Tuesday, November 6, 2007

'07-'08 Lakers Preview

Before we begin, here are some quick-hit thoughts about the debacle that is known as the 2007 San Diego Chargers:

· Phil Rivers is absolutely killing the Chargers this season. The Vikings-- entering the game as the worst defensive team against the pass, dared Rivers to beat him deep and he couldn’t do it. I’ve been a Rivers backer the past three years or so, but I can’t believe how bad he looks right now. Rivers is missing wide-open guys and his throws look like crap. If he would have made a couple of plays in the first half of Sunday’s game the score would have been 28-7 and Vikings shouldn’t have even had the chance to run the ball they way they did. It was one bad throw after another on Sunday and although UT columnist Tim Sullivan disagrees, I think if he craps the bed against Indy, it may be Billy Volek time.

· It wouldn’t surprise me one bit to see the Chargers lose the next 5 games they play. They are going to lose to Indy this weekend. After that they to go J’ville (where they’ll get beat the same way the Vikings beat them), play Baltimore (and could very well get beat), go to KC (which means that they will most likely play in the rain or snow and get beat), and then go to Tennessee (where they will likely get beat). Would you be comfortable betting on the Chargers in any of those games? They can very easily go 0-5 or 1-4 over the next five weeks which would make them 4-9 or 5-8 and that would mean a 6-10 season is very, very possible. I will now eat a broken glass burrito.

· There is no doubt in my mind now that Norv Turner is the anti-Christ.

· Since this season is pretty much a lost cause, let me be the first to say that the worst thing the Chargers can do is bring back Norv Turner and Ted Cotrell for 2008. Watching an under-prepared, out-coached Charger team muddle through another season would be too much for me to handle. Who’s my choice for the next Charger coach? I’ll go with either Russ Grimm or Rex Ryan. The Chargers need to get back to running the ball and getting after the quarterback. Norv Turner has no idea what he’s doing and Ted Cotrell looks like he should be teaching at a community college. The Chargers look like hell right now.

Alright, now that I got that off my chest, the Lakers have started the season 2-1, they’ve easily defeated two playoff teams from last year (the Suns and Jazz) and had they made a few more free throws against the Rockets, they would be 3-0 against three of last year’s playoff teams. Needless to say, I’m bullish on the Lakers this season. Aside from the fact that I think the Lakers can get the 3rd or 4th seed in the Western Conference this year, here are some important questions about the 2007-2008 Laker season:

Are the Lakers going to trade Kobe Bryant?

They’d be smart not to. My friends who are Laker fans and I have been debating the Kobe Bryant trade topic over the past three months like law schools students debating Roe vs. Wade. Our conclusion: The dumbest thing the Lakers can do right now is trade Kobe Braynt. The guy can’t opt out until after the ’08-’09 season so it would be more advantageous if they just saw what they can do with this team this year, maybe try to get Jermaine O’Neal this summer to appease Bryant. And as my friend Gil regularly points out, if Bryant does leave, the Lakers can go with a young team and clear up cap space in ’09-’10 and then make a play for LeBron James that summer.

And while we’re on the topic, if the Lakers are going to trade Bryant would a deal wouldn’t it be better to ask for Kirk Heinrich rather than Luol Deng? For weeks now everyone’s been saying that Deng is the deal breaker, but the Lakers already have two small forwards in Luke Walton and Lamar Odom, so wouldn’t it be better if they got Heinrich, Gordon, Jokim Noah, and Ty Thomas for Bryant? If they swung that deal they would run with Heinrich, Gordon and either Odom or Walton with any combination of Noah, Ty Thomas, Andrew Bynum, Kwame Brown, or Chris Mihm up front. A team like that would almost be better than a team with Bryant.

What was the offseason move that has been completely downplayed so far?

Without a doubt, the Derek Fisher signing. Think about this: The Lakers upgraded from Smush Parker and rookie Jordan Farmar to Derek Fisher and second-year player Jordan Farmar. If you watched the Lakers over the past two seasons and any of the first three Laker games you can see the difference. Parker was pulling a “2007 Phil Rivers” on the Lakers the past two years and absolutely killing them-- especially on the defensive end. Now, they got a veteran point guard who plays defense, can hit some big shots, and mentor Farmar (who I think is going to be a real good player) and bring him along slowly. Plus, Fisher understands how to run the triangle so instead of just giving the ball to Bryant and watching him take on three defenders the Lakers are moving the ball around much better this year.

What’s the wildcard this season?

