Sunday, February 27, 2011

A Trade Worth Making?

Trades have a funny way of effecting sports fans. Players that fans have watched, learned about, and cheered for can be ripped from our lives without warning. Sometimes trades can spark nostalgia, sometimes they create hope, and sometimes they are a sign of bad times ahead.

This week the NBA tradeline was met with more activity than I can ever imagine. The Celtics made a deal that literally came out of nowhere. The C's seemed pretty secure with their roster. They had injuries to deal with (Delonte West, Shaq, and Jermaine O'Neal), and they did not really have the depth or picks to try and make a move. Then Danny Ainge made a splash, a splash that a lot of people did not like. He dealt Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson for Nened Krstic and Jeff Green.

People did not like this trade for a number of reasons.

1) Fans genuinely liked "Perk." He was a guy who worked hard and seemingly made the most out of the talent he had. He was a big lumbering center who did the little things in order to help the Celtics become the success they are.

2) Game 7 last year made Perkins a massive commodity. Celtics fans believe that with Perk the C's would have closed out the Lakers in game 7. This conjecture is a big reason people did not like seeing Perkins shipped out. What I believe is that if the Celtics lost game 7 with a healthy Perk people would be less upset. Perkins' value went UP when his team lost without him.

3) Celtics fans know how close this team is. They seem to really like each other. The Association on ESPN has given fans a backstage look at the Celtics, and Perkins is a big reason the team is so close.

4) Fans reacted to the Celtics player's reaction to the trade. KG, Doc, and others were vocal about the loss of Perk to the Thunder. I guess nostalgia effects the players too.

Jeff Green in 2007. Danny saw something in him then too.

There were players in the Thunder locker room who were sad to see Jeff Green go. That team is renowned for its chemistry and college-like atmosphere. No one in Boston seems to really care, they want Perk back.

I was honestly happy about this trade. The first thought that went through my head was, wow, we get Jeff Green. He is good! Jeff Green is a really solid addition to this team. Nenad Krstic is a guy I know nothing about, I knew he was a center who could both rebound and play better offense than Perk.

Let's be honest about Perk for a moment...he was a big center without much offensive ability outside of 5 feet. Are you thinking, but he can play defense, really good defense! That is something we have to wait and see about. Frankly, I wonder how much Perk's defensive prowess is tied to the great defense that the Celtics play. People used to KILL Paul Pierce for his defense. He was a below-average defender, then in 2007 he is all of a sudden a guy who can guard Kobe in the Finals. Huh? Does that make sense? KG is the guy on defense who changes everything. Perk won't have KG anymore.

Will Perk be the defensive stopper that all the Celtics fans loved in Oklahoma City? Only time will tell. 

In the case of the Celtics, this trade and the other ones they made, were made with the belief that the NBA is changing a little bit. The Celtics lost to a "big and tall" Lakers team last year. They went and got Shaq and Jermaine to get bigger in the middle. Now as they look at the NBA landscape they see some different teams rising to the top. The Heat, Bulls, and Thunder are all a little smaller and a little quicker. Making trades to play against one team is foolish, making trades to compete with an entire league is smarter. 

This trade the Celtics made comes with improvements for both big teams and quick teams. The Celtics still have size Krstic, The O'Neals, KG, and Glenn Davis while they also added a piece that gives them some quickness to battle those teams that could "go small" against them in the playoffs.

Hopefully the C's have others who will mix it up with Noah and others.

That leaves the question. Will the O'Neals be healthy? That will be the key I think to this entire trade. Another thing to think about is if Perk is healthy. He is already sitting out 3 weeks with a sprained MCL. This is not the knee that was not injured last June. Perk's knees may have been a bigger issue than the Celtics had let on.

Watch Kendrick Perkins run up and down the floor, his knees are bound to give way at some point. He is 26 with knee problems. Krstic is a year older than Perk, and may offset the "big and tall" opponents by stretching the defense out.

