Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Jeff: Top 25 Under 25 (11-20)

20. LaMarcus Aldridge, Sophomore, PF, Texas Longhorns, 6'10, 240lbs, 32.7 mpg, 16.1ppg, 9.2 reb, 2.0 blk,
He's probably the #1 pick in June, and looks to have a pretty solid skill set for a big guy. Still, he's the best low post player in college and he doesn't even average a double-double? Shouldn't 20 & 10 be a norm for this guy? This whole Longhorn team is extremely talented and yet they don't bring it every night, so I wonder if Aldridge is letting that affect him, or if it's the other way around. The only UT game I've seen all year was the 31 pt blood-letting Duke laid on them, and he had the most invisible 21 pts I've seen all year.

19. Channing Frye, C, New York Knicks, 6'11, 248lbs, 22 yrs, 5yrs/$14.4 million, 25.9mpg, 13.8 ppg, 5.9 reb, 0.7 blk, 19.76 PER
The numbers aren't gaudy, but he's played very well for an otherwise terrible Knicks team. I wasn't all that impressed with him at Arizona, but credit Isiah Thomas for getting a good one here. Now the challenge is not to let the other knuckleheads on the team ruin a good kid. Best of luck with that. Like Bogut he won't be a superstar, but will be a border-line all star guy in the mould of a Jamal Magloire, and there's about 23 other teams in the L who would love to have that.

18. Marvin Williams, F, Atlanta Hawks, 6'9, 230lbs, 19 yrs, 5yrs/$25.5 million, 22.4 mpg, 6.8 ppg, 4.5 reb, 10.75 PER
The rebuilding Hawks took Marvin as a potential pick, and he still has plenty of it. However, with how well Chris Paul is playing in Oklahoma/New Orleans/Timbuktoo and how glaring the team's need is for a point guard, this pick isn't looking so good for them. Williams does have a ton of raw talent, and could very well be one of the best players in this draft. But, would you rather have him be as good as Paul in 5 years, or have an all-star PG from day one? I thought so.

17. Joe Johnson, G/F, Atlanta Hawks, 6'7, 230lbs, 24 yrs, 5 yrs/$85 million, 39.9 mpg, 19.8 pts, 4.2 reb, 5.8 ast, 1.3 stl, 17.75 PER
If it weren't for that outrageous contract, he'd be higher on the list for me. With that said, he is leading his team in minutes played, scoring, assists, and steals. If it were any other team besides the Hawks, the worst in the league, that would sound even better, but at least Johnson is giving effort in a seemingly hopeless situation. At least Atlanta has a couple of pieces to build around.

16. Adam Morrison, Junior, SF, Gonzaga Bulldogs, 6'8, 210lbs, 20 yrs 36.7 mpg, 29 ppg, 5.9 reb, 1.1 stl
I think at worst he's a better pro than Wally Szczerbiak. Their measurables are about the same, they both make a dump truck look quick or agile, neither are great rebounders, and they both lack, um, shall we say desire and talent on the defensive end. Wally right now is a better 3pt shooter than Morrison, although it should be noted he only shot 39% his senior year at Miami(OH) and 43% for his career. Morrison has struggled to hit the three consistently in the past, but this year is a respectable 42%. Once you move inside the arc on offense, however, there's no comparison. Wally can't dribble, and therefore can't create his own shot, he has trouble attacking the rim, and hasn't been good hitting contested shots and drawing fouls inside. Morrison has taken nothing but contested shots this season, hitting on 52% from the field, and is leading the nation in free throw attempts (181) and makes (142) at 78.5%. Not only that, but his 29 ppg has come against much stronger competition than Szczerbiak's 24.2ppg his senior year. The biggest difference to me between the two is that Wally's a shooter- Morrison's a scorer, and I'd rather have the scorer any day. Again, AT WORST Morrison's better than Wally, who's currently averaging 19.9 a night with lesser skills. Morrison's ceiling is definitely not Larry Legend, but I think he could be a 20+ ppg scorer. Brace yourselves, but I'm going to do the unthinkable, and compare a white guy to an african-American player; I think Morrison COULD put up Glenn Big Dog Robinson-type of numbers.

15. TJ Ford, PG, Milwaukee Bucks, 6'0, 165lbs, 22 yrs, 3 yrs/$9.18 million, 36.8 mpg, 12.2 ppg, 4.5 reb, 6.4 ast, 11.51 PER
Listed at 6'0, but actually closer to 5'9, Ford still has a chance to be special. He might be the fastest and quickest player in the league whose initials aren't AI, his turnovers are down, and that 4.5 rpg (6th among PG's) is not a typo. Had a scary spinal injury that kept him out all of last year, but he seems to have rebounded well. Health at his slight stature, as well as a jumpshot, will always be questions, but the Bucks have themselves a real-deal true point for a long time.

14. Emeka Okafor, C, Charlotte Bobcats, 6'10, 255lbs, 23 yrs, 4yrs/$20.8 million, 33.7mpg, 13.2 ppg, 10 reb, 1.92 blk, 15.2 PER
Speaking of health issues, Okafor will be a solid player for many years, and will start getting some all-star recognition if two things happen: the Bobs start winning, and Okafor stays healthy. Neither are guaranteed. He had back trouble at UConn,which is always scary for an undersized center, and is back on the IR again this year with an ankle injury. A tough kid with good timing and a great attitude, and a very reasonable contract for a young center. If he can stay healthy, the Bobs have a good one.

13. Kirk Hinrich, PG, Chicago Bulls, 6'3, 190lbs, 24.9999999 yrs, 3yrs/$9.59 million, 36.2 mpg, 14.8 ppg, 3.5 reb, 6.5 ast, 15.12 PER
If a Bulls fan tells you "Hey I really like that Heiny" you don't have to punch him or worry he's just seen Brokeback Mountain. Hinrich is the ol' throwback type of point guard, with a great outside shot, and an almost 3-1 assist-to-turnover ratio. He's decent defensively and you won't have to worry about seeing him on the police blotter.

