Asaf Segal

Occupy LA: Chris Paul to the Lakers

This article needs a short preface. I wrote this once the three team deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers became almost a sure thing. I finished it right around the time this tweet from Adrian Wojnarowski, the NBA writer for Yahoo! Sports, blew everyone’s mind. I wasn’t going to let it go to waste, so I left it up so we can all hypothesize about an alternative universe where Chris Paul dons the purple and gold on Christmas Day. Enjoy.

This morning I woke up and found about the Pujols deal. I started thinking of what I wanted to write and then C.J. Wilson joined Prince Albert in LA and I had to start thinking again. Then Chris Paul got traded to the Lakers and I wanted to write about that. Then my head started spinning and after I picked myself up off the floor I decided to go with CP3. Sorry, Albert.

Not too long ago a trade was proposed to send Chris Paul to the Lakers in return for Pau Gasol and Lamar Odom. Wow. The Hornets are expected to flip Gasol to the Rockets for Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic, and two draft picks. Wow. Apparently to make the deal work money-wise another player needs to be sent to the Lakers liiike, maybe Emeka Okafor. Wow. Now that the Lakers have Paul they will try to send Andrew Bynum, and maybe nothing else, to Orlando for Dwight Howard. Wo – you get it. Here are some thoughts on everything.

First of all, the Hornets. They just got Odom, Martin, Scola, Dragic, and picks for Paul and probably someone else, such as Okafor or, if they’re very luck, Trevor Ariza. That’s more than they could have ever hoped to get for CP3, and now they have the pieces to move on. David West is looking to get paid and wont be sticking around, but that still leaves them with a pretty solid new squad. The other players the Hornets have under contract right now are Patrick Ewing Jr., Jarrett Jack, Quincy Pondexter, and Okafor/Ariza. A starting lineup featuring Jack/Dragic, Martin, Ewing/Ariza, Scola, and Odom/Okafor is nothing to shrug your shoulders at. Lamar Odom is a superb player who can literally play any position. He will bring veteran guidance and tons of experience to this team. I would just be worried that whichever Kardashian he’s married to isn’t happy about leaving LA and stirs up trouble. Martin now doesn’t have to worry about Chase Budinger taking any of his shots, so he’ll be putting up around 25 a game. Scola is a proven big man who is a solid contributor on both ends of the floor. If the Hornets can ditch Ariza (we stopped pretending he’s good right?) then they look fairly set in the post-Paul era, but they do play in the West so the playoffs are out of the question.

Next, the Rockets. I’m actually not a big fan of this deal for them. Gasol is obviously a stud and will be great to have around young players like Kyle Lowry and Budinger. However, you lose Scola and Martin, and they are probably going to lose Chuck Hayes (to the Timberwolves?!) as well. Also, shipping Dragic out means Jonny Flynn is now their backup point guard. Yikes. We’re talking about a 6th overall pick who averages 3.4 assists a game. The Rockets absolutely have to hang on to Courtney Lee now so they don’t subject themselves to 20+ minutes a night of this. The Rockets can salvage this move if they achieve their overall goal, signing Nene. Can you imagine a low post tandem of Gasol and Nene? Your team will automatically shoot over 50% a game. As of this morning four other teams were competing for Nene, but this move might bump Houston to the top of that list. Houston was just coming together at the end of last season, and had one of the best benches in the league. I hope for their sake that everything falls into place. I feel like I’m forgetting something…hmm…oh, right. Houston’s new coach is none other than Kevin “I’M THE BIGGEST IDIOT-WASTE-OF-AIR-MORONIC-DUMBASS-EXECUTIVE IN THE HISTORY OF EVER” McHale. Forget everything I said, Houston is screwed.

Speaking of screwed, let’s talk about the big “winners” of this trade. Don’t start making those championship rings just yet, LA. Yes, the Lakers landed Chris Paul, one of the most talented players and point guards in the league. However, you have no power forwards! And don’t try to tell me Derrick Caracter is a basketball player. If the Lakers don’t get Dwight Howard, and I pray they don’t, then all it takes is one earthquake in California to take out Bryant, Paul, and Bynum’s knees and they’re done. Their best case scenario (pretending they don’t get Howard) is signing David West. Now I admit to not knowing a lot about the financial side of the NBA, but I feel safe in saying they can’t afford West, and I do know that he isn’t looking to take a pay cut. So that leaves them chasing someone like Carl Landry. Paul, Bryant, Metta World Peace, Kobe’s ego, Bynum, and you still have Luke Walton on your team? Yeah, good luck with that. The Heat just added Shane Battier and could get Steve Nash. Meanwhile, the Lakers traded their 2nd and 3rd best players. I don’t like their chances.

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OK! (Reluctantly) We’ll talk about Dwight Howard. Are the Magic willing to trade Dwight to the Lakers? Of course. For just Bynum? Quite possibly. It is Otis Smith after all. This is the guy who turned Rashard Lewis’ abysmal contract into Gilbert Arenas’ abysmal contract, and he didn’t even start. He also traded away Marcin Gortat (keep an eye on this guy, he’s going to be good this year) for Jason Richardson’s corpse. And in that same trade where he unloaded Vince Carter, he was the one giving up a pick and cash. I’m surprised that in the time it took me to write that Howard wasn’t traded for Steve Blake. In all likelihood Dwight will end up a Laker. It’s what he wants and the Magic can’t afford to let him leave as a free agent. Of course, they still think they can keep him, so all bets are off here. The Lakers will have limited depth if they land Howard, but if the Heat made it to the Finals with 3 and 1/2 players, so can Kobe, Paul, and Dwight. I would be more excited to see Paul and Dwight play together than any Kobe scenario. Let’s remember that the last time Kobe wasn’t in the spotlight, things didn’t end so well. What I really want to see is the Clippers offering DeAndre Jordan and newly signed Caron Butler for Howard. Having CP3 and Dwight end up in LA on different teams would be awesome, and the Clippers are definitely the better team in that situation.

Now we just have to wait and see how this all plays out. All I can say is I’m so glad we had a lockout to stop players from grouping together and heading to the coasts. Go Wolves (sigh).

Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Day 2

10 out of 12 teams in the Big Ten are going to bowl games. It’s looking like the college basketball season will be dominated by the Big Ten as well. Last week the Big Ten went 4-2 on the second day of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge to win the 13th annual Challenge 8-4, their third straight win. The ACC looked overmatched and out-hustled in the second day, which featured a number of close games. The night was highlighted by a battle of behemoths as #9 Wisconsin faced off against #5 UNC in a game that came down to the wire. The Big Ten wrapped up another year of bragging rights and proved it has teams that can make noise at the national level.

The night started with three competitive, scrappy basketball games. Indiana and North Carolina State traded blows the entire first half and much of the second until Indiana pulled away late. Both teams had runs of impressive play and poor play. There were a number of forced jump shots and bad transition defense that led didn’t allow either team to take advantage of the other’s mistakes. The Hoosiers finally put NC State away after the Wolfpack closed the deficit to 76-75 with 2:03 left in the game. Jordan Hulls, who led the team with 20 points, hit a three pointer at the end of the shot clock and the Hoosiers held the Wolfpack without a basket for the rest of the game for an 86-75 win. The Hoosiers got a strong performance from much heralded freshman Cody Zeller. The big man had 19 points and 7 rebounds to go along with 2 blocks. He helped key a 20-7 run that helped erase a late NC State lead. Victor Oladipo put the exclamation point on this impressive win with a steal and a magnificent dunk in the closing seconds.

Tim Frazier came up big for Penn State in their 62-54 win against Boston College in the next game of the night. He scored 20 points in the second half after going just 1-4 in the first half. Each team overcame deficits and failed to extend their leads throughout the game. Penn State went ahead for good on a Frazier three pointer with 6:59 left. The Eagles got within two points twice down the stretch, but could never jump ahead. BC was lead by 15 points from Matt Humphrey and 10 from Gabe Moton. Jermaine Marshall kicked in 22 points for the Nittany Lions, who bounced back from a rough loss to Saint Joseph’s.

