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Westsider Rider

Monday, April 30, 2007

2007 NFL Draft

Welcome to the Black Hole Jamarcus

With much of my time taken up by the Lakers I did not have much discussion of the Raiders as well as the NFL draft which took place over the weekend. The draft is always an event I look forward to as college football fan, and with the Raiders holding the #1 pick it made it even more important for me than usual. While I can't say I'm upset about the pick of Jamarcus at #1 there are some concerns I have about him. I would have preferred taking Calvin Johnson at #1 and addressing the QB situation in the second round but at the same time because of the horrific display that the Raiders called an offense put on last year I understand why the team did not want to mess around and drafted what they believe is the franchise quarterback that was so desperately needed. Jamarcus peaked at the right time saving his best play for the end of the year, he has great arm strength and enough mobility to get by so I am happy to see him in the Silver and Black.

The other big news on Day 1 from the Raiders standpoint was the trade of a 4th round pick to Detroit for Mike Williams and Josh McCown. Williams was a star at USC but has done nothing in the NFL, there are a lot of reports that he has consistently shown up out of shape and is not willing to do the work that is necessary to succeed in the NFL. I really don't care about Williams because if he doesn't want to play that's fine the Raiders already have Jerry Porter and Ronald Curry. The key part of this deal was getting Josh McCown, who only has one year left on his deal but will be crucial for the Raiders this upcoming season. Prior to Saturday the Raiders had Andrew Walter and Josh Booty as QB's on their roster so the job is definitely open and I am penciling in McCown as the starter now. It's extremely rare to see a rookie QB succeed in the NFL and having McCown will buy enough time for the Raiders to develop Russell and not expect immediate dividends.

The second trade, but bigger one on Sunday was the Raiders traded Randy Moss to the Patriots for a 4th round pick. Although on the surface it doesn't look like an even trade, the Raiders had to make a move and get rid of Moss because he was becoming a cancer in the locker room. Also it will give the Raiders some cap relief.

The Raiders draft picks are as follows:

1st, 1- Jamarcus Russell, QB, LSU
2nd, 38- Zach Miller, TE, Arizona State
3rd, 65- Quentin Moses, DE, Georgia
3rd, 91- Mario Henderson, OT, Florida State
3rd, 99- Johnnie Lee Higgins, WR, UTEP
4th, 100 - Michael Bush, RB, Louisville
4th, 110- John Bowie, CB, Cincinnati
5th, 138- Jay Richardson, DE, Ohio State
5th, 165- Eric Frampton, S, Washington State
6th, 174- Orenthal O'Neal, FB, Arkansas State
7th, 254- Jonathan Holland, WR, Louisiana Tech

I like the Zach Miller pick a lot, he played great for Arizona State and was considered the 2nd TE available in the draft behind Greg Olsen. Quentin Moses was considered higher before the season started but did not play as well as he did his junior year, this could be a very good pick for the Raiders at this point. Johnnie Lee Higgins has put up some good numbers at UTEP and he can be a valuable asset in the return game as well. Should be a good complement at WR to what the Raiders currently have. Then came day 2 which started out with a bang in my book as the Raiders drafted Michael Bush the RB from Louisville who declared early as a junior. He broke his leg this season and was unable to workout. He probably should have stayed in school but he decided to make the jump and I'm ecstatic the Raiders were able to grab him in the 4th round. If healthy he would have been a 1st or 2nd round pick, the injury concerns are there but in the 4th its a great pick.

Looking across the league I really liked what the 49ers, Vikings and Bills did in the draft. Patrick Willis is a stud, and trading back up to get Joe Staley at 28 was a very good bargain. Add Jason Hill in the 3rd round and the 49ers probably had one of, if not the best first day's of the draft. I think they also got two very good late round picks in Tarell Brown from Texas and Thomas Clayton from Kansas State.

The other draft I really liked was of the Minnesota Vikings. Getting Adrian Peterson at #7 was a steal for them and then in the 2nd round they were able to get Sidney Rice the early entry WR from South Carolina who had been falling on the boards but at 44 it was a great value. Then in the third they were able to grab Marcus McCauley from Fresno State who probably should have gone a bit higher as he did not play as well this year as he did last year so his stock dropped but it could be a steal for the Vikings. Also liked the Rufus Alexander pick in the 6th round.

The Bills also did a good job on day one getting Marshawn Lynch at 12 who should be able to step in and fill the void now that Willis McGahee is gone and Paul Posluszny is a solid pick in the 2nd round. Getting Trent Edwards in the 3rd round was a steal as he was rated as the #3 QB by some teams, and was the 3rd in my book. His production wasn't as great because he played at Stanford but I believe there will be many teams kicking themselves down the line for not taking him.

Drafts I didn't like were by the Titans and Eagles. The Titans had many needs coming into this draft and safety was not one of them. So it was a surprise they took Michael Griffin, who was a reach even at pick #19 in the first round. WR was a glaring need for them as well as CB. With Robert Meachem and Dwayne Bowe on the board or even Aaron Ross as a CB that could return kicks the Titans went after Griffin.

