Saturday, October 28, 2006

Win James Dolan's Money, The Draft: The Finale

10/27, 12:10 PM: Kevin decides he doesn't care who he gets for his first 2 bench spots and lets the Yahoo list cast the die for him. He immediately regrets this decision when the second pick ends up being Starbury, whom he really despises. Guess I know who's going to be the first player to hit the waiver wire. His other pick here is another point guard in the form of the mercurial Mike James. Vern takes a page from Kevin's book in grabbing the injury-prone Larry Hughes.

6:30 PM: Amanda takes MoPete in a nod to her Michigan roots. I, too, reach back into my past for my next pick. Continuing the "If your college team couldn't beat them, join them" strategy I began by picking David West, I go with St. Joe's alum Jameer Nelson, a point guard that lighted it up after becoming the full-time starter in Orlando last year.

10/28, 12:53 PM: Jason takes Baron Davis, which means he really needs to grab the Baron's chiropractor in the last round for the handcuff pick. Logan's up next, and being the fantasy veteran he is, he realizes that even on a fantasy team you need a guy that does the little things. You know, like grab rebounds, guard the paint and look like the Hulkster. That's right, we have a Chris Kaman sighting, ladies and gentlemen! How do you follow that up? By taking the league's best flopper, Manu Ginobili, which Logan did. Back to Jason, who takes Rip Hamilton. Hard to imagine how such a good scorer dropped this far. This pick's so good that I have no joke here; I hate that. My last pick is up next, and I complete my Kiddie Corps bench by drafting Brandon Roy. He's already the starting 2-guard for the Jail Blazers, so as long as the Culture of Convicts doesn't get to him, he should see big minutes.

3:15 PM: Amanda clearly saw a lot of last year's playoffs, because she's taking Josh Howard here.

4:51 PM: Vern's going with Brendan Haywood, apparently oblivious to the fact that we're not doing a 2000 fantasy college basketball league...

8:22 PM: Kevin finishes things off with Andre Iguodala. Looks like Basedow is just going to have to settle for being Kev's fantasy team's fitness coach. With all of Kev's injury-prone players, that might be the most important job that team has.

There you have it, our first fantasy draft live blog. Hope you liked it. For me, it'll mainly be something to look back on when it's 5 weeks into the season and I'm wondering how I could possibly have thought it was a good idea to pick (fill in the blank).

Friday, October 27, 2006

Big 10 vs. SEC - A Different Perspective

We interrupt this coverage of the Win James Dolan's Money draft to bring you the SEC vs. Big 10 discussion I promised a few weeks back.

OK, here's the deal. We all know that the SEC is lauded year-in and year-out as the toughest college football conference in the nation. I don't have a particular reason to think that isn't true this year. But, I think there's more room for reasonable doubt than most are allowing.

How can I speak such blasphemy? It's surprisingly simple, really. How many marquee out-of-conference wins does the SEC have? I count only one, Tennessee's season-opening thrashing in Knoxville of Cal, who's looked pretty good since. By contrast, the Big 10 can boast of Ohio State's and Michigan's convincing road wins over Texas and Notre Dame respectively, both of whom are also otherwise undefeated. That same Wolverines squad also has the only win in this year's Big 10 vs. SEC series, a 27-7 victory over Vanderbilt, which in turn beat one of the SEC's big dogs (pun intended) in winning at Georgia.

But the SEC schools have ridiculously tough in-conference opponents, you say? Well, how do we really know? Before you call me crazy, just think about it for a moment. The polls tell us that the SEC has a lot of highly-ranked teams, but how did they get there? Save pleasant surprise Arkansas and not-so-pleasant surprise Georgia, their positions are largely based on preseason rankings. Only the aforementioned Volunteers have validated their rankings against superior outside competition. This may appear to boost Florida's case as well, but you can't play both the "on any given Saturday" and the "look at us, we beat a tough team" cards at the same time, which so many SEC partisans seem to do. And just for the record, the "on any given Saturday" phenomenon does not mean your conference has superior depth; it simply means that your conference is like any other one throughout the country. Every league has upsets; yours do not make your league special. Get over it.

