Thursday, May 31, 2007
The Phanatic Magazine
Ever wonder what future generations are going to ask you about, and how you might respond?
Everybody faces those "What was it like to live through..." questions. What will be ours?
Those moments aren't always easy to identify when living it...but I'm pretty sure we're in one right now.
Philadelphia, early summer, 2007. The soon-to-be home run champion in town for three days, just 10 deep flies away from capturing the record.
The pursuer, a villain, carrying a well-established reputation as a cheat with a mean streak to match.
The greatest hitter of all time. The most tainted and scrutinized player of all time. The biggest record of all time.
What was it like to be in the seats, or down the street, or just alive as this piece of fascinating history was unfolding?
I'm afraid my answer is going to be... Eh.
The feeling I have, and the one I sense the area shares, is one of unconcentrated interest. I'm aware that Bonds is in town, the home run record in sight, and that he will leave just inches from the most celebrated achievement in baseball and beyond. I want to see his image in my park, want to know how the Philly fans will react (or, more appropriately, what level they'll raise their game to). I want to see who catches No. 747.
But I find I also have a slight repulsion to the whole spectacle, similar to staring at a bright light. If I focus on it too long I feel uneasy and blurred.
The media is treating Bonds' arrival in a similar fashion: They address it, throw in two cents on it, but don't linger on the subject.
Just a glance. Anything more, and your real feelings may come out.
You may start to look at the man, the plates of his skull protruding and his arms thick like oak, and be unable to keep that faint hope that he has been wrongly accused of doping. You may contemplate how your era will be defined, and recognize that it will have an * or a Rx next to it -- and that No. 25 will be a major reason why.
You might think of all of your parents and grandparents' heroes, and how their accomplishments were trumped because of science, not merit.
You may get angry that the supposed greatest feat in sports is about to occur before your very eyes, and yet things have been stained so badly that you can't even enjoy it.
And so we just glance, take it in but not all the way in.
We wait for it to pass.
Uneasy. The best way to describe it is uneasy.
And I hate that I'm going to have to tell my kids that.
Tim appears on this page every Thursday. You can contact him at email@example.com
Speaking on the condition of anonymity, the source said the Phillies and Tigers have been the most aggressive in reaching out to Percival. If it comes down to familiarity, the Tigers seem the logical choice with the right-hander spending two injury-riddled seasons in Motown, working as an advanced scout for the club while on the DL during Detroit's 2006 World Series season.
According to the source, the Cubs' interest is also relatively high while the Marlins, Mariners and Indians have shown lukewarm intrigue.
If it comes down to money, the source believes GM Pat Gillick has enough leeway to outbid Detroit if he is so inclined. Coming off a three-game sweep at the hands of Arizona, Gillick knows the bullpen must be fixed if a playoff push is possible.
Percival has a 30-41 lifetime record with 324 saves and a 3.10 ERA. He spent most of his career with the California/Anaheim Angels, setting up for Lee Smith before taking the closer's job in 1996.
He is expected to be available when training camp opens on July 30.
Wednesday, May 30, 2007
The Phanatic Magazine
I spend plenty of time at the Jersey Shore -- but temperatures in the mid 30s and snowflakes falling on Route 88 don't really tell the Shore's story.
With Memorial Day came the unabashed start of summer and with it my first of many experiences with the Shore scene -- an interesting dynamic of sun and swim, sports and sex appeal.
Without further adieu, The Phanatic Magazine gets you set for summer with the "Top 8 Shore Secrets," all tying in with or drawing analogy to the sports or Philadelphia world.
1. The Jersey Shore -- and when I'm talking Shore, I'm talking Point Pleasant not family-oriented LBI or cash-cow Atlantic City -- may be nearly equidistant between New York and Philadelphia, but it truly is a New York sports town. Phillies minor league club Lakewood is just down the road, but even a game at beautiful First Energy Park is littered with Mets shirts and Yankees hats. Many beach goers and shoreline residents are New York area transplants or have ties to the Big Apple. I may have noticed two or three pieces of Phillies, Eagles or Flyers apparel during each weekend to the area, but the start of summer brought the striking truth to the forefront. The Shore loves the Yankees, even with the Bronx Bombers stationed in the AL East basement.
2. Martell's Tiki Bar rivals the Bank, maybe even exceeding it, in alcoholic selection and prices. The bang for the buck comes from a fresh-squeezed OJ with four shots of vodka for $9. It gets the juices flowing on a sun-splashed day. I'd even take it over a $6 draft beer at CBP. Pina Coladas are $7.50, but Martell's hands down offers more for the spectator than the current group of Phillies. Who wants to watch Pat Burrell strike out when they can suck down a drink while watching the waves.
3. I wonder what parking and traffic would be like if the Phillies ever played October baseball during the Eagles season. We may never get to find out -- but I bet it rivals the parking situation at the Shore. I'll walk a mile any day over paying almost $20 for a cushy spot sandwiched between two cars worth more than my life.
4. McFaddens versus The Osprey. The beer-brewing sports pub has plenty of outside space and a chill atmosphere, a pure ballpark bar with some room to bust a move, but nothing like the experience at the Osprey. Granted, I had this image of bar heaven when I walked through the Belmar gates, and I wasn't disappointed. Music was solid, alcohol was cold, and there even was the token 40-year-old jacked guy whistling while mixing Whiskey Sours. Awesome.
5. Pat's Pizza versus the Philly Cheesesteak. It's close -- and might I add Pat's makes a mean steak sandwich, but nothing can beat "wit" or "wit out wiz." But if I'm voting strictly on pizza, than the phrase, "How much you wanna pay?" is music to my ears at the Jersey Shore pizza place. Maybe the Eagles can plug one into a concourse at Lincoln Financial Field. A guy's stomach can dream.
6. Drunk girls. College nights at CBP resemble a frat party, stumbling drunk girls carried out by guys with popped collars they don't even know. Obscenities fly, beer flows and no one knows who is playing let alone the score. The Jersey girls can hold their own with the boos, but they don't seem as trashy doing it. Likely many of these same college girls at Phils games make their way to the shore each year, but they must class up or mellow down. I heard a girl offer a guy sex for a Coors Light in the parking lot of Citizens Bank Park last year, classy move Phils fans.
7.Winning and losing. Loses are easier to handle at the beach. How about a weekend sweep of the Braves? I just brushed it off as another hot spurt for the streaky Phils. Back to the beach I went.
8. Phillies fans are almost embarrassed at times. They hide behind worn down caps and faded T-shirts. Yankees fans at the shore -- they paint their rooms with pinstripes and assemble a trophy case the Hall of Fame would be proud of. That's what 24 years of championship futility will do to a city. I've never seen a Phillies-themed or Eagles-clad bedroom, and that's just sad. I'm sure there are some (and feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you or someone you know has one), but those people aren't drawing attention to themselves. It's the differing state between the winners (Yanks) and losers (Philadelphia in general).
So next time a buddy tells you he or she is headed to the Shore, know he or she isn't entering friendly sports territory. The Jersey Shore is all about the beach and exudes an aura of confidence only found outside this city's limits.
