Monday, April 30, 2012

MAMBINO Fantasy Monday: The Panic-Meter

On Friday, the Anaheim Angels and the Washington Nationals called up the consensus #1 and #2 prospects in the game, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout respectively. At ages 19 and 20, Harper and Trout are the two current youngest players in the major leagues. "Wayne's World" has more experience existing than these two. Writing that bringing these two up from the minors is a "panic move" is hardly an overstatement; it might just be accurate.

It's early in the season, but what I know is that it's never too early for a team to freak out from underperformance. Let's take a quick look at some early season moves made by teams across the MLB landscape, grade them 1 to 10 on the "Panic-Meter" and see what type of fantasy implications are there.

Knicks Game 1 Recap: Not Like This

First, there's this clip:

One the one hand, I guess you can say that LeBron James really, REALLY wants to win a championship. But if you're not a Heat fan, then your reaction was full of disgust, as the NBA did its best to remind you that for all the good that international basketball has done for the game, the Euros brought a soccer mindset that won't go away.

LeFlop, and the subsequent walking-crying combo thereafter, made me long for the 1990s era more than ever before. The buildup for this series was not just about LeBron, Carmelo Anthony, and every other player involved. As Jeff Van Gundy took his courtside seat to help call the game, and as Alonzo Mourning watched from a couple of rows back, this series was supposed to be the continuation of one of the best rivalries that sports had to offer in the past 20 years. Charlie Ward. P.J. Brown. Larry Johnson. Pat Riley. Those slugfests gave basketball an edge that brought it closer to football than any other sport. Cue the Artest Melee, the Iverson era, etc., and the NBA started to push cleaner initiatives like NBA Cares and even instituted a dress code for the players.

But Cristiano Ronaldo's effort on the basketball court this past Saturday was nothing compared to the emotions I felt approximately halfway through the third quarter:

Boston Celtics Playoff Game 1 Recap: With a Celtics Bias

Anybody who had watched the first two Atlanta-Boston matchups this year (Boston rested their starters for the third game) knew this one was going to an ugly matchup. This game certainly “lived up” to its expectations as the Hawks beat the Celtics 83-74 in a game where each team scored 19 points or less in three quarters. Below are the game’s biggest stories:

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Instant Trade Analysis: KOBEsh to Silver Screen and Roll

Silver Screen and Roll is a SB Nation blog "devoted to Lakers News, Commentary, and Analysis." Personally, I'm more a fan of Mambino's color schematics, but SSR is a real website, something I cannot truly say about us.

Mambinites know that KOBEsh's piece on Andrew Bynum was linked in Bill Simmons' mailbag 9 days ago. The amount of traffic (plus return customers! Yay!) and exposure to what used to be just a simple hobby has been exciting and humbling. KOBEsh put the foot on the gas pedal this past week to take advantage of Mambino's new found fame, and what has resulted was an invite to write pieces for a more established interwebspace.

Silver Screen and Roll is getting a good dude who can write with the best of them. (And I can't wait to see what his posts will look like with a real editor! Maybe you can produce less typographical errors!) THE GREAT MAMBINO will receive more exposure and more traffic. Good trade for both sides.

Never fear, young readers. KOBEsh is not leaving us. Look at this as a way of showcasing Mambino's homegrown talent. We wish our #1 the best, and to not forget about us on his way to superstardom.

I still need time to process what happened in Miami yesterday. Allow the broken fan in me to wait one more day, and check back tomorrow for my Game 1 recap of Knicks-Heat.

Friday, April 27, 2012

NBA Eastern Conference Preview

The first round of the NBA playoffs does not attract the average fan. The NBA actually made it that way when it mandated that all series would be a best-of-seven deathmatch, instead of the exciting, upset-rich best-of-fives that occurred in the first round. So as KOBEsh mentioned in his Western Conference preview, the better team will win in the vast majority of occurrences. But true Mambinites are legitimate hoopheads, so this year's first round of the NBA playoffs won't be any less special. Call us hipsters, because we don't need the general public to appreciate the drama on the hardwood.

Onto the picks...

MAMBINO's Western Conference Round 1 Playoff Predictions

Unlike the electric first round of the NHL playoffs, the NBA's first round probably won't go into 16 overtime games, nor will there be the type of seismic upsets like the 8th seeded Kings beating the best team in the NHL, the Vancouver Canucks. However, amidst the much more predictable nature of the National Basketball Association are some pretty dynamic first round matchups. Other than being entertained by the extra ton of passion that the sometimes lethargic basketball professionals lack from their game, we'll get 4 series from the Western Conference that could go 6 games or more. This compacted 66-game season created a slightly skewed final finish, with teams seeded lower than you'd think, and every series more about the matchup rather than the seeds designated to the teams. The setting for the ever-enticing upset is ripe. Welcome to the most wonderful time of the year.

Check our Western Conference 1st round predictions, MAMBINO-style:

Stanley Cup Playoffs Round 2 Preview: Late Night With the NHL

If you watch as much of the Stanley Cup Playoffs as I do, you have to be prepared for some late nights. After all, the postseason, with its potential for games that theoretically can never end is often full of overtime epics that stretch into the early morning hours, and this season's rendition has been no exception. In fact, the first round of the 2012 Stanley Cup Playoffs had a record 16 overtime games, with the piece de resistence being between Chicago and Phoenix, a series that saw overtime in the first five games.

