Thursday, December 16, 2010

NFL Week 14-15

NFL Week 14

Lions win...Lions win...Lions win...Detroit breaks their own NFL record 19 game losing streak within the Division with a 7-3 thriller (please note - thriller is being said sarcastically) over the Green Bay Packers...The Pack lose the game and in the process lose QB Aaron Rodgers who is unlikely to play this week at New England 
Another big play from Troy Polamalu

Steelers win by scoring 2 TD's on D as they, again, find a way to win a football game...if you love the Steel Curtain then for the millionth time you were pleasantly surprised that the team played so-so but come away with a W...if you are a hater then this team will drive you to drink...I have never seen a team win in so many different ways...

Anything in Week 14 more incredible than the Washington Redskins scoring a TD on their last play of the game only to botch the game-tying extra-point for a 17-16 L...The Super Bowl this year could be Miami vs Washington if either one didn't continue to invent new ways to lose football games...As for the TB part of this, that W puts them at 8-5 which is 1 game back of the #6 and final playoff spot in the NFC currently held by the 9-4 NY Giants

Speaking of the Giants, they lose WR Steve Smith and have #3 WR Mario Manningham hurt during the game too, but they did get a 21-3 win over Minnesota in a game that ended Vikings QB Brett Favre consecutive start record streak at 297 games...a remarkable #, but for me another remarkable # is 3 as in only 3 games left to have to hear anything about Favre anymore

Jones-Drew is a legit MVP candidate
 The Colts won on Thursday night, and thanks to MVP candidate RB Maurice Jones-Drew the Jacksonville Jaguars were able to remain atop the AFC South with a thrilling (for real this time) 38-31 W over a Raiders team that has shown up the last 2 weeks on the road after a disastrous 2 weeks prior to that

Since the Thanksgiving Day game was tied after 3 quarters between Detroit and New England the Patriots are on a 102-10 scoring run...those insane #'s came at home, on the road, in the snow...this O loses Randy Moss, Laurence Maroney, and Kevin Faulk (Faulk due to injury) and replaces them with Deion Branch and Danny Woodhead and they have not skipped a beat...you will be hard pressed to find someone who will not have the Pats as the fav to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLV

Making its return to the New York Jets football team and its fans is...PANIC...we saw the panic after a lack-luster opener to the 2010 season and these last 2 weeks surely will have Jets fans uneasy...the most recent failure on O came Week 14 with a 10-6 home loss to the Miami Dolphins...this is a Dolphins team that improved to 6-1 on the road...let's not even talk about Jets Strength and Conditioning Coach Sal Alosi and his trip of  Dolphins player Nolan Carroll...let's just agree it was the opposite of sportsmanship and about as dumb a move as we have seen...The Jets are stacking L's the last few weeks, and the entire coaching staff is being exposed as boobs lately

The Dallas Cowboys are still trying to catch DeSean Jackson

The Houston Texans will surely end the season by firing Head Coach Gary Kubiak and in Week 14 they set an NFL record by losing for the 4th time this season in a game that they rallied from down at least 14 points to tie, or take the lead, only to lose that game...

Week 15

San Fran @ San Diego...Thursday night tilt vs 2 teams who started the season horribly, but both have rallied of late to be just 1 game back in each of their respective Divisions...If you are a Patriots fan I would be watching the Chargers closely...if they make the playoffs they are the only O that can hang with the Brady Bunch

Houston @ Tennessee...both teams got out to a 4-2 start and both have plummeted to their current 5-8...The Titans are 0-5 since claiming Randy Moss off of waivers from Minny...both teams will have new Head Coaches in 2011

Jacksonville @ Indy...BIG game in the AFC South...the winner needs to win their last 2 games of the season after this game to ensure they win the AFC South title and thus qualify for the playoffs...the loser will need to win their final 2 games and also get help

KC @ St Louis...both teams have at least a share of first place in their Divisions...the Chiefs hope to have QB Matt Cassell back following his appendectomy last week...the alternative is back-up QB Brodie Croyle who is a pathetic 0-10 as a starter

Philly @ NY Giants...both teams are 9-4 and are tied atop the NFC East...these 2 teams met for Round 1 in Week 11 with the Eagles winning 27-17 on the strength of turning over the Giants 5 times...this time around the running game for New York is hot and the passing game has injuries...the Eagles O has Vick/Jackson/McCoy doing their thing and accounting for several big plays

New Orleans @ Baltimore...Super Bowl XLV preview?!?!  Both of these teams are currently in Wild Card position and both could make extended runs in the playoffs...This Saints O faces a tougher D than they usually see and he Ravens D has a stiff test with Drew Brees and his crew

Atlanta @ Seattle...last road game in 2010 for Hotlanta and if they win that will be literally the last road game as they will be in primo position to have the #1 seed and home field in the NFC playoffs...they hope to have 1 more road game in Feb 2011 in Dallas for the Super Bowl...Seattle needs a W to maintain at least a share of 1st place in the putrid NFC West
Glass Joe

Green Bay @ New England...the Packers Week 14 loss to Detroit is way more than a bump in the road as they have to follow that up with a trip to Foxborough where Tom Terrific et al is likely to face a Packers team led by QB Matt Flynn...this is like Mike Tyson in his prime vs Glass Joe from Mike Tyson's Punch Out...we have said numerous times if you are travelling to Foxborough to face the Brady Bunch you need to bring your A+ Offense...that means 30+ points and zero turnovers...with Matt Flynn at the helm that falls under the ol' "hey, good luck with that" category...

New York @ Pittsburgh...Jets have not seen the End Zone in the last 2 games...a trip to Heinz Field to face the Steel Curtain is hardly the cure for what ails you...2 teams here who believe themselves to be legit Super Bowl contenders

Chicago @ Minny...in a long list of stripid things that Brett Favre has done lately rushing back from injury to QB a 5 win team is the stripidest...add to that the team he will face is the Chicago Bears...PREDICTION - the Bears D will knock Favre out of the game so seriously that it will also end his miserable 2010 campaign and finally force him into retirement


Monday, December 13, 2010

NBA at the 1/4 pole

We just passed the first 25% of the NBA schedule for every team in the Association...let's take a look at where we are...the good...the bad...the ugly...

The Good

Best record in the NBA belongs to the San Antonio Spurs (19-3)...the Spurs are off to their best start in franchise history...The most games Tim Duncan had in 1 season being held to single-digit points was 4...this season he is already at 7 and counting...The Spurs are getting 67 points per game from the foursome of Duncan (13 ppg), Manu Ginobli (20 ppg), Tony Parker (17ppg), and  Richard Jefferson (17 ppg) plus check the contribution from the role players too...George Hill (11 ppg), Matt Bonner - DeJuan Blair - James Anderson - Gary Neal all contribute 7 ppg on this deep team...add veteran Antonio McDyess and rookie Tiago Splitter and we see why Duncan has not been called on every game to lead this team...All that is coached by the man at the helm Greg Popovich...with the Legend of Phil Jackson in the same conference at the same time Pop is often times under the radar, but this is a 4-time Champ...Remember the Alamo as the Spurs are for real...