Jared Trexler can be reached at email@example.com
The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to terms on a four-year contract with TE Brent Celek on Wednesday. He is the fifth member of the Eagles 2007 draft class to reach a contract agreement, joining Stewart Bradley, Tony Hunt, C.J. Gaddis, and Rashad Barksdale.
A fifth-round draft choice out of Cincinnati, Celek (6-4, 261) led all Big East tight ends as a senior in receptions (35) and yards (481), while adding three touchdowns, including an 83 yarder against seventh-ranked Rutgers.
A two-year Big East All-Academic team selection, the 22-year-old Celek finished his career ranked third on the school’s all-time list among tight ends in receptions (91) and touchdowns (14), while amassing 1,135 yards. A second-team All-Conference USA recipient as a sophomore, he set a Bearcat single-season record for touchdowns (8) by a tight end.
By John McMullen
The Phanatic Magazine
Of course that could all change if King and Company break tradition and actually do something innovative -- come hell or high water -- bring an actual NBA savior back to town.
Yep, Kobe Bryant has asked to be moved from the Los Angeles Lakers.
Bryant's dissension is fueled by the Lakers failure to win a playoff series since trading Shaquille O'Neal in July of 2004. So, Kobe wants out but, to be moved, Bryant would have to waive a no-trade clause. That's something he would gladly do for say, the New York Knicks. But, how about the Sixers? They are in his home town and his father, Joe Bryant, toiled for the club back in the day.
"At this point I'll go play on Pluto right now," Bryant said. "I just want to work hard. I just want to play, enjoy the game of basketball."
Unfortunately, "Pluto" will probably not include Philly after the way the locals treated Bryant in recent years...
The Phanatic Magazine
Back in medieval times, the rack was a device of torture, a chamber of pain that instilled fear in trespassers and other wrongdoers. Rutgers has its own version of the rack.At Rutgers, even if you manage to escape with your life, chances are, you won't escape with a win.The 8,000-seat Louis Brown Athletic Center, commonly known as the RAC, will host tomorrow night’s 7:30 game between the Scarlet Knights and Syracuse. The RAC, built in 1977, serves as a truly unique on-campus arena. This truncated pyramid of steel and concrete in Piscataway, N.J., is one of the nation’s loudest arenas. Its bizarre shape only adds to the allure.When plans for the RAC were made, they vaguely resembled what now stands as home to the 8-9 Scarlet Knights. That’s because at the time of construction, a nationwide steel strike was in effect. Rutgers was forced to make budget cuts, and the half-completed roof was capped off, giving the arena the look of a trapezoid. "It was a cost-saving way to build a building," said Bob Mulcahy, Rutgers’ director of athletics.That cost-effective design makes the RAC a difficult place for road teams. Because the concrete and steel don't absorb sound as much as other materials, the crowd noise continually bounces off the walls like a pinball.
The Philadelphia Eagles signed rookie cornerback Rashad Barksdale to a four-year contract on Wednesday.
A sixth-round draft choice out of Albany, Barksdale (5-11, 208) walked on to the football team as a senior in August of 2006. Although he asked to play running back, he was sent to the defensive side of the ball to play safety before moving to cornerback. Despite not playing football since high school, Barksdale started in 10 games and registered 37 tackles, three interceptions, and three knockdowns en route to Football Gazette Mid-Major All-America and All-Northeast Region honorable mention accolades.
To me, A-Rod has always been the ultimate stats guy and the geeks who worship at the altar of Bill James haven't been able to convince me of his greatness.
The Phanatic Magazine
Well, it seems as if my arrogant plea for feedback basically backfired on me…save for the Herpen lemmings.
However, since I so thoroughly enjoyed the alleged “research” I did on my previous list piece, I’m inspired to do yet another very similar exercise. Hell, I seem to be my own best audience at this point, so more “Lists a la JG,” I say.
(And less cowbell, please.)
For example, check out this following roster:
Centers: Nazr Mohammed, Dikembe Mutombo, Chris Webber
Forwards: Bruce Bowen, Jerry Stackhouse, Matt Harpring, Matt Barnes
Guards: Allen Iverson, Raja Bell, Eric Snow, Larry Hughes, Greg Buckner
The preceding was the All Former Sixer Playoff Roster, 2007 Version.
And before you glance up and blow it off, consider this: Every player on that list started for their respective teams at some point during this postseason except for the forgotten Mohammed (who was, in fact, a starter before Webber came along), Mutombo (who, even at 100 years old, started 33 games this year) and Stackhouse (eight starts this season and one of the best sixth-men in the league).
A starting lineup of Iverson, Hughes, Bowen, Harpring and a non-dogging Webber with Stackhouse, Barnes and Bell first off the bench doesn’t sound too shabby now, does it?
Speaking of Webber, here are his stats for Game 4 against the Cavs:
20 minutes, 2 points (1-3 FG, 0-2 FT), 3 rebounds, 1 assist, 2 steals, 0 blocks. Now that’s Charmin soft!
(Upon further review, perhaps expecting him not to dog it, even when the games matter now, might be asking for too much at this point.)
Heading into last night’s game, the Phils were 13-2 when Greg (“The Natural”) Dobbs started. Dobbs, you may recall, was an anonymous afterthought heading into Spring Training, his name sandwiched somewhere between the dead guy and the dude who played his winter ball in the Mexican Penal League.
Dobbs is making $385,000 this season, basically the minimum. He’s also currently batting .300 and on pace to hit at least 20 homers if he keeps playing.
Meanwhile, the “planned” offseason acquisitions are have the following salaries:
Wes Helms: $2,300,000 (plus zero home runs and a lifetime supply of “Off the glove of Helms” calls by Harry Kalas)
Rod Barajas: $2,500,000 (and comes with his own “Ole” red cape to invite opposing runners to score on him at will)
Jayson Werth: $850,000 (and…um, has he even played? The dude’s been quieter than Pat Burrell’s bat with a two-strike count)
Further-meanwhile, Chris Coste is wondering what the hell he needs to do, aside from unmentionable lewd favors toward management, to finally stick around.
Further-meanwhile-footnote: More than $16 million – or a little less than a fifth of the total payroll – goes to funding the trainwreck better known as the Phillies bullpen. Three quarters of it is invested in the disabled list at this time.
Here’s another number for another sport: 76.
That’s the channel, on basic cable, on which I finally found Versus, just in time for the Stanley Cup.
Channel 76. The NHL. Once viewed by millions across North America. Now viewed by people you can name. How is Gary Bettman still employed?
The following list certainly can’t be the reason why:
- California, Ontario, North Carolina, Alberta, Florida.
Those are the locations of every Stanley Cup participant since 2004. Doesn’t look like hockey will be overtaking NASCAR, or boxing, or the World Series of Spelling, anytime soon.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
By John McMullen
The Phanatic Magazine
Who or what is the biggest train wreck in popular culture today?
Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton are all good guesses but the real answer is the New York Yankees.
At least the meth-pack are interesting water-cooler fodder, mildly entertaining and good for a wardrobe malfunction every couple of weeks. The 2007 Yankees, with their $195 million dollar payroll, are a blight on the major league landscape.
