Thursday, February 17, 2005

The Non-Star Team

All-Star weekend is almost upon us and with it brings out the articles about all those deserving athletes that weren’t invited to this year’s game. The Bibbys, Webbers, and Gasols of the world may not be participating in the festivities this weekend, but nonetheless are known league-wide for the all the things they bring to their respective teams. The All-Star games always make you forget about the little guys, whose 15-20 minutes a night still go a long way in determining a team’s success. So this year I’ve come up with a mid-season All-Role team. These guys are the Robin to the league's Batman, the Merles to the league's Jimmy Chitwoods, the David Spades to the league's Chris Farleys…, well you get my point. Before they were selected, each of these players had to meet certain criteria:

Played For More Than Three Teams in Their Career

If a guy has played for only two teams in his career it obviously means that someone has noticed his talent enough to want to keep him on their team in a bench role. It is the perseverance factor of this journeyman team. Being kicked around from team to team fitting into whatever role is given.

Five or More Years in the League

This is the point where most players lose their “upside” label. They are no longer hidden gems that teams spot ten minutes a game to aid in their development. You don’t see any GMs say “This guy has been rotting on teams’ benches for the last few years, let’s see what he can do in our starting lineup”. Well, maybe Isaiah Thomas. After five years its “what you see is what you get”.

No Sixth Man Award

If they won one of these, people have noticed that they are good at what they do. It’s like trying to say Return of the King was one of the most underrated movies in 2003. You’re not fooling anybody.

No Former First Round Draft Picks

First round draft picks are supposed to be contribute in some form or fashion during their time in the league. They were picked to because they were one of the 30 most talented players in the country during that particular year. The label for former first round picks that have averaged ten minutes a game for their career is “bust” not “role player”.

With that said, let’s get to the actual team.

Guards (3)

Earl Boykins – Denver Nuggets


Boykins wouldn’t be the tallest player on a 6th grade basketball team, yet the 5’5’’ 133lb Eastern Michigan alum is getting the job done off the Denver bench this year. Boykins played for five teams in his first three years in the league, but after a breakout year in Golden State in 2003, Boykins was signed by Denver. For the past year and a half he has been a spark plug off the Denver bench, even stealing some crunch time minutes from incumbent starter Andre Miller.

Rick Brunson – Los Angeles Clippers

When the Clippers suffered a rash of backcourt injuries (Marko Jaric, Shaun Livingston, Kerry Kittles), Brunson got the call to fill out the starting lineup. In the month of December, the 6’4’’ point guard averaged seven points and seven assistants while playing starter’s minutes. The eight-year, ten team veteran has allowed the Clippers to remain poised for a second half playoff push.

Lucious Harris – Cleveland Caveliers

For twelve years and for four teams, Harris has been using his solid mid-range game to give teams a boost off the bench. This year’s beneficiary is one of the hottest teams in the East. He’s only averaging about 17 minutes and 5 points off the bench this year, but that, coupled with his veteran presence in the locker room, is one of the reasons that the Cavs are only two games behind the defending world champion Pistons in the Central Division race.

Forwards (3)


Fred Hoiberg – Minnesota Timberwolves

Hoiberg is a natural two guard, but for this team the 6’5’’ Iowa State alum is being pushed into a forward spot. Hoiberg has bounced between three teams over his ten year career doing one thing: nailing the three ball. In 16 minutes a game for the T’wolves this year, Hoiberg is shooting a red hot 51% from behind the arc and is one of the bright spots in a dismal Minnesota season. In comparison, Shaq is shooting a white hot 46% from the free throw line. Role players that can fill it up from behind the arc are remembered, just ask Steve Kerr.

Michael Curry – Indiana Pacers

This guy is Mr. Intangible. Curry has started for the better part of three seasons in his eleven year career and has never averaged over six points a game. His jump shot may be worse than Jean-Claude Van Dam movie, but he is simply one of those guys that play the game the right way. He’s a hustling, unselfish, lock down defender (in his prime) whose classy veteran leadership is respected around the league.

Raja Bell – Utah Jazz

In his first year in the league, Bell played in a grand total of five games. Four years and three teams later and he is averaging 12.2 points per game as a spot starter for the Jazz. His game is about as sexy as Condoleezza Rice, but by the end of the night, he’s filled up the stat line.

