A Nice Night
I really don't have much to say right now other than there won't be any kind of formal post today or tomorrow as I will be traveling to Nashville for the Florida - Vanderbilt game. We'll see about Sunday, depending on how late I get in and how much real work I will still have to do. Friggin' real world.
Primoz Brezec did have a pretty good night overall with 15 points and 9 rebounds, and even scored the first points in Bobcats history. They didn't quite pull through, however, and lost it down the stretch. I did pick up Steve Smith of the Bobcats for my fantasy team along with Mike Sweetney of the Knicks , and I cut loose Tim Thomas and Jiri Welsch. I figured Thomas wouldn't have the kind of year I was expecting him to with the addition of Jamal Crawford to New York (something I forgot about), so I got Smith for more consistent scoring and three-point shooting. I decided to dump Welsch for Sweetney because I figured if I was going to have someone just sitting the bench, I'd rather have Sweetney who I know has a lot of talent and the potential to average a double-double over Welsch who I really don't know much about other than that he will never average a double-double.
Kenyon Martin scared me tonight, going 0-5 for 0 points in the first half of the Minnesota - Denver game. He turned it on in the second half to finish with 18 points, 13 rebounds, 3 steals, and a disappointing 5 turnovers, although once me made a basket finally he didn't miss one the rest of the game to finish with a nice .643 FG shooting percentage to go along with Brezec's sparkling .714 average on the night. I need Martin to come up big this year, so I'd prefer no more surprises like tonight and that he just be good all game. Yesterday I had a score of 60, good for 6th place, but I'd prefer not to finish 6th every night. At least the league leader had no one playing tonight, so he'll get lousy scores in everything except turnovers (you can't turn the ball over if no one plays).
Today Steve Spurrier pulled his name from the running for the UF head coaching job. He explained that he meant what he said about being done with coaching at the University of Florida when he resigned in 2002, and he repeated his line that he thinks a coach should stay at one school no longer than 10-12 years. He also said he is not actively looking for a coaching job.
This is a very good thing for UF in the long run. If Spurrier was to come back, he'd only stay 3-4 years as he has said he doesn't want to coach much into his 60s (he turns 60 in April). That means he'd be at UF just long enough to empty out the cupboard that Ron Zook filled with prize recriuts after Spurrier had left it bare when he left. The Gators might have won the SEC in Spurrier's second tenure, but that's no sure thing with the rise of Georgia, LSU, and Auburn and the return of Tennessee to the top. He would not have won a national title in that short of time as there isn't enough depth on defense and he just doesn't care enough about defense to get it where it would need to be for a title run. The Gators need a good young coach to come in and reenergize the program and stay for a good long period of time, and now that the ol' ball coach has removed his name from the running, Jeremy Foley can go about doing just that. Spurrier needed to turn the job down first, or else the fans and boosters would have treated the next guy the same as they did Ron Zook - never accepting him and never giving him the benefit of the doubt.
As far as replacements go, some recent comments by Boise State's Dan Hawkins make him seem like the perfect guy to come (though I'm not convinced he'll leave Boise not just for Floirda but for any other school). When asked about leading the country in scoring the past two years and this year as well, he said "I don't like to put limiting thoughts on anybody. I tell our players 'Why does the game have to be close?'" Spoken like a true Gator, I think. He also is very confident, telling his players not to shower him with Gatorade after they beat Oregon State... the night before the game. Having a 19-game winning streak to his name also is impressive. Sure it's in the WAC, but how many other WAC teams, or any teams in general, have a 19-game winning streak? He also pulled out a new play for the Hawaii game that he calls the "Houdini Play." On fourth and one around the 50 on the first drive of the game, QB Jared Zabransky pretended to fumble it, half the offense yelled fumble, and while the defense was looking for the ball on the ground, Zabransky threw to the wide open tight end (who dropped the pass unfortunately). That kind of offensive innovation would endear him to the Gator faithful. If Hawkins were to come, at least he wouldn't have to buy too many new clothes as the Broncos from Boise use orange and blue as their colors too.
