same analysts now think the Clips will suck and will miss the play-offs. Baron will take the Clippers to the play-offs on his back as he goes out to prove every night that they didn’t need Elton Brand to be a good team.

(DK) I’m not sure I agree with this one.  Now that Davis has cashed in a huge contract with a crappy organization, I think he’s due for a lingering ankle injury that causes him to miss a good chunk of the season.  Peter may be biased because he is currently sporting Davis’ shaved head, full beard look, but this is a little over-stating it from my perspective.

4. Stephon Marbury will accept his role as a back-up and will remain on the Knicks roster all season long without incident.

(DK) How many teams could Starbury actually start for in the NBA?  One for sure; Miami, to replace the Marcus Banks/Chris Quinn/Mario Chalmers trio.  Starbury is the third string point guard on the Knicks, behind Chris Duhon and Nate Robinson.  Brace yourself, his $21-plus million dollar salary this season is the second highest in the NBA and that outrageous contract finally comes to an end.  If he wants to play in the NBA after ’08-’09, he will have to accept his role on Mike D’Antoni’s bench.  No longer having Isaiah running the show should also increase Starbury’s happiness, as should playing in a more street-ball style offense.  By the way, isn’t it funny how fast Starbury and Stevie Franchise fell off the basketball map?

(PC) Marbury is almost undeniably one of the most selfish players ever to play in the NBA however when he saw that the Knicks were completely OK with paying him for not sitting on the bench again, it made him realize that above all of his own plans of being rich and “THE MAN”, he still needed basketball in his life. Collecting that pay-check with the ability to shred opposing teams second squads in limited minutes will be just enough to prove to himself that he still has “it” and that he could still secure one more decent contract before his career is over.

5. Greg Oden emphatically proves why he was the best player drafted in the last two seasons and wins a unanimous Rookie of the Year award.

(PC) Oden was largely thought of as a player that leads your team to a string of championships when he was drafted over Kevin Durant. The thought was that Durant will get the stats and Oden will be the building block. The same would have been said if Oden was in the same draft against Michael Beasley. I understand the durability concerns but people are going to realize quickly the Trailblazers future relies on the offense and defense of Oden. Even though he has been injured, he still has the benefit of being coached and taught about the pro game for 12 additional months more than the current crop of rookies. That extra learning will propel Greg “I look like I’m 40 but I still can’t buy a beer” Oden’s game to a higher level and to the ROY.

(DK) Peter seems to think that Oden will have a 20 point/10 rebound per game type of season.  For a guy who has barely played in double digit games the past two seasons, and was bothered by a thumb injury in all of those games, I guess the potential is there when he is healthy.  In order for him to be a unanimous ROY pick, he will have to stay out of foul trouble which will be a tall order due to his size and inexperience playing against guys as physical as he is.  Also, Joel Pryzbilla will be backing him up, and he is a serviceable big man who will steal minutes away from Oden.  Michael Beasley will get a chance to ride D-Wade’s coattails in Miami and should put up some nice numbers for a rookie, and is still my vote for ROY.  I see Oden as more of a 12-8-2.5 blocks a night player this season.

greg-oden-blazers.jpg

Utah Jazz Elevates Play and Financial Standing

korverhair.pngmalone_stockton.jpgjazz2005.jpg 

By Paul M. Banks 

The Utah Jazz is projected by most experts to win their third straight Northwest Division title. They’re led by 2008 U.S. Olympians Deron Williams and Carlos Boozer, who have replaced the legendary John Stockton and Karl Malone as the point guard-power forward duo leading the Jazz to postseason glory. When the current star combo led the Jazz to a 51 win season and the 2007 Western Conference Finals, the marketplace responded. This breakthrough season, after three consecutive non-playoff years, helped stimulate a 7% gain in attendance the following season at their home court, the recently renamed Energy Solutions Center in Salt Lake City. The team is doing well in the both the types of numbers that ESPN and CNBC reports on. Added victories are creating added revenue. 

 Only Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls dynasty kept the Jazz from winning it all in 1997 and ‘98 when John Stockton and Karl Marlone were at their peak. But after a brief downturn, the Jazz, now in the Deron Williams-Carlos Boozer era, have recently found even greater advertising interest than in the glory years. “I’ve been with the team 24 years, as you rebuild a team there are some down times but we’ve come comeback as strong if not stronger than we were in the 90s. We’ve continued to grow, we just had an all-time record number of sponsorships, more sponsors than even in the Stockton-Malone era. We’re selling out the arena again. From that aspect we’ve been able to come back,” Team president Randy Rigby stated.

jazz2005.jpg

According to a Forbes.com study from last year, the Jazz were ranked #16 in NBA team value at $342 million. Not bad for a city with a population of less than 200,000. The Jazz saw an Annual Value Change of 13% which measures current team value compared to the latest transaction price. The team produced revenue of $114 Million and an Operating Income of $5.7 million. The Jazz had players’ expenses of $66 Million and Gate Receipts of $40 million. Wouldn’t some of the Wall Street investment banks wish they had numbers like these? 

The fiduciary statistic where the Jazz excel the most is in Wins-to-Player Cost Ratio, a formula that compares the number of wins per player payroll relative to the rest of the NBA league. In this formula, postseason wins count twice as much as regular season wins. A score of 120 means that the team achieved 20% more victories per dollar of payroll compared against the league average. Utah has a phenomenal 152 in this cost efficiency statistic.

korverhair.png

Clearly, the team has come a long way since it beginning days in New Orleans. Before moving to Utah in 1979, the Jazz suffered financially from a substandard arena lease and net losses totaling $5 million during their 5 seasons in New Orleans. Soon after the team moved to the Beehive state, one fan famously quipped: “This is interesting, Utah has the Jazz and New Orleans has the Saints,” referring to the facts that the “Southern Sin City” of New Orleans’ NFL team was named the Saints, and that the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints was headquartered in Utah. Not a city very reknowned for Jazz clubs.

malone_stockton.jpg