I realize after 26 world championships and a decade straight of playoff baseball, no one is feeling all that sorry for "The Evil Empire" but it is amazing the talent-laden Bronx Bombers are floundering.
After yet another loss on Monday, Joe Torre's lackluster club now finds itself with a 21-28 record, tying them for last place in the American League East with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. Of course, the Rays' payroll is the lowest in baseball, just $2 million more than Alex Rodriguez gets every single season.
So, maybe shopping at the Walmart clearance aisle is the way to go. There are many reasons for the Yankees downfall and $195 million hasn't bought the club any pitching or clutch hitting. It also hasn't given a bunch of All-Stars, the sense of urgency it takes to be a great baseball team.
That said, the downfall of this dynasty begins and ends with the skipper. I'm not about to play the role of Bill Conlin or Howard Eskin here and claim Torre is a moron who can't figure out the double switch or hasn't mastered the intricacies of the simplest game on the planet.
If football is chess, baseball is checkers. A smart fifth-grader could master the strategy it takes to be a major league manager in one afternoon. Simply put, piloting a baseball team is all about managing egos and staving off skin cancer.
But, Torre is doing a spot on impression of Doug Moe right now. I can't pinpoint the day he checked out but it's clear that the Yankees mentor cares little about his team any more. I guess four rings and a meddling owner can spark complacency.
So the next time you want to rip Charlie Manuel. Take a deep breath and be grateful...At least he cares.
The Philadelphia Eagles today announced that former end Dick Humbert passed away on Wednesday, May 23, at the age of 88 in Richmond, VA.
Humbert played 60 games with the Eagles in 1941, 1945-49, and was a member of their back-to-back NFL Championship teams in 1948-49. He caught 68 passes for 731 yards and 6 touchdowns on offense and posted 14 interceptions on defense. Nicknamed “Banana Hands” by his teammates for his large hands, he led the team in receptions (29) during his rookie season of 1941 and in interceptions (7) during his final season in 1949.
Humbert was commissioned by the United States Navy in 1942 and served three years as the commander of a submarine chaser, until being discharged with a rank of Lieutenant in 1945. He received his B.A. degree from the University of Richmond, where he lettered in four sports – football, basketball, track, and basketball. Following his playing career, Humbert returned to his alma mater to serve as a coach, professor, and administrator.
Humbert was born on December 31, 1918, in Reading, PA. He is survived by a brother, Jack, two sisters, Priscilla Bischoff and Susannah Moore, two stepchildren, four grandchildren and three stepgrandchildren.
The Phanatic Magazine
Can the two NBA Conference Final series be going in anymore of polar opposite directions?
In one series you can't bribe a ref to blow the whistle, while in the other you can't even sneeze without getting T'ed up.
Everyone knows that the Pistons and Spurs are the cream of the crop and are on their way to meeting each other for the second time in three seasons, but do they really need the help of the refs?
It's clear that the NBA wouldn't mind having King LeBron in the Finals but the most attractive matchup is between Detroit and San Antonio.
What was a 63-62 Spurs lead heading into the fourth quarter of Game 4 in Utah last night quickly became a blowout as Manu Ginobili proceeded to get every call on his way to a 15-point fourth quarter, including 11-of-13 from the charity stripe.
Ginobili took nearly seven times as many free throws in the final frame as the entire Jazz team. Utah had a pair of free throw attempts with almost 3 1/2 minutes left to play in the game, and by that time San Antonio had scored its last six points at the line and Utah was down by nine.
The Spurs had 10 more makes (30) at the line than Jazz had attempts (20).
San Antonio's points from the line in the fourth quarter (19) outscored the entire Jazz team (17).
It doesn't take a genius to figure out that when a team connects on 47 percent of its shots from the field, compared to 41 percent from its opponent, that team A should win the game. That wasn't the case last night.
Ginobili is a really good player but I've never seen a player get that kind of treatment since His Airness. And you Manu Ginobili are no Michael Jordan.
The refs gave the Spurs the game and most likely a trip to the NBA Finals.
I'm sure basketball fans woke up and did a double take when they found out that Derek Fisher of all people was ejected from the contest.
The saying goes that a playoff series doesn't begin until a team wins a game on the road, but Joe DeRosa, Steve Javie, and Ken Mauer probably just ended a series in last night's 91-79 Spurs romp.
Then there's the Pistons-Cavs series where you have to be bleeding or have a broken bone for a whistle.
That style of play definitely favors the Pistons, but there is something to be said for letting the action on the court determine the winner.
At least the officials in that series are consistent. It's hard to say that one team has been the recipient of majority of the calls in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Throughout the first three games of the Cavs-Pistons battle Detroit has taken just three more free throws.
However, the story in this series isn't about calls or no-calls, but the play of James, who passed up a shot to win Game 1 and had a poor shooting performance in Game 2 only to come back and take over Game 3.
Who means more to the Association? Is it Ginobili or LeBron? It's always been an unwritten rule that the stars get the benefit of the calls, but James can't couldn't sell a kidney for a whistle.
The number is so astounding that it's worth mentioning again: Ginobili was 11-of-13 from the charity stripe in the fourth quarter of Game 4. James, who in Game 1 did not shoot a free throw for just the second time this season and the sixth time in his 342-game career, has 16 total attempts in the series.
And you Manu Ginobili are no LeBron James.
Monday, May 28, 2007
The Phanatic Magazine
The 1987 Stanley Cup Finals were rapidly approaching June, and the Oilers were on the verge of winning their third Cup in four seasons.
Game 6 returned to the Spectrum in South Philadelphia on Thursday, May 28th, with Edmonton holding a three games to two series lead. It could have been, should have been all over two nights before but the Oilers blew leads of 2-0 and 3-1 in Game 5 as the Flyers shocked the hockey world by pulling out a thrilling 4-3 win at Northlands Coliseum thanks to Brian Propp’s four assists and Rick Tocchet’s game-winning goal.
However, the shift away from the distractions of home seemed to power the visitors, who scored twice in the first period and out shot the Flyers by an incredible 15-5 margin. The goals were not classics, as Kevin Lowe scored when he booted in a wraparound pass by Wayne Gretzky then Kevin McClelland stuffed home the rebound of Craig MacTavish’s shot in close.
Philly seemed tired and lost until Lindsay Carson’s goal with a little more than seven minutes gone in the second cut into their deficit. Even then luck was a huge factor since Oilers goalie Grant Fuhr appeared to stone Carson cold on the shot, only to see it trickle through his pads and curl inside the right post.
Down by a goal heading into the third, the Flyers had only 13 shots, came up empty in four power-play chances, and gave up a shorthanded goal. It looked like Edmonton had the game wrapped up in a defensive shell, until Glenn Anderson decided to turn his stick into the side of Peter Zezel’s face with 7:39 to play.
Propp tied the game with a beautiful snap shot which beat Fuhr’s glove in the top left corner 43 seconds later and finally things were looking a lot less bleak. Over a minute later, J.J. Daigneault, little used in the game to that point stepped up to greet the puck and into franchise lore with 5:32 to play in regulation…
Of course, history records that after Daigneault’s go-ahead score, nothing else happened as the Flyers marched on to victory and Game 7 returned to Edmonton three days later.