Michigan State and Florida State teed off in another game that was close for most of the time. The first half featured sluggish and messy play by both teams. At one point there were three straight possessions that ended in violations. MSU opened up a 30-18 lead in the first half before going scoreless for the last four minutes of the half and giving up an 8-0 run. The second half was neck and neck until MSU went on a 10-2 run to lead 51-42. From there they coasted to a 65-49 win, helped along the way by Keith Appling’s 24 points. After facing UNC and Duke in their first two games of the season, this Spartans team looks focused and ready to play. Appling is doing a stellar job leading this team and is getting solid contributions from Draymond Green and Brandon Wood. Tom Izzo is working his magic again.

Minnesota 58 Virginia Tech 55. Pretty boring game for one that came down to a shot at the buzzer. I’ll let ESPN tell you about this one. In another uninteresting game that came down to the wire, Wake Forest beat Nebraska 55-53. With four seconds left Nebraska was so surprised to find themselves still in the game that they let C.J. Harris drive to the basket for an uncontested layup and the win.

The headliner of the night was a face off of Top Ten teams as #9 Wisconsin played at #5 UNC. UNC was coming off its first lost to a lowly UNLV team, while Wisconsin had been taking care of business, winning its first six games by an average of 34 points. These two behemoths put on a show as they traded baskets for the majority of the game. The Heels got a solid performance from Harrison Barnes, who scored 10 of his 20 points in a run during the second half that put UNC up for good. However, the real MVP of the game was Dexter Strickland. He hit a key bucket late, but more importantly his defense shut down Jordan Taylor for most of the game. For Wisconsin, Taylor had 18 points and 4 assists, but the real story was Jared Berggren with 14 points, 3 steals, and more hustle than anyone on the court. UNC put the game away late, barely, but Wisconsin made it an exciting one (especially with Ben Brust’s circus shots)to wrap up the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. For more information on the game check out my running diary here, or watch the whole thing as someone was kind enough to upload the entire game to YouTube.

If you missed it check out the Day 1 recap.

Wisconsin vs. UNC: Live Game Diary

7ish minutes until tipoff: Indiana just won, Penn State knocked off BC, and Michigan State is pulling away from Florida State. All signs point to the Big Ten winning the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. I just hope Wisconsin can put the exclamation mark on this night with a win.

Should be tipoff: Michigan State-Florida State game is taking too long to finish. I just want to watch my Badgers. Minnesota is already up 10-2 on Virginia Tech. Big Ten is running train on the ACC this year.

Waiting: Michigan State fans are chanting “Beat Wisconsin” talking about the Big Ten Championship game this Saturday. I will be at that game and I can assure you, vengeance will be had. Look out Sparty.

20:00 YES!

18:59 Not surprising, our first possession results in a Mike Bruesewitz’s three point attempt. Oy.

18:02 The ball should never be in Jared Berggren’s hands for that long.

17:53 What up JT!

16:30 Ryan Evans is always good for a tip in. His game is played entirely above the rim.

15:50 The announcers are totally right. Wisconsin’s defense is doing a phenomenal job of stopping UNC from running. Also getting all the rebounds and not giving up second possessions.

15:10 The announcers are crushing on Jordan Taylor and I love it. Everything they say about him is awesome.

14:10 Not a fan of those two baskets. We need to get this offense going so we aren’t just jacking up threes. Oh wait, it’s Wisconsin.

13:14 Ok enough with the stupid TOs. Good timeout by Bo. Get everyone settled, get the ball in Taylor’s hands and run some actual plays.

12:52 One of the people I’m watching with just said “yeah white guy!” in response to that Berggren block. Not exactly a household name yet.

12:29 Oh man, Taylor is in one of those modes. He is going to shoot himself into a groove. Ohio State knows about this mode.

11:51 Typical Ryan Evans. His offense this year is making me like him a little bit, but whenever I see him handle the ball I’m reminded of my year of JV high school basketball.

11:40 They announcer reminds me that the Big Ten won the Challenge. Now what Joey.

10:56 That was brutal.

10:32 Wow Berggren, nicely done.

10:11 What is up with missing free throws this year? I just expect everyone to be automatic from the line now.

9:21 We’re lucky UNC isn’t hitting from deep. Need to keep boxing out and getting those boards.

8:32 Brust has swagger. No other way to say it. That kid knows he has skills and he isn’t afraid to show them.

7:18 I bet Frank Kaminsky never thought someone would say his name on ESPN. Ryan Evans should not have the ball in that situation. I’d rather have Taylor drive blindly and try to draw a foul. The defense is here right now but the offense needs to catch up. Can we get a big man in there so we can work it inside-outside?

7:16 Rasheed Wallace looks like a bum.

6:42 I can’t handle all these threes. We need a new plan.

5:34 …enough

5:04 Taylor is off-balance on every shot. He needs to come off some screens for catch-and-shoots. Get good, set shots.

4:14 Gasser was open that entire possession but Evans takes the shot. I don’t understand this offense.

3:48 Ben Brust ladies and gentlemen!

3:36 The defense has been great during this stretch. If we can keep this momentum up for the rest of the half we could go into the locker room with a lead.

2:55 Berggren again! Fantastic defense keeping UNC from speeding up the game.

1:00 Ok Rob Wilson. And there goes the defense.

:31 Where has that been all game Taylor?!

:05 Committing that foul and giving them the potential for free points is really frustrating.

Halftime: Phew. Their free throw shooting is strangely bad right now, but I’m a fan. That is the perfect first half for the Badgers besides being up 30. Except for a handful of possessions we’ve kept the game at our pace. Not letting the Heels run is the biggest thing we can do to win this game because we can score. Somehow, we’re scoring. This has been some of the worst offense I’ve seen this season but it’s getting results. I don’t mind Taylor taking a three when he’s feeling it, but for crying out loud set your feet and try to be less than 5 feet outside the line. That last basket he had in the half is what I would rather have him do. He has the agility to get to the lane, and if Barnes is on him the ankles come into play. The bench players are providing a nice boost for the Badgers right now. We need to keep the Heels off the offensive boards. They had four, three by Henson alone, in the first half but luckily the defense has been able to step back up on the second possessions. This game is totally within our reach, we just need to want it more. If we can come out strong and get on a run to take the crowd out of it this game is very winnable.

Waiting again: You can’t help but feel pumped up by those Under Armour commercials.

19:29 The first half of that possession was so solid and then the three. I don’t understand.

18:36 Berggren is killing it out there. So much hustle. The defense has to continue being strong.

17:36 We need to get composed here. Can’t get antsy and just force everything.

16:47 Wow Jared Berggren! The drive, the rebound, the intensity. He wants it.

15:51 Awesome block by Evans. Now let’s get something out of it.

15:40 And Evans has it going on the other end too. We need to pass them soon because playing catchup the whole half will not end well.

15:22 I don’t even mind that TO on Berggren (that much) because he has been the story of this game. Just leaving it all on the court. Good job out there, sir.

14:40 I’m speechless. Berggren for President.

13:48 Ben Brust showing he’s still here too. The offensive rebounds have to go. We can’t afford to give them extra shots.

13:26 Brust with a rebound too. I love the guys in the shadows stepping up and carrying the team.

13:20 As the announcer said, Evans has never played better. He’s never had his offense working this well. I commend him.

12:06 The Heels are doing a good job limiting our offense. JT is definitely shooting enough to get some guys going on head fakes. I want to see him driving now.

11:58 UNC’s bigs are doing a good job at getting at boards. Have to box them out.

11:39 I forgot Barnes can do that. Doesn’t matter if you put a hand in his face on that one because he can score when he wants to.

11:14 Slow it down, slow it down.

10:58 There it is Taylor. That’s what happens when you drive.

10:26 Barnes is trying to put the team on his back and it’s working.

10:00 We need to maintain a slow pace to keep this game under control.

9:31 Can’t give them free points. Need a basket to stop the momentum.

9:09 That’s the Ryan Evans I remember. Nine minutes is a long time to be in the bonus. I trust Bo to talk these guys down and get a good play coming for the next offensive possession. The defense needs to stop Barnes, but not at the cost of freeing up easy shots down low. If our bigs get pulled out to the perimeter there’s no one to help on drives.

8:34 Oh lord did that just go in? The defense shut down the Badgers on that possession, but somehow Kaminsky’s three drops. Wow.

