Friday, March 30, 2012

MAMBINO's Wrestlemania XXVIII Preview

Much to the chagrin of some of you snobs, the average hardcore WWE fan isn't that much different than your average American professional sports fan. Clean up, vomit spill on aisle Que-Ese.

There's just a certain level of particular, isolted psychosis you have to have to follow a sport, or in my case sports entertainment, with enough fervor that you could call yourself something more than just "avid". There's the casual observer, who just likes to be momentarily entertained with movement on the screen and the occasional thrill associated with the clock winding down.

We are not those people. The hardcore sports fan knows the type of minutae usually reserved for people pacing busily in sanitariums, reciting that Piazza had a 1.012 OPS in his 2000 season, and that Pete Rose had 3,358 hits...just as a Red.

The WWE fan knows that the Iron Sheik surprisingly beat the World Champion Bob Backlund in 1983, only to lose the title to young superstar Hulk Hogan in January of 1984. Recalling ridiculous facts like John Cena has been champion 11 times, and yet the combined days with the strap don't add up to Bruno Sammartino's first reign back in the 60's and 70's. Knowing that Wrestlemania took place in New York, LA, Chicago, New York, Detroit, Atlantic City, Toronto, LA, Indianapolis, Las Vegas and New York again for the first 10 editions.

I am a crazy WWE fan. And I just summoned all that information up by pure memory.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Andrew Bynum - the Awkward Passing of the Torch

Mambino welcomes another guest post, this time from Lakers die-hard The CDP. He is the man behind Stream of Conscience, and agreed to lament on the stylings of one Andrew Bynum.

Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last few days, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the benching of Andrew Bynum. For the uninitiated, Bynum decided to take a 3 pointer with 16 seconds on the shot clock of a close game, a move that could only be described as boneheaded and absolutely deserving of its punishment. It was lucky to hit the rim. Within seconds, head coach Mike Brown had burned a timeout to angrily pull Bynum and left him out for most of the rest of the game.

For a guy accused of being spineless with LeBron James while coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers, which is something I always blamed more on owner Dan Gilbert, Mike Brown has sure asserted himself this week with 4th quarter benchings of both his All-Stars. Postgame, he said, “if I don’t feel like he’s playing the right way, I’ll take him out of the game.”  It’s impossible to ignore the fact that Mike Brown is trying to publicly separate himself from the dynamic he had with LeBron, but it also seems like he’s failed to take the direct route with his players by holding them accountable in private. An honest conversation with Kobe or Andrew could go a long way in terms of influencing their shot selection or defense without the public drama created by a benching. Remember Mike, this is why Mike “The Pringles Man” D’Antoni is out in New York, so man up.

Magic Johnson is the Owner of the LA Dodgers

We're free. Our long, enduring local nightmare is over. That felt even better to write than I thought it would. 

Free from the thought of another offseason in which the question isn't how much money are the Dodgers going to spend on free agents, but rather how much can the Dodgers spend. Free from another 6 months of wondering if our players are going to get paid on time for their work on the field, or if the stadium surrounding it will have enough security to keep paying customers safe. Free from the disgrace of having the most noteworthy headlines read about a divorce proceeding or a loan payment. Free from worrying whether or not the greatest announcer of all-time will finally be fed up with off-field shenanigans corrupting the team that is as much a part of him as is his own beating heart. Free from wondering why the stadium remains slowly withering away year after year, the memories of what has been made into a shining baseball cathedral by our collective hearts and minds growing more distant year after year.

We are free from the ownership of Frank McCourt and his incredible mistreatment of an American Institution. We are free from someone who has taken a franchise that predates Mount Rushmore, the Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, and treated it not with the reverence it so justly deserves, but rather with the carelessness of a child's piggy bank.

For the past day and a half, I've been deluged with questions of when MAMBINO would come out with our assessment of a Magic Johnson, Stan Kasten and Mark Walter-led group buying the Dodgers. The truth is, much like watching Jeremy Lin stroking 38 points in the Garden, or seeing Kobe and Pau vanquish the Celtics in Game 7 in person, a thrown-together post about how happy we all are, or how awesome Magic Johnson is wouldn't even come close to justifying how excited I am.