Centers (2)


Mikki Moore – Los Angeles Clippers


The Clippers are the sixth team is Moore’s seven year career, but may be his last stop for awhile. At the start of the year it looked as if Moore would be buried on the bench behind a foursome of Chris Kaman, Elton Brand, Zeljko Rebraca, and Chris Wilcox. After Kaman went down and Wilcox decided to stop playing effective minutes, Moore stepped in and has averaged a healthy five points and three boards in 15 minutes a game for the Clips, helping them in their run back toward respectability.

Tony Massenburg – San Antonio Spurs

Thirteen years, thirteen teams. This guy has gotten around more than the Pam Anderson – Tommy Lee sex tape. He’s even played for four teams in one year (91-92). After all this, the 37 year old is still able to give the Spurs some solid production off the bench, as well start five games for a team tied for the best record in the West.


Coming Monday Night:
Why to Love the NFL Draft

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Where are the Bucks going?

When the reserves for this year’s All-Star game were announced this past Tuesday, it was of no surprise that the Milwaukee Bucks did not have a representative. With a 17-28 record that puts them in the Central Division’s cellar, the Bucks are in need of a major overhaul. Gone is the cinderella story that was last year. A team that defied all expectations by taking a six-seed in the East before bowing out to the Pistons in the first round of the playoffs. This year the talk centers around injuries derailing the season and the “funk” the Bucks are in. Who are we kidding? Last year the team overachieved greatly, creating a false pretense that the Bucks were a few steps away from returning to the Eastern Conference’s elite. I love reading my hometown newspapers and seeing that Keith Van Horn’s return to health is the key factor in turning this season around. Right, just like increasing Snoop Dog’s role in Starsky and Hutch would have made that movie worth watching. In the Eastern Conference there are five teams that, barring a major collapse, have guaranteed themselves playoff spots: Miami, Cleveland, Detroit, Washington, and the Atlantic Division champ (currently Boston). That leaves three realistic spots for the Bucks to occupy. The problem is the Bucks are 4 1/2 games behind Indiana for the eighth and final spot and there are three more teams between them and Indy. So not only do the Bucks face a steep uphill climb just make the playoffs, but they will have to face either a Shaq led Heat team or the defending NBA champion Pistons in the first round. Each of those teams will pick apart Milwaukee in no more than five games. Their first round pick would then be outside of the lottery and the next year they’d continue to struggle to be a mid-level Eastern Conference team. (Or an awful one if Michael Redd bolts) So where do they go from here? I’m glad you asked. Here’s my plan to get the Bucks back on track.

Step 1: Trade Michael Redd before it’s too late.

Most scouts agree that Redd and Desmond Mason are Milwaukee’s two best players. The only problem is that both are natural two guards. With that said, name one NBA champion in the past ten years that’s had its two best players play the same position. Can’t think of any? That’s because there hasn’t been. So keeping both of them around doesn’t do the Bucks any good. Redd is set to become a free agent this off-season With the possibility of him leaving without compensation staring them right in face, the Bucks would be wise to move him before the February 24th trading deadline. The Clippers, Nuggets, and Cavs are the teams interested in going after Redd as soon as he hits the free agent market. The Clippers will have the most cap room and the prospect of playing with low past presence Elton Brand. The Nuggets also have the cap room, great surrounding talent (Andre Miller, Carmelo Anthony, Kenyon Martin), and George Karl. Redd loved playing for Karl and gives him a lot of credit for helping him mature from a 2nd round pick to an All-Star. The third team in the running is Cleveland. Redd not only played his college ball at Ohio State, but is originally from Columbus. Playing with LeBron James and for a team that is a serious contender in the East wouldn’t seem to hurt matters either. With each loss, the probability of losing Redd becomes greater reality for Milwaukee. That is why they need to make a move now in order to avoid losing Redd’s services for nothing. The Cavs and Clips have made no formal trade offers for his services but looking at their rosters they have no assets that really make sense for the Bucks to take. The Nuggets seem to be the best trading partner. In the beginning of the year, the Redd for Nene Hilario rumors were swirling about. The talks have cooled since but, the interest is still there. The Nuggets are in desperate need of an outside shooter and with Karl now in fold Denver may have a foothold in securing a contract with Redd past this season. If the contract issue can be resolved, acquiring Redd would be a no-brainer for Denver.

The Trade: The Bucks send Redd, forward-center Zendon Hamilton and center Daniel Santiago’s corpse to Denver in exchange for center Nene and forward Nikoloz Tskitishvili.