7:40 The offense looked good there but I think the Ryan Evans magic is over. Good to see Taylor still driving.

7:31 The fact that Nebraska took Wake Forrest to the buzzer really says something about the ACC this year.

7:30 Man I do not like the Zellers.

6:34 That was such a solid defensive possession and then Harrison frickin’ Barnes. We’re still in this.

5:30 Strickland killing us at both ends of the floor. He has taken JT out of this game.

4:53 Yes Taylor! We have to take advantage of free throws here…and oh my goodness. That can’t happen. Bad omen.

4:36 Things are falling apart. I want everyone channeling their inner JJ Barea. Just attack the basket.

3:48 And Evans is officially done.

3:18 UNC doesn’t seem to want to put this away. We have to take advantage of the opportunities they’re giving us.

2:58 If they’re going to give that to you then put it up there.

2:34 Hmmmm…

2:02 Why wasn’t that goaltending? Ball sure looked like it was over the cylinder when the Heels player touched it.

1:23 You get the take away and then give it back to Evans? WHY?

1:03 And these should put it away. Really good game by Wisconsin though. They definitely proved they can hang with one of the best teams in the country. Interesting foul by Barnes. Reminds me of this strategy.

:46 Holy crap Berggren! Nice win my Minnesota. Should be interesting to see when they drop out of relevance after losing Mbakwe. Wow and we force them to use a timeout.

:45 I hope this doesn’t drag on too long.

:25 Oh man Taylor why haven’t you been playing this way the whole game? That was definitely an and one too. If only he could make the free throw.

:04 Oh come on ref, swallow your whistle on that one. They clearly aren’t trying to foul anymore.

:00 OOOOOHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Ben Brust has swagger. I’m pretty sure the Badgers end their practice with half court shots, so that could be routine for him.

I’m not that upset about the loss. The Badgers hung with a very good team and forced them to play their game for the majority of the contest. I have to give a tip of the cap to Strickland who just shut down Jordan Taylor, especially in the second half. The offense was so start and stop that we never got in a flow for more than a few possessions. The Badgers also had significant chunks of scoreless time in both halves that allowed UNC to stay on top. The Heels did a great job of controlling the boards on defense and crashing the offensive glass too.

Had Wisconsin won there is no doubt in my mind that the game ball goes to Jared Berggren. That kid played out of his mind tonight and carried his team though long stretches of that game. He is clearly skilled and comes to play in big time games, something he can hopefully teach Taylor. Wisconsin got good contributions off the bench, especially from Ben Brust who is a special player. That three at the end of the game is a win in my book.

In the end I saw two things that really led to the loss. There is no way that two starters can go scoreless and we win against a team of UNC’s caliber. Gasser and Bruesewitz were invisible on the offensive end, and both of them are capable scorers. Gasser came into the game shooting 71% from three, tops in the nation. He just never got going in this one, which is somewhat understandable because of Evans and Berggren’s elevated offensive play. The other thing was Harrison Barnes. He got his team going and he pushed the offense. He did a great job of getting the Heels to play their game at the end, and that was what put them over the edge. I respect his skills and perseverance, but couldn’t he have just sat this one out? Oh well, would’ve been happier with a win, but I’ll take a strong game and close loss. Plus, the Big Ten crushed the ACC 8-4 in the Challenge.

Big Ten/ACC Challenge: Day 1

The NBA is back and you aren’t going to find someone more excited than me. However, after waiting 149 days for a season, I’m going to make the NBA wait a little longer before I write about it. Take that!

Yesterday was Day 1 of the 13th annual Big Ten/ACC Challenge. The ACC won the first ten meetings between these conferences, but the Big Ten has roared back to take the last two. This year poses a bit of a problem because with the addition of Nebraska to the Big Ten there are now twelve games in the Challenge. With the Big Ten going 4-2 yesterday though, I think it’s safe to say we wont be having a tie.

The Challenge got under way in style with a very competitive first half of basketball from #15 Michigan and Virginia. The Wolverines had strong first half performances from Zack Novak and Trey Burke to only trail Virginia 24-23 at halftime. Both teams came out firing in the second half and neither one could get an edge. Eventually it was Virginia’s all around play that tripped up the Wolverines. The Cavaliers defense held Michigan scoreless for six and a half minutes while their offense scored 15 unanswered points. An overall 19-2 Virginia run had them up by double digits for almost the last seven minutes of the game, which ended with a score of 70-58. Mike Scott and Joe Harris each had 18 points for Virginia and Harris, Sammy Zeglinski, and Malcolm Brogdon all hit 3 three pointers. This was an unexpected speed bump for a Michigan team that was playing excellent basketball. They beat a good Memphis team in the Maui Invitational before losing to Duke, who has never lost in the competition. Look for Michigan to bounce back in its next few games against poor non conference opponents. Virginia faces minimal competition until squaring off against Duke later in the year. The Big Ten should have gone 5-1 yesterday, but a resilient effort by the Cavaliers earned them the first win of the Challenge.

In a particularly uninteresting game, Northwestern beat Georgia Tech 76-60 to tie the Challenge at 1-1. John Shurna went off for 25 points on 10-18 shooting including 3-6 from down town. The leading scorer in the Big Ten also added 8 rebounds, 3 steals, and 3 blocks. The only bright spot for Georgia Tech was Jason Morris coming off the bench to score 21 points. This game wasn’t very competitive and any time you watch a Northwestern game you know it’s going to be a John Shurna Show. So let’s move on to bigger and better things.

Many people watched the Illinois-Maryland game on ESPN in preparation for the Ohio State-Duke game that was right after. Lucky for them, they got to see the most exciting game of the night. Illinois and Maryland went at each other from the tip in a fast paced game that many would assume should have favored Maryland. As I debated with fellow Agron Street author Joey, the ACC may be faster and more versatile than the Big Ten, but white boy three pointers are worth more than black man dunks. That happend to be the case in this game. Senior transfer Sam Maniscalco filled it up with 24 points on 5-8 three point shooting and 7-7 free throws. Maryland controlled the first half but the Illini were able to catch and surpass them in the second half in a game much closer than the final score 0f 71-62 would suggest. Illinois made six free throws in the final minute while Maryland fouled them and missed three pointers. Terrell Stoglin led the Terps with 25 points, hitting 4 three pointers of his own. Brandon Paul added 17 points for the Illini who complimented their outside scoring with a solid offense in the post. They moved to 7-0 and gave the Big Ten a 2-1 lead in the Challenge.

The final three games of the Challenge were fairly lackluster and disappointing. Purdue led Miami by as many as 17 as they cruised to an easy 76-65 win. Robbie Hummel continued his strong play since being injured last year with 17 points and 5 rebounds. Miami went with a small lineup and Purdue responded by making 22-31 two point field goals. Put another one on the board for the Big Ten. In a likewise no contest game, Clemson blew out Iowa 71-55. Iowa is now 4-3 after starting the year 3-0 and it looks like I should have ranked them lower in my Big Ten preview. Clemson got strong play from a number of players, especially their two starting guards. Andre Young led all scorers with 19 points and Tanner Smith neared a triple double with 7 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists.

The last game of the evening was highly anticipated, even bringing out the stars to watch. These two received voracious boos when they walked to their seats before the game. When the #2 team in the nation squares off against the #4 team you know you’re in for a special treat. Well, not last night. Ohio State scored early and often and absolutely throttled a previously undefeated Duke team for an 85-63 win. Four of Ohio State’s starters scored in double figures with Jared Sullinger and William Buford each topping 20 points. Austin Rivers, son of Celtics’ coach Doc Rivers (who was in attendance), scored 22 points for a Duke team that looked overmatched all night. Sullinger owned the paint and opened up looks for Buford, Aaron Craft, and Deshaun Thomas who were all deadly from three point land. Ohio State looked ready from the get go, jumping out to an 11-0 lead against a young Duke team Coach Krzyzewski said “appeared tired.” Craft led the defensive charge that held Duke to 20% shooting from three and seven points below their season average. Meanwhile, the Buckeyes shot 59% from the field and were up by 20 most of the second half as they led from start to finish. These are unmistakably two of the best teams in the country, and they could very well meet up again in the late rounds of the Tournament. For now though, chalk another one up to the Big Ten.

