Sunday, September 30, 2012

Week Four Picks: The Refs Are Back - Throw Out the Records

Last week we hit rock bottom. It was capped off by the inaccurate reception crushing my Green Bay pick and bringing the record on the week to 3-11-1.  Now for the season I’m at 6-17-2. This human torch will not be denied a bank loan though. Grampie got fired after making the picks and not having the wisdom to look into the degree to which the replacement officials were determining outcomes. This week the real officials are back. And so I am.

ATLANTA HAWKS (-7 ½) over Carolina Panthers: I was listening to Doug Gottlieb on CBS Radio earlier this week speak about how much has changed in the perceptions of Cam Newton versus Matt Ryan. Good point. Perhaps a better point though is how much the outlook on this whole division has been altered. The Falcons have looked like the best team in football while the Saints look to be heading toward the Matt Barkley sweepstakes (not saying Drew Brees is done – just saying Matt Barkley is going #1 regardless).

New England Patriots (-4.5) over BUFFALO Bills: The conventional wisdom is that the Patriots are going to be mean and angry, and that Bill Belichick will have the Patriots ready. The Pats haven’t loss three in a row since 2002. That said, the Bills have the type of team that can matchup with New England defensively. They can get to the quarterback and it won’t hurt that they are playing on the road. In the end though, I’m not sure if Buffalo can accomplish enough offensively. Both running backs are dinged up and New England has been pretty good at stopping running backs thus far in 2012.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Derrick Rose Is Not Walking Through That Door - Chicago Bulls Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Kirk Hinrich, SG Richard Hamilton, SF Luol Deng, PF Carlos Boozer, C Joakim Noah

Key Bench Players: G Marco Belinelli, G Marquis Teague, F Taj Gibson, F Jimmy Butler

Key Additions: G Marco Belinelli, G Kirk Hinrich, C Nazr Mohammed, F Vladimir Radmanovic, G Nate Robinson, G Marquis Teague, F Jimmy Butler

Key Departures: F Ronnie Brewer, G C.J. Watson, G John Lucas, G/F Kyle Korver, and C Omer Asik

To borrow a phrase from Rick Pitino, “Michael Jordan is not walking through that door. Scottie Pippen is not walking through that door. Phil Jackson is not walking through that door.” True, but as much as the names in the starting five and bench are relatively uninspiring, the two most important names in the franchise today were left off. And as long as Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau are in the picture, so are the Bulls.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Will the Jennings and Ellis Backcourt Work? - Milwaukee Bucks Preview

Starting Five: PG Brandon Jennings, G Monta Ellis, SF Ersan Ilyasova, PF Drew Gooden, C Samuel Dalembert

Key Bench Players: G Beno Udrih, SF Mike Dunleavey, SF Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, PF/C Ekpe Udoh, F John Henson (14th overall pick)

Notable offseason additions: C Samuel Dalembert, PF John Henson

Offseason subtractions: F Jon Leuer, F John Brockman

In a lot of ways, the Milwaukee Bucks remind me of the New York Knicks. Both teams have so much talent and yet, I'm not sure if any of their pieces actually compliment each other.They're both squads with a bunch of athletic scorers and rebounders, but I don't know who's going to pass these guys the ball or if any of them know how to defend without fouling. The comparisons stop there though: the Knicks might be a bunch of brash assholes with the ugliest tattooed starting five in the game that even the Bucks can't compete with, but even their mismatched parts aren't enough to keep their explosive talent out of the playoffs. The Bucks don't have that luxury. And they're in Wisconsin in the dead of winter. Buzz's girlfriend, woof.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Ugly NBA Player Power Rankings, version 2.0

 (Check out our original rankings right here)

This is mean.

If you have any sense of compassion, an emotion of which my once human core is bereft, then that's what you'd be thinking. This isn't nice. I'm fully aware of that. But, I have no doubt that the barren wasteland of ugliness has been the scenic horizon these gentlemen have long trekked. The song "Born This Way" resonates deep in their monstrous souls, vibrating at a tune that perhaps only lower evolutionary lifeforms like them can hear. Whether you're a religious man or an atheist, even those two diametrically opposed parties can come together and decree that yes, God took a big fat crap on their faces.

This isn't news to any of the men listed below. I can say with a great deal of certainty that Luis Scola wakes up every morning, washes deep into the pores of a face that resembles the Aggro-crag, shouts "FOR THE SCORE, LET'S GO TO MO" in Spanish and then realizes that no, he is not a good looking man.

But that's not what makes me utterly unapologetic about writing not one, but two of these posts. It's that these guys are rich. Filthy fucking rich. Despite all the obstacles that the good lord has put in front of them--directly in front of them--each of these men have grabbed the opportunities that their freakish bodies have enabled. Yes, indeed, they don't fit in seamlessly with society or normal clothes sizes, but in the world of professional basketball, seven-foot wingspans and hands that won't fit into conventional baseball gloves only fatten your wallet. Even the most anonymous of these players, one Gustavo Ayon, will earn $1.5 million dollars next season...just to play basketball.

