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Thursday, May 28, 2009

I spoke too soon... regards to comparing Kobe Bryant and LeBron James to Michael Jordan. (At the end of the linked blog.)

While I will still criticize Kobe for his failure as team leader in last year's finals, he's still the best player alive and one of the best of all-time.

As for LeBron, he's still very young and in much the same situation that Jordan was in early in his career (when I was too young to even remember.)

(Even if Jordan never lost a final and these two players have been on one of the losing finals teams in each of the last two seasons.)

Chris Broussard of ESPN the Magazine was my wake-up call.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thoughts for the Night

Don't know how often I'll update but here goes:

11:14 p.m.

Three technicals in two minutes - here we go again.

11:12 p.m.

Did I curse Birdman? He just got dunked on for the second time tonight - neither by Kobe Bryant or Pau Gasol.

10:33 p.m.

Nice ESPN2 shot of A.J. Burnett packing a huge wad of dip in the Yankees clubhouse. Is that the key to his shutout tonight?

9:35 p.m.

Cool story about Nuggets forward Chris Anderson. While traveling with the Mount men's basketball team this winter we happened to be staying in the same hotel (The Embassy Suites in Secaucus, N.J.) as Denver before they played the Nets.

I got in the elevator to go down to the bus before our game and who else was standing there but the Birdman? I had watched part of the Nuggets game the night before and he had gotten off to a hot start. When I asked him how he finished for the night (in a Denver victory) his numbers weren't much more than what I had seen in the beginning of the first half.

"I had to shut it down," Anderson told me. "We got another game tonight." It was interesting to hear a professional athlete talking about the need to save energy. If you think about all the traveling they do, though, it makes sense - especially after playing road games on consecutive nights. And the way he's playing this postseason it seems as if that was energy well-conserved.

Sidenote: Courtney Nyce of the Mount women's team got two autographs from Carmelo Anthony - one of them for me. That was a pretty good road trip.

8:10 p.m.

I'm torn as to who to root for in the Blackhawks vs. Red Wings Game 5. Detroit is a near lock to join Pittsburgh in its second consecutive Stanley Cup Finals, but there are pros and cons to the game ending tonight.

If Chicago wins, that will mean Detroit will have had to play at least one additional game before facing the Pens.

If they lose, however, Pittsburgh will have nearly a two-week wait between Game 4 of the Eastern Conference Finals and Game 1 of the Stanley Cup. Not only is that too long for a hot team to have off (see Colorado Rockies 2007), but it would also be a complete buzzkill to the excitement of the NHL Playoffs. (Didn't think I'd say that anytime soon.)

I guess more rest while the opponent gets beat up would be better than seeing Game 1 a few days sooner. Go 'Hawks.

Howard has tech rescinded? Shocker

No surprise here as Dwight Howard's technical from last night has been rescinded. Not because he deserved to have it taken away, after all he was taunting Anderson Varajeo after a dunk, but because David Stern doesn't want to have one of his most recognizable stars in the league miss a game due to suspension.

With the Cavaliers, AKA LeBron James' team, in jeopardy of not reaching the finals, the last thing the league wants is to risk Orlando's only superstar not playing a game in the finals that the Lakers or Nuggets would dominate.

Royals should consider dealing Greinke

Would the Kansas City Royals consider trading Zack Greinke? The semi-journeyman has pitched a complete game in half of his 10 starts en route to an 8-1 record, accounting for more than one-third of Kansas City's 23 victories.

But this is Kansas City. The cheap team that, off the top of my head, let Johnny Damon, Carlos Beltran, David Cone and Jermaine Dye all go before their prime. So why not deal Greinke for some prospects like they did with Beltran?

They've finished better than fourth only twice since 1996 - both times third place finishes - and have only one winning season since 1995, including four seasons with 100+ losses.

The Royals are .500 thus far behind one of the best starts by a pitcher in recent history. They're not going anywhere in the fall.

Greinke leads the majors in ERA (0.84) complete games and shutouts (two). He also has 81 strikeouts to 12 walks. At just 25-years-old, he would command a number of quality players in a trade, and would save the Royals up to $34.25 million, the remainder of Greinke's contract, from 2010-2012.

As for where he might go, you can eliminate the pitcher-needy White Sox. Although they sought Jake Peavy in a trade (that Peavy rejected) there is no way Greinke will be dealt within the division. If he's willing to go to the National League, both the Braves and Cubs could use him.

Atlanta is 23-22 just 2.5 games behind the Phillies in the NL East, and already has the 11th-best staff in the majors by ERA. The Cubs, meanwhile, are four games out in fourth place in the NL Central and could use plenty of help in their rotation. And speaking of the Phillies, the defending champs may be in first place, but are one of just five teams with a staff ERA higher than 5.00. Just get Jamie Moyer his 250th win already and drop him out of the rotation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

More overrated: 2008-09 Cleveland Cavaliers or Dwight Howard?

If I've learned anything from the Eastern Conference Finals it's that the Cavaliers and Dwight Howard are in a fight to be the most overrated story of the season - series loser taking the title.