Check back here tonight as I’ll have a live game diary of the #9 Wisconsin vs. #5 UNC game. Then come on back tomorrow for my recap of Day 2 of the Big Ten/ACC Challenge.

NBA Armageddon: What if the NBA Voids Contracts?

Some of us got to thinking following this tweet from Yahoo Sport’s Adrian Wojnarowski:

Yes, one of the most involved and reputable reporters covering the NBA lockout says that Commissioner David Stern could start threatening to void the players’ contracts. Every. Last. One.

Wow. Think about it. Last offseason, the entire NBA fanbase was drooling with anticipation as two of the NBA’s best players (LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. And yes we’re ignoring Chris Bosh) were free agents. Imagine if every single NBA player, from superstar to bench warmer, were suddenly a free agent. Brian and Asaf decided to take things a little further.

While we both are more than willing to admit that this is a seemingly unlikely scenario, please indulge us as we play around with the thought. Does everyone bum rush South Beach? Will Durant stay in OKC? Will anyone sign Darko Milicic? The possibilities are endless. Look for Asaf to give you the thoughtful insight you’d get from a seasoned NBA observer, while Brian gives you the most entertaining possibilities that a casual fan would enjoy seeing.

ESPN recently ranked every player in the NBA from 1-500. Who was #1? You guessed it, LeBron James.

Asaf: LeBron isn’t going anywhere. He gets to play with D-Wade every night, a privilege for James, while soaking up the sun and partying in South Beach. The downsides are having little to no depth on the bench and the lack of a consistent point guard. Say what you will about Bosh (he sucks) but he can fit into this system, that’s not where they need an upgrade. Look for James and Wade to throw on some of those Craig Sager-esque post game outfits and try to lure a real point guard down to Florida. “Hey Deron Williams, why don’t you void that contract in Turkey and come on back to the States? Cubans and Cajun food on us.”

Brian: To be completely honest, Asaf is right. LeBron James would be one of the least entertaining free agents in the voided-contract-palooza. The most likely scenario would be for the Heat to look incredibly similar to how they do now (with one major change I’ll get at later). There’s no reason for LBJ to leave the city of Miami and Florida’s zero percent income tax. Believe me, that would most certainly be a factor in at least one or two superstars’ decisions. The only changeup LeBron could throw us is if he decides to bring D-Wade and a superstar center back to his old hometown of Cleveland. That’s the kind of thing that could happen if all the contracts got voided. James could bring the people of Cleveland a real, entertaining basketball team. But let’s be honest, no NBA star given the choice of any team in the league would go to Cleveland. The city’s river caught fire once. Seriously.

If James and Wade get another star to join them in Miami there simply wont be room for the biggest talent in the state. Next up, Superman.

Asaf: Whether contracts are voided or not, there is an all too real possibility that Dwight Howard dons the purple and gold when the NBA returns. Can you even fathom that? Trying to score on Howard and Andrew Bynum in the post would be nearly impossible. Or say the Lakers stick with Gasol’s savvy style of play next to Howard and feature the best low post offense in the game. Then there’s this guy named Kobe Bryant who you also need to guard. Plus LA has the same benefits as Miami with warm weather, big market, celebrity fans, but an even bigger overall fanbase. With new contract agreements and players willing to take pay cuts, this is feasible. Quick question. Will the back of the jersey say “World Peace” or just “Peace” on it?

Brian: Dwight Howard as a Laker would be pretty cool. Kobe would help command an impressive front court, and I really think that a team with those two would be unbelievable. Asaf makes good points as to the upsides of playing in LA. But let me tell you what would make me the happiest. No, not Howard as a Timberwolf, but instead staying in Florida and moving over to the hated Heat. Now, I hate the Heat as much as the next casual fan. Honestly, screw what they did. However, I have a hate that goes beyond that. A hate for Chris Bosh. It drives me nuts when people refer to the Heat’s Big Three. No. Just no. It’s the Heat’s Big Two. Bosh just got lucky enough to be carried along by LeBron and D-Wade’s coattails. So here’s what I’m thinking: LeBron and Wade get together with Pat Riley and say, “Listen, while things went pretty well here, screw Chris. Let’s go get Dwight Howard”. Wouldn’t that be glorious? James and Wade invite Howard to be a Super Friend with them. Then to top it all off, I would hope Bosh ends up somewhere like Utah, Milwaukee, or better yet, Cleveland. Even though I like Dwight Howard, I would still love to see this new (and actual) Big Three choke away playoff games and never win a championship.

Speaking of the Lakers, could Kobe possibly reel in Dwight Howard and the best point guard in the league sans injuries?

Asaf: CP3 would be a hot commodity in a world of free agents. He has no reason to stay on a team going nowhere and currently owned by the NBA, even though they have these sweet Mardi Gras jerseys. Why would Paul hang around to play with Emeka Okafor, who is actually very consistent and could turn heads, and Trevor Ariza when he could suit up with Kobe and maybe Howard? Or Carmelo and Amare in New York? If Amare didn’t have his knee issues I would say the right move is the Knicks because Kobe is getting older. However, the chance to play with Kobe and Howard may be one of those offer you can’t refuse sort of things.

Brian: Here’s where a team’s intangibles come into play. I can see where a handful of top-level players would love to go play for Jay-Z out in Brooklyn. To be honest, that’s where I would want to go play too. Plus, if everyone was a free agent, what would stop Jay from throwing a few guys contracts that are below-max and then throw them GIANT endorsements from Roc-A-Fella. CP3 could go make bucket loads of money playing for the coolest owner in the NBA in a brand new arena. You can see where both All-Stars and role players would want to go there. In the voided contract scenario, the coasts would be the big winners, and I could see the Brooklyn Nets being one of the biggest winners. CP3 could draw some top big men (K-Love? Z-Bo? Darko?) to Brooklyn with him. Imagine the cross town rivalry. CP3 and his cast vs. Amare and ‘Melo. I hate the professional sports east coast bias, but if ESPN is going to be slobbering over it anyways, I hope the Nets and Knicks go big.

Now we come to three franchise players, none of which are looking to jump ship, and I don’t expect any of them would. I am speaking of the reigning Finals MVP, regular season MVP, and back to back scoring champion.

Asaf: First we have Dirk. Man, what a year this guy had. Dirk played out of his mind, well maybe out of my mind but normal for him, basketball this year. Some of his accomplishments this year include sweeping Kobe’s Lakers, dismantling Durant’s Thunder, and shutting down Wade’s (that’s right, Wade’s) Heat…all in the playoffs. There were 82 games before that! Dirk has no reason to leave a team and a city that adore him and would do anything for him. Sure his current team is on the older side, but after shuffling something like 500 players, I’m sure he would end up with some decent sidekicks. Being backed by a crazy billionaire is also a good way to lure people to Texas. Also, Dirk has the second best hand motion to celebrate a three pointer, the German three.

Brian: To be honest, Dirk is one of the least entertaining superstars in the voided contract scenario (Besides Tim Duncan. He’ll be back in San Antonio, but I would hope no one would sign Tim Duncan). Dirk will stay in Dallas, but I don’t think he helps draw together anyone to form a super team. In this post-apocolyptic NBA world I see the competitive balance looking like this:
1) Super teams comprising of 2+ mega-superstars. These will be highly concentrated on the coasts. LA, NY, Florida.
2) Good teams that have a superstar or two. Solid, middle of the pack teams that look a lot like the good teams you see today. Dallas, Chicago, Boston, etc.
3) The teams that no one wants to play for. The Island of Misfit Toys essentially. These teams will be talent wastelands for their fans for the first couple of years following the voided contracts. Minnesota, Utah, Milwaukee, Toronto, etc. would be in bad shape.

Asaf: Beside the big markets we’ve already mentioned, there is one more city that could have a large draw for players. Not to mention they’ll probably retain their superstar point guard, Derrick Rose. It’s highly likely that Rose tries to return to Chicago and build the Bulls team that the management can’t seem to get right. First thing would be to call up Joakim Noah and get him back, then order a hit on Carlos Boozer if he tried to return to the team. I think Rose could get some real talent to come to Chicago so the number two scoring option isn’t Luol Deng. O.J. Mayo and Rip Hamilton were both possible fits at the two guard spot, so why not grab both. Put Rip in the starting lineup and remind him that he wasn’t always a miserable waste of space on the court, and Mayo has had success coming off the bench in Memphis already. Add a big man who can actually score and things are looking good in the Windy City. The fun possibilities for Rose should be much more interesting.

