Wednesday, July 30, 2008

August Rush: NO, not the terrible movie


As September lurks in the baseball shadows, far too often fans forget that the “real” playoff & pennant races often sees its initial, and often final, separation in the month of August.

Here’s what we know, we think, as of July 30th:

-The Halos, fresh off acquiring Mark Teixeira from Atlanta, are a mortal lock for the AL West crown.

-The AL East could be won by three teams: Boston, New York, and front-running (yes, still) Tampa Bay.

-The AL Central is still open; however, the smart money has Detroit on the outs and Minnesota/Chicago (ChiSox edition) in it to win it all the way.


Can YOU name this teen sensation-MVP candidate???
Credit: SBNation


As for the senior circuit…

-The NL East, much like its AL counterpart, has three teams in the mix: division-leading New York, Philadelphia, and Florida.

-The NL Central is top-loaded with Chicago and Milwaukee on top. St. Louis appears to be fading, but never count out a LaRussa-led team.

-The NL West is a debacle, yet appears a two-horse race between Arizona and Los Angeles.


It's about time the playoff race got a little "classed up".
Credit: BrewerNation

It’d be a MISTAKE to dismiss the 2nd-place “typically overachieving” team out of the AL Central (as of now, the Twins by only ½ game) and even the Rangers (yes, with THAT pitching staff in August even) from the wild race; however, it seems likely the AL East will yet again pluck the wild-card out of the AL.

The same can’t and most likely won’t be said of the NL East, as Milwaukee is the safest bet to secure the wild-card; especially considering the likely frantic final weeks in the race between the Mets, Phils, and Fish.

For today’s primary focus, we’re talking American League though.

So without too much further banter, let’s take a look at a player from each team – suspiciously under the radar – who will affect the pennant races more than you might’ve expected.

AL East

Tampa Bay Rays – Lose the “Devil” and suddenly you’re the feel-good story of the American League. They should’ve done it years before! The name to watch is one you might not even have heard of. While there may still be a move or two to be made from the front office, specifically in the pen, their top acquisition of August is likely to be the call-up of last year’s #1 overall pick, Vanderbilt’s David Price. With nearly unquestioned command and downright filthy stuff, Price might be the perfect addition to an already young nucleus of starting-talent.

Clearly getting the "Devil" out of their Rays was the best move possible for Tampa.
Credit: RottenToons

Boston Red Sox Jacoby Ellsbury has struggled with the bat as of late. However, he is a rock solid fielder (whether in left, center, or right) and can tear up the base path. Nevertheless, the Sox are a much more lethal team when he leads off and Youklis can move behind the potent duo of Ortiz/Ramirez (for now Ellsbury is batting around the 9th-slot). Problem is, his average post-April has been steadily declining with a not-so-amazing OPS for an expected leadoff hitter. Francona may only be able to spot start-him down the stretch if his struggles continue.

New York YankeesJose Molina has some pretty big cleats to fill in that of Jorge Posada. His backup, Moeller, isn’t likely to have an important hit the rest of his life. Meanwhile, with Posada now shut down for the remainder of the season, Molina will have to anchor an overachieving set of starting pitchers (have you seriously looked at their top 5?) and yield enough of a bat down the stretch to keep him from being a daily offensive liability. Good luck, Jose.

AL Central

Chicago White Sox – Carlos Quentin just might be your AL MVP and Jermaine Dye is probably the least respected superstar of the past five seasons (okay, he did earn World Series MVP honors). Nevertheless, the ChiSox might be hitching their wagon to unknown starting entity: 10-game winner Gavin Floyd (a former 1st-round pick who until this season had never seen more than 70 innings of big league pitching).

Minnesota Twins – After a dismal series in the Bronx, the Twinkies have more than answered the bell against the potentially-slumping ChiSox. While stories like Livan Hernandez’s team-leading 10 wins and all the mystery surrounding Francisco Liriano are intriguing, I have my eyes on a once-considered “mini-bust” in left field, Delmon Young. Never near the throttles of a pennant-chase before, Young is hitting in a solid middle of the lineup with a solid .291 average and 18 doubles. What bugs me though is a real lack of athleticism in the field, only 4 home runs, and barely 40 RBIs. While Mauer is a hitting machine and Morneau an MVP-candidate again…unless Young starts to strike fear into opposing pitchers, I wonder if the Twins (and their modest payroll) may float out of relevance down the stretch.

ernandez

I couldn't disagree more.
Credit: Need4Sheed


AL West

Los Angeles Angels (of Anaheim, how lame) – Okay, so we know they are playoff bound. Lock it up! Either way, I’m keeping my eyes fixated on two things: the stability of K-Rod in close games come September AND last season’s top acquisition (sorry, Tori) John Garland. Owning the playoffs just three years ago, Garland (only 9-6 with a near 4.50 ERA) just might be the arm, if healthy, that allows me to even consider the Angels taking out the BoSox when it counts most…playoff time. Let me say this as well: without homefield advantage over Boston, Anaheim becomes a MAJOR underdog to the defending champs. Yep, I said it.

video

Nobody was happier than me when this guy got handed the pink slip.

Note to Tiger fans: I knew well before the 0-6 start that Detroit was going to be this year’s bust. Their pitching is suspect to say the least, they are injury prone, and just wait until the second or third week of August for Sheffield to go AWOL. I’m pulling their plug NOW.

