Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bud Bowl Bound

My lovely fiancee just won us a pair of tickets to the Bud Bowl! It should be a pretty good time; Snoop Dogg's hosting, 3 Doors Down will be playing there, and there will be a ton of celebrities mingling around. It's kind of funny because I never realized that there was a party that went with the Bud Bowl; all I remember is thinking as a kid how cool it was that beer bottles were playing a game of football. I haven't seen commercials about the Bud Bowl in years, so I didn't even realize it was still going on. Maybe, in the form that I remember, it isn't. Guess I'll find out Saturday night.

I feel it necessary to point out at this juncture just how much Gauri has changed me. In the past, I wouldn't even have thought to try to get into all of these events around the Super Bowl; I'd have been happy to just sit around the apartment all weekend, pig out, drink some beer, and watch the football game on Sunday, despite the fact that there would have been all of this stuff going on just a half hour away. With her, however, the plan is to go to the Pepsi Smash concert Thursday night, do the Bud Bowl Saturday night, and possibly go to the NFL Experience sometime in there. Plus, because she's so diligent at finding great deals, we're doing all of this for the very reasonable price of around $160 total. I love that woman!

Tune in at the beginning of next week to find out how I handled my brush with fame!

T.O. to Denver?

It's kind of a slow news day, so I'm forced to talk about 2005's most overexposed athlete, Terrell Owens. It seems that he had a "get-acquainted" session with Denver coach Mike Shanahan, who previously remarked that he wouldn't have a problem with taking on a star with a questionable history. My question is this: Why?! I apply that question to both parties involved, actually.

For Shanahan, you have to wonder if the man has completely forgotten about the 2005 preseason. He apparently has learned nothing at all from the Maurice Clarett experiment. The parallels here if Denver were to acquire T.O. would be obvious: both athletes would have shown questionable behavior in the past, and then would have shown no proof that they had changed but receive a second chance from the Broncos anyway. Some might bring up what T.O. can do on a football field and rightly point out that Clarett had never proven he could succeed in the NFL before being given that second chance, and they would be right. However, the risk is also far greater here. Clarett is merely self-destructive. T.O., on the other hand, has ripped apart the fabric of his team's chemistry, not just once but twice! In any sport, this would be a grievous offense, but it is especially so in football, where team chemistry is far more important than in any other sport. For Shanahan to risk this to bring in a shiny new offensive toy is a mark of true desperation, the kind that a conference championship finalist should not display.

As for T.O., I guess beggars can't be choosers. He should probably consider the overtures of any team foolish enough to bring him in after what he did to the Eagles this season. Still, even if, as I just noted, the Broncos made the AFC title game, does he really want to be chasing down passes from Jake the Snake? Owens felt the need to call Donovan McNabb's quarterbacking into question, so what do you think he's going to do after the 4th time Plummer hangs him out to dry over the middle in Week 1 of the 2006 season? I know he's supposed to be the new and improved Jake and all that, but based on what happened against Pittsburgh a couple Sundays ago, I'm not totally convinced. Plus, do you really think if Shanahan got T.O. in the Mile High City that the Broncos would continue with the same conservative passing game they showed for most of 2005? Not a chance. If they tried, T.O. would likely start doing chin ups on the Invesco Field crossbars during a game to protest his lack of touches.

Basically, no good will come of this situation, except this: 31 other teams' fans would be able to proudly say, "T.O.'s not my problem!" That would be the case anyway, but Shanahan may play a big part in deciding which 31 teams can make that claim.