The Eagles traded out of the first round in a good deal with the Cowboys but ended up making a questionable pick in the 2nd round by taking Kevin Kolb as the third quarterback ahead of John Beck, Drew Stanton and Trent Edwards. Kolb is a good QB but I don't believe is as good as the other three QB's previously mentioned. We will see how he adapts to going to a new offense for the first time as his high school head coach was hired at Houston and Kolb followed him there, so he has essentially been playing pretty much the same offense for 8 years. But he will have plenty of time to learn as Donovan McNabb is still the man in Philly. So another draft has come and gone and now there is nothing left on the football landscape until camps open for NFL and college. My main concern is getting Jamarcus in to camp on time as he will need all the time he can to get accustomed to the NFL.

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Where do we go from here?

Following another disappointing performance the Lakers have fallen into a 3-1 hole against Phoenix and with the way the team has played thus far it doesn’t look like this series will be going on much longer. Steve Nash tallied 23 assists as the Suns pretty much cruised after halftime to a 113-100 win. There’s not much to add to what I’ve said before about changes being needed for this team to compete to win a championship. The talent is just not there right now and it is up to the front office to realize this and not sit idle as they have stated numerous times before that the team can compete as is. Pushing Phoenix to 7 games last year I believe the front office got a false sense of security in believing this team can make a run.

This discussion brings up Andrew Bynum and if it is worth it for the Lakers to hold onto him or if they need to trade him to bring in the proven player right now to help the Lakers win. Had a debate on this with a group of friends on Saturday with half on the trade Bynum now side to bring in another great player, while the other half, which I was on, that Bynum is too valuable for the long term of the franchise that we cannot trade him. Yes Kobe is the best player in the game today and his window is only for the next few years and yes I agree that we need to bring in players that can have an impact on the team. But Bynum is still only 19 years old and has shown flashes of brilliance for someone that is still learning the game and getting his conditioning to the point to play 82 games a year. You can’t just look at it for Kobe’s years, you have to look at post Kobe era. Bynum, if he develops as I believe he will, will be the cornerstone of the franchise after Kobe is gone. When Bynum becomes the force we believe he will become, at that point it will be easier to find a suitable wing player to add to the Lakers at that time, than to trade Bynum away now for say a Kevin Garnett who only has a couple good years left in him. I think too many fans are looking at this too short sighted and need to look at the big picture. But I’m not in charge so who knows what will happen, all I know is that something must change otherwise we’ll be looking at a similar fate for the Lakers next year.


Friday, April 27, 2007

There is a faint heartbeat

The Lakers looked as if they were ready to take an early vacation. The Suns jumped out to an 11-0 lead and seemed as if they would never look back. My thoughts started to wander about how this team could be rebuilt within a season. It didn’t get any better as the Suns took a 31-17 lead into the 2nd quarter. But the switch was flipped and the Lakers looked like a new team. Playing great defense, other guys stepping up and making plays and all of a sudden the Lakers were only down 3 at the half. Fortunately for us Lakers fans they kept up the intensity throughout and were able to secure the 95-89 victory making the series 2-1 and brought some life back into the team.

As I have said all along, as everyone else has as well, someone else besides Kobe needed to step up to make some plays and that happened last night with Kwame and Lamar pouring in 19 and 18 points respectively. The question now is can these other guys keep it up? What else can we say about Kobe that already hasn't been said? 45 points in 45 minutes on 57.6% shooting and 100% from the line. Including the game clinching turnaround jumper which he hits with such ease but when I try to replicate it when I practice on the court I can never hit it. Another key to Kobe's success last night was he did not settle for jumpers and took the ball to the rack. Kobe settles for the jumper too often when he doesn't need to and hopefully he will look back on this game film and realize he can and needs to attack the basket to give the Lakers a better chance to win.

In addition, the major key was defense and energy. The Lakers played great defense and you could tell it looked like they wanted it more and played harder. All the key stats for this went in the Lakers favor as they had more steals, blocks and rebounds than the Suns. They also had fewer turnovers than the Suns which was key. I really liked what Phil did in bringing in Shammond Williams to play more physical defense on the Suns guards. It worked last night but we will have to wait and see what adjustments are made on both sides. I can’t say enough about the defensive effort as the team settled down after the big first quarter by the Suns and did not allow more than 20 points the last 3 quarters.

Those were all the positives to take from the game, the one point that really bugs me right now still is that fucking idiot Smush Parker instead of holding the ball tried to make a point by slamming it at the end of the game. There is no need for that especially considering we are still down 2-1 in this series. Boneheaded play like that is part of the reason why Smush is disliked by so many Lakers fans. He reaches too much on defense, takes stupid shots, and then like last night makes stupid decisions. The Suns are already going to be ready to play on Sunday, no need to add fuel to the fire, especially considering it was directly in front of the Suns bench.

An interesting point was brought up by Kenny Smith in the post game show. He was discussing with Sam Cassell when they were on the Rockets that during the playoffs they would always try to start out playing at a level 8 but never below a level 6. Once they lost a game they would tell themselves they would have to play at a higher level the next game. The Jet brought this up in context of how will the Suns react now that the Lakers have stepped up their game, will the Suns take it now to a level 9 or 10? Because the Lakers are now playing at that level and the Suns will need to match or exceed that to win. The same question can be asked of the Lakers are they ready to play even harder on Sunday knowing that the Suns will be coming out with more urgency than they did last night considering they had thoroughly dominated the Lakers on Tuesday, then jumped out to an immediate 11-0 lead so they let their guard down thinking it would be smooth sailing the rest of the way. Can’t wait to see what the Zenmaster has in store for matchups and adjustments. But we can’t get too far ahead of ourselves, this team does have its problems and I am concerned about the ability of the others on the team can step up the way Kwame and Lamar did last night. The Lakers must also play defense like last night the rest of the way if we stand a chance to win this series, which considering the explosiveness of the Suns offense, is not very likely. But I'll be glad to eat crow on that statement.


