Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Burning Question #20: Can the city keep their Sacramento Kings? Where will their rumored destination be?

Why is this even a question?

Sacramento basketball is no longer relevant. This much is obvious. They have not been to the playoffs in 5 seasons and in which they have won no more than 38 games. Each rebuilding effort they've gone through since the Chris Webber trade has been met with disappointment. Jason Thompson, Kevin Martin, Spencer Hawes and John Salmons have all had their part of a "new era for the Sacramento Kings" and each has failed to bring the team any closer to the glory days that were sadly only 8 years ago. The Kings have gotten so bad that even I, who once owned a "Sacramento Queens" shirt, feels bad about their downfall and once certain-demise.

So why do the Kings even rank amongst the top 20 burning questions of this better-late-than-never NBA season? For three reasons.

1) This current Kings squad, which I expect to be one of the worst in the entire league, has the best core prospects the team has collected since over a decade ago. DeMarcus Cousins is as legitimate of a young big man as you can find. While his emotional temperament comes from the Metta World Peace, JR Smith and DeShawn Stevenson school of etiquette, its rare that you'll find a 21 year old (!)
that has a 15-foot jumper, the ability to be an elite rebounder, a true back to the basket offensive game and a bruising 7 foot, 270 pound frame. JJ Hickson, who was acquired by the Kings right before the lockout in a trade for Omri Casspi, is the perfect compliment in the high post to Cousins on the low block. Tyreke Evans, the only rookie other than Michael, Magic, Oscar and LeBron to average 20/5/5 his first season, will potentially be moved over to the 2-guard, as it would allow him as a shoot-first point guard to do so without the criticism handed to such qalified players. Most importantly, Evans will be moved in order to facilitate the coming of...the Jimmer.

2) Jimmer Fredette is one of the most anticipated players to come out of college in the last decade. Notice that I didn't say "best", "most skilled", but rather "anticipated". His 40 foot jumpers, 30 point scoring binges and wild tournament wins have given him a reputation that far precedes his diminutive stature. He was an exciting player, and the anticipation of what he will be at the professional level only heightens expectations.

But then there's everything else. The critics have lambasted Fredette for playing matador defense, if even that, and focusing entirely on scoring rather than stopping anyone. His lack of NBA size could limit how effective his penetration game could be, as well as being able to take opponents off the dribble into an easy jumper. He averaged only 4.3 assists a game, which is rendered rather unimpressive next to his 3.5 turnovers per contest. Those statistics might be fine for an NBA shooting guard, but again his size might put the limit on his position to a point guard. He is a fantastically exciting collegiate athlete whose entrance into the professional ranks has created an equal amount of fanfare as he has questions about his ability. He could be the NBA's version of Tim Tebow.

Both Tebow and Fredette are both fundamentally flawed players whose passion and drive might cause people to overlook potential detriments to his team. Jimmer's mystique in Sactown might be akin to what is happening in Denver right now. I might hate him that much. I could go on and on, but the truth is that, like Tebow, we won't know until he steps onto a court in a month. Regardless of how ready he is, Jimmer Fredette is going to be the most compelling rookie in the NBA. No doubt about that.

3) Their time in Sacramento is irrelevant. If they stay in NorCal and play without an improved team defense and discipline, they will not win enough games to make the playoffs. Beyond the potential of some of the young talent (who seem to carry as many burdens as they do boons), there is no reason to think this team will be good.

The reason why this team could be compelling is their potential future home. Some of the key options that have emerged are Anaheim, Las Vegas, Seattle, Kansas City and even Chicago. Anaheim and Ducks owner Henry Samueli has made significant overtures to convince the Kings to relocate, and on the surface, it looks like that Orange County is the only option. However, Las Vegas always remains an intriguing choice, as does a return to Seattle. Seeing what transpires during the year is going to be just as dramatic as seeing them on the court.

How will this play out?

As loud as the fanfare will be around Jimmer and the questions surrounding the troubled and talend DeMarcus, I don't see the Kings being able to sort through a troubled and deficit-ridden California economic situation and find funding for a multi-million dollar sports complex in Sacto. Without those type of plans, the cash-strapped Maloofs will have to take their team elsewhere.

While Anaheim is a logical option, I really don't know how willing the Buss family and Donald Sterling will be in regards to letting another team within a 30 mile radius of the Staples Center. In order to get that type of deal done, the Lakers and Clippers would have to get significant compensation for allowing another team mere miles away and siphoning off potential revenue. Seattle would be a great destination, but seeing as the Sonics left the city because they couldn't secure funding for a new arena (and thus revenue), unless Seattle changes its mind, there's no reason to think the Kings would move to the Northwest for the very same reasons they're leaving Sacramento. Kansas City is an intriguing option with their state of the art new arena, but unlike Oklahoma City and its experience with the Hurricane Katrina displaced Hornets a few years ago, there's no real world test to see if a professional basketball team would work in a city where a team has already relocated to and relocated from.

Realistically, I see Anaheim as the future destination of the Kings. I expect that some sort of compensation will be worked out with the Lakers and Clippers, including maybe playing a certain number of games in San Diego per year or some sort of revenue sharing pact.

How will this affect the Kings' season?

Truthfully, the Kings' season prospects won't be affected that much by a pending move. Most of these players have been playing in Sacramento for 4 seasons or less. Any of the remnants of the early 2000's team that achieved so much playoff success have been traded away, along with any memories of how much energy the fanbase has from California's capital. This team is woefully young and while they'll put up a ton of points on the board, they don't have nearly enough veteran leadership to start any type of defensive revolution, or commitment to winning. I don't think the Kings with their tenuous future will be able to land the few pieces they need to contend for a playoff spot in the next couple of weeks. A guy like Shane Battier would be great, but I don't see any veterans that would make a meaningful impact choosing to come to Sacto. So while the chaos of a potential move would be distracting to most teams, I think this Kings squad will be terrible by their own merit.


Best they can do: 31-33, 3rd in the Pacific, 10th in the West

Lowest they can go: 12-54, 5th in the Pacific, 15th in the West

Probable outcome: 25-41, 5th in the Pacific, 13th in the West

Like this series? Check out the other Burning Questions leading up to the 2011-12 NBA season:

NBA Season Preview: Burning Questions for teams you don't care about

Sunday, November 27, 2011

MAMBINO's NBA Preview Launch - Burning Questions for the UPCOMING 2011-2012 Season

Any text you get at 3:18 am at any point, any day, is most likely bad news. It means one of several things:

1) You've got an ex-girlfriend or boyfriend who either wants to pick a fight with you, or wants you to come over for an inter-coital incident that will leave you battered and broken the next morning, both physically and emotionally

2) You've got a current girlfriend or boyfriend that got too drunk and your car is now approximately 20 minutes away from being a $20,000 college trashcan

3) Something bad happened to someone you care about. Just got real there. Sorry MAMBINO readers.

4) Your friend needs a place to crash, and now your apartment becomes a $1,000 a month college trash can.

Friday night, nearly fast asleep at 3:18 am, Eastern Standard Time, I get a text message from my boy, OKC Thunder Fan #1 and the only owner of a Thunder Royal Ivey jersey in North America, Stolte, which read:


I put down my phone, not quite understanding what my almost assuredly shwasted friend was digitally blabbering about. About to fall back deep into my second tryptophan-induced slumber in the same number of days, I sat back up and clumsily jumped onto my Twitter app. Ken Berger, my new messiah and best friend, let me know that indeed, a handshake deal was agreed upon between the lawyers representing the players and owners and a 66-game 2011-2012 season was merely days away from becoming a reality.

Let's set aside my abject and utter joy here. I will ignore the fact that I stayed up until 3:45am researching a news story that had zero actual information available other than the paragraph I just typed, all while knowing full well I had to be awake at 8am. I have sent out approximately 20 text messages to 20 different hoopheads throughout the day, with a dozen e-mails following suit expressing my disbelief. I just had a 20 minute conversation with a fellow member of Laker Nation that was actually about basketball. We don't have enough time. Free agency will open in a week, with the season following a little more than two weeks after that. I was nearly resigned to a winter without NBA basketball (see my first post in a series of 6 detailing suitable WWE replacements for YOUR particular NBA squad) and having to follow a frustrating Jets teams, a Los Angeles Kings squad with no television out here in the East and a Boston College basketball team that's already lost to Holy Cross by 11, barely edged out UC Riverside by 3 points and lost to UMass by 36 home. Truthfully, and perhaps this was largely due to me wanting to preserve my sanity and not set myself up for disappointment, I haven't even begun to think about the 2011-2012 NBA season yet.

So now, like a your lame friend who got to the party 4 hours late and decides to chug a handle of vodka to catch up to the surprise of no one and the embarrassment of everyone, we here at MAMBINO HQ will be playing vodka handle catch up with the nubile 2011-2012 NBA season.

In our darkest days of the lockout, BockerKnocker and I devised a sneaky way to discuss the NBA without having actual basketball being played by coming up with a series of posts titled "20 Things We'll Miss About the Cancelled 2011-2012 NBA Season". Despite the self-loathing, pathetic nature of such an endeavor, we've found that even with the season revived from the brink of an almost certain death, "20 Things" is still relevant.

Thus, over the next month or so, BockerKnocker and I will begin our "20 Burning Questions for the 2011-2012 NBA Season". Our well-thought out questions from the pit of our NBA-deprived minds cover 22 teams and will serve as our de facto NBA season preview.

Obviously a 22 team season preview won't cover the entire 30-team NBA. I safely say that the remaining 8 teams remain the 8 least interesting teams in the league. MAMBINO has hardly been known as an equal opportunity sports blog. We like who we like and we hate teams that only mildly offend us. But in the spirit of equality, here's a 5 brief questions for 5 teams that you probably won't think about in the next 4 weeks:

Atlanta Hawks

Burning Question - Keeping together the core hasn't equaled postseason success, so what will Atlanta do to take the next step?