At 19-4, and currently with a winning streak at 10 games, the Boston Celtics are off to a monster start...the thing that stands out to me is the 10-1 home record...the 2009 Celtics were the only team in NBA history to go to the Finals having had a better regular season road record than home record...a team supposedly built for the playoffs is playing at a high level right now...The Celts have 6 guys averaging double digit points per game...at some point the likes of Delonte West, Jermaine O'Neal, and Kendrick Perkins will return from injury and this deep team becomes deeper...Phil Jackson said recently when comparing the Heat's team D to the Celtics said that Boston is the only team that you have to account/game plan for their D as it is that prominent and that good...Celtics have the best record vs the Eastern Conference at 15-2 and that includes 2 W's over Miami and Chicago each

Dallas Mavericks have opened up the season a remarkable 18-4 with a current 11 game winning streak...let me throw this out to you...is Disco Dirk Nowitzki underrated?  This is a guy who will average at least 21.8 ppg for the 11th straight season in 2010-2011...remarkable...to give an example here Andrea Bargnani is having a breakout season on the offensive end at 21.3 ppg...Dirk has done that plus more for double-digit years...again I say remarkable...the Mavs also get double-digit ppg's from Jason The Jet Terry and The Matrix Shawn Marion...add a fav of mine Caron Butler who can fill it up, plus Jason Kidd and Jose Barea...all that plus of course ex-Raptor Tyson Chandler...Chandler provides the consequence at the rim in Big D that the Raptors sorely need...Brandon Haywood and DeShawn Stevensen also give quality minutes to a Mavs team that actually focuses on D first...Dallas has the #5 ranked D through the first 1/4 of the season

New York Knicks (15-7) are off to a 10-4 start to their road schedule...no other team has double-digit road W's...the story in the Big Apple is Amar'e...the current 7 game Knicks win streak has seen Amar'e go for at least 31 in every game tying a Knicks record...the other off season addition this summer in New York was PG Raymond Felton who is giving them 18 ppg and dishing out 8 assists per game

The Bad

We will put the Heat's 9-8 start in the Bad column, but we will take note that they have currently won 8 straight and are looking much better, especially on D

The Phoenix Suns (11-12) and the Houston Rockets (8-14) are off to surprisingly bad starts...to have a sub-.500 record in the desert is not like the Steve Nash-led Suns, and I love Houston's roster and am really surprised with their bad start

The Charlotte Bobcats were the #7 seed in the East last season, but are struggling at 8-15...notice we never hear Jordan fans speak of his time as an NBA Executive...he was Isiah Thomas-like in Washington, and continues to struggle in Charlotte

Milwaukee Bucks have a lot of talent, but are off to a slow 9-13 start...I like this team a lot and they need to get healthy and improve the bad 2-8 road start

Of the 8 teams that would make the playoffs in the West currently can you guess who has the worst home record through the first 25% of the season?!?!  The Utah Jazz...surprising

The Ugly

Pretty standard to have the Los Angeles Clippers in an Ugly column...0-10 on the road...5-19 overall...no team has a worse record...standard behaviour from this putrid franchise

Sacramento is a league worst 3-9 at home in the Arco Arena

Franchises like Golden State, Minnesota, Memphis, New Jersey, Washington, and Philly join the Clippers and Kings as teams that continue to stack L's season after season...that being said we certainly have had our share of L's up here in Canada too

Stop me if you have heard this before...Portland C Greg Oden will miss the season as he requires knee surgery...in 2007 the Trail Blazers had their choice at #1 overall pick between Oden and Kevin Durant...they went with Oden...Oklahoma City thanks them

Orlando Magic have Dwight Howard, Jameer Nelson, J.J. Redick, and Mickael Pietrus all miss games with stomach flu...ugly
No team in the Association has more losses when scoring 100 points than YOUR TORONTO RAPTORS...even when they score they still lose...ugly inside D on this team

Thursday, December 9, 2010

NFL Week 13-14

Week 13

Is there any other place to start than the beat down at Foxborough this past Monday Night...The class and decorum of the Brady/Belichick era laid an ass-whoopin' on the brash, and often arrogant and ignorant, New York Jets...For Tom Terrific this was the 26th straight Regular Season game in New England that he has won...that is an NFL record...the last time the Brady Bunch lost at home with Tom at the helm was over 4 years ago...when was the last time your team lost at home?!?!  For me it was days ago as my Dolphins lost to the Browns...Cincy, Detroit, Tennessee, Indy, San Diego, Arizona, Baltimore, and Tampa Bay all lost at home days ago...for Brady the last home loss was November 2006 17-14 to the Jets...and as for the Jets, only one of their 9 wins - Week 2 home win vs New England - came vs a team with a winning record so perhaps they could have been SIGNIFICANTLY less arrogant heading in to Foxborough...Rex Ryan I am looking at you...and while I am looking at you Rex let me ask how you managed only 149 net passing yards vs the last ranked Secondary in the NFL?!?!...not only was your conduct leading up to the game embarrassing, but so was the game plan...

Side note - In a 2010 NFL season that has seen the Legend of QB's Brett Favre...Peyton Manning...Carson Palmer...Donovan McNabb all take hits, Tom Brady continues to add to his Best Ever resume...another QB that I feel warrants a nod this season is Matt Ryan in Atlanta...Falcons have lost only 1 game at home since Matty Ice took the helm as a rookie in 2008...Honourable mention to Rams QB Sam Bradford...11 TD's vs just 2 INT's in winning 4 of the last 7 games...this is a Rams team that won 1 football game last year...

Philly outscores the Texans 14-0 in the 4th Q to get their 8th W of the season...are you sold on Philly?  Let me throw a scenario at you that has had me drooling for a while now...imagine this...Hotlanta maintains their level of play and enters the playoffs as the NFC #1 seed thus hosting the NFC Title game (they will be off Wildcard weekend and then have to win at home in week 2 of the playoffs) and if you are sold on Philly then you likely have them going to the NFC Title game...Michael Vick going back to Hotlanta!!!  Wow...the winner goes to the Super Bowl...it writes itself

Speaking of the Texans surely this latest failure to make the playoffs will cost Gary Kubiak his Head Coach job putting another talented Offensive Coordinator on the market...Norv Turner will follow...possibly Ken Whisenhunt too...they will join Brad Childress and Josh McDaniels as talented Offensive Coordinators who are much better served in that role as apposed to Head Coach...the Defensive Coordinator equivalents would be Wade Phillips with guys like Marvin Lewis, Jeff Fisher, and John Fox likely available too...

The coaches above are all likely ex-Head Coaches...guys like Jack Del Rio in Jacksonville, Lovie Smith in Chicago, Steve Spagnola in St. Louis, Todd Haley in KC, Tom Cable in Oakland, Raheem Morris in TB have all seemingly done enough in 2010 to get them off the hot seat...

Dez Bryant helped off field with season-ending injury
The Colts lose in OT to the Cowboys...Interim Head Coach Jason Garrett did get his 3rd win vs only 1 loss, but it came at a cost...rookie WR Dez Bryant fractured his ankle thus ending his 2010 rookie campaign...For the 2nd straight game Peyton Manning tosses the ball to the other team 4 times...that is now 11 INT's in the past 3 weeks...wow...things are really catching up to the Colts...the running game is non-existent which is horror for a QB as good at the play-action pass as Peyton is...these days ain't nobody falling for play-action vs Indy...couple that with the loss of 3 big-time studs...Dallas Clark done for the year, and WR's Austin Collie and Anthony Gonzalez have been out for a while...all that also allows teams to double team WR Reggie Wayne which also means he is limited for Peyton too...