12. Al Jefferson, PF, Boston Celtics, 6'10, 255lbs, 21 yrs, 4ys/$9.1 million, 18.9 mpg, 8.4 ppg, 5.3 reb, .87 blk, 17.06 PER
His "PER" average tells you the kid just needs a chance, and as the Sports Guy said, if GM Danny Ainge keeps clearing out overpriced vets, coach Doc Rivers will have no choice but to play the kid 35 mins a night. Wide body with good feet, soft hands, and understands how to use it all on the offensive end. Has franchise player potential, and the C's have him at a bargain basement price for another 4 years.

11. Tony Parker, PG, San Antonio Spurs, 6'2, 177lbs, 23 yrs, 6yrs/$66 million, 34.7mpg, 19.3 ppg, 3.8 reb, 5.7 ast, 1.17 stl, 21.78 PER
I'm the first to admit I hate the Spurs, and I've never been a big Parker guy. I think the fact he's dating Eva is the only reason he's this high for me. I know, I know he's won two titles, his numbers are outstanding, and he's only 23. Still I think he's a product of the Spurs system, and without Duncan he's an above-average PG at best. He's a woeful outside shooter, and I still don't understand why guys don't stand at the free throw line and let him chuck up bricks all day- OH yeah, they're too busy staring at his girlfriend to D up.

Jeff: Top 25 Under 25

The general question here is: if you could have any player under the age of 25 (I'm limiting it to the NBA, college, and one particular high school senior), who would you have? Keep in mind, NBA salary (if he's drawing one) IS a factor here, as are dirty mustaches and striped socks. Since this is MY list, there are going to be biases, and probably some guys I've forgotten (if you're one of the three or four Portland Blazers fans left on the planet, and happen to stumble upon this, I have not forgotten about Zach Randolph. Yes he's young and can average a double-double but his attitude is horrible and his contract is even worse. No thanks. Also I didn't forget about Darko either. He has no business being anywhere close to this list). Since both are a rare commodity these days, I am also partial to point guards, and big men who actually want to play in the paint. So if you're one of the seemingly endless supply of athletic wingmen, you're going to have to have something special to make the list. Guys like Charlie Villaneuva, Luol Deng, Josh & JR Smith, Danny Granger, Gerald Green and others are close, but not quite Top 25 material for me.
(All salaries courtesy of hoopshype.com. PER is ESPN.com's John Hollinger's Player Efficiency Rating. The league average is 15.00):

25. Kendrick Perkins, C, Boston Celtics, 6'10, 260lbs 21 yrs 3yrs/$4.5 million 17.3 mpg, 4.3 pts, 5.2 Reb, 1.3 blk, 12.69 PER
So you're wondering how Perkins gets on here but Darko doesn't? He hasn't shown much as a scorer, but if you give him twice the minutes (which would be pretty good for a starting post) you'd be getting 10 boards and 3 blocks a game. And the kid shoots over 50% from the field right now. High school bigs take at least 4 years to figure things out, and this is year 3 for Perkins. With Blount gone the big fella should get more time, and we'll see if his numbers take the expected jump.

24. Shaun Livingston, PG, LA Clippers, 6'7, 190lbs, 20 yrs, 4yrs/$17 million 26mpg, 6 pts, 4.3 ast, 1.0 stl, 10.32 PER
Has showed flashses of immense potential, but has also showed a propensity for getting hurt. Stats aren't pretty, and his jumper's even uglier, but had a solid April to close out last season, and has had moments this year. He's a couple of years away, but 6'7 point guards with his vision and skills don't come along very often. Clips will give him every opportunity to develop properly.

23. Rudy Gay, Sophomore, SF, UConn Huskies, 6'9, 220lbs, 20 yrs, 29.0 mpg, 15. ppg, 6.2 reb, 2.0 stl,
He's big, athletic, and has every skill in the book. So how is he only averaging 15 and 6 a game? If he was playing anywhere near the level of Adam Morrison or JJ Redick right now, his talented UConn team would be overwhelming favorites for the national title. We'll see if he shows heart and tenacity at the big dance. Has all the tools to be an NBA star, it's just a matter of using them.

22. Andrew Bogut, C, Milwaukee Bucks, 7'0, 245lbs, 21 yrs, 5yrs/$28.47 million, 29.2 mpg, 9.4 ppg, 7.8 reb, 1.07 blk, 16.67 PER
Not quite the stiff I envisioned him to be after the Bucks took him #1, but I'm still not as high on him as others. A decent first year, but really, what's his ceiling? I'm thinking a 15 and 10 guy tops, which means he won't be a star, but he's not going to be a 1st overall bust like Olowakandi either. It also puts him at the front of the line to kill a team's cap by getting vastly overpaid by Isiah Thomas or Chris Mullin someday.

21. Andre Iguodala, SF, Philadelphia Sixers, 6'6, 205lbs, 22 yrs, 4yrs/$10.9 million 38.1mpg, 12.0ppg, 5.9Reb, 1.5 stl 14.42 PER
Offense has been slow in coming, but he's shooting 50% from the field, 73% on free throws, and his 12ppg are on 8 SHOTS A GAME!! All-NBA Defense potential, he's one of those few guys these days who contributes in so many other ways coaches never want to take him out. His 38 mpg is a testiment to that.

11-20 later in the week...

Friday, January 27, 2006

Jeff: One Down, One to Go

If you're one of our three or four faithful readers the past couple of years (and a big thanks to you, by the way), you know when it comes to the Wolves, we've only had two problems with them: Kevin McHale, and Wally Szczerbiak. Well last night's trade to the Celtics at least solved one of those. Now if only we could find a way to get rid of the other. ESPN.com NBA guy Marc Stein actually liked the trade for the Wolves, but other than McHale, I think he's the only one. Both the Strib and Pioneer Press bashed the trade, and I thought Souhan's article summed it up especially well. He can expect a call from McHale's wife today after he actually had the nerve to call out Mr. Celtic.