The Hawks have made the playoffs the past 4 seasons, have made it out of the first round 3 times and yet, have won a combined 2 games. Though a 4-seed is a great accomplishment in a top heavy Eastern Conference, in none of those years have the Hawks come close to being anything more than an also-ran. Each of their offseasons have had the sole focus of resigning a member of their core (Joe Johnson, Al Horford, Josh Smith) rather than adding a difference maker (like a quality center or a true point) to the fold beyond the likes of Mike Bibby and Jamal Crawford.

There's no telling what the new CBA will bring going towards free agency, but the Hawks need a lot of help if they want to contend with the Heat, Celts and Bulls, and don't have a lot of cap space to make it happen. Barring a trade for a quality big to go alongside Al Horford, I don't see the Hawks improving much on last season's record. And with their track record, I don't think any difference making moves are in the works.

Prediction: 35-31, 3rd in the Southeast, 5th place in the East

Charlotte Bobcats

Burning Question - can Michael Jordan keep a rebuilding team interesting?

Considering their best young players are DJ Augustin, Gerald Henderson and Bismack Biyombo and veterans are the likes of Corey "Black Hole of Ball-Stopping" Maggette and Boris Diaw, no. Michael's role as one of the most hard-line owners during the whole lockout has spoken volumes about how badly the Bobcats are losing money. He's said numerous times that he'll spend money when it will help the team win, but I don't see this team being at all in that sphere.

More to the point, even the worst teams in the league have an exciting young player[s] to showcase and build around (Minnesota, Cleveland, Clippers, Washington), while the 5'10' Augustin, the designated shooter Henderson and defensive stalwart (supposedly) Biyombo are not worth the entertainment value that Ricky Rubio, Derrick Williams, Blake Griffin, Kyrie Irving and John Wall will give you. It's going to be a long season for Bobcats fans. All twelve of you. Maybe not the worst, but certainly the most boring team in the East.

Prediction: 17-49, 5th in the Southeast, 13th in the East

Denver Nuggets

Burning Question - Can the Nuggets survive the Chinese purge of their players? And free agency?

More than any other team coming out of the lockout, if everything stands as it did before September, they will be losing 3 potential players from their 2011-2012 squad.

The Chinese Basketball Association notoriously proclaimed that only free agents could sign with any of their professional team and that they would not be allowed out of their contracts if the lockout were to end mid-season. Wilson Chandler, JR Smith and Kenyon Martin, all Denver free agents, decided that the cost of perhaps missing a potential NBA season wasn't prohibitive enough to miss out on $3 million dollar CBA contracts.

Personalities aside, these three were huge pieces for the surprising 2011 Nuggets squad. Though Martin wasn't likely to be resigned, Chandler (as a restricted free agent) and JR Smith (a young knucklehead, albeit a talented one) are both pieces that could have been back for this year's campaign.

Will Denver be able to survive this purge of talent? Not to mention their free agent center Nene, whose bruising attack and true post game could be another team's to use in a few weeks time? Though still talented, I'm guessing without the post-Melo FU wave they were riding last year, the Nuggets won't be able to finish better than 7th place in a crowded Western Conference

Prediction: 35-31, 3rd place in the Northwest, 7th place in the West

Indiana Pacers

Burning Question - Will Danny Granger become anything more than the Bobby Abreu of Fantasy Basketball?

Bobby Abreu is the best player that ever hit fantasy baseball. He was a reliable .300 hitter, with 20 homers, 100 RBI and 20 stolen bases per year. Though highly regarded amongst statisticians, Phillies fans and fantasy baseball managers, he never really broke through towards being a household name. For the five dozen of us that play Fantasy Basketball, you know that Danny Granger is our Bobby Abreu. A consistent source for key fantasy statistics, Granger is not considered as elite in real life as he is in the sadder, yet just as real lives of fantasy basketball managers.

With the Pacers having plenty of cap room in order to sign potential free agents and have the squad become more than a 5 game first round fodder for the Heat, Bulls or Celts, is this the year where the country recognizes Granger's talents? More importantly, is this year he becomes just more than a good player on a terrible team?

I'm not so sure that it is. Granger is great, but his skill set translates to nothing more than a great second or third option on a great team. With sign and trade rules still being in effect for now, as well as bigger market teams wanting to make a splash coming out of the lockout gate, I don't see the Pacers being able to get the franchise player they're hoping for, or Danny Granger turning into that guy.

Prediction: 33-33, 2nd place in the Central, 7th place in the East

Milwaukee Bucks

Burning Question - Will the Bucks be relevant again? Will they regret giving up Jimmer for Stephen Jackson?

Many many moons ago, before our hearts and minds were locked out, along with the NBA players, a trade surfaced including Milwaukee, Sacto and Charlotte, with the end result being that Stephen Jackson going to Milwaukee, while the Bucks' 10th pick in the draft, BYU legend Jimmer Fredette, going to Sacramento.

Jimmer was one of the most exciting players in college basketball the past two seasons, but everyone seemed to have questions of whether or not his size and seeming lack of defensive acumen would translate to a noteworthy NBA career. If so, will the Bucks, worst in the league in scoring last year, regret giving up a guy who could potentially be a 15-20 point a night threat? Stephen Jackson is a great addition for Mily-walk-kay (which in Algonquin means, "The Good Land"), providing both passing and defense that the departed Corey Maggette seemed allergic to. I'm not sure if Jackson is the answer, as ball movement wasn't the problem entirely with the Bucks, but rather it was the fact that no one could put the ball in the hoop.

Prediction: 29-35, 3rd place in the Central, 9th in the East

Philadelphia 76ers

Burning Question - Can Evan Turner take the next step? Will the 76ers continue to be the biggest market team in the NBA that continues to have the least amount of impact?

Ever since the departure of Allen Iverson, Philadelphia has been largely a team full of role-players who play extremely hard with little notoriety and similar fanfare. Especially contrasted with the Flyers' recent postseason success and the free-agent bonanzas that the Phillies and Eagles have gone on the past few seasons, it only magnifies the fact that the big market 76ers are grab so little regard in the NBA.

They've been afflicted with the Curse of the Mediocre; good enough to make the playoffs as a low seed, not bad enough to win a round but not bad enough to get a great draft pick.

Miraculously, he 76ers finally overcame the Curse of the Mediocre two seasons ago when they were awarded the number 2 selection in the 2010 NBA Draft. With it, they took Ohio State swingman Evan Turner, over other prospects such as Georgia Tech forward Derrick Favors and Kentucky center DeMarcus Cousins. Turner went on to have an average rookie season, scoring only 7.2 ppg and shooting around 42% from the field.

Though I saw some moments of potential, I, along with a lot of other NBA pundits, have already labeled Turner as a bust, especially considering the potential shown by both Favors and Cousins in their rookie campaigns. While it's early, I don't think Turner will improve enough in this sophmore season (if ever) to justify picking him over the two big men I just named. More importantly, I don't think he'll be enough to make Philly into a relevant watchable team. Well, at least there is the Dream Team across the street Philadelphia fans. You won't notice how bad the Sixers are when the Eagles are in the NFC title game.

Prediction: 27-39, 3rd in the Atlantic, 10th in the East

Toronto Raptors

Burning Question - Will new coach Dwane Casey get the Raptors to care about defense?

No. Calling Leandro Barbosa, Andrea Bargnani, Jose Calderon and Linas Kleiza "defensive sieves" might actually be too generous of a term. These gentlemen get called out for being soft by Stephen Curry. The question isn't really whether or not Dwane Casey, who helped Dallas turn into a defense-first squad the past 3 seasons, can get his guys to lock down and play hard on both ends of the court. It's more the question of whether or not they are even capable of it. DeMar DeRozan, Ed Davis and Jerryd Bayless rank as the only other regulars that have a chance to become the players Casey hopes they can become.

Also, keep in mind that help isn't necessarily on the way. Their first round pick, 5th overall, Jonas Valanciunas won't be able to come over from Europe until after next season. It will be another rebuilding year in 2011-2012 for the Raps, and with such a fertile draft class available next summer, I fully expect the Raptors to start trading players for draft picks this year.

Prediction: 17-49, 5th in the Atlantic, 14th in the East

Utah Jazz

Burning Question - Will the first full season without Jerry Sloan at the coaching helm in 20 years mean a disastrous year for the Jazz?

Yes. With Deron Williams off the roster and Andrei Kirilenko's comically gigantic contract nothing more than a memory, the Jazz have gone into full blown rebuilding mode. Jerry Sloan abruptly retired in the middle of last season, leaving the Jazz without the consistent identity that's defined them since 1988.

With Memhet Okur's $10 million dollar salary expiring after April 2012, I'd expect the Jazz to deal him, as well as Raja Bell ($7 mil over 2 seasons), Devin Harris ($19 mil over 2 seasons) and maybe even Paul Millsap ($14 mil over 2 seasons). Derrick Favors and draftee Enes Kanter, not to mention Al Jefferson, are all emerging options in the front court, there's no reason to keep those players in a season of transition for the Jazz. Coach Tyrone Corbin had a rough two month stretch to end the season (8-20) and I'm not sure if he's a much better coach than that.

Prediction: 21-45, 5th in the Northwest, 14th in the West

Check in with MAMBINO over the next few weeks as we slowly but surely unveil our 2011-2012 NBA Season Preview. Welcome back everyone. We're back in business. I've never been so happy with a 3:18am text message in all my life.