What about the computers? Surely they know how to rate teams with imbalanced schedules, right? Well, any system that can rank a team that has struggled to get by most weeks (relying on gifts from opponents as often as not) ahead of a squad that hasn't won by less than 17 and with a win that dwarfs anything on the other teams' schedule doesn't earn my trust. As most of you know, I'm a numbers guy, but I can't put any faith in the BCS computers until USC drops behind OSU and Michigan, where it belongs.

Look, there's no doubt that some quality football is being played in the SEC. But until they do more to prove their worth on the field against meaningful outside competition, I won't acknowledge them as the undisputed best conference of 2006. Not that they care, of course, but I'm just saying.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Win James Dolan's Money, The Draft: Part 2

10/20, 9:45 PM: Amanda selects Chauncey Billups just ahead of our resident Detroiter. Vern counters with ‘Melo, whom the Pistons could have had if they had not instead chosen to mess with Darko’s head for a few years.

10:30 PM: Kevin, looking to recreate his wife’s strategy from last year of riding anyone named Wallace to victory, grabs Ben and Rasheed. William Wallace, sadly, is unavailable, although I’m convinced he would have made a killer undersized PF, not to mention the leadership skills he undoubtedly would have brought to the locker room. Vern needs a PG, so he goes with Jason Terry.

10/21, 2:05 PM: Amanda opts for the stat-stuffing Lamar Odom, probably because she somehow knew I was thinking about him at the next spot. The guy I really wanted, though, is still here, so I take Dwight Howard. I’d been waiting on him for a few rounds, but finally decided I couldn’t wait any longer. I now have last year’s two best rebounders, and I think DH is going to continue to improve his scoring as well. Jason grabs the first Buckeye of the draft, Michael Redd, followed by Logan taking Antawn Jamison and Mike Bibby, who I was starting to consider for next time. Apparently, Jason’s in my head, too, because he takes Joe Johnson. So, down to Option C for my 6th round pick, I decide that I need to put a stop to Kevin’s Wallace Plan by taking Gerald of the Bobcats. In addition to it being my brotherly duty to put a wrench into Kev’s plans, a quick look at last year’s stats reveals that Gerald Wallace might be Ron Artest, minus a little scoring but also with much less potential for a season-ending fight. Works for me!

3:35 PM: Amanda takes Jermaine O’Neal, who I was considering for filling my increasingly gaping hole in the middle but ultimately decided against taking on his injury risk this early.

6:25 PM: Vern’s running a little late on this pick, so I give him a call to see what’s up. Turns out he’s at B-Dubs watching the Tigers in the World Series. How dare he! I suppose I’ll forgive it just this once…anyway, he wants Jason Richardson. Done.

10/24, 8:47 AM: After a semi-brief hiatus while I was recovering from being under the weather, we pick things back up with Kev. He goes for Josh Smith and Rashard Lewis, both of whom were under consideration for my next pick. Clearly, he’s still miffed about me breaking up the Wallace Trifecta.

12:05 PM: Vern gets Boris Diaw, saving me from having to get a player I grew to hate during last year’s playoffs but also depriving me of the best available center. Amanda decides that she wants to act on Gauri’s comment about “Kirk playing for her team” by picking up Kirk Hinrich. The only problem I see with that pick is that she’s already down one game the first week of the season at Hinrich’s position (keeping in mind that Dwyane Wade has already fouled Hinrich and almost every other Bulls guard out of next Tuesday’s game). I’m next, and I decide enough is enough with not having a center. This is usually one of the first positions I fill, although in past years I tend to do it with guys like Dirk, who are centers in Yahoo eligibility only. In keeping with the latter trend, my selection is Mehmet Okur, who had a breakout season a year ago. Jason follows up with Richard Jefferson, a favorite of his. I’ve been in 3 fantasy hoops leagues with Jason in the last 4 years, and it seems to me that 2 things have remained constant: his team name (notaplayajstcrshalot), and the presence of Richard Jefferson.