Thursday, April 26, 2007

Thursday Roundup

Dodgers Lose Again and Bonds is a cheater - The Dodgers lost their 3rd game in a row, 2nd to the Giants 6-4 last night as Barry Bonds hit HR 741. The Doyers as they are called by the locals, jumped out to a strong start but have struggled as of late, as is expected at some point during the long baseball season so I am not worried. I will take this moment to discuss my thoughts on Barry Bonds as he closes in on breaking Hank Aaron's home run record. Sure you may take this as a hater rant since I am a Dodgers fan but anyone out there that thinks that Barry Bonds did not take steroids is out of their fucking mind. Look at Barry Bonds before and after, you cannot tell me he grew that much at his age completely naturally. There is no way. Granted I am not saying that he isn't a great player, he was a great player and still is, but he has been aided by steroids in getting the home run record.

Many people have said steroids can't help you with your hand-eye coordination to hit the ball, which is true, Bonds does have great eyes and can see pitches very well, the difference is that before steroids these shots he would hit that would be singles or doubles are now home runs because of his steroid use. There is also some debate over whether Hank Aaron should be in attendence, but he has said he won't and I believe he is right. Anyone with common sense knows that Barry Bonds has used some sort of steroids and Aaron does not want to be at the game when he breaks the record because that can be taken as a sign of approval that it was ok for him to cheat to break the record. I was hoping coming into this season that Bonds would suffer some sort of set back that would prevent him from reaching the record but it doesn't look like that will be the case.

Mundy to West Virginia - Former Michigan Safety Ryan Mundy is now at West Virginia waiting for an NCAA ruling for an appeal he made to be able to play for the Mountaineers this season. Mundy arrived at Michigan with a lot of expectations coming from the same high school as Steve Breaston, being highly ranked and at a position of need. Because of that he was never able to live up to expectations, also add in the nerve injury that caused him to miss the 03 season and he was a disappointment in the eyes of many Wolverine fans. So much so that Brian at MGoBlog came up with a new stat YAM, Yards After Mundy. But I have nothing bad to say about him, good luck to Ryan and hopefully he gets wins his appeal.

De La Hoya / Mayweather - The big fight is coming up next weekend as Floyd Mayweather Jr. takes on Oscar De La Hoya in what is the biggest boxing match I can remember in a long time. I know a lot of people have given up on boxing and moved to the MMA stuff but for some reason I'm still not into MMA as much as I am boxing. Not sure why but Boxing seems more skillful to me as you only use your hands and have numerous tactics while in MMA you just try to beat the shit out of each other with no strategy, that's just my take on it though.

I've never liked De La Hoya, I don't know what it is but I've never been a fan, something about the Golden Boy image I didn't like. For many Floyd is the bad boy of boxing, he runs his mouth, talks a lot of shit, and is cocky as hell which most of the public dislikes. For some reason I was always drawn to that add to the fact that he is originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan and I've been a Floyd fan. Sort of like Kobe how many people consider him arrogant while I consider him confident. People hate the over the top confidence that Kobe and Floyd exude, nothing exemplifies this more than a fight I saw with Floyd where he came to the ring on a throne that was carried by 4 people so he didn't have to walk to the ring. I thought that was awesome, his haters thought it was ridiculous.

ESPN has a great article on Floyd which gives some more insight to who he is and may help others get a better understanding of him. After reading the article and watching the 2nd episode of De La Hoya/Mayweather 24/7 I drew a lot of comparisons from Floyd to Tupac as well. Floyd's doctor who checks him before all his fights said he would get upset when he read bad things written about Floyd because that's not who he is in real life. His boxing persona, Pretty Boy Floyd is different than Floyd Mayweather Jr the person. I'd say the same is true of Tupac and how his media image was much different than how the person he was in real life. I can't wait for this fight and I'm going to enjoy it as it looks like it will be the biggest fight for a long time as rarely do fights of this magnitude get done in boxing.

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The future of the Lakers to be determined tonight

As you read that title I'm sure you're thinking "No shit Kenny, of course we know if the Lakers lose tonight and get down 0-3 this series is done." Obviously that is true so I'm not really going into that. The Lakers have done a good job at times throughout this series (Quarters 1-3 of the first game, and the 1st quarter of Game 2) at playing with the Suns, but as we all know basketball is a 48 minute game so unless the Lakers put together a 48 minute game we cannot win against the Suns.

What I'm more referring to is the long term future of this Lakers team. As I posted at halftime of Game 2, I was extremely frustrated at the play of this team and the fact that Mitch Kupchak has been on the radio numerous times saying this team will not undergo any major changes. Tonight may determine if he changes his tune to that statement. As Lamar Odom said after Sunday's game the Lakers lack camraderie right now. That is a statement you may expect to hear during the preseason or even in the early stages of the regular season and shake it off, but to hear it in the middle of the playoffs is disheartening. This team has gone through numerous injury problems so I understand how timing and teamwork may be off a bit but to say there is no camraderie really has me worried more than anything. You can see it in the body language of the players no one seems to really care that much aside from Kobe and hopefully this team doesn't start pointing fingers at each other. You can definitely see it in Smush Parker as he is clearly upset at his demotion this late in the year and when he's on the floor it doesn't even look like he wants to be there.