The San Diego Charges blow a chance to keep pace with the KC Chiefs in the AFC West as they are humbled at home by the Raiders

Did Bills fans enjoy the fact that ex Bills RB Marshawn Lynch scored 3 TD's for the first place Seattle Seahawks last Sunday?!?!  Bills RB CJ Spiller has 199 yards and 0 TD's on the season......ahem.............

Week 14

Indy @ Tennessee...Thursday Night tilt...the winner will remain in the AFC South race while the loser will have their 2010 season all but ended...

Green Bay @ Detroit...the Lions are in the midst of an NFL record 19 game losing streak vs teams in their Division...amazing futility

Oakland @ Jacksonville...the winner continues their surprisingly strong 2010, while the loser will be brought back to reality

St Louis @ New Orleans...The Rams have won 2 straight on the road the last 2 weeks, but a trip to the defending Champs will surely prove to be a major test...the Rams are tied for 1st in the NFC West, while the Saints need a W to keep pace with the NFC South leading Atlanta Falcons...this game features current great QB Drew Brees vs future great QB Sam Bradford

1985 Super Bowl shuffle...2010 Bears singing too?
New England @ Chicago...this is a game I have had circled all season as a litmus test for both teams...The Pats Secondary is amongst the League's worst so I think New England likely has placed heavy importance on finishing with the AFC's #1 seed so that D does not have to go on the road...the Pats remaining schedule after this game is home vs Green Bay and Miami and @ Buffalo...3 winnable games there so if the Pats can get this big road W they will be in the driver seat for the #1 seed...For Da Bears they need this W to keep one step ahead of the Packers for 1st place in the NFC North...I love this Bears team and I am in the minority there...not a lot of believers in this team, but the O has improved and the D has been awesome...this is a D who has a goal of getting 3 turnovers each game...a lofty goal indeed, but they are so damn good that they actually have the talent to accomplish that...Super Bowl preview?!?!

KC @ San Diego...the Chargers laid an egg in Week 13 vs a Division foe (Raiders) and a Week 14 loss to Division foe KC will end their season...no team in the AFC West has a chance to be a Wildcard team so only the Division winner will qualify for post-season play and the winner of this game has a great chance to be that team...


Monday, December 6, 2010

Brett Lawrie

AA...the man with the plan
My name is Craig Ballard and I am a Jays fan...time to hold another AA meeting...as you know by now our version of AA meetings is to look at Alex Anthopoulos and his moves to build a perennial contender here in the T-Dot...

Latest move was a stunner, but hopefully will produce a stud for years to come...

2010 Opening Day Starter Shaun Marcum gets moved to Milwaukee for 20 year old 2nd baseman Brett Lawrie (6'0...213 lbs)...he was drafted #16 overall in the 2008 MLB Draft by Milwaukee...the Jays had the next pick and were likely going to take the scrappy Lawrie, instead they took First baseman David Cooper...at #16 he is the highest drafted position-player to hail from Canada...Lawrie is from Burnaby, BC...bats right with a classic lefties swing but from the right side...open stance...throws right and has a good arm

Brett and sister Danielle have rep'd Canada many times
Lawrie has represented Canada on numerous Team Canada teams...he was also selected to represent the World Team at the 2009 MLB All-Star Futures Game, and again in 2010...he was also an 2010 All-Star at AA Huntsville in the Southern League

Lawrie is a Catcher but a few months ago began the move to 2nd Baseman...The Jays have Aaron Hill at that spot currently, but Hill was a Shortstop who converted the 2nd Base so either one of these guys could be asked to switch positions again (my guess is one of them to third base OR Aaron Hill gets traded)...the Jays have flirted with several trades in the last few months that would have landed them a 2nd Baseman in return so my thinking here is they are not enamoured with Hill as the every day 2B

In Brett Lawrie the Jays get the top ranked prospect in the Milwaukee organization...he has raw power (once hit 5 HR's in a double-header vs Seattle's Dominican team using all fields...his performance vs the Dominican Pitchers is legendary for those who saw it...in that tourney he went 21 for 30 with 14 extra-base hits) and raw speed (16 Triples in 2010)...

ANY Scouting Report you read projects this guy to have plus-power...the comparisons to Jeff Kent are there...the mention of what a good athlete he is are there...the talk about his desire is there...also there is a lot of talk about his tendency to get in streaks where he is too pull-conscious - I would say that most 20 year old studs have that issue and with time he can realize his potential to use all fields consistently...he is a "one speed" kind of competitor and that speed is balls-out

I am Craig Ballard, and I am a Jays fan...

I look forward to a potential double-play duo of SS Adeiny Hechavarria and 2B Brett Lawrie for years to come...even if Lawrie does change positions his bat is still a high upside bat worthy of optimism

I was a big fan Shaun...good luck to you sir

He came at a price...Marcum was the most available Jays Pitcher, but anytime you trade your Opening Day starter you fell a tad taken aback...Vernon Wells tweeted "Shaun will be missed. He's a bulldog on the mound and the Brew Crew will love playing behind him."

Marcum missed all of 2009 due to Tommy John surgery and returned in 2010 to start 31 games...13-8 record...3.64 era (very good)...1.15 WHIP (extremely good...Walks and Hits per Inning Pitch is what WHIP stands for, and it is a stat that has exploded as far as having importance to show a Pitchers effectiveness...at 1.15 Marcum had the 5th best WHIP in the AL)

Personally I take the trading of Marcum trade to replace Shaun i.e. a Zack Greinke trade...or...AA has liked what he saw in the Arizona Fall League from starter Marc Rzepczynski and will use the draft to stockpile more young up-side arms like last season, and as for 2011 go with Romero-Morrow-Cecil-Drabek-Rzepczynski as the 5 man rotation...Drabek would likely have to be part of a Zack Greinke deal so time will tell...

Either way AA wanted a talent like Anthony Gose - he went and got him - and he wanted Brett Lawrie too so he pulled the trigger on this deal...

Go Jays Go

as always send me your thoughts/comments...  craig.ballard@hotmail.com

Thursday, December 2, 2010

John Farrell

Hello again friends...as you know by now my name is Craig Ballard and I am a Jays fan...from time to time we hold our version of AA meetings around here...our AA of course is short for Alex Anthopoulos...AA is the GM of YOUR TORONTO BLUE JAYS and in his 1+ year in that role we have seen much to be excited about...the latest is the hiring of 48 year old John Farrell to a 3 year deal to be the teams new Manager replacing the moving-on Cito Gaston (Cito will still be gainfully employed by the Jays as part of his new 4-year Consulting Contract with the club)...

AA led a search for a new Manager and looked through dozens of good candidates before finalizing on Farrell...let's take a look together at what we have coming here in the T-Dot and take a look at John Farrell

John Farrell was a pitcher with the Cleveland Indians twice ('87-'90 and then again in '95) plus stints in Cali with the then-named California Angels, and his career ended early in 1996 with Detroit...Farrell won 36 while losing 46...