Not so. Not by a long shot.
The Oilers kept coming in waves over the final five-plus minutes, and it took a heroic effort by each Flyers line to keep them at bay. Fuhr went to the bench for an extra attacker with just over a minute to go, and Tocchet had two chances to ice the game with an empty-netter but failed. After the second attempt with 20 seconds left, Paul Coffey fed ahead for the rush and Kent Nilsson’s missed outlet through center ice went into the Flyers’ zone. Hextall came out to the edge of the right circle to play it, and decided it was a good time to shoot for the empty net right up the center of the ice.
Except…Mark Messier smartly read the play, came zooming up the middle and used the full extension of his body plus a few inches off the ice to grab the clear. He skated in on Hextall with no Flyers player within 10 feet, and got off a shot which Hexy kicked out - but right back to Messier, who thankfully pushed the second shot over the net. He backhanded a blind clear through the crease all the way back to defenseman Randy Gregg, but his weaker point shot was knocked down by Mark Howe’s thigh with two seconds to go.
When the clock finally hit three zeroes, the Spectrum crowd erupted with a sonic thrust that did not subside for almost 15 minutes. Gene Hart’s call of those final frantic seconds was almost unintelligible on TV and radio due to the noise bouncing off the walls of the venerable arena.
Wrote Al Morganti in the opening paragraph of his story in the following day’s Inquirer: “This was the type of comeback, the type of gut-busting effort, with which the Flyers have established a very special place in Philadelphia sports history.”
Narrator Earl Mann put it more dramatically in “Blood, Sweat and Cheers,” the story of that 1986-87 squad: “The legend of this team and this series will live on forever for those that witnessed it.”
For anyone under the age of 40, this remains the defining moment in Flyers history. Even the surprise run in 1995, the first three-quarters of the 1997 playoffs, and the miraculous 2000 journey all pale in comparison collectively.
The buzz in the whole Delaware Valley over the next three days was so positive and wondrous, because the Stanley Cup was there for the taking in a deciding seventh game. We should all be so lucky if a future Cup winning Flyers team garners one-third the respect the 1987 team earned.
For now, 20 years to the day, it’s nothing more than a distant poignant memory, caught up in the emotion of the ensuing years of heartbreak.
The Phanatic Magazine
Hello compadres, sorry I skipped the Conference Finals preview, but your's truly was busy looking for a new apartment and it sort of skipped my mind. In case you're wondering I would have picked Anaheim and Buffalo, honest injun.
Well we are now down to the Final Two in the chase for Lord Stanley's Cup and the one thing we are guaranteed is that there will be a new team etched on the Cup sometime in June.
So without further adieu, lets take a look.
Anaheim Ducks (48-20-14)
After putting together the best regular season in franchise history and winning their first division title, the Ducks ripped through the playoffs, disposing of Minnesota in five games, Vancouver in five games, and the favored
Red Wings in six games.
The big reason for their regular season and postseason success has been the off-season acquisition of defenseman Chris Pronger from Edmonton. He is currently leading the team in the postseason with 14 points (three goals and 11 assists) and is also a plus-six. He has also gotten into some rough housing as he had to sit out Game 4 after getting suspended for a hit to the head of Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom.
Complementing Pronger on the blueline is captain Scott Niedermayer, who has tallied three goals and six assists in the postseason. All the goals, though, have been important as he tied Game 5 against Detroit in the waning moments of regulation and his other two tallies were overtime winners.
Both Pronger and Niedermayer, who have each won a Norris trophy, have been nominated for the award this season.
The big beneficiary of the Anaheim defensive corps has been goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The 2003 Conn Smythe winner is looking to potentially win the award again as he has posted a 9-3 record with a 1.87 goals-against average and a .931 save percentage. Also, he has won four of the five overtime games he has been in this postseason and is 12-1 all-time in his playoff postseason career.
In addition to the three mentioned above, Ryan Getzlaf, Teemu Selanne and Samuel Pahlsson all are in double-digits in points to help the team to the Cup finals. Selanne is playing in the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in his 14-year career.
This is the second time Anaheim has reached the Stanley Cup finals in franchise history. The other appearance was in 2003, when the team was downed by the New Jersey Devils in 2003.
Lastly, thank God the team took the word "Mighty" out of its name before the start of the season cause I think it would have been a travesty to have the name "Mighty Ducks" on that hallowed chalice.
Ottawa Senators (48-25-9)
For several seasons this team would have fantastic regular seasons only to get embarrassed early in the playoffs. This club carried the stigma of underachievers due to their poor playoff performance, but all that is in the
past now as the team has reached the Stanley Cup finals for the first time in franchise history.
Appearing in the playoffs for the 10th straight season, the Senators needed just five games to knock out Pittsburgh, New Jersey and Buffalo to reach the finals. Having played just 15 games, Ottawa should be very fresh for its upcoming shot at the Cup.
The main reason Ottawa is in the Stanley Cup is the play of its top-line, which had dominated in the offensive zone all season and has not let up in the playoffs, scoring 23 of the team's 48 goals.
Team captain and right wing Daniel Alfredsson is one-third of the juggernaut that has opponents quaking. The Swedish winger has a team record 10 goals in the postseason and a total of 17 total points.
Playing the other wing is Dany Heatley, who is leading the Senators with 21 points (six goals, 15 assists) and center man Jason Spezza is second with 20 points on seven tallies and 13 assists.
The Senators record for points in a single playoff run before this year was 16, a mark set by Marian Hossa in 2003.
The top line overshadows what has been just as important to the Senators success in the playoffs, its top notch defensive unit, which is anchored by Wade Redden. The veteran leads a blueline unit that includes scoring
defensemen Joe Corvo and Tom Pressing. Anton Volchenkov provides a physical presence on the ice and helps keep the front of the net clear.
Benefiting from the excellent defensive play is goaltender Ray Emery, who has a 1.95 goals against average, .919 save percentage and three shutouts. While Emery is not a dominant goaltender, he makes the saves when he needs to and doesn't make any stupid plays that could lead to easy goals for the opposition.
Outlook for the Finals
The one thing we are guaranteed from this Stanley Cup is a new name on it, and along with that we are guaranteed an exciting finish to the end of the season.
At first glance, Ottawa seems to be the better team in this matchup, but the Ducks have been playing just as good as the Senators and don't expect a four-game series this year, not that we've had many of them lately.
The Senators top unit cannot be shut down completely by the Anaheim defense, despite how strong the Ducks blueline is, and Alfredsson, Heatley and Spezza will light the lamp. However, what will help the Ducks is keeping out of the box and not letting the top three from having extended power play time. The Ducks, though, have taken a lot of penalties in the postseason and the Senators power play is working at a 20 percent clip.
Pronger and Niedermayer help out Giguere immensely, and much of the fate of this series will lie on his shoulders as he will be called upon to make some key stops to keep the next several games from becoming shootouts. His
experience will give the Ducks the edge in goal, as the previous Conn Smythe winner has been in this situation before.