No matter how much their distended limbs, battered faces and disproportionate upper bodies may affect them aesthetically, money talks. I have zero doubt that each of these gentlemen have banged women far above their destitute stations of attractiveness. Like a young Oliver asking for more, these poor street urchins of physical allure have broken past the script that Charles Dickens wrote, bought the whole orphange and turned it into a brothel. It's violently apparent to me that million dollar paychecks can't cover up drinking a five dollar bottle of vodka while pregnant. But even that can't stop these sasquatches from living full, healthy, virile sex lives.

So don't feel bad folks. They're not just living better lives than you - they are better than you. Gosh, when did America get so sensitive?

The rules here are simple, loyal Mambinites. In order to make this prestigious list, the player has to be out and out ugly. The guidelines for such an adjective? I'm talking about "your daughter grabs your leg and cries" or "your significant other stops what he or she is doing mid-motion to ask you "Who is THAT guy? Ugh!"" type of situations. Thus, out goes goofy (Jared Dudley), freakish (Hasheem Thabeet) or merely funny looking (Blake Griffin). We're not just going for the base hits of hideousness Mambinities; we're going for the World Series-winning home runs.

Also, as the very title of the post indicates, the candidates here are only qualified if they currently are active NBA players on a NBA roster, or in this case, be a shoe-in to make someone's roster at the end of training camp. Make no mistake; guys like Greg Oden may not have a place in the NBA anymore, but he'd certainly have a place on these power rankings if he did. As much as I lament the All-World big man he could have become, there's no amount of words to describe the sorrow I feel for not being able to fill up a paragraph to the brim with insults, much like the man fills up his underpants with himself.

And with that obligatory Greg Oden penis joke, here....we....GO!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Paul George Must Emerge - Indiana Pacers Preview

Starting Five: PG George Hill, SG Paul George, SF Danny Granger, PF David West, C Roy Hibbert

Key Bench Players: PG DJ Augustin, SF Gerald Green, PF Tyler Hansbrough, F Miles Plumlee, C Ian Mahinmi

Notable offseason additions:
PG DJ Augstin, G Sam Young, C Ian Mahinmi
Offseason subtractions: PG Darren Collison, SF Dahntay Jones

Which team is the Indiana Pacer squad you should be looking for in 2012-2013? The unglamorous, boring blue-collar team that you see laid out before you whose pedestrian roster is due for regression? Or the underrated team of scrappy young players where every player's contribution hold equal weight of importance, a la the 2004 Detroit Pistons?

The answer is that this team is still really damn good. Shortly before when we last saw the Pacers, they were up 2-1 with a near 20 point blowout of the eventual champion Miami Heat. To make matters worse, their All-Star power forward Chris Bosh had gone down with an abdominal muscle injury on a team with a thin depth chart. Center Roy Hibbert dropped 19/18 on Erik Spoeltra's boys, seemingly exposing their biggest weakness against a dominant big man attack. So what happened? LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. In the next three games, the two essentially took an R. Kelly-sized pee on the Pacers. Wade averaged 33 points, 7 rebounds and nearly 4 assists, while shooting 44%, and the future Finals MVP James somehow topped that performance with a completely unbelievable 33/8/11 on 55% shooting. The Heat won all of those contests, nearly vanquishing breakout young star Paul George and preventing any further double doubles from Roy Hibbert. Truth be told, the Pacers played fine basketball - the Heat just had two players perform at the peak of human performance. To put it lightly.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Kyrie Irving, Future Top-5 Player? - Cleveland Cavaliers Season Preview

(Some magic from The King, who's mobile today and so I'm posting on his behalf)

Starting Five: PG Kyrie Irving, SG CJ Miles, SF Alonzo Gee, PF Tristan Thompson, C Anderson Varejao

Key Bench Players: PG Donald Sloan, SG Daniel Gibson, SG Dion Waiters, SF Omri Caspi,  PF Jon Leuer, and C Tyler Zeller

Notable offseason additions: Dion Waiters (4th overall pick), Tyler Zeller (17th overall pack), C.J. Miles
Notable Offseason subtractions: G Antwan Jamison

Losing LeBron James was the best thing that ever happened to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

I certainly didn’t think this was true at the time, but in hindsight, this was the only possible way for the Cavaliers to win a championship. If the Cavs had resigned LeBron, they would have become a rich man’s version of the late-1980s Hawks: a team with one star player surrounded by limited talent that was not good enough to compete with the league’s current elite, yet too good to pick early in the draft where the vast majority of stars emerge. Not to mention, the Cavaliers had zero payroll flexibility with gigantic contracts for overpaid players--in other words, they weren't going to be able to get better through free agency. The Cavs’ hopes for a championship would hinge on unearthing an All-Star (or perhaps two) with cheap, late round first draft picks to compete with the league’s up-and-coming teams such as the Chicago Bulls and the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Monday, September 24, 2012

What's the Biggest Problem? - Detroit Pistons Preview

 (Here's a lil' Deeeeeeeee-troit Pistons preview from our man The Source. He's one of the last remaining Detroit Pistons fans, wearing his colors proud and his tears heavy. Take a look at his MAMBINO debut!)