A big part of why we should be excited about the hiring of Farrell is his experience after his pedestrian MLB career is really good...Farrell served as the Director of Player Development for Cleveland from the 2002 season through the 2006 season...in the middle of that the Indians were named Organization of the Year by USA Todays Sports Weekly back to back years...the renowned Baseball America named the Indians as having the top farm system in professional baseball during his tenure too...player development and accolades = a great start to the management career of John Farrell

In 1997 Farrell took a new challenge at Oklahoma State University - his Alma Mater - as Assistant Coach and Pitching Coach; Recruiting Coordinator...he was there for 4 years...

John Farrell in coach-mode
In 2006 Farell made his return to MLB as the Pitching Coach of the Boston Red Sox...Boston Manager Terry Francona knew Farrell from their days together as Indians players...Farrell was the Pitching Coach for the 2007 World Series winning Red Sox

When you are the Toronto Blue Jays, in particular AA, you see an organization being flooded by young, high upside, arms that will be used at the MLB level by the Jays as they develop and/or some will be used as trade pieces to bring in position-player assets...further to that there will also be young arms used as back-fill when the Marcum's/Cecil's/Morrow's etc get too expensive and are better as trade chips...with all that said we see the coach of this young team needs to have player development experience - experience with young talent - experience as a big-time and successful pitching coach at the MLB level to bring along this young and talented pitching staff...Farrell gets a check mark in all those areas

John Farrell is a baseball man...he has 3 children...all male...all baseball stars...Luke pitches for Northwestern...Shane is a pitcher at Marshall (Marshall Thundering Herd where Randy Moss and Chad Pennington went)...Jeremy is an infielder in the Pittsburgh organization

AA introducing new Manager John Farrell
 On October 25, 2010 Farrel was named as the 10th Manager in the history of this franchise...he is the 8th to make his MLB managing debut with the Jays...only Bobby Cox (1978-1981 Atlanta) and Jim Fregosi (1,800 previous games with Philly/White Sox/Angels) joined the Jays as Manager with previous Manager experience...

The fact that Paul Beeston and AA like Farrell enough to put him in charge of the on-field product is certainly good enough for me, but I was also extremely excited to hear the praise Manny Ramirez has for Farrell...including the fact that he believes that John Farrell "trains ballplayers"...music to my ears as there is a ton of high-upside talent in this organization and Farrell looks like the guy to lead us going forward


NFL Week 12-13

Week 12

Tom Terrific puts up the first perfect passer rating of the 2010 season in the Pats romp at Detroit...talk about 2 complete opposites...what must it be like to be a Pats fan vs what must it be like to be a Lions fan...nothing but W's vs nothing but L's

NY Jets outscore the Cincy Bungles 23-3 in the 2nd half to cement their 9th W and keep pace with the 9-2 Pats setting up the game of the year this upcoming Monday Night in Foxborough

Speaking of 9-2 how about Matty Ice and the Hotlanta Falcons...Matt Ryan aka Matty Ice has started 21 games as QB in Atlanta for the Falcons and the team has a 20-1 record in those games...impressive

Peyton Hillis continues his impressive 2010
 Cleveland RB Peyton Hillis has another big game...this guy has been the find of the year...Browns pick him up in return for QB Brady Quinn...that means Broncos man in charge Josh McDaniels has traded Jay Cutler, Brandon Marshall, and Hillis for nothing much in return and as a result the Broncos have lost 16 of their last 21 games

The last 7 games Randy Moss has played since being traded from New England have resulted in a 1-6 record...0-3 with his new Titans...in that same span the Pats are 6-1...looking like the Moss trade was a great one for the Pats and looking like Moss is getting exposed as a cancer

2 weeks ago Raiders fans were on a high they haven't felt in years and years...2 weeks later and 2 L's later the team has crashed back to earth...Jokeland has been bombed 68-20 in those 2 games...RUN DMC aka Darren McFadden had been great the weeks previous, but the last 2 he has a total of 16 yards on 18 carries...

KC (7-4) continues to be the most improved team in the AFC and Da Bears (8-3) continue to be the most improved NFC squad

Rams QB Sam Bradford has his first career 300+ yard passing game...Sam has been really playing well lately...last 6 games he has 11 TD's vs just 1 INT...impressive

QB Phillip Rivers is EXTREMELY good...playing EXTREMELY well
 San Diego continues their resurgence...4 straight W's...shut out Peyton and the Colts in the 2nd half of their 36-14 W on Sunday Night...#1 D...#1 O...all 5 of their losses were 8 points or less...if the playoffs started today they would not be in as KC would be the AFC West winners and Pitt and NE/Jets being the 2 Wild Card teams...next 3 games are all in SD and are all winnable...Jokeland/KC/SF then they finish the 2010 season @ Cincy and @ Denver

Week 13

New Orleans (@ Cincy) and Chicago (@ Detroit) plus St. Louis (@ Arizona) all won last week and are all in position to get a road win vs a team they should beat to continue their march to the playoffs...KC (vs Denver) and NY Giants (vs Washington) plus San Diego (vs Jokeland) all have the same chance to follow up week 12 W's with home games vs teams they should beat to also continue their march to the playoffs

Jacksonville @ Tennessee...The Titans hope to have QB Kerry Collins back for this game plus WR Kenny Britt...2 teams in the AFC South are 6-5 and the other 2 are 5-6 so any inter-Division game in the AFC South takes on that much more meaning...the Titans have lost 4 straight games but they play an AFC South foe 4 times in their last 5 games so they still have a great chance to make the playoffs...for Jacksonville they are wanting to rebound from a 2nd half collapse in New York last week in a 24-20 loss to the Giants

Atlanta @ Tampa Bay...the 9-2 Falcons can drop the upstart Bucs to 7-5 with a win this week...Atlanta will still have the Saints (currently 8-3)  to deal with, but here is an opportunity to narrow the race in the NFC South to 2 teams...a TB win would have them at 8-4 and just 1 game back...hanging around

The Nighter games for Week 13 are as good as they get...Sunday Nighter Pittsburgh @ Baltimore...Monday Nighter NY Jets @ New England...34-10 combined records here...4 legit AFC contenders...

Pitt @ Balt...last 3 years the games in this series have all come down to the wire and have all been phenomenally physical...both teams sit at 8-3 currently...Baltimore won 17-14 in the first meeting this season back in Week 4 at Pittsburgh...that was the last game QB Ben Roethlisberger sat out as part of his 4 game NFL imposed suspension...Big Ben is listed as Questionable (sprained foot)

NY Jets @ New England...Week 2 the Jets won the first game of the 2010 matchups in this series 28-14 in New York...both teams have had extra time to prepare as A) Monday Night game so extra day there and B) both teams played last Thursday on US Thanksgiving...A Jets victory would give them a major leg-up in the AFC East as they would be 10-2 plus 4-0 in the Division and 2-0 vs New England so all the tie-breakers would belong to them...a Pats victory would put the Pats at 10-2 and back as the #1 seed in the AFC...with Pitt/Balt/Jets all have better D than the Pats do so I believe New England will have heavy emphasis on getting the #1 seed so they can have their high-powered O and their D play at home which is their best chance to go  a 5th Super Bowl in the Brady-Belichick era...surprising stat for me is that Jets QB Mark Sanchez only has 230 less passing yards than Tom Terrific has so far this season...of course Brady is all about putting points on the board (23 TD's vs only 4 INT's) but Sanchez is impressing in his 2nd season


Thursday, November 25, 2010

I am thankful for...