Brian: I agree with Asaf. The odds that Rose would want to stay in Chicago and go down in Bulls lore as second only to MJ are high. But what if he made a one year pit stop to take care of some old business? Yes, D-Rose should head back down to Memphis on a one year contract and try to redeem himself in eyes of the local Memphisians. They could even let him cheat on some standardized tests. Rose should redo his one and done status down in Memphis and try to bring home a championship.

Asaf: Last in this trilogy is the ultimate NBA superstar and all around amazing person. Kevin. Durant. Teams would kill to have KD at the center of a rebuilding process in a free agent free for all, but he’s going back to OKC. There’s no doubt in my mind that Durant returns to the city and the fans that have welcomed this team with open arms and been rewarded by one of the most exciting group of players in the league. This Thunder team is something special. They play the right way, they’re run the right way, they’re coached the right way, and they’re just good guys. Serge Ibaka, James Harden, Kendrick Perkins, and even a guy like Nick Collison, they’re more than teammates, they’re brothers. And brothers don’t abandon each other. Sam Presti is also a basketball Billy Beane of sorts and he’s not paying anyone who doesn’t work with this team. The Oklahoma City Thunder, your 2013 NBA Champions.

Brian: We always hear about what a good guy Durant is, but what if he took this opportunity to shock the world and OKC by leaving? This would quite possibly be the biggest news out of the whole voided contract scenario. Durant could stab Oklahoma City’s back so hard. Remember how mad Cleveland was at LeBron? They were expecting it. If Durant left OKC you would see fans the maddest they’ve ever been at a player. And you know what? I wouldn’t blame Durant. He should go win a championship with CP3 in Brooklyn. It’d be much better for him there.

When you’re building your team you want a leader that can guide his teammates on and off the floor. That’s why the PG position is so important, especially in this league where there aren’t enough competent ones to go around. Let’s look at three key guys.

Asaf: John Wall, John Wall. This kid has the tools to be an elite NBA point guard with his speed, ball handling, driving ability, and smart passes. If Gilbert Arenas is any indication, Washington is not a good place to be an All-Star point guard with no supporting cast. I would love to see Wall and Zach Randolph make the move to Brooklyn. I think they complement each other’s style of play and would love playing for Jay-Z. The Nets are going to be a bit of an experiment with a new home and no Deron Williams because he’s not coming back. John Wall is the perfect candidate to take over that team with some hot free agents and an arsenal of ZigTech shoes from Reebok.

Brian: Well I’ve already put CP3 in Brooklyn so he needs somewhere else. John Wall definitely is a big time player with a big time personality. LA is the place for him. Luckily there are two great options there. He could go to the Lakers and help Kobe play out the rest of his career. On the other hand, I see the Clippers being a big winner in this scenario, and I could really see Wall being a part of that. Wall and Griffin. That’s an electrifying duo.

Asaf: The Clippers can keep Blake Griffin, but they need a dependable point guard not named Mo Williams or Eric Bledsoe. The answer? Steph Curry. Oh baby, I just got chills. Can you imagine Steph serving up at least three Sports Center highlight alley oops to Griffin every game? Add a budding center in DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon, who could be a perennial All-Star if he stays healthy, and this young team could build a really solid core. Steph needs to get away from the black hole better known as Monta Ellis and the mess in northern California. With Blake doing work down low there would be plenty of room for Curry to cut to the basket and hit open jumpers. This is a solid pairing that could pay huge dividends for everyone involved.

Brian: Well again, I’ve already got a player where Asaf put Steph. For whatever reason, I see Steph Curry as the kind of top-level point guard who goes somewhere not as prime time. Maybe he’ll go down Dallas and play with Dirk. To be honest, he’s a heckuva play maker that any team would love to have, and I really think he could end up just about anywhere.

Asaf: Steve Nash used to dribble tennis balls around the campus of Santa Clara University to help with his ball handling. I would say it paid off. Nash has been one of the top point guards in the game for years now, but has missed out on that elusive NBA Championship. There’s a dilemma with Nash because of his age and injury concern, but you can’t overlook the double digit assists and stellar free throw and three point shooting. Steve Nash is a workhorse who should have won a title with one of those Suns teams. Now, is it too late for him to get the ring he deserves? Is it fair to Nash to be downgraded to a veteran floating around the league trying to win a title (Shaq)? I’m really not sure where Nash would end up in this chaotic state. Honestly, and this pains me to say, he could work in Miami. He’s a clear upgrade over Mike Bibby and maybe he could mentor Mario Chalmers during his time there. He definitely gives them a better chance to win a title, but a player like Steve Nash deserves a better championship than that. I’m torn on the issue.

Brian: Here’s the thing about Nash. He loves Canada. That’s where he’d go. Toronto would be the place for Nash to ride out his career. He’s the kind of player who makes everyone around him better, so I dont even think it would matter who else was there. Maybe Bosh comes back to team up with Nash. Either way, I see Nash becoming less and less relevant following the voiding of contracts. There’s too many other superstar point guards at this point.

There are a lot of players in the NBA. A lot. We can’t hypothesize about all of them, so we have a note for each team and their best plan of action in a world of free agents.

Atlanta Hawks: Doesn’t look good for the Hawks. There’s no way they keep Joe Johnson, Josh Smith, and Al Horford, maybe one of them but that’s it. Their best bet is to keep Horford who is the most promising and arguably the best of the trio. Then build off of him with a stronger point guard than Jeff Teague.

Boston Celtics: What do you do when you are dealt a strong hand in poker? Stand pat. Paul Pierce isn’t about to leave Boston, and it would be pretty easy for him to convince the rest of the Big Three to stay. The biggest concern is making sure Rondo doesn’t get lured away to play with some younger stars. Boston will bring back their guys and maybe capitalize on existing teamwork in a reshuffled league.

Charlotte Bobcats: Does anyone want to go to Charlotte to play for Michael Jordan? Nope. When Larry Brown was coaching this team he was begging Stephen Jackson to actually try on the court. Now they’re both gone but the problems are still there. Try your hardest to bring back D.J. Augustin and Kemba Walker and be thankful you can ditch Corey Maggette before he even plays a game.

Chicago Bulls: Basically what was said earlier, Rose will come back and the combination of him and the opportunities Chicago offers will bring in more talent. The Bulls are set, but could benefit to the tune of Joe Johnson. Maybe Rudy Gay?

Cleveland Cavaliers: I do not envy this team, and I’m a Timberwolves fan. The Cavs have nothing going for him. I’d be shocked if they were able to keep Kyrie Irving, but at least they don’t have to keep Baron Davis. They do have some young guys who could turn out to be promising talents, so bring them back? Good luck.

Dallas Mavericks: Dirk and Mark Cuban’s wallet (and maybe even Jason Kidd’s corpse) could bring in some good players. However, last year’s championship is going to be the last one for awhile. Monta Ellis and Marc Gasol would be interesting fits in Dallas.

Denver Nuggets: After the Carmelo trade the Nuggets were wildly successful with their new squad. After trading Ray Felton for Andre Miller they opened up the point guard spot for Ty Lawson, which is an awesome move. If they could bring back their core guys it would be a win for them. Their problem is Nene, the topic of trade talks and a highly coveted free agent. If they can’t keep Nene it would be nice to see them find a quicker big man to fit into their uptempo system, Brook Lopez or J.J. Hickson perhaps.

Detroit Pistons: Oh boy. A whole new team is exactly what the Pistons need. Lawrence Frank is a capable coach and it would be to their advantage to put together 12 guys who didn’t have to deal with last year’s woes. Devin Harris has fallen off the map, but he and Frank were in New Jersey together and maybe they could start over in Detroit. Targeted players: anyone young.

Golden State Warriors: Monta Ellis, Steph Curry, David Lee. Kiss ’em goodbye. The Warriors have decent talent in Al Thornton, Reggie Williams, and one of last year’s biggest breakouts Dorrell Wright. If they can keep Wright and complement him with a point guard to give him the ball and a big man to draw attention in the post, then who knows. Unfortunately they’ll probably grab Aaron Brooks and DeJuan Blair.