Starting Five: PG Rodney Stuckey, PG Brandon Knight, SF Tayshaun Prince, PF Jason Maxiell, C Greg Monroe

Key Bench Players: G Will Bynum, SF Corey Maggette, PF Jason Maxiell, C Andre Drummond
Notable offseason additions: SF Corey Maggette, C Andre Drummond (9th overall pick)

Offseason subtractions: G Ben Gordon, C Ben Wallace

Let’s be honest: there isn’t much to be excited about. The best thing the Pistons have going for them right now is an 18 year old kid with clearly no chance of being NBA-ready by Halloween and who shoots 28% from the FT line. Seriously – he shoots 28% from the FT line! But with an adolescent head coach and a newly over-the-hill Corey Maggette, Andre Drummond is really all we’ve got.

Since Christmas, the only thing Piston fans have genuinely been excited about was the day we finally got rid of our best shooter. Ben Gordon was so bad for us, and so overpaid, we had to throw in a first round pick just to get Charlotte to take him off our hands. We landed Maggette in return, who no one is excited about, but after this season the move saves Joe Dumars somewhere around $10 million. I can support that. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

NFL Week 3 Picks....with help from Grandpa. Really.

Last week I went 2-4-1, bringing the season total to 3-6-1. No worries though. I hate my top two locks last week (that should count as a bonus pick) and this week I got my grandfather to help me make the picks. I needed to pick more games though as a result of being in the hole. Some call it a horrible financial decision. I call it doubling down.

So I talked to my grandfather last night. He is a more cold-blooded gambler than anyone I have ever known. He will routinely bet against the home team with the home lines because he knows that they're are jacked up locally for people that pay to support the home team. At ninety years old, he’s still getting after it. Here’s the outlook.

Chicago Bears (-7 ½) over St. Louis Rams: The Bears are at home and Jay Cutler is the greatest villain in football right now. Gramps says the Rams are “too inconsistent” though, AND Steven Jackson is out.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Linsanity? Or Morey's Insanity? -- Houston Rockets Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Jeremy Lin, SG Kevin Martin, SF Chandler Parsons, PF Royce White, C Omer Asik

Key Bench Players: SG Jeremy Lamb, SF Carlos Delfino, F Terence Jones, F Marcus Morris, F Patrick Patterson, PG Shaun Livinston, PF Donatas Montiejunas, PG Toney Douglas, C Jon Brockman

Notable offseason additions: PG Jeremy Lin, C Omer Asik, SG Jeremy Lamb (12th overall pick), F Royce White (16th overall pick), F Terence Jones (18th overall pick), PG Toney Douglas, SF Carlos Delfino

Offseason subtractions:  PF Luis Scola, SF Chase Budinger, PG Kyle Lowry, C Samuel Dalembert, SG Courtney Lee, C Marcus Camby, PG Goran Dragic

What a strange offseason.  Really, there is no other way to put it.  Starting with the trade of former starter Chase Budinger for a draft pick, the Rockets made a series of moves that were presumably designed to entice the Orlando Magic to trade star C Dwight Howard to H-Town.  Unfortunately for Houston GM Daryl Morey (and Rockets fans), the Magic decided to ship D-12 out to Los Angeles instead.  Perhaps no team was more effected by this than the Rockets, given the overhaul the roster went through just to be in a position to land Howard.

In addition to Budinger getting dealt, PF Luis Scola was amnestied, PG Kyle Lowry was traded to Toronto for a "guaranteed lottery" pick, and PG Goran Dragic signed with Phoenix after Houston failed to match his offer sheet.  A handful of other, lesser trades were made, with the end result being a complete mish-mash of a roster.  We could spend a whole blog post dissecting all of the players Houston sent packing, but why do that when this is a preview for the coming season?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Dirk Nowitzki Era is Over - Dallas Mavericks Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Darren Collison, SG OJ Mayo, SF Shawn Marion, PF Dirk Nowitzki, C Chris Kaman
Key Bench Players: PG Rodrigue Beaubois, SG Delonte West, SF Vince Carter, PF Elton Brand

Notable offseason additions:
SG OJ Mayo, PG Darren Collison, PF Elton Brand C Chris Kaman
Offseason subtractions: F Lamar Odom, C Brendan Haywood, C Ian Mahinmi, PG Jason Kidd, SG Jason Terry

The Dirk Nowitzki era is over.