Monday, January 30, 2006

League Spotlight - Better Late Than Never (Week 13)

League Standings After Week 13:

Lamp (Kelli Locker) 43-27
Swish (Eric Finke) 43-28, 1/2 GB
notaplayajstcrshalot (Jason Birkle) 42-28, 1 GB
Deeetroit Basketball (Steve Drobot) 40-32, 4 GB
D TOWN BALLERS (Anthony Williams) 39-33, 5 GB
Rambis's Heroes (Kirk Locker) 31-40, 12 1/2 GB
Sleazy Lawyers (Amanda Runyon) 25-45, 18 GB
Skinny White Kids (Kevin Locker) 20-50, 23 GB

Things are very tight at the top, with a big gap between the top 5 and the rest of the league, a fact that yours truly is none too proud of. However, I did see a glimmer of hope in the form of a 7-2 thrashing of my brother and archrival Kevin. Meanwhile, a changing of the guard happened at the top, with Kelli swapping a half-game deficit with a half-game lead to further tighten up the overall Sports Guru standings.

This week, a couple of the league's big guns get together as 2nd-place Swish and 3rd-place notaplayajstcrshalot go head-to-head for the second time this year. Eric's group escaped with a narrow 5-4 victory last time around, which is responsible for his current razor-thin lead over Jason.

Let's Play Mindreader with...Bob Castellini

The new owner of the Cincinnati Reds has promised swift action to bring championship baseball back to the Queen City. He backed up those words a week ago when he fired GM Dan O'Brien over philosophical differences. Already the Reds have interviewed no fewer than 7 candidates in their search for a new personnel boss that will run the team the way Castellini believes a ball club should be run. Which one of them will emerge from the interview process? Will a dark horse sweep in and take the title? Well, what do you think?

As always, Sports Guru points are on the line! You'll get 3 just for giving any answer. 5 additional points are available for a correct answer, with that number increasing to 10 if you answer within a week of this posting, and 15 if you answer within 2 days! Also, you get an additional 2 points if you were the first person with the correct answer. So, you can see it's in your best interests to answer quickly. However, remember that your first answer is the one that will count, so choose wisely as well. Good luck!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Super Bowl Pick 'Em

OK, the time is here! Get in your Super bowl picks. Pittsburgh is favored by 4 points over Seattle. Remember, when you leave your comment to submit your pick, you need to say what team you think will win and the score. Good luck!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Wally World Moving East

And the NBA trading floodgates have opened! After the Artest-Stojakovic deal finally went through officially yesterday, a huge trade has gone through between the Timberwolves and Celtics. Here's the whole trade:

Celtics get:
SF Wally Szczerbiak
C Michael Olowokandi
C Dwayne Jones
Future 1st Round Draft Pick

Timberwolves get:
SG Ricky Davis
C Mark Blount
PG Marcus Banks
F Justin Reed
2 Conditional 2nd Round Draft Picks

In fantasy terms, the players that matter in this deal are Szczerbiak, Davis and Olowokandi (barely). Szczerbiak is a sharp-shooting former All-Star filling it up at a career pace this season. However, I don't expect that to continue once he starts suiting up alongside fellow gunner Paul Pierce. Look for a drop of about 2 points per game from the 20.1 he has averaged up to this point. All other numbers are unlikely to change much. He's a scorer, plain and simple, so other categories aren't worth talking about much, anyway.

Davis is an interesting case. He is also scoring at a higher level than normal at 19.7 per game. He may not be regarded as an elite player, but he's exactly the type of slashing, athletic player that could thrive playing alongside Kevin Garnett. What the Wolves need is a guy that can take over a game scoring (Garnett simply won't; he's not that type of guy), and given Davis's propensity for selfishness in his Cavalier days (who can forget shooting at his own basket to get the last rebound for a triple-double?), it would seem that he is more than capable of filling that need. Of course, the Davis Minnesota is getting is much more mature than the one that chafed at the thought of playing a supporting role to then-rookie LeBron James in Cleveland. He willingly accepted a sixth-man role with the Celtics for a year and a half before starting all 42 games he played for them this season. So, it appears that the Wolves are getting the best of both worlds here, although I would expect his 5.3 AST and 4.5 REB per game averages to come down a bit by virtue of playing next to an all-world stat sheet filler in KG. However, he should make up for this with increased scoring, perhaps as much as 3 points per game depending on how well he meshes with the Big Ticket.