Houston Rockets: Bring back the guys they had, minus Jonny Flynn, and see what they can do. Kyle Lowry is an awesome up and coming point guard and Hasheem Thabeet could have a legitimate turn around in Houston. If they keep Luis Scola, Chuck Hayes, Jordan Hill, and Chase Budinger they could be a fun team.

Indiana Pacers: No more Danny Granger, that’s for sure. Maybe Roy Hibbert sticks around because he seems to like Indiana, enough at least to appear on Parks and Recreation which is set in Indiana. A team built around him, Darren Collison, George Hill, Paul George, and Tyler Hansbrough/Josh McRoberts (you don’t need or want both) could find themselves in the 7 or 8 spot in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

LA Clippers: Griffin stays and gets a lot of help. The chance to be on the Clippers team that surpasses the aging Lakers (assuming they’re still old after free agency) is a draw along with all the obvious reasons. The point guard is the key in this puzzle, get a good one and this team is going places.

LA Lakers: Dwight Howard. Chris Paul. That’s it.

Memphis Grizzlies: The Grizzlies will probably lose most of the guys from a talented team last year. It’s a shame, but I bet they end up keeping Mike Conley. Chalk up another team to the middle of the heap.

Miami Heat: Done talking about these guys.

Milwaukee Bucks: The Holiday Folk Fair International is in Milwaukee this year. Since they have no hope of getting real players, and they have so many foreign born players already, Milwaukee will be the site of the International Team. Carlos Delfino (Argentina), Andrew Bogut (Australia), Tiago Splitter (Brazil), Prince Luc Richard Mbah a Moute (Cameroon), Mickael Pietrus (France), Linas Kleiza (Lithuania), Beno Udrih (Slovenia), Ersan Ilyasova (Turkey), and last but not least Yao Ming (China).

Minnesota Timberwolves: And the depression is sinking in. This team might maybe have had a slight chance to perhaps possibly turn things around. Now we’ll never know. Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio will find new homes and all we’ll be left with is Darko Milicic and Michael Beasley’s ego. Damn and I had such modest hopes for these guys. Pros: No clothing tax in Minnesota. Kahns: Well, you can figure it out.

Brooklyn Nets: Everyone who doesn’t want to play with Melo and Stoudemire. Wall and Randolph could match up pretty well with their new in state competitors. Jay-Z better be as big of a factor as we’re expecting or all these fun plans wont come to pass. Then again every contract being voided probably wont come to pass either so…

New Orleans Hornets: The Chris Paul days are over whether mass free agency happens or not. I bet the Hornets wish they still had Darren Collison now, so maybe they’ll bring him back. Between Emeka Okafor and David West you clearly want West, but they should take Okafor because West isn’t staying. New Orleans should become the party team with all the crazies, and make sure they never have games scheduled for Mardi Gras. Key additions would be Delonte West, Stephen Jackson, DeShawn Stevenson, Chris Andersen, and bring Jason Williams out of retirement.

New York Knicks: Get Carmelo Anthony. Oh, they finally did that? Then…

Oklahoma City Thunder: Bring back the whole team. Every last one.

Orlando Magic: The Magic will go out and bring back Marcin Gortat to be their next franchise center. With the Polish Hammer filling it up in the middle it would be nice to surround him with some outside shooters like Anthony Morrow and Ben Gordon. Well that doesn’t sound like a good start, but count on the pros offered by Florida to draw some solid players.

Philadelphia Sixers: Might as well bring back AI.

Phoenix Suns: Just find anyone that isn’t Hedo Turkoglu, Jason Richardson, or Vince Carter.

Portland Trail Blazers: This team has an excellent camaraderie and swapping out Andre Miller for Raymond Felton is a huge bonus. Everyone needs to come back because this team has serious championship potential. The Trail Blazers also have the best hand motion to celebrate three pointers, the three goggles.

Sacramento Kings: The Kings should seriously consider getting their team to re-sign. They have solid young talent and after adding Marcus Thornton last season and Jimmer Fredette, J.J. Hickson, and John Salmons in the offseason they could be pretty good. Worth a shot.

San Antonio Spurs: The most boring team in this scenario. Everyone comes back and the contact doubles as a death certificate for the rest of their careers. The Spurs are done winning after a year off.

Toronto Raptors: One of the hardest markets to get people to. Maybe the NBA should take this opportunity to move the Raptors to Seattle or Las Vegas or something. If not, consider them another hub for foreign players.

Utah Jazz: The Jazz might actually be able to keep Al Jefferson but no Paul Millsap and probably no Devin Harris. Guys like Kris Humphries and Goran Dragic are going to end up in Utah. Maybe some Kirk Hinrich action.

Washington Wizards: There’s some skill in Washington right now between Andray Blatche, Nick Young, JaVale McGee, and Jordan Crawford. Why not keep it together and see what one of the thuggest teams in the league can do.

This Week in Sports: Videos (11/4/11-11/11/11)

Our first video addresses the issue that has been all over the sports world this past week: Joe Paterno. Amidst a huge child sex abuse scandal in the Penn State football program, the university decided to clean house and Joe Paterno was among those fired. JoePa coached at Penn State for 46 years and is the record holder for most victories by and FBS football coach. JoePa was fired in the wake of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal, which took place over 15 years. It is a truly horrific story, and as new developments come to light it actually gets worse. Here is JoePa, just saying thank you to the students outside his home, and bidding college football farewell.

In other disappointing sports news, the NBA lockout still isn’t over. However, the deal on the table at the moment proposes a 72 game schedule where the first week of playoffs and the Finals are pushed back a week. The deal also calls for a 50-50 split of Basketball Related Income (BRI) between players and owners. If the Players Association (PA) doesn’t accept this deal the season will most likely be canceled. David Stern has also said that the next deal would feature a 47-53 split of the BRI in favor of the owners. The PA needs to take this deal, not just for themselves, but especially for the fans. #BasketballNeverStops

Here’s a link to a video on the latest on the NBA lockout. And here’s a Sport Science video about the carrier classic.

There is a sport that is way above every other sport, literally it’s played in the air. I am speaking of the game of champions, Quidditch. The game was once just J.K. Rowling’s dream, but now it has come to life. There is an International Quidditch Association  and the high-flying game is played at over 300 universities and high schools in 13 countries. And if that isn’t crazy enough, they have a World Cup, and it’s tomorrow. The fifth Quidditch World Cup will be played November 12-13, 2011 in New York and feature 100 teams and 2,000 athletes. Should be awesome.

This deserves another video.

Big Ten Basketball Preview (11/8/11)

Maybe we’ll have an NBA season…maybe. In the mean time, one form of basketball has returned as we get ready to kick off the NCAA season. The Big Ten is going to have a lot going on this year, something like one of those movies with big ensemble casts. You have your power houses like Clooney (Ohio State) in Ocean’s 11 or DiCaprio (Wisconsin) in Inception or The Departed. Then there are always the weak links like Katie Holmes (Nebraska) in Batman Begins or Josh Hartnett (Penn State) in Sin City. Then you have everyone else. The middle of the Big Ten will be a pileup of potential and mediocrity. Four teams (Ohio State, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Michigan State) are ranked in the top 25 in preseason polls, and 11 of the 12 teams are ranked in the top 60. There is a lot of young talent in the conference and these will be the players to focus on with a lot of veterans leaving after last season. Here is a preview of the conference with the teams listed in order of their projected finish in the Big Ten standings.

1. Ohio State

Two words: Jared Sullinger. As much as I hate OSU, I can’t help but also hate Sullinger. This monster in the middle will try to lead Ohio State to back to back Big Ten championships, but hopefully they don’t win a game all season. The Buckeyes lost their long range specialist in Jon Diebler (may he burn in hell) but William Buford will look to step into that role. Aaron Craft will continue his lockdown defense in his second season at a school with the noblest of athletes. There is no denying that this team is very talented and they are predicted to finish #3 in the nation, which is probably good because they didn’t have much luck at #1. Also, there’s this.

