Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sports Roundup

A DV style list, the first one in a while.

- If I didn't provide enough support in my post Tuesday, Game 1 of the World Series was further proof of how unpredictable short series are, and how much teams can change from series to series. Texas did almost everything right against the Yankees. They got great starting pitching, bullpen pitching after Game 1 that was almost as good, and played flawless defense. Tonight they got an awful start from Cliff Lee, got bullpen pitching that was almost as bad, and kicked the ball all over the place. They aren't any better or worse as a team than they were a few days ago. They just played worse. Further proof that the best team doesn't always win playoff series in baseball, the team that just plays better does. I had Giants in 7 before the series and I certainly feel good about that now.

- I walked out of Giants Stadium after Week 3 thinking there was a high probability I wasn't going to have much of an NFL football season. The Giants next four games were against teams that looked to make up a very tough stretch: Bears, @Texans, Lions, @Dallas. I though 1-3 was a serious possibility. Sure enough they hit their stride and went 4-0, playing a dominating brand of football on both sides of the ball for most of all four games. It looks like '07/'08 all over again. Perry Fewell certainly has the defense re-energized, and he has be believing this team can get stops every week against almost anybody. You also have to give Tom Coughlin a lot of credit. No matter what he accomplishes, the second this team has two bad games everyone is questioning his leadership and ability as a coach. He seems to have one of the shortest leashes in a city that mostly only has short leashes. But he always stays the course, doesn't let it effect him, doesn't panic, and almost always gets good results. Another great job by Jerry Reese this offseason as well, not just in the moves he made but the ones he didn't, choosing to hold onto guys coming off down years. They have mostly rewarded him with big bounceback seasons to date. Perhaps most importantly, the one thing the Giants have been missing since the Super Bowl run is a go-to guy offensively. Being deep and having lots of options is great, you need that too, and the Giants have that. But in the National Football League that only gets you so far if you don't have the guy that can make big plays against tough defenses or when the rest of the offense has an off day to get you a win. Hakeem Nicks is very quickly turning into that guy. He spreads the field/gets behind defenses and plays possession at an elite level. There are very few receivers in football that do both as well as he does.

- Great to have hoops back. It's even better when you're team, for the first time in a long time, has one of the 10 best players in the league like the Knicks now do with Amare Stoudemire. With a pretty balanced attack surrounding him and a terrific point guard in D'Antoni's system in Raymond Felton, the Knicks should be hanging around in the middle-bottom of the playoff picture in the East. Normally that is not an accomplishment, but for the Knicks it is major progress. With the chance that Carmelo Anthony ends up here by the trade deadline, you could see them competing for a lot more than that.

- I will not be rooting for the Miami Heat this year, but have no problem with what those players decided to do. Everyone gets way too caught up in legacy and loyalty and doing it on your own and all that stuff. You get to live life one time, and if you want to go play in a certain place with a certain group there is no reason not to. There is also no such thing as a cheap/easy wins, as we see with the Yankees all the time, and as we will probably see with the Heat this season. They may win it all, but as we saw on opening night it won't be easy for them. For this reason, I don't blame these guys for trying to increase their chances of winning by joining forces. I also think it creates more excitement, which is always good. The NBA with the Miami Heat this year is much more fun than it would be without them. I haven't seen any ratings, but I bet you that Celtics/Heat game was the most watched opening night in a while.

- Continuing on some thoughts by The Gunn and TimC in the comments yesterday, I think the Heat's best chance to find offensive fluidity/cohesiveness, and thus play and win at maximum capacity, is for Wade to be the man and for Lebron to deliver the knock out blows. Not because I think Wade is better than Lebron, but because I think it fits their styles more naturally. Wade is as good with the ball in his hands as anyone in the league and has a more balanced offensive game. Lebron is the best all-around player in the league and is lethal in the open floor. If Wade is the lead back, he wears teams down like he used to do anyway without Lebron or Bosh, then Lebron, who has been solidly filling the stat sheet in balanced fashion all night and playing a good overall floor game, beats you offensively like a change of pace back in the second half when you don't have enough in the tank to handle a talented and physical force like him. If Wade is getting 30 most nights, and Lebron is in the low-mid 20s with a triple-double type numbers overall, I think that is when the heat become dangerous. Going this route also puts most of the decision making with Wade, which I also thinks suits the team beast. Wade is more of a point guard anyway, and now Lebron can just let his ability take over without having to think about making everybody else better. I don't mention Bosh much because I don't think his role can be maximized until you figure out what to do with Wade and Lebron. The only way I see him really getting hurt is if there is constant confusion with those two. If there is no such confusion, he becomes a very big problem for opposing defenses, because he's a 6'11" guy that can knock down the jumper consistently if you leave him to help on Wade/Lebron driving, and if you try to take the two of them away, he can catch the ball and score 1 on 1 either facing the basket or with his back to it. I think it's all about figuring out Wade and Lebron's roles. I didn't see any of the game, but based on the box score I think how things went tonight is how they'll be at their best.