The Upside – Denver: The Nuggets would get their badly needed outside threat as well as low post players in Hamilton and Santiago. Both player's minutes has dwindled next to nothing in Milwaukee, could help address a razor thin front line created by Nene’s departure.

The Downside – Denver: Losing Nene and Tskiaflskdjfldkj severely cripples Denver’s front line options. If injury prone center Marcus Camby goes down again, Denver could be in big trouble. Redd could still possibly bolt to the Cavaliers if the Nuggets fail to make a serious run at the playoffs.

The Upside – Milwaukee: The Bucks would receive two promising big men, both under the age of 22. Nene averaged ten points and six rebounds over his first two years in the league and at 6-11, 260 he has the ideal size for an Eastern Conference center.

The Downside – Milwaukee: Losing Redd hurts, but isn’t as bad as you might think. He is the Buck’s most marketable player, their best scorer, and one of the top five shooters in the league, but last year he ranked last on the Bucks in his +/- rating. (+/- rating compares how the team fared with the player on the court as opposed to off it) Desmond Mason actually had a better +/- last year and should do a more than adequate job in taking over Redd’s starting spot. Both of the big men that they acquire are young and talented but neither has completely proven that they are star material in this league. As the saying goes, potential gets a lot of coaches fired, but it is a move the Bucks have to make. The only other problem is that it creates a logjam in the frontcourt, but that is resolved by……

Step 2: Trade Joe Smith

Smith is a solid veteran player and good locker room presence but at this point he takes away minutes from several prospects that the Bucks would like to look at. He’s also 29 and his contract pays him about 7 million per through the 2007 season. He is a consistent performer whose best fit would be as a role player on a contender. That said; one team has shown serious interest obtaining Smith. The Nets have started to make a serious push towards the playoffs and have made several moves to show that they want to be a contender in the East now. Rumor has it that they have given some thought to using their five million dollar trade exception to obtain a big man to beef up their front line. Smith is one of the players they are interested in.

The Deal: Joe Smith to New Jersey for Zoran Planinic and cap space.

The Skinny: The Bucks were interested in Planinic before the 2003 draft and wouldn’t mind getting their hands on the young Euro who can play all three backcourt sports. The deal also clears thirteen million remaining on Smith’s contract off the Bucks’ books. The Nets would receive a badly needed, established power forward to play alongside rookie center Nenad Krstic. After these two moves Milwaukee’s depth chart would look like this.

Point Guard (3): Mo Williams, Mike James
Shooting Guard (2): Desmond Mason, Erick Stickland
Small Forward (2): Keith Van Horn, Toni Kukoc, Zoran Planinic
Power Forward (3): Marcus Fizer, Nikoloz Tskitishvili
Center (3): Nene Hilario, Dan Gadzuric, Zaza Pachulia

Step 3: Let the kids play.

This plan is rather simple after these two moves; let the young guys get their minutes. Up front you have five guys competing for four spots on next year’s team. Let Fizer, Pachulia, Gadzuric, Nene, and Skita battle it out for the two big man spots. All but Nene are free agents after this season, so use the second half of this year to see who’s worth bringing back. Planinic can also start being groomed to inherit the small forward spot from Van Horn, whose contract expires after the ’06 season. The trades will also allow the Buck’s to see how Mason responds to the role of the go-to-guy in the absence of Michael Redd. The second half of the season should allow the Bucks to identify their core players and devise a plan on locking them up.

Step 4: Prepare for life without T.J. Ford.

It has almost been a year since TJ Ford lay crumpled on the floor after a hard foul by Minnesota's Mark Madsen. In this past year, Ford has not been cleared to even resume running, much less basketball related activities. To think that Ford will rebound to be a piece of the Bucks future is an absurd thought. Milwaukee must face the fact that Ford will never play again, and even if he does, it won’t be at the level of a franchise player. Therefore, their plans for next year and beyond must not include the injured point guard.



Step 5: Fire Terry Porter.