The NL gets thetreatment” tomorrow (or so). I know you’re waiting on baited breath.

Credit: WordPress


Until next time…

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Declining Dollar and Its Effect on the NBA

There’s no secret. The American dollar has been in decline for nearly a decade. Consequently, the Euro, which was introduced in January 1999, and faltered in the early going before central banks in Europe, Japan and the US acted together to intervene, has risen from $1.1747 USD on January 4, 1999 to $1.5780 USD as of July 23, 2008. As a result, the Euro has elevated in excess of 34% since its inception. Moreover, the Euro has increased by nearly 92% since it reached its record low of $0.8225 USD on October 26, 2000.

If Carlos Delfino is getting $9M per season to play in Russia, just imagine what offers this guy would get.

Courtesy: LoveFilm

Naturally, there are many more things other than basketball that the downward spiral of the American dollar has affected. Nevertheless, we talk sports here; therefore, the conversation turns to the only American sport with a global marketing approach: basketball. Sorry, hockey fan. I ask that you not shoot pucks at my apartment. My landlord would not appreciate that.

So, that takes us to the research question: How has the dollar’s decline affected the NBA?

To me, the issue is two-fold. To those who are more intelligent and better versed in the economic realities of sport, it is manifold.

First, due to the increasing competitiveness of European basketball as well as the relative strength of currency, more and more American-based players are leaving the States. This is not a new development. It’s just built steam very quickly. Following valued role players such as Carlos Delfino and Bostjan Nachbar, Josh Childress had, according to a story first reported by Yahoo, received a three-year offer equivalent to $20M USD to sign with Greek side Olympiakos. After further reports by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Olympiakos offered three years and $32.5M, which after taxes paid by the club becomes a net salary about $6.7M per annum for Childress. That crushes the Hawks’ offer which was five years and $33M, which after taxes paid by Childress becomes a net salary of about $3.4M per year. That’s nearly twice the net salary, even when counting that the Hawks’ best and final offer started at the mid-level exception of $5.6M, which is in the ballpark of what many expected Childress would be offered when all was said and done. Did I mention that Childress can opt after each season without a buyout?


Childress: Now has 32.5 million reasons why he should finally get a hair cut.


Courtesy: HoopsVibe

In this sense, if the trend persists, benches can be thinned of talented assets (i.e. players who are 6th through 8th in a team’s respective rotation) who would earn at least 1.5 times more with a top European team compared to an NBA squad. That means younger players filling up the back end of rosters, which can be scary for teams who treasure continuity. Perhaps, this will heighten the importance the growing importance of the NBDL.

Second, as evidenced by recent NBA drafts, many European-based players are drafted and have guaranteed funds in place but never step foot in the NBA. Why? That’s because first-round picks are subject to a rigid salary structure that does not allow a number of players to experience free agency until their fifth season.

For the European-based players selected in the latter part of the first round, there is a real fear that they may never set foot on the NBA hardwood for a number of reasons – unpalatable contract, high buyout and cultural issues.

For the same players who eventually join the NBA teams that draft them, there is an expectation of immediate playing time, as many of Europe’s elite are sacrificing their pocket books for the NBA dream. As a result, some have decided to leave at season’s end and return to Europe for considerably more money.

At the end of the day, money and sports are joined at the hip. If the value of the American dollar plummets another 34% in comparison with the Euro over the next nine years, you had better believe that some proven starters may end their careers in Europe if they find it financially necessary.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Deal of the Century???

Recently, a very good friend of mine (and savvy NBA-mind) analyzed the now infamous Pau Gasol-trade. As lopsided and ridiculous as it was (with the Grizz owner even questioning GM Chris Wallace’s move months later), when you look at it after the 2008 NBA Draft, it really isn’t as lopsided as it may have seemed. In the end, I think both teams got what they wanted.

Come on everyone, let's do the CHEST BUMP!
Credit: KB24.com

Obviously it favored the Lakers, especially en route to a Western Conference championship; however, the Grizzlies (whose biggest crime was actually trading him to a Western Conference elite) aren’t the massive idiots we might’ve thought they were.

When you consider the MASSIVE cap relief they have, the “steal of a deal” to nab O.J. Mayo for Kevin Love/Mike Miller (yes, several other “contracts” were involved) and the foundation with Rudy Gay and (either as their PG or trade bait) Mike Conley (Jr.).

Perhaps someone was watching a little too much Space Jam when they drafted "the Kwame" #1 overall.

video

Perhaps.



Anyways...let’s re-examine the deal.

What the Lakers got:

Pau Gasol
18.8 pts 7.8rebs 3.5asts. 58FG% 1.6blks
16.9 pts 9.3rebs 3.1asts. 53FG% 1.9blks (Playoffs)
Contract: 3yrs and nearly $50 million left

Note: True, Gasol might have been the missing piece to a Western Conference Championship, but he was exposed as very Odom-like (soft against stronger competition) once KG & Co. came calling. However, it’s likely that the Lakers (depending on what moves are or aren’t made) are pre-season favorites this season in a potentially transitioning West (goodbye San Antonio, Dallas, & Denver & hello Portland). Time will eventually tell, and only with a title or two, when the Lakers analyze the Gasol deal.