- I think we are in for a great college hoops season as well. Duke is going to be very good again, but it's also going to be pretty wide open. Steve Lavin is doing absolutely incredible things at St. John's, and it's difficult to imagine anyone, including those candidates they preferred and those they couldn't have gotten, doing any better. He has been that good. They are very senior heavy and should be in the upper-middle of the pack in the Big East. For 2011 they currently have the 5th rated recruiting class behind only Kentucky, Duke, UNC, and Arkansas according to both ESPN and Rivals. No, you did not read that last sentence incorrectly. He already has 5 major guys signed, with 5 scholarships still available for that year. It's really going to be great having hoops back in this city again between St. John's and the Knicks, not just for fans of those teams but for the sport. New York is the best basketball city in the world, and everybody benefits when their basketball teams are relevant, whether they root for or against them. It generates more excitement.

Everyone have a fantastic weekend.

8 comments:

TimC said...

Response List:

-I like the tag 'DV Style List'.

-PF, I would hold the excitement a bit on the Giants. They've played well and they can only play the teams on the schedule but going 4-0 against that crew is not the feat it was a month ago. The Bears suck, the Texans are flakes, the Lions are a year away and played a backup QB, and the Cowboys are the worst team in the division. Again, the Giants can only play the schedule and 4-0 with a couple of dominant performances is the best they could do. But the real tests are around the corner: @ SEA week 9, @ PHI week 11, before a brutal five game finish. If they can run the ball and control the clock I like their odds to win the division- this makes Jacobs and the offensive line key factors because of his ability to pound defenses and keep the offense on the field, opening up the possibility of big gains with Bradshaw and the passing game.

-Amare Stoudamire is a top-10 player? Durant, Kobe, Howard, Wade, LeBron, Carmelo, Scalabrine, Paul, Duncan make up eight guys I like more for sure. Rose? Gasol? A fun debate could be on the cards here but I think I would nudge him outside the top 10. Still, agree with your excitement about the Knicks, Nicks, and it is good to see that there are still coaches out there who fit the personnel to the system, a la Belichick.

-One thing I learned from watching soccer over these past four years is that in a game where only three total subs are allowed teams must alter their strategy to deal with fatigue. Particularly, teams that press up the field need to find stretches in the game where they pass slowly and play patiently to conserve energy. How is this relevant? I think this is how the Heat must approach the season. A slight twist on PF's idea, I think Wade needs to carry the load for 4 minutes, then LBJ for 4, then Wade, etc. One of those two guys should be on the floor at all times and he should be doing the work. If both are on the floor, they need to take turns based on who is playing well. As the game winds down, turn to the hot hand as they did on Tuesday (the only thing they got right, I think).

-I like college hoops enough to enjoy the post season but I think the expansion of the tournament just dilutes the regular season product. It is a shame. Still, the caveat is that I come from a not-so-college area.

Patrick said...

i don't think i was overly excited about the giants. i think it was more of an objective analysis of the last 4 games, with an acknowledgement that the schedule isn't as impressive as it initially looked. i agree that the next 3 games will probably go a long way to deciding where the giants season is going to go (@seattle, dallas, @philadelphia). if they can go 2-1 that puts them at 7-3 with 6 to play. more importantly, who looks really good to you in the nfc? i'm not saying the giants are the best team in the league, but i am saying nobody besides atlanta looks as good as the giants do right now. with that in mind there is legitimate reason to be excited if i wanted to do so. bradshaw leads the nfl in rushing, hakeem nicks is being (rightfully) mentioned as a top 10 mvp candidate, they are dominating both lines, they are deep, and they have a proven quarterback. sounds pretty good to me in a wide open conference, no?

i'd say amare is pretty clearly on the back end of the top 10. statistically, he's a top 10 scoring guy, top 10 fg% guy, and a fringe top 10 rebounding guy. tough to ask for much more from a 4/5. there are six guys who are definitely better: lebron, kobe, wade, carmelo, durant, and paul. after that, is dwight howard probably a better player? yes, he does certain things better, but he also has certain limitations amare doesn't. if i had to choose between the two for my team, i'd certainly be thinking about it. is duncan still a better player? probably not. he's one of the best, if not the best, power forwards ever, but he's on the back end of his career. on his better nights is he still going to give you a better chance to win? yes, but he's not getting there as consistently as amare is. i would put amare in that next group after those first 6 with howard, duncan, bosh, rose, and nowitzki. that's 12 guys, so call it top 12 if you want to get technical. and quite honestly i'm not sure if duncan isn't in that next group, rounding out the top 15ish with pierce, deron williams, granger, boozer, etc.

the gm at work said...

Quick stuff - got an exam to take (and thank you Pat for writing this thing last night because I very much could not).

Giants: Beating the Cowboys is not an accomplishment. They should be able to run up the score on an unprepared Seattle team that will undoubtedly fail to improve the second half of the season as every other team in the league improves.

Cliff Lee: An interesting thought - how much money do you think last night cost Cliff Lee? It might be a little irrational to discount everything he has done to date just by looking at last night, but I bet it would decrease his value with at least one or two people in the market.

Anonymous said...

Pat,

The Knicks will not be a contender until they add one more piece.