I’d say it would have to be Kwame Brown’s expiring contract. The Lakers could trade Brown to a team that’s out of the mix and looking to clear up cap space for a veteran player to help down the stretch. An interesting scenario would be Ron Artest who has a couple of years left in his deal with the Kings. What if the Lakers were able to trade Brown’s expiring contract and maybe Brian Cook to the Kings for Artest? Suddenly, the Lakers would have a lineup of Fisher, Bryant, Odom, Artest, and Bynum with Farmar, Walton, et al, coming off the bench. A lineup like that would match up very favorably with the Suns and the Mavs.

Who is the Lakers’ MIP (Most Important Player)?

That would have to be Andrew Bynum. If he continues to develop, the Lakers are going to be pretty gosh darn good. So far this season, Bynum is averaging almost a double-double every night playing only about 20 minutes a game and you know what? With most of the Western Conference teams going small these days, I don’t see anyone out there who can stop him. The only problem with Bynum so far is that he gets too many ticky-tack fouls-- he fouled out playing only about 19 minutes on Sunday, but Phil Jackson has been able to neutralize some of that by brining him off the bench and starting Kwame Brown. But seriously, if he can play better defense, there’s no reason why this guy can’t get a double-double every night on just junk points and put-ins alone. And if he perfects that little jumper he has, WATCH THE FUCK OUT!

What are some key games this season for the Lakers?

The next important game will be Friday against the Timberwolves not because the Timberwolves are good or anything but because that’s when Lamar Odom is expected to come back from shoulder surgery (oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the Lakers have gone 2-1 against three playoff teams without the second best scorer). It will be interesting to see how Phil Jackson uses Odom. Watching the game against the Jazz on Sunday I thought an interesting option would be brining Odom as a second scorer off the bench as and having an energy guy like Ronnie Turiaf grab boards when Bryant is on the floor.

And since I just got the NBA League Pass and won’t be missing any Laker games this year here are some other games I’m looking forward to this season: 11/13 at Spurs, 11/14 (the BIG THREE-OH) and a rematch at Houston, 11/23 at Boston, 12/13 vs. Spurs, 12/25 (Christmas Day) vs. Suns, 12/30 vs. Boston, 1/17 vs. Suns, 1/23 at Spurs, 1/25 at Mavs, --what a stretch huh?-- 2/20 at Phoenix, 3/2 vs. Mavs, 4/4 vs. Mavs, 4/13 at Spurs.

What is the best / worst case scenario for the Lakers this season?

Worst case scenario is that Bryant continues to be a cancer on the team, Bynum regresses, veterans like Lamar Odom, Derek Fisher and Luke Walton miss significant time with injuries and the Lakers are a lottery team.

Best case scenario is that the Lakers continue to jell as a team. Odom comes back and the veteran trio of Odom, Walton and Fisher keep Bryant in check. Bynum continues to get better which allows them to shop Brown’s expiring contract for another veteran player. Amare Stoudemire misses significant time and the Lakers sneak past the Suns and the Western Conference shakes out like this:

1. San Antonio Spurs
2. Dallas Mavericks
3. Los Angeles Lakers
4. Phoenix Suns
5. Denver Nuggets
6. Houston Rockets
7. Utah Jazz
8. Charlotte Hornets

Then in the Western Conference Semi’s the Suns (with Stoudemire back) upset the Spurs, and the Lakers beat the Mavs. The Lakers beat the Suns in 6 in the Western Conference Finals and beat the Bulls in 5 the NBA Finals.

Possible? Yes. Probable? No.

But it’s always fun to dream.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Week 9 Picks

After a couple of weeks of crappy games, we’re finally getting to the nitty-gritty part of the NFL season. This week, aside from the Pats-Colts game, we have Cowboys-Eagles which should be a great game and the Ravens-Steelers which should also be a slobberknocker.

Crappy NFL games = Pretty good times.

Excellent NFL games = Awesome times.

I’m officially excited.

Let’s look at Week 9 games (Team listed first is the team I picked):

Tennessee -4 vs. Carolina
Since the Giants are on a bye, I picked up the Panthers defense on my fantasy team this week. But now that I found out David Carr may start I’m thinking about picking up another D. That’s how little confidence I have in Carr. I don’t trust him enough to play a defense of a team he’s quarterbacking. And word on the street is that Steve Smith doesn’t trust him either. Smith apparently called Carr a wimp because he thinks Carr would rather check down than throw deep.

Signs that you’re a horrible quarterback: Your star receiver thinks you’re a whip and Phil Lam won’t play your defense on his fantasy team because you might be the starting quarterback.

Cincy -1 at Buffalo
I know, I know, Cincy is garbage this year. Chad Johnson is pissed off, Carson Palmer is pissed off, Houz is pissed off and the whole team looks like it’s pissed off at Marvin Lewis. But for some reason I see them making enough plays to win this week. I mean, for Christ’s sake, they’re playing JP Losman and the Buffalo Bills.