Friday, November 25, 2011

WWE for an NBA Fan - How to Survive the NBA lockout with the WWE (Part 1)

The nuclear winter. This is what so many NBA fans, writers and even personnel are referring to this lockout as.

We've covered our NBA lockout thoughts ad nauseam on MAMBINO. There's really nothing left to say. Both sides think that they're more right than the other. Each have pointed fingers, proclaiming they want a deal done, and every single ounce of their beings wishes they could be on the court right now. It doesn't matter if I believe them or not at this point. I've accepted that we will not be having NBA basketball this year. Following the 2004-2005 NHL season, the 2011-2012 NBA season will be only the second full season of North American sports to ever be canceled in the 100+ year history of the 4 major professional sports. Congratulations, gentlemen. You made history.

But let's not drink that half-full glass. Let's look at it, and fill it up to the brim. We here at MAMBINO HQ have some ready-made alternatives for those of you hungering for another waste of time to completely invest your emotions in, despite the fact that you have no true impact on the outcome.

The answer here is the WWE. It's the nuclear winter, after all. Why not eat those twinkies?

Being a lifelong professional wrestling fan, I know that for every offseason and All-Star break, there will always be the WWE to fill that sports void in my life. As the WWF catchphrase said about 10 years ago, "We Have No Offseason."

Professional wrestling is not a perfect comparative to professional basketball. However, there are a lot of qualities inherent in the NBA, its game and its players that would make even the truest hoopheads apt to take up Vince McMahon's trained traveling circus.

1) Basketball can be played one of two ways: with finesse, grace and coordination (think Magic Johnson's passing, Ray Allen's jumper, or Kareem's sky hook) or through a brutally bruising and physical game (think LeBron's moves to the rack, Shaquille's post game or Bill Laimbeer's elbows). The best basketball players will combine a little bit of both for what the experts would consider the perfect type of game.

Wrestling is no different. Stone Cold Steve Austin, one of the greatest wrestlers to ever live, said that in order to be a true champion, you had to look like you could kick someone's ass. Look like. A great wrestler has to have enough finesse, grace and coordination to make the moves look crisp but painful. He has to be big and tough enough to use his power to throw another man's dead weight around the ring, and yet also have enough toughness to throw himself around the ring and make his opponent look like Andre the Giant. The professional wrestling skill set is similar to professional basketball - precision and control, matched with a certain amount of physicality.

2) Who are the most popular players in the last 10 years? Shaquille O'Neal, LeBron James, Kobe Bryant, Allen Iverson, Kevin Garnett, Dwyane Wade, Yao Ming, Dirk Nowitzki and Dwight Howard are amongst them. You know what all these fellows have in common? They all had characteristics that made them pop towards the audience. They each were either incredibly charismatic, freakishly proportioned or, in many of their cases, both.

The WWE is no different. Aside from the natural athletic talent it takes to succeed as a professional wrestler, there is a certain level of "freak attraction" needed to become noticed by an audience that constantly clamors to be amazed. For every Shaquille O'Neal, whose incredible skill was buttressed by an even more overwhelming personality as well as physical size, there is a Hulk Hogan, Ultimate Warrior, Batista, or John Cena, each of which had the charisma to match their massive frames.

3) As much as the NBA is based on actual competition, sometimes (hell, most of the time) the dramatic nature of the league could be easily mistaken for the scripted chaos of professional wrestling.

Let's take a look at the past year and a half:
-LeBron James, drafted by his hometown (home state, really) Cleveland Cavaliers, spurns his small-market, blue collar, and superstar-less team on national television to join the glamorous Miami Heat, along with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh.
-After a season of rumors and negotiations, Carmelo Anthony gets traded to the New York Knicks, helping the team get to the playoffs for the first time in nearly 8 years.
-The Memphis Grizzlies overcome a decade of terrible basketball and zero playoff wins to beat the 1-seeded San Antonio Spurs as an 8-seed, ultimately going on to ride a suddenly indomitable Zach Randolph to win a triple overtime thriller against the Oklahoma City Thunder.
-5 years after an epic June collapse against the Miami Heat in the 2006 NBA Finals, Dirk Nowitzki, Jason Terry and coach Rick Carlisle make it back to the championship round against Dwyane Wade, Udonis Haslem and Pat Riley yet again - only this time, creating an epic comeback of their own.
-Blake Griffin dunked over a car.

And that's just the last 18 months. Between the personalities involved and the dramatic nature of the game itself, sometimes it seems like fans of the NBA are tailor-made to fall hopelessly addicted to the grips of Vince McMahon and his wrestling empire.

After days of pondering, I've come here to help, my friends. For those of us spurned by the NBA like a girl that I used to date in high school and then got back together with after college only to have her reject me because I wasn't "good enough to make her happy, ever," I have a solution for you. I've examined many NBA cities and identified the key components that make up their fan bases, styles of team play and characteristics of the cities they hail from. Trying to keep all three of these distinct traits in mind, I have found the most appropriate WWE Superstar for the fans of these NBA franchises to adopt. By following these warriors of the squared circle, I think that you, my dejected hoophead brethren, will find that the qualities you appreciate most about your various NBA allegiances will be excellently represented.

First, let's get this out of the way. I couldn't match up fan bases to each and every NBA team. Charlotte, New Orleans, Philadelphia, Minnesota and Denver each wane in popularity (not to mention in team personnel) within their respective regions from year to year, so much so that I couldn't really identify a characteristic or style of play. For example, what would you say exemplifies the "Charlotte Bobcat Way?" I know how to categorize a typical hateful and bile filled Philadelphia sports fan, but seeing as there might be none left, how could I categorize a 76ers fan? The Clippers? I just didn't think that their putrid existence merited a mention on this exorbitantly well-thought out post.

Since the entirety of this post would have gone to about 9,000 words, let's break it down division by division. Stay tuned loyal MAMBINO followers - we'll get the entirety of the league done in the next few weeks. First up, the Atlantic Division.

Boston Celtics

WWE Comparative: Daniel Bryan

During the apex of the Celtics-Lakers rivalry in the 1980's, so much was made of the differences in play between the two squads. The Lakers were led by Magic Johnson, whose charisma and magnetic personality matched the high-octane offense he led with his lithe passing ability and supernatural court vision. They were nicknamed "Showtime" for the type of entertaining, finesse style of play that gave rise to the modern fast-break offense. The Celtics, on the other hand, were a rough neck squad of blue collar players, whose toughness and defense were the most important facets of their team. They were led by Larry Bird, a dead eye shooter from rural Indiana, who only seemed to live for the court and the game that was played on it.

Daniel Bryan is a 5'10" wrestler, fighting in a company full of champions well over 6'. He hails from Aberdeen, Washington, a place best known for being the hometown of Kurt Cobain, with its most productive industry still being fishing and timber. Bryan's bearded face wears all those descriptions on it and the miles he's travelled to become one of the best wrestlers in the world. He would be most accurately described as a blue collar worker, whose pursuit of perfecting his craft is tireless. He has travelled the entire globe, winning titles in every federation he has wrestled in. His style lacks flash and his character is middling at best, but his best asset, unlike many of the other behemoths he fights alongside, is his skill set in the ring. He never quits, fights til his last breath, all while staying humble and grounded. He is the personification of the Boston Celtics.

New Jersey Nets
WWE Comparative: Zack Ryder

I'm not so sure that I have to delve too deeply into the psychology behind this pick, but I suppose that any Long Island Ice Z shout-outs have to be shown their proper respect.

At this point, fans of the team from the Garden State just want to be entertained and be shown a relatively decent performance for trudging out to Newark to see a pitiful team play. They know they're losing their team to Brooklyn in 10 months. Time isn't on their side.

Zack Ryder was a professional wrestler going absolutely nowhere. He was about to be sent home by the WWE. Ryder hadn't been used on TV, he didn't have the WWE creative team coming up with future ideas for him, and as a well-muscled, good looking guy whose athletic ability never matched up with any type of character development, he was dangerously close to becoming a personal trainer on Merrick, Long Island, New York. He was trapped in a near no-win situation. Like many men and women employed by WWE, his likeness and character was controlled by the company. Without TV time, there was no way for him to develop his character and become an indispensible (literally) asset to the company. So Ryder, knowing how close he was to being terminated, took his career into a nosedive, with his hopes pinned onto the minute chance that a random current would pick him up and he would be able to ride it upwards.

Ryder, whose twitter feed and youtube pages are WWE monitored, took to the internet and started filming weekly vignettes called Z! True Long Island Story. After being saddled with an extraordinarily played out "Jersey Shore" character, Ryder took what he was given, and unlike many other WWE never-wases, owned it in its entirety. In these completely asinine but completely brilliant short videos, he showed the small corner of the hardcore WWE audience that paid attention to a lower card faceless nobody that he had charisma and talent beyond the athleticism and physique you could find at any local wrestling academy. He was funny, charming and clever. He came up with his own material, filmed and edited it and most importantly: made people care.

I'm mostly making this comparison for the Nets because Ryder is doing a Jersey shore gimmick and is at least entertaining, even if he never makes it to the main event. But here, in the case of the Nets, it's your last season Jersey. The franchise as you know it is about to be terminated. You have nothing to lose in a losing battle. Take what you have, and own it.

Toronto Raptors
WWE Comparative: Evan Bourne

I recently journeyed to Toronto (or T-Dot as it's been affectionately nicknamed by its residents) for a business trip. Making small talk with a freelancer of ours, I relied on my strongest and best social crutch, sports small talk. After talking about the Maple Leafs' inferiority for the past 50 years (the only thing I know about Toronto hockey) and Doug Flutie's legendary run with the Toronto Argonauts, I touched on the Blue Jays.