So, of course, it's only fitting that the last game of the round, last night's Game 7 thriller between New Jersey and Florida, which didn't start until 8:30 p.m. despite being on the east coast so as not to coincide with the end of Game 7 between the New York Rangers and Ottawa Senators, needed more than 60 minutes to be decided. After all, Game 6, too needed more than 60 minutes to be figured out, resulting in Ilya Kovalchuk's beautiful backhand feed after noticing he had lured in both defenders on a 2-on-2, which Travis Zajac took in front of the net and deposited between the legs of Scott Clemmensen to save New Jersey's season.

But what was surprising about Game 7 between New Jersey and Florida was not that it needed more than 60 minutes to be decided, but that it needed more than 80. Double overtime isn't something particularly unheard of, but overtimes have ended surprisingly early this postseason. Only three of the 16 overtime games this season reached a second extra period in the first round and the vast majority of games were done within about 10 minutes. This seems to run contrary to the typical postseason overtime trend of "try to end it quickly and if you can't settle in and lock down the neutral zone and wait for a break," not because games aren't ending fast on the whole but because they aren't ending immediately and still aren't running on forever.

No need to worry, though. The Devils and Panthers solved that problem for everyone Thursday night by keeping the sportswriters, TV watchers and schedule-makers up deep into the evening in a holding pattern until somebody scored. As someone who is, shall we say, emotionally connected to one of these teams, it was an experience that was euphoric at its end but excrutiating for the rest of the duration. After all, playoff overtime is a precarious tight-rope walk where every slight shift in weight or brief mental mistake -- and those are inevitable -- could mean the end of a game or a season. The playoffs are stressful. Game 7 doubly so. Game 7 in overtime triply so. A Game 7 in double overtime? You get the idea. And despite nibbling on my fingers for most of the late evening, it was an immediate and explosive relief when Adam Henrique did this.

The game wouldn't have gone that far, however, were it not for the absolutely stellar play of Martin Brodeur. As we've noted here earlier, Marty has struggled for stretches of this season and started to look his age -- an age that will reach 40 next weekend -- and while the Panthers did manage a furious third-period rally that tied the game with less than four minutes left, both of those goals were the result of an unbelievable amount of pressure and maybe a little too much contact with Brodeur put on by Florida. After all, people will forget that a third Florida goal early in the third period was waived off as a result of goalie interference, but they may not forget that the Panthers peppered Brodeur with an almost absurd 19 shots in the third period alone, a number that in the hayday of New Jersey's Cup-winning defense of Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer and Ken Daneyko would have represented what he saw in an entire game.

All things considered, Brodeur was probably the best player on the ice, outplaying fellow elder statesman Jose Theodore with 43 saves on 45 shots, and the win was reassuring for a fan base that has started to wonder if Marty can still put out the top performances. After all, before last night New Jersey hadn't won a playoff series in five years and Brodeur hadn't won a Game 7 since the Devils topped the Mighty Ducks in the decisive final game of the 2003 Stanley Cup Final nine years ago.

And then there was the devastating collapse against Carolina in 2009 that no Devils fan in their right mind ever speaks of.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

NFL Draft Review

So we couldn't make it all the way through the first round. Wanna fight about it? (No seriously, I've been working out!)

Here's a recap of all of our NFL material. Thanks to TuckRule for providing some on-the-fly analysis.

Cleveland Browns trade up to select Trent Richardson
Jacksonville Jaguars trade up to select Justin Blackmon
Dallas Cowboys trade up to select Morris Claiborne
Philadelphia Eagles trade up to select Fletcher Cox
Patriots trade up to select Chandler Jones

We now return to our regularly-scheduled programming. Check back tomorrow afternoon for some NBA playoff predictions!

Instant Trade Analysis: Patriots move up to #21

New England traded the #27 overall pick to Cincinnati, in exchange for the Bengals' #21 pick. The Patriots also included additional picks to go to Cincy, specifically their 3rd round pick.

The Patriots have finally done something with all those picks they’ve been hoarding and traded up for Chandler Jones. I think it’s a great move. Their biggest flaw heading into this offseason was their pass rush and now they’re getting a defensive end who Mike Mayock said could be the best to come out of this draft.

The defending AFC Champions just got a little scarier. They still have another first rounder and I still expect them to trade down, because they always do.

(Ed. update: the Patriots didn't trade down from their 2nd first round pick, but actually traded up again!)

Fashion Watch: Dontari Poe

I didn't know that blog post title would be a pun. And this picture doesn't do the bling enough justice.

Instant Trade Analysis: Eagles trade up to #12

Philadelphia traded the #15 overall pick to move up 3 spots to #12, Seattle's pick. Seattle's additional picks received from Philly were in the 4th and 6th round.

TuckRule needed to take a break to engage in...umm...well let's just say he's taking a break. Philadelphia saw that so many teams passed on legitimate top-10 talent and took a shot. Mississippi defensive tackle Fletcher Cox will now be terrorizing the NFC East while wearing Eagle Green, in what clearly is an attack on TuckRule's fandom (that's RGIII, Morris Claiborne, and now Cox).

Philadelphia fills a tremendous need here and also got the best player on the board. Their offense is still Dream Team...-ish, and Cox will help the defense. The 6th rounder doesn't mean so much since they received Atlanta's 7th round pick in the recent Asante Samuel trade, so this is basically moving up 3 spots for the price of a 4th rounder. Not bad. On a day where Cleveland and Dallas gave up too much, Philly gets an A+.