Both teams are well rested so energy shouldn't be much of a problem. Look for these teams to come out the gates with the bit chomping between the teeth and look for some possible early sparks to set up a grudge match down the stretch.
Ottawa tends to jump out to an early lead and then never let the skate off the throat of the opposition. If Anaheim can keep from falling behind early, hold off the top-line attack, and play good on special teams, the Ducks' chances improve vastly.
However, the top line of the Senators is something special and will probably be too much for the Ducks to handle.
The Cup is going back to Canada for the first time since 1993 ladies and gentlemen.
Ottawa in six.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
The Phanatic Magazine
Former Villanova basketball star Howard Porter died Sunday due to injuries sustained last week near his Minneapolis, Minnesota home. He was 58.
Porter, a probation officer, was found a week ago severely beaten in an alley in North Minneapolis. Details remain unclear about what exactly happened, as the police have made no arrests and currently have no suspects.
"The entire Villanova family is saddened by the news of Howard's death," stated Villanova head coach Jay Wright. "Howard provided so many Villanovans with thrills on the basketball court playing for Coach (Jack) Kraft. Since his playing days ended, he has been an outstanding role model for our current players and coaching staff."
Porter, one of the greatest players ever to play at Villanova, averaged 22.8 point per game and 14.8 rebounds in 89 career games for the Wildcats from 1968-71. He was a three-time All-American and helped lead Villanova to the 1971 NCAA Final. His No.54 jersey was retired in 1997 and he remains the school's all-time rebound leader with 1,317.
"Howard was a kind, gentle, and humble man who loved his family and Villanova," added Wright. "We will all miss him."
Friday, May 25, 2007
The Philadelphia Eagles today announced they have agreed to terms with S C.J. Gaddis on a four-year contract. Gaddis became the third Eagle draft pick to reach an agreement on a contract, joining LB Stewart Bradley and RB Tony Hunt.
A fifth-round draft choice out of Clemson in 2007 (159th overall), Gaddis decided to enter the NFL draft after his junior season in which he recorded two interceptions, two forced fumbles, and a half sack.
In his three-year career for the Tigers, Gaddis (5-11, 206) served time at both safety positions, cornerback, and strong side linebacker, recording 117 tackles, five interceptions, and four forced fumbles. Gaddis was originally recruited to Clemson as a quarterback before shifting to defense in 2004.
The Phanatic Magazine
The Philadelphia Phillies announced good and bad news on Friday. Reigning NL MVP Ryan Howard was activated from the disabled list while closer Brett Myers was placed on the 15-day DL.
Howard, who had been out with a left quadriceps strain, completed a two-game rehab assignment with Single-A Lakewood, going 2-for-6 with a home run, double, four RBI and two walks. Before the injury, Howard got off to a rocky start this season, hitting just .204 with six home runs and 23 RBI.
To make room for Howard on the roster, catcher Chris Coste was optioned to Double-A Reading.
Myers, meanwhile, suffered a right shoulder strain after throwing a wild pitch in the Phillies' 8-7 extra-inning win over Florida on Wednesday. This is his first trip to the DL in his major league career.
Myers, the club's Opening Day starter, had excelled since he was moved to the bullpen. In 18 relief appearances, Myers is 1-0 with a 2.61 ERA and six saves in seven opportunities. He also led all NL relievers in strikeouts (32) and strikeouts per nine innings (13.9) at the time of his injury.
To take his spot in the bullpen, Philadelphia purchased the contract of left-hander Mike Zagurski from Reading. The 24-year-old Zagurski began the season in Single-A Clearwater before he was promoted to Reading. In 18 combined appearances, he had five saves, a 1.16 ERA and 38 strikeouts in 23.1innings while holding opposing hitters to a .104 average.
The Phanatic Magazine
There are so many addictions in life. Drugs, alcohol, food, internet porn...You name the fixation and you can bet there is a PhD somewhere writing about how it ruins lives.
But, what about sports? That might be the most powerful opiate of all, at least to a certain group of fanatics that failed to learn it's all just entertainment.
And, Philadelphia is loaded with these losers. People more concerned about ending that 24-year old drought than focusing on building a family or contributing to society.
In fact, it's only a matter of time before Philly creates its own Robert Comer.
Comer, who was sentenced to death for fatally shooting a man in 1987, was the first person to be executed in Arizona since November 2000 on Tuesday.
The murderer actually brought a picture of his daughter with him to the death chamber but instead of using his last words to talk about how much he loved that daughter or how sorry he was for his crime, Comer smiled and used them to say, "Go, Raiders."
A stunning lack of maturity by a man who probably lost touch with reality sometime ago.
I mean the Raiders?
How about E-A-G-L-E-S...
Editors note: Greg Wiley is on sabbatical while he tries to find Adam Dunn's power.
Baseball is a game of streaks. About a week ago, my roto team was ninth place overall in a close 10-team league. One good weekend that saw my starters go 4-1 with about a million strikeouts, as well as Mark Teixeira and Travis Hafner go deep, and I vaulted into a tie for first.
Again, it's early so we are all still close in the early stages of the season, but encouraging none the less.
So here is my point. Don't be afraid -- taking transaction fees or real-life bids into consideration -- to keep a roster spot or two for rotating streaky players. Just don't get too attached like I did last season with Mike Jacobs and Jason Marquis.
Rushton's hot list:
Justin Morneau, 1B, Minnesota Twins - At least one reigning MVP is finding his stroke. Morneau has three home runs and eight RBI over the last week, and has upped his average to .282 on the season.
Ichiro Suzuki, OF, Seattle Mariners - Ichiro is a classic example of a guy who helps you across the board. Over the last week, he has scored eight runs, swiped six bags, and is batting .394. He even hit a home run and is always a solid fantasy choice.
John Smoltz, SP, Atlanta Braves - Has thrown 14 scoreless innings over the last week while picking up a pair of wins. Also fanned 12 and has a WHIP under one.
Who to pick up this week:
Carlos Quentin, OF, Arizona Diamondbacks - Slowed by injury early in the season, Quentin is showing signs of getting it going. He had a five-game hitting streak last week and blasted a pair of homers with five RBI in a game against the Rockies.
Scott Baker, SP, Minnesota Twins - If you can stash him on your bench for another start or two, Baker may be a guy to grab now. The former highly-regarded second-round pick returned to the majors after a subpar 2006 and scattered two runs on six hits over 8 1/3 frames in a win over a talented and good-hitting Milwaukee club.
Bobby Crosby, SS, Oakland Athletics - Has had a solid last month, scoring 14 runs while knocking in another 14. Four of his last 24 hits have been homers, and he is hitting .284 over that span. Could be a short-term solution if your shortstop is slumping.
Rushton's cold list:
Carlos Delgado, 1B, New York Mets - Where has Delgado's power gone? He hasn't homered over the last week and has gone deep just three times this year with a .216 average. Is it his wrist? Either way, its tough if you own him because you can't give up on him. Possible replacement: None, you're stuck with him.