Overall, I think this trade is something that is going to add to the Celtics for the right now and for the future. In my mind they added more talent, and in time both guys will fit into the Celtics. The C's cannot afford to bitch and moan too long, they have a Championship window that is closing quickly. Maybe this trade opened a new window, the post-Pierce, Allen, KG window.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

 Is Boredom Tiger's Biggest Downfall?

Have you ever been bored? I think we have all been bored at some point in our life. We can get bored with friends, our job, a TV show, a movie, a book, our family. When we get bored we usually do something about it. We change something that we are doing to kill our boredom. Some of these things may be more extreme than others. If I am sitting on my couch bored I can get up and go outside, I can change the channel, I can grab a magazine, I can go eat.

Bored effects us all. We all solve it differently.  I have thought more about Tiger Woods these past few weeks amidst his return to a regular golf schedule. I saw Sean Foley on The Golf Channel this winter and I had a spark of a thought. Does Tiger just simply get bored? With everything?

Tiger Woods
Tiger was fined for spitting in Dubai this past weekend...jokes anyone?

Look at his life and the trends we have seen. Tiger turns pro in 1996. He wins his first professional major, The Masters, by 12 shots. He is the "it" kid. Big smile, bigger talent, squeaky clean. He decided a hugely successful first season was not enough. He wanted to change his swing (something he would do twice more in the next decade). Tiger claims he changes his swing to get better. I think he gets bored and needs a new challenge.

After winning a handful of majors and tons of tournaments Tiger next decided to change his swing coach. Maybe he was sick of hearing Butch Harmon say the same thing over and over again (was that Elin's downfall?). He moved onto Hank Haney and won some more majors, dominating again after changing his swing. Now he is on his third coach and his fourth swing since he said, "hello world" 14 years ago.

Now lets look at Tiger's personal life. He was bored. Bored with married life. Bored with his gorgeous wife. He went out and found some women who could fix his boredom (isn't that what we do when we are bored? Fix it?). Tiger thought that this was an okay thing to do. I will believe nothing else, he thought it was okay because he was so cavalier about it.

Could Tiger have had the perfect life? Absolutely, he had the game, the money, the wife, the kids, the houses, the boats, and anything else he wanted. Which might have been the problem. He could get anything he wanted. And he did. He changed his swing, and he won. He changed his coach, and he won. He cheated on his wife, and he got away with it hundreds of times (hundreds!).

Boredom can be a dangerous thing. For Tiger it has set back his career 3 years, and judging by the way he is playing right now, he may have a longer way back than any of us really think. Time will tell I guess.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Big Ben thoughts and Super Bowl predicition.

Its Super Bowl time! I have avoided a lot of Super Bowl talk the past two weeks, mainly because I find the media somewhat insufferable during Super Bowl week. They throw out superlatives before anything has even been decided. Big Ben is now a hero, Aaron Rodgers is the Holy Son of Green Bay, blah, blah, blah.

This game has one massive storyline that I think has been completely ignored. Big Ben is not a year removed from a 6 games suspension for sexual assault. Now he has reached a point where he is a "redemption story." I wrote about Vick and Tiger and their silly redemption stories. Big Ben has admitted no wrong-doing. The only thing he has admitted to is that he has rediscovered his spirituality (by spirituality does he mean "penis?").

I think it is pathetic that Peter King has written an article about the Patriots Spygate this week. Picking a scab that is three years old. Do I value investigative journalism? Yes. Why write that article this week? Media members are pretty sackless sometimes. An article ripping Big Ben apart is a bad investment, because you may never get an interview or soundbite again. Ripping the Pats? Ripping Bill Bellichick is easy because he stonewalls everyone in the media anyway.

Big Ben is a sexual predator that can play football. He plays football very well. However, he is not being held to task for choices he made. Frankly, I think that is too bad. If the Steelers pull out this Super Bowl he will be forgiven for all his mistakes, he will do the Letterman, Leno, Conan circuit. Hell maybe he will shave his beard for charity again. What a guy.