And TuckRule just felt like he had to GChat me this: The Eagles run defense was pretty shoddy last year, so, like all men from Philadelphia, they’ll enjoy life a lot more with some extra Cox thrown in.

Nice one. Did the kids on the jungle gym like it?

(Ed. update: Seattle took the first reach of the draft, selecting West Virginia defensive end Bruce Irvin. He dropped out of high school, went to jail, got a G.E.D., and finally went to a real school. Oh, and last month, he was arrested for knocking a restaurant sign off of a delivery truck. Viva la era de Pete Carroll!)

Instant Trade Analysis: Cowboys trade up to #6

Dallas traded its first round pick, at #14 overall, to St. Louis, for the #6 overall pick. Dallas also included its 2nd round pick in the deal, in traditional Jerry Jones fashion (remember when he traded a FIRST AND THIRD for Roy Williams?)

And of course, just as I send this to BockerKnocker, another trade was announced.

Honestly, as a huge Giants fan, this draft is going awful for me. For the last 6 weeks or so, since the Washington Redskins traded up, I’ve been dreading facing RGIII twice a year. Now, I (and more importantly, Eli Manning) has to also deal with the best CB in the draft? (Ed. note: expletive deleted)

In reality, as a logical sports fan, I know the (SUPER BOWL CHAMPION) Giants will be fine, but I was really a fan of the Cowboys having a laughable secondary. Guess that’s not the case anymore. We’ll just have to let Tony Romo lose the game for the Cowboys instead of their secondary. In all seriousness though, this is a solid trade and the Cowboys are much better off now for it. As for the Rams plans, I’m guessing they’ll now plan to take the best available defensive player at 14.

Instant Trade Analysis: Jaguars move up to #5

The Jacksonville Jaguars traded the 7th overall pick and their 4th round pick to take the #5 overall pick from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, selecting Oklahoma State wide receiver Justin Blackmon. Cleveland looks extra stupid.

So we have another trade in the books already, 3rd so far in the top 5 including the RGIII trade and the recent Trent Richardson one.

For the Bucs, I think it’s a solid trade. They gain a mid-rounder to move down a couple spots and can still take a top tier guy, most likely either Morris Claiborne or Luke Kuechly if the Rams take the CB at 6 overall. (Ed. update: the Bucs selected Alabama safety Mark Barron. They really could have used Claiborne to fill a need, but the Cowboys swooped in ahead of them.)

For the Jags, this is the perfect move for them. Personally, I’m a huge detractor of Blaine Gabbert, cause of all the sucking he does. But, similar to Colt McCoy, he didn’t really have anyone to throw to last year. So if they’re going to give last year's (crappy) first rounder a chance to succeed, they have to give him someone to throw to. Blackmon isn’t on the level of the last few first drafted WRs like AJ Green or his OK State predecessor Dez Bryant, but he’s a solid target and will leave Gabbert and the Jags front office no excuse if they don’t finish at least 2nd worst in the AFC South. Let’s be honest folks, Blackmon or not, finishing better than the Colts is their ceiling for 2012. And again, on a personal note, Blackmon going to the Jags might be the only scenario I’d consider NOT drafting Trent Richardson 1st overall in my Keeper League. Who else is gonna catch Gabberts limp-dick throws?

Robert Griffin III Just Won Me Over...Again

What a sick suit!

Instant Trade Analysis: Browns move up to #3

I have commissioned TuckRule to provide you, loyal Mambinites, with a heavy dose of Instant Trade Analyses for tonight's NFL Draft. We begin with the Cleveland Browns trading the 4th overall pick, along with their 4th, 5th, and 7th round picks, to move ONE spot up, taking the Minnesota Vikings' 3rd overall pick. Yeah, you heard (read?) me right.

And…we’re off. Actually, we’re not off yet. The draft is still about 30 minutes away at the time I’m writing this, but the first trade of the night has already been made. As Jay Glazer and Adam Schefter are reporting, the Browns have traded up from the 4th to 3rd overall picks, swapping spots with the Vikings, giving up 4th, 5th, and 7th picks in addition to their 1st rounder.

Although it can’t be confirmed, I’m assuming the Browns are trading up specifically so they can be sure they’ll get Alabama running back Trent Richardson, and I have to say, I absolutely love the trade for both sides. For the Vikings, they got their wish and moved down, and can still be sure the guy they want (Matt Kalil IMHO) is still available, and they’re getting 3 extra picks basically for free. Solid move.

Now, for the Browns, I’m doing backflips. As you may have guessed from the latest Mambino Mock, I haven’t given up on Colt McCoy just yet. He hasn’t been phenomenal, but he hasn’t been gawd-awful either. And he’s toed that line with absolutely no talent around him. Richardson just might remove that Atlas-like weight off of his shoulders, giving the former Longhorn a chance to succeed. Some may say this means the Browns should take a WR like Justin Blackmon so Colt has someone to throw to, but Trent is an otherworldly talent that you just can't pass up. The Browns have another 1st round pick that they can now use on the best available WR, the guess here being Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill.

On a personal note, as the owner of the first overall pick in my long running fantasy football keeper league, I couldn’t be happier with this trade. The Browns are going to feed Trent the rock ALL DAY. I’m just salivating at the potential of Peyton Hillis, version 2010, getting a ton of carries. Only this time, just, ya know, Cleveland will have lots more talent holding the ball.