For me personally, I would have been ok with this deal, had the #1 pick not been thrown in. I like Ricky Davis. I especially like Ricky Davis at about $19 million for the next three years instead of paying Wally $46 million for the next 4. Davis is a slasher, a career 19 ppg scorer, and he even plays some D. As for Wally, I don't know whose hearts broke more: the ladies of the Twin Cities, or small forwards from the other 29 teams in the L who won't get to light up Wally when they face the Pups. Although I will not make the argument here, a strong case could be made that Wally was the most overrated athlete in the history of pro sports in Minnesota. A career 15 ppg scorer who had ONE all-star appearance, I just never understood the fascination with the guy. He was a good outside shooter, but brought absolutely nothing else to the table. Nothing. And when the playoffs rolled around, he might as well have suited up for the opposing team, because the guy is a walking turnover when somebody actually gets in his face and guards him. Good riddance.

The biggest question is what is the Wolves direction here? Did this trade make them better, not only this year, but for the future? Only slightly. Davis is an upgrade on Wally, and I'm not sure Blount will be much better than Kandi was. Marcus Banks? The Wolves are in dire need of somebody who can run the point, and maybe all he needed was a change of scenery. Maybe. Yet despite the trade and a slight upgrade in talent, this team is STILL not a championship contender, and with their cap situation they're not going to be for the remainder of Garnett's contract, which runs out in 2009 (again thanks to hoopshype for all the salary info. My favorite new site). Blount and Troy Hudson average more than $6 million per year through 2010, and Jaric's deal is the same but with an extra year through 2011. By the end of those deals, you're looking at more than $20 million a season for three guys that are now completely untradeable. Trenton Hassell averages just under $5 million a season through 2010 as well, so combined with KG's remaining four years, you've got 5 guys taking up almost your entire cap, and three of them you couldn't give away if you tried (unless you threw in a 1st round pick, but aren't we out of those?). So there's no room for the remainder of the time Garnett's here to add that alpha dog he so desparately needs.

And then there's the draft picks. ESPN.com NBA stat guru John Hollinger rated every team on their drafts for the last 10 years, and Minnesota, all under McHale, were one of the six worst teams in the league. The joke about whether it's better or worse for McHale to keep his draft picks has become as old as the Ole and Lina joke's around Minnesota. But all kidding aside, other than Garnett and Marbury, McHale's track record of #1's he's kept has been awful. Other than Starbury and Wally, here's the other guys that have heard their names called by the Wolves in the 1st round since 1995:
Paul Grant (#20-1999), Rasho (#17-'98), Will Avery (#14-'99), Ndi Ebi (#26-'03), and McCants at 14 this past year. That's 7 guys drafted in the first round after KG got here, and now only McCants is left. I'm having trouble finding the words to express how awful that is, so feel free to choose your own. I mean trying to decide which is truly worse, the fact McHale cannot judge talent or the fact he gives away #'1 like candy on Halloween, is like choosing between Star Jones or Roseanne in a beauty contest. There are no winners, just like Timberwolves fans will never feel like winner as long as Kevin McHale continues to make basketball decisions for the team.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Jeremy: Fantastic...

Steve Aschburner of the Star Tribune had a fantastic description this morning describing the Timberwolves woes...
"If you want to think of the Timberwolves' 107-83 loss to the Detroit Pistons on Tuesday night at Target Center as a measuring stick, a way of gauging the competitive distance between the Wolves as currently constituted and the NBA's most efficient, most selfless and most successful squad, you'll want to start with a standard 12-inch ruler.
Lay the ruler on the ground. Now place a yardstick at one end. Have a friend stand at that point holding the end of the longest tape measure you can find. Walk until you hit the tape's end.
Then get in a car, drive until the fuel level hits "E," step out and shoot off a flare gun.
That's how far away the Wolves appear to be, based on their worst home blowout of the season and a miserable performance in the second half of what was supposed to be a feisty, emotional night, given the return of former Wolves coach Flip Saunders."

Jeremy: Can't... think... clearly...