You can blame the downfall on injuries, lack of chemistry, or even the loss of TJ Ford, but the in the end it all comes back to the coach. After a communication breakdown under George Karl, the Bucks needed a coach that could connect with the players. Porter was everything Karl wasn’t, which last year was exactly what the Bucks needed. They responded well and were the surprise team of the NBA last year. This year, poor shot selection, porous defense, and inconsistent effort (12 or their 28 losses have been by 10 points or more) have been haunting them all year long. If you look at the coaches of some of the better teams in the league this year they all have one trait in common: discipline. Greg Popovich (San Antonio), Jeff Van Gundy (Houston), Mike Fratello (Memphis), Larry Brown (Detroit), Scott Skiles (Chicago) and Paul Silas (Cleveland) all instill discipline and a commitment to the defensive end in their teams. Is it any coincidence that their combined record this year is 174-112? The team needs to abandon its current free-wheeling, up-tempo, offense first style of play that Porter has brought on for a hard-nosed, disciplined, defense first system that has proven to produce playoff success. At the end of the year, Porter needs to be replaced by a coach (Eric Musselman perhaps) who brings a blue collar game to a blue collar town.

Overview:

Heading into the off-season the Bucks only bring back thirty-four million in guaranteed salaries leaving them roughly eleven million to play with in the free agent market. After re-signing a few of their own free agents, Milwaukee should have enough cash to lure a mid-level player into the fold. Their draft pick should be in the mid-lottery and they will have the luxury of drafting the best player available due to the fact that they have no pressing needs at any position. With the upcoming draft class looking pretty much devoid of impact players, the Bucks are fortunate enough to not have to press their pick into service right away. They also have a serious bargaining chip in Van Horn’s expiring contract which could be moved for the right mixture of prospects, established veterans, and draft picks. After everything is said and done the Bucks roster will have more promise and financial flexibility leaving them to be poised to make a run back to the East’s elite.

Retraction: One of my sources (ESPN.com's Chad Ford) has issued a retraction on his own that affected my article. Toni Kukoc can NOT be traded due to the Bucks using their Bird rights to re-sign him. Therefore I have re-worked that portion of the article to make sure it is correct.

Friday, February 04, 2005

Five Things This Super Bowl Needs

Five Things This Super Bowl Needs
In the week before Super Bowl XXXIX, I feel that there are some aspects that seem to be missing from it. So I decided to make a list of five things that I suppose every Super Bowl could use, but this one in particular. So off we go….

5. Mike Tice

Is there a coach in the NFL that looks more overmatched than Mike Tice. I by no means want Mike Tice to ever coach in a Super Bowl (mainly out of fear that Armageddon would soon follow) he just needs to be there. Can’t he just stand near the end-zone on one sideline with his pencil behind the ear, big dufus look? Every time I see him I wonder how he coaches professional football. He just looks like one of those people that get confused by Curious George books. I’m not bitter that he beat Green Bay in the playoffs this year by any means, I mean I’m pretty sure half-conscious Joe Namath could have stepped in and drove the Vikings up and down the field against the Packer’s D. I think most of the time Tice’s headset is just tuned in to FM radio, so I’m pretty sure he didn’t do anything to help the Vikings win in the NFC Wild Card Round. Either way, he just needs to be in Jacksonville on Sunday as mascot or something. Let’s get this done people.

4. The Monkey off His Back Player.

I think some of the best backdrops to Super Bowls is that much maligned veteran getting a shot at taking his name off the infamous “Best Player to Never Win the Big One” list. You know that no one wants to be Dan Marino, Payton Manning, Jim Kelly, Fran Tarkenton and the laundry list of others that have failed to win the “Big Game”. In fact, it has made a few of the blow-out Super Bowls interesting. Like Walter Payton winning with the Bears in ’86 and Steve Young stepping out from Joe Montana’s shadow against San Diego in ’95. Doug Williams also broke through to become the first African-American quarterback to win the Super Bowl in 1988 with the Redskins. And of course being a Packer fan, how can we not mention John F*$&^#(@ Elway. After being blown out by a combined score of 136-40 in his first three Super Bowl appearances, Elway led the Broncos over the Packers in Super Bowl XXXII to purge his name from the dreadful list. (I’m still trying to find a way I can create a Seinfeld-like Bizzaro world where the Packers win the damn game. That game was easily my hardest defeat as a sports fan. I still grimace in pain every time I see replays on TV, it is the equivalent of being kicked in the nuts.) This game though doesn’t have one of those players. The Eagles only problem was simply getting to the Super Bowl after losing three straight times in the NFC Championship game. They are just the quinessential happy to be there team, much less under any pressure to pull out a victory. (Although, being that they are from the worst fan base in professional sports, the possibility of a violent lash out against the team after a loss still exists. The chance that the team plane might be shot out of the sky may provide added incentive.) And who has the proverbial monkey on the back for the Patriots? Umm, no one? Corey Dillon wants to get his first, but either way, no one will look at him as someone who could never win the big game. Tom Brady has been there and done that. So how about Eagles just sign Dan Marino to back up Donovan McNabb? I mean is a 44 year old, five years removed from the league Marino really that much worse than having Koy Detmer as your backup? (If you answered yes you obviously haven’t watch Detmer play enough.)