Happy US Thanksgiving to our friends south of the border...in the spirit of giving thanks let's look at some sports-related items I am thankful for lately...

Lakers win...Lakers win...theeee Lakers win

Topping the list is I am thankful to be a Lakers fan...3-time defending Western Conference champs...2-time defending NBA champs...the type of organization that "measures success by Championships" according to my hero Earvin Magic Johnson...when your other fav teams are the Dolphins and Jays then you really appreciate a team that wins and is committed to winning like the Lakers

Speaking of the Jays...I am thankful that Paul Beeston has agreed to stick around and run the franchise...his fingerprints are all over the 1992-1993 World Series winning teams and the fact that he once again is at the top of the organization is cause for optimism...

As a sports fan I am thankful that as we speak the Miami Hate are a pedestrian 8-7...I am glad to see that just assembling a few players with massive talent does not equal huge success...at least not right away anyway...I am thankful that the whole idea of building a team through building a foundation and culture is still the blueprint for success

I am thankful that with all the assholes in sports we still have Sydney Crosby...Tom Brady...Peyton Manning...Albert Pujols...Doc Halladay...Tim Duncan...Steve Nash...Big Papi...to show the youth how to act on and off the field (Derek Jeter would normally be on this list but he is currently taking a huge gamble with his rep as he is actually making the Yankees look like the good guys in this latest contract negotiation)

Jim Joyce wipes the tears

I am thankful that I saw the essence of sportsmanship rekindled in the wake of the Jim Joyce blown call at first base on what would have been the final out of Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga...usually umps have an attitude that they are beyond reproach but Joyce (the umpire) went out of his way to acknowledge his mistake and to apologize to Galarraga after the game...the way these 2 handled the situation was inspiring...the next day Joyce rotated from 1st base ump to home plate umpire and he was showered with a standing ovation as he stood at home plate before the game to accept the line-up cards from the coaches...his eyes filled with tears as he was overcome with emotion (pictured left)...his human error the day before that cost the Tigers pitcher, Tigers organization, and Tigers fans a piece of history was all forgiven as sportsmanship trumped the blown call and inspired a lot of people...very cool scene in Motown

I am thankful that the NFL is talking about an 18 game schedule...I am thankful MLB is considering adding more teams to the playoffs...I am thankful that the NCAA March Madness pool is up to 68 teams this season...possibly more to come there too...the more teams = the more chances for the type of special upsets that only this tourney can provide

I am thankful that Allen Iverson had to go to Turkey to resume his basketball career...life lesson there kids - if you spend your entire career putting you ahead of the team then no matter what your talent level is your act will wear thin...truth is AI would have been a great fit in Boston, LA, and really perfect for Miami but he showed time and time again that he was the only person on his mind...

I am thankful for the NFL rule change to protect hits to the head...the comments from the Defensive players in the League when the changes happened were ignorant and appalling...the idea that we as fans tune in to see that level of violence is absurd...we tune in to watch football, not countless close-ups of unconscious players who have to be carted off the field while strapped to a board to go and run tests to see if their quality of life has been forever altered...disgusting

I am sooooo thankful for the new NBA rule that allows referees to levy a Technical Foul against a player who is in any way over-the-top with any antics when disagreeing with a foul call...there are 450+ players in the NBA and none of them have ever committed a foul a day in their life...at least that is the way they act after any call...the histrionics were embarrassing and really were taking away from the integrity of the game so good for you NBA

I am thankful that for whatever reason you decided to spend 5 minutes with me today reading my blog :)...as always I hope you enjoyed the read and I hope we can interact again soon...


Friday, November 19, 2010

Your Toronto Raptors

Hello again friends...YOUR TORONTO RAPTORS are a dozen games into the 2010-2011 campaign and thus far it has been a dirty dozen...lets review shall we...

You know how we do it around here...The Good...The Bad...The Ugly

The Good
I have seen improvement and growth from DeMar
When you have played 12 games and only have 3 ticks in the W column finding The Good is difficult...I will say this - the Craps..sorry Raps...have played 8 road games which is more than any other team in the East (Only Portland - who is in the West - has played as many road games as that) not to mention 4 of those were n the West Coast...when the sched evens out a lot more and the other teams in the East have to go on those trips while the T-Dot catches up on their home games we could see more W's...

Although it is true that Andrea Bargnani has struggled a tad with consistency he still is getting 20 points per game on average which is 6 points higher than his career avg of 14 ppg

Last season we lamented that Reggie Evans was never healthy to contribute to the Raps...this year he is averaging a team-high 12 rebounds per game...those are Craig Ballard at Father Michael Goetz numbers!!!  (a laugh there for those of you who have known me since my high school days)

Sonny Weems is coming off the bench and at 14.1 points per game he is doubling his career avg

I have thought during stretches of time that the light bulb is going on for 2nd year player DeMar DeRozan...his offensive game has improved, but I am referring to his decision making and aggressiveness in stretches where the Raps really needed it...to have a 2nd year guy provide that for you bodes well for his development...

To have a 3-9 start and only be 2 games out of the 8th and final playoff spot is good

The Bad

Oh boy...2-6 road record...0-4 West Coast trip...

blown out at Washington when John Wall was not even playing...any of the last minute plays that Jay Triano has drawn up...

The fact that Reggie Evans leads your team in steals (come on Jose...Jack...DD...Sonny...Julian Wright...Barbosa)...

David Anderson has played in 10 games (yikes...I may be a better option..did I mention my high school rebounding prowess?!?!)...

more often than not we do no want to look either
Jarrett Jack's shooting numbers are plummeting...DO NOT let JJ shoot from downtown where he has made just 4 of his 24 attempts (YIKES)...JJ's turnovers are up and assists are down...

The other PG is Jose Calderon...Calderon's also has shooting numbers that are way down, as are his assists
The Ugly

STILL waiting for Alabi and Davis to debut
 Sure the Raps lost Bosh and Hedon't Turkoglu in the off-season, but they add Leandro Barbosa, Linus Kleiza, and Ed Davis...all 3 have struggled already with injuries...Davis has not even made his NBA debut yet...personally I cannot wait to see what kind of pro Mr Ed will be as I am excited about him...heck even fellow rookie Soloman Alabi has yet to make his debut...

The New Orleans Hornets are 9-1...the lone loss came at Dallas by 3 points...they are playing great...former Raptor Marco Belinelli has started all 10 games and is averaging 12 points per game and playing very well...as a Rap he started 1 game and averaged 7 points last season

The Raps still offer no consequences for taking the ball to the rim against them...teams are still able to run lay-up drills vs the Raps D as the middle is s-o-f-t

This team has looked brutal in the 4th Q this yea...they are really a young team who needs time to jell...it does not help that the new guys are all hurt...adding new guys has its own built-in learning curve but when the guys are not even healthy the jell process is of course further delayed which as already added to Raps fans frustrations...

I would have thought 4-8 was worst case scenario for this squad after a dozen games so to be below even that is upsetting and ugly...