Yesterday, before we knew that the Ron Artest trade to Sacto had fallen through, Jeff sent me an email saying things like "good thing we didn't need Ron-Ron," and talking about how frustrating things are as a Timberwolves fan right now. I couldn't agree more.
I've tried to sit down and write about the Wolves at least 3 or 4 times in the past week and everytime I try to do it I just get so frustrated that I have to stop. But I think the Pistons game last night proves so clearly that this team, this franchise as a whole, has absolutely no business being anywhere near the conversation when it comes to championship teams, and right now I'm not even sure they deserve to be mentioned in the list of possible playoff teams.
So I guess it's time to spew...
The Wolves played fantastic basketball in the first half last night... as the Pistons coasted. The second half told the story: if the Pistons aren't the favorite to win the NBA Championship, then I don't know who is.
The conversation has come up many times about the possibility of KG not being a Timberwolf next year and I have avoided that conversation at all costs. I can't even think about KG playing basketball with another uniform on. He's my favorite athlete of all time and it's not even close. He embodies everything that is good about sports, while consciously working against everything that is wrong with sports. He's a team-first guy, he makes everyone around him better, he makes an impact in absolutely all aspects of the game, he doesn't have a shoe contract with behemoth Nike, he is active in the community, he is charitable throughout the country, he doesn't speak badly about his teammates or his coach in public, he respects the history of the game, he takes winning and losing personally, he puts winning above personal stats, he's loyal, and he works his tail off every single night. I get a little bit sick to my stomach just thinking about seeing KG playing for another team.
Having said that, if KG does decide to leave, I can't blame him. Kevin McHale has given KG no reason to believe that he's willing to do whatever it takes to put the pieces in place around KG to win a championship, and Boss Taylor has given KG no reason to believe that he doesn't put all of his trust in McHale. I don't want to see KG leave town, but given all of the factors in place, I wouldn't blame him one bit if he did.
I heard an interview with Flip Saunders on the radio Monday night where Flip was talking about how Glen Taylor called him after last season, just a few months after Flip had been fired from the Wolves, and Taylor asked Flip if he'd be willing to come back and coach the Wolves. This was the first time that I had heard this had happened and it absolutely blew me away. Making a call like that to Flip absolutely wreaks of Taylor second guessing what had happened, and perhaps wondering if McHale should have been the one to go instead. I hope that's what was going on, because McHale should have been the one to go. And good for Flip Saunders for saying no and for landing in the best job in the NBA with the Pistons. I hope the Pistons win the championship, and I hope that in the process he tells us what he really thinks of Kevin McHale.
There are far too many problems over the years with this franchise to even list. But let's take a look back...
Letting Gugliotta go for a song.
Not getting enough in return for Marbury.
Donyell Marshall
Isiah Junior J.R. Rider
Chrisitan Laettner
Will Avery
Ndudi Ebi
Igor Rakocevic (what?)
Rick Rickert
Blake Stepp (who?)
Letting Chauncey Billups go (yeah, we didn't need him).
McHale deciding to coach the team for half a season.
Signing Joe Smith to multiple illegal contracts.
The Flip Saunders firing.
And let's go ahead and add "making Kevin McHale the GM" to the list.

Not pretty.
A note on Wally Szczerbiak. If anybody still thinks that Wally is good enough to be the second scoring option on a competative team... let's remember that Wally is currently our second scoring option, and not only that, but he's having the best season of his career. We are 19-20, we are third in the worst division in basketball, and we are not competative. Any questions?

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Everyone today is saying that Kobe's 81 points yesterday is upstaging
the NFL playoffs and the Super Bowl matchup. Am I the only one who
heard that Kobe scored 81 points and yawned? I just don't care.
Should I? I don't think it's anything new that Kobe would take 46
shots in a game, so I'll give him one thing, at least he shot the ball
well, 61%. But honestly, when a guy shoots as much as Kobe does, and
is convinced (and rightfully so) that he's the only option on his
team, isn't he bound to have an obscene scoring night like this?
The arguement, of course, and as always, is that Kobe has to score in
bunches because he's the only option on the team, but let's not forget
that the reason he's the only option on the Lakers is because he
forced Jerry Buss to move Shaq out of town. He WANTED to be the only
option. He WANTED to have times where his team "needed" him to score
60+ points. He got what he wanted. He's the first option on the
Lakers. A team that may or may not make the playoffs. I'll tell you
what, if Kobe and the Lakers DO make the playoffs, then I'll care
about Kobe's 81. And oh yeah, that 81 came against the Raptors, who
just happen to be (in my opinion) one of the 10 worst teams in the
Okay, I'll be honest, I do care. It's an incredible stat, it's an
incredible game. It's pretty unreal and who knows if anyone will come
close to breaking Wilt's record ever again. But in this day of all
that matters is scoring, and the teams that are actually winning
championships are the ones that do everything well, not just scoring,
I'm hesitant to care too much. Yeah, Kobe can score... but he's not a
winner (without Shaq). He doesn't do anything to make the players
around him better, so he's not doing anything to make his team better.
Yes, 81 points in a single, non-OT game, is unreal, but all Kobe is
building is his stat sheet, not a winner, and shouldn't that be what
Your thoughts?
The Jer

Kobe could have scored 181 points last night, and it still wouldn't have upstaged the NFL playoffs. It was a huge accomplishment, but in the mind of the average sports fan, the NFL is still more important than anything that happens in the NBA.
As for the 81 pts, I don't care if it took him 81 shots, 81 pts is incredible. The fact he did it, like you mentioned, shooting 61%, I mean, that's Jordan-esque. Here's where you abandon me as a friend, but I'll admit it: I've enjoyed watching Kobe this year. I still don't like Kobe, but for the first time in his career, he's actually playing like Jordan. It kills me to say it, but he is. The man is averaging 36 a game on 45% shooting (3rd among shooting guards), 83% on free throws (5th), 5.6 boards (2nd), and 4.3 assists (numero uno among SG's). Now, we both agree that he HAS to do this, because there's nobody else to do it other than Odom (who only averages about 12 shots a game), and you're absolutely right in saying that it's his own fault there's noone else to help. Yes, he forced out Shaq, and yes, I think they'd be the best team in the league IF they still had Shaq. For that reason alone I don't think the guy should win MVP because he single-handedly destroyed a championship team, and that doesn't seem very "valuable" to me.
However, if Kobe's goal was to win a championship "his way" he still may get his wish. The crop of free agents for 2006 is poor at best, but next summer, for 2007, it's downright scary. IF, and that's a big if, Laker GM Mitch Kupchak (spelling?) plays his cards right, he'll have Kobe and Odom, and plenty of room for at least one big-name free agent. Right now that's all the Lakers need to get right back to the Championship level.
And remember: Kobe's only 27.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Jeff: The Monday Musings

- Well I guess Steve Smith is human after all. The Hawks defended him well, and because Carolina had no other weapons, and absolutely zero ground game, Seattle could cover Smith with 3 guys and send the other 8 after Jake Delhomme. Smith is still the best receiver this year, but really, who'd we think he was? Chuck Norris (www.chucknorrisfacts.com)?

- I know having 2 weeks off before the Super Bowl gives both teams time to rest and heal, but I still hate it for all the over-hype. The playoffs are supposed to be grueling, and injuries are apart of the game. Play the next week like you're supposed to.