The Jays haven't made the playoffs in 20 years. In that time, Carlos Delgado, Roy Halladay, Roger Clemens and Vernon Wells have come and gone, but they have arguably never seen anything like Jose Bautista. The young core of the Jays hasn't made their future look this bright since the name "Pat Hentgen" was relevant. So when I asked who Toronto's favorite Blue Jay was, I expected Bautista's name to be first, followed by some of their young players like Brett Lawrie, Adam Lind, Ricky Romero or Brandon Morrow. So who would it be?

"John McDonald."

John McDonald? John effing McDonald?

John McDonald is a 37-year-old career backup utility player. He has 21 career home runs, a .238 batting average and gets on base 27.5% of the time (translation: he sucks). He played for parts of 7 seasons with the Jays at nearly every infield position for exactly zero playoff teams and the same number of relevant September games. At that point, he wasn't even on the team anymore. He had been traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks a few weeks beforehand.

Although I was trying not to let my inner blogger reveal itself in front of a guy I just met, I couldn't hide my incredulousness. John effing McDonald? Really?

What our freelancer described for us is that people in Toronto aren't drawn to flash or even skill. They just want the guy who plays the grittiest, tries the hardest and sometimes gets the job done. That's it. Apparently, winning isn't the most important athletic quality in Toronto. It's style of play, but without the zest that most audiences crave for. That might explain why the Leafs haven't won a cup since 1967.

Evan Bourne does have a lot of flash, but the truth is, he's not going anywhere in the WWE. He's allegedly 5'9", but I would lean more towards a towering 5'7". Bourne is in fantastic shape and works incredibly hard. He is the type of worker that you could put in there with a broom and he would throw his body across the ring so hard that the broom would look like Shawn Michaels. He is tough, gritty, underappreciated, and going nowhere. Perfect for T-Dot.

New York Knicks
NBA Comparative: CM Punk

Maybe the easiest call out of the 30.

The New York crowd is always the most fun and vocal in all of sports. Regardless of what the popular conception might be, the NY audience will always speak their mind with the fullest of volumes and harshest of tones. For example, the NBA Draft is entertaining to me as a NBA nerd, but to the lay-fan, the Madison Square Garden crowd reaction makes a 4-hour affair infinitely more interesting to watch. As with hoops, the NY wrestling crowd echoes the same sentiments; they cheer for who they want, appreciate hard work and love the more "real" the drama is. As Derek Jeter once said, there is no more rewarding of a response than to get New York to cheer for you.

CM Punk is the personification of the New York basketball audience. The crowd loves him because he speaks his mind and takes orders from no one. He is hard-edged and intelligent, hard working and confident. For every opinion he voices on the microphone, he has an equal measure of fight in him to back up all of his braggadocio. It's hard to hate a guy who plays by his own rules, tells you to shove yours and does nothing but back it all up. CM Punk says he is the best in the world. CM Punk is New York City. Makes perfect sense to me.

And that's the Atlantic Division. Check out later in the week when we'll examine the Southeast, including a very MAMBINO-like guaranteed cheap shot at the Eastern Conference champs, the Miami Heat.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Herzlich (hurs'-lik): n. "Warrior"

It's hard to impress people these days. When Anne Hathaway first hit it big, I used to tell people that she came from my hometown (and not New York, as she would have you believe). Some people responded as such: "What was she like?" Aside from knowing that a buddy's older brother hit it, I knew nothing. She was a senior when I was a freshman, she barely came to school, and I still trusted my mother to buy me clothes that I wore in public. Yet people displayed at least a modicum of being impressed.

Nowadays, I don't bring up that "story" unless a conversation happens to drift towards Ms. Hathaway on its own, a rare occurrence. Who cares? She's a superduperstar, but that just doesn't pass for "wow" anymore.

In 2008, Mark Herzlich was on the verge of becoming the next great NFL linebacker. As a sophomore, he recorded 6 interceptions (2 of which were brought back to the house) and 110 tackles. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Butkus Award, given to the nation's best LB. And oh yeah, he looked like a monster. In 2009, the powers-that-be pegged Herzlich with a first-round grade for the upcoming NFL Draft. 2008 Mark Herzlich was like Luke Kuechly on crack.

Unfortunately, Herzlich was diagnosed with Ewing's Sarcoma, a rare form of bone cancer; he missed the entire 2009 season. My doctor-mother informed me that the guy would likely die from this condition eventually, and my research confirms that long-term survival for metastatic diseases ranges anywhere from 10-30%.

ESPN College Gameday came to Chestnut Hill towards the tail end of the 2009 season. They of course ran a story on Herzlich's road to recovery. After the brief piece, the Warrior himself took a seat next to Lee Corso.

Chris Fowler: So, Mark, we hear you have some news to share with us?
Herzlich: Yes. I spoke with my doctors. They have told me that I'm 99% recovered.

There have been many times when I wished to trade lives with BockerKnocker, Boston College version, but I had never wished to be on campus for any moment more than this one. The crowd. Went. Bonkers. The moment was so important that I DVR-ed it, and it wasn't even my own home. It was so uplifting that I knew the owner would want to see it later.

Herzlich returned to the field the following season. He started every single game and totaled 4 interceptions on the year, but he posted mostly pedestrian numbers across the board. The 2011 NFL Draft came and went, leaving Boston College's most popular player without a team. He later signed as a free agent with the New York Giants, and last night was his first NFL start at linebacker. 2 tackles, and another great quote at his post-game presser:

(What was it like to be on defense at crunch time?)
Herzlich: This is what you live for.

He likely meant the proverbial "you." But Mark, this is what YOU have lived for. Most men would have quit, but Herzlich's perpetual smile permeated from Keyes to Cheverus and all along Commonwealth Avenue. In a time where almost everything fails to impress us, Mark Herzlich provided a story that will live on forever. His journey reminds us of what really matters. It is the backstory, rather than the stat line, that makes us feel good inside. It makes us remember that 02467 is a community that pushes important initiatives, like this and this. Sure, he was part of the New York Giants defense that gave up an excruciating final drive to lose an important divisional game. But we're not going to remember that for too long, because that just isn't as impressive.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Tim Tebow - The Winner who deserves the least to win

I hate Tim Tebow. I hate him. I loathe him. I've felt this very same way, this very same pulse of boiling bile for that tremendous blowhard I just watched beat the New York Jets, since his days at in Gainesville. I hated him when he was winning national titles and when he gave interviews after bowl games. There's nothing about Tim Tebow that I like.

After the game last night, I watched Sportscenter. I saw Teddy Bruschi and Mark Schlereth say "even after a terrible game, Tebow just finds a way to get it done and get the win. He's a winner". Tim Tebow was on the winning team. I've been told over and over again that the guy is a winner. But why is it that every time I watch the guy play professional football, I don't ever get that feeling?

I'm a big proponent of winning. I don't always immediately support the athletes that have the flashiest style or the most imagination-defying moves. What I will do is support those who have all those qualities, and then use them to lead their teams to victory.

I hate Paul Pierce. I wanted that wheelchair in game 1 of the 2009 NBA Finals to be a permanent fixture near his lower extremities. Regardless of our mutual city origins, I could not want that 6'7" piece of human excrement coming anywhere near my fair hometown, except if we are going to beat him in game 7 for the championship. But I respect Paul Pierce. What he has done for his team has directly lead to victory. There are many reasons why the Celtics have won a championship and came within minutes of winning another, but amongst them, he is one of the most chief. I see his abilities and regardless of the emotional harm they did to me, I still begrudgingly respect him.

Why don't I feel that way about Tim Tebow? My roomate and I just had a 30 minute "discussion" of whether or not I consider Tim Tebow a winner in the National Football League.

I don't.

Tim Tebow is that guy in college who you hated. You know that guy; the douchebag at the bar who is fist pounding at the mere piano intro of "Don't Stop Believin'". The guy who pounds a beer and throws his arms up in victory. The guy who earnestly talks about his accomplishments and whose seeming humility must be hiding a dark past littered with dead cats and tube socks. He's the guy who you've met literally a dozen times, and yet he can never seem to remember your name. He's the jackass that thanks God for everything he does to the point that it seems disingenuous, although in reality it is probably just as earnest as it reads. He's the guy who I've always said I would fight if I saw him on the street, but ultimately wouldn't, because I am 5'7" and full of shit. He is a trememndous blowhard. I'm sorry for using the same term twice, but it's the most accurate description I can possibly muster. He is a tremendous, tremendous, tremendous blowhard.

But he also was a tremendous collegiate athlete. One of the best to ever play, in any sport, in any era. I watched him throughout his college career; his combination of bruising physicality, moderate speed and incredible charisma led Florida to two national championships. He was the best player on the best team, twice. I can't take that away from him. At that point, I just hated him because he was good and because, yes, he was still a tremendous blowhard.

Here we are now, in 2011 and Tim Tebow is furbees, trucker hats and pogs all rolled into one, vomit-inducing blue and orange package. He is arguably one of the top 5 most popular players in the NFL. Even I, as a novice to football and a fringe NFL-fan (at best), understand that. He is playing for a Broncos team that has won 4 out of his 5 games as a starter. His standout series last night was a magnificent 92 yard drive that sealed the victory for Denver. In that last 5 minute stretch, Tim Tebow was fantastic, and I won't take that away from him. Though unconventional, I have to admit that Tebow looked like a genuine professional athlete for 5 mintues. Too bad he was awful for the other 55 minutes of the game.

Tim Tebow completed 9 of his 20 passes. When he threw, he reminds me of what I look like when I throw left-handed. I'm right-handed. Color commentator Mike Malock said at least 3 times "well, those are just throws an NFL quarterback has to make. I mean...he's right there". Tim Tebow looked like a running back playing quarterback because the first through ninth string guys were all injured. There was nothing about his actual play that helped his team win for the first 55 minutes. Sure, his team scored 10 points - but those were scored by the defense and a kicker. He was awful. I saw that.

