Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Dallas Mavericks: Bridesmaids waiting for their ring

Stop me if you have heard, or seen, this scenario before: a very good-looking female has the unfortunate luck of being the least attractive of her friends.

Years go by, and she watches her friends get married, while she is forced to pretend that her friends’ happiness isn’t at least a little disheartening.

Sound familiar? It’s the plot of probably 100 chick-flicks.

Well, this year, the story of “the bridesmaid” has entered the NBA playoffs. I introduce to you the Dallas Mavericks.

Skipping the players on the team, the franchise as a whole represents being good, but never the best. It has averaged 56 wins a season over the past 11, and has finished with no fewer than 50 in that time span. Simply put, Dallas has been a model of consistency since the start of the new millennium.

Unfortunately for Dallas, being consistent doesn’t always lead to titles. The Mavericks only trip to the finals was in 2006, and they blew a two-games-to-nothing lead over Dwayne Wade and the Miami Heat and lost in six games. The next season, it looked like another run to the finals was inevitable, but the Mavericks wasted their 67-win season by becoming the first No. 1 seed to lose in the first round since it was changed to a seven-game series in 2002.

Being a Dallas fan had to be devastating – to know that you are great, but never the best.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Virginia Tech Basketball: Frontcourt Depth Could Put Breakout Season in Jeopardy

Whatever coach Seth Greenberg did to anger the basketball gods, he needs to figure out how to atone for it before he loses his entire frontcourt.
Despite the fact many fans have been waiting for this season for two years now—anticipating it would be the year the Hokies burst onto the national stage—the success of this season could be in serious jeopardy, as a series of injuries has left the Hokies frontcourt as thin as the Dallas Cowboys' Super Bowl hopes.
At the end of last season, the Hokies thought the frontcourt was one of their deepest positions. In addition to starters Jeff Allen, Terrell Bell and Victor Davila, Greenberg had JT Thompson, Cadarian Raines and University of Florida transfer Allan Chaney on the bench.
Unfortunately for the Hokies, many of those names will be unavailable when the season starts tonight against Campbell.
Thompson is out for the season after tearing his left ACL back in September. Raines is nursing a broken foot, and Chaney is out for at least this season because of an unknown heart problem that caused him to collapse during a practice in March.
With those guys out of the picture—especially Raines and Chaney—Davila is left as the only true big man on the roster and must make vast improvements from the 5.3 points and 4.2 rebounds he averaged last season.
“I’m just looking to help the team any way I can,” Davila said. “Whether it be rebounding the ball or scoring points—whatever they need me to do, I’m going to perform.”
Because the other two big men have been injured, Davila has been forced to practice against people much smaller than he is.
In the past weeks, he has been going up against Paul Debnam, who is only 6'3".
With Davila unable to practice against players his size, it is possible he could struggle when defended by players of comparable size.
Another key to the Hokies' success in the frontcourt will be whether Allen can stay on the court and out of foul trouble. Allen had 14 games last season where he was limited to 25 minutes of play or less because of foul trouble.
If he can consistently play 30 to 35 minutes a night, the Hokies' lack of depth behind him will be less of an issue.
While Chaney and Thompson are definitely out for the season, Raines will recover and be available this season.
The biggest issue for Raines when he returns is his confidence with that foot.
“It might take me a whole year, maybe, like the whole season and into the summertime to be 100 percent confident in it,” Raines said.
The foot has been a fairly chronic issue since he initially hurt it in the preseason of last year. During his time at Tech, he has broken the foot at least twice, with the most recent injury possibly being a break that went undiagnosed.
Though there is no doubt the Hokies will be excited to have him back when he finally makes his debut, Greenberg is making sure he takes it slow in order to avoid further injury to the foot.
“We’re going to take a very cautious path. Let’s face it, he’s had a lot of trauma in that foot and there’s no sense in rushing him back,” Greenberg said. “He might be 100 percent healthy, it’s just the path we are taking.”
With the Hokies thin in the frontcourt, Greenberg will most likely elect to go with a smaller lineup and try to create a faster tempo.
However, when Tech plays teams such as Purdue, who have big men such as JaJuan Johnson—who averaged 15.5 points, 7.1 rebounds a game last season—defending the interior might become an issue.
Luckily for the Hokies, there isn’t a team in the ACC that has a feared low post scorer to worry about. The two biggest talents at forward in the conference are North Carolina State’s Tracy Smith and Florida State’s Chris Singleton, neither of which plays for a team as talented as Tech.
Every time you hear about a team having a “breakout season,” there is always a story of it overcoming adversity to be successful.
If the Hokies end up having that kind of season, it will be the injury-depleted frontcourt that is considered the adversity they overcame.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

To Succeed in 2011, The Orioles Need To Get Power Bat

With the great run the Orioles have had this year, they could be an above .500 team next year.

However, it will take a few things to make sure that happens – the biggest of which is a power hitter.