For all the hype of LeBron James' shot to win Game 2, it should be negated - not in history but at least in terms of this postseason - by the Cavaliers play in the series' first, third and fourth games.

Largely untested in rolling to an 8-0 start to the postseason including an all-time record of eight consecutive double-digit wins, you would expect them to be rusty in Game 1 of this series, but not to lose just their third home game of the season (and only the second in which they played their starters.)

If it wasn't for LeBron's huge shot, there would have been talk about a sweep going into tonight's Game 4 and the notion that the 2008-09 Cavaliers may be one of the most overrated teams in recent history. (That discussion should come to fruition after tonight's result.)

It was the same LeBron who looked skittish at the end of Game 3, taking bad shots and yielding a turnover that essentially sealed the loss. I don't blame him, the ever-deserving league MVP, but his team as a whole, and especially head coach Mike Brown. The coach of the Harlem Globetrotters could have done a better job getting the Cavs to close out on 3-pointers last night - especially Rashard Lewis's go-ahead shot before LeBron's gift free throws that sent the game to overtime. (I don't know what was worse, that call or not giving Howard two free throws after he was undercut by Anderson Varajeo with 0.5 seconds left in regulation.)

From the embarrassing Finals sweep at the hands of the Spurs to an inability to win Game 7 against Boston last year and now a slow start in the second-biggest series of James' career, the clues have been there. And don't forgot the one team that won in Cleveland during the regular season when its starters played - the Los Angeles Lakers, also won the season series 2-0 by a combined 27 points.

Losing to an experienced and heavily favored Spurs team in 2007 as well as a destined and talented Boston team last season is completely understandable. But after starting the season 43-1 at home with its starters (including the playoffs) the last thing anyone expected was for the Cavs to be in a 3-1 hole to a team that lost its starting point guard - Jameer Nelson - halfway through the season, with that single win because of the greatest shot in the young career of one of the top two players in the league.

(Much credit due to acquired-from-Houston-guard Rafer "Skip to My Lou" Alston for keeping the Magic among the East's elite.)

For all the criticism Magic head coach Stan Van Gundy gets for making bad decisions under pressure, he's gotten his team pretty far despite being written off after losing Nelson.

Partially to credit for that 3-1 advantage is Dwight Howard, despite being the most overrated player in the league. He has one move, no touch around the basket and a poor attitude, as evidenced by his postseason-leading six technical fouls - one shy of a suspension.

He is an athletic freak (who should've won the dunk contest for the third time) and the best shot blocker in the game, even if he makes no effort to control where those blocked shots end up. The only exception would be when he eats them for jump balls like he did to James at the end of overtime tonight.

But too often Howard takes himself out of the game mentally because he's disappointed in the refs, his teammates, his coach, or maybe even the Magic dance team. It never seems, however, that he is genuinely upset with himself.

And in case you haven't noticed, Dwight Howard disappears offensively in the fourth quarter of big games. Fourth quarter points this series in Game 1: four; Game 2: zero; Game 3: eight (all eight on free throws on his home court); Game 4: one.

That's 13 points total in four games, nine of them on free throws. He is averaging 0.5 field goals per fourth quarter. I said, the starting center for the Eastern Conference All-Star team is averaging one fourth quarter field goal for every two games this series.

(Kobe Bryant's fourth quarter totals for each Western Conference Finals game, in order: 18, eight, 12 and 14.)

And if you didn't notice how Howard scored all his points in overtime tonight, it was straight bullying. Not that there's anything wrong with that, get your points how you can, but that's going to catch up to him more often than not, especially when a team plays better defense so that he's not left wide open with no chance to take a charge.

Regardless of who wins this series, the Cavaliers as a whole and Howard as a player will look like impostors against Los Angeles or Denver. The Cavs probably need a solid veteran to compliment James, Mo Williams, a hard-nosed but streaky Delonte West, the volatile Anderson Varejao and the rest of the cast to be true title contenders.

Howard on the other hand needs an attitude adjustment and probably an improvement in work ethic as well.

If the Lakers can get past the Nuggets, the door will be wide open for Bryant to win his fourth NBA title and send the Cavs or Howard back to the drawing board.


(For the record I think Howard is more overrated simply because James is a great player who gets better every day and makes the Cavs a contender, albeit an overrated one.)

Sidenote: Michael Jordan wouldn't have lost the NBA Finals last year the way Kobe's Lakers did, and he wouldn't perform the way LeBron has this series against the Magic*. Just further proof that there may never be an heir to his throne.
*Turnover prone at the end of games and unable to make free throws. In other words, MJ would have found a way to be up 3-1 or at least tied 2-2 in this series, no matter what the supporting cast.

Another new Post-Up Blog the a.m. at

Monday, May 25, 2009

Shane Eyler named NEC Player of the Year

This is a little late but sophomore Shane Eyler was selected as the Northeast Conference Baseball Player of the Year last week.

The Taneytown, Md., native - 10 minutes from campus in Emmitsburg - is the first Mount player in history to receive the honor.

He may supplant Eric Smith and Josh Vittek as the two best players in school history.

New Post-Up blog coming on in the morning.