I don't know how Tebow has managed a couple game winning drives in the fourth quarter. Maybe, as MAMBINO rook TuckRule has suggested, maybe Tebow is the son of God himself. For this, you either love him or hate him, but no matter who you are, he has done some incredible work in isolated segments the past month or so.

My argument with my roommate last night encompassed what the definition of a winner is. Yes, Tebow was a winner in college for the Gators. But to compare his level of physical and mental football skill that leads to a W from the college level to the professional level is a foolhardy endevour. As we've seen with college athletes from all types of sports (see: Morrison, Adam; Reddick, JJ; Smith, Troy; Leinart, Matt), skills don't necessarily transfer in full from one place to another. What I can see is that Tebow's play nearly cost his team the game last night. He couldn't make crucial throws to wide open receivers that an NFL-average quarterback would easily handle. His scrambling, while effective to a point, didn't make his decision making much better. After 3 quarters of 3 and outs, anyone watching that game would say that Tim Tebow was easily the biggest reason why the Broncos had not scored an offensive touchdown. The Broncos defense was absolutely stifling against a Jets offense that granted, hasn't fared well against good run defense all year. Watching the first 55 minutes of that game in comparison with the last 5 was positively stunning. How could everyone in the world be attributing all the success the Broncos are having simply to Tim Tebow?

I've heard a lot of phrases like the one uttered by Teddy Bruschi, "I don't know how he's doing it, but he is". The Denver Broncos, with an unconventional, inexperienced quarterback and no real discernable skill players, are somehow inexplicably defying the odds and winning games. The key word here is "inexplicable".

I'd agree; this winning streak of theirs is completely inexplicable. They manage to hang around in games, and then, for a magical drive or two a game, the team seems to put it together and win. They are winning ugly, but as they always say, the scorecard doesn't descriminate with how your W looks; it's still a W. But let's examine this logically. If their winning is inexplicable, i.e. without any type of visible empirical explanation, wouldn't you try to find some kind of rational reason why they're winning? Sure Tim Tebow showed up and they started winning games, but look at how he's played. Just watch him. He's awful! That being the case, how could anyone point to a quantifiably flawed part of the Broncos and say that out of everything, he's the reason on the field why the team is winning? It's downright illogical to try to find an explanation for something positive and point to a rationale that is, 80% of the time, only putting forth negative contributions on the field. Get it together America! What is happening right now goes against the laws of physics. You wouldn't talk about a house sponteanously burning into flames and say that the fountain outback probably led to the fire.

One point to Tebow's credit: I have no idea what he's doing to the locker room. Sure, it's easy to say that a good looking collegiate champion who loves Jesus is going to galvanize a locker room full of grizzled veterans mired in an early season slump and propel them into a race for a playoff spot (which is happening - the Broncos are a game out of first place). But it's also easy to think that the rest of the team thinks he's a joke who can't pass and won't last in the league. I don't know. I'm not in that locker room. If his leadership is so great that he could take a team destined for a top 10 draft pick and turn them into a playoff squad, maybe I would have to re-examine my point of view.

Tim Tebow is on a team that wins. But I do not believe that his contributions are the reasons why the team is winning on the field. They won by a touchdown last night, that to Tebow's credit, he scored on a miraculous drive down field. However, would they have been in that hole in the first place had Tebow not played so terribly for 55 minutes? Is he wasting a dominant defense that should lead to blow outs rather than 4th quarter wins? Tim Tebow is not a winner. Yet. He's had his team cover up the fact that his skill doesn't match his passion. Tebow is 24 years old. He has plenty of time to prove me wrong.

But no matter what, he'll still be a tremendous blowhard.

Adding to the Already Unpredictable: Two More Wild Cards to the MLB Playoffs

The baseball championship is about being lucky and being hot at the right time. I've covered this over and over again and by this point, I'm even sick of me saying it. But that's the truth; the best team won't always win the World Series. The very way that the greatest game is structured gives way towards fluke performances, errant ground balls and uncontrollable elements in the immediate atmosphere. This isn't like basketball, where the climate-controlled arena and the 90 foot floor strive to contain the variables that would interfere in any action originating from a human hand. This isn't football where the sheer brutality of the sport will equalize the lesser teams and the talent will often rise to the top, despite playing a season that's one-tenth as long as Major League Baseball's. America's Pastime has always been the sport where one poorly placed pitch could change the name on the championship trophy in less than a second's time. Where a team whose players of inferior talent will overcome all limitations and ride an inexplicable wave of momentum to defeat a team whose players of far superior talent simply were having an off week.

Today, Commissioner Bud Selig signed off on a series of major changes to the league that magnify baseball's already unpredictable nature. As a part of the new collective bargaining agreement the Commish signed with the MLB Players Association (wait...I've heard that owners and players don't bargain anymore? What is this new trend here?), the 2013 season will feature several new facets that will be added to the MLB Playoffs.

1). First and foremost, there will be TWO wild card teams from both leagues. As has been the case for the previous 16 seasons, the team with the best non-division leading record will make the playoffs as a "wild card". Now, the team with the second best non-division leading record will also make the playoffs. These two teams will play in a one-game playoff to decide who goes on to play a 5-game elimination series, known now as the Divisional Series.

2). The Houston Astros, who have been a part of the National League since 1962, will now move from the National League Central division to the American League West. This will add an equal number of teams to each league (the NL currently has 16 teams, while the AL has 14 teams), and the disproportionately large NL Central with 6 teams and the 4 team AL West will now both have 5 teams a piece.

3). The Astros move to the AL will now create a necessity for interleague games to occur all-year round. As every team plays nearly every day from April to September, without continuous interleague play, any particular team in both league would be sitting at home 4 to 5 days at a time.

Let me state this: when play starts in 2013, many baseball fans are going to lose it. The complications are endless; interleague games in September will mean that teams in contention for their division or their league's wild card will be playing teams who are not competing for those same goals. Fans already complain when their favorite team is playing teams out of their division in September; what about teams that aren't even in the same league? Travel schedules could be more difficult. The DH-less National League will host games where AL pitchers will have to risk injury running the bases with their glass legs and soggy pasta ligaments during the crucial September months. In a time when teams should be focusing on the style of play dictated by their league, teams will have to select Designated Hitters that have no business being designated for hitting and bring their pitchers out earlier in order to play by the rules that shouldn't apply to them.

Baseball purists will moan that the game is getting even further away from the model that seemed to work for over a hundred years. Owners will decry their players being exposed to unnecessary injury for playing an uncommon style of play. General Managers will rail against a disproportionately difficult schedule for their teams.

But you know who won't complain? The fans in 30 years that will still be enjoying baseball because it's still relevant in a world of 20 second youtube clips and 3x fast forwarding on the DVR. Even in my staunch fandom, I must admit that baseball is a slow game only looks slower today, especially compared with NBA athletes who are faster than the preceding generation and NFL players who hit harder than anyone to hit the gridiron before them.

Bud Selig made this move for a lot of reasons. Some were to increase competitive balance between the 30 teams and some were to keep more teams playing relevant games in September. The sport now has a thousand new wrinkles and curves that even the most jaded fan will find interesting and will catch the attention of the average American sports fan that has written off baseball as plodding and dull. Either way, revenues will increase, interest, for better or for worse, will be at a high and the focus will again be on baseball.

The last 3 years, the playoff participants had to wait until at least game 162 to see who the final 8 playoff teams would be. In 2009, the Twins and White Sox played a one-game playoff to see who would win the AL Central crown and play the Tampa Bay Rays in the division series. The very next year, the Twins played game 163 yet again, this time against the Detroit Tigers. One month ago, the season only lasted 162 games, but 4 dramatic games and two historic collapses later, the playoff participants were all decided on the last day of the 2011 campaign.

The last three year-end finales to baseball have been some of the most dramatic games I've ever seen in my entire sports-watching lifetime. Every single contest was charged with the type of excitement that is typically absent from a brutally long season in which even the most fervent fan will admit that (typically) one game will not make a difference in the scheme of 162 of them. I spent three Septembers in a row watching games between the Minnesota Twins, Detroit Tigers, Chicago White Sox, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. I cared about every single one of those contests as if the Dodgers were about to clinch the division. The players on the field threw every last ounce of energy into a game which had everything riding on it. After all, just getting to the playoffs gives you as equal of a chance to win the title as anyone.

Bud Selig saw this. He loved the electricity that emanated from every corner of those ballparks and the palpable fire that came through the fingertips of his players. He saw that people cared about these games regardless of the fact that all a victory would mean was becoming potential fodder for another highly-favored opponent in the next round out of a possible 3. He loved that these games always ended up being the best of a season that lasts 6 months when everyone involved is affected by some type of malady, whether it be physical or mental. And you know what? I felt every bit of that too, Bud.

Selig had to do this. Yes, there are going to be some competitive disadvantages and people are going to be upset that the season will look more different than it ever has before. But I guarantee you that the game will never be healthier and the product more interesting. Every year, two more cities will get to be reanimated from a long summer swoon of 4 hours of 9 innings and situational lefty relievers. Two more cities will get to enjoy October baseball. Two more cities will get to harness an inexplicable wave of momentum and surpass every expectation that we shouldn't have put on them in the first place.