Chone Figgins, 2B, 3B, OF, LA Angels of Anaheim - And the Yankees want him why? Figgins, like Quentin was slowed early by an injury but he hasn't beenable to turn it around. The speedster hit just .176 over the last week, and hasn't been getting the hits to be a factor on the base paths. Possible replacement - Jose Lopez if Figgins is your second baseman.
Rich Hill, SP, Chicago Cubs - Hill set the world on fire at the beginning of the season, but has since cooled to three straight losses. His ERA also went from a mouth-watering 1.73 to 3.38 over that span. Possible replacement: None for now. Ride him out a little longer.
Leave your comments or fantasy suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Phanatic Magazine
Former Flyers star Rick Tocchet pleaded guilty to running a sports gambling ring on Friday.
Tocchet, who is currently on leave from his job as an assistant coach for the Phoenix Coyotes, pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to promote gambling and promoting gambling. First time offenders for such offenses rarely do jail time, however.
"Mr. Tocchet found the quick profits of sports bookmaking alluring," said New Jersey attorney general Stuart Rabner. "Of course, they also are illegal. He will now face a sentencing judge for the consequences of his actions."
Tocchet is the third man to plead guilty in the case, which New Jersey authorities named "Operation Slapshot." The others, including state trooperJames Harney, are expected to get jail time.
Tocchet was identified by the New Jersey State Police being the alleged partner and financier of Harney.
According to State Police, the investigation revealed a sports betting system that processed more than 1,000 wagers that exceeded a total of $1.7 million on professional and collegiate sporting events during a 40-day period.
The clientele of the ring included professional athletes, past and present, and celebrities. Janet Jones, the wife of hockey great Wayne Gretzky, was accused of betting but was not charged in the case.
The investigation began in October of 2005 when members of the New Jersey State Police Organized Crime Bureau discovered information that Harney was a partner in the bookmaking ring.
In addition, the investigation also led to the arrest of James Ulmer, who was charged with promoting gambling, money laundering and conspiracy, and revealed alleged ties to the Bruno-Scarfo crime family.
"Today's guilty plea is a fair and appropriate disposition for the crimes committed by Mr. Tocchet," said criminal justice director Gregory A. Paw. "I want to commend the State Police detectives who built a strong case from this complex and highly organized illegal sports betting ring."
Tocchet, who played for Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston,Washington and Phoenix in a lengthy career, scored 440 goals and 952 points in 1,144 regular-season NHL games.
The Philadelphia Eagles agreed to terms with rookie draft picks, LB Stewart Bradley and RB Tony Hunt, on four-year contracts Thursday.
A third-round draft choice out of Nebraska in 2007 (87th overall), Bradley (6-3, 254) led the Cornhuskers with a career-high 76 tackles, as a senior, after missing more than half of his 2005 campaign with a torn ACL in his left knee.
A third-round draft choice out of Penn State in 2007 (90th overall), Hunt (6-1, 233) earned All-Big Ten honors for the second time after his senior season, in which he recorded career-highs in rushing yards (1,386), total touchdowns (14), rushing touchdowns (11), rushing yards per game (115.5), and attempts (277).
The 21-year-old Hunt finished his career ranked first on the school’s all-time list in attempts (654), second in rushing yards (3,320), fourth in all-purpose yards (4,119), and sixth in 100-yard rushing games (15), eight of which came in 2006.
In 45 career games, Hunt produced 28 touchdowns (25 rushing, three receiving). In addition, Hunt became only the fifth player in Penn State history to rush for over 3,000 yards in his career (3,320), and the sixth to rush for over 1,000 yards in more than one season.
Thursday, May 24, 2007
The Phanatic Magazine
Ryan Howard went 0-for-3 on Thursday in his final rehab assignment with the Class-A Lakewood BlueClaws.
Howard flew out, walked, struck out and hit into a double play as Lakewood fell to the Hagerstown Suns, 8-6. That's in sharp contrast to Wednesday's performance, when the slugger hit a three-run homer, doubled and finished with four RBI.
The first baseman is expected to rejoin the big-league club in Atlanta on Friday, and will likely be activated from the disabled list at that time.
Howard drew well over 16,000 fans during his two-day rehab stint in Lakewood.
The Phanatic Magazine
Some Phillies news and notes to pass along...
As reported earlier, Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan confirmed the original diagnosis that Brett Myers has a right shoulder strain.
That's good news, but the Phils aren't out of the woods quite yet.
Myers underwent an MRI today, the results of which aren't expected to be available until around game time Friday. The club won't really know what they're dealing with until then.
Davis to the rescue?
Should Myers need a trip to the disabled list, Pat Gillick hinted on Jody Mac's show on Thursday that Triple-A hurler Kane Davis may be called up in turn.
Davis-- a 6-3, 190-pound right-hander out of West Virginia, has a minuscule 1.76 ERA with a pair of saves in 13 appearances this season for the Lynx. The 31-year-old was originally drafted by the Pirates in 1993, and has spent time in the Cleveland, Milwaukee, Colorado and New York Mets organizations.
Chris Coste gets his first start of the 2007 campaign tonight...but it's at first base. There's reason to believe that he may be getting some PT in the near future behind the plate, though:
If you know Philly fans, Rod Barajas will immediately become the town's whipping boy after deciding to pull an ole on the Hanley Ramirez play during that horrific ninth inning on Wednesday.
Mix that with a desperate need for any available relief arm, and there's more than a good chance that Barajas will be shipped out of here sooner than later.
Tonight's starting lineup
1. ss Rollins
2. 2b Nunez
3. cf Rowand
4. lf Burrell
5. 3b Helms
6. rf Werth
7. 1b Coste
8. c Barajas
9. p Lieber
One final note
Tom Gordon is not expected back until the middle of June. In he and Myers' absence, the Phils will close by committee, Gillick said.
Tim appears on this page every Thursday. You can contact him at email@example.com.
The Phanatic Magazine
So far, it doesn't appear that Brett Myers' injury is all that serious.
The ace-turned-closer was re-examined this morning by Phillies head athletic trainer Scott Sheridan, who re-confirmed that Myers has a right shoulder strain. He is considered day-to-day.
Myers will undergo an MRI today at the Phillies’ medical network in Clearwater, Florida.
The injury occurred during a wild ninth inning against the Marlins on Wednesday, which saw Florida storm back to tie the game thanks to a series of miscues by the Phillies. Myers' second pitch to Miguel Olivo deep in that frame sailed wildly toward the backstop, and the right-hander immediately grabbed his shoulder before leaving the game.
"Something wasn't right when I threw the first pitch to Olivo," Myers said. "Then the second (pitch), I couldn't stop it. I didn't even know (where my control) was going.
"I don't think (my shoulder) popped or tore because if it did I wouldn't have any strength in it right now, but I have strength in it."
The Phanatic Magazine
So this space struck its first chord in yesterday's column, and its anger resides in Columbus, Ohio. You'd think unequivocally endorsing Greg Oden as the draft's top player would appease my Buckeye-loving friends.