What the Grizz got:

Kwame Brown (expiring contract)
Note: Could be serviceable at only 25 for a smaller veteran contract.

How many lopsided blockbuster deals does this guy have left in him?
Credit: Lakers Topbuzz

Javaris Crittenton
Note: Young, inexpensive PG allows them to add depth in the frontcourt with possible trade of him or other PGs (i.e. Conley & Lowry). Several teams, including Orlando, were said to be “high” on him as a backup PG.

Aaron McKie (expiring contract)
Note: Player development coach in the future.

Darrell Arthur (rookie)
Note: Could fill low-post need as a potential starter at the 4-spot as early as mid-season. He has incredible value after slipping in the 1st-round and then being dealt as part of the pick received from the Gasol deal.

Marc Gasol (2007 2nd rounder)
Note: Utility PF in the mold of a banger and garbage man with ever-refining post skills. He seems ready to play full-time in the US and could garner significant minutes, especially over Darko.

Want an early preview of Pau's younger brother Marc? Forget the Vegas Summer League. Instead, check out Spanish Olympic Basketball. El Nino!!!
Credit: ADN

2010 1st Rounder (likely a very late pick)
Note: There is value to be had here with trades or potential talent that slips a little too far (i.e. Donte Greene) or international talent that can be anticipated down the road (i.e. Serge Ibaka).

With this move and also the moves made on draft night, the Grizzlies are nearly $15 million under the salary cap. They have more spending power than any other NBA team, especially next season, when more than a few teams with money now – Clips, Warriors, & 76ers – will be feeling the crunch.

It also can be said the Grizz could, but probably won’t, target names like Josh Smith, Emeka Okafor, Luol Deng, or Andre Iguodala in a jam-packed restricted free agent market.

Considering that they now have that aforementioned talented young nucleus of Rudy Gay, Conley and OJ Mayo (who doesn’t believe he’s a star-in-the-making), it is a reasonable assumption to say that Chris Wallace didn’t really do a terrible job.

Especially, even with growing pains, the team is able to target a franchise-player early in next year’s draft. Names like BJ Mullens, Demar DeRozan, and a certain “Man CrushGriffin might be just the talent needed to take this roster back into playoff contention.

Yes, even out West.

I suppose Rudy Gay and O.J. Mayo might be well-suited to see Griffin on the Grizz in '09.
Credit: Yahoo! Sports


Side note…did you know!

To get Joe Johnson, the Hawks technically only gave up Boris Diaw and Robin Lopez!
Of course, by taking Marvin Williams, they gave up on this guy…and this guy!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fantasy Advice YOU Can Actually USE!!!!

So you can’t decide which fantasy magazine to purchase? The one with Adrian Peterson in the purple home jersey or the one with the white away jersey? Or maybe the one that has “sleepers” like Braylon Edwards (16 TDs last season) or to avoid drafting Brett Favre in the early rounds (anybody heard the “rumor” that he might be coming back to play!).

Look at Brett Favre play in the snow. It's like he's a kid again!!!
Credit: YouthBlog.org

Or you could listen to the “savvy” ESPN-ites who suggest it’s a good idea to target Tom Brady and avoid Kellen Clemens. Ditto for Randy Moss and Arnaz Battle.

So I shouldn’t take Nate Burleson as my top wideout? How about a 1-2 running back punch of Felix Jones and Kevin Smith? Yes, I said Kevin Smith (not Jones, get over him for once!).

In the end, we’ll all just settle on taking LT first (even when we have the 10th pick). If only he’d fall!

Any idiot with a pulse knows Brady, Manning, and Palmer are legit early-round QBs. What you need is someone who might tackle a more pressing QB-issue, like the health of Jake Delhomme.
Credit: RawSportsBlog


In the end, the “real” fantasy analysis won’t come from anywhere but your own head. Put aside that McNabb jersey that’s been tattering for years in the back of your closet. Don’t hold the Patriots being cheaters against them. Just because David Tyree won you a TON at Vegas from that catch, he isn’t viable for the swing position at WR/TE.

Use your head, avoid the pains of the heart and stick with the surest thing. That is, unless the risk is just too good to be true (ala Moss in 2007? YES!)

Here’s the first of many – or so I say – or five, to be exact, issues you better solve quickly before your fantasy draft approaches.

Of course, I’ll answer them for you…but if I’m wrong, at least I posed the questions.

Question #1: Is it time to give up on Marvin Harrison?

Yes, this is an inflamed bursa sac. Also known as a "Marvin Harrison-knee".
Credit: Eorthopod

In a word, YES. First off, Manning, Addai and Wayne are absolute studs. They all actually have the potential to be tops in their respective positions. Yes, I said that about Joseph Addai. Nevertheless, Harrison’s knee may never be the same. Now, while he’s easily a candidate for 80+ receptions, 1100+yards and 6-10 TDs, his value has shrunk. While you can’t lump him in with an Arnaz Battle or a Patrick Crayton yet, it’s only fair to remember Harrison can’t be your #1 receiver (unless you completely neglect the position). Harrison will struggle to recover and might struggle to deal with being THE #2 guy officially. Avoid it at almost all costs, people.

Question #2: Who’s the can’t miss kid: LT or Peyton Manning?