Winning the World Series has always transcended the simple rules of competition and skill. I always have so many questions I couldn't answer. Now I'll have at least two more. And I'm really excited about it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tim Tebow, the Son of God

It's that time of the year again. Check out a guest post from my buddy TuckRule. You may remember him from such films as The Modern Football Fan and "How to Use Your Thumbs: The Rob Van Dam Story." The former was a 1 week old blog abandoned like Casey Anthony's baby; the latter was just an extremely unfortunate incident that will live on forever. TuckRule is a hardcore Giants fan, although he wasn't accepted into the ranks of local fans because his appetite for football was borne by the Madden video game series. He's also a Jew who hates cream cheese. Does that make him worthy of oxygen? You decide.


Hello loyal Mamboners! I have a theory, and it’s a biggie. At least two separate religions could smite me and I’m certain to draw the ire of both Gators and Broncos. That’s right, I’m talking about Football Jesus himself, Tim Tebow.

What if Tebow was ACTUALLY Jesus? Like I’m talking son of God, main character in the Bible Jesus, not the super from my first apartment.

Consider the facts...

Tebow the Football Player:

He has been wildly successful at every level of football he’s played. His career highlights include national championships in 2007 and 2009, being the first ever underclassman Heisman winner (2008) and just missing out on becoming just the 2nd person ever to win the award twice. After being anointed (see where I'm going?) one of the best collegiate football players of all-time, he then convinced Josh McDaniels and the Broncos to pick him in the first round. He’s done all this while looking like a fullback and throwing a football like he's still playing pee-wee. How does he pull this off? Well obviously his father, God, is looking out for him. When I originally posed this theory to BockerKnocker, his immediate question was “Then why would he ever lose?” That’s throw us off the scent. And for humility. Is humility a thing in Christianity? It sounds like something that the Messiah would have preached.

This year, he’s dealt with new adversity in the form of John Fox and John Elway, Head Coach & Grand Poobah, respectively, of the Broncos. They, like the rest of the non-believers, didn’t think he could play like a typical quarterback in the NFL and win games. So, instead of trying to teach him how to do that, they changed their entire offense to a scheme that hasn’t been used in the NFL in like 50 years and is mostly reserved for Friday nights.

Last week Tebow attempted 8 total passes, completing a whopping 25% of them, and the Broncos still won the game. Since taking over as the starter, Tebow has won 3 of 4 games and brought the Denver Tebows back into contention in a division that no one seems to want to win. How has Timmy been able to change the entire offensive philosophy of a team AND be successful? Well, obviously he’s the son of God.

Tebow the Man:

Both he and He had births that were surrounded in controversy.  JC came about from the immaculate reception conception, and Tebow was born in the Philippines while his mother was on a Christian mission. That’s not much of a controversy itself, but while she was rumbling in the jungle, she got some kind of jungle fever (not the fun/racist kind) and had to take some combination of drugs that doctors expected to cause a stillbirth. But since abortion is a Tebow family no-no, she opted to see it through and ultimately made the right decision. Why? Because if she had done the other thing, you all wouldn’t have the opportunity to read what I’m writing right here.

This leads to my next comparison, their mothers. Both of them were at the forefronts of controversies. Mary heard a less modern version of “How the hell did you just have a kid if you’re a virgin!?” Conversely, last year Mrs. T & New Jesus made a commercial that aired in the Super Bowl and it was the most talked about commercial of the year. I’m sure you heard about it.

Despite what people think about the man, by all accounts, each of them is a genuinely good guy. Much to our dismay, I can’t find an article where people talk about meeting Jesus so you’ll just have to trust me on that one.

Love them or hate them, there is no middle ground. And logic was thrown out the door a long time ago. So that, my friends, is why Tebow is the reincarnation of Jesus. What does this mean for all of us? I don’t know. But I do know that Timmy is changing the game of football, one non-believer at a time, just like his former self changed the world 2000ish years ago. Tonight (almost) everyone will see what I mean when Tebow plays the ugliest game of football, but will somehow beat the Jets and get one step closer to winning the division.

So there you have it. Look out for more TuckRule, since me and KOBEsh aren't really fond of posting pigskin. Unless the Bossman fires TuckRule after this one post. After all, the dude can't stand cream cheese.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Expecting the Expected: Matt Kemp's Extension with the Los Angeles Dodgers

Matt Kemp signing a $160 million dollar, 8-year deal during the 2011 offseason was my worst nightmare. Coming off the heels of a gargantuan MVP-caliber campaign, my presumption was that Kemp (who I have for years lovingly referred to as Matty Franchise) and his agent Dave Stewart would push for a proportionally gargantuan long-term contract extension. Beyond the fact that he now stands a mere 365 days away from hitting the free agent market, I knew that such a deal would be well-deserved; in what baseball universe does a 27 year-old, 5-tool free agent not come out of a hot stove winter without a 6 figure contract? I predicted that a pact like this was in the works - I just would have guessed it would be with any team besides the Los Angeles Dodgers.

This agreement would be the 7th largest deal in the history of Major League Baseball. It would be the highest ever for a center fielder and the second highest ever for a black athlete, slightly under CC Sabathia’s $161 million dollar deal with the New York Yankees. Upon hearing the news yesterday, a strange sensation came over me. For so long I have preached and howled about how the Los Angeles Dodgers operate like they’re the Kansas City Dodgers or the Chavez Ravine Indians. I’ve railed against Frank McCourt for not being able to give the Blue Crew the small edges they’ve lacked, the absence of those edges most likely costing them a pennant and maybe even more. No one questions whether or not the Yankees are going to lose Robinson Cano when he becomes a free agent in two years. There was no sense of trepidation for whether or not the Red Sox were going to retain the services of Jon Lester. Justin Verlander will be in Detroit as long as they want him. For the last two years, the only newsworthy items I’ve heard the Dodgers involved in were either on the wavelength of Mark Ellis, Jon Garland or Casey Blake, or were smattered with the words “proceeding” or “injunction.” In fact, the only positive news that I've gotten over the past year was about a sale. A sale! Someone sold something, and that was the best news we’ve had in over two years.

It was absolutely strange to see the Dodgers acting like the team I’ve always known they should have been. Expecting the expected is a foreign feeling. They made a deal that should have been a given. I am not at all concerned about the Yankees keeping Robinson Cano for as long as they want him. This happened in Los Angeles yesterday. We were the National League Yankees.

Matthew Ryan Kemp deserves this deal. He has earned this money with his drive, talent and hunger. He rightly has merited the commitment from the Dodgers that he has mirrored on the field and in the clubhouse. The numbers should speak for themselves; in the previous 4 seasons, Kemp has averaged 28 homers, 97 RBI, 98 runs scored, 32 stolen bases and an .847 OPS. He has played (for the most part) world class defense in center field. In an era where medical breakthroughs keep athletes stronger than their bones and joints can bear, Kemp has managed to keep his body tuned and intact. He has averaged 159 games since 2008, and has missed none the past 2 seasons. He nearly had a 40 home run, 40 steal season last year, falling one stray fly ball short. He is one of the best all-around players in the game. Maybe even the best. But that's an argument for another time.

What these numbers don't reflect is Kemp's work ethic and acceptance of leadership. His 2010 season was picked apart by critic and fan alike. The sad part is, in a world where 90% of sports criticism is unjust or unsupported, all of the barbs thrown Kemp’s way seemed not only righteous, but perhaps even slightly understated. His numbers were down all around the board - his .760 OPS was a career low, as well as his .249 batting average, 170 strikeouts and stealing nearly as many bases (19) as he was caught (15). More than just his offense, his defense (which had garnered him a Gold Glove a year earlier) had fallen far beyond his normal standards of excellence. Kemp looked distracted and aloof. Every sign that he had given the previous two seasons of becoming the new franchise cornerstone seemed to have evaporated under the hot California sun. We all had hope of him being mentioned amongst the likes of Duke Snider, Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Fernando Valenzuela. Suddenly, his course seemed altered towards different direction; that of Adrian Beltre and Raul Mondesi, guys whose natural gifts should have led them to early stardom, but whose immaturity and lack of focus led them straight off the Dodgers' roster. Kemp spent the offseason with pundits questioning his character, drive and desire. Many wondered if Kemp, a good looking poor black kid from bad part of Oklahoma City, could withstand the pressures of instant stardom in Los Angeles, and all the perks that come with such a burden. In short, Kemp lacked discipline in nearly every facet of his game.

To all of this, the Franchise responded with the best season of his young career. He maintained better plate discipline, walking a career-high 74 times. His batting average went up 75 points and touched more than 80 more bases. His stolen base percentage increased to nearly 80%, as opposed to the near 60% he had during his much-maligned 2010 season. Kemp's defense improved as well, earning him his second Gold Glove. Most importantly, he kept his focus sharp during one of the most distracting and disgraceful publicity nightmares in the history of Major League Baseball. Every 2011 statistic of his that you just read, Kemp put up while being the only person in the lineup to more than 16 home runs or have an OPS in the .800’s. Every expectation that was put on him from his 52 game stint in 2006 when he hit 7 home runs in a week, he met and exceeded. It wasn't entirely exceptional that he achieved what he did in 2011; what is exceptional was the conditions he did it under. This contract just isn't about numbers. It's about how he achieved those numbers. That's the mark of a Franchise.


Matt Kemp will very shortly sign the biggest contract in Los Angeles or Brooklyn Dodger history by nearly $55 million dollars. This extension is worthy approximately 2/5 of the price that Frank McCourt paid to buy the team 7 years ago. Beyond those astonishing figures, this contract is important for so many more reasons.

The Dodgers wouldn't just hand out this type of deal to just anyone; as I’ve stated, they’ve never handed out this deal to anyone, ever. After all, this is the franchise that was unwilling to re-sign future Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza, arguably the greatest offensive player ever at that position. The Dodgers believe in Matt Kemp. He is worth more to the team as currently constituted than Jayson Werth, Prince Fielder, Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley Ramirez, Carlos Gonzalez or Troy Tulowitzki, all guys who will or have signed for deals comparable to the one that Kemp just signed.