3. More Janet Jackson

Arguably the best halftime show in the history of the Super Bowl. I mean who honestly remembers what artist performed during halftime about two days after the fact? More people are interested in the commercials that come up during the break. But that was before Janet and Justin Timberlake took the stage last year in Houston. One breast later and the halftime scene will now be viewed differently forever. I, on one hand, can not figure out what I think about all this. I’m split right down the middle between the “I can’t take my eyes off the screen because something awesome may happen any second” attitude and the “The best part of my life is gone by so why go on living” approach. I mean what can the 400 year old Paul McCartney due to top this? I can not think of a single person in America who wants to see his breasts. If I was in charge of Fox I would not only just reshow Super Bowl XXXIIX’s half time show, I’d promote it. Considering your main audience is drunken males, how is this not a good idea? They’d get $100,000,000 per thirty second block of commercial time leading up to it. Outside of maybe dropping dead, what can McCartney do to top last year? I suppose that this kind of idea will lead us down a road of Girls Gone Wild videos eventually being shot in the stands during halftime, but that is a risk that I’m willing to take.

2. Trent Dilfer

When talking about quarterbacks involved in any Super Bowl, Trent Dilfer's name has to come up. He was arguably the worst signal caller to win one,as he did in 2000 with Baltimore. Before I go in to anything else let’s just look at a few stat lines.
Super Bowl XXXV - Att. Comp. Yds. TD Int.
25 12 153 1 0
YEAR G CMP ATT PCT YDS TD INT Rating
2000 8 134 226 59.3 1502 12 11 76.6

With the first box-score you’d think the score of the Ravens – Giants Super Bowl was something like 10-3. But for those of you who actually watched the game, (and hopefully weren’t scarred for life) the game was a 34-7 Raven’s rout. Despite the fact that four Baltimore touchdowns were scored, Dilfer still managed to complete less than 50% of his passes for 153 yards and just a single touchdown was attributed to him. Is there anymore evidence that Dilfer’s team carried him? Is it not amazing that a quarterback with a regular season QB rating of sub 80 was even in the Super Bowl? In fact, 2000 was probably the worst match up of quarterbacks in the history of the Big Game. With a Kerry Collins – Trent Dilfer match-up, network big wigs must have been throwing themselves off rooftops in groves in 2000 trying to figure out how to market this game. Did anyone ever see him play with Tampa Bay? Every time Tampa Bay scored it was like a small miracle. If someone ever saw those games and said that they could have seen Dilfer winning a Super Bowl, they were either high or lying. Or maybe a combination of both. Fact is the Ravens won that year in spite of Trent Dilfer. With that defense I'm pretty sure they could have had T.J. Rubley quarterback that team to a win. Either way, he needs to be back in the Super Bowl in order to boost the unintentional comedy scale through the roof.

1. A Bat to T.O’s ankle

Has anyone else noticed that there are two teams playing in Jacksonville this Sunday? In the midst of the 4,534,483 articles written about Terrell Owen’s ankle I actually forgot that fact. So my solution to the all the questions of “will he play?”, “how effective will he be”, “can the Eagles win without him?” is just to turn him into the male version of Nancy Kerrigan. His injury completely overlooks the fact that an equally important piece is coming back to the Patriots this Sunday in Richard Seymour. Seymour’s impact on the defensive side of the ball for the Pats is almost as big as Owen’s is for the Eagles on the offensive side. And don’t reporters get tired of asking how his leg is doing? I mean after two straight months doesn’t that question get a little redundant? Especially after the answer that we’ve been given all that time is that it will end up being a game time decision. If I hear anymore questions about it I'm going to turn into Jack Nicholson from The Shining. It’s madness. Someone needs to get Tanya Harding on the horn. Pronto.
That’s all for now, most of my stuff will be coming out Thursday nights. So check then if you’re still reading. Any questions, comments, or ideas. I'm available at KoremenoBA13@uww.edu.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Gotta Love the Jail Blazers