Will Big Ben play like a champion on Sunday? Probably...ugh..

Anyway, on to the game...

It seems like the majority of people are taking the Packers. They like the way their offense matches up with the Steelers defense. People are comparing it to the Patriots offense that spread out the Steelers defense and picked them apart with short passing. This would neutralize the dynamic Pittsburgh linebackers if the Packers spread the field with a lot of receivers.

What do the Packers need do to win?

1) Get an early lead and do not take your foot off the gas peddle. The Packers have been a very solid team coming out of the gate. Their three wins in the playoffs were all proof of that. The Falcons were the only team they did not let back into the game. The Eagles and Bears both had chances at the end of the game, even though the Packers led by 10+ points late in both games. Mike McCarthy's play calling will be very important in this game.

2) Use the short passing game as a replacement for running the ball a lot. The Steelers defense is awesome against the run. They only allow 62 yards a game on the ground, first in the league. The Packers believe they have to run the ball a lot in order to win most games. For their sake, I hope they change that belief for this game.

3) Let Charles Woodson, BJ Raji, and Clay Matthews create plays on defense.  These guys are the key to winning the turnover battle. B.J Raji made a great play against the Bears, scoring a huge touchdown which at the time did not see like it was a touchdown they needed. In the end, it was extremely important. With the Steelers' star center out with an injury, Raji's play could swing this game. Big Ben is tough to bring down, but Raji may be the man for the job.

BJ Raji could be the key to this game.

What do the Steelers need do to win?

1) Run the football well early to open up the game. The Packers are 5th in passing defense, but 18th against the run. The Steelers' Rashard Mendenhall killed the Jets in the AFC Championship. He ran the ball early in the game, slowing down the game. The Steelers opening drive was 10 minutes long. The Steelers will have to run the ball to keep the explosive Packers offense off the field. 

2) Keep Big Ben "local." This is my new phrase for the pocket. Big Ben's skills are the best when he gets out of his neighborhood. He runs around and makes plays outside of the pocket. Keeping him local means he has to only use his arm to beat you. Once he uses his legs you are dead as a defense. He has receivers who know how to play with him. The Packers pass defense is very good, they need to treat Big Ben more like Mike Vick and less like Peyton Manning. Contain, contain, contain.

3) Bend but don't break. The Patriots have been famous for this. Let the opponent move the ball until they really really want to. When they get into 3rd down and the red zone the Steelers have to make stops. The Packers will move the ball on them, however the Steelers defense is well versed in making those important stops and forcing turnovers. The Steelers have to keep the Packers offense in front of them. No big plays, no silly touchdowns.

Will this be the scene on Sudnay? Tomlin is looking to become the youngest coach with 2 rings.

At the start of the playoffs I made a list of quarterbacks and coaches my buddy Pat and I believe in.  Here is the list again:

The quarterbacks we believe in:

Peyton Manning
Tom Brady
Big Ben
Aaron Rodgers
Drew Brees

Guys on the fence:

Mike Vick
Matt Ryan

Coaches we believe in:

Bill Bellichik
Mike Tomlin
Sean Payton

On the fence:

Jim Harbaugh
Andy Reid
Mike McCarthy
Rex Ryan

Big Ben, Aaron Rodgers, and Mike Tomlin all made our cut. Mike McCarthy, even after three road wins is still on our fence. His game management makes me nervous.

The Steelers have the experience, they have the QB/coach combo, and they have the toughness. At the beginning of the playoffs I choose the Packers and Pats to meet in the Super Bowl with the Pats winning.

Now I am faced with a Steelers or Packers decision. The Steelers seem like they have the players who can tilt the balance and win a close game down the stretch. Their experience at quarterback and coach is a huge advantage. Aaron Rodgers is a great quarterback, but he is surrounded by a team of first-timers, in the end that will end up being the different. And trust me, it kills me to say it.

Prediction (7-3 in playoffs)

Steelers 27 - Packers 21
MVP: Big Ben

Enjoy the game...