4:30 PM: Logan took one look at his roster and saw a gaping hole in his team. He was sorely lacking one thing: Last Name Letters. He remedied this by taking Peja Stojakovic and Wally Szczerbiak. In doing so, he screwed me over yet again; I almost took Peja last time to balance the nearly Shaq-esque free-throw shooting of Gerald Wallace and Dwight Howard. Hey, speaking of Shaq, isn’t it funny that we’re 43 picks into the draft and haven’t heard the Diesel’s name yet? Jason sure thinks so. The Big Free-Fall’s wait ends at the #44 spot.

5:30 PM: Still reeling from the Peja debacle, I may have reached a bit by going with his new teammate David West. I’ve been impressed with West since his days of thrashing my alma mater a few times a year, but I’m not sure if I couldn’t have waited another round or two on him. This may start to keep me up at night if Chris Paul doesn’t feed him approximately 50 times a game. Brad Miller is Amanda’s pick at the next spot…I, uh, really can’t think of anything interesting to say about him, so I’ll move on…

9:08 PM: Vern takes the first member of the Jail Blazers, Zach Randolph. And no, I don’t think I’ll stop calling them that anytime soon.

10/25, 8:52 AM: Kevin takes his man, Marcus Camby, and follows that up with the injured Pau Gasol. He immediately makes Gasol and Bryant co-captains of his mash unit… I mean, fantasy squad in light of their leadership skills, which they displayed by managing to get hurt before the season even started. Seriously, Kev needs to rename his team the Grant Hill All-Stars. And yes, I have just ensured that meteorites will fall on each and every member of my fantasy team within the next week by making one too many jokes about the collective injury propensity of my brother’s roster. In other news, Vern takes sixth man extraordinaire Ben Gordon. Normally, I’d say Vern should be pretty concerned with Gordon fouling out of the Bulls/Heat season opener, but as he doesn’t play defense and is liable to let D-Wade drive right past him, Gordon should be safe.

9:17 AM: Amanda: “Ron Artest”; Me: “Are you sure?”; Amanda: “Yes. I feel sick to my stomach, but yes. I need the Steals. I hate fantasy basketball.” Indeed.

9:50 AM: Well, I should have known this would happen. I make a comment about KG not having any supporting cast in Minny, and what do I do? I grab one of his teammates, Ricky Davis. Although, to be fair, anyone who once shot at the wrong basket just so that he can get his last rebound for a triple-double can’t really be called a “supporting” player (although such creative stat-grabbing is well appreciated by his fantasy owners). Besides, it’s a well-known rule that a league commissioner can change his mind anytime a 19-5-5 guy is available at the 52nd overall pick. Emeka Okafor, who has one of the best Vowel Ratios out there, is scooped up by Jason next as I continue my assault on Harry Doyle’s all-time Useless Statistics Cited record (does that count, too?).

10/26, 9:57 AM: Logan tries to draft the already-taken Brad Miller and Ricky Davis. Oh no, Logan, you’re not getting Davis after all the trouble I went to in justifying picking him! So you get Carlos Boozer and Raymond Felton instead. That’ll teach you! Jason’s up next, and since we don’t keep track of Extra Timeout Technical Fouls, Chris Webber’s his man. (Note: It is every Buckeye fan’s duty to bring this up whenever C-Webb is mentioned; I don’t care that it happened 13 years ago.) That brings us back to my turn. Now, the name I came up with for the league is a bit of a shot at the Knicks, but I want to make sure that Isaiah doesn’t crucify me in the media the way he did Greg Anthony after the ESPN analyst criticized Isaiah’s selection of Ronaldo Balkman. So, to appease my and Bill Simmons’s favorite NBA punching bag, I decided to take one of his other draft picks, Channing Frye. I needed a backup center, and Frye could turn out to be Amare Lite if the Knicks go to a running attack like everyone’s predicting.

10:33 AM: Amanda takes Caron Butler without regrets (as far as I know).