The bell-cow back may be on the endangered list, but it’s not extinct yet, and Trent Richardson has infused some much needed vitality into that species.

In case you missed it, the third and final version of MAMBINO's NFL Mock Draft is right here.

Next Stop To Stanley: Kings vs. Blues Preview

As we noted before, the Kings are who we thought they are. After destroying the dreams of Vancouver's children, the boys from LA turn their focus to the St. Louis Blues.

If Vancouver was supposed to be the offensive Goliath of the playoffs, providing a serious threat to the Kings, the Blues are the defensive equivalent. Besides the Blues, there was no other team in hockey that played defense as well as the Kings. Both teams are made up of strong defenseman and Goalies who play with supernatural abilities. Many, including Kings Coach Daryl Sutter, are calling for this series to be one of the lowest-scoring series of all time. 

While I think this certainly will be a series with tight play on the defensive-end, I believe goals will come at a greater clip than expected. The Kings found an offensive rhythm in the Canucks series that should carry over even against the large bodies of the Blues.

Many will point to the Kings 3-1 record against the Blues in the regular season as a sign that this will be a cakewalk. However, the wins earlier this season do not count for squat as the Blues were playing without a healthy Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen. These two players provide a huge offensive kick for the Blues and will change the dynamics/matchups for the series. My predictions will follow below but first the Mambino 3 keys to the Kings-Blues series.

2012 NFL Mock Draft, Take 3

In Mambino Nation, this week is about the end of the NBA regular season. Mambinos get handed out to rookies, defensive stalwarts, coaches, and of course, the superstars.

Everywhere else, this week is NFL Draft Week. America's favorite sport that doesn't include a race car (palindrome!) has been building the anticipation for Thursday night's Draft kickoff for what seems like an eternity. Mock Drafts are so prevalent around the interwebs that there are websites that have compiled hundreds of mocks, to produce the "ultimate" mock. I would call it extremely dork-tastic, but after I realized that I was a tad excited that this exists, I'll merely call it "innovative."

In this space we've had two previous NFL Mock Drafts. The first had a simple alternating style, in which TuckRule, Gotti, and I took turns making picks for each team. The second version added Pucklius and Zimmy to the mix, giving each of the 5 participants virtual ownership over a set of teams.

This third and final edition has yet another wrinkle. The three original mockers were given the task of submitting who SHOULD be drafted by each team (predicting who WILL be drafted is an exercise in stupidity). Using those picks, a "consensus" pick is agreed upon, and that player is thereafter taken off the board.

Special thanks to Gotti for making these charts; God knows I ain't getting down with html code on my own.

Your 2012 NBA MVP... so obvious that even the most delusional Cleveland Cavaliers fan would have to agree.

LeBron James is The Great Mambino's Most Valuable Player for 2012.

Let's all deal with the reality that LeBron is the best player in the game today. He has yet to exercise his postseason 4th quarter demons, but such a limitation is merely a blip on the radar when compared with the faults of his superstar peers. 27 points, 8 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals, and 1 block a game only START the conversation. His numbers are more spectacular than ever: he's shooting a career-high 53% from the field and a career-high 36% from downtown.

His advanced metrics are even further off the charts. Even with a usage rate of almost 32%, King James places in the top 10 in the following categories:
-Win Shares (his 4th consecutive 1st place finish)
-Offensive Win Shares (2nd)
-Defensive Win Shares (2nd)
-Effective Field Goal Percentage (7th)
-Defensive Rating (7th)
-Offensive Rating (8th)
-True Shooting Percentage (8th)

So what more is there left to say?

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Five Quick Thoughts on the Metta World Peace Suspension

How much more can be said on this? The talking heads have been going bonkers the past 2 days, and this could be the 1,345th article, post or report written about Metta World Peace's left elbow and James Harden's head in the last 24 hours. So to break up the monotony, we have five quick thoughts stemming from MWP's 7 game suspension handed down by the league last night.

MAMBINO's All-NBA Teams for the 2012 Season

All-Star Games in any league are really easy targets for in-season buzz. Right in the middle of a long haul of 82 or 162 games, any All-Star contest is usually the most obvious metric for any fan to point to as an indicator of a man's success on the field, ice or the court. Right after the MVPs, championships and Hall of Fame accolades, your favorite star athlete is going be be qualified by how many All-Star Games he's been selected to.

To me, this always seemed like such a strange measurement of success. Why is it that we're using an award that's given to a player for only a half-season of work to determine how successful they've been their entire careers? Sure, Kareem made 19 All-Star teams not because he was only a 1st half performer, but because he's one of the greatest of all-time. But then you have a guy like Rajon Rondo having a stellar first half last year and making the All-Star team,  watching his FG% drop 7 points and his assists go from 12 a game to 9 in the 2nd half. So at the end of the day, did Rondo have an All-Star year? No. So that's why we have All-NBA teams.

All-Star selections are nice, but 1st, 2nd or 3rd team All-NBA is where the real prestige is at. We here at MAMBINO HQ polled our distinctive panel of NBA hoop-nerds and came up with our team selections. If you disagree, please leave a comment and tell us how dumb we are. I guarantee a shot back by BockerKnocker, and where he'll undoubtedly and inappropriately attack your family or something. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

White American NBA Player Power Rankings, v. 3.0

If you're a white American player in the NBA, it seems to me that you're going to be one of two things: 1) a hustling banger big man down low who fights for rebounds, and gets most of his points through put-backs or dunks in transition or 2) a designated shooter who's best strength is to move ever so slightly, catch the ball and shoot it from no closer than 25 feet.