For the loyal fans in North Texas, this isn't just a tough pill to swallow - it's like you're cramming the entire water bottle down your throat. This past summer, Mavs owner Mark Cuban took a big giant Josh Hamilton swing for the fences, and completely whiffed on what seemed like a fastball down the pike. Dallas emptied their coffers and committed themselves for a mere shot to sign Dwight Howard, Deron Williams, or potentially both superstars in the 2012 offseason. For just an opportunity to do so with zero guarantee of success, Cuban purposely dismantled his 2011 NBA title team, allowing a reluctant Tyson Chandler to move on to the New York Knicks, Seth Green lookalike JJ Barea to depart for the Minnesota Timberwolves, and more recently Jason Terrry to the Boston Celtics. Dallas even went so far as to eat the remaining $21 million left on center Brendan Haywood's contract, saving the money via the league's amnesty provision, but ultimately having to let a serviceable NBA big man go for nothing. Haywood was just another casualty of Cuban's big gamble.

Somehow, Joe Johnson, Billy King and a James Bond villain were able to keep Deron Williams in Brooklyn, while Dwight Howard unknowingly set into action a chain of events that would eventually lock him into a 2012-2013 contract with the Los Angeles Lakers. It seemed that the Dallas Mavericks had deconstructed another potential title team for nothing.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Need Some Rudy Gay - Memphis Grizzlies Season Preview

I didn't think it was possible for anybody to love my skin more than I do, but the entire race of mosquitoes has apparently descended upon my apartment as if it has exhausted every single host elsewhere. Since early fall weather on the East Coast is clearly the tits, I enjoy keeping one of my bedroom windows open at night. Every evening, I make a cost-benefit analysis, with the cool breeze of September air always winning out.

It was one night last week where the mosquitoes had enough, as if my opening of the bedroom window mocked them, daring them to unleash their fury on me. So I closed the window completely, and went back to some light air conditioning.

The Memphis Grizzlies aren't particularly old. They certainly aren't inexperienced. But their window to do some damage in the Western Conference playoffs is about to close because a particular species of mosquitoes residing in Oklahoma City have flown right on through and put their marks on the entire league.

So what has to be done for Memphis to become the force that they were two seasons ago?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

David Stern Was Right - New Orleans Hornets Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Greivis Vasquez, SG Eric Gordon, SF Al-Farouq Aminu, PF Ryan Anderson, F/C Anthony Davis

Key Bench Players:
G Austin Rivers, SG Xavier Henry, F Hakim Warrick, PF Jason Smith, C Robin Lopez

Notable offseason additions:
F/C Anthony Davis (1st overall pick), G Austin Rivers (10th overall pick), PF Ryan Anderson, PF Hakim Warrick, C Robin Lopez

Offseason subtractions:
SG Marco Belinelli, SF Trevor Ariza, PF Carl Landry, F/C Emeka Okafor, F/C Gustavo Ayon, G Jarrett Jack

David Stern was right. There. I said it.
Perhaps the lesson was hardened right in front of the Commisioner's eyes. The mid-decade Sacramento Kings rode highly paid veterans to low playoff seeds in the post-Chris Webber era, rather than sell off those parts while they still had value. Now the franchise is in a prolonged rebuilding process, with not only it's on-court product in trouble, but also the very soil in which the team plays. Yes, the Kings were able to grasp the last remaining threads of relevancy within their reach, but for the very little success they achieved, the organization is now in shambles. This isn't to say that poor ownership decisions and the city fo Sacramento don't have anything to do with it, but certainly a winning product on the floor would help allay the massive obstacles the Kings are facing.
Last December, when the commissioner laid down The Veto, this is the situation he hoped to avoid. This squad that I just listed is the team he had in mind to take the floor for the 2012-2013 season. No, he didn't want 30-something vets with eight figure contracts like Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Emeka Okafor and Lamar Odom staying for the short term. Sure, they'd either make the playoffs or remain on just the fringes of contention, but a swift four-game first round exit would be at the expense of any long-term growth for a franchise that's struggled for so long. Stern was hoping that the 2011-2012 edition of the Hornets would have valuable young pieces like Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu, but what he surreptitiously pined for was the team being awful enough that they could acquire a franchise-saving high lottery draft choice. No doubt citing the Clippers, Magic and Cavaliers...twice as recent examples, David Stern had no choice but as acting "owner" of the Hornets to kibosh the potential trade that would have sent Chris Paul to the Los Angeles Lakers. For it, he'd get an impudent young guard and a trademarked unibrow. Not a bad haul.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Same Old Spurs (emphasis on "Old") -- San Antonio Spurs Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Tony Parker, SG Manu Ginobili, SF Stephen Jackson, PF Boris Diaw, C Tim Duncan 

Key Bench Players: SF Kawhi Leonard, PF Tiago Splitter, SG Danny Green, F Matt Bonner, G Nando de Colo, SG Gary Neal, PG Patty Mills, G Cory Joseph

Key Additions: G Nando de Colo 

Key Departures: SG James Anderson

New NBA season on the horizon, same ol' Spurs.  Gregg Popovich still patrols the sideline, Tony Parker still runs the offense, Manu Ginobili still provides unlimited #SWAG in the 4th quarter, and Tim Duncan still mans the paint, quarterbacks the D, and goes glass at least once a game.  This is essentially the same Spurs team as last season's team, only one year older.  