If the Lakers get blown out today it could be the signal for Lakers management to say enough and realize this team in its current state is nowhere near where they think it is. I believe last year's close call to take the Suns to 7 games put management in a comfort zone thinking that a couple years this same team could make a run at it, but it can't. Number 1, Smush must go. He is an offense first PG, who plays no D, he has a lot of steals because he finds himself reaching and getting steals or he'll let the defender by and pick up a stupid foul reaching for a steal or leaving his teammates out to dry and allowing an easy bucket. Aside from that we will have to wait and see what happens with free agency and the draft before I can make any statements as to what else I think this team needs. The Lakers franchise has a proud tradition of winning and this team is not living up to that standard. If you look up at the rafters of Staples there are only NBA Championship banners, no division championships, no conference championships as you will see with a lot of other teams. If you don't win the championship your season was not as successful as it should have been. Only a few years ago I was at Lakers games wondering where they would put the 10th banner up, Staples has them up in 3 rows of 3 and there isn't much space around them, now I'm left to ponder if I will see the 10th banner go up.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

At a loss for words

and the game is not even over yet. The Lakers are trailing by 21 at halftime and I am so frustrated and furious I can't even begin to describe it. I may not even watch the second half to prevent myself from getting even worse because I don't see anyway how it can get any better. This is a pathetic excuse for an effort at the game and Lakers management needs to pull their heads out of their asses. Numerous times Mitch Kupchak has said no major changes need to be made to this team, that is bullshit. This team in its current state has no chance to do anything EVER in the playoffs. This team is much farther behind than anyone that is affiliated with the organization wants to admit. Everyone except Kobe, Bynum and Luke Walton can be moved and this team needs to be blown up. I don't know who realistically will be available, KG is a pipedream and will be continued to be treated as such, but changes have to be made. That's all I can say about that without going on a profanity laced tirade. No way should a team in the playoffs be getting blown out of the water like the Lakers are right now. If I knew the team was going to play like this I'd say the 0.5% chance at winning the lottery would have been better than this in the long run. I implore Lakers management to look long and hard and realize that this team cannot go on like this next season or it will be more of the same. Kobe carrying the team for half the season, sneaking into the playoffs, then getting blown out in the first round. I know Dr. Buss cares about winning as much as I do so I can only hope he feels the same way.


Can the Lakers turn it around?

That is the question heading into tonight's Game 2 in Phoenix. The Lakers will now try to do exactly what they did last year which was lose Game 1 only to come back and win Game 2. Considering I was expecting a blowout on Sunday I may have overreacted a bit to the Lakers failure to closeout Game 1 but at the same time there will not be that many opportunities for the Lakers to do so and that is what hurts. The Suns shooting was horrendous on Sunday and they still ended up winning, that is a terrible sign.

On the bright side the Lakers did show that they can play with the Suns for about 3 quarters and they just need to extend that effort to a full 48 minutes. I heard on the radio this morning that the Suns are something like 1-10 in their last 11 series in Game 2's so that does bode well for the Lakers. As always someone else other than Kobe will need to hit shots for the Lakers to have a chance. The other big key is our big men to stop playing so soft. Kwame and Bynum have to take the ball to the rack strong otherwise they will not score. With Amare Stoudamire back in the middle for the Suns there is the strong defensive presence in the post that was not seen in last seasons playoff matchup. A number of times on Sunday the Lakers tried to lay it up inside and Amare would either alter or straight up block the shot. If the posts start taking the ball to the hole stronger and someone else is able to hit some shots, if Kobe actually gives them the opportunity to, there should be no reason the Lakers should not be able to steal Game 2 in Phoenix. The defense was there for most of the game as they held the Suns to only 95 points. Keeping Phoenix under 100 is the only way the Lakers will have a chance because there is no way this team will win a shootout with Phoenix, unless Kobe decides to drop 81 again. So heading into tonight I am cautiously optimistic about our chances. I wish I could be more confident but I'm not, hope the team proves me wrong.


Hello and Goodbye

Hello to Elliott Mealer, Welcome to Michigan! Mealer became the 3rd commitment of the 08 recruiting class for football last night. Listed as a 6'6" 280 lb OT he is the second OT to commit after Dann O'Neill earlier this year. In a year where OL recruiting is vital, Michigan has been able to pick up a second solid OL and we will need more. After Ohio State picked up Michael Brewster over the weekend as well as the impending official announcement of J.B. Shugarts as well it looks like Ohio State is done with their OL recruiting for the year which probably explains the lack of OSU offer for Mealer. I was thinking the exact same thing but Brian beat me to it, but the Buckeyes loss is the Wolverines gain and I am happy to have Elliott at Michigan.

Goodbye finally to Alex Legion who will be signing with Kentucky. Sure he's a great talent but his commit, de-commit, re-commit and sign, then de-commit/release from his LOI has not endeared him to Michigan fans, especially considering that Laval Lucas Perry most likely would have committed to Michigan had Legion not taken the last spot by re-committing the day before Perry was set to announce. He's got too many voices in his ear and for his sake I hope UK was really where he wanted to go and not where one of his handlers or his mother pushed him to. It's only fitting that he goes to Kentucky where another previous Michigan decommitment ended up Joe Crawford. The crazier thing is the similarity between Crawford and Legion in the fact that they probably ended up costing Michigan another quality player. For those that don't remember Crawford was expected to go to MSU, while his teammate Malik Hairston was considered to be leaning towards UM. Then out of nowhere Crawford commits to Michigan, and Hairston has no scholarship available for him. Later on Crawford de-commits and goes to Kentucky while Hairston ends up at Oregon because Michigan had too much ground to make up and was not able to. I'm just glad I won't have to hear about Legion anymore and we can concentrate on the guys that will be playing for Michigan this fall. Weeks after the announcement I am still pumped up about Michigan basketball and can't wait for them to take the court later this year.