12:19 PM: Vern picks Corey Maggette next. Since this is the 10th round and we only start 9 in this league, Vern should be very concerned with the possible chemistry disruption to his fantasy team if Maggette doesn’t find his way into the lineup.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Win James Dolan's Money, The Draft

OK, fantasy basketball fans, time to take you inside the unnecessarily neurotic mind of an owner in the process of drafting his team. There’s a lot of pressure on me, as there always is on the league commissioner, to not royally suck. That’s especially true this year, since last year’s league:

a) Got started 6 weeks too late, and
b) Ended with me getting destroyed by my sister-in-law in the first round of the playoffs after I barely qualified.

So, I’m going to be agonizing over everything this time, hoping to not repeat the mistakes of the past, and you get to come along for the ride. Currently (and likely for the only time during this process), I’m feeling pretty good by virtue of my coming up with a solid name for the league (after all, ripping on the Knicks is FUNdamental!) and the fact that the draft’s actually starting before the season. Here we go:

10/19, 10:00 AM: It’s a short league this year, with only six owners. But, on the plus side, they’ve all been in several leagues with me before and they’re pretty serious about this stuff, so we should at least keep things moving along well. Here’s the order:


Kelli, my aforementioned Kryptonite from last season, will not be participating this year. Yes, the sound you just heard was a shameless sigh of relief. Unfortunately, her team’s GM is still present, as hubby Kevin provided significant assistance (and by “significant”, I mean “total”), since she doesn’t really follow basketball. I do hear that he’s got her occasionally asking him questions as he’s watching sports on TV now, though. It’s a start, I suppose. Anyway, back to the draft…

I’m not crazy about drawing #4. I see Kobe Bryant in my future, and I can’t imagine he’s going to have as strong a year as he had last year due to both of the Law of Averages and that pesky matter of his off-season surgery. Even so, I can’t pass on the Mamba at that spot unless I have a really good reason.

I’m giving everyone until tomorrow to think about it, so we’ll pick things up then…

10/20, 8:30 AM: My brother rocks! He just saved me from the Kobe Dilemma by taking Bryant #1 overall! His reasoning: he wanted to take someone named after steak. As every good fantasy owner knows, you’ve got to think with your stomach first. Vern’s next, and he grabs Dwyane Wade. This could really pay off for him, as Wade’s a good free-throw shooter and after last year’s playoffs, I’m convinced he averages no fewer than 30 attempts per game this season. In fact, I think Kirk Hinrich just fouled out of the season opener…

9:03 AM: Amanda, your thoughts? “Wow. No-brainer here....LeBron James”. Yeah, that’s what I said, too, you !@#$!@# I need to compose myself before making the next selection. Wait, no I don’t, this pick is pretty obvious, too. Assuming KG doesn’t finally snap and pull a Sprewell on Kevin McHale for giving him no supporting cast for the third straight year, he’ll be fantastic.

9:29 AM: The next 4 picks come rapid-fire: Dirk Nowitzki for Jason, followed by Shawn Marion and Elton Brand to Logan, and then Jason grabs Gilbert Arenas. I was desperately hoping one of those four guys got through to me since I have no idea who else to go with here, but predictably, they all got snapped up. My brother’s food addiction aside, we’re not off to a great start in the luck department here. After a few minutes of wrangling between several guys, I settle into a debate between taking Amare’s potential and a solid start on rebounding and blocked shots (if I combined him with Garnett) vs. grabbing the ever-rare double-digit assists man in Steve Nash, whose dimes will probably even notch up a bit more with Stoudemire’s return. Well, upon further review, Amare’s not as good at rebounding and blocking as I thought, and Nash also helps with 3s and FT% and has a surprisingly good FG% for a guard. OK, I’ll go with Nash, I think…

9:43 AM: Alright, Nash is my guy.

9:44 AM: Wait, Stoudemire has C eligibility and the only other decent C for the next couple rounds is Tim Duncan! But too late, I already emailed my pick to the league. I hate fantasy basketball…

10:03 AM: Amanda takes AI as I wonder if I can make “Practices” a scoring category for this year’s league.