This is not to say that being the same team as last year is a bad thing.  Last year's team won a league-high 50 games, was the #1 seed in the West, steamrolled through the first two rounds in the playoffs, and gave Pop some nasty in taking the first two games in the Conference Semi's, until the Thunder simply found another gear and the Spurs could not keep up.

Friday, September 14, 2012

NFL Week Two Picks: Look for Action Where There's No Action

Picking games in week one is like trying to predict what to say on a blind date. Basically the best case scenario is to get a second date. So regardless of last week's 1-2 start, the fact is that we found something to talk about.

The Jacksonville Jaguars. That was the one game that was correctly picked. The reason? A basic fundamental of all betting karma. The reason to bet on something is to generate higher interest (and depending on your lifestyle, as a means of income). Nobody was talking about Jaguars vs. Vikings. It was a game that the football gods were begging fans to bet on, so the few that did were rewarded. I'm back for a second date, and I'm only talking about awful games since that is what made the first date great. Therefore the following games are untouchable:
  • Chicago Bears versus Green Bay Packers:. Despite the fact that it's the lock of the week since the Pack won't go 0-2 since this is at home (and since they already played the game and the Pack covered it), this game involves two contendahs as of week two. Stay away! By the way, from this point forward I'm betting against the Bears. Jay Cutler is as likable as Biff Tannen.
  • New Orleans Saints (+2.5) at Carolina Panthers: Yes they are both 0-1, but that's what makes it interesting. Everyone was thinking they would be 1-0 coming into this game. Way too big of a story line.
  • Tampa Bay Buccaneers (-7) at NY Giants: People are calling it a must win for the Giants. That's people do in New York, but it shows that people care. You can watch this game without any other incentives.
  • Baltimore Ravens (-3) at Philadelphia Eagles: Joe Flacco is looking like he's ready to take a leap up into the elite QBs while Mike Vick appears ready to take the fall down from the second tier into the average guys. I'll watch.
  • Washington Redskins (+3) at St. Louis Rams: Trading the number two draft pick was a bad choice. This should be a fun game to feel awful for Rams fans. Unless you're a Rams fan. 
  • NY Jets (-5) at Pittsburgh Steelers: This gave us reason number 31 as to why the preseason is worthless. The possibility of the Jets beating a good team this week to get to 2-0 gives us a reason to watch the game. I like the idea of Rex Ryan getting his confidence built up so that it will eventually break down.
  • Dallas Cowboys (+3) at Seattle Seahawks: Tony Romo has to implode. It's what he does. Based on my interest level though, this game screams stay away. 
  • Detroit Lions (-7) at San Francisco 49ers: As if having the only game on the tube isn't enough to get you to the couch, the geniuses at NBC have dubbed the game Handshake Gate. Gotta love going into work tired because you had to stay up after all four quarters. 
  • Denver Broncos (-3) at Atlanta Falcons: I want to see how Jon Gruden handles Peyton Manning. I'm not talking about calling the game. I'm worried for families that watch this game. 
That said, everything else is worth getting invested in. Here are the seven least intriguing games on the schedule in Week Two. In yawning order.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

GM Danny Ferry's Makeover of Mediocrity - Atlanta Hawks Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Jeff Teague SG Lou Williams SF Kyle Korver PF Josh Smith C Al Horford

Key Bench Players: G Devin Harris, C Zaza Pachulia, C Johan Petro, G Anthony Morrow, G DeShawn Stevenson, F Jordan Williams, G John Jenkins

Key Additions: G John Jenkins, G Anthony Morrow, G Devin Harris

Key Departures: G Joe Johnson, F Marvin Williams

The Hawks bringing in new GM Danny Ferry ended up being an inspired move that had a lot of risk initially. There’s no questioning Ferry’s pedigree from his time on the Spurs, but he learned some tough lessons in Cleveland. Desperate to win now in order to please LeBron, Ferry went anti-Thunder and surrounded his star with overpriced free agents like Larry Hughes. From that point forward, he had no choice but to speculatively flip huge supporting contracts for other massive contracts, getting more talent on paper by taking on more money. Cleveland never got that title and we all know where its superstar went.

Steam Clean Your Rugs: Washington Wizards Season Preview

(This Washington Wizards preview is from frequent MAMBINO advisor, but lamentably infrequent contributor AO. This manliest of men grew up a true hoophead, unfortunately stricken with a love for his local District basketball organization. I always pull for the Wiz, just so this long-suffered, but extremely dedicated fan can hold his curled head up high)

Starting Five: PG John Wall, SG Bradley Beal, SF Trevor Ariza, PF Nene, C Emeka Okafor

Key Bench Players: SG/6th man Jordan Crawford, PG AJ Price, F Jan Vesely, F Trevor Booker, F Chris Singleton, C Kevin Seraphin,

Notable offseason additions: Beal (3rd overall pick), Ariza, Okafor, Price, G/F Martell Webster

Notable offseason subtractions: F Andray Blatche

You know when you move into a new place and the landlord tells you the rugs have just been steam cleaned?  Yeah, you know that smell.  Well, that same, crisp, brand new smell is emanating from the Verizon Center in the nation's capital, the home of YOUR...Washington Wizards. 