But, like Jim Tressel at the all-you-can-eat recruiting table, they are greedy. Maybe they need to spend an extra semester in school because of too much partying during Ohio State's championship game run. Maybe they found out where I got my diploma.
It's a good possibility they have a man crush on Mike Conley, Jr.
Speaking of Conley, he was the focus of two rants from Buckeye Nation -- typed with anger straight into the email box of "Satan."
Let's kick off the Final 5 with those emails before rounding out our board. As always, shoot me off an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Roger (The Horseshoe, OH)
Al Thornton ahead of Mike Conley? Where was Big Al in the NCAA Tournament when Conley singlehandedly led the Buckeyes to victory with Oden constantly in foul trouble. The kid is left-handed, always a plus, is great with the ball and is unselfish. Thornton is a great athlete, but Conley is the better PLAYER. Moron. No wonder you write for this no-name BS.
First, the Horseshoe isn't all it's cracked up to be. Second, I believe if one single player and one single shot defined Ohio State's survive-and-advance run to the title game, it was Ron Lewis' heave to force OT in the second round against Xavier. Third, I'm not talking about the best college player, though I believe Thornton's resume over four years in the ACC stands up impressively against Conley's tournament run. Remember, Conley is a detriment at times on offense because of his lack of a perimeter game. NBA defenders will have an easier time controlling his dribble penetration, forcing him to improve on an inadequate deep game. Don't get me wrong, Conley is a great player and a pure point guard -- a pass-first guard who will make a big-time scorer happy at the next level, but I'm not sure he can change games. Thornton can, and that's why he just edged out your Buckeye.
Nate (Columbus, OH)
You are a moron. Did you even watch the NCAA Tournament? How did you ever get a job on this website? Mike Conley is smart, great with the ball and a finisher around the rim. He also has a fantastic mid-range game, a lost art in the NBA these days. Al Thornton? Another sports writer enamored with dunking.
You are falling for the trap as another casual fan with selective memory. I watched Conley play about a half dozen times in Big 10 conference games and his defenders consistently sagged off and forced him to hit the outside shot. He started making more in the NCAAs, opening up his dribble-drive-finish and dribble-drive-dish games, but he needs to hit those shots regularly before I start comparing him to the Andre Millers of the world. I agree, Conley does have a fantastic mid-range game, but I question his ability to utilize the pull-up jumper with longer, faster defenders riding his hip. It'll be interesting to see.
6. Mike Conley, Jr. (Ohio State)
There is plenty of pluses and minuses on Conley above. He'll be a good, solid point guard for many years. He's just not a GAME-CHANGER. O-H-I-O. O-H-I-O.
7. Jeff Green (Georgetown)
The reigning Big East Player of the Year may be the safest pick of the lot -- save God's two gifts to hoops. Green announced Wednesday he is staying the draft, but likely won't be selected until the early teens. MISTAKE! The Georgetown star's basketball IQ is genius, he understands the nuances of defense, allowing him to exploit individual weaknesses and holes in a team defense (i.e. the foul line in a 2-3 zone, a hard curl off a screen in man-to-man). He uses the window effectively from either block, has an underrated 16-foot and in game and rebounds well for his size. Green's only weakness may be the extension, or lack thereof, of his offensive game. He appears comfortable from the foul line and in, but at just 6-8 needs to develop somewhat of a perimeter game.
8. Al Horford (Florida)
Horford is ranked higher than this if I was measuring NBA-ready prospects. Another safe selection, Horford had an NBA body in high school, yet developed necessary complementary skills during the back-to-back title runs in the Swamp. The 6-9 forward is excellent on either block with his back to the basket, though he worked hard on and developed a nice 8 to 10 foot baseline face-up jumper during his junior season. Fundamentally sound on both ends, Horford utilizes his wide build on block-outs and is a superb interior passer. He is a can't-miss solid pro, but again not a game-changer. If he develops a foul line jumper and works on his legs to get some extra spring, that could change.
9. Acie Law (Texas A&M)
Law's face may appear next to "it" in the dictionary. Undersized and not as athletically gifted as his counterparts, Law just works harder in practice then takes that some tenacity to game action. Like a good coach always says, "you can't teach want to." Law wants to be a dynamic pro player and chances are he will fit in nicely as a combo guard with a decent long game, deceptive quickness off the bounce and the ability to finish during contact. Don't let his slender appearance fool you. The reigning Big 12 Conference Player of the Year is tough as nails, a mentality many pampered college athletes don't discover until they've been physically beaten once around the league. Law has a step up on players (Julian Wright, Thaddeus Young) more talented because of that trait. Stick him alongside or as a super sub with Hornets guard Chris Paul or Bobcats point man Raymond Felton, and you have a glue guy for years to come.
10. Spencer Hawes (Washington)
He has the prototype body and offensive skill set to match. But does he have the toughness, the wherewithal, that extra something inherent in all top-notch NBA big men? I'm not sure Hawes has discovered that mean streak, an aura of cockiness and confidence that elevates games and establishes reputations. The NBA is very much a reputation league, and you aren't going to the foul line 10 times a game or getting away with the extra step unless you BELIEVE you've earned it. That's the history lesson. In the present, Hawes is a fantastic face-up big man with solid rebounding skills. He uses his body well, it's a big body, but some question his footwork and agility on the defensive end of the floor.
Villanova University (Pa.) head coach Jay Wright, who most recently led the U.S. to gold at the 2005 World University Games, has been selected head coach of the 2007 USA Basketball Men’s Pan American Games Team.
"Jay Wright won a gold medal in 2005 at the World University Games and is a proven international coach and a tremendous college coach who will do an excellent job representing the United States," stated Men’s Collegiate Committee chair Jim Boeheim.
"It is a prestigious honor to be named head coach for the USA team in the 2007 Pan American Games. I’m grateful to te USA Basketball Collegiate Committee and the committee for their confidence in myself and our staff," said Wright.
The Pan American Games, held every four years in the year prior to the Olympics, are scheduled for July 13-30, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The men’s eight nation basketball competition is slated for July 25-29 and includes national teams from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Panama, Puerto Rico, Uruguay, U.S. Virgin Islands.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
The Phanatic Magazine
From The End of the Bench is trying something new post-lottery, looking into the crystal ball to determine the Top 10 collegiate players with the most career upside. I am not talking most "NBA ready", a phrase used to justify a pick on a talented shooter with "win-now" skills but little career longevity.
I'm not even discussing college's Top 10 players -- a list that would surely include Vanderbilt's Derrick Byars, the SEC Player of the Year who carried the Commodores within a Jeff Green bank shot and a sliding pivot foot from the Elite Eight.
I play NBA GM with one goal in mind. I'm not interested in ticket sales or marketing campaigns but rather focused on the players who can "Bring Me the Ring." China's Yi Jianlin does not warrant consideration because last I checked he didn't attend Hoops U.