12:56 PM: There goes the first C, as Vern takes Tim Duncan. Assuming he avoids the injury bug this time around, Duncan should be on the floor a lot since he’s never committed a foul in his life, so that helps. Speaking of injuries, Kevin made some high-injury risk picks last year (most notably Marcus Camby). Well, he’s at it again with Jason Kidd (the wheels have to come off one of these years) and AK47. I don’t care what happens in the next 9 rounds; this is his whole draft right here. If those two stay healthy to stuff the stat sheet alongside stud scorer Kobe, Kevin’s Fatness Made Simple stands a good chance of taking home the hardware. If they both go down, he’s a pretty safe bet to spend his second consecutive season in the cellar. By the way, don’t let me forget to lobby Kev to make John Basedow Mr. Irrelevant in this draft…

2:52 PM: Vern grabs another star who was injured last year in T-Mac, then Amanda counters by taking young Raptor star Chris Bosh. That brings us back to my team, and since I got a second- (or possibly even third-) tier scorer last time with Nash, I feel the need to pick up some points with this pick. So, I go for Paul Pierce, the top-ranked scorer from 05-06 who’s still available. I have a tendency to forget to select guys that can fill it up early in the draft and force myself to stock my roster with guys like Morris Peterson and Hedo Turkoglu (barely above-average scorers who are mediocre-to-bad in everything else). And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you build a team that squeaks into the playoffs and then immediately gets crushed. Jason then takes Ray Allen, another 25+ PPG guy from last year. Copycat.

5:16 PM: 2 for Logan; they're Chris Paul and Yao Ming. Jason finally snags the freefalling Amare Stoudemire, which makes my decision easier. I'll go with Vince Carter, since I need another scorer and like Pierce, he has a pretty solid all-around game. As long as he doesn't suddenly decide he wants to play for Amanda's team, I should be in good shape.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Corporate Sponsorship...I Live For This

Over the past couple of years, I've gradually begun to accept the idea of pervasive corporate sponsorship in sports. It took me a while to be OK with them renaming Riverfront Stadium to Cinergy Field (Great American Ballpark at least sounds more authentic), but I made peace with it. "The Rose Bowl Game Presented by Citi" still strikes me as an abomination, and I don't know if I'll ever be fine with that one. The latest example of everything in sports being available for the right price, though, is much less obtrusive, far more inventive and, well, flat-out hilarious.

Yes, if you've got the disposale income, you can now purchase the right to start a baseball game whenever you feel like it. Convenience store chain 7-11 recently signed a 3-year contract to have all White Sox night games start at 7:11 PM. No word yet on whether the deal also included hot dog vending privileges or a requirement to sell Slurpees at US Cellular Field. According to 7-11, they pursued the agreement with the White Sox as a "subtle reminder" to fans to visit their approximately 180 Chicagoland locations.

Sports franchises have gradually sold off everything that wasn't nailed down over the last decade or so, but even that doesn't seem to limit the entrepreneurs in the luxury boxes anymore. Where does it stop now? I'm convinced we're heading towards something resembling the following sequence of commentary:

Brad Nessler: "Welcome to the Staples Center for this afternoon's exciting matchup between the Burger Kings of Sacramento and the Los Angeles Screen Actors Guilders. Here's the opening tip-off, sponsored by Blockbuster Video. The tip is controlled by NBA the Life's Kobe Bryant."

Bill Walton: "Kobe is the greatest scorer in the history of Western Civilization. And if you don't believe me, tune into the History Channel at 9 PM tonight for 'History's Greatest Weapons.'"

Nessler: "Kobe passes the rock, which is sponsored by the DVD release of 'Gridiron Gangs', to Luke Walton, who dribbles to the Kraft Macaroni elbow. Walton gives it up to Kwame Brown inside with a Gerber Baby Food post-feed, and..."

Walton: "Throw it down, big fella, throw it DOWN!!!"

Nessler: "This Bill Walton catchphrase brought to you by AIG."

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Giving the Devil His Due

Over the past 6 years, I've been the biggest Bear Basher out there. I've always felt that their success in this millenium has had at least as much to do with fortuitous bounces as with the Pro Bowlers they've had on defense. Indeed, in a few cases I think that those lucky twists of fate were what made a couple of those players into All-Pros. For instance, Nathan Vasher catches a field goal that was only missed because of near-hurricane-force winds, runs it back for a fluke TD and suddenly, he's the best thing since sliced bread? Puh-leeze. The 2006 version of the Monsters of the Midway, however, has me singing a slightly different tune.