Sorry ESPN the AD (I mean MAG), APete might be NEXT...but he isn't fantasy's #1...yet.
Credit: ESPN.com

Manning’s bursa-sac/knee issue isn’t anything to lose your sleep over. In fact, it’s more than likely that the entire issue is resolved weeks before Week 1. While Brady won’t tab 50 TDs again (I guarantee that in writing, of course), Manning and Touchdown Tom should each push 40. I guarantee that. Meanwhile, despite the LJ 2006 and Stephen Jackson 2007 love being sent this season to Adrian Peterson (anybody else remember how banged up he gets EVERY year), LT is the MAN to covet as an RB (and frankly as a wideout some weeks). While either LT or Manning could be one hit away from missing an entire season, outside of the impenetrable Brady (even with a “boot”), it’s highly unlikely any other two players would miss substantial time. While it’s a coin flip, always take the higher scorer according to your league’s points. Simple as that.

Question #3: What will the departure of Donte Stallworth mean to the Patriots offense?

Yeah, the picture is pretty random. But he hasn't suited up for the Browns yet, and we DO KNOW it snows a lot in Cleveland. Call it an alternate uniform. Just imagine the Hang Time they get!!!
Credit: AltaSnowMobile

More than you might think, seriously. Without having to target Donte for 2-3 screens or inside slants, that means another deep ball to Mossy Moss and Wes “Silent Trashtalker” Welker (where’s your ring again?) gets another dump off or two. The real impact may go towards another few carries to “underachieving fantasy boy” Maroney or even “tippy-toes-bobbling-against-Baltimore” Gaffney. While Gaffney isn’t the strongest of weekly starts, pegging him those “right” 3-4 weeks will be very nice for the luckiest of owners. Enjoy the Dawg Pound, Donte.

Question #4: Will the Jets offensive line save the fantasy-career of Thomas Jones?

Don't let the "experts" fool you with the easy picks, this guy was the consensus top free agent available on most teams' lists.
Credit: CNNSI.com

Jones, averaging a meager 3.6 yds/carry last season, overcame a bumbling offensive line, mediocre QB play and a lack of downfield threats at the wideout spot (Cotchery is solid though) to rush for 1100+ yards. Of course, he had one TD (he waited until Week 16, too) and was an overall letdown in all conceivable fantasy leagues. Nevertheless, Alan Faneca arrives and the Jets bolster their O-Line, but not enough. The tight end and #3 wideout position are only less unproven than the QB situation. Jones is a #3 RB at best. Knowing the depth and importance of that position, that means taking Jones as your #2 RB is a mistake because that’s where he’ll likely be selected. Good luck C-I-T-Y Guy.

Question #5: Who is this season’s most likely candidate to pull a “Not so Action” Stephen Jackson (of 2007)?

Too easy of a joke? Yeah, probably.
Credit: FilmPeek

Jackson wasn’t a total bust but he was a complete and utter bust in 2007 due to injury. So what do you do? You suck it up and draft him again. Yep, draft him again. As for who will pull the rug from under everyone? The smart money has Adrian Peterson getting dinged (don’t protect him with Chester Taylor too early either folks) far too often for a top 3 pick OR Derek Anderson struggling with the bigger money contract. But that’s too easy. I want a challenge! I’m going out on a limb and saying Eli Manning will still be an all-too-typical 22-24 TD/16-20 INT guy. Whoops, that bandwagon is full ESPN! Instead, I’ll go a different route and say that Marion Barber III will break down too early and fail to reach 800 yards, 8 TDs or 15 catches. He won’t be that #1 you want. SORRY COWBOYS!!!

That’s all I gots…for now. Join me later for more fantasy focus and frenzy.

And a little more Pats hating! And a little bit MORE!!!

Until next time…

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Post-Camby Nuggets - Next Steps?

Earlier this week, the Denver Nuggets shockingly traded Marcus Camby to the LA Clippers. The cost? A swap of second-round picks. In 2010.

In doing so, the Nuggets have been vastly criticized for handing the 2007-08 Defensive POY to a team in its own conference. On the other hand, Denver shed itself $15.6M worth of salary over the next years. Even without Camby's salary, the Denver has a payroll teetering around the luxury tax threshold of $71M. Why is that important? When crossing into that threshold, teams pay dollar-for-dollar to the league. Whomever in management pulled the trigger in Denver likely stated that they will save as much as $31.2M over the next two years. To put that in perspective, less than 20 players will make that money over the next two years.

Now, let's read between the lines. Despite having four of their five top earners healthy (Nene) for the majority of the season, Denver could only muster the 8th best record in the West. Of course, that still meant 50 wins, which would have garnered a #4 seed in the standardly-deviant Eastern Conference. In giving their best defensive player away for peanuts, it tells me that the Nuggets brass were convinced that they could not win now even with an added piece. That said, this seems like the first of multiple moves to be made by the organization. Who's next? How on earth do you expect the Nuggets to stop teams, when they had trouble stopping teams from scoring all season (even with Camby)? So, where do the Nuggets go from here? Here are a few options.

1. The Status Quo. Give or take a million, the Nuggets are right at the luxury tax threshold of $71.15M. They also have at least two players to sign (teams need to sign at least 13 players). They have a roster with two perennial All-Stars, a former All-Star and a host of role players with amazing offensive talent.