A Good Start
The inaugural season of the New Magic got off to an exciting start last night with a 93-92 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks thanks to a last-second layup by newcomer Steve Francis. He was back in Stevie Franchise form with 26 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists after seeing his scoring average plummet under Jeff Van Gundy in Houston. Cuttino Mobley had 12 points on a dismal shooting night, hitting just 4 of his 12 shots and going 1 for 6 from three-point range. Dwight Howard showed there was good reason for selecting him first overall with 12 points and 10 rebounds, though young Master Howard needs to work on his free throw shooting as he missed all 6 of his attempts. Finally, Grant Hill is indeed back, and he scored 20 points to prove it.
The return of Hill is bittersweet for me. Having him back is great, and a whole lot better than having him out. Unfortunately, his absence due to injury ultimately was what led to Tracy McGrady being sent to Houston. When the two of them played together, for the precious few games they had, it was amazing to watch. There was a mutual respect for each other's game, and they worked as hard to set each other up which is unheard of in the NBA. With him, the Magic were unstoppable, but they were without him most of the time. They patched things together and held on for a couple of playoff runs, but the bottom fell out last year and McGrady decided he wanted to move on.
Speaking of McGrady, the curse of Jeff Van Gundy appears to be settling in on him. No player has ever averaged 20 points or more on a Jeff Van Gundy-coached team: not Patrick Ewing, not Allan Houston, not Steve Francis, not Cuttino Mobley, not Yao Ming. McGrady might do it, but if he does, it won't be by much. In his first game as a Rocket he had 18 points, a far cry from the 28-30 he would often average in Orlando, but most people attributed that to the Detroit Pistons' championship-caliber defense. However, last night he managed just 21 points against a mediocre Toronto Raptors team. It's not like it was a blowout and he was taking it easy as Houston lost to fall to 0-2 for the year. Stay tuned to see how this plays out once the Rockets start playing Western Conference teams.
So far this season, all two days of it, random people are having uncharacteristically good games for no good reason. Tuesday night Chris Mihm had 23 points and 12 rebound for the Lakers, totals that are way over his head (he had a more normal line last night: 6 points, 5 rebounds). Beyond that you've got Bobby Simmons of the Clippers going for 30 points, 6 rebounds, and 6 assists; Manu Ginobili getting 24 points with 8 rebounds; Juan Dixon scoring 28 points and Jarvis Hayes scoring 20 points for Washington; Ron Artest putting up 31 points and 9 rebounds; and Zydrunas Ilgauskas exploding for 35 points and 18 rebounds. On top of that, Andrei Kirilenko had 8 blocks(?!). Tonight's surprise? Take a look at Primoz Brezec of Charlotte, not only because he's one of my fantasy team's starting centers, but also, now that he has a shot to play, he showed in the preseason that he can destroy teams without any kind of interior presence. Due to injury and suspensions, all the Bobcats' opponent tonight, the Washington Wizards, have is Michael Ruffin and Samaki Walker. This could be a fairy-tale win for the basketball fans of Charlotte, wronged after the Hornets ordeal, and a nice moment to fall back upon once reality sets in and the team struggles to stay in most of its games.
One nice story was Alonzo Mourning coming back and playing after getting a kidney transplant. His numbers were solid for 14 minutes of work, but the simple fact that he's playing outweighs the value of any statistics he puts up for the Nets this season.
I've been really busy today and it will only continue, so this is going to be short. Tonight really is the start of the NBA season with nearly all of the teams playing. So far the Magic are falling behind the Bucks, unfortunately, and the lineup keeps getting shuffled around quite often. It will probably be like that until Johnny Davis can really get a handle on which conbinations work well. Grant Hill doesn't seem to be having any problems, scoring a solid 8 points in the first quarter.
All of my fantasy players so far are doing relatively okay, but they all are missing a lot of shots. The Jamaal Tinsley - Steven Jackson combo in Indiana looks really promising. One big decision I'm looking at is whether to drop Jiri Welsch for Maurice Taylor. I'll reevaluate after tonight's games, but right now Taylor is not looking too inspiring. I also put Carlos Arroyo on the injured list and took on Marquis Daniels, who I couldn't believe was still available. When he gets healthy, he could end up being a fantasy hoss for me. I may just drop Welsch for Daniels, depending on how Darius Miles does.
This blog is not political and will stay that way, but if you don't vote, you forfeit your right to complain for the next four years.