I knew that this day was inevitable from the moment that McCourt realized his inevitable ouster from his seat at the head of the table, and began to work hand-in-hand with Commissioner Bud Selig towards finding a new owner. I became guardedly excited with the prospect of this vampire leaving the desecrated remains of my barely breathing team, and a new, swashbuckling owner coming in and resuscitating the Los Angeles Dodgers. But not even in my wildest dreams could I imagine how well this would turn out.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

MLB: Bold and/or Reckless Predictions

MLB Opening Day is the best day of the year. The Fourth of July, Christmas, and the Super Bowl all have nothing on Opening Day. On the first day of the season, every baseball city in America has a legitimate chance to set course on a path towards the World Series (well everyone except those who root for the Cubs). Look at the champions over the last 10 years in the MLB and tell me if you would've correctly predicted: St. Louis, San Francisco, NY Yankees, Philly, Boston, St. Louis, Chicago White Sox, Boston, Florida, Anaheim, Arizona. Barring the normal Yankee dominance and a stint in their time as a 'roided up Red Sox team, all those teams listed were not expected to win the whole thing on the first day of the season.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

State of Chavez Ravine: 2012 LA Dodgers Preview

Oh boy. Here it is. Strap in and put on your positive thinking caps Mambinites. I hate to do it, but we're about to take a ride to Negativetown, the air conditioners are broken and we only have a Lou Diamond Phillips spoken word CD in the car. Sorry everybody.

Always the best part of Dodger baseball...but especially in 2012
Never before have I been so apathetic about a Dodger season. We're on the precipice of a major change in the organization, but this transition time has paralyzed the team, and locked them into a holding pattern until a new owner is decided upon. The most exciting part of the season might be that we get another year of the ever-immaculate play-calling of the legendary Vin Scully.

And thus, the half-hearted Dodgers squad you see before you. This offseason, Ned Colletti filled the team with stopgap solutions full of retreads, scrap heap finds and cheap veterans. Quite frankly, there's not a lot that inspires you outside of the reigning NL Cy Young winner Clayton Kershaw and NL MVP runner-up Matt Kemp.  Let's take a closer look at the team through its various components:

Monday, March 26, 2012

A Brand New Start of It, in Old New York

In 2006, Detroit Tigers manager Jim Leyland described the potent New York Yankee lineup with the phrase "Murderer's Row and Cano." Of course, everyone looked past the blasphemy of comparing any lineup to the first six hitters of the 1927 team, because Leyland couldn't have been 100% serious, the Yankees had just run through the American League with considerable offensive firepower, and hey, it rhymed. But that was 6 years ago. 6 years ago, Derek Jeter was 31, Alex Rodriguez was 30, both in the primes of their athletic careers. 6 years ago, nobody would dare call Yankee Stadium a bandbox or lament of a possible jet stream. And 6 years ago, Robinson Cano was merely the tail end of a Yankee rhyme.

In 2012, both Jeter and A-Rod will spend time in the designated hitter slot to make sure their brittle bones can stomach another 162+. Pitchers visiting the Boogey Down will see their earned run averages increase ever so slightly. But this season is all about one man.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Tim Tebow Will Work Out for the Jets

Hailing from the woods of New Hampshire, few things please me more than Jets fans whining and complaining about their overrated team (with the Shake Shack double burger I had for lunch yesterday being a notable exception). With that said, this is getting ridiculous. Every Jets fan I talk to, which is a lot since I’m in the New York area, is criticizing the Jets trade for Tim Tebow. I enjoy Jets fans being in emotional pain, so I’ve yet to point out that this indeed was actually a very good trade for the Jets.

Here’s why:

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Instant Trade Analysis: Tim Tebow to the New York Jets

"Whatever. After a life-long Gang Green infection, I'm finally cured. I officially bleed orange, navy, and f-ing Peyton Manning. I'm over Sexy Rexy and on to Foxy Foxy" - Beautiful Girlfriend

And so capped off another completely unproductive work day due to the coming and goings of the sports news world. Without a single pass thrown, the NFL highjacked the hours between noon and 2pm at my office. No sooner than Sean Payton, head coach of the Saints, get suspended for the entire 2012 season as a part of New Orleans' participation in a "head-hunting" scandal, did ESPN reporter Adam Schefter relay that Timothy Richard Tebow had been dealt to YOUR...New York Jets.