2. Trade AI. Plain and simple, the AI/Melo has not worked out. It's not that they have not been excellent, because they have. Fifty wins is no small accomplishment. In the dog-eat-dog Western Conference, excellent just isn't good enough sometimes. At 33, Iverson is one of the league's best guards and he has an expiring contract ($21.9M). Translation: He could walk for free next off-season and he could be considered the missing piece to a team without a dominant guard at the All-Star break who can get to the line and play through pain.

Who would want him?

The team that comes to mind is the Cleveland Cavaliers. Cleveland would jump at the chance to have AI and they have the disposable salary to do it. A trade with the expiring salaries of Wally Szczerbiak ($13.0M), Joe Smith ($4.8M), Delonte West ($2.8) in addition to JJ Hickson ($1.3M) and future draft picks could seal the deal.

3. Dangle Melo. Multiply the parties interested manifold. Denver has to also think about their marketing strategy if they part ways with Anthony, as he is the face of the franchise.

4. Sign a FA Center. Both Francisco Elson and Jonathan Bender have indicated an interest in wanting to play for the Nuggets, and the only center of the roster is ::drum roll:: … Steven Hunter. Now, the ball is in Denver’s court. Judging the two players, Elson is the more accomplished player and is a proven defensive asset.

5. Seek creative deals involving Kenyon Martin and Nene. I am almost certain that the Nuggets offered these two players with added incentives for nothing to teams with little to no response. Both have been marred by injury and other health concerns, and they make silly money.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Favre '08: Yes He Can! (A "rumor" with "no reason"?)

As a citizen of the United States, I have had the opportunity to cast a ballot in two presidential elections in my life so far. This November will be the third, although my interest in presidential politics has existed since the 1992 elections. As an “armchair political analyst,” (hey, I need something to do during the NFL off-season, when I can’t be an “armchair quarterback”) I have developed a general and simplistic formula as to what makes a good presidential candidate.

The individual must first have great popularity from his local constituency. This isn’t necessarily the person’s “home” or “birth” city/state, but rather where the bulk of public service has occurred. Second, the person must deny the initial inquiries into her/his desire to run. However, the denials must be done in a manner that allows the person to seem flattered by the “suggestion” and also allows the door to remain slightly cracked open. This second stage can last anywhere from a few days to months. Finally, the individual should throw her/his hat into the race on either a late night talk show or during an interview on a “news” channel. This last step must include in the announcement either a backhanded slap at the current administration or demeaning comments about opponents in the upcoming election. Of course, both before and during the race, the person must continuously change stances on important issues, and must make some statements that make no sense whatsoever.

My friends, with that formula in mind, I give you the ideal candidate to support in the 2008 Presidential Elections: Brett Lorenzo Favre. If Favre approaches the presidential elections how he has approached the issue of his retirement from the NFL, then nobody else stands a chance.

He stinks at making up his mind, I stink at Photoshop. Hey, Brett, need a running mate?

Favre enjoys unquestioned support and loyalty from the citizens of Green Bay, WI. It doesn’t matter that his infatuation with gun-slinging was a huge reason that the Giants were able to come back in, and ultimately win, the NFC Championship game last season. It doesn’t matter that his mind for football is fairly miniscule. He’s their hero, he can do no wrong, and he has their support.

Since 2002, Favre has toyed with the idea of retiring every off-season. At times he let the issue last well into the summer months before making a clear statement as to his intentions. And each off-season, when reporters asked him of his decision, he opted to deflect the issue. When he finally retired after this past season, many questioned whether Favre would remain retired. Questions were asked regularly, and Favre would provide an incomplete answer peppered with his boyish charm. He kept this up through July 2, when questions about his intent to return to football crept up again and he responded by referring to it as “rumor” for which there was “no reason.”

Admittedly, Favre muffed the final stage a bit. He allowed the news media and the Packers to leak the story that he had requested to return and requested a release. Favre then waited several days before making his appearance on Fox News. But what an appearance it was! Favre proclaimed, with regard to Green Bay, “I can't envision being with anyone else, or haven't envisioned being with anyone else,” even though on June 20th he clearly asked for his release from the team. He continued to lambaste his opponents, Mike McCarthy and Ted Thompson, for mistreatment, and made it clear he wanted a release from his contract.

This release demand fits the bill perfectly for the “flip-flop” requirement. In 2005, Green Bay wide-receiver Javon Walker held-out, wanting either a new contract or out of his contract. Favre made his thoughts clear on the matter, “Maybe I’m old-school, but I always thought you honor a contract. Sure, sometimes guys pass you up in salary, and maybe it’s a lesser player, but it’s all based on what a team has as far as value in that person. I sure hope the Packers don’t give.” Of course, Favre does not apply this train of thought to himself. In his mind, his demands are not monetary, but rather about playing. And who wouldn’t want an aged interception-slinger as their starting QB, especially when they have devoted the entire off-season to retooling the offense around a new player?

Brett, you have demonstrated that you have the unquestioned loyalty of your constituents/fan-base, the ability to be coy in answering questions and the fantastic talent of flip-flopping and not holding yourself accountable to the same rules you apply to everyone else. Forget football. Run for President. FAVRE ’08!!!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bye Bye, Billy - Six Reasons I Won't Miss You

“This was a decision CBS and I made over a year ago.” The statement made by Billy Packer disputes claims that he was let go by CBS.