Combing through all 30 team's rosters just now, I found that what I felt was true actually wasn't very far off from reality. From now on, we're going to use these numbers and designate them to white NBA players, when necessary. Here's a list:

1) Josh McRoberts, Tyler Hansbrough, Greg Stiemsma, BJ Mullens, Luke Harangody, Jason Smith, Nick Collison, Joel Pryzbilla, Aaron Gray

2) Troy Murphy, JJ Redick, Steve Novak, Kyle Korver, Ryan Anderson, Matt Carroll, The Immortal Brian Cardinal, Chris Anderson, Chase Budinger, Jorts

I don't have an official count of white Americans in the league, but suffice to say that the 19 men I just listed above illustrates my point finer than a Norman Rockwell painting. They all have one thing in common: they're role players. They have a specifically defined role, and for the good of the team, rarely step outside of it.

We've reached the end of the 2011-2012 NBA season, as brief as it was, and as we here at MAMBINO HQ give out awards such as Coach of the Year, All-Rookie Teams and All-Defensive Teams, we also have to finish out the these 66 games with White American Player Power Rankings, version 3.0.

Just like any season since 1961, compiling a top 5 has been a tough task in a mostly black league, but that's why we're here my friends; to do the dirty work. In case you want to check them out, here's our first rankings, and then version 2.0. Let's get to it:

Monday, April 23, 2012

MAMBINO's NBA Coach of the Year

Everyone talks about how the criteria for Most Valuable Player in any sports league has such nebulous criteria for its winner. What makes a person more valuable than another? How do you measure "value"? What makes "value" in the first place? Is it raw skill? How much he helps his team win? The intangibles of his leadership? Or is it a combination of all of those answers? But to what extent does each of those factors weigh? The MVP is such a tricky award, and why the debates every year are more mercilessly available than Bobcats front row tickets.

This is actually the award trophy. It looks like Dora the Explorer made it.
However, as murky as the waters of the MVP are, the award for Coach of Year may rival it.

What makes a Coach of the Year? Does it go to the man who best defies expectations? Or does it go to the man that best lives up to expectations? Is it the coach who faces the most in-season adversity, or the one that never allows his team to face it in the first place? I've been watching the NBA for most of my life, and intently for more than a decade, and I still don't know the answer.

You might not care about this award, and rightfully so. After all, the very integrity of it has been irreparably destroyed just by the mere fact that Sam Mitchell, Mike D'Antoni and Mike Dunleavy have the same amount of awards as Gregg Popovich, Phil Jackson and Rick Carlisle (I went on a longer, more detailed rant months ago, which you can check out here). However, that's why MAMBINO is here, my friends. Much like Nickeback restored order to the credibility of modern rock n' roll, your favorite, humble sports blog has come to help inform you the best two choices for the 2012 NBA Coach of the Year. You can't go wrong with either choice, except for the fact that I'm right and BockerKnocker is dead wrong. Check it out!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Metta Gives Harden Some World Peace

I mean, was World Peace trying to haphazardly infuse a blatant elbow to Harden's dome into what he thought would come off as a celebration?

This guy has been playing his tail off for YOUR Los Angeles Lakers. If he misses any postseason time, maybe he should change his name to Metta World Dipshit.

KOBEsh wrote about Metta World Peace's first-ballot Hall of Fame credentials for Mambino's Life and Times series. He might have to add an update for today's event.

From Bron to Dwight, The South Beach Theory: How a Superstar Becomes Hated

Friday, April 20th marked the end of Dwight Howard in an Orlando Magic uniform.

The center's season ended, as doctors concluded that surgery for a herniated disc was necessary for the Orlando Magic star center. He underwent the knife shortly thereafter, ruling Howard out for any postseason play, as well as the Summer Olympics in London, where he surely would have held down the starting 5 slot.

The chatter all season long had been if Dwight was going to stay in Orlando, with a player option for the 2012-2013 season being at his disposal to either exercise, or decline. The choice was his to either stay in Orlando and sign a long-term extension, leave the Magic for a bigger market team closer to winning a title, and of course, to expand his off-court opportunities, or "brand" if you will. Ultimately, Dwight decided to waive his option to become a free agent this summer, citing that the team's success this season against the best teams in the league in recent months had emboldened him to the point where he thought this current squad might be able to, or was close to winning a NBA title.
Just a few weeks ago, I had a conversation in the office with one of the only hardcore Orlando Magic fans in the tri-state area, and we came to the conclusion that maybe, JUST MAYBE, this Orlando squad could make a miracle run to the Finals. They'd have no trouble beating the Celtics or Hawks in the first round, and then faced with the purportedly impervious Chicago or Miami, perhaps 2 weeks of spectacular play from Howard (nothing less than 28 point, 15 boards and 60% shooting would do) and the shooters surrounding him (with a requisite 3P FG% of about 45%) could propel a hot team to the Finals, similar to their run in 2009. That success could perhaps get Dwight to realize that Orlando is the place where he took two teams to the Finals, and could very well do so again in signing for the long-term.  This isn't a farfetched theory; Dwight admitted that the team would have to do as much in this year's playoffs for him to stay.