Detroit -3 vs. Denver
The 2007 Broncos are a team that (unbeknownst to their fans) are rebuilding. They have a young quarterback (Jay Cutler), a young running back (Selvin Young), and they seem to be retooling both their offensive and defensive lines. If I were a Bronco fan I would rather see this team go 6-10, get a top 15 pick and draft a receiver or a defensive lineman rather than go 9-7 and narrowly miss or make the playoffs and pick in the 17-20 range, but that’s just me.

Green Bay +2 at Kansas City
You know what? I liked it a lot more when Brett Farve was throwing interceptions at the same rate as Jay Z was going through bottles of Crystal. I really don’t like “rejuvenated” Brett Farve. I liked “boozehound” Brett Farve, I liked “gunslinger” Brett Farve, I liked “addicted to painkillers” Brett Farve, I even liked the “I don’t care if I already have four interceptions, I’m throwing it in there” Brett Farve. Those guys were endearing. Watching Farve playing quarterback now is like watching one of your drinking buddies getting whipped and start doing things like going to pumpkin carving parties instead of hitting the bars. In your buddy’s case you know he’d rather be stumbling around, slurring his speech and in Farve’s case you see him checking down and throwing the ball away, but know he’d rather be slinging it.

New Orleans -3.5 vs. J’ville
The Saints have won three straight and Drew Brees has realized that rather than try to be a real quarterback he’s better off just throwing the ball up to Marques Colston. J’ville on the other hand got blown out by the Colts, lost David Garrard, and now Marcus Stroud looks like he’s going to miss 4 games for failing a steroid test. These two teams are heading in the opposite direction.

San Diego -7 at Minnesota
Similar to the way a college team schedules a cream puff opponent before playing a big time team, this one going to be a tune up game for the Chargers. They only way the Bolts lose this one is if Adrian Peterson runs for 230 yards, scores 4 touchdowns and Phil Rivers throws four INTs. If that happens I’m going to put my arm in a vat of hot frying oil.

San Francisco +3 at Atlanta
The only interest I have in this game is the performance of Jerious Norwood. I have a huge game against my friend Matt this week in fantasy football and Torry Holt and Brandon Jacobs are on a bye so I need Norwood to step it up. So let’s here it:


Come on, everybody!


BTW: If Norwood doesn’t play well this week I’m going to pay a Thai hooker to give him the clap.

Washington -3.5 at NY Jets
You gotta imagine the Redskins are going to come out strong after getting rolled against the Patriots last week. Plus you have a Jets team that’s starting to revolt against Eric Mangini and Kellen Clemens making his first NFL start against the vaunted Redskins secondary.

Tampa Bay -3.5 vs. Arizona
The Bucs are losing some steam after dropping games to the Lions and J’ville the past two weeks. Combine that with the suddenly resurgent Saints, and things in the NFC South aren’t looking as great as they were a month ago for my 2007 Sleeper Team.

Cleveland -1 vs. Seattle
I love the fact that Cleveland’s offense is blowing up this year -- I’m a big fan of Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow Jr. and Derek Anderson is single-handedly saving my fantasy football season. And you know who’s the Brown’s offensive coordinator? It’s the Charger’s old tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski. So technically had the Chargers just Marty Schottenheimer immediately after they lost the playoff game, they could have just promoted Wade Phillips to head coach and (assuming Cam Cameron still would have left for the Dolphins) Chudzinski to offensive coordinator. Yup, that right there was the biggest mistake AJ Smith made this offseason. Let’s hope it doesn’t come back to haunt him.

Oakland -3 vs. Houston
The Raiders are hoping that the return Josh McCown will spark their team. Goes to show you how God-awful Dante Culpepper is now. Can you believe that it was only three years ago that he threw for 4,700 yards 39 touchdowns and had a 110 passer rating? Man, that seems like it was more like 7 years ago. What the hell happened to this guy? He was a freaking great quarterback and now he can’t hold off Josh McCown? Culpeppers Britney Spear-esqe fall is quite a freaking shame.

New England -6 at Indy
This is one of those games where if you’re not watching and you don’t have an unavoidable reason, you’re not really a football fan. To be honest with you I was leaning towards picking Indy in this one but then my buddy Walt wanted to put money on the Colts straight up so I took his action. Yeah, situations like these will be one of the things I’ll be talking about when I enroll in bettors anonymous.

Philly +3 vs. Dallas
I keep trying to convince myself that Philly is good, but if you look at their schedule they’ve beaten the Lions, Jets, and Vikings. So why am I picking the Eagles against Dallas? Well that’s another situation I’ll be talking about at bettor anonymous.

Baltimore +9 at Pittsburg
I think the Steelers are going to win this game but no way in hell are they covering a nine point spread against a Ravens team that historically plays well when they’re on national television.