No matter how I look at it, it’s a beautiful day for college basketball fans, because Billy Packer not calling games anymore will allow for many of us to unmute our televisions. It’s also perhaps one of the few days during the calendar year when even UNC and Duke can smile for the same reason.

Grey Blackwell of the News and Observer (AKA The News and Disturber) correctly summarizes Packer’s career had he entered other career avenues.



That said, here are 6 reasons I won’t miss Billy.

6) In 2000, Packer reportedly made sexist comments to two Duke University students before a men’s basketball game at Cameron Indoor Stadium. When asked to show his press pass, he responded, “Since when do we let women control who gets into a men’s basketball game? Why don’t you go find a women’s game to let people into?” Packer later apologized. I’m certain the two women found his apology sincere.

5) “Simon says … championship”. Those are three words that haunt Clement.

4) During an on-air broadcast of a game between Georgetown and Villanova, Packer described Hoyas guard Allen Iverson as a “tough monkey”. Neither Iverson nor then-head coach John Thompson were offended by the remark, and Thompson said Packer doesn’t “have to explain to anybody about Billy being a racist because he’s not.” He is living a few centuries behind us though.

3) “I’ve never really been a sports fan.” One sentence never made so much sense to me.

2) “That’s a poor decision by [insert name of fallible player, coach or referee].” Packer’s constant negativity has made games that market themselves tough to watch. Only Dick Vitale and Mike Patrick make games tougher to watch. Sadly, all three cover ACC games and I live in the Mid-Atlantic region.

1) Packer’s blatant ignorance towards mid-major schools gaining at-large bids in the NCAA and weak-minded half truths have entered the brains of those who have not yet muted their televisions. During the NCAA Tournament Selection Show, Packer criticized the selection committee’s decision to include Bradley, Northern Iowa and George Mason. He noted that teams from the Missouri Valley Conference and Colonial Athletic Association had won only one game during the last three NCAA tournaments, while teams from the ACC had won 25 games. As a result, three of the four teams made it to the Sweet 16 and one made the Final Four.
If only Packer would have shared with the audience how many of those wins were by mediocre ACC teams with lower than a #10 seed. He didn’t. Why? Facts aren’t important to those with agendas or those with uncontrollable egos that makes oneself think they’re bigger than the game. Check. Check.

Bye bye, Billy.

Note: In the making of this post, Billy Packer would have pointed out that a traveling violation was not whistled exactly 6209 times.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The NBA's 10 Worst Current Contracts

In today's NBA, there are countless contracts that are far from palatable. In this exercise, I examined the available NBA contracts at HoopsHype.com to determine the worst ten. Let me assure you that this was by no means an easy task.

For the sake of the exercise, I eliminated players who had reached a buyout from their former teams. That excludes the likes of Adonal Foyle, Steve Francis and Juwan Howard, the first two of which would be shoe-ins for this list.

Also, I have "pardoned" players with sizable contracts who have spent large amounts of time with the team trainer. That includes Bobby Simmons (two years, $20.5M) and Speedy Claxton (two years, $11.0M).

Additionally, because athletes with bad contracts rarely forgo player options, the contracts below include player options.



Knicks fans have grown accustomed to seeing this type of contribution from James.
Credit: Seattle Post-Intelligencer

1) Jerome James, New York Knicks - 2 years, $12.8M. Healthy for most of last season, James made more millions than minutes played ... all season. When he originally signed a five-year deal, many thought it was a horrible deal. It's amazing how a vastly impressive series at the right time net a $30+M contract.

2) Brian Cardinal, Minnesota Timberwolves - 2 years, $13.0M. Cardinal was well on his way to being a career nomad before he had two comparatively good seasons averaging 9.6 and 9.0ppg, respectively. That resulted in a disgusting contract that the Grizz have regretted ever since. Cardinal is serviceable at best. The service has yet to be determined.

3) Dan Gadzuric, Milwaukee Bucks - 3 years, $20.2M. The Bucks can look forward 3 and 3 for the next three years. I've been informed by a colleague that he is a beast at cleaning up rebounds in NBA Live 08. So, he's good for something other than keeping the seat warm for the starters.

4) Brian Scalabrine, Boston Celtics - 2 years, $6.6M. An energy guy with the Nets, Danny Ainge signed Scalabrine to a 5-year, $15M deal which many Celts cringed about for months on end. At least, he's a good luck charm.

5) Raef LaFrentz, Portland Trail Blazers - 1 year, $12.7M. Wikipedia knows what's up! Raef is best known for his expiring contract.

6) Erick Dampier, Dallas Mavericks - 3 years, $33.7M. A lightning rod for criticism, Damp lost his mean streak a while ago. A $10+M center he is not. The need to sign to DeSagana Diop to the full mid-level exception demonstrated urgency.

7) Kenyon Martin, Denver Nuggets - 3 years, $46.0M. Since he stayed healthy and performed admirably last season, K-Mart was lower on this list. Injuries have slowed K-Mart down; however, was he worthy of the contract that Denver gave him? Because of the implicit Jason Kidd factor, methinks not.