2. Wisconsin

Am I being biased? Maybe, but when you have a sports blog you can rank the teams the way you want, so shut up and let me dream. I was a little nervous heading into the season after losing Jon Leuer and Keaton Nankivil, but after this on hand experience I have a little more faith. Josh Gasser and Mike Brusewitz will need to step up into bigger roles to fill the void. Jordan Taylor was a near unanimous pick for First Team in ESPN’s All-America teams, and his incredible basketball IQ will be needed to lead this team. He will have some help on the offensive end from sophomore Ben Brust, but the defense is the real question. Look for some new guys to come off the bench and help the Badgers compete for the Big Ten title.

3. Michigan State

You have to put them here, but there’s a good chance they slip further. After senior Draymond Green the Spartans are going to rely heavily on up-and-coming talent. Sophomore combo guard Keith Appling could break on to the scene this year as a consistent contributor, he has the outside shot and ability to get to the basket. Branden Dawson is a promising freshman who has drawn comparisons to Jason Richardson. He can play the two, three, and four, but there are doubts about his defense, especially on the perimeter. I just want to see some crazy J-Rich dunks. Coach Izzo is going to have his hands full this season trying to meld this team into a competitor.

4. Michigan

The Wolverines lost Darius Morris to the League that Shall Not Be Played, but they return the rest of their big pieces from a successful season. They have an early season challenge as they face off against Memphis on November 21st. That will be the first test to see if Michigan can build off last season’s run. Freshman Trey Burke is an option to take over the point, and Tim Hardaway Jr. has the potential to lead this team. Jordan Morgan, Zack Novak, and Carlton Brundidge, another hyped recruit, are all pivotal to Michigan’s success. This team could make a push atop the conference if everything falls into place. Can’t end before I bring this up again.

5. Purude

Purdue finished second in the Big Ten last year thanks to their star players JaJuan Johnson and E’Twaun Moore. With those two gone the Boilermakers are going to have to hope Robbie Hummel can return to his pre injury level of play. It would also help if his manhood returned because crying doesn’t scare opponents. They are set at point guard with Lewis Jackson, one of the quickest players in the Big Ten who can slash to the basket if the defense gives him room. Ryne Smith will be their go-to shooter from the outside and will help balance the floor. Purdue has five players returning that averaged 19 minutes of playing time, so the chemistry is there, the skills are what’s lacking.

6. Illinois

This is a team looking to the future, but they could make some noise earlier if their incoming freshmen make an immediate impact. Senior transfer Sam Maniscalco could provide the drive this team needs, he has the intensity and experience to help out the new players. Brandon Paul will become the first scoring option as well as the top defender. He and D.J. Richardson will be at the core of the building process for the Illini. This team could be helped by a fairly easy schedule prior to conference play that could give them momentum. Of course they could lose early and often and be done by January. Bruce Weber is going to be trying to get this team back to its winning ways, and if things come together sooner rather than later, they could be a factor.

7. Minnesota

Minnesota has a great frontcourt tandem in Trevor Mbakwe and Ralph Sampson, but there isn’t much else. Mbakwe is a beast on the boards and a force on defense who can also score the ball. The Gophers have three options at the point and none of them are very good. They will also need to find a new source of outside shooting after losing marksman Blake Hoffarber. The Gophers will need to find consistent means of scoring to compete in the Big Ten. They have a lot of unaswered questions and a lot of young guys that will have to get used to the style of play. However, with veteran Tubby Smith at the helm (until he inevitably quits) this team could surprise people to the tune of 6th in the Big Ten. They also have freakishly athletic and insane dunker Rodney Williams.

8. Iowa

This is a team that was just a little bit off last year. They lost a handful of games by a few points and managed to knock off Michigan State and #6 Purdue last season. They are bringing back two big players in Melsahn Basabe, a solid rebounder and inside scorer, and point guard Bryce Cartwright. These two should build off of their chemistry from last season and continue to create scoring opportunities in the post. Fellow senior Matt Gatens will join Cartwright in the backcourt and he will provide a target as a cutter to the basket and spot up shooter. The Hawkeyes are another beneficiary of an easy non-conference schedule that they will need to take advantage of if they want to get a bid. Their fans are probably just hoping they can entertain enough to make them forget they chose to go to Iowa.

9. Indiana

The only interesting thing to mention about this team is freshman Cody Zeller. The 6-11, 230-pound big man will need to bulk up to bang down low in the Big Ten. He has surprisingly well developed shooting and passing skills, but it will have to be seen whether his talents will translate to college. The Hoosiers are returning all of their main pieces from last year’s pathetic excuse for a season. Adding a year of experience to an untalented team doesn’t equate to success, and it probably wont in the Big Ten. This team is once again projected to move up, but I don’t buy it. I would drop them lower but there are some pretty bad teams to come.

10. Nebraska

Since Nebraska is a newcomer I had to get a quote about their program for some background.

“Nebraska’s going to be one of the top programs in the country…” – Coach Doc Sadler

Oh I forgot, the last part of the quote is “when it comes to facilities.” The Huskers will be moving into a new, swanky arena in 2013 and their coach is very excited. As far as basketball goes, they really aren’t so terrible. The move from the Big 12 to the Big Ten was for football, but it may be a welcome move for basketball too. Nebraska no longer has to play Kansas, Kansas State, and Texas multiple times a year. They lose their star play in Lance Jeter but their other four starters are back. Jorge Brian Diaz will assume the role of leading scorer and he is one of five players on the roster over 6-11. Nebraska will use their size and experience, with five returning seniors, to try and trade blows with their new conference opponents.

11. Northwestern

Northwestern is the least fun school in the Big Ten, and their basketball sucks. John Shurna is back, because he’s only going to be a star in college, and will try to guide the Wildcats to their first ever tournament bid. Perhaps this stellar new court design will help? News flash: not happening. Drew Crawford starts opposite Shurna at the other forward and has promise, but as a junior he needs to hurry up and hit his stride. Two freshmen combo guards, Dave Sobolewski and Tre Demps, will get opportunities to run the team, but Demps suffered a shoulder injury that he will try to play through. Northwestern relies on a zone defense but worked in a man-to-man last year as well. Should be interesting to see where they go this year…I guess.

12. Penn State

See ya Taylor Battle! Along with Battle, Penn State lost three key seniors and their coach. This team has so little potential I’m tempted to just talk about what’s going on with the football program. Alas, I’ll stick it out. The Nittany Lions’ key returning player is junior Tim Frazier who averaged 6.3 points last year. The team is starting from scratch with five new recruits and two redshirts, not to mention a new coach, Patrick Chambers. Chambers wants his team to run a fast paced game, but will need to adapt to his players’ skill sets as the season goes. Freshmen guard Trey Lewis is small but has the ability to score and could complement Frazier in the backcourt. It’s really up in the air with this team, only time will tell. Save JoePa.

Badger Rewind (11/6/11)

Yesterday I had the privilege of attending not one, but TWO UW-Madison sporting events. I’ve got football and basketball for you, and since daylight savings time kicked in you have an extra hour to read it.

Wisconsin vs. Purdue

It’s Parents Weekend in Madison, so everybody and their brother (literally) were in town. I’ve never seen so many tweens and 40+ people playing beer pong. Purdue came in at .500, being 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Big Ten with their only impressive win coming over Illinois. Needless to say there was not a whole lot of hype for this game. I took my time getting nice and smart before heading out. Part of the experience is being inebriated, plus the walk is the worst thing about Madison beside the arctic winter. I got there midway through the first quarter with the score tied 7-7. I settled into the student section in preparation for the blowout to come.

If you’ve never been to a Badger football game at Camp Randall you are sorely missing out. The stadium is packed with over 80,000 fans clad in red and screaming their team on. The student section has a magnitude of traditions including expletive riddled cheers, a choreographed wave routine, and the famous Jump Around. Camp Randall boasts one of the best home field advantages in college football, since 2005 the Badgers are 45-4 at home. If your team is ever playing at Wisconsin, or you just feel like experiencing a great football atmosphere, come to Camp Randall.

Back to the actual game now. There wasn’t a whole lot of excitement at this game and the first half dragged on forever. The first quarter featured demigod Russell Wilson connecting with Jeff Duckworth on a 66 yard pass. The score was surprisingly close at the end of the quarter, but that would not be the case at half time. In the second Montee Ball ran all over the Purdue defense to put Wisconsin up 38-17 at the half.