Go Raps Go


Thursday, November 18, 2010

NFL Week 10-11

Hi folks...I am sorry for the delay in adding a new entry but I have had computer and Internet issues :(...but lets get right back at our weekly looks at the National Football Association...

Week 10

Matty Ice
As you know I like the NFC South winner to go on and represent the NFC in Super Bowl XLV...the way Matty Ice has his Hotlanta Falcons humming - especially at home where they have won 14 straight with Matt Ryan at the helm - the Dirty Birds look good right now...

Speaking of winning at home how about Peyton and the Colts...4-0 at home this season despite numerous injuries (I may line up at WR for the Colts this week as they are sooo short handed these days)

Speaking, again, of winning at home Toronto's own Buffalo Bills finally get a W...the most significant part of that is it came at home where the Bills were dominant in the 90's, but horrid in the 2000's...

Hmmm...looks like a home team shout-out here too but with Week 10's 49-29 thrashing of KC the Denver Broncos won a Division home game for the first time in 2 years under Head Coach Josh McDaniels

Miami had 4 different players throw a pass in an injury-filled W, their first at home in 2010...WR Randy Moss has played 2 games in Miami this season and has 1 catch...give some credit to Dolphins CB Vontae Davis...the 2nd year player is really impressing this season and appears to have a Top 5 up-side

Mike Thomas carried off the field after "The Rebound"
Play of the Year ends the Houston @ Jacksonville tilt...you have no doubt seen the replay of David Garrard's 50 yard Hail Mary toss into the End Zone on the last play of the game...the ball was spiked down by Houston CB Glover Quin but the angle of the spike allowed the football to land fortuitously in the arms of Jags WR Mike Thomas for the game winning score...the play is called "Rebound" and when they practice it Thomas is always the "scoop guy" whose job it is to try to catch a deflected/batted ball...what was huge was the play prior to that was a 5-yard offside penalty on Antonio Smith which gave Garrard the extra 5 yards needed to get his heave all the way into the End Zone...that W puts the Jags at 5-4, while the loss was the 3rd straight for a Texans franchise that had their sights set on their first ever play-off appearance when they started 4-2

Cowboys win...Cowboys win...theeee Cowboys win...QB Jon Kitna completes only 13 passes, but 3 of those are for TD's and he amassed 327 passing yards as the talented skill players in Dallas finally showed up for a football game...interim (although don't call him that to his face!) Coach Jason Garret had the 'Boys in pads from Day 1 of his regime in an attempt to change the direction of this squad asap...I understand his motivation to improve things right away as he only has the rest of this season to show that he can lead this team going forward...with guys available like Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden Garret knows the competition could be tough to lead America's Team

Big road W for the New England Patriots...once again Tom Brady had his skill and leadership on display as the Steel Curtain takes a loss for the 2nd time in 3 weeks...

The Washington Redskins outscore the Philadelphia Eagles 7-0 in the 4th Q on Monday Night...sadly for 'Skins fans the other 3 Q's were sheer domination to the tune of 59-21 for Philly...1st play of the game goes for 88 yards and a TD from QB Michael Vick to WR DeSean Jackson, and the Eagles got 6 TD's from Vick in an absolute beat-down on the road...Eagles have won 4 straight games that Jackson has played in...Vick said it was his best game ever...he has never thrown an INT in his Eagles career

Week 11

Detroit @ Dallas...something here has to give...the Lions have lost the last 25 games they have played on the road...that is a record...the Cowboys are 0-4 this season in their new $1.3 billion stadium

Green Bay @ Minnesota...several teams this season have taken their turn at chipping away at the legend of QB Brett Favre and here comes the final chance for QB Aaron Rodgers and the Packers to do their damage...the Pack beat the Vikes in Week 7 28-24 at Lambeau...with Division foes Green Bay and Chicago already at 6-3 each the 3-6 Vikings are already in panic-mode and surely need this W

Oakland @ Pittsburgh...if the 5-4 Raiders get this W to go to 6-4 that will drop the Steelers to 6-4 and the Raiders would own the tie-breaker over Pitt thus be ahead of them in the standings...take that in for a moment...that means a Raiders W will have Oakland ahead of Pitt in the standings going into Week 12...another in a long line of examples of just how nutsacks this 2010 NFL season has been...

these QB's are each a classic
Indy @ New England...does it get better, or classier than Peyton Manning vs Tom Brady?!?!  This yearly classic writes itself...the last 2 games have gone to Manning and the Colts with last season being a crazy 35-34 final...Brady completed 29 passes for 375 yards and 3 TD's while Peyton completed 28 for 327 yards and 4 TD's...side-note here is that Tom Terrific will miss practise all week with foot and shoulder issues

NY Giants @ Philly...massive NFC East tilt...6-3 vs 6-3...1st place at stake...the first of 2 games between these teams over the next 5 weeks which will likely decide the NFC East winner

as always I welcome your emails... craig.ballard@hotmail.com

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

NFL Week 8-9

Hard to imagine the New England Patriots having a better week than this one...not only do they get a W (at home where Tom Brady stacks W's...more on that in a moment) but the hated Jets and the Steelers each lose putting the Pats as the current #1 seed in the AFC...this seems huge to me as the Jets/Steel Curtain/Ravens all have D's that will be able to travel well if need be come playoff time...the Pats D is not as strong so I don't really like them on the road, but who cares about the road if you are the #1 seed...plus Randy Moss continues to expose himself as a jackass which has me thinking it was a good move for the Pats to jettison him out of town...even Barry Bonds - the sports asshole - was never kicked out of one, let alone 2 cities for being a jerk...

Let's move away from jerk talk and look at one of the true sports heroes around - Tom Brady...Tom Terrific has a career 66-11 record at Foxboro...an 18 game, and currently 24 game home winning streak...unreal...with Tom as the King of his Castle the Pats average a 7-1 home record each year...that is WOW...a 6-2 home record would be a disappointment for Brady...think about your team and think about how much you would love a 6-2 home record (Miami 0-3...Jets 2-2...Tenn 2-2...Hou 2-2...Philly 1-2...Da Bears 2-2...TB 2-2...all of the above are playoff contenders) where as in New England a 6-2 home record under Brady is cause for concern!!!  Have we mentioned before that this guy is good?!?! 

The good news continued for Pats fans as 2-time Pro Bowl Guard Logan Mankins back from his holdout...Mankins has started all 80 games he has played in and at 6'4" 310 lbs dude is good...

Merriman was cleared on charges that he assaulted Tila Tequila

Lights Out Shawne Merriman gets waived by the Chargers and gets claimed by the Buffalo Bills...good life lesson there kids...if you (allegedly) assault a female bad things can happen...for example you could be tossed out of a climate like San Diego and forced to go to Buffalo...

Another big winner this week was the Raiders...seems odd to suggest that they are playing amazing but as the kids say the proof is in the pudding (do the kids say that actually?!?! Doubt it)...the pass-rush is suddenly vaunted, and the D is flying to the ball in attack mode like they are the Ravens or Steel Curtain...RUN DMC aka Darren McFadden is running with skill and purpose...at 4-4 they are in the middle of the pack but Raiders fans will tell you it has been forever since this franchise was not a punch line so things are looking up in Jokeland...sorry, now I guess I can only say Oakland...