The Dodgers are on the precipice of being The Dodgers again. Or perhaps I should say, with the right person in charge, they perhaps are heading back towards being the Dodgers again. With this responsibility of being a cornerstone franchise, the team needs a player to lay the foundation for success, much like Albert Pujols in St. Louis, Derek Jeter in New York, Josh Hamilton in Texas or Ryan Braun in Milwaukee. The Dodgers want Kemp’s play and his face to dictate the next decade of Los Angeles baseball. Matt Kemp may have just become the most important player in the National League. I’m not sure they could have gotten a better guy to build upon.

Welcome back, Los Angeles. Expecting the expected feels strange. Hopefully, I’ll have more reasons and this sensation will pass. I couldn’t think of a better 160 million ways to feel normal again.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Deuces to the 2011-12 NBA Season

"We understand the consequences of potentially missing the season; we understand the consequences that players could potentially face if things don't go our way, but it's a risk worth taking. It's the right move to do."

I've already written about how weird it is that Maurice Evans is vice president of the NBPA. So let's start there.

"We understand the consequences of potentially missing the season."

Do you?

Recap this, Mo: The world's most famous athlete burned his hometown team on national television, announcing his intention to follow through on "if you can't beat 'em, join em." Not since the 70-win Bulls team has there been a season where every opponent brought their A-game. In the beginning, it worked. As the franchise struggled through an initial lack of chemistry, initial lack of faith in the coaching staff, and a to-this-day hatred of everything associated with them, ratings increased. Ticket sales and game attendance increased. The NBA world watched from its collective living room, as the Heatles were on national television every single week.

It took the entire regular season to find the right keys on the Miami piano. When the playoffs rolled around, the Heat obliterated three legitimate Eastern Conference opponents (fine. two.), meeting the Dallas Mavericks in the Finals. And just when a Game 1 blowout signaled the beginning of the end, everything changed. Dirk Nowitzki hoisted not only the Larry O'Brien trophy, but also the relief of humanity.

This season was supposed to be The Response. So I don't think you understand the consequences of potentially missing the season.

"We understand the consequences that players could potentially face if things don't go our way."

Shut your trap, Mo. Of course you understand the consequences that you could potentially face. It's not difficult to be egocentric. But say this to the people who really lose from this lockout.

The janitor at Staples Center. The will-call vendor at Madison Square Garden. The beer man at United Center. The PA guy at The Palace at Auburn Hills. The security at Conseco Fieldhouse. The concessions guy inside TD Garden, and the concessions guy outside Air Canada Centre.

Your paycheck will be delayed. Their paychecks are already gone.

The NBA owners, especially the hardline, 47-53 BRI owners, are greedy SOBs. But you knew that from the beginning. Cash is king to everybody, so why think the game would be any different just because they can afford everything that you can't? Why do people do things? Because they CAN. It is your job to prepare for the worst-case scenario. It is all well and good to hope that the owners will be "fair," but if they happen to be "unfair," you have to tip your cap. Whining and crying just because one party used leverage successfully doesn't get you anywhere. You have to reach for the towel, kneel down, and clean up the milk. If you cry, you're just wasting valuable time, as the milk seeps into the carpet and ultimately becomes less cleanable.

Billionaires beat millionaires 99 times out of 100. The 1 time they don't is when the millionaires put together strong leadership AND they get lucky. Which brings me to the final portion of the quote:

"It's a risk worth taking. It's the right move to do."

The players did not vote on the owners' final offer today. Read that sentence again.

Team representatives and union heads made the decision, but this isn't politics -- scrap the electoral college structure and let each of the 450 players vote on this issue. Many have speculated that if this occurred, the season would be on. And they're right.

Rank-and-file players need money just like you and me, whereas a superstar can chill on his NBA paycheck.  Shaq, for one, is known to have never cashed any of his NBA paychecks for the duration of his career; he relied on the even bigger slice of pie that came from endorsement contracts and movies. But for every Kobe, there are more than a handful of jobbers, like Andy Rautins, who literally moved back into his parents' house. To them, a 50-50 BRI split is fine. To them, a different luxury tax penalty structure is fine. They are more similar to the janitors and the ticket vendors because they need the NBA paycheck to actually reach the threshold of filing an income tax return.

To make matters worse, the NBA offseason coincides with the start of the NFL season. Oh, but it's not just your normal NFL -- the normal NFL that produces ridiculous ratings, gave birth to a money-grubbing phenomenon, and is America's favorite sport that doesn't involve a race car. This year, the NBA offseason coincided with the "we fixed this lockout problem before games were cancelled" NFL. Yup, barely anybody misses the NBA.

The suspects associated with leading the players' union did not fight for the interests of the people who mattered the most, and they were never going to get lucky. I have been a glass half full type of dude about this for months, but now? I just drank the glass. It's not even half empty.


In the wake of the NBA Lockout, your friends at THE GREAT MAMBINO will produce a series of posts in the coming months: "The Top 20 Things We'll Miss About the 2011-12 NBA Season." Look out for it, and may basketball return before it's too late.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

What's Next for Manny Pacquiao?

Last night's fight could have gone either way.
Juan Manuel Marquez's corner shouldn't have told him that he was winning, which led to conservative fighting in the late rounds.
Floyd Mayweather should be licking his chops to make a deal with Manny Pacquiao.

All three statements are being repeated ad nauseam by the boxing media. I'll take aim at the last one.

Pacquiao-Marquez III was highlighted by Pacquiao's inability to land effective combinations on Marquez. Marquez employed a patient counterattack style to neutralize Pacquiao's speed and power. It almost seemed as if Marquez was willing to take Pacquiao's first punch, and counterpunch before Pacquiao could unload the rest of the combo.

Manny survived this fight. His fans and his country survived this fight. And so now, the media is arguing that there is no better time for Pretty Boy Floyd to sign the dotted line. They reason that if Pacman cannot handle a counterpuncher like JMM, how can he realistically expect to defeat Floyd, the greatest counterpuncher in boxing history?

This makes us. But it might not make sense to Mayweather.

For as long as we can remember, Mayweather has been ducking Pacquiao. The common assumption is that Floyd does not want to blemish his perfect record against the pound-for-pound king. If Floyd only now decides to make the biggest fight of all-time, he would be implicitly admitting that he was scared to meet Pacquiao in the first place. Floyd is too aware of his legacy (and more importantly, his ego) to do this. Before last night, he could bank on somewhat legitimate reasons for not fighting: disagreements over the payout structure of the fight, and Manny's refusal to submit to more rigorous blood testing than the Nevada State Athletic Commission requires. Now? Well if Floyd continues to run from Manny, can we really say that Floyd is scared? Why would he be scared when Marquez discovered and exploited a weakness in Manny's fighting style?

To everybody but Floyd, fighting Manny last year would have made sense. Make a huge payday, fight the best fighter in the world, and definitively prove that he is the greatest -- ever. To everybody but Floyd, fighting Manny now makes even less sense. Floyd Mayweather will not fight Manny Pacquiao...yet. Manny will have to go back to the drawing board. He will have to do Pacquiao-Marquez IV and score a knockout victory.

I wouldn't go so far as to label Floyd Mayweather as Sidney Deane. Sidney would rather look good and lose than look bad and win. Floyd must win at all costs, but looking good is extremely important to him. Normal people wouldn't care whether the media would label him as "scared before, opportunistic now." Floyd? History has taught us that Floyd isn't normal. Floyd will look good whenever possible, so we'll have to wait a little longer for the fight we all want.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Running a team: MLB v. NBA (Because We Have So Much Credibility)

BockerKnocker and I are friends. Like all good friends, our commonalities are strong and our disagreements are fierce. Most of our debates revolve around sports, often hitting on the win total for any particular Knicks season, the historical place of Kobe Bryant in the NBA or why Nick Swisher is or is not a human succubus. Sometimes our debates begin and end without either of us ever truly convincing each other of who is actually right.  I thought it only right to share with our dozen blog constituents a sample of our lively e-mail arguments, rife with its fair share of smack-talking and name-calling. Today's topic:


KOBEshigawa: Why do you think it'd be harder to manage a basketball franchise than a baseball franchise?

BockerKnocker: Two biggest reasons have to do with payroll.

1. The salary cap. Think about how the Yankees can fix every problem by spending money. The Knicks, on the other hand, have similar spending power but limited ability to use it. Need a point guard, can't afford it. Need a center, can't afford it. The Yanks have had the highest payroll forever and they keep spending.

2. It's harder to find a great balance of team chemistry that fits within the NBA payroll. For example, the Redeem Team barely practiced and were able to jell quickly, but a roster of future Hall of Famers just isn't possible. The Yankees make this possible every year.

This is also combined with the fact that baseball is an individual sport masquerading as a team sport. It doesn't matter whether Jeter and A-Rod are friends because they don't need to be, as much as the media would lead you to believe. On the other hand, Lebron and Wade must be friends, otherwise it will never work.

K: Your blatant bias towards the NBA shows here more than that herpes flare-up you had last weekend.

I agree that the NBA salary cap is much more restrictive and prohibitive than MLB's, well, because they have one. Obviously the Knicks and the Yankees have similarly infinite resources, yet the Knicks can't just simply buy all the good players they want (or in the Yankees case, all the AJplayers they THINK are goSORIANOod).

I also agree on the grounds of chemistry; the Dallas Mavericks last year were the poster child for teams with good chemistry benefitting with postseason success. Without the enthusiasm and leadership of Tyson Chandler, the selflessness of Jason Kidd and the steadiness of Dirk Nowitzki, I would argue that Dallas' chances for a championship parade shade much lower.