Top 5: (6-10 unveiled on Thursday)
1. Greg Oden (Ohio State)
John McMullen, rejoice. I stand by my assertion, repeated by ESPN's Jay Bilas just last night, that Kevin Durant will have a greater impact right away, but no one can argue both Oden's upside and each franchise's need for a intimidating post presence as the centerpiece of a title run. Oden shoots with both hands, uses his body well on both sides of the floor and has quick feet for a man his size. A shot-blocking and rebounding machine, Oden is proficient around the basket and keeps the ball high, meaning he uses his height to his advantage around the rim. I do have questions about his floor intelligence in terms of foul trouble -- some NBA assistant will tell the big man to go straight up instead of tilting his wings on an obtuse angle. Yet, it shouldn't be as much of a problem at the next level, where officials allow more contact and players are bigger and stronger. That's the next concern: Oden needs to develop his body, which isn't NBA ready. He becomes winded too quickly and takes himself out of games on the low block when he's tired. Getting post position won't be as easy in the league, so adding 10 pounds of muscle and extra stamina are keys. That being said, he's 7-foot with a deft touch and a knack for protecting the rim. Like Pat Ewing in NY, Shaq in Orlando, Los Angeles and Miami and Tim Duncan in San Antonio, Oden should score and disrupt while allowing his talented frontline mates in Portland (Zach Randolph and LaMarcus Alridge) to score in space.
2. Kevin Durant (Texas)
No one in the draft has his skill set -- a 6-10 frame with a 7-foot wingspan, post-up moves, a face-up game and the ability to drain jumpers off the pass and bounce. Durant has it all, except for the muscle he will likely add before the season even begins. He's a scorer, and we know how NBA scouts love those players. The question that remains is, "How can he change the game when the shots aren't falling?" Durant had a few games, including the bow out in the NCAA Tournament, where double teams affected his ability to make shots and in turn flustered him on both ends. He's a B or B- defender with just average rebounding and passing ability. His court sense is slightly above average, but no one will confuse him with Albert Einstein in shorts. Granted, he scores in so many ways that lengthy dry spells are unlikely. He should thrive in the ISO and pick-and-roll sets of the NBA, but he needs to improve his intangibles to have a historic, game-changing career.
3. Brandan Wright (North Carolina)
Raw is the word I'd use to describe this UNC freshman. He's likely less NBA ready than Florida forward Al Horford, but his upside is limitless. Wright has the wing span of a condor, flying through the air, swatting and altering shots from in close. His touch around the rim is second to none. When Brandan Wright obtains post position and gets the feed on either block, it's money in the bank. He shot almost 60 percent from the floor during his one season in Chapel Hill. While he can already score and alter, Wright needs to improve his body and face-up game at the next level. In today's game, 6-10 forwards can shoot foul-line jumpers, something Wright never truly worked on with the Tar Heels. He never worked a defender off the bounce in the face-up game nor shot a jumper off the pass. His wiry frame will get beat to death at the next level, so pushing for an NBA body may take a year or two of bumps and bruises. His wing span and touch for a big man have him rated this high, as does my belief that his work ethic will quickly push him toward improvements in the areas listed above.
4. Corey Brewer (Florida)
When I see Corey Brewer play, I immediately think a slightly smaller version of Scottie Pippen. Brewer has an adequate long-range game, can take a defender off the dribble and rebounds well for a 6-8 shooting guard (small forward in the NBA). Yet, what sets Brewer apart from the rest is his work ethic, intangibles, and dogged defensive pressure. Brewer is a floor general, always aware of time and place in each set and defense. He hedges well off on-ball screens, making him a perfect defensive weapon in the spread and slip NBA offensive scheme. His on-ball defensive skills bring him comparisons to Pippen, with the long arms and quick feet to disrupt stand-still jump shooters and penetrating swingmen. Yet, he doesn't take his natural skills for granted by playing token D on the ball. He's in your grill when you have the ball, and plays excellent help defense when the ball is miles away on the opposite wing. Brewer is never going to be a 20-point per game scorer at the next level, but I can see lines that look like 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals on a nightly basis. Those players have long careers at the next level. Brewer won't be a sexy pick like Mike Conley, Jr. or Julian Wright, but he'll have a better pro career than both.
5. Al Thonton (Florida State)
This was a tough decision. I looked at various players with various styles, trying to fit their pieces into the NBA puzzle. Thornton's piece just fit naturally. In the rights of full disclosure, I saw Thornton play a lot last season (probably 10 or 12 times). I always came away highly impressed. He didn't have the best supporting cast, playing with the bullseye on his chest nightly, yet he always put up his 20 points and seven or eight rebounds. Out of the top 5, Thornton may have the best NBA body -- 6-7 and built like a freight train. He is Durant Lite on the offensive end, but the Texas forward's superior on the glass and defensive end of the floor. Like Durant, Thornton can score off the dribble, in space or surrounded by trees in the paint. Unlike Durant, Thornton moves well off the ball, weaving through screens because his size doesn't allow him Durant's advantages on the block. His athleticism may be unmatched in this draft. He handles contact well and finishes after fouls. He is a streaky long range shooter and sometimes becomes frustrated with an off shooting night, so the mental side of the game needs some polish. Yet, if a team is looking for a wing scorer with an NBA body and isn't Seattle with the second pick, Thornton is not a bad alternative.
Where is Horford or Conley? What about Wright or Spencer Hawes? Who is the surprise name that cracked the Top 10? Find out in Thursday's installment of "From the End of the Bench" and email me your Top 5 at email@example.com
The Phanatic Magazine
John Lennon was right: Instant Karma – this time in the form of ping pong balls – certainly can get you.
And now, three flailing franchises have the chance at instant resuscitation.
Meanwhile, the NBA proved that the lottery works. Perhaps because it’s rigged, but it works, nonetheless.
The fact is that those three teams blatantly tanked the latter half of the season, especially when it became clear that the two prized possessions of the draft stood head and shoulders above the rest. In the end, they got their just desserts.
On the flip side, we can feel a sense of justification with the unsuspecting winners of the lottery.
The subsequent miscreants who represented the squad (and exponentially increased the aging process for Mo Cheeks) turned a once proud basketball town into the laughing stock of the league.
Even the Sonics, left for dead after giving away Gary Payton, come out of nowhere to win the once-powerful West, only to tease its loyal fans – who have been taunted relentlessly with the threat of a move recently – into an apparent one-hit wonder of a season.
A player of the ilk of a Greg Oden or a Kevin Durant, players who should have the firepower to eventually be linked synonymously with the city they play for, should certainly make it harder for the club to up and go away.
But even the Blazers have won a championship and the Sonics have at least played in one. The Hawks, on the other hand, have squat.
Ever since the Human Highlight Film, AKA Dominique Wilkins, decided to painfully extend his career elsewhere, it’s been a downhill ride for those in Hot-lanta. And the view has been hideous.
By the margin of one slot in the draft order, the Hawks will get to keep a pick which would have otherwise gone to the Suns’ run, commencing in 2008, as the next NBA dynasty (providing, of course, they stay on the bench when necessary). Instead, there now remains a chance for
On this side of the coast, would it feel more like vindication if our Sixers – who easily played with more heart and soul then any other lottery participant (and several playoff teams to boot) down the stretch – bumped up as well?
But you can’t argue with Instant Karma. And something tells me that the powers-that-be in the NBA knew that too