When the calendar finally reaches April of 2011, the Orioles will be back to being the team that is expected to make at least a little noise in the AL East.

The biggest difference though, is that unlike last year, the buzz will be somewhat warranted, as the O’s have had a winning record since Buck Showalter became the manager.

In this last two months, the organization has seen a lot to be happy about. Adam Jones and Matt Wieters have gotten out of their slumps, the rotation looks great, and hitting with runners in scoring position is no longer embarrassing.

These are all great things to see, but the Orioles still lack that power bat to put in the middle of the lineup.

This season, the O’s power is led by Luke Scott with 27 homeruns. That number isn’t terrible, but Scott is very up and down. He’ll hit five jacks in a week, but then will go 10 to 15 games without one. If a team is looking to compete with the Rays and Yankees, that drought isn’t something you can afford from your main source of power.

In addition to mercurial bat of Scott, the Orioles didn’t get a home run from a first baseman until June 30 – that’s 72 games into the season!

Behind Scott, there isn’t much power either. Nick Markakis has lost power and seems content hitting doubles, Jones and Wieters will probably top out at 25 homers a year, and Felix Pie and Brian Roberts are finesse guys.

If the Orioles are serious about winning 80 games or so next season, they need a big bat in the middle to provide that power and overall production that will benefit everyone.

Some of the big names that could provide power that are available this offseason are Lance Berkman, Carlos Pena, Victor Martinez and Adam Dunn.

Any of those guys would provide a spark in the middle of the lineup, and for all but one of those, it would also be taking away a power hitter from an AL East opponent. It is really a double whammy if you think about it.

Owner Peter Angelos has always said that if the team shows that if significant improvement made with a big contract player, and that it wouldn’t just be spending money, he would shell out the cash to do it.

This offseason is that time.

The O’s have shown they can win against anyone over the last two months and with a little help, this trend could last all of 2011.

Friday, September 3, 2010

NFL Sending Wrong Message By Not Suspending Ndamukong Suh

It was announced today that rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh will be fined $7,500 for the assault on Jake Delhomme that almost took the quarterback’s head off.

While I’m glad that punishment was handed down, the message that the measly fine sends is entirely the wrong one for the office of Roger Goodell.

Today was also the day that Ben Roethlisberger had his sentence reduced from six games to four, which is probably why Suh isn’t getting headlines.

Well it’s either that, or the fact that the incident was in a preseason game between the Lions and Browns – who combined to win just seven games last year.

When you look at the two rulings sent down today, there is a disturbing message that was sent: excessive violence on the field is tolerable, but altercations off the field will result in hefty consequences.

Friday, August 27, 2010

100 MPH Or Not, Strasburg Will Still Dominate In 2012

The nation’s capital is in mourning this afternoon after waking up to the news that its savior, Stephen Strasburg , would be out for not only the remainder of this season, but also all of 2011 because of a ligament tear that will require Tommy John Surgery.

Its hard to sugar coat the news because of how important Strasburg is to the Nationals, but before you jump off a building or do anything drastic, know that Strasburg will return in 2012 back in dominating fashion.

While no small issue, the torn ligament that Strasburg suffered isn’t the career death sentence that it was 40 years ago. Ever since the procedure was preformed on Tommy John (hence the name), it has an estimated 85 to 92 percent chance of complete recovery.

Obviously that still means there is a 15 percent chance that the future ace of the Nats will never be the same, but it’s better than this being a career ending injury.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

By Signing Machado, Orioles Cap Off Successful Draft

Today is a good day for Orioles fans everywhere. An amazing win last night would normally be the explanation for this good feeling, but the reason I woke up with a smile on my face this morning was what happened at 11:57 – the signing of Manny Machado.

To say that the Machado deal wasn’t nerve-racking would be a lie. From 11:50 to when the deal was announced at 12:03, I was on and refreshing the page every 10 seconds hoping that there was different news.

The funny thing about how anxious I was is that I was actually anticipating this very timeline. Whether it be with Stephen Strasburg, Matt Wieters, Bryce Harper, or Machado, agent Scott Boras likes to have his clients push the deadline to the max. Hell, the fact the Machado signed three minutes before the deadline might be the earliest a Boras client has signed all year.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

10 Keys To a Virginia Tech National Championship

If you were to glance at the different preseason polls, it is obvious that writers aren't quite sure how good Virginia Tech is going to be. Some have them in the Top-5, while others don't think the Hokies are good enough to win their conference.

Regardless of where they are ranked, the fact that most coaches and writers are predicting the Hokies to be at least a Top-10 team means that Tech will be gunning hard for the school's first national championship (the Tech athletic center actually has an empty case reserved for the team's first title).

With so many returning starters on offense and a defense led by Bud Foster, the Hokies are oozing with potential. In fact, head coach Frank Beamer went as far as to say that this team is one of the best he has ever coached.

That being said, let's look at some of things that will need to happen in order for the Hokies to fill that empty trophy case.