If you had the choice to get season tickets for any team in the NBA, who would it be? My choice hands down would have to be the Portland Trail Blazers. It’s no contest. Portland is like a reality TV show gone wrong. In fact, it really is the Survivor of the NBA, people scratching and clawing to avoid being the scapegoat, other players messing it up for the team, and each day you would be left to wonder who is going to get kicked out of town. A couple years ago the Blazers were growing tired of their bad boy image with Rasheed Wallace, Damon Stoudamire, and the rest of the inmates so owner Paul Allen orders GM John Nash to trim payroll and cut loose the bad seeds. As of right now, Nash has failed miserably. The latest backlash came when it was reported that head coach Maurice Cheeks and small forward Darius Miles had a heated exchange during a film session, in which Miles screamed obscenities at Cheeks until Cheeks left to room to go to Nash's office. Miles then proceeded to follow him out yelling "That's right, run to your daddy!"(By the way Miles received a two game suspension for "conduct detrimental to the team". Do the Blazers really have a definition for that?) I'm surprised HBO hasn't tried to run a Real Sports documentary on this team. (The only reason they probably haven't is because it would be eerily similar to "Oz".) Even after jettisoning Qyntal Woods, they still have three convicts (Stoudamire, Ruben Patterson, and Zach Randolph) and two team cancers (Nick Van Exel and Miles). How could you not want to go to those games? At any moment Randolph could punch someone out, Stoudamire could get caught lighting up a bong, or Miles could be seen berating his coach. Are we sure that these guys weren't involved in the Pistons-Pacers brawl? Is it not fate that they picked a high schooler named Outlaw two years ago? I think the most entertaining part is that despite a so-called "purge" of bad seeds, Nash actually re-signed Miles and Randolph to five and six year deals, respectively, in the off-season. Not to mention Ruben Patterson still has three years left on his. Which means that as a season ticket holder, you still have a few more years seeing each player’s rap sheet in their media guide bio. How is this not a TV show? How can you not want these tickets? How can you not love this game?!

Gambling and the NBA

Before we delve into why anyone (especially me) would bet on the NBA, we must first examine the league itself. For starters, is there a more flawed league in existence? It’s like one of those movies where there are more holes in the plot than you can count and you leave wondering where you were for the last two hours. But, before we go any further, let’s look at my top three moments of the year so far.

3. Qyntal Woods still being in the league.

The Blazers have already suspended Woods twice so far this year, and for Portland to do that, you pretty much have to commit double homicide. Between Damon Stoudamire getting caught with pot 6,000 times and Ruben Patterson being charged with felony assault do the Trail Blazers really even care anymore? Have they just given up and started putting last night's police report inside their programs for the evening’s games? Here’s quick recap of Wood's year. First he was suspended five games for failing the league’s drug test, returns to rot on the Blazers bench for awhile, then gets suspended and eventually released by Portland for animal abuse. Wood's apparently was using his pit-bull in dog fights. So what happens three days after his release? The Miami Heat pick him up. Heat coach Stan Van Gundy/Ron Jeremy said "How many of us at 18 or 20 make a lot of mistakes?" True Ron, but the problem is Woods is 23. Most 23 year olds are looking to finish college, maybe interviewing for their first job, and scraping together money in order to pay the rent. Woods on the other hand will be paid 7-figures to abuse his dog.

2. The Contract Year = Career Year phenomenon follows suit.

I could probably name about 15,000 players that this fits this year, but I'm going to narrow it down to two. Well, one team and one player; the Seattle Supersonics and Eddy Curry. First to the Sonics. Let's look at five significant players on the team. Ray Allen is probably having his best all-around season (which has been rewarded with an All-Star berth), Antonio Daniels is putting up career numbers, Vlad Radmonovich, widely considered a bust at the start of the season, is having a career revival. Ronald Murray is having a solid year despite playing time being scaled back, and Jerome James is the starting center for a team that is 33-13. What do all these players have in common? None have a contract beyond this year. Is it any wonder why this team, picked to finish last in the West in the pre-season polls, is exceeding all expectations? Now to Curry. One of two high schoolers that the Bulls drafted in 2001, Curry has been nothing more than a tease for the first few years of his career. Entering the start of this season, Bulls GM Jim Paxson was considering it a sure bet he was going to trade the young underachiever. Then stunningly Curry has made major strides while playing out the last year of his rookie deal. Not only are the Bulls much improved and among the hottest teams in the league thanks to his play, but Curry has managed to average personal career bests in points, free throw percentage, and field goal percentage, as well as shedding his "lazy" attitude. Amazing that this happened to a player who at the beginning of the year was said to have a questionable drive and work ethic. Smart money says Curry resembles post-Sonics Shawn Kemp about two years after his new contract.