As you can tell by the musings of Beautiful Girlfriend, the resilient and scarred masochists known as the Jets fan base was completely taken aback by this trade. Thought to be something of a dark horse in the Tebow market in comparison with Jacksonville or Miami, the Jets swooped in and acquired Tebow and a 7th rounder for the price of a 4th and 6th round pick.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Road to Wrestlemania: Little More Than Halfway Preview

The NCAA Tournament is really exciting. The NBA trade deadline is super fun. If I knew more of the NFL free agents beyond those that played for the rampaging Los Angeles Jaguars fantasy franchise, then I might get absolutely nothing done in March.
But for me, the most exciting part of this month is the Road to Wrestlemania. A month ago, we previewed the WWE Elimination Chamber PPV, which is the last major stop in the massive build to the biggest event in professional wrestling, Wrestlemania. In its 28th edition this year, pro wrestling's Superbowl features the biggest match-ups with its star attractions, taking place in a gigantic football stadium, with a stage set-up and pyro that would make Metallica feel like assholes (....bigger assholes).
But there's still about a week and a half to develop storylines and elevate excitement for various WM 28 bouts. As we hit nearly the end point here, let's focus on what the best of what's happened, and what still needs to occur to make this Wrestlemania one of the greatest of all time.


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

What the "Experts" Are Getting Wrong: Tips from Fantasy Baseball 365

(KOBEsh: I met Mark Schruender our freshman year of college, and he is the jerk that got me involved in Fantasy Baseball in the first place. Calling him a Fantasy guru would be like my mom calling me a disapointment - vastly understating the obvious. He'll be contributing fantasy advice for MAMBINO sporadically (ooh, good word of the day!) throughout the season, but at the great Fantasy Baseball 365 on the regular)

The great KOBEshigawa originally suggested that I write about sleepers for the upcoming fantasy season. I told him I didn’t like that idea. I hate sleepers because immediately when someone writes about them they aren’t sleeping anymore. You can also make a case that every player in the deck is a sleeper. Chris Heisey is a sleeper because he hit 18 home run in under 300 at-bats, should start, and you haven’t heard of him. Elvis Andrus is a sleeper because you didn’t know he doubled the number of extra base hits he had last year and he isn’t 24 yet. Albert Pujols (yeah I said it) is a sleeper because people think he won’t be as good after signing a really big contract and being distracted for an off-season.

Instead what I’m going to do is look at what the major sites out there (ESPN, Yahoo, CBS, Mock Draft Central) are saying about players and find flaws in what they say. I’m going to give you 10 suggestions that help get around the clutter of the ranking sheets out there. In other words (sigh) this is really just sleeper advice. At least I tried to get around the stereotypical fantasy article.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Winners and Losers of the NBA trade deadline

KOBEsh went to Vegas this past weekend. While there, he decided to spend some time writing about the NBA trade deadline's winners and losers. His dedication is shameful yet endearing.

This post is probably a touch outdated, but the man wants the post run based on principle alone.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Instant Trade Analysis: A Heartbreakingly Good Day for the Lakers

I'm really poor. Let's face facts. I'm in my twenties, young and trying to make it work in the middle of Manhattan. Sometimes - a lot of times - I am often faced with the battle of head versus heart. For example, a couple weeks ago, a college buddy asked me to go on a trip to New Orleans. I spent some time thinking about it, but soon realized that there's no way to extend my meager budget towards a weekend of debauchery and ridiculousness. Ultimately, it's the responsible decision...but my heart will hurt for weeks. I'll know what I'll have missed out on, even as I sleep well at night knowing that I did what an adult is supposed to do. But it doesn't always make it feel any better.

Today, the Los Angeles Lakers dealt Derek Fisher, along with Luke Walton, Jason Kapono and a pair of draft picks, in a movement to get younger, faster and ultimately, a more complete basketball team that can compete for a NBA Championship. It was the best decision GM Mitch Kupchak could have made. But it doesn't make me feel better.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Wednesday Reboot

No new stories today. Enjoy a reboot of yesterday's post, a bonus State of the Garden piece after the resignation of head coach Mike D'Antoni.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

State of the Garden: NOW HIRING!