Now, without the possibility of the Magic going far into the postseason bracket, we're left with the same question that so closely tailed Orlando and Howard all season long - will the team deal Howard before he leaves them for nothing? Not a month after we thought it was over, Dwight Howard's Decision, or Indecision, has been ignited anew. This is the South Beach Theory.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Yup, these are HIS Readers...

Special thanks to Bill Simmons for linking to us in yesterday's mailbag.

For those of you who are new to this fledging blogpiece, please peruse some of our other articles. Let us know what you think! Rip us a new a-hole, comment on how handsome I am, or give some us ideas to help make MAMBINO better.

And don't forget to follow us on Twitter! We don't shamelessly look for retweets or clog up your timeline. Just the good stuff: jokes and links back to the site.

Make us famous.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Defense Wins Championships: The All-D Teams

Welcome to MAMBINO's All-Defensive team selection post, or as I like to call it, the True NBA Hoophead Nerd-fest.

The funny thing about defining the All-Defensive team is that other than watching an ass-load of hoops, there's no real way to quantify whether or not someone makes this team. Sure, blocks and steals are two metrics that could help define defense, but you know who are in the top 5 of blocks this year? Dwight Howard, Serge Ibaka, Roy Hibbert, DeAndre Jordan and professional unintentional comedian JaVale McGee. Do Dwight, Serge and Hibbert deserve some merit for either 1st or 2nd team All-Defensive? Absolutely. But Jordan and McGee? Absolutely not. Both guys make so many boneheaded defensive plays a game, whether it's missing rotations, not sealing an assignment well enough or not boxing out, that even though they get blocks on sheer athleticism, they can't be regarded as All-NBA defenders.

So I'm sorry to the all the nihilistic basketball robot writers out there, who live by complex formulas, plus/minus ratings and efficiency statistics; these awards are given out here by guys who actually watch the game, rather than reduce it to a game of human sudoku. Hai. You have to catch the eye of the true nerds of the game, and wow them with physical play, smart decision-making and of course, suffocating tenacity.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Terrible NBA Rookie Class

Every now and then my family will have a fairly large reunion. Aside from seeing faces I don't get to see too often, the best part is eating all the food that people bring. Once in a blue moon, however, the food, overall, doesn't hit the spot. I wouldn't dare describe which foods just in case my family decides to do some detective work on Facebook, but don't worry familia, nobody's perfect. You're allowed to give up a three-run homer every now and then.

Even on that rare day where my taste buds want to huddle together and declare war, there's still usually one dish that will get me through the afternoon. To make up for the rest, I'll keep going back to that particular food item (stealthily, of course).

That basically sums up the rookie class for the 2011-12 NBA season. There are a couple of bright spots in an overall terrible, terrible table of food. Kyrie Irving, Mambino's Rookie of the Year, has played the Cleveland Savior role to near-perfection ("near" because he ended the season on the injury list). Ricky Rubio has dazzled Minnesota fans, giving superstar teammate Kevin Love something to finally smile about...until Rubio himself ended up hurt, tearing his ACL. And then there's YOUR favorite rookie, Iman Shumpert, whose presence on the defensive end will be highlighted in a future Mambino awards post. I feel extra proud of Shumpert's progress as an on-ball super-glue defender just because he plays for my team; it's kind of like when my mama knocks it out of the park when she makes mac-and-cheese or artichoke dip.

But for the most part, the rookie class has been truly disappointing. You'll see. Our All-Rookie teams await you.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Restoring Hope in Westwood: UCLA’s 2012 Basketball Recruiting Class

“Ability may get you to the top, but it takes character to keep you there.”
John Wooden

Having been indoctrinated by my father in early childhood, I have been a UCLA basketball fan my whole life and it’s been quite the roller coaster ride to say the least. After winning the title in 1995, UCLA was outed in the first round by Princeton in 1996. Shortly after, Coach Jim Harrick was dismissed for off the court transgressions. Steve Lavin, whose rotations still make me angry nearly a decade later, took over and defined "up and down" in his tenure. His teams consistently underachieved with the considerable talent they had and eventually had UCLA’s first losing season in decades.

Coach Ben Howland took over a program in shambles but rebounded quickly by recruiting talented but gritty, defensive-minded players like Jordan Farmar, Arron Afflalo, and Darren Collison. In his third season, Howland took these players and started a run of three consecutive Final Fours, something only Tom Izzo and Coach K have accomplished since Wooden. With guys like Kevin Love and Russell Westbrook in the league, UCLA has the best collection of young talent in the NBA. Howland develops players who put the team first and played hard-nosed defense, the kind of players who are able to contribute immediately in the NBA. When nihilistic basketball robot John Hollinger projects NBA performance for college players, he even adds a UCLA coefficient because UCLA players consistently outperform similar rookies from other schools.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

They Are Who We Thought They Were: The LA Kings

Nobody pays any attention to the NHL until the playoffs. There are a whole lot of sports that Americans find more enjoyable...until the playoffs roll around and hockey FORCES you to pay attention. This year's playoffs are no exception and many across the country are finding out about a secret that some Los Angelenos have known for years; there is a hockey team in LA named the Kings.