This season is all about new beginnings, which is kinda funny because this is the t-shirt I was handed at last year's home opener.  New traditions, eh?  Not so much.  Last year was thoroughly influenced by some of the hold overs from the Agent Zero era - the very same that left a despicable mark of pranks, immaturity and a "I'm young, rich and creative, so let's get online and show the world how creative I am!!" attitude.  Three characters from the aforementioned Gilbert era were still around midway through last year.  Now, going into a brand new 2012-13 NBA season, they're all gone.  In a last minute deadline deal, GM Ernie Grunfeld stealthily got rid of Javale McGee and Nick Young, and in return got a solid veteran in Nene, his arthritic knees be damned.  Then, this off-season the last domino fell: Andray Blatche was amnestied. With him gone, the page could finally be turned. I could not be happier to say: that attitude has officially left the building. The incomprehensible stupidity finally can be put behind us, and the team can focus on an important question: how to win basketball games. 

Thanks for everything, Jim - Thoughts on the UConn Coaching Legend's Retirement

For a Long Island kid who fell in love with the game as a 9 year old on a Saturday night in March at Madison Square Garden way back in 1996, Jim Calhoun's retirement hits home somewhere in that sentimental zone. You know, that "kick in the gut that you're no longer a kid" zone, that "your youth is past" zone, when the actors who played such a huge part in your memories are moving on or even gone forever.

That first game of basketball I saw, an Iverson vs. Allen instant classic that went down to the last shot ("Junkyard Dog" Jerome Williams pulling a Charles Smith), was Calhoun's second Big East Championship (despite Dickie V's proclamation) and really my first dip into the mania of fandom. As an Iverson fan, I was devastated.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Nuthin to See in Charlotte - Charlotte Bobcats Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Kemba Walker, SG Gerald Henderson , SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist, PF Bismack Biyombo, C Brendan Haywood

Key Bench Players: PG Ramon Sessions, G Reggie Williams, G Ben Gordon, PF Tyrus Thomas, C BJ Mullens
Notable offseason additions: SF Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (2nd overall pick), SG Ben Gordon, C Brendan Haywood, Head Coach Mike Dunlap

Notable offseason subtractions:
PG DJ Augustin, SF Corey Maggette
Let's say you're a long-suffering fan of the Washington Wizards. You've seen limited success in the last forty or so years of 'Zards (nee' Bullets) basketball. The prospects for the season aren't that bright, though a postseason berth is getting closer to a dreamy reality. At the very least however, the hardcore District basketball fan can go down to the Verizon Center and say "Hey, you know, the Wiz Kidz might not emerge victorious tonight, but at least I get to see John Wall. Hell, maybe Nene will light it up tonight. And I'd really like to take a look at Bradley Beal--I heard that guy could be a star."

It's the same in Milwaukee (Brandon Jennings), Cleveland (Kyrie Irving) and New Orleans (Anthony Davis). Even in Orlando and Phoenix, you're in state of the art arenas watching teams with a tradition of winning. Your favorite squad might not roll out a marquee season, but you have a reason to root and something to look for when you show up live. Hope, no matter how distant, is apparent and exciting.

Not so for YOUR...Charlotte Bobcats.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Hoping for Something, but What?: Orlando Magic Season Preview

(A guest post from our resident Orlando Magic fan, El Mariachi. Soak up this relevance now, bud. You're a year away from being a Bobcats-like apparition in the hoops world)

Starting Five: PG Jameer Nelson, SG Arron Afflalo, SF Hedo Turkoglu, PF Al Harrington, C Glen Davis (Tentative)

Key Bench Players: G J.J. Redick, F Moe Harkless, F Quentin Richardson, C Nikola Vucevic, C Gustavo Ayon

Notable offseason additions: SG Arron Afflalo, F Al Harrington, PF Josh McRoberts, C Gustavo Ayon, Head Coach Jacque Vaughn, GM Rob Hennigan

Notable offseason subtractions: Entire team, C Dwight Howard, F Ryan Anderson

For a long time, the Dwightmare had hung over the city of Orlando, souring any semblance of a season, especially in 2011. Change was coming and cast a dark shadow over the entire organization until it was nearly unrecognizable. The firing of head coach Stan Van Gundy felt like a death in the family--the lighting of the fuse that would eventually blow the team apart. The only good thing coming out of the season really was that the team would get some great assets for the inevitable trade of superstar Dwight Howard so that they could rebuild right away. THAT, and the firing of GM Otis “I peed the bed again” Smith.

And here we are with Dwight gone, a new team, and a new head coach in Jacque Vaughn, how can one not be excited? Oh wait, Orlando botched the easiest trade of the decade? That’s right. As an Orlando fan, I seem to block out that out of my memory from time to time.

MAMBINO'S Massive NBA Season Preview Primer!

Hello friends.

I wasn't talking to anyone reading this. I was talking to the NBA. I missed you.