How lucky are you guys! Two State of the Garden posts in a week!

As you may know, Mike D'Antoni has resigned from his job as head coach of YOUR New York Knickerbockers. He departs approximately half a year short of fulfilling his contract, signed in the summer of 2008.

It would be redundant for me to go over the myriad failures over the last 3 and a half seasons. But although that alone would not stop me from repeating said failures, it's far better to look to the future. After all, we Knicks fans are accustomed to shielding our eyes from the present in hopes of tomorrow's greener pastures.

Instant Trade Analysis: Bucks trade Bogut for Ellis

It's amazing to think that tonight's deal was the first actual trade since January 4th, when bench contributing forward Mareese Speights was dealt from Philadelphia, in a three way deal in which guard Xavier Henry ended up with the Hornets and Philly netted a couple 2nd round draft choices. With a furiously moving schedule, Linsanity, daily Dwight Howard trade demands and a trio of ex-Nuggets arriving from China, it's hard to say that we noticed.  So thank you Milwaukee and Golden State for bringing back the true original Instant Trade Analysis.
The Good Land gets: G Monta Ellis, F Ekpe Udoh and C Kwame Brown
Golden State gets:  C Andrew Bogut and F Stephen Jackson

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bracket Advice: Do You Dawg

This time of year, everyone is a college basketball expert. Everywhere you look, there are talking heads that know exactly what your picks should be within your pool.

I am no expert.

I just love college basketball. I watch way too much college basketball. I will watch even more of it this weekend as the tournament begins and most of my life falls by the wayside (I plan on having the CBS basketball song stuck in my head until mid-April).

Since everyone is an expert, and everyone has their own pool, I am going to provide my advice for how to strategically succeed in your office/family/friends pool.

I believe there are three major strategies when it comes to NCAA brackets.

Friday, March 9, 2012

David Robertson Hurts Foot Doing Regular People Things

I've had a lot of stupid injuries in my day. Tried to climb aboard a high chair when I was 3, only to have my body weight force me and said chair to the ground. Ended up with a huge bump on the back of my head that stayed there for weeks. When I was about 7, I watched a Looney Tunes episode in which one of the characters slithered head-first down a set of stairs, so naturally I tried to do the same thing. Ended up tumbling all the way down, hitting my head on a step 3 times, one for every revolution of head over feet. And just this morning, I got out of bed only to roll over my papier mache ankle when I stepped on an innocent spare shoe.

But each time I got hurt in a dumb way, it never affected my ability to do my job. And that's because all those nights praying to God to make me an NBA All-Star proved futile. David Robertson, on the other hand, is not just a major league pitcher: he's the stud setup man for the most famous sports franchise in the world. He's the guy who pitches well enough so that Mariano Rivera actually makes an appearance. He's the guy who, when the playoffs come around, girls at bars point to him on TV and ask you who he is.

A couple of days ago, David Robertson carried a box of recyclables outside. He undertook the treacherous path that we regular people call "stairs," forgot he was a professional athlete with impeccable hand-eye coordination, and hurt his foot. The initial MRI gave manager Joe Girardi "cause for concern," so Robertson was sent for a CT scan and a body-weighted MRI (whatever the hell that means). Luckily, Robertson's ankle was free from swelling, and should be back in about a week.

But seriously, moving boxes? That's embarrassing. However, it gives me the opportunity to power-rank the dumbest baseball-related injuries I've ever heard:

State of the Lakers: The Best Two Awful Losses Ever

The only good part of the Lakers' week
Statistically, Derek Jeter had a great 2010 season for a shortstop. 111 runs scored, 67 RBI, 10 homers, 18 stolen bases and a low, but respectable .270 batting average. But the reality was that anyone that watched Derek Jeter in 2010 would tell you that it was the Captain's worst year of his career. He hit a career-low .270 to go along with a .710 OPS (barely league average), and lacked the dynamic flare on the field that was always buoyed by his world-famous competitiveness.  Whether it was age catching up with him, or it was just a player, even one of Jeter's immense stature and reputation, having a down year, DJ knew that he had to change in order to stay relevant in a league that he had for so long lorded over. 
When the 2011 season started, much talk was made of how Jeter had tinkered with his swing in the offseason. Rather than the inside-out swing that helped the Yanks get to number 27, his motion became longer, the circumference of his bat movement wider and his stride almost non-existent. Both the coaching staff and Jeter thought that this would the Captain improve with age, relying on mechanics and his hitter's guile rather than the quickness and explosion that had helped him become one of the greatest ever to play the game. While a simple swing of the bat doesn't seem like a major change, even minor adjustments in a hitter's mechanics can be just as drastic as say, changing a team's coach or making a huge in-season trade. It's monumental. Could be, anyway.
Well, it didn't work. DJ ended up on the 15-day disabled list in June, only after hitting a meager .260 with a .649 OPS. He came back in July, dropping a winter's worth of hard work and adjustment, and went back to the swing that made him the Yankees all-time hit leader. And, impressively, it worked. Though certainly not the player he was for the majority of his career, Jeter bounced back to a massive second half, raising his batting average to .297 and his OPS to .743.
Sometimes adjustments back to form work, like Derek Jeter. He realized a weakness, tried to change it and realized that perhaps that wasn't the answer to begin with. Perhaps a refocused, back-to-basics approach would be the only solution to his declining production. He was right, but this methodology isn't always the correct solution.
After Finals collapse to the underdog Detroit Pistons, the Los Angeles Lakers in 2004 decided that the Phil Jackson era was over, that the triangle offense was a antiquated method to construct and operate a basketball team. New coach Rudy Tomjanovich was brought in to lead Kobe Bryant's team, sans Shaquille O'Neal, Rick Fox and Derek Fisher, and forge a new direction for the Lakers.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Peyton Manning, Slick and Savvy

After 14 mostly storybook seasons with the Indianapolis Colts, Peyton Manning was released yesterday. The team has decided to rebuild, most likely with who they think will be the next blue chip prospect at Peyton's position, Andrew Luck. I can wax poetic about #18's statistical dominance on the gridiron, but I've already done that before. Additionally, there's an absurd population of talking heads that have already mapped out Luck's path to Canton, so who can blame the Colts and owner Jim Irsay for going in a new direction?

Oh that's right: I can. Let's set any possible on-the-field comparisons aside, just for the sheer stupidity of contrasting an untested, yet-to-be-drafted signal caller with one of the greatest to ever throw a spiral. Not enough is being said about Peyton's contributions to popular culture. This dude, Louisiana drawl and all, found his place in front of the camera, sans football helmet. He exhibited remarkable poise and surprising humor when he filmed commercials and digital shorts. So when free agent Peyton Manning (still weird to say) stepped to the podium to assist Irsay in announcing the quarterback's release, is it that improbable to think that Peyton's emotions were rehearsed?

We've known about this impending transaction for about four months. The cloud of a 28 million dollar roster bonus, due to Peyton this week had the Colts not made this move, hung over the state of Indiana, pouring rain on any possible shine that drafting Luck brought. So if we knew about it for this long, Peyton, Irsay, and all the parties involved have known about yesterday's event for even longer. Peyton knew about it when he didn't feel the same after his first surgery. Colts medical personnel probably knew about it when they started to put the star player through rehab. Sooner or later, word soared through the organizational ladder. Before any of us had a guaranteed idea of what would happen, Irsay and his henchmen were probably watching every snap of every Stanford Cardinal game.