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Monday, April 23, 2007

Proving the haters right

The Lakers provided a glimmer of hope as they, well at least Kobe, played well for the first half of yesterday's 95-87 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 1 of the playoffs. Partly due to the Lakers defense, and the other part due to the Suns horrific shooting the Lakers led pretty much throughout the game until the middle of the fourth quarter and from that point on they were never back in it. Kobe did a spectacular job in the first half hitting from all over including draining a 3 over two defenders at the end of the first half to give the Lakers a 9 point halftime lead.
Up until that point the Lakers did a great job limiting the Suns to just 39 points at halftime.

Then, came the second half which was a different story. For the first half of the 3rd quarter the Lakers still played well, extending the lead to as many as 12 before it was time for the Leandro Barbosa show. Barbosa was the x-factor that killed us yesterday. He led the way in the 3rd quarter as he hit a ridiculous 3 at the buzzer to cut the Lakers lead to 3. In pathetic fashion the Lakers only put up 10 points in the 4th quarter. As Phil Jackson said "What we do know is that we can play with this ballclub, and we have the energy to contain them for a full game. They played a 48-minute game and we played a 36-minute game." This was absolutely correct, the Lakers played great 3 quarters and faded down the stretch, as they have done numerous times this season.

Kobe struggled to put up 11 points in the second half after a brilliant first half. The problem in this is Kobe was on fire so he thought he could win the game himself. Which he definitely can do at times but yesterday was not one of them. He forced the issue too much, shot too often and did not pass the ball to his teammates when they were open. There were plenty of instances where he came down was doubled and did not kick it to the wide open man behind the arc. Sure these guys are not dependable at times, but if Sasha or Mo is wide open then I don't mind them taking that three instead of Kobe having to drive get cut off by a second man and throwing up a crazy 18 footer over two players, especially at the end of the game when his legs were clearly not there compared to the first half. This is the type of play that that Kobe haters have been pointing to when arguing why Kobe is not a great player. It really hurts to see in games as big as this that Kobe proves the haters right. We've only got one day until Game 2, we need the Kobe that proves the haters wrong.


Thursday, April 19, 2007

Is this what we've been waiting for?

For the first time this month the Lakers won consecutive games, a pretty pathetic stat, as they defeated Sacramento 117-106 to clinch the seventh spot in the West and a rematch with the Phoenix Suns. After a promising start to the season the Lakers stumbled down the stretch barely making it into the playoffs. I, like many Lakers fans, thought there was plenty to build off of last years playoffs even though they did blow a 3-1 series lead. As I stated earlier this season I would be disappointed if we didn't make it out of the first round of the playoffs and it looked like I would be disappointed to end the season.

But I did see some hope last night, albeit it was against the second stringers of Sacramento. The Lakers finished with over 70 points in the paint, the highest total this season, and something they will need if they want to upset the Suns. Kobe got his with 34, and locked up the scoring title for the 2nd year in a row, becoming the first LA Laker to ever accomplish the feat, George Mikan did it in Minneapolis, but the pleasant surprise was the play of Kwame Brown's 17 points which included 7-8 from the field and 3-3 from the line. We will need that type of play from him and Andrew Bynum if we are to even make it a difficult series for Phoenix.

Jordan Farmar got the start for the 2nd consecutive game and we will have to wait and see if Phil will go to him again on Sunday. The interesting thing about the season series with the Suns is that the only Laker win was without Kobe on opening night. The Lakers started out slow that day and I was expecting a blowout as I was in attendance only to be pleasantly surprised by the comeback that was made. This team has had to deal with numerous injuries throughout the course of the season and has not been able to turn back into the cohesive unit that started the season so strongly. They still haven't been able to put it together as a whole the past few weeks but hopefully yesterday gives them the confidence necessary to put it together for this series. I doubt it but I can keep hope alive.


Wednesday, April 18, 2007

What is going on here? Legion back to UM?

In what may possibly be the weirdest recruiting story I have ever followed for potential Michigan player it looks like Alex Legion may end back up at Michigan which would be the first time I have ever heard of a player committing to a school three times. MGoBlog and Maize n Brew have their thoughts on the situation which has new information on Legion's recruitment brought today from the Detroit Free Press.

According to Fox Sports yesterday, Legion was no longer considering Michigan and I really didn't feel like it would have been that big of a loss after the whole committing and de-committing twice. There had always been rumors about Tim Green's involvement in Legion's recruitment and it looks like they were true. I was upset yesterday because as I didn't want someone that doesn't want to play for Michigan. By asking out of his letter of intent, it would mean for the second time that Alex Legion did not want to come to Michigan and I had enough of his games. But it looks like he really is being pulled in many different directions and doesn't know what to do as everyone is in his ear.