What's different? The easy answer is the offense, and that does have a lot to do with it. I'm not completely sold on Rex Grossman yet, but he's easily the best QB they've had since Mike Tomczak (actually, he's probably also their best since Jim McMahon, but I just wanted an excuse to type "Mike Tomczak"). The leads and confidence that the offense have given the Bears' D allows the latter to play the aggressive, ballhawking style they love.

Also, they seem to have a kicker they can rely on when the offense stalls. Wow, that sentence really hurt! I mean, seriously, Robbie Gould is a Michigan alum who plays for the Bears; is there any football player I have more reason to loathe right now? And, can you believe I'm compelled to feel this way about a KICKER?!

OK, Kirk, breathe. That's better. Anyway, I guess the Bears have a solid team. I would be remiss, however, if I didn't remind you that if Steve Hutchinson didn't miss his block on the Chester Taylor fumble, Chicago would be tied with my Vikes for first right now. I'm just saying.

Monday, October 09, 2006

College Gridiron Heating Up

Sorry for the lack of posts lately. I'm trying to get back into it, so we'll see how it goes.

As you all know, it's a pretty happy time for me, as my Buckeyes sit atop the polls as the (nearly) undisputed #1 team, and deservedly so. No offense in the country holds a candle to the collective firepower of Smith, Ginn, Gonzalez, Pittman, et al. Plus, the defense is playing every bit as well as last year. They may not have experience, but to my eye, the only thing they're missing is entrance music for James Laurinaitis.

But, no matter how much I want it to be, college football isn't all about the Scarlet and Gray. There was a lot going on last weekend, so it's time to examine how things shake out behind The Best Damn Team in the Land...

My #2 team is Florida. As much as I think SEC backers overestimate the strength of their league, I can't ignore Saturday's dismantling of a pretty solid LSU team. It pains me to say so, but that team up North is next, and it's pretty close for second. The Wolverines are beating everyone in their path rather handily on both sides of the ball (clearly, they just want to be like the Buckeyes).

USC is behind those two teams because they've relied on late miscues by their unranked opponents to get their last two wins. I looked the other way after their interception to seal their win against Washington State, since at least the Trojans had something to do about the play. However, after watching Washington move the ball at will on their last drive, coming up short only because of the new "ready-to-play" clock rules, I had to drop USC in my estimation. Washington's a much improved team, but USC still let a demonstrably weaker squad hang around for all 60 minutes. I can't drop the Trojans any further than 4th because they are still officially undefeated, but I'm decidedly unimpressed with the Men of Troy.

Most people I've read put West Virginia next, but the only opponent they've beaten with a winning record is an utterly forgettable Maryland squad that was last seen rolling over for Georgia Tech. I know the Jackets have a good team, but when you're in the position the Terps were in the second half, you've got to close the deal. Since the Mountaineers haven't played any quality opponents, I think #5 is the spot for the first one-loss team, the Texas Longhorns. They played the Buckeyes closer than the score indicated, and just last week did the world a favor by beating down those whining Sooners.

I'm going to continue to favor one-loss teams that have played somebody by going with Tennessee at #6. The Volunteers put 51 points on the previously stout Georgia defense last Saturday, in Athens. That's far more impressive than anything either of the unbeaten Big Least contenders have done. I rank Louisville ahead of West Virginia, because while each team has been equally impressive in their victories, the Cardinals can count the Miami Hurricanes among their victims. At least we thought that win meant something at the time...

In my mind, Cal jumped ahead of Notre Dame with their resounding Saturday victory over previously unbeaten Oregon. I do, however, have the Irish rounding out the Top 10 due in large part to their hard-fought opening win over the aforementioned Yellow Jackets. Also, the Irish have had only one patsy on their schedule thus far (winless Stanford), which is far less than most of the top teams out there.