Being emotional is easy because we're human beings. But the sting of an event powerful enough to elicit emotion decreases over time. So instead of sympathizing with Peyton Manning's situation, let's celebrate his off-the-field talents, since Andrew Luck will never step into those shoes. When I thought of the possibility that Peyton was displaying his acting chops in front of the media, I decided to round up his best spots in front of the camera, power-ranking style.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Why Tony Parker is Underrated

(KOBEsh: Presented here is the maiden post from MAMBINO contributor and soon-to-be media darling The King. Our newest correspondent comes to us by way of New Hampshire, where as a kid he had access to a handful of channels, including FOX and TBS. Thus, his allegiances are a strange brew of the Atlanta Braves, Dallas Cowboys and Boston Celtics. He is known around the Boston area for being the kid who would attempt (and fail) any eating challenge in the Boston College cafeteria, and is still the only man to nearly paralyze himself doing pull-ups in the D train on the Boston T)

Parker, shocked at BK leaving him off the roster
BockerKnocker, I feel bad for you man. After publishing your post on the 2012 NBA all-stars, you must be more embarrassed than Christina Aguilera was at Etta James’ funeral. I thought you knew basketball, but leaving MVP candidate Tony Parker off your Western Conference All-Star roster exposed who you truly are. You are just like too many other NBA fans who do not give Tony Parker the respect he so deserves. The fact is, Tony Parker is an elite NBA point guard and one of the most underrated players in the National Basketball Association. Here’s why:

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Chris Bosh: Indispensable in More Ways than You Know

Bosh should have stayed in Toronto
solely because he actually looks like a Raptor.
The list was LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dirk Nowitzki. After them, in no particular order was Chris Bosh, Amar'e Stoudemire, Ray Allen, Carlos Boozer, Joe Johnson, Rudy Gay and David Lee. These were the free agents of 2010 for the National Basketball Association. Never before had so many perennial All-Stars been free agents in the same summer. Some, more than others, had the ability to transform the fortunes of a franchise for the next decade.
When the clock turned to 12:00 on July 1, every basketball writer on the planet was focused on getting the scoop on where each of these esteemed ballers were heading, and for what money. The rumors flew fast and furious at a pace that made even Ric Bucher's hair move.
I remember having very little doubt that Wade was going to remain in Miami, regardless of whoever came there with him, and that Dirk's return to Dallas was all but sealed. I thought that Boozer, Stoudemire and Johnson would probably move, and would have a positive impact on whatever new environ they settled in. But nothing mattered as much as where LeBron landed.
From there, we all know the story. We covered it extensively on this blog (here and here) which I'm sure you went directly towards regardless of the other 14,569 articles...just on Yahoo Sports. With James following Wade and Bosh to Miami, the storylines were as follows:

Will LeBron ever be able to win the big one, even with more help?
How will Wade and James co-exist?
Does Wade's and James' skillsets render each other's redundant?
Who gets the shot with 2 seconds on the clock?
Can LeBron solve his fourth quarter woes even with a better supporting cast?
Does going to Miami increase the pressure on LeBron?
How will Cleveland handle LeBron's return?
Who's team is it: LeBron's, or Dwyane's?
Why would LeBron chooes to side with his biggest rival, Wade, rather than try to defeat him?
How many teams have ever had two of the best five players in the league?
All of those questions ignore Chris Bosh. He's made 7 All-Star teams and is Toronto's all-time leader in points, minutes played, rebounds, blocks and double-doubles. He is one of the finest players in the NBA and within its top 25 most talented. He is very very good. So why does he constantly get ignored when talking about the Miami Heat? Especially when I think he may be its most irreplaceable player?

Monday, March 5, 2012

State of the Garden: Half Full or Half Empty?

After watching yesterday's painful loss to the Boston Celtics, I realized that there are two different, but possible, reactions from the point of the view of a Bocker lifer. You're either a glass half full optimist, or a glass half empty loser. And unless you jumped on the bandwagon when Jeremy Lin took the basketball world by storm, there are only these two possibilities. The die-hard Knicks fan has been through more than a decade of ineptitude, apathy, and lack of effort from top to bottom. This has emboldened him or her to exude more passion towards orange-and-blue than ever before. Again, unless you like your weather "fair," there is no neutrality when it comes to backing the NBA team that plays at Madison Square Garden.

So which Knicks fan are you? And more importantly, do you know me well enough to place me in one of the categories?