I feel bad for him as he can't make a decision by himself due to all these outside influences. Hopefully the time he has now until May 15th, the end of this signing period, he will be able to make a decision for himself that he comes to. Not what his AAU coach, or what his mom want him to do, but what he wants to do. When I was making my college choice my parents did not want me to go to Michigan but I did anyways. It wasn't anything against Michigan it was just far from home and they didn't want me that far away. But they supported my decision and I can say that it was one of the best decisions I ever made in my life. I hope Alex gets to make his own decision and it is one that he can live with for the rest of his life. If that decision is Michigan, that is great and I will be happy to see him suit up for the Maize and Blue, but after reading this article which confirm all the rumors about what has been going on behind the scenes I won't have a problem if he decides some other school is best for him.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

Alex Legion released from LOI

As expected Alex Legion has been granted a release from his Letter of Intent he signed with Michigan. The article states that Michigan will still recruit him but I hope we do not. Numerous scouts and people who follow basketball closely have said that Legion would be a great fit with Beilein's offense. He is just looking for an excuse to get out and he got it. Legion initially committed, then de-committed, only to re-commit and sign his LOI before he asked out for it now. There is no need for Coach Beilein to waste his time and resources to recruit him and he should look elsewhere if he wants to bring in another player for this class.

Also of note is Reed Baker will be leaving the team, which opens up 2 scholarships with Legion asking out now. So Coach Beilein could bring in 2 players for this class but considering how late in the game it is I doubt that will happen. This will leave either 2 or 3 scholarships for the 2008 class dependent upon if another player is found for this class or not. I think it would be better to wait considering most of the top players are already signed and with the good season I expect from this team next year it would open up more doors to many recruits in the 08 class.

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Jackie Robinson Day

Yesterday was the 60th anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier in baseball. It was a great tribute for a great man before the Dodgers game against the Padres last night and the entire Dodger team wore #42 to honor him. Many other individuals, and in some cases teams wore 42 as well to pay tribute to the man that did so much not only for the game of baseball but for race relations in America. Props must go out to Ken Griffey Jr. who came up with the idea and approached the MLB to wear 42. Unlike the NBA, who denied Jerry Stackhouse's request to put Robinson on his jersey, he already wears #42, the MLB allowed the entire league the option to wear 42 and many took advantage of it. Bruins Nation has a great post entitled Honoring Jackie which also has links to a bunch of other articles about paying tribute to Jackie.

The Dodgers were able to get the victory last night 9-3 over the Padres, and pitcher Chris Young who wrote a dissertation on Robinson for his thesis at Princeton. As a Dodgers fan it means even more to see these tributes to a great man. A few years ago when I was going to purchase a Dodgers jersey I knew which one I wanted, a Jackie Robinson. They were difficult to find at the time but fortunately a Cooperstown collection came out with 42 and I jumped on it immediately. To hear and read about the things he had to endure to make it with the Dodgers I feel honored to be able to pay tribute to him by wearing his jersey.



The Lakers finally picked up a much needed W and in conjunction with the Clippers loss to Sacramento, secured a spot in the playoffs. Most likely it will be as the 7th seed against Phoenix, but there is a chance it could be the 8th and a matchup with Dallas. Either way the Lakers have their work cut out for them. The Lakers close the season out at Sacramento on Wednesday night.

Once again it was a similar story. The Lakers jump out to a big lead, blow the lead and for the first time in a while they did not blow the game. Kobe ended up a very efficient 50 points which helped the cause as he shot 72% from the field for the game. Also surprising was the move by Phil Jackson to start Jordan Farmar over Smush Parker. Many Lakers fans, including myself, have been wanting this to happen for a while but to see it happen in the second to last regular seaosn game was surprising. Farmar had a decent game with 9 points and 3 assists in 28 minutes of play. We will have to wait and see how Phil handles the point guard situation in the playoffs. Shammond Williams who got a good amount of run a few weeks back has been non-existent, who knows how Smush will react to his benching at this late in the season and who knows how Farmar will fare in the playoffs. Kobe needs some help if the Lakers want to win because it will be difficult for Kobe to score 50 a game in the playoffs and it seems like that is the only way they win lately. Some other guys must step up otherwise the Lakers will be done in 4 games.


Friday, April 13, 2007

Spring Practice comes to a close

Lost in all the hype of the John Beilein hire, Spring Football has been put on the backburner for most Michigan fans for the first time I can ever remember. But before we discuss football there is an article from Andy Katz at ESPN discussing all the new coaching hires and here's what he has to say about Michigan:

Michigan : This also is a contender for best hire of the coaching carousel. John Beilein is arguably one of the best coaches in the country, let alone one of the smartest. Michigan will be well-coached, well-schooled and hard to beat from this day forward. It doesn't matter how he recruits Detroit or the state. He will win. You watch.

It's great to hear that Coach Beilein is so respected among his peers and although he's not the big name that many hoped for I truly believe he will take Michigan back to national prominence.

Now to football, there were a bunch of injuries that prevented a lot of players from practicing in Spring Ball and it just got worse. As rumored last week, Kevin Grady did tear his ACL and will most likely miss the 2007 campaign. Reports were that he was performing well in practice and he was the #2 back but with this injury it looks like that will go to Brandon Minor.

Another rumor that has been floating around surrounds Carlos Brown and his possible transfer. After some time off and debating it looks like he will not be leaving Ann Arbor. Not sure if Grady's injury played into the decision in any way as Carlos had moved to CB but it is great to hear that he will be returning. With the lack of depth at RB, he may be moved back, or more likely he will probably play a little of both since there is not much depth at either position. I wish Michigan would start televising their spring practice like numerous other programs have been doing on ESPNU but I don't see that happening anytime soon so I'll have to rely on reports online. I am very excited to hear about what Ryan Mallett does tomorrow.