Olowokandi has slight relevance to the discussion only because he is a center, and fantasy-worthy centers are in short supply. Of course, the term "fantasy-worthy" can only be applied very loosely to the Kandi Man. He may grab a few extra rebounds here or there since KG won't be around to gobble them up anymore, but that's about it. Otherwise, he's still the same putrid player he's always been.

Any other thoughts out there about this deal? Let me know.

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

On Second Thought...

Well, well. It would appear that Amanda was right (see the comments from yesterday's post). My assertion that Sacramento got a great deal was based on Artest pulling a Vince Carter and playing hard while behaving for his new organization, at least for a while. Usually players do that when they force themselves out of places to prove some kind of point. In this case, however, I forgot to account completely for Artest’s inherent insanity. In retrospect, I shouldn't have been surprised that he's threatening to torpedo the deal, but I genuinely thought he wanted to play some ball. After what happened last year and now this debacle, though, I'm not sure of that at all. His recent actions make him look above all else like a perpetually attention-starved prima donna, which I guess isn’t exactly breaking news. This leopard simply doesn’t want to even try to change his spots, at least not right now.

On the flip side, it is now widely known that unless the Kings trade Peja before the deadline, they won't get a thing for him. There's absolutely no way now that he'll re-sign with them after being "disrespected", in his words. Frankly, I agree with him. How do you let a player who's given his entire 7 1/2 year career to your team find out that he's been traded by watching his hotel room's TV while getting ready to play a game for you? I always thought, even though I dislike the Kings, that the Maloofs ran a good organization. That impression, much like this trade could very well be, is up in smoke. After all, they’ve managed to not only completely botch their relationship with their best player, they’ve also severely undermined his trade value. Even if they can work a deal out by the trade deadline, they’re not getting anything close to equal value unless Artest can be convinced by the Maloofs to play in Sacramento. After this latest evidence of Artest's unreliability, I don't see why they'd want to.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Ramifications: Ron-Ron for Peja

The Indiana Pacers and Sacramento Kings just made a deal to swap volatile swingman Ron Artest for sharpshooter Peja Stojakovic. What does this trade mean? Let's find out...

Artest moves on after having played only 23 games in his last 1 1/2 seasons as a Pacer, due to his highly combustible personality (and desire to promote his record label?). So, the first question is: will Ron-Ron behave himself long enough to show his talents as one of the best all-around players in the league? Well, we've actually been down this road before with Artest, as he was a malcontent in Chicago before being traded in the middle of the 2001-02 season to Indiana. Once with the Pacers, he settled down for a while in an effort to make a good impression. So, it's likely that Kings fans will get a relatively calm honeymoon period before he starts to revert to his chaotic ways sometime next season. Of course, from a pure basketball sense, you have to want someone of his caliber on your team. There's simply nothing on the court that he doesn't do well, and his combination of height (6-7), size (260 pounds), and athleticism create matchup problems on both ends of the floor. After taking a few games to get back into top form (remember, he hasn't played in 7 weeks), he should put up comparable numbers to the 19 pts, 5 rebs, and 2.5 stl that he was posting before his trade demand. As a Lakers fan, I absolutely hate that this trade went through, because Artest is one of the better perimeter defenders in the league and now gets to give Kobe fits 4 times a year instead of 2.

On the flip side, though Stojakovic said recently he'd be willing to stay with the Kings for less money, Sacramento either didn't believe him or didn't want him. So he goes to Indiana. In trading for Peja now, GM Larry Bird's team ironically gets Peja's Larry Bird rights, which will enable the Pacers to spend over the salary cap to keep him. This obviously leaves them in a far better position to retain his services in 2006-07 and beyond than if they were bidding for him as another team's free agent. On the court, Stojakovic and Jermaine O'Neal become one of the most formidable inside-outside combos out there. The extra punch Peja brings to the lineup should really open things up for O'Neal, who didn't have much in the way of scoring help (Stephen Jackson's really more of a #3 scoring option on a good team). The rebounds might take a dip due to O'Neal's presence, but expect most of Stojakovic's numbers to remain fairly constant. The points might even go up a little bit, if that back gets healthy, since Stojakovic is having a decidedly sub-par year scoring.