1. The Brawl

This could possibly go down as one of the greatest moments in sports history. It’s one of those things that if you have it recorded, it will take all your self-control not to murder the person who taped over it for the season finale of Will and Grace. For the first few seconds I saw it on Sportscenter I thought I was watching a post-game Euro-soccer crowd. For all those who were not lucky enough to see this in its entirety lets recap. The delightfully insane Ron Artest and Ben Wallace engage in a shoving match under the basket late in the fourth quarter of the Pacers-Pistons game. They are separated, and Artest goes to lie down on the scorer's table. Then it happens. A surly, and probably drunk, Piston fan launches a beer that hits Artest square in the face. Without thinking, (a normal reaction for the insane) Artets jumps off the table and runs up into the crowd. He gets in a few fans faces and tries to figure out who just threw the cup. The situation may have stopped there, but ends up being where all the real fun starts. Artest's teammate, Stephen "Raging Bull" Jackson, charges up behind Artest and starts delivering haymakers to everyone in sight. Chaos has begun. For the next several minutes The Palace at Auburn Hills turns into a sight from "Gangs of New York", in fact I'm sure if you look hard enough Daniel Day Lewis makes a cameo just to show everyone his career isn’t totally down the toilet. (Also, have we not noticed that this happened in the most violent city in America? Don't all the statistics show that Detroit is the United State's most dangerous city? How come no one else has connected this?) Anyway, back to the fight. Some really cool things continue to happen, most notably Jermaine O'Neal's lunging right cross to a Detroit fan who wandered out onto the court. The players are eventually escorted to the locker room and order is restored everywhere except Ron Artest's brain. This would turn out to be one of the most infamous nights in the NBA and churn out one my favorite quotes of the year. (David Stern's response to the question if the vote to suspend Ron Artest for the season was unanimous. Stern replied "Yes, it was 1-0, I won.")
So after all this, why would someone want to put money on games in which people like this are involved? That's a good question. I'd like to know the answer myself.

Game Time

After failing to make my own website, I needed an easy way to express my thoughts on the sporting world. (And with my ADD probably a few other things as well) I mainly just need a place to bitch and talk about the things that no one really wants to listen to. So this way I'm not forcing my ideas onto anyone and can feel very safe about what I write considering no one will probably read it. Anyway, enough babbling. On to the first hot topic: My gambling problem. My first try at feeding my inner demons was the poker world, but I had neither the temperament, nor the patience to last there. So after a few months with no gambling interaction of any kind, I started to get edgy. Then it hit me one night, that with all my useless sports knowledge (i.e. the 7,000 hours a day I spend on espn.com) I should combine the two. From that day forward, my sports betting career began. Since I jumped into the football season late, about Week 15, I only managed to lose about $5 off my original $20 total by the time playoffs rolled around. Then the Chargers failed to cover against (actually lose to) a Herm Edwards coached team, even after Eric Barton thought he was Chuck Norris and delivered a forearm shiver to Drew Brees' head allowing the Chargers another chance to tie the game in this years ridiculous playoff moment. (On a side note, had the Charger's come back to win, would Herm Edward's press conference with the Barton issue been funnier than him placing their loss against the Steelers squarely on his kicker's shoulders?) Anyway, by this time I had already decided that sports betting sucked and threw my last $15 into a parley with Eagles minus the points and the over, not really caring if either was attained. Then something weird happened, I won. Figuring that my success was fleeting, I seized the momentum and made another bet, taking the Patriots and the under. Then to my utter amazement, the Patriots dismantled Dan Marino, err, Payton Manning and the Colts beefing my account up to a robust $90. Maybe sports betting doesn't suck so badly after all. After another small failure on conference championship Sunday, where the Steelers applied their favorite strategy of putting both hands around their neck and squeezing, which Bill Cowher's meaningful game technique. I was down to about $85 and one problem; no more football to bet on for two weeks. Which meant I had an itch I needed to scratch.