Hockey is sort of a big deal in my family (translation: my grandparents are from Canada). My grandfather used to have season tickets to the Kings when they first came to Los Angeles in the Forum. Ultimately, he moved on to being a more American-American and spent his hard earned cash on season tickets with the Dodgers. But this Canadian blood inside me has left me with a passion for the game and the expertise to explain to you, the somewhat playoff hockey fan, who the hell these Kings are, why they are playing out of their mind, and why I think they are going to play for Lord Stanley's Cup in a few short weeks.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Snap Judgments on the Early 2012 MLB Season

Even with the NHL Playoffs hitting us right in our sweet spot, and the NBA gearing up for the most arduous playoff schedule of all-time, we here at MAMBINO HQ still have some love for Major League Baseball.

Most teams have played about 12 games so far, and even just 7% into the year, we've got some snap judgments on this young season that are entirely too premature, over-excited and amateur in nature. But like my love life, that's never stopped me before.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Ugly NBA Player Power Rankings

(Check out our updated Ugly NBA Player Power Rankings right here!)

MAMBINO has some traditions in its young year-long existence. The Instant Trade Analysis series, such a hit that Adele took notes, and our burning question series previewing the upcoming baseball and basketball seasons are two solid examples. But certainly my favorite has to be our arbitrary sports-related power rankings.

In case you're not familiar, we take some inane subject, like
White American NBA players or Sports Movie Fictional Jerseys, and make a Marc Stein-style power rankings out of it. It's silly, ridiculous, sometimes borderline offensive and a complete waste of my time. However, I just can't get enough of makings lists that will distract me from paying attention to my girlfriend, working harder at my job or being a good son. Sorry for letting everyone down, but if you haven't seen this coming by now, it's really your fault. You're so selfish.
If you've been keeping up with MAMBINO at all, you'll notice our penchant for picking on Lakers forward Troy Murphy and his mangled face. No, Troy wasn't in a car accident or anything tragic; his mug has simply been marred by the ravages of time, life and unfortunately, birth. I like Murph, and appreciate what he adds to the Lakers, especially under the pretense of his veteran's minimum salary, but the truth is that he is an ugly dude. Don't feel bad for him though Mambinites - this guy is laughing at us all the way to the bank, having made nearly $80 million dollars in his career. I don't care if you look like your nose was broken seventeen times in a Punjabi Prison. You're still gonna git yours if you made $14 million last year.
So as a tribute my the winner of the Lakers' quasimodo look-alike competition, I present to you, the loyal MAMBINO audience, with our Ugly NBA Player Power Rankings.

In general, NBA players are freaks by nature. They're between 6'5" and 7' tall with disproportionate limbs flopping around like the salmon of San Juan Capistrano. They lumber about as if they're auditioning for the My Giant remake and often visibly wear the scars of physical battles on the hardwood. However, it takes a special kind of man that not only won the genetic lottery, but also looks like he won the "Get Dropkicked by that Kid from Glee's Wheelchair" lottery.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Rise and Fall of Blake Griffin’s Likeability

Last year, if you asked a random NBA fan to describe Blake Griffin, you’d hear people in awe of his athletic accomplishments. Human highlight film. Incredible dunker. Athletic wunderkind. Freak of nature. In other words, most people’s impressions of Blake Griffin came from Sportcenter’s Top 10 and his YouTube highlights. This year, it’d be a different story entirely. You’d still hear about his dunking, but you’d also hear him called a whiny brat. Coddled superstar. Showboat. How did this dramatic 180 happen so fast, taking place over a few months instead of the years it usually takes an NBA player to establish themselves as a reviled villain?

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2012 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs Primer

So, once every year -- let's call it, "spring time" -- people remember that not only is hockey going on, but it's playoff time. Now every sport's playoff time is better than its regular season (take note, BCS) due to the increased stakes and the ratcheted-up intensity that results from it. Out of all of the major sports postseasons we see in North America, the Stanley Cup Playoffs stand out above them all as the best.

Don't buy it? Let me count the ways.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Season Preview

I've written at length at how the takeover had begun in earnest; The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are sowing the seeds to become the premier baseball club in Southern California. No sooner did I predict seeing Albert Pujols billboards up and down the 405 Freeway, did I go home a couple of weeks ago to see a gigantic "EL HOMBRE" billboard, with the broad back of #5 turned to the millions (and millions) that pass by every day.

Though the OC invasion might not last for long now that the Dodgers are back in the hands of competent and morally upright citizens, Arte Moreno's club has a chance to strike while the Boys in Blue are still down.

As consistently competitive as the Angels have been since their title win in 2002, this might be one of the most impressive rosters the front office has ever put together. Top to bottom, the team is flush with "Top 5" players at so many positions, and have several blue chip prospects knocking on the door. However, just because the roster is "impressive" doesn't necessarily mean it's the most complete. As a Angeleno born and bred, I find it almost impossible to keep myself away from peripherally becoming familiar with the "other" home town team. Let's run down the Halos in MAMBINO's Angels season preview:

Monday, April 9, 2012

State of Laker Nation: The Bynum Situation

(Hello friends - if you're here, you might wonder why this article is our all-time numero uno hit-getter. Well, it's because Bill Simmons of ESPN is, quite frankly, a king maker. In late April, he linked to this article in a mailbag of his, noting why any Laker fan should be worried about relying on Andrew Bynum as a future franchise player. He's not wrong. Check out his fine work that cited MAMBINO and made us even more arrogant than we already are right here)

In his first public comments since being ejected from Friday's 112-107 loss to the Houston Rockets, Los Angeles Lakers center Andrew Bynum was unapologetic for the incident.
"I don't have any regrets. Stuff happens," Bynum said after the Lakers' 125-105 loss to the Phoenix Suns on Saturday. "I was ejected for something that happens every game. People talk. It is what it is."