On the whole, Sacramento got the far better end of the deal, with Indiana salvaging what they could out of a difficult situation. The ramifications for each player's fantasy owners probably are miniscule, as these players are good enough that they are who they are. Their teammates adjust to them, not the other way around. Of course, this means that Stephen Jackson owners can expect at least a minor hit to his point production. No one else of note is likely to be affected too much.

What does everyone else think?

Let's Play Mindreader with...Al Davis!

This will probably become a recurring feature on the blog, where we try to figure out what's going to happen in a situation where the mainstream media has no clue whatsoever. Guesses of any kind are worth 3 Sports Guru points, with 15 additional points given if you can guess correctly. So, let's play Mindreader!

Of the many NFL head coaching positions that became available shortly after the regular season, Oakland's has been the most challenging to figure out. No one seems to know what Al Davis, pro football's elder statesman of madmen, is thinking. Do you? Leave a comment saying who you think will coach the Raiders in 2006.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Chasing the Stilt

It seems Kobe was a little bit smarter in last night's assault on Wilt Chamberlain's elusive single-game scoring record than in the first. He decided to let the Raptors take a big lead so that he'd have an excuse to stay in for the full game this time, rather than taking a seat after 3 quarters in a laugher like he did in scoring 62 against Dallas a few weeks back. Yeah, maybe that's too cynical of a way to look at it, but as a Lakers fan, so I've seen too much of Kobe's manipulations not to have the thought cross my mind. I'm not saying that's how it went down, just that I wouldn't be surprised. I guess being a fan of the team, though, I am happy for Kobe, even if I didn't believe him completely when he said he cared only about the W (at least for his team's sake; he's always been about team achievements as they pertain to his place in basketball history, I guess).

So what's next for the former Next Michael Jordan? My money's on him taking at least one more good shot at Wilt's record this year. After all, he has a team on which no one else can create their own shot, an offense designed to create spacing and let him roam free, and a coach who's smart enough to know that their only chance on the offensive end is to turn the Mamba loose. Plus, you know Kobe, with all of his appreciation for basketball history, covets the honor like no one else in the League would. My only question is will he keep trying when opponents start getting wise and quadruple teaming him? He does remember how to pass, right?....

What do you think about Kobe's performance? Write in and let me know your take. Remember, you get a Sports Guru point every time you add something meaningful to the discussion, so don't be shy!

Need a reason to post comments? Here you go...

Just to let you know, any comments posted on any discussion piece I write (the first of which is coming very soon) that I feel add something to the debate will receive 1 Sports Guru point. If you keep reading the blog and putting your 2 cents in, that can really add up. Also, if you want to get even more involved in the forum, you can become a regular contributor and write postings yourself. You get 10 points for signing up to do this after you write your first article, and 10 extra points for each article you write. Leave a comment with your email address if you want more information.

Full disclosure announcement: Although I am myself competing in the Sports Guru Challenge, I won't give myself any extra points for writing posts or responding to comments. After all, part of my self-imposed job description is to inspire discussion on this forum, and I can't give myself extra credit for simply doing my job. Just thought you all should know.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

NFL Championship Games Pick 'Em

Two games on the schedule this weekend, with a possible 20 Sports Guru Points on the line to get you started off. Here are the games (make your pick by posting a comment):

AFC Championship: Pittsburgh at Denver (-3)
NFC Championship: Carolina at Seattle (-3.5)

Remember to pick not just the winner, but also the score. A pick must be in by the start of the game in question to count. Good luck!

2006 Sports Guru Challenge Rules

As promised, here are the official rules for the 2006 LNM Sports Guru Challenge:

1. Points will be awarded for fantasy sports league performance as follows:
a) All participants taking part in each fantasy league are awarded 5 points.
b) In addition, each participant gets 5 points for each opposing team he/she beats in the regular season standings.
c) 5 points are awarded for each postseason win (including consolation games, if any), except for the postseason championship game, which is worth 10 points.
d) Results from multiple teams for each individual will be recognized for up to 4 total teams, but with diminishing returns. The best performing team for each individual will count for their full score, the next best for 75% of full score, the third best for 50% of full score, and the worst performing team will count for 25%.