- People will make a big deal about a #1 seed Seattle being underdogs in Vegas to the #6 seed Pittsburgh (early line is the Steelers -4.5). Don't be one of them. Two reasons why:
* Vegas puts out lines to make money. They don't make money if everyone bets on one team. Because Pittsburgh has one of the largest nationwide followings in the league (along with the Cowboys and Raiders), the Steelers could be sending their practice squad team to Detroit (who could probably beat the Lions- ZING! Oh the Burn! A deep burn! It's so deep!), and you'd still get a ton of people betting on them. The Seahawks, on the other hand, have a minimal following outside the Pacific Northwest, so Vegas needs to encourage more people to rally around the Hawks.
* This Pittsburgh team is also not a normal #6 seed, and you'll hear a lot about this too. Before QB Ben Roethlisberger got hurt midway through the year, this was one of the three best teams in football. If he hadn't gotten hurt, they could have very well overtaken Denver for the AFC's #2 seed. So if you're a Steelers fan, not that we'd ever encourage betting, but um, put your popsicle sticks down now, because the line is only going up. If you're a Hawks fan, or think they can win, be patient.

Two Vikings-related thoughts:
1) When talking about the Daunte Contract-gate from last week, let's pull out the ol' cliche "where there's smoke, there's fire." Maybe Daunte didn't really want his agent to ask for more money, but I don't this his agent came up with the idea on his own either. This smells to me like a ploy for Daunte to force his way out of Minnesota. I say that because if Daunte was truly happy here, you wouldn't hear anything from him, and he'd be more willing to meet with the new staff than he has been. The Vikings have another former all-pro that was hurt all year, and yet we haven't heard anything negative about the team or his contract from him or his agent. That guy is Matt Birk. Also keep in mind that as fragile as Daunte's confidence and ego seem to be, I'd still rather take my chances with getting him healthy and seeing what he does in a new system before I kick him to the curb. Good quarterbacks aren't exactly growing on trees lately.
2) I'm loving all the young new coordinators the Vikings are hiring. From everything I've read, these guys were primed for better jobs in the next year or two. Better to get them now and let them learn together, than to miss out on them down the road. I do like this whole "we have an owner who actually wants to win and spend money" thing.

And finally two Packer-related comments:
1) I will never understand this argument, which I've heard from more than a few former Vikings fans that have become Packer fans: they stopped cheering for Minnesota because they think Vikings fans are too fair-weather, and that Packer fans are more loyal. Um, maybe it's just me, but by you jumping ship to the Vikings' biggest rival for that reason, doesn't that make YOU even worse than fair weather?
2) I don't like to brag, but Zygy Wilf asked me to establish the official position for Vikings fans on the topic of Brett Favre's retirement, and here it is:
We want Brett to keep playing. For as long as he possibly can. We've known for awhile that his dilusional Packer faithful still think he's the QB he was 10 years ago, but after watching him this past season, it's obvious HE still thinks he's the QB he was 10 years ago. If he keeps playing it means more 28 INT seasons for him, and therefore more losses for the Pack. Not only that, but there will be no progress for Aaron Rodgers, or for anybody else, and Favre takes up a ton of cap room, not allowing them to build a better defense or address other needs. So please, Brett, on behalf of the state of Minnesota, keep playing.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Jeff: The Musings O' Monday

Forrest Gump's mama certainly knew what she was talking about: in the age of parody the NFL IS like a box of chocolates; you just never know what you're going to get. After three of four road teams won on wildcard weekend, I, like many, figured normalcy would return, and home serve would mean something. Seattle and Indy were heavy favorites, and although I wanted to see both Carolina and Denver win, I wasn't sure it would happen. Sitting here on a Monday off, watching the Wolves bury the Knicks (this just in- the Knicks are NOT a good basketball team), I'm left with so many NFL questions, and so few answers (although I haven't read Peter King's MMQB or Len Pasquareli's Morning After yet. BTW, if you're a football fan, those are must-reads). Who would have thought that both New England, the clutchest team in the last decade, and Indy, the closest thing to a dominant team this year, both lose? Or speaking of dominant, that Chicago's D would get lit up AT HOME for 434 yards by warm-weather Carolina? And if you're one of three or four people that are familiar with Seattle's cursed history, although they were heavy favorites it's a mild surprise they actually did what they were supposed to do.

A question then from each game:
Carolina 29, Chicago 20
Honestly, how good is Panthers receiver Steve Smith
(12 catch, 218 yds, 2 TD-oh and he ran for another 26 too)?
To paraphrase Red from Shawshank Redemption "the last thing that went through the Chicago Bears heads is how in the hell did Steve Smith ever get the best of them?" It's become a cliche to say that Smith is the ONLY weapon in the Panthers offense, but seriously, when one of the best defenses in football have a week to prepare for him and he not only beats them but DESTROYS them? What do you do with that? What else is the guy capable of? Could he cure cancer? Find Bin Laden? Talk KG into staying in Minnesota? Nothing would surprise me anymore. For the record, Smith IS the only option Carolina has. Here's their 2006 regular season stats:
Smith had 103 of the teams 269 receptions (that's 38%), 1563 of 3485 yards (45%), and 12 of 25 TD's (48%). No other Carolina receiver had more than 34 catches, 441 yds, or 4 TD's. And for the record, his numbers yesterday were good for half the teams catches, 68% of their receiving yards, and 2/3rds of their TD's. As Ron Burgandy would say "I'm not even mad- that's AMAZING!"

Pittsburgh 21, Indianapolis 18
Will Peyton Manning EVER win the big one?