Today marks the start of the NBA 2004-2005 season with a whopping three games on the schedule! You have a rising power versus the defending champs (Houston at Detroit), a track meet (Sacramento at Dallas), and a hypefest (Denver at L.A. Lakers). Overall, they aren't bad games to begin the season with, and they were clearly hand-picked for maximum viewership.
As far as the Magic go, I think they'll do well. A lot of people are picking them as a sleeper team, but they really don't fit that mold. Sure they were the worst team in the league last year, but almost no one is left from that, and anyone objectively looking at the roster would tell you it's a good team. After a busy offseason, they are easily the second best in the new Southeast Division (ahead of Washington, Atlanta, and Charlotte) and could be the best if Shaq misses significant time for Miami. They essentially traded a 28-points-a-game guy for two 23-points-a-game guys, upgraded the frontcourt, and got a lot of depth in the returns of Grant Hill and Pat Garrity from injury along with drafting Jameer Nelson and overpaying Hedo Turkoglu. I predict around 45 wins for this team, and possibly more, once again depending on how healthy Shaq can stay. If the Heat are forced to play significant time without him as the Lakers sometimes did, it'll be a lot more trouble for Miami than it ever was for L.A.
Magic Make Trade
Today the Orlando Magic traded G Keith Bogans to the expansion Bobcats in return for F Brandon Hunter, an undersized bruiser who Charlotte acquired from Boston in the expansion draft. At 6'7" he is not big enough to play power forward that often (especially with Dwight Howard filling that roll) so he will fight for small forward minutes with Grant Hill, Pat Garrity, and Hedo Turkoglu.
This trade somewhat makes sense for the Magic, as they have a glut of players who play Bogans' athletic swingman role, but as I described above there won't be too many minutes for him, especially against Western Conference teams. I must confess, I haven't seen Hunter play as he was a rookie for Boston last year and appeared in all of 36 games, so perhaps he plays bigger than he would seem. He is young, and with Bogans' reduced minutes this preseason the Magic probably figured they had nothing real to lose.
On paper at least it's a good trade because rebounding is something the Magic need and they brought in Stacey Augmon as a perimeter defender which further made Bogans expendable. Hunter has only played in five of the Bobcats' preseason games though, which could mean either that he isn't that good or that the team is just experimenting with the almost random assortment of players it has. Probably in the end the Magic were not going to resign Bogans when his current contract runs out with all of the other guys who play his position on the team, and since they knew they were not going to keep him they decided to get something in return for him in another former-second round draft pick who they might want to keep. It is a very good trade for Keith Bogans though because he'll get a chance to turn his flashes of brilliance into sustained brilliance with expanded minutes on the Bobcats. I went ahead and put him on my fantasy watch list because depending on how many minutes he gets, he might outperform Darius Miles this year, and would at least make a good short-term sub in case of injuries.
Speaking of injuries, on my fantasy team I had to put Jamaal Tinsley in the starting lineup as Carlos Arroyo will miss the beginning of the season due to his sprained ankle. Even if he was going to be back and healthy, I probably would have made the substitution anyway as players often are slow to produce when returning from injury, and Tinsley's backup is injured so he'll be getting expanded minutes (a good thing at the beginning of the year when players are fresh).
When did the NFL become college football? The Chiefs and Colts combining for 1,095 yards was a bit predictable (and is further proof that those great Tampa defenses were not the work Tony Dungy but of Monte Kiffin and Rich McKay), but eight teams broke the 30 point barrier, and Jake Plummer of all people threw for 499 yards.
The biggest news was that the Patriots finally lost, breaking their 21-game win streak. The streak has been on borrowed time for a while, and a team can win only so many close games in a row. It's a bit like how Ohio State was last year leading up to the loss at Wisconsin to end their winning streak - by the number of close games that should not have been close, you knew it was coming eventually. What finally pushed the Pats over the edge into the loss was not the Red Sox stealing karma, but the rather mundane issue of injuries: RB Corey Dillon sat out and CB Ty Law left the game early. The Steelers' win also added to the Myth of Ben Roethlisberger Already in Progress. I mentioned a couple weeks ago that I thought he was the best QB in the draft, and he keeps proving me right. For those of you counting at home, that's a win in his past 18 starts, with his last loss coming to Iowa in Miami (OH)'s first game of last season. Yes, that's right, he lost to Iowa but beat New England. Turn that one over in your mind, Bill Belichick.