2. Points will be awarded for the NCAA tournament bracket contests as follows:
a) All participants in each bracket contest are awarded 5 points.
b) In addition, 10 points are available to each participant for each round of the tournament. The percentage of those 10 points awarded will be equal to the percentage of correct picks for each round. After all rounds’ scores are added up, the total points will be rounded to the nearest whole number.

3. Points will be awarded for choosing the winner and score of individual real-life games (pick ‘ems) as follows (submissions must have been received before the start of the game in question to count):
a) Any selection submitted will be worth 3 points, right or wrong.
b) A correct pick will be worth 5 additional points.
c) A correct pick against the spread will be worth an additional 2 points.

4. The winner of the Sports Guru Challenge will win a prize of the entire pool of entry fees, with the following exceptions:
a) Anyone who participates in a LNM Sports-sponsored fantasy league or NCAA bracket selection, or who answers any pick ‘em question on this blog, is eligible to win the Sports Guru Challenge. However, to be eligible for any cash prize, you must have paid the entry fee of $5. Leave a comment on the blog with your email address to make arrangements for payment.
b) Further, to be eligible to a full payout of any cash prize to which you may be entitled, you must have paid the entry fee by March 31, 2006.
c) For anyone who has paid their entry fee after March 31, 2006 and is entitled to a cash prize as a result of their performance in the 2006 Sports Guru Challenge, a percentage of the total pool is paid equal to the percentage of their total points that are accumulated after receipt of their payment is acknowledged by email. For instance, if a participant accumulates 150 points over the year, is the winner, and accumulated 75 of those points after making payment in June, that person would receive 50% of the pool.
d) If any of the limitations under a), b), or c) apply, the next-placed person is considered for the remaining portion of the pool and a), b), and c) apply in the same manner. If a percentage payment applies to anyone after a percentage has already been awarded, any applicable percentage under c) for lower-placed participants applies to the total pool, not that remaining.
e) If a percentage to be awarded is greater than the percentage remaining, the participant gets the remaining percentage. In no case shall amounts in excess of the total entry fees received by the owner of this blog be paid as prizes.

5. A running list of LNM Sports-sponsored fantasy leagues and NCAA tournament bracket selection contests will be kept on the right side of the blog’s front page.
a) Anyone may suggest an addition to this list by commenting on the blog, but the owner of this blog has the final decision on whether it will be included.
b) The person who suggests a fantasy league or tournament bracket for the Sports Guru Challenge will be asked to provide a list of the names of people in the league or NCAA contest as well as the round-by-round results for an NCAA contest or the end-of-season standings and results of all playoff games for a fantasy league.
i) Failure to provide such a list within a month of the end of the contest/league in question will cause the results of said contest/league to be ignored by the Sports Guru Challenge.
ii) The only exception to i) is if the owner of this blog perceives a conflict of interest to be the cause of the missing submission. In such a case, the owner of this blog will take any necessary step to obtain the results of the contest and the individual refusing to submit the results will be disqualified from the 2006 Sports Guru Challenge without a refund.
c) The owner of this blog reserves the right to add any category of sports-related, knowledge-based competition to the Sports Guru Challenge. If this occurs, the scoring basis will immediately be posted on the blog and any results of said competition occurring before such posting will be ignored for purposes of the Sports Guru Challenge.

6. A ranking of the top 5 current scorers in the Sports Guru Challenge will be posted at random intervals on the right side of the front page of this blog.
a) A list of rankings of all competitors will be made available to any participant upon request; however, no more than one request per month will be honored for an individual participant unless the end of all LNM Sports-sponsored fantasy sports leagues for a certain sport or the end of the NCAA tournament has occurred since the date of the previous request.

7. Payment of an entry fee constitutes agreement to the above terms.