8) Jared Jeffries, New York Knicks - 3 years, $19.4M. A career-low 3.7 ppg this past season along with an overall negligible impact for a full mid-level exception contract - that's what he gets for leaving a good situation in Washington.

9) Ben Wallace, Cleveland Cavaliers - 2 years, $28.5M. Though Wallace remains a formidable defensive asset, he is no longer worthy of NBA All-Defensive First Team honors. Also, guys who don't take shots from outside 10 feet should shoot better than 39% from the field. Just a thought, not a sermon.

10) Stephon Marbury, New York Knicks - 1 year, $21.9M. After the 2004-05 campaign, Marbury's numbers have declined precipitously. For a player who does not have a real playoff resume or a track record for being an unselfish teammate, that's not comforting. Little known fact: Steph shot a career-high 38% from behind the arc in 2007-08.

[Dis]Honorable Mention
Troy Murphy, Indiana Pacers - 3 years, $31M. Murphy had somewhat of a resurgence in Indiana last season, but he's not the double-double guy that signed the contract a few years ago with the Warriors.

Shaquille O'Neal, Phoenix Suns - 2 years, $40M. Though he averaged a double figures in scoring and rebounding with Phoenix, a non-franchise player should never make $20M per year. The bigger indictment here is on Steve Kerr and Robert Sarver for acquiring his contract, knowing that you want to avoid going a cent over the luxury tax threshold.

Greg Buckner, Memphis Grizzlies - 3 years, $12M. I have nothing to say on Buckner. He sure was good at Clemson. He may still be able to start for them.

Larry Hughes, Chicago Bulls - 2 years, $26.5. Hughes has been dogged by injuries and familial tribulations, but he took the silly money that Cleveland offered and hobbled. Hughes's ability to take the ball aggressively to the hoop and draw fouls can make him a very good player again; however, he needs to improve shot selection and overall consistency. A website created by a Cleveland fan aptly summarizes why Hughes is on this list.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Falling Short of the Mark - Thank You, Elton

Here's a video summary of my thoughts on the Warriors and Clippers free agency efforts.




Other Notes
- Corey Maggette is apparently worth the $10M per year that he wanted. So say the Warriors, at least.

- When I think Andrew Bogut, here's what DOES NOT come to mind: 5 years, $72.5M. Why? Seriously. Bogut shot a career-low 51% and shoots less than 60% from the charity stripe. Sure, that's the HHI speaking - Hashemi Hater Index for those keeping score. Bogut has only missed 20 games in three years and has improved his scoring and rebounding output. If I were GM, I would not pay him half of that. I hope they enjoy the red carpet that they'll be laying out in the paint.

- Ronny Turiaf signs an offer sheet - 4 years, $17M - with the Warriors. One of the most energetic players in the league (and among my personal favorites since he was a Zag), Turiaf struggles with foul trouble even in the offseason. The Lakers have seven days to match. Tick, tock.

- James Jones inked a 4 year deal worth $23M with the Heat. ::YAWN::

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

What On Earth Is A Trade Exception?

Among all of the questions that I field with request to the NBA and the salary cap, the one I struggle with most is about trade exceptions. Why is this significant?

Minnesota will sends its $2.8M trade exception from a 2007 deal of Mark Blount to the Miami Heat to Philadelphia for forwards Rodney Carney, Calvin Booth and a future 1st-round pick. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, this deal allows for the Sixers to offer a starting salary upwards of approximately$14M per season.
The Traded Player exception is the primary means used by teams over the cap for completing trades. It allows teams to make trades that leave them over the cap, but it places several restrictions on those trades. Trades using the Traded Player exception are classified into two categories: simultaneous and non-simultaneous. As its name suggests, a simultaneous trade takes place all at once. Teams can acquire up to 125% plus $100,000 of the salaries they are trading in a simultaneous trade. For example, a team trading a $5 million player in a simultaneous trade can receive one or more players whose salary is no more than 125% of $5 million, plus $100,000, or $6.35 million in return.

Non-simultaneous trade may take up to a year to complete.

While the term "Traded Player exception" refers to the entire exception which allows teams to make trades above the salary cap (including simultaneous trades, non-simultaneous trades, and base year compensation), it is also commonly used to refer to the one-year monetary credit teams receive while a non-simultaneous trade is pending completion. Be aware of this potential ambiguity, which was made worse by the current CBA (earlier CBAs used the term "Assigned Player exception" to refer to the entire exception).

Example:
If the salary cap is $50 million, a team has a team salary of $55 million, and they want to trade a $5 million player for a $4 million player, they still have to use an exception. Even though their team salary would be decreasing by $1 million, the fact that they would still be over the salary cap ($54 million) means that an exception is required.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Arenas Puts Money Where Mouth Is - What's Next for the Wizards?

So often, many of us who are accustomed to seeing professional athletes take the money and run. Call it cynicism. Call it being a realist. No matter how you shape the statement, the NBA is a multi-billion dollar business. And that's just counting player salaries.

What happened yesterday was refreshing. After having two maximum offers of $127M over 6 seasons on the table from both Washington and Golden State, Arenas followed Antawn Jamison's lead and signed for $16M less than was on the table from his hometown team. Why? Because Arenas knows that even with Jamison and Caron Butler, the Wizards are at least a piece away. This move should also allow for the Wizards to stay within the luxury tax threshold and keeps the DMV's (DC, Maryland, Virginia) single most marketable athlete in place.