If you're a Laker fan, that statement should make you want to throw your purple and gold coffee mug straight at your "16x Champion" pennant banner.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Burning Qs for the 2012 MLB Season (Part 2)

The MLB season has partially gotten underway (16 teams have yet to throw a single pitch as of Friday morning), so to prep, we started our world famous internet renowned popular burning questions for 2012. We launched part 1 back on Wednesday, and here are, what we think, the most important questions from now until October.

Are the Rays the best team in the AL East?
BockerKnocker: No, of course not.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

2012 Atlanta Braves Preview

No one was a bigger fan of the Boston Red Sox last year than the Atlanta Braves. That’s because the story of the Red Sox historical collapse largely overshadowed the Braves’ equally historical collapse, saving the Braves from being the main focus of the “What the hell happened?” at the end of the regular MLB season (though Atlanta received more than its fair share of criticism). The Braves’ demise is well-documented, so there isn’t a need to go into a ton of detail here. The quick summary: Atlanta had an 8.5 game lead over the eventual World Series Champions, the St. Louis Cardinals, on September 5. Due to a combination of an overworked bullpen, an anemic offense (which had struggled all year but particularly down the stretch) and injuries, the Braves had a 9-18 record for the remainder of the year, including a 3-game sweep at the hands of the Cardinals. The Braves were officially eliminated on the last day of the season when a Phillies team with nothing to play for beat them 4-3 in 13 innings after stud rookie closer Craig Kimbrel could not hold onto a 1-run lead in the bottom of the 9th. That choking act was just one of many painful defeats for the Braves during September as they loss some games in truly spectacular fashion (e.g. they lost a game to the Marlins when Chipper Jones lost a ground ball in the lights with two outs and a one-run lead in the bottom of the ninth. How you lose a ground ball in the lights is still beyond me but Chipper has earned the right to make excuses).

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

State of the Garden: Woody's First Blunder

When an old problem is solved, a new one usually springs up. Fix the leaking pipe, and the water will just be forced down another avenue.

The unceremonious resignation of embattled head coach Mike D'Antoni moved the Knicks forward, regardless of how much blame rested at the mustachioed man's feet. MDA refused to look his name-brand players in the eye and tell them exactly what they were doing wrong. This problem allowed Carmelo Anthony to stew and sulk, but it also lost the respect of the players who did get an earful. The Josh Harrellsons and Toney Douglases of the roster were the ones to suffer from the team's poor play; it showed in the numerous DNP-CDs next to their name in the box scores.

When Mike Woodson spoke to the media for his first press conference as head coach, he declared that the offense would run through his superstars. But what spoke volumes to the whole team was not this change in offensive philosophy. It was the change in the coaching philosophy.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Burning Qs for the 2012 MLB Season (Part 1)

Whoa! The 2012 MLB season snuck up on us like a new Rihanna LP - unexpected and yet, we're incredibly happy it's here. Like, way too happy.

As is tradition with the birth of every new season, we're greeting it on MAMBINO like you would any old friend; with incredibly invasive questions, exploring the greatest weaknesses, storylines and potential surprises in the next year.

We've rounded up the MAMBINO stable better than Billy Crystal and Daniel Stern could, and written down some questions that HAD to be answered before the 2012 MLB season kicks off in earnest next week (yes, I realize that we're ignoring "Opening Day" which is an opening series in Japan with the A's and Mariners that started last Wednesday. No disrespect to my Japanese forefathers, but we're pretending that baseball isn't going on yet because those two teams are glorified Triple A squads. It's not about Japan. For real. It was 80 years ago, everyone's gotten over it).

Monday, April 2, 2012

2013 Free Agency for the newly-bought LA Dodgers

We can't wipe the smiles off our faces over here at MAMBINO. The reign of Frank McCourt has come to it's unofficial end, with the paperwork ready to be drawn up and stamped. We will all breathe easier knowing that the autocratic rule of one of the most disgraced owners in professional sports will soon be a but a bad memory. I've truly never wanted to move past anything more than this, ex-girlfriends included.

That last sentence obviously was untrue.

For weeks this winter, the chatter on the interweb was that the Dodgers were secretly in the running for first baseman Prince Fielder, a power-hitting whale (of a human), whose massive presence both on the field and in the line-up was the exact addition LA so desperately needed. The offer never turned into anything more than that, sadly, as Fielder and his agent Scott Boras signed a massive 9-year, $214 million dollar deal with the Detroit Tigers, a deal that I don't necessarily think makes the Tigers into a title contender. Nevertheless, Prince is now a Tiger, and my dreams of a make-good 1-year deal is off the table.

As we stated in our 2012 Dodgers Preview, the team just can't be considered a contender this year. They face deficits in their starting rotation, every infield position and at least 1 corner outfield spot. Playoffs are simply out of the question for this October. Except for aiming at a .500 record retaining our dignity, the 2012 season will largely be the Dodgers' front office holding a 162-game audition for the 2013 edition of the boys in blue. GM Ned Colleti and company will see which players would be able to impact a championship-caliber team going forward, and which men should be sold off for prospects and future considerations.