I think we all got the answer yesterday, and it was a resounding "NOPE!" If Manning couldn't win it this year, with homefield advantage, the Patriots in a down year, and no real threat from the NFC, I don't know if it ever happens. At about the halfway point of the year, I conceded I was wrong about Peyton. That he wasn't the NFL's version of Alex Rodriguez after all, and that he really could put up stellar numbers and be a leader when it mattered most. So much for that theory. Hey give the guy credit for making the valiant comeback, but they had some, ahem help, to get as far as they did and still blew it. Although Vanderjagt completely shanked that kick, I have to ask why Peyton's going for the gusto on 3rd and 2 instead of converting the 1st down? They make a short completion or a handoff to Edge and the drive continues, or at the very least Vanderjagt has a shorter field goal try. Bottom line is the great ones aren't remembered because they ALMOST make the comeback.

And how ridiculous was that call on Polamalu's interception? When the ref went "under the hood" to look at it on replay, there's no doubt in my mind that he wasn't looking at the replay at all, but instead a video feed directly to Commissioner Tagliabue's office, who was demanding he overturn it so the Colts could get to the Super Bowl. That call was such a blatant screw job I almost thought I was watching a Lakers playoff game.

Denver 27, New England 13
Am I More Annoyed with Bronco fans or Boston Fans?

After my freshman year of college, when the Broncos beat the Packers in the Super Bowl, I swore I would never cheer for the Broncos again under any circumstances. I was SO sick of my Colorado buddies bragging about how great the Broncos were, I almost wished the Packers had won instead. But I'll admit it: I was kind of cheering for Denver on Saturday, and was certainly not sad to see them win. That tells you how sick I am of all the Boston whining between the Red Sox and Patriots, and you just KNOW we're going to get flooded with whiny Northeasterners lamenting their playoff woes. Hey Boston: the whining was cute when you guys hadn't won in 80 years, but when your baseball team finally wins-WITH THE 2nd HIGHEST PAYROLL- and your football team wins 3 of 4 Super Bowls, I think I speak for all of us when I say SHUT THE HELL UP! WE DONT CARE ANYMORE!! Thank you.

At the same time, I don't want to hear from the people in Denver, Pittsburgh, or Austin either. Don't whine to me about how your team "gets no respect". You know how you get respect? Earn it. Win a #$%^& game, and you'll get your respect. Try cheering for the Vikings, Mariners, Canucks or Gophers and then you can talk to me about unfair.

Seattle 20, Washington 10
Why isn't Seattle the favorites to win Super Bowl XL?

Let's see, along with Denver, they've got the best record of the 4 teams left, they've got the MVP, an underrated defense and quarterback, and a coach that's won a Super Bowl. And still nobody gives them a chance. If Alexander is truly 100% next week, how are they not the best team? I mean sure, next week Steve Smith will have 34 catches for 944 yards and 17 TD's while scaling Mt. Rainer, brewing a more popular cup of coffee than Starbucks, and becoming the 1st legitimate left fielder in Mariners history, but the Seahawks should still win right? Right?

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Jeff: Thought For the Day

Who'll have better attendance next season: the Minnesota Lynx or the Minnesota Timberwolves?

Right now, with a top 5 player in Kevin Garnett, the Wolves are still a distant fourth on Minnesota's pro sports radar behind the Vikings, Twins, and Wild. As underwhelming as the Wolves have been, currently at 15-16 after their hot start, Minny sits just a game out of first place in the league's worst division, which, under the current playoff format, means a #3 seed in the first round. That's definitely something to play for and hope for, and yet for the umpteenth year in a row, Minnesota hasn't gotten behind its NBA team. If interest is this poor now, just wait till the coming offseason...

Kevin Garnett WILL be traded, and judging by the last three trades involving NBA superstars (Shaq, T-Mac, and Vince Carter), Minnesota will be lucky to get 50 cents on the dollar for him- and that's IF we had a competent GM (we don't, but looking around the league we're certainly not alone). I usually hate it when guys whine their way out of town, but KG deserves better than this. He's been here 11 years, has busted his ass everytime on the court, and has been more than a model citizen to boot. You can't ask for anything more out of a professional athlete than KG has given. You just can't. He has every right to demand a trade to try and get a championship somewhere else, because it's obvious it's not happening here- Kevin McHale has seen to that. (And I think that's what bothers me most about all of this: I've been screaming for years about how terrible McHale is at his job. Now people are finally starting to see the light, and instead of getting angry about it and demanding something be done, people here just throw up their hands like "Golly gee, whatareya gonna do? That Kevin McHale is just sucha nice guy doncha know!" Part of the blame needs to go on Glen Taylor too, for having unfounded loyalty for a guy that's driven his franchise into the ground. He took McHale's side and it cost us one of the league's top coaches in Flip Saunders (although don't get me wrong, I think Dwayne Casey will be a good coach), and now his loyalty to McHale is going to cost us the greatest athlete in the history of the state: and nobody seems that worried about it!)

But I digress. After Garnett goes, what are you left with? Brace yourself, this won't be pretty: first off, we won't have a first round pick, unless we get one in trade, because McHale shipped it to the Clippers ALONG WITH AN EXPIRING CONTRACT for Marko F@#$ing Jaric. The free agent crop is thin to begin with, and once KG leaves we'll turn into Utah or Atlanta North, as in good luck trying to lure free agents here, so you're going to have to overpay mediocre players just to fill out a roster. Next season's starting lineup will probably consist of Hudson, Jaric, Wally, Griffin, and some overpaid center like Nazr Mohammed, or Lorenzen Wright in the middle. Ladies and gentlemen, your 2006-07 Minnesota Timberwolves!!! Please, they'll be giving away tickets at Lynx and high school games just to fill the lower bowl.

A word to the few true Wolves fans out there: get to Target Center before May, because it's not only the last time you'll see KG in a Wolves uniform, it won't be long before this team is forced to move to Kansas City or St Louis. And you'll have Kevin McHale to blame for it, except of course, that nobody will "because ah gee he's such a nice guy!"