 Another "don't look now" pleasant surprise are the 5-2 Tampa Bay Buccaneers...2nd year Head Coach Raheem Morris has this squad humming...only Seattle, Houston, and Miami join TB as teams that have winning records despite having been outscored on the season...the 4th Q road comeback wins being orchestrated by QB Josh Freeman have been very very impressive...Freeman has only thrown 3 INT's in 2010, while throwing 18 INT's last season is just 2 more starts (9) than his 7 starts this year...that is an amazing improvement and accomplishment for Josh

Dallas...1-6...0-4 at home...the billion+ $$$ home that owner Jerry Jones built with the specific timetable of having his 'Boys host this seasons Super Bowl...yikes...the last 2 weeks Eli Manning and David Garrard have each tossed 4 TD's in beat downs vs Dallas (David Garrard?!?!  and in the same Garrard game Cowboys QB Jon Kitna at 58 years old throws for 379 yards?!?!  the 2010 NFL season is n-u-t-s)...Jerry Jones is as down as we have ever seen him...this has been a nightmare for fans/players/owners etc...I think Jones realizing that Wade Phillips is a brutal Head Coach falls under the ol' We Told You So category...

The J-E-T-S JETSJETSJETS get shut-out at home?!?!  Did not see that coming...

Another good news story is the St Louis Rams...the Rams have won 6 games combined the previous 3 seasons, but are at 4 already this year...take heed Bills fans...the Rams have rebounded with #1 overall draft pick QB Sam Bradford...something tells me the Bills will have the #1 overall pick in next years NFL Entry draft so go get a winner to turn things around Buffalo

 Minny 2-5...Favre gets knocked out...waive Randy Moss...owner Zygi Wilf not at all pleased with the handling of the Moss situation, especially Head Coach Brad Childress' part in it all...does your team need a good Offensive Coordinator?!?!  If so Childress will surely be available at seasons end...

 The stunner of the week for me was the Saints running for just a pathetic 30 yards vs the Steelers, yet they win by 10 points?!?!  Big Ben Roethlisberger should have had a much better game in the Dome on National TV...to be honest shame on you Ben...brutal game Pitt...

Hey Miami - you get 6 points, plus an opportunity for an extra point to bring the value of a TD to 7 points...the rest of the NFL loves it, and you should try it...K Dan Carpenter is 10-10 the last 2 weeks on Field Goal attempts...that is a great job by Carpenter, but come on guys - its called a goaline package and when in the Red Zone teams go to that package to punch the ball into the End Zone...gees

Did you see all the injuries on O that the Colts had to deal with this week...I have to check the stats as I think I may have caught a pass this week for Indy...they were on 3rd and 4th stringers everywhere, but Peyton Manning is so damn good that they still get a big W

How bad have things got in Washington?!?!  Down 6 points vs Detroit with 2 minutes to go Head Coach Mike Shanahan replaces QB Donovan McNabb with back-up Rex Grossman...Shanahan gave numerous different explanations for the move which is troubling...heck the whole idea of pulling anyone for Rex Grossman is troubling...this week the 'Skins held a workout with several players, including former Oakland #1 overall pick JaMarcus Russell who was recently cleared in a felony drug case where police found a drink at Russell's house containing a controlled substance - codeine syrup...his Defense team said the drink belonged to someone else living with JaMarcus...

Is it me or does JaMarcus Russell look like The Game and Big Tigger had a baby?!?!


Miami @ Baltimore...when your O is struggling to score TD's the Ravens D is not usually the cure for what ails you...the 'Phins can go to 5-3 with a W, and crazily enough that would mean they are 5-0 on the road and 0-3 at home (?!?!)

TB 3-0 on the road and 5-2 overall @ Hotlanta 3-0 at home and 5-2 on the road...massive game in the NFC South...can TB show they are legit contenders, or will ATL bring them back down to earth and expose them as pretenders?!?!

San Diego @ Houston...big game folks...the winner is right back in the thick of things and the loser is in major trouble...believe it or not San Diego is at the top in the NFL on O, on D, passing O, vs the pass...but turnovers have them at 3-5 overall and 0-4 on the road...

KC @ Oakland...the combined record of these 2 teams is 9-6...how that makes sense is any one's guess...a Raiders W will have them 1 game out of first place going into week 10...the Raiders are usually 3 games out of first place going into week 2...and KC in first place?!?!  wow

INDY @ Philly...too much going on in either teams Division to be able to absorb a loss here

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

2010-2011 NBA season

Some things I loved in the off-season...

this group should have a ton of help this season
 L.A. Lakers...full disclosure I am a huge Lakers fan, but I will always call it the way I see it...for me this is the 2nd straight year that LA wins a Title and then improves in the off-season...last year it was the addition of Ron Artest...this year the Lakers make major improvements to their bench with the addition of PG Steve Blake - re-signing PG Shannon Brown - signing of Matt Barnes - signing of Theo Ratliff...all 4 of those guys go with Lamar Odom to form a great bench...add long time Lakers Sasha Vujacic and Luke Walton and we see the Lakers go at least 10 deep...I am excited about rookie Devin Ebanks (West Virginia) too...on the perimeter you have Kobe/Artest/D-Fish/Barnes/Blake holding it down on D, and at the rim any combo of Bynum/Gasol/Odom/Ratliff will keep the basket well protected...this team D should be great...the early moments of the season will have Kobe and Bynum nursing their current injuries, but we see a ton of depth in Lakerland this season

even more big-man depth for Doc and the Celtics
Boston Celtics...first (and most important) off-season move was getting Coach Doc Rivers to return for another season...then Ray Allen and Paul Pierce followed...Phil Jackson is on another planet and his records will never be approached in our lifetime, but the next tier of coaches has names like Sloan, Popovich, and Doc Rivers is right there too (side-note...next summer the biggest storyline other then the looming work-stoppage will be the question of will Doc be lured in by Pat Riley to coach the Heat)...Doc loses his great assistant Tom Thibodeau (new Head Coach of the Bulls) but replace him with Lawrence Frank (formerly of the Nets)...the C's also added to their roster...I like the addition of the O'Neals - Shaq and Jermaine...when Kendrick Perkins returns from injury this Celtics frontcourt is big - mean - really physical - really good...they will need to add some depth at the Guard spots...they need big play from any of Nate Robinson/Von Wafer/Delonte West/Marquis Daniels to help Rajon Rondo/Paul Pierce/Ray Allen on the perimeter

Yao and Aaron Brooks
 Houston Rockets...the x-factor team in the Association this season...F Luis Scola is as underrated a player as there is in the NBA...they add Yao Ming (he is back from injury...we have not seen Yao since the 2008-2009 season) and even though they will heavily monitor his minutes he can still of course contribute...they add Brad Miller for depth at the big-man spot...they have their first full season with dynamic SG Kevin Martin...they add SG Courtney Lee...G Kyle Lowry continues to get better and better...PG Aaron Brooks is the next household name - he is GOOD...a ton of assets here for great coach Rick Adelman, and a lot of tradeable assets too if they so choose

Chicago Bulls...I wanted the Raps to get Tom Thibodeau off of the Celtics coaching staff and make him their Head Coach...they did not, but the Bulls did and they get a good one...if you like what the Celtics have done on the defensive end for the last few years then you like Thibodeau...I also like adding PF Carlos Boozer...he will be down for the first part of the season with an injury (broken right hand suffered as he tripped over his gym bag at his house) but when he gets back and gets teamed with Joakim Noah that frontcourt is going to be gnarly and physical...plus they add veteran Kurt Thomas...on the perimeter they add Ronnie Brewer and Kyle Korver aka Ashton Kutcher

Atlanta Hawks...there was a lot of criticism directed at the Hawks in the off-season as they gave SG Joe Johnson more $$$ than LeBron James or anyone else made this summer...6 years $119 mill for Johnson to remain in Hotlanta...for me I liked the move...in his 5 years in Hotlanta Johnson has averaged 22 points per game, and in all honesty what other free-agent were the Hawks going to get to join them?!?!  Good luck to their new Coach Larry Drew too...