At the end of the day, Arenas, who missed 69 games during a contract year, got his money, kept his word and did it all without the help of an agent. Also, plenty of credit goes to Wizards President of Basketball Operations Ernie Grunfeld as well as Wizards Owner Abe Pollin, who have all three of their best players locked up until at least 2010-2011. Now that management have completed this vital task in keeping the optimism high in Washington, the real work truly begins.

Looking ahead for the Wizards, here is their roster as I see it.

PG: Gilbert Arenas, Antonio Daniels
SG: DeShawn Stevenson, Nick Young
SF: Caron Butler, Dominic McGuire
PF: Antawn Jamison, Andray Blatche, Darius Songalia, Oleksiy Pecherov
C: Brendan Haywood, Etan Thomas

Drafted: JaVale McGee
Free Agent: Roger Mason Jr.
Possible Signee: Vladimir Veremeenko

As it stands, the Wizards are a much deeper team than anticipated after two years of heavy deputization by the bench. However, there is a glut of iffy talent backing up Butler and Jamison. Unfortunately, the Wizards do not have the flexibility that other teams have in terms of being able to trade away expiring contracts. In fact, the Wizards have no expiring veteran contracts with the pricy Thomas ($14.2M over two years) and Daniels ($12.8M over two years) coming off the books in 2010. Daniels represents good value given his ability to run a team and be a calming influence to young players. Thomas's health is a concern. Not to belabor the point, but how many teams will willingly get in line to claim the $8.7M owed to serviceable forward Darius Songalia over the next two years with a player option (which he will most definitely take) for $4.8M in 2010-11.

All of this accounted for, where does that leave the tenuous position of head coach Eddie Jordan? For three straight seasons, the Wizards have succumbed to the Traveling LeBrons and only in the first series did they have a realistic shot at winning the series. In the not-so-distant past, Jordan has criticized Arenas for poor shot selection and selfishness. Though Jordan has been an excellent regular season coach, his nearly non-existent playoff output may signify that he is soon to be on borrowed time if the Wizards struggle out of the gate like last season.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Day 1 of NBA Free Agency

Free agency has begun, and after less than one day, we have seen a mix of loyalty of deceit. Let's break it down!

Situation #1: Baron Davis opts out of his $17.8M contract with Golden State and will reportedly sign a 5-year, $65M contract with the LA Clippers.
Pay's Take: Wow. This is pure deceit. Does anyone else think that the Warriors could not do better than the offer from the Clippers? Whomever was unaware that B Diddy loves the LA lifestyle should have known better. With no chance of him playing for the Lakers, the Clips were the only destination outside of Golden State. If the Clippers are able to re-sign Elton Brand (that's an enormous 'IF' given Brand's desire to play in Miami), here's their starting lineup:

PG Baron Davis
SG Cuttino Mobley/Eric Gordon
SF Al Thornton
PF Elton Brand
C Chris Kaman

Situation #2: Antawn Jamison re-inks for 4 more years in Washington for $50M
Pay's Take: Jamison isn't getting any younger, but for a 20 and 10 guy who is a respected veteran in his locker room and across the Association, this is a steal of a deal. This begs the question: How does this affect Gilbert Arenas?

Situation #3: Big Game Gil reportedly receives two max offers - from Golden State and Washington
Pay's Take: Now, it's time for Agent Zero to determine where his heart is. As an aside, I'm absolutely shocked that not one, but two teams have made max offers (averaging $20M/year) to Arenas after he missed nearly the entire year. I really thought Arenas would garner offers of no more than $14M per year. I guess that shows how much I know. If Arenas takes the Washington offer, expect him to pull a Tom Brady and sign for less in order that the organization can add the necessary pieces for the Wiz kids to compete in the East. It's never that simple though.

Situation #4: Jose Calderon reaches preliminary agreement with the Toronto Raptors
Pay's Take: This was a priority for the Raptors and they did not waste any time. More impressively, the Raptors immediately shored up the backup point guard position by reaching agreement with Roko Ukic, who was taken in the second round of the 2005 NBA Draft. Ukic is one of Europe's top floor generals.

Situation #5: Beno Udrih re-signs in Sacramento for the full mid-level exception
Pay's Take: There's two ways to look at this. First, if Udrih replicates his 2007-08 output, then he will be of ridiculous value for the mid-level exception (rumored to be $5.5M per year). Second, Udrih was a career backup until he landed in the perfect situation. There are not many shades of gray with respect to Udrih's disposition.

Also on the radar:
- Will Corey Maggette get paid? If so, who's going to break the bank to pay him?
- What will the 76ers do with their $11M in cap space? With Jamison off the board, will they turn their attention to Josh Smith?
- Yesterday, Monta had his apprehensions about playing the point full-time. Today, with millions at stake, ... not so much.
- Can the Bobcats lock up Emeka?
- Is Brent Barry really a priority signing for the Rockets?
- LeBron James listed New York as his favorite city and noted that Brooklyn is his favorite borough. He then proceeded to travel and not get whistled for it.
- Some good team will go after Josh Childress with the full mid-level exception.