Friday, January 06, 2006

Jeremy: Child(ress)like Excitement

The most exciting facet of the Vikings hiring Brad Childress, former offensive coordinator for the Philadelphia Eagles...


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Jeff: Heisman Voters Got It Right

Weeks from now, when Longhorn fans finally stop celebrating a well-earned National Championship, the first thing they should do is send thank you notes to the folks at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City. Texas QB Vince Young was seated at the famous club, along with last year's winner and last night's adversary, Matt Leinart, and watched Leinart's teammate Reggie Bush walk off with the Heisman trophy. A trophy Young thought HE deserved, and boy did he ever make a convincing argument at the Rose Bowl. In what at times seemed to be single-handedly guiding the #2 Horns past #1 USC in one of the best college football games ever, Young proved he was the best player on the best stage. However, this doesn't mean the Heisman voters got it wrong.

Based on the games played in 2005 BEFORE the bowls, Reggie Bush was the nation's best player, and the one most deserving of the Heisman trophy. I totally agree with the argument that has been made before, and certainly will be many times again after last night, that they shouldn't hand out the Heisman, or any other award, until after the Bowl games. I mean, if bowl game stats count for the regular season, and they're THE most important game, why shouldn't that factor into the Heisman voting? That would be like the NFL naming its Pro Bowl lineups with 2 games left to play...ok, ok bad example, but you know what I mean. If the Heisman was handed out AFTER the bowl games, which it should be, then no question Vince Young is your winner. But because they don't, Reggie Bush was still the deserving recipient. Remember that when people are anointing Vince Young the greatest player in the history of the world and how unfair it was for him to get shafted. If it hadn't happened, who knows how this game turns out? As a matter of fact, let's put a little perspective on the three guys EVERYONE was talking about before the game:

VINCE YOUNG: 30-40, 267 YDS passing, 19 car 200 yds, 3 TD rushing
What a performance. Watching the game at my buddy Luke's house with 9 other guys (on a 52" HDTV-the ONLY way to watch a game), we were all amazed at Young's balance. When he runs he looks like he's jogging (or maybe it's a silent J, like "yogging" I don't know, apparently you just run), and he doesn't have the breath-taking moves that Mike Vick or Bush does, and yet the guy runs for almost 200 yds and at least 3 TD's for his 2nd consecutive Rose Bowl. Just the subtle cut or shake and guys could not tackle him. Plus he threw the ball really well last night too, which has always been the question with him. He's as crazy as he is gifted if he returns for his senior season. After that performance he has nothing left to prove, and nothing more to gain. He'll get better as a passer in an NFL system than he will coming back to the run-heavy Texas system, and after last night, he's a slam-dunk top 5 pick.

However, he's NOT as fast as Mike Vick. I point that out because Vick tore up college football in much the same fashion as Young has done, and yet Vick is rarely able to duplicate that on the next level. VY needs to keep improving as a passer, because running QB's do not win Super Bowls with their legs. Steve Young and John Elway both won Super Bowls by staying in the pocket, and using their feet to buy time. Yes, he's an incredibly gifted young man, and was a man among boys last night, but he's not going to be able to run all day in the NFL. Guys up there are too fast, and even a kid as strong as VY will get hurt running too much. Just ask Daunte Culpepper. He's not as fast as Vick, but he's much further along as a passer as Vick was. Vince should enter the draft, but I'd be shocked if he went ahead of Leinart.

MATT LEINART: 29/40 365 1 TD, 1 INT
People will probably remember the last play where he couldn't get rid of the ball and time ran out, but I put that on the two dumb timeouts his team called (the third was called after Leinart got his bell rung on the 2nd half run, and looked like he couldn't remember if he was in Pasadena or Portland), and his line breaking down. You can't blame Leinart for USC's loss. The game wouldn't have been close without him. In the biggest game of his life he completes 72% of his passes, and was absolutely unconscious in the 2nd half. He is example numero uno, however, on why Vince Young should go pro: Leinart, like VY, was the Golden Boy last year. Now? The same people who put him on the pedestal are the same ones trying to throw him off. Go out on top. The only positive for Leinart getting outplayed by VY is that maybe the Saints will draft Young instead of him. And you know what that means: he either goes to Tennessee and dates a different hot country singer every week, or he goes to New York where he breaks Wilt Chamberlain's scoring record. No, not that one...yeah, THAT one!

REGGIE BUSH: 13 car 82 YDS 1 TD, 6 CTH 95 YDS
Yes, the lateral was dumb, but look at those numbers: that's 177 yds on just 19 touches, an average of 9.3 per touch. He's still every bit the deserving Heisman winner he was all season. Please don't let the Bush haters fool you: nothing about last night should change the perspective on Mr. Bush. We KNEW going into the game he's not going to be a 25 carry-a-game-guy. He should, and will, be the #1 pick to the Texans, and if used correctly in the NFL (like Marshall Faulk) he'll be a star for a long, long time. The guy is a game-breaker and will dramatically change whichever team drafts him. Vince Young was just better last night.

What surprised me last night is that SC didn't use Lendale White more. The man had 20 carries for 124 and 3 TD's (Mr. Wilf, PLEASE DRAFT LENDALE WHITE!!!), and at 235 pounds, was killing anybody who tried to tackle him. Up until last night, the Trojans coaching staff had exploited the easiest matchup; if a team had a good run D, well then Leinart would throw all day. If they were stout up the middle or slow to the edges, like Fresno State, then that meant a big day for Mr. Bush. Coming into the game the Texas D was ranked 33rd against the run, and despite the presence of behemoth DT Rodrique Wright, SC had an obvious advantage going between the tackles. Maybe the fact this was Bush and Leinart's last game was the reason they didn't use White more, but if they had, they might be talking 3-peat instead of what could have been (oh and that Dwayne Jarrett guy's pretty good too, hey? There's your Trojan Heisman candidate for 2006. You know the Detroit Lions are pissed he won't be available in the first round this year).