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Same story, different day. The Lakers blew a big second half lead, decided to stop playing defense and sat and watched as nobody helped Kobe out. It was a roller coaster ride throughout as the Clippers jumped out to a big lead early in the first quarter, then the Lakers took a large lead in the second half, only to give it up again at the end. Kobe took over in the 3rd quarter but the Lakers could not hold onto the lead that was as big as 17 at one point. I feel like I'm watching Michigan snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

There has been debate among Lakers fans whether or not making the playoffs this year is even worth it. I have always been on the side of making it is important even if we do lose in the first round because this team is so young and no one is playoff tested except for Kobe so the experience could be worth a lot down the road. However, I am not so sure anymore. Watching this team the past few weeks has been extremely painful and it doesn't look to change much. If this team even holds on to their playoff spot I expect it to be done in 4 or 5. Anything more would be an accomplishment the way they are playing right now.

The Lakers still hold a 1 1/2 game lead for the 7th spot in the West over the Clippers and Golden State. With 3 games to play it's not bad but it could be better. I definitely expect a loss tonight against Phoenix but with closing games against Seattle and Sacramento hopefully the team can get on a mini roll before the playoffs begin. As long as the Lakers finish 2-1 they will make the playoffs no matter what the Clippers and Golden State do. In this scenario if the Clippers win out they would take the 7th spot, but they close with Portland, Sacramento, Phoenix and New Orleans so I don't expect that to happen. Golden State closes with Sacramento, Minnesota, Dallas and Portland. The Lakers hold the tiebreaker over the Warriors but not the Clippers.


Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Great news to start the day

Woke up to a text message this morning that just made my day. My boy from New York sent me a simple two words that immediately woke me up: "Manny Staying!" That's all I needed to jump start my day and then I got to work to read "Harris says he will attend Michigan after all" There was a great deal of trepidation on my part as I wrote on Monday:

Onto Coach Beilein's attempt to keep together this 07 class, it doesn't look good. Both Alex Legion and Manny Harris met with Beilein this past week and I believe it would be miraculous if he was able to keep both players.

Thankfully, it looks like I may be wrong on this one. Also, the article on Manny staying also has a quote from Alex Legion stating "I'm starting to like Michigan more and more," and Coach Beilein is expected to go see Legion in Virginia this weekend. Props go out to Coach Beilein, and also to Coach Jackson for re-securing Manny's commitment, let's finish it out and lock up Legion again. There are also rumors that the schedule will be upgraded next season which would include a renewal of the Duke series, which I would be glad to see cause I can't stand them and I would love to beat them after all the blowouts they had against us when I was in school.

Onto other College Basketball news now is the time that many players declare their intentions to stay in school or declare for the NBA Draft. Starting with the players that are leaving: Kevin Durant of Texas, Arron Afflalo of UCLA and Julian Wright of Kansas. Durant's announcement was expected considering he took the College Basketball world by storm, sweeping every major award out there and being the first freshman to win a number of them. It was reported he really wanted to stay but was scared off by the Shaun Livingston injury as they are of similar build and did not want to risk something like that. It would have been great to see Durant in college for another season but there's no way you can fault him considering he will be at worst the 2nd player picked in the draft.

Then there's Arron Afflalo, who I believe could use another year at UCLA and win a national championship in the process. He is a borderline first round pick and unless he wows the scouts he could very easily fall into the second round. UCLA must also wait for Darren Collison's decision as well. Considering the weak PG class he could decide to make the jump, and if he does it would be a huge blow to the Bruins. Hopefully he will decide to stay and play with Kevin Love and lead UCLA to a 3rd consecutive Final Four.

Julian Wright declared but has not signed with an agent, leaving the potential for him to return to Kansas. But as he is projected a top 15 pick I doubt that happens. Brandon Rush is also expected to declare, which would be devastating to Kansas.

With these defections the big winner in all this is North Carolina where Tyler Hansborough, Tywon Lawson and Wayne Ellington have all announced they will return next season. UNC is now my odds on favorite to win the title next year, with or without Brandan Wright who has yet to announce. The deadline is April 29th to declare and I'm sure there will be many more announcements that will have impact on the upcoming college basketball season.

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The slide continues

The Lakers had their chances, but couldn't finish something that's been happening a lot lately as they dropped a pivotal game against the Denver Nuggets last night. That leaves the Lakers 1 1/2 games behind Denver with 4 to play, and with Denver owning the tiebreaker it's more like 2 1/2 meaning the Lakers are most likely headed to a repeat of last year as the 7th seed to face the 2nd seed Phoenix Suns. Denver has 5 games remaining and would have to go 1-4 while the Lakers win out to get the 6th seed. At worst the Nuggets should finish 2-3 as they have winnable games against New Orleans, Memphis and Minnesota, as well as Utah and San Antonio. The Lakers close out with the Clippers, Phoenix, Seattle and Sacramento. Knowing the way this team is playing right now they'll probably split these 4. If they finish worse, than 2-2 there is a chance they could be the 8th seed, or possibly even miss the playoffs.