Orlando...I like the signing of SG Quentin Richardson...Q-Rich will start and is a sharp-shooter from downtown that will get a ton of open looks as teams have to double-team Dwight Howard...his 3-point shooting last season was the best of his career

Utah Jazz...this season could be the year where Jerry Sloan finally gets a Coach of the Year award...the expectations will be low as they lost PF Carlos Boozer in the off-season, but I love replacing him with Al Jefferson...I am a fan of Big Al...he has effort and skills that will fit in nicely in Utah...I also like the team adding SG Raja Bell...Bell has the grit and commitment to D that Jerry Sloan insists on

Sacramento Kings...while the team was criticised for drafting DeMarcus Cousins because he is a different kind of person (odd fellow, but only 20 years old so we can assume there will be maturing that he will do) I loved the move...he is a gifted athlete that can be combined with last seasons Rookie Of The Year PG Tyreke Evans to give SacTown a young and dynamic duo for years to come

Tiago Splitter
San Antonio Spurs...finally we will see the Spurs 2007 1st round pick Tiago Splitter...the 6'11" Splitter has been playing in the Spanish League for years now and is finally set to make his North American debut...perfect timing for the Spurs...they need a big man with Splitter's skills to give Tim Duncan extra rest in his aging years, and at times they can both be on the court conjuring memories of the Twin Towers the Spurs had with David Robinson and Duncan

Moves I did not like...
The Decision...if you do not know I am referring to the 1-hour show that Bron Bron did on espn to announce his decision, which was called of course "The Decision"...the biggest thing that you have to remember when it comes to Cleveland fans is that they are as tortured a group as there is...some cities have specific fans that have suffered for a long time...for example Chicago Cubs fans have waited forever - but the city of Chicago had the 2009 Blackhawks...2005 White Sox...and some Jordan guy stacked multiple Titles in the 90's for the Bulls...you can have examples from every city like this one...but Cleveland? Well Cleveland is a different story...the last Championship celebrated in the Cleve was 1964 when the Browns won a football Title (no not the Super Bowl - this was soooo long ago that the Super Bowl did not even exist yet!!!)...then, out of nowhere, comes a native son as special as James is...and also out of nowhere some more amazing news - your home grown Superstar is going to play for...YOU!!!  Not only can you start to realistically dream about your Championship drought ending, but it is one of your own who will be leading you to the promised land...but...then it all came crashing down on one of the worst thought out decisions I have ever seen...never mind that I think going to Miami was a mistake as far as a chance to win Titles (Boston, Orlando, and ChiTown all have superior PG's, PF's and Centers to the Heat)  but to go there via The Decision was brutal and ill-conceived...To go on National Television...to go out of your way to let the world know that you have shunned the Cavs was bad bad bad...the fan base that has provided you with love (not to mention enough $$$ that your Grandkids Grandkids Grandkids will never worry about money) deserved a better ending then that...even if at the end of the day you were going to bolt to South Beach a National TV show was never the right way to do it...we can argue for days about is Michael Jordan the best ever, but either way we know he was amazing and special...when MJ announced his return to the NBA he did it with a fax to the press that said in total "I'm back"...2 words...one of the greatest ever announced his return in a 2 word fax yet James and company thought it necessary and right to do The Decision...we see every day the backlash Bron Bron gets for that mistake...the truth is that he of all people should have had the accurate pulse of his hometown fans and known better than to leave this way...

And by the way the Heat fans are in for a rude awakening when they get a load of the "defense" that Chris Bosh plays, plus CB4 has missed games due to his wonky knees several years in a row and 2010-2011 will be no different...

Dallas Mavericks...the Mavs have an amazing streak of 10 straight seasons with at least 50 wins...to put that in perspective YOUR TORONTO RAPTORS have never won 50 games...however only once in the last 4 seasons have the Mavs made it out of the first round of the playoffs...How long will Mark Cuban put up with that?  They added Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood mid-season last year, and then add C Tyson Chandler this off-season, but I still think that either Disco Dirk Nowitzki or Jason Terry need to be moved in return for good assets to tweak this squad even further

Detroit Pistons...winning the 2004 Title has given GM Joe Dumars a very l o n g leash it appears...he has been brutal...it started when he passed on Carmelo Anthony, D-Wade, and Chris Bosh and drafted Darko Milicic in 2003...last off-season giving their $$$ to Ben Gordon and Charlie V was awful...he follows that this off-season by signing Tracy McGrady...brutal and awful...brawful

the cause of the Knicks woes
 New York Knicks...so lets look at what it must be like to be a Knicks fan...for 2+ years you are told by management that your team sucks and management knows your team sucks - BUT - bare with us as we are going to sign LeBron James/D-Wade/CB4 in the summer of 2010...we know now that plan went 0 for 3...they trade David Lee and add Amar'e Stoudemire...in many stats Lee is better than Amar'e, but they also add Anthony Randolph who has a ton of upside that has not been reached yet...the Knicks also add Kelenna Azubuike and Raymond Felton but all of that does not equal any of LeBron, D-Wade, or Bosh...to top it all off the reason you have bottomed out for years is because Isiah Thomas did an all-time butcher job on your roster/franchise...horrid mistake after horrid mistake by Thomas...and in the summer where you don't get any of your promised free-agent targets they actually re-hire Isiah Thomas!!!  In typical major screw-up fashion they are then told by the NBA that since Thomas is currently the Head Coach of Florida International University his hiring is completely against NBA rules and the contract to hire him is void...good grief

Denver Nuggets...do beware Nuggets - you are in dangerous territory here with Carmelo Anthony...did you notice that the Raps and Cavs got only trade exceptions in return for their departing assets Bosh and LeBron?!?!  You could be next...Melo clearly has no interest in signing an extension with the Nuggs...the toasts given by several NBA stars at Carmelo's wedding this summer all spoke about Melo playing in New York...heck even though the Nuggets owner was in attendance, and also made a speech, the other guys were not shy at all about openly talking about the impending move my Melo to the Big Apple...move him now Denver...the strategy of let's keep him and show him we can win to make Denver more attractive to Melo is dangerous...the Cavs had their own born-and-raised Ohio native leave them high and dry, and Bosh left an entire country high and dry...get as much as you can asap Masai Ujiri (Denver's new GM after spending 3 years as an assistant GM in...Toronto!)