All in all, that's probably the best college game I've ever seen, and one of the best individual performances by VY. UT fans will be saying a lot of "I told you so's" and deservedly so, but they should also be thanking those same people who doubted the Longhorns, because it gave Young and his boys the Texas-sized chip on their shoulder that helped spur them to victory.

Jeremy: Seepy time...

You know those people who went to bed when USC was beating Texas by 12 points with 6 minutes left in the fourth quarter on Wednesday night at the Rose Bowl? Can you believe those people? Can you believe that they had the audacity to count out Vince Young and the Longhorns? Can you believe that they doubted the lore of the National Championship Game? Can you believe they were so tired that they couldn't have stayed up and watched for just another 30-45 minutes?
Okay, yes, I went to bed, alright? Let's just get that out of the way. I was watching the game in bed and I fell asleep. I woke up and looked at the t.v. to see USC kicking an extra point to go up by 12 points, and I thought to myself "the fat lady is warming up." Yes, that was me, leading the idiot parade.
Do you think maybe Vince Young felt a little bit slighted by having not even been given a snowball's chance in Hades at winning the Heisman? Do you think this guy might have taken it personally that nobody gave the Longhorns a chance against USC?
You have to admit, Texas scored on a very controversial touchdown, but their kicker also missed a very makeable field goal AND an extra point, and USC did plenty to allow Texas to stay in the game when they should have put them away. Texas (ahem, Vince Young) seemed to have something a little extra in the Rose Bowl that they hadn't had all year and that Mack Brown had never had, and USC just didn't seem to have whatever it was that made them so special over the last three years.
I'm sorry I missed it.
Quote of the day regarding the Rose Bowl from ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski:
"USC... has itself -- and the breathtakingly athletic Young -- to blame for failing to give college football immortality a sloppy wet kiss Wednesday evening."

Monday, January 02, 2006

Jeff: The Monday Musings

- Why does a real-estate billionaire from New Jersey who's a life-long New York Giants fan buy a team in Minnesota with a horrible stadium deal? So he can make a ton of money on a new stadium/complex. To me, that's the biggest reason Mike Tice was fired yesterday by owner Zyggy Wilf. Don't get me wrong, Wilf is committed to winning, and will pay for the best coaching staff money can buy, but this is a business, and Tice was fired to improve Wilf's chances of getting his new stadium complex in Blaine approved. Tice is a good guy who gave his all to the Vikings, and judging by the players' reaction to his firing, these guys were obviously loyal to him. But the biggest thing that worked against Tice was that all the off-field problems the last few seasons, from all the Randy Moss shenanigans, to his own ticket scalping to the Love Cruise, happened on his watch. All of these incidents have contributed to giving the Vikings a tainted image nation-wide, and more importantly have made many Vikings fans and legislators concerned about the state of their team. I think Wilf believes that by making a fresh start with the coaching staff, it's going to prove to the fans and decision-makers in this state that things really WILL be different next year, and that Wilf believes that you can win in the NFL with a respectable program. He's hoping that can win over legislators to give him the new stadium deal.

- Rumor 'round the campfire is that Tice will probably take a year off from coaching to spend more time with his family. I heard him say more than once on the coaches show this season how important his family is to him. Whenever he decides to coach again, he'll have no shortage of opportunities.

- Hanging onto Rob Brzezinski was a good move. He's a good GM who's been tied, gagged, and bound by Red McCombs in trying to run this team. Darren Sharper, in a very candid interview with Dan Barreiro last Friday, summed it up well. He said that under McCombs, the Vikes were "being asked to make a 5-star meal on a $10 budget." Zygy will take the shackles off of Brzezinski, and give him every opportunity to justify Wilf's trust in him.

- Speaking of Sharper, I think the guy should be a politican when he's finished with football. In that same interview, Barreiro was firing some pretty direct questions at him, and Sharper fielded all of them like a gold glove shortstop. He gave a thoughtful answer, yet managed to do so without saying anything controversial. He's a very smart dude, and I'm glad Green Bay gave up on him.

- A trade that makes WAY too much sense to actually happen: Cedric Benson for Troy Williamson.

- In his search for a new coach, the first call Brzezinski should make is to Iowa City to Kirk Ferentz. The second should be to Bob Stoops at Oklahoma. I doubt either one leave for any NFL team this year, but those are the two best candidates out there.

- If you believe that Brian Billick's job is safe in Baltimore (I don't but people much smarter than me do), and that Herm Edwards wants to stay in the media circus in New York (apparently the guy is so respected in football, he'd have his choice of any college or pro opening this offseason), that still leaves 8 NFL teams looking for a new coach; Houston, New Orleans, Oakland, Green Bay, Detroit, St Louis, Minnesota, and Kansas City. Welcome to parody. Other than KC (how good is Larry Johnson? Wow!), I think the Vikes are the most attractive job out there.

- Here's a REALLY early pick for the NFL 2006 offensive rookie of the year: tailback Lendale White. I just hope he does it in a Vikings uniform.

- Thought I was going out on a limb thinking that Pittsburgh will beat Cincinnati this weekend. But every web poll I've seen shows that plenty of other people are thinking the same thing. As the 6 or 7 of you who've been reading us for awhile know, I don't do well when it comes to predictions, so take this for what it's worth: New England will be the only home team to win on Wild Card weekend.

- Houston and New Orleans have to be giddy at their draft position. The Texans can take a once in a decade player, and the Saints get a franchise quarterback. Now all they have to do is not do something dumb like trade the picks, but considering it's Houston and New Orleans, well...

- I hope plenty of you are taking the time to lounge on the couch all day and watch football, since I'm stuck at work until 5. Happy New Year everybody.


Just in case anybody gave any weight to my opinion about how I thought Zygi Wilf would handle the Mike Tice situation...
I'm sorry.