But don't discount chemistry in baseball either - the 2004 Red Sox, 2009 Yankees and 2011 Cardinals all made trades to change the chemistry of their teams (unloading Nomar, adding Nick Swisher and unloading Colby Rasmus, respectively), and it led to titles. All in all, I agree with you that chemistry is much more a factor in a sport where coordination and synergy are absolutely pertinent (not just physically, but emotionally) in order to win.

But the question here is which job is more difficult? Which job is harder to win with? My other arguments aside, it absolutely has to be baseball for the sheer fact that the best team almost never wins. In basketball, you can assemble a great team, and odds are, they will come out on top. Over the course of an 82-game season and a two month postseason, the cream will rise to the top. In the last 30 years of NBA basketball, the team with the best record won the championship 14 times. That might not seem like great odds, but compared with baseball, having the best regular season record in the NBA practically gifts you the chip. In the last 30 seasons of baseball, only 5 teams (the 2009 and 1998 New York Yankees, 1989 Oakland A's, 1986 New York Mets and the 1984 Detroit Tigers) had the best record and won. The point is that in baseball, no matter who your team is that you put together, winning is a complete crap shoot. I've said for years, being the best team April through September doesn't mean anything; it's all about being the best team in October. In a way, it takes so little skill - as long as you are overseeing one of the best 8 teams in October, you have just a good chance as anyone.

B: First off, if I have herpes, then you must have herpes.

Secondly, you're answering a different question. The question we posed was "which job is more difficult?" Your analysis answers a more specific question, namely, "once you have succeeded in compiling the best team, how hard is it to win?" Obviously, baseball is the answer there.

The difficulty of being a GM in the NBA is different from being that in the MLB. In baseball, all you can do is compile the best roster; whatever happens afterwards is out of your hands. Jon Daniels and Nolan Ryan crafted a great 40-man roster this year, but they had nothing to do with the rainout that allowed Chris Carpenter to pitch 3 WS games, or the fact that Bud Selig allowed the Cardinals to play at home in Game 7, when they had the worst record out of all playoff teams. Meanwhile, in the NBA, while the cream does rise to the top more often, it takes an absurd amount of skill (albeit with a tiny bit of luck) to get the best roster. You need skill to be able to accurately value players and thus give them contracts that won't cripple your franchise, and you need luck that the rookies and low-cost vets, both of whom are playing on low salaries, to make an impact that far exceeds their market value (think J.J. Barea, DeShawn Stevenson, et al.)

Baseball requires less skill and more luck. The reason why Sabathia was never leaving the Yankees was because the Yankees were going to outbid everybody. If he doesn't perform to the level of the contract, we'll read about how he wasn't worth the money, as if that actually matters. Change the game and give MLB a salary cap? Well, Brian Cashman and the Steinbrenners are spending longer nights at the office trying to gauge how much he's truly worth.

K:  Point well taken. There is a difference between whose job is more difficult and which job is it more difficult to win in. However, that brings me to my next point -

Basketball has a 15-man roster, with a player being filed into one of five separate positional categories. Baseball, on the other hand, has a monstrous 25-man active roster, a massive 40-man major league roster, with 9 different positions (10 really, if you count relievers versus starting pitchers) in which each player has to be categorized. Managing that roster is an extraordinarily difficult task, especially when taken into account the fragility of baseball players along with the unpredictability in regards to attrition of skill (this is perhaps where the nature of "luck" comes into player most with MLB GMs). Simply keeping the right amount of guys on that roster with so many different needs when their performances can vary so much month to month (let alone year to year) is unfathomably difficult.

Let's expand that argument a little more - a baseball general manager is not only responsible for the 40 guys on his roster, but (and maybe equal in importance) is responsible for the hundreds of guys in the minor league system. But let's play devil's advocate here and say that you're a bad GM and you only focus on your major league 25-man roster and say, your best 15 minor-league players. That's still 40 guys you have to pay just as close attention to as the 15 on the basketball court.

This brings me to the MLB draft - a 30 team event with 50 ROUNDS. In direct contrast, the NBA draft has 2 rounds with 30 teams. Now let's say you're a cynic and you argue that only the first 10 rounds of the MLB draft matter. It is still not even an argument between which draft is more arduous to navigate. Now let's say you're a hardcore Knicks fan who lacks the exuberance and optimism of say, a blogger I know, and you're more cynical than 99% of sports fans and you argue that only the first 5 rounds matter. STILL not even an argument.

Both basketball and baseball general managers have to keep track of the guys coming down the pipeline, who they can afford in the future and prognosticate where they're going to be in 5 years - and even though the baseball GM has to be much less wary of a player’s salary and how that will affect roster decisions, the volume of players that a MLB GM has to evaluate combined with the injury-prone nature of the sport and unpredictability of skill decline or appreciation makes this argument almost a non-starter. While NBA GMs have to watch college basketball as if it were the minor leagues, baseball GMs watch college baseball and THEN watch the minor leagues.

B: I will certainly give you points for the fact that a baseball GM must follow so many players year-round. But what about a different perspective?

First, the baseball draft, while much longer, isn't the same type of draft that the NBA Draft is. In the NBA Draft, if teams aren't already established as title contenders, they have to knock the Draft out of the park. Otherwise, it's wait-til-next-year mode. As I've said before, getting an impact rookie has benefits in two areas: 1) contribution on the court; and 2) salary cap flexibility, because he's underpaid as per the rookie wage scale. This enables the NBA GM to spend more on veterans.

Conversely, the MLB draft is all about potential. Your points about the large roster illustrates that. While maybe the first round is very important to many teams, the majority of the draft is a hit-or-miss pick because of the fact that there are so many people on the roster. For instance, if a team drafts a stud pitcher, and he doesn't pan out in a couple of years, then the MLB team isn't crippled by that, because there are so many other prospects in the organization who will be viable major leaguers anyway. (There are obvious exceptions to this rule, most notably with Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, who NEED to be good for the Nats.)

Secondly, similar to my point before about how baseball's "results" are a result of the product on the field after the GM puts the roster together (individual sport masquerading as a team sport), going through the minor league system is based on the quality of the individual player himself. How does he adapt to professional competition? How does he adapt to travel? How does he adapt to really shitty pay? How does he adapt to failure?

More specifically, how does a prospect adapt to a curveball? How soon can a prospect develop a plus secondary/tertiary pitch? This is different from basketball. I'll give you the "only 15" argument, even though it may sometimes be more than that, because every team stashes players in Europe or the D-League. However, a rookie is given everything to him from the get-go. His teammates will be there to integrate him into true professional life. He will be given the chance to get major minutes if he puts in the work. He will be babied into taking his time and finding his niche. The NBA GM must find a way to get into his rookie's head and figure out the best way possible for him to contribute immediately.

The front office of the Washington Wizards goes to sleep every night praying that John Wall will be the franchise player that Gilbert Arenas never could be.  Their counterparts on the Nationals do the same for Harper.  But Harper's struggles in the Arizona Fall League don't worry the Nationals at all. "Growing pains," they'll call it, because Harper doesn't negatively affect the market value of the major league franchise (in fact, his potential positively affects it). Throw it back to the hardwood floor: if John Wall dares to shoot under 30% from distance again, then Ted Leonsis is on heart attack watch.

K: I disagree on almost every point. Respectfully. You ignoramus. Respectfully.

The first and second rounds of the MLB draft are nearly as important as the NBA draft - if you don't hit on those picks, you're the Cleveland Indians for the past 10 years. If you look at their drafts after their heyday in the 90s, most of them have to be considered epic failures. Cleveland has gone on to have what I’d consider two decent seasons, one of which was an 80-82 team this past year, and other being the 2007 96-win squad that went all the way to Game 7 in the ALCS against the eventual champion Boston Red Sox. However, that was all done with guys they didn’t draft, but had to trade for: Travis Hafner, Cliff Lee, Grady Sizemore and Shin Soo Choo. They guys they did draft included CC Sabathia, Fausto Carmona and Victor Martinez, all of whom they signed in the late 90’s. From then on they completely whiffed on their picks year after year and have become yet another disappointing Cleveland squad that we’ve all come to know and some have come to desert on national television (can’t make a Cleveland reference without a LeBron jab). If you don't make good draft picks, you won't succeed. Yes, I understand that the NBA rookie, more than the MLB minor leaguer, has to contribute more immediately directly after being drafted. But I don't think that the NBA draft banks any less on potential other than the top 10 picks. Other than Blake Griffin and Tyreke Evans, which of those players did we KNOW would make an immediate impact from the 2009 draft? Only DaJuan Blair, Brandon Jennings and Steph Curry contributed immediately. Most of the other first round picks we thought would be three year projects (Hasheem Thabeet, Jordan Hill, James Harden, Ricky Rubio, Austin Daye, Jrue Holiday, Jeff Teague and Jonny Flynn) and even Jennings and Curry weren't supposed to be as impactful as they were in their rookie campaigns. My point is that every draft does feature the same element of "God I hope this guy turns out to be good" as baseball does.

Moreover, MLB GMs have to be responsible for an international signings as well. Now say what you want about who actually takes a look at these guys in the Dominican, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, etc, but it's the GM who has the final say and has to fit the signing into their international budget. Which brings me to another point - the MLB GM is managing 3 different payrolls, not just 1 (in the NBA). The main roster, amateur signings and international signings. That's a lot to deal with.

However, I will agree that an NBA GM has to be much more responsible for a player's immediate ability to emotionally deal with being in the big leagues. Unless you're Ryan Zimmerman or Stephen Strasburg, you're not dealing with that incredible amount of pressure your first year.


I think I beat KOBEsh here. What do you guys think?