Friday, March 2, 2012

Speak of the Devils: New Jersey at the 3/4 mark

The New Jersey Devils started this season as something of a mystery and for the hockey masses of the Garden State -- and elsewhere -- that demand some clarity, the Devils haven't really answered those questions. There are 19 games that now separate New Jersey from the end of the regular season and barring the unexpected it appears the team should earn a playoff berth, something that used to be an afterthought for the Devils. Of course, in a League where more than 50% of the teams make the postseason, that doesn't really much to tell else just how good this team is or isn't -- and frankly the empirical evidence doesn't really clear that up either. We do know a few things. We know they're not bad, although sometimes they can be. We also know they're not great, although, sometimes they can be that, too.

All in all, if you are a Devils fan, given that the team had a conspicuously murky future heading into this season and was coming off its first non-playoff year since 1996, it's hard not to be fairly satisfied. After an inconsistent start of the year, the Devils have several positive things going for them. They seem to have bought into coach Peter DeBoer's aggressive defensive style -- New Jersey continues to thrive off turnovers, its penalty kill is third best in the League, the Devils easily have the most shorthanded goals in the NHL and while their average goals against per game (2.71) is not superlative, it has improved over the course of the season.

In addition to that, Ilya Kovalchuk must have been reading this blog, because he seems to have gotten the message and has thrived over the second half of the season. Right now the Russian dynamo has 25 goals and 36 assists, which puts him 11th in the League in scoring, and he seems to have taken his defensive duties on the penalty kill seriously as his three shorties this season are the third most in the NHL. Zach Parise appears to finally have overcome the recovery process from his torn meniscus a season ago, to the tune of 24 goals and 29 assists, and Patrik Elias, with 20 goals and 39 assists seems reborn.

What might be disconcerting however is that despite having a powerful trio of scorers, to say nothing of Adam Henrique being on the inside track to the Calder Trophy as the League's best rookie and David Clarkson somehow scoring 25 goals so far this season, is that the Devils don't have much offense beyond that. The Devils are 16th in the NHL in goals per game and their offensive struggles are a sign of some pretty glaring scoring depth. In fact, there is little offense to speak of outside New Jersey's top six forwards. Of the 165 goals the team has scored in 63 games this season, 139 of them have been scored by just seven people.

That's an astonishing 84% of the goals coming from just 30% of the nongoaltenders on the team.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Goodbye Clipper Darrell - Another Example of the Classless Clippers

I have always hated the Clippers. Living in Los Angeles for the better part of 22 years, regardless of my general subdued disdain for the team that consistently stains the otherwise pristine sports reputation of my fair city, there were always on the periphery of the daily newspaper or evening news. They'd creep in just below the fold, or on the concluding muffled sentence of a sportscaster's lips. I'd get little bits of news and notes on them no matter how hard I tried to forget their existence.

I tried to forget they existed because stories like today's always made me more upset than I had any reasonable cause to be. I've heard so many anecdotes regarding their idiotic front office or disgraceful owner Donald Sterling, that tuning it out was all I could do to keep my sanity in check.

Today, the team cut any and all ties with their biggest fan. And I couldn't be more upset.

UCLA Reaction: Howland and Guerrero Must Go

I was not shocked to read the article by George Dorhmann yesterday in Sports Illustrated. Many Bruins fans have been waiting for this expose for quite some time. Quite frankly, I am not surprised by many of his allegations and I am a little relieved that the wrongdoings at UCLA did not go as far.

As you may know, Dorhmann and his thorough reporting style have been responsible for the end of coaching careers across the college athletics landscape (most recently ending the memorabilia-for-tattoos fiasco at Ohio State University). His history with UCLA goes back to when he first reported on a scandal involving Baron Davis and then Bruins head coach Jim Harrick. That article cost Harrick his job and ultimately led to years of mediocrity with Steve Lavin, a brief return to the top with Howland, and then back to mediocrity and embarrassment.

I have used this venue before to air my issues with Howland. The article cements my belief that Howland is out of his element amongst superstar recruits at UCLA. I could not have begun to believe that the once firm coaching style of Big-East Ben had eroded to enabling many of his star players both on and off the court. The fact that Dohrmann documented first person player accounts of specific instances where Howland made exceptions/gave preferential treatment to Reeves Nelson (and others), only affirms my thoughts that Howland's character and discipline have been compromised. I was on board for firing him before the article, and I am even more resolute in that demand now that I know what really was happening behind the scenes.