It seems like it's been an eternity since the NBA season ended in late June. Unbeknownst to us at the time, LeBron was just beginning a career turnaround as the final buzzer sounded at the end of Game 5. The legend of legends, Bill Russell, would hand him his newly minted Finals MVP trophy which James looked strangely comfortable cradling. A month later, LeBron would by far be the best player on Team USA, leading the men's senior basketball team to another gold medal and making it look easy in the process. Whilst a year ago there wasn't enough damning criticism we could heap upon "The Chosen One", today there isn't a true NBA fan out there that can deny his excellence on the basketball court. Quite simply, he's the greatest player alive. And he's only 27.

There's no shortage of storylines going into the 2012-2013 season. Even with the more restrictive rules on payroll, the league seems more top-heavy than ever before. The NBA has mimicked the very country it sprouted from; the riche are getting richer and the poor....well, they're getting high lottery picks. Off the top of my head, here are some of the most interesting plot threads running through this real-life soap opera:

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Potential Dynasty? - Miami Heat Season Preview

Starting Five: PG Mario Chalmers, SG Dwayne Wade, SF LeBron James, PF Chris Bosh, C Joel Anthony

Key Bench Players:
SF Shane Battier, SF Mike Miller, PF Udonis Haslem, SF James Jones, SG Norris Cole, PF Dexter Pittman

Notable offseason additions: SF Ray "Judas Shuttleworth" Allen, SF Rashard Lewis,

Notable offseason subtractions:
PF Juwan Howard, PF Ronnie Turiaf

What better way to start off the 2012-2013 NBA season previews than with the reigning NBA champs? I’ll be honest, I am rooting against the Heat to the point where I’ve considered consulting a voodoo shaman, but they truly look like the class of the East and a threat to repeat. It’s hard to hate on LeBron right now, as he has been invincible and undone a lot of damage by tuning everyone out and just playing. Luckily, Dwayne Wade was a real punk last year and took the torch to new heights. I look forward to booing him in person this season.

In my opinion, this team SHOULD be hard to cheer for if you’re not in South Florida and last year’s Heat finally understood that. Their role in the NBA narrative is the villain, as the favorite should be, and their all-black uniforms only confirm a sinister intent. A Heat dynasty may usher in the apocalypse and end everything we’ve ever loved, which makes it even more fun to root against. Heat fans should embrace that they are relevant enough to be hated, which is a big step for them, and every team in the league would want that core. It’s good to be a Heat fan – but like Lakers fans know all too well – you can’t ever count on an impartial stranger to join your side ever again. You’re either with us or whatever underdog we’re playing against. People are far more likely to actively cheer against your team in your face. Welcome to the club, Miami.

Kobe Bryant and the Overprotective Lakers Fanbase

(This is an excerpt from my latest post on the best Lakers blog out there, Silver Screen and Roll. Check it out!)

There isn't a Lakers topic more difficult to write about than Kobe Bryant. His depth both as a player and a person is far more vast than any one post or discussion could adequately cover. On the court, he's so far entrenched in a team's offense and defense in that it's extremely difficult to assess just how positively or negatively he affects a team's performance. No matter what type of negative statistical spin some writers want to assign him or how much idiomatic praise other want to heap on him, the beauty of Kobe's game is that the best way to assess the man is simply to watch him play basketball.

Off the court, Bryant is just a polarizing. He's one of the most instantly recognizable figures the world over, and yet there's so much about him shrouded in mystery. There have been hundreds of Kobe interviews over his 16 year career and literally thousands of minutes of on-screen airtime, and yet, we still spout responses like "It's hard to know how Kobe will react". He's an extremely intelligent man who perhaps by design constantly holds back something from the audience. Not to sound too dramatic, but Kobe is both a person we know all too well and yet not at all.

For Lakers fans, it's hard not to love Kobe despite this dichotomy. He's played in 14 All-Star games, seven NBA Finals, won five titles and been on the court for more minutes than just 16 men in league history. Despite all of his experience, Kobe is still universally recognized as the hardest working player in the NBA, never taking a night off and playing every single game like it were the playoffs. Bryant's "clutchness" or aptitude in taking the last shot of the game has been much maligned as of late, but in the latest 2011-2012 NBA GM survey, Kobe was voted the best in that situation by a landslide. Bill Simmons, one of the most recognized and visible Lakers haters out there, has written that Kobe is one of the top 10 players ever to live. Not that Simmons is the end-all, be-all of deciding who is great or not, but it certainly is telling of how the general population feels about Bryant. On the whole, Kobe is one of the most popular entertainers on the planet.

So why is it that Lakers Nation feels he's still one of the most hated in the game?

Read on at SS&R...

Friday, September 7, 2012

NBA Tattoo Power Rankings

       As anyone who’s ever watched an NBA game can attest, ink is a popular past time for players in L. While it’s hard to replace Reggie Miller’s stomach tattoo, which is just waiting to be accompanied by a pierced belly button, or Starbury’s Tyson-esque face too, there is currently a lot of tattooed talent in the NBA today. Inspired by Jason Terry’s brand new Celtics championship tattoo, which is clearly a desperate attempt to recreate the Larry O’Brien trophy tat that predicted a Mavericks title, we at GREAT MAMBINO decided to create an inaugural All-NBA Tattoo Power Rankings.