The second half was more of the same as Wisconsin held Purdue scoreless and added 24 more points. The game was dominated by Montee Ball and his 223 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns. Why he isn’t in the Heisman conversation with his numbers is beyond me. James White also punched in two touchdowns, and on top of throwing two scores Wilson also ran for a TD. Personally, I left after the aforementioned Jump Around, another tradition among students. While watching the fourth quarter in my apartment it became clear that the game was totally over with 3:45 left when the announcers started talking about the band. In a panoramic shot of the stadium the student section was shown to be almost completely empty. Oh well, a win is a win.

Wisconsin vs. UW-Stevens Point

Later that evening was the first exhibition game for the men’s basketball team. Already being deprived of the NBA, there was no way I was going to turn down an opportunity to watch basketball. Plus I had the last vestiges of my day drunk to motivate me to go to game. I made it to the Kohl Center in time for the second half. Here is my running diary of the game. The times correspond to the time left in the half.

17:56 I’m watching games today against the Boilermakers and the Pointers? Why don’t colleges with crappy mascots have competitions to get cooler ones? Similar to the Ole Miss campaign to change their mascot to Admiral Ackbar.

17:50 Ryan Evans misses a short jumper. Guy is still a liability on offense unless he’s dunking, I guess his defense must have improved.

15:34 Jared Berggren looks good out there. I’m surprised I remembered his name. He’s crashing the boards and even got his hands on a loose ball. Probably going to be our starting center…gulp.

13:59 First impression of Ben Brust: less talented Monta Ellis. The 6-1 sophomore guard is clearly an offense driven player. He got a quick steal and pushed the ball in transition, only to miss the layup. Then he commits a bad foul on the other end of the court. I can already tell he’s going to be putting up a lot of shots, so I’m not sure how he and Jordan Taylor will play together. Speaking of Taylor, he looks huuuge. Definitely got more jacked over the offseason.

12:31 There is zero off ball movement on offense. One guy sits in each corner and the ball mainly stays at the top of the key. Lack of post presence is nothing new. The new guys don’t look in sync with veterans. Brusewitz misses two free throws. He’s a douche bag.

10:49 Whoever 30 is, he is all over the glass. Rob Wilson looks like Derrick Rose.

10:44 PA announces that 30 is Jarrod Uthoff as he tips in a miss. Kid looks good out there, very Bo-esque player. (I remember watching and thinking Uthoff was a 6-3, 6-4 small forward. Turns out he’s 6-8. Doesn’t look too imposing out there, I just hope his skills can compensate for his lanky, white guy disposition.)

9:37 I’m having déjà vu. The offense kicks the ball around the perimeter until there’s ten seconds left on the shot clock, then Taylor jacks up a three. Somehow that plan worked last year, but I was hoping we could get away from that. Another big white guy missed a thunderous put back dunk. Might be the most exciting play of the game so far.

8:09 For the first time I really pay attention while we’re on defense. Evans does look pretty good out there. Josh Gasser is finally noticed, he’s been a non-factor on offense but the defense is there. Whoever the latest jolly white giant in the post is lets them score on a layup. Since there’s a lockout I wonder if Jon Leuer could pull a Russell Wilson and come back for a fifth year.

7:37 Rob Wilson misses a layup and they show him on the Jumbotron. He doesn’t really look like Derrick Rose. I’m still drunk.

6:08 ALLEY OOOOP!!! Great heads up play by Evans. Gets the steal, gets it ahead to Taylor who lobs it perfectly for the Evans jam. Taylor’s passes have looked good, maybe he wont be a shoot first PG this year. Then again, this game doesn’t mean dick so probably not.

5:12 After standing in the corner the entire game Gasser finally gets a shot. Miss. Hey Michigan, remember this?

3:55 So, Ben Brust huh? Seeing some things I like now. Makes a great cut to the basket and then a slick pass to Gasser who gets fouled and makes both FTs. This comes one possession after draining a three over a guy twice his size. Vintage Monta.

3:07 Brust for 3!

2:29 Duje Dukan gets absolutely stuffed but a foul is called. Only makes one of two. Badgers are 6-12 on FTs now. Not so great for the team that led Division I last year with 83% FT shooting.

2:00 There’s a new Wquinton Smith. Little black guy running around the floor looking out of place. Don’t know this guy’s name but I hope it starts with a “W.”

:57 Uthoff hits a three without jumping off a pass from Brust. These two are gonna be my focus this season. If Uthoff can replicate some of Leuer’s numbers, he already has the no jump jump shot down, and Brust doesn’t monopolize the offense, we could do good things.

:14 Some benchwarmer tries to take a charge and gets called for a block. That’s the third different player I’ve seen try to take a charge. I call that Manu Ginobili defense. Bo is a fan of it too.

:03 Guys on the floor at the end of the game have a combined 5 of the team’s 78 points. Make that 7 of 80 as NeWquinton hits a buzzer beater.

So the Badgers win it 80-54, good game for scouting. Taylor doesn’t crack double digit points in 30 minutes but did have 7 assists and only 1 turnover. Whole team had 19 assists to 5 turnovers, which is encouraging. Evans, Berggren, and Brust have good games and the season could depend on guys like them. Can’t wait for the real games, especially with no NBA season.

This Week in Sports: Videos (10/28/11-11/4/11)

Here are a couple of videos from around the world of sports this past week.

First up, the plight of a brain damaged hockey player. After being slammed into the boards one too many times, Henrik Eriksson can’t seem to tell the difference between his teammates and opponents in this goal celebration.

Next on the docket is the new world record for longest header goal. In a game between Fagiano Okayama and Yokohama FC the only goal scored was a 58 meter (about 63 yards) header that perplexed the goalie.

This last video is a two for one special, which makes up for the fact that it’s from over a week ago…and 20 years ago. Joe Buck calls David Freese’s walk off home run to win an incredible Game 6 of the World Series. 20 years earlier, his father Jack Buck made the same call on Kirby Puckett’s walk off home run to send that World Series to Game 7 as well. That was also the last championship in Minnesota, Los Lynx don’t count.

Keeping Busy During the Lockout (11/2/11)

Kevin Durant is one of the hardest working players in the NBA. However, with this lockout carrying on for over 17 weeks now, he has to find other ways to spend his time. He was laying the smack down in the Goodman League until the season ended. Durant casually dropped over 50 points in multiple games pitting him against other NBA superstars. He also played in several charity games, further cementing his status as the best freakin’ guy on the court.

Most recently, Durant took his talents to the gridiron for a little flag football action. Durant tweeted about anyone playing flag football, and was graciously invited to

play in an intramural game at Oklahoma State.  As usual, KD put up G.O.A.T. (Greatest of All Time) numbers. Playing quarterback and safety he threw 4 touchdowns and picked off 3 passes. This is the point where you say, “What can’t he do?!”

While stories like this are nice to hear about and can be heartwarming around the holidays, they don’t compare to an NBA season. Last night should have kicked off the season in style with the defending champion Mavericks taking on the Bulls, followed by Durant himself going H.A.M on the Lakers. Games like these aren’t going to be around forever with guys like Kobe and Jason Kidd applying for their AARP cards soon. This lockout is not only robbing the fans of what could be (and would have been) a fantastic season, but also, and almost more importantly, aging players of one of their remaining years in the league. Teams like the Celtics, whose core guys are all over 34, are losing precious time to make one last run at a championship.

You don’t have to be old to be suffering right now. The Heat have two young studs, and Chris Bosh, who are under contract for 6 years. One of those years is gone, another looks to be headed down the tubes, which leaves them with 4 years to win their promised 11 championships. Don’t get me wrong, I hope they don’t win a single one, but it’s way more fun to watch them lose on the court.

The time for pointing fingers has passed and no one really cares whose fault this lockout is. The bottom line is I want to watch basketball. Right now the earliest games could return is December 1st which features two playoff rematches from last year, Thunder-Nuggets and Heat-Celtics. Two fantastic games. This lockout needs to end.

At least I have this slick Nike ad to brighten my spirits. Wetball

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