I get your argument about Amare statistically, but the ultimate measure of a frontline NBA player is whether or not they can be the centerpiece of a championship team.

The answer with Amare is a resounding "no." You can't even argue that. They really need another guy that can be a go to guy or else they are not going to do much more than finish 6 in the east and lose in the first round.

Having said that, still a big improvement on where they were so I understand your excitement.

TimC said...

I wonder if the media hype is getting to Cliff Lee? Maybe he is not fit for a big market. Or maybe he just had a tough night.

On the NFC, no one outside of the Eagles looks all that good. They have exactly 1 loss in games where they didn't get the starter knocked out. And in Vick, a lefty runner, and Kolb, a righty pocket guy, they have two very different QBs so getting a guy knocked out is a big change to the game plan. They took one on the chin from Tennessee but that's probably the future AFC South champ, on the road, so not a big deal in my book.

The problem for the NYG is that in the NFC not winning the division is going to be a massive roadblock. Some teams can win from a wild-card slot but I think the brutal five game run at the end of the season will mean the Giants are the #1 team in the NFL that needs the bye week. They can only get that if they beat Philly and so far they have just shown that they could compete. Philly, on the other hand, beat Atlanta, perhaps the best performing NFC team to that point. Should be two great games.

One more comment, has a Superbowl team ever hit their stride in October? That's a warning sign and a late season stumble seems to be the most likely Giants outcome.

Amare, yeah, nit-picking for sure. Top-10, top-12, whatever, he just is not elite and I think the cutoff between elite and very, very good is somewhere within the top ten. I like the top 6 you came up with, PF.

Anonymous said...

TimC,

I like Philly's team but you'd be really hard pressed to tell me that the Giants aren't right there with them.

Personally, I like Eli more than whoever the Eagles run out at QB. Jackson is a better reciever than anyone the Giants but the Giants receiving core is deeper. I like McCoy in Philly, but I like Bradshaw (with Jacobs backing up) better.

I think the O-lines are a wash, and I think the defenses are also very similar.

I don't consider Philly to be a cut above the Giants by any means.

PF said...

Bandi -

I agree with your measure of a frontline nba player. But by that measurement, there are 6 definite guys and maybe 2 others (rose and dirk) who can be individual centerpieces of a championship team. That's why I commented on him being a top 10 (later top 12) player, because there aren't 10-12 centerpiece players in the nba right now. since there are only 6-8 centerpiece guys, I'm going to get excited about getting a guy in the next 4-6 guys.

Timc -

You aren't separating the eagles from the giants and falcons right now. Even if you did, the eagles are the only team that looks good? The giants and falcons don't look good? I know you like to be authoritative in your statements but, yikes. That's really bad by you. Have you watched any of their games? Kolb positively stinks, so having 2 qbs is not any big advantage for them. Agree with bandi, they have 2 huge weapons in mccoy and jackson, and maclin and vick can be explosive. Outside of that they don't have much with celek taking a big step back without donovan and an up and down defense. I'm not saying they aren't good. I'm just saying putting them ahead of the giants and falcons based on one win against the falcons, while ignoring bad losses, is just incorrect.

TimC said...

I'm thinking 'looks good' as in, from here on. 'Looked good' would apply to the Giants, 'looks good' I applied to those Eagles.

That aside, some very fair points on the Giants, etc., but two comments. First, I am separating the Eagles from the Falcons because the Eagles beat the Falcons. It was a pivotal game because Atlanta just has not won outside since drafting Ryan and until they can they are not really on the level of Philly or New York. That one game is more than enough for me to decide. Of course, that has also been the only poor Falcons performance, keeping them near the top. Second, I did not separate the Eagles and the Giants, noting that 'there should be two great games', which generally occur when equally matched teams meet on the field. Still, Philly and the Giants both got smacked by Tennessee and they lost early games to GB and IND, respectively. Philly has had injuries, and a tougher schedule of late. That, to me, is the difference. With New York's health and their schedule Philly is probably on a four-game run, too. I guess you could conclude I like the NFC East teams more than Atlanta, but doesn't everyone?

I agree with Bandi that Jackson and McCoy are big-time weapons, the kind to separate them from other teams. Granted, they have both had injuries, as have the starting QBs in their two losses. I cannot think of a situation that affects winning in one NFL game worse than losing a starting QB mid-game; it has happened twice with Philly. And as I already mentioned, the lefty-righty thing makes changing on the fly even trickier, the difference in playing style a little less so.

The Giants have been the best NFC team in October. But, unlike in baseball, this becomes irrelevant in late-season NFC East games. Plus, a couple of side factors make me wonder how much stock I can put behind their season so far. They have been healthier than Philly, Minnesota (Favre, Rice), Green Bay (Grant, several defenders), Dallas (Romo, but they also suck), New Orleans (the running game), and a bit healthier than Atlanta. Can this health hold up? We know for a fact that their cupcake schedule is not going to last beyond Halloween. And in such a tightly packed conference a mini-swoon could prove fatal.

All that ranting aside...if they can keep rushing the passer, they'll probably win, like they have in October. If they can't, they'll probably lose, like they did to Indy; Philly will probably want Vick's feet around to deal with those guys.