While diving into the various ink acquired around the league, there were a lot of commonalities and trends. Hands down, the most common tattoos feature a basketball – sometimes being played with by an angel, being set on fire, or accompanied by one’s roots (like home state or family members). NBA players are also a surprisingly sentimental group, with many tattoos serving in memory of close friends and loved ones. When it comes to sleeves, there are too many guys with complete ones to sort through, so we’ll move on.

Examining the tattoos of the various NBA players was kind of a nostalgic exercise. Who doesn’t remember where they were the first time they saw DeShawn Stevenson’s Abraham Lincoln neck tattoo or like to crack jokes at K-Mart’s neck tattoo? Although we all love strolling down memory lane, it’s time to get down to it. What are the top 10 most aggressive tattoos in the NBA?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Love and the New York Giants: It happens when you least expect it

I am single. I'm fine with this, but I know I won't be forever. As a result, I date a lot. Probably too much if you ask my friends or my wallet, but in the now multi-year, multi-part journey I've endured in hopes of finding someone to share a few months if not my life I have been met by one frustration after another and remain single. This is partially because I'm picky and partially because I'm an obnoxious sarcastic loudmouth who occasionally misses the nuances of charmed conversation, but in all irksome experiences that compose the catastrophic cluster that is dating in New York city in your 20s, my friends have continually harped on one maxim to ease my anxieties.

"It always happens when you least expect it."

Now that is a load of horseshit if I ever heard it. I've spent all but three years of my post-pubescent life not particularly trying in the dating world and the vast majority of that was all spent single. So clearly, not expecting it hasn't really been the elixir. In all of my life the only area in which not expecting anything has truly paid off has been with the first, most dearest thing I ever truly fell in love with: The New York Football Giants.

I was a wide-eyed optimist when I first was cast under the spell of Big Blue in the early 1990s. After all, the Giants were just a few seasons removed from their last Super Bowl title, an upset of the high-powered Buffalo Bills in 1990 that is unfortunately far more widely remembered for Scott Norwood's miss of a far more difficult than remembered game-winning field goal as time expired than it is for Bill Parcells' brilliant ball-control game plan -- the Giants had more than 40 minutes of possession -- or Mark Ingram's insane, twisting extension that earned a crucial New York first down. The first season I truly got invested in the NFL, the Giants battled with Dallas for the top seed in the NFC before the Cowboys, and Emmitt Smith, literally ran away with it in overtime in the final game of the season in 1994 -- on a separated shoulder no less.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

3 NFL Week One Picks That Can't Miss

The worst part about this time of year is hard to put your finger on. The awful memory as a child of going back to school. The days getting shorter. The weather getting colder.

The best part about this time of year? Football. Easy.

The independent voter inside of me is leaning ever closer to D than R these days, and not only on account of foreign policy. This year the football season kicks off on Wednesday because of the Democratic National Convention taking place on a Thursday. What that means is that all those Survivor pools and spread chasers have to get an early start on the action.

New York Giants (-4.5) over the Dallas Cowboys

I don't know what to do about the Cowboys and Giants. Four and a half seems like a lot of points for the defending champs. The last time Eli Manning and the Giants were defending a title they opened the season at home by losing to Dallas by 10 points. Then again Jason Witten will not play for Dallas. It's one of those game I don't need to pick one because I'm just going to watch anyway. However, the next three are too hard to resist:

What's Wrong With the Los Angeles Dodgers?

A week ago, could you see this happening?

The Dodgers had just finished up one of the most prolific summers in franchise history. They'd completed the biggest August trade ever, which simply punctuated a month-long stretch of surprising and seemingly organization-changing deals. The names of Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Shane Victorino, Brandon League and Hanley Ramirez now all adorn those beautiful, crisp white jerseys. The turnover has been so severe that over half the players on the active roster today weren't on the opening day lineup card for manager Don Mattingly. It's not like the team didn't need the help; up until the July trade for Ramirez, the Dodgers were a somewhat feeble offensive squad that eeked by with manufactured runs, a fantastic bullpen and an effective rotation. In the past few months, the Dodgers had gone from the best record in baseball to grasping to a division lead to trying to stay in the Wild Card hunt. However, in the minds of many, they had been overachieving. The team that took the field in April was expected to merely finish near .500, not compete for a playoff spot. As soon as  new ownership took over, their gold-lined pockets suggested a new way of doing business and a wave of expection surrounding them.

Four months ago, could you see this happening?

The Los Angeles Dodgers have been saddled with mounting expectations, which seem to take an even more exagerrated shape with every single payroll dollar the team takes on. Last week's trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Nick Punto highlighted the Dodgers' four-month metamorphosis from an early season surprise to a trendy late summer pick to win the World Series.