As I've harped on the past few posts, the main problem lies with the defense. In the month of April alone, the last 6 games, the Lakers have allowed their opponents to score over 100 points 5 of those games. Defense like that against the Suns will end the Lakers season in 4 or 5 games. There is some bright side as Vladimir Radmonovic is expected to return this week. Maybe he's the shot in the arm our team needs, who knows, with Lamar's shoulder not allowing him to effectively shoot from the outside, maybe Vlad can pick up the slack. But considering he himself is coming off a shoulder injury, I doubt it, maybe the time off allowed his hand to heal which will improve his shooting because it definitely wasn't what the Lakers expected when they signed him.

Regardless of the playoff matchup it will be against a tough team, one of the top 3 in the West. The Lakers need to start playing better D and stop making so many stupid mistakes. Sure the playoffs are completely independent of the regular season but I would feel much better about our chances if the team started playing better. Let's hope the turnaround starts on Thursday against the Clippers.


Monday, April 09, 2007

And it just keeps getting worse

After a victory in Seattle on Friday, the Lakers led the Nuggets for 6th place in the West by 1/2 a game. By Lakers tipoff against Phoenix on Sunday there was no more lead as the Nuggets beat the Clippers on Saturday to close the gap. Following the Lakers latest loss on Sunday they are now 1/2 game behind Denver for 6th. That brings tonight's pivotal game at Denver. With only 5 games left in the season a 1 1/2 game lead would be extremely difficult to overcome so tonight's game is about as must win as a regular season game can be. The defense is still not there and that is a major concern heading into the playoffs.

There are a number of concerns with Michigan as Spring Practice comes to a close and as new basketball coach John Beilein tries to keep the 07 recruiting class together. The rumors of a Carlos Brown transfer popped up a few weeks ago, then died down, but now they are back up again. We will have to wait and see but many believe that he is headed out. It would be a big loss not only because of the depth at CB/RB we would lose, but it could be a big loss for recruiting in the future, especially in the South. Many teams negatively recruit Michigan and the Big Ten because the teams are slow and don't know how to use speed, and losing Carlos Brown would only add fuel to the fire.

Onto Coach Beilein's attempt to keep together this 07 class, it doesn't look good. Both Alex Legion and Manny Harris met with Beilein this past week and I believe it would be miraculous if he was able to keep both players. I believe Kelvin Grady will stay and before reading this article I thought it would be Manny that would join him in Ann Arbor with Legion bolting elsewhere. But after reading the article, I have a feeling Grady may be the only guy left. Regardless what Legion says, I just don't have a good feeling about him and think he's gone. But with Manny saying that he is going to look at other schools it has me extremely concerned. It would be a disaster if only Grady stayed on because there wouldn't be much depth on the team for next season. There are rumors that Assistant Coach Mike Jackson, who left a couple weeks ago for Illinois State may come back and that could help. Coach Beilein knows he needs someone on the staff with local ties and we will have to wait to see who that is but I would definitely be glad to see Coach Jackson back. He has a lot of ties in Detroit and could turn the tide with Manny back in our favor.

Update: Great news. Coach Jackson is back. He has resigned at Illinois State and will return to Michigan.

I wasn't able to address this last week but Coach Eddie Robinson of Grambling passed away last week at the age of 88. He was a great coach, amassing 408 wins in his 57 year career, but more important than the wins and losses was the lessons off the field he taught his players during the civil rights era. He coached over 200 players who would later play in the NFL as well as 4 Hall of Famers but that is nothing compared to the struggles he had to endure during the segregation era. People think coaches nowadays have it tough with the pressure of wins and losses on the field. But no one has to deal with what Coach Robinson did off the field. From the ESPN.com article linked above:

Robinson began his storied career at Grambling with no paid assistants, no groundskeepers, no trainers and little in the way of equipment. He lined the field himself and fixed lunchmeat sandwiches for road trips because the players could not eat in the "white only" restaurants of the South.

Coach Robinson is a legend of College Football, may he Rest In Peace.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Damn it

Exactly how I feel sometimes Lamar

The Lakers blew another home game last night dropping a pivotal game to the Denver Nuggets. The Nuggets are now only 1 1/2 games behind the Lakers for 6th in the West. Meaning the difference between playing San Antonio in the first round as opposed to Phoenix. This Lakers team is so frustrating to watch at times, I feel like I did when I would watch Michigan basketball these past few years. The lack of effort at times, no boxing out, defensive breakdowns, it's all happening and it couldn't happen at a worse time. There are now only 8 games left in the regular season so every game is crucial.

The next two games are very winnable at the Clippers and Sonics, before coming back home and playing the Suns. Regardless of wins and losses, the defense lately has been atrocious and that does not bode well for the playoffs. This isn't the Lakers team of old that can flip the switch whenever they want. They must get their act together now if they have any chance at making some noise in the playoffs.

Freedarko has a great post on Kobe. It's good to know other non-Lakers fans appreciate what they see. Sure you may have your reasons to dislike him, although many of the reasons people do hate him aren't true, but you cannot deny his greatness. Over the years since I went to college I've gradually become less of a professional sports fan and more of a college one. I'll still watch my pro teams if I have the chance, but I don't clear out my schedule to do so like I do with Michigan. But the one team I always make time to watch is the Lakers, because Kobe can do something amazing everytime he steps on the court and I want to be sure I witness it. I was too young to appreciate Jordan in his prime, that and I had a strong dislike for him because his Bulls beat Magic and the Lakers in 91, so I feel this is a second chance for me to witness greatness, and it's a double bonus that he plays on my favorite team.

John Beilein was introducted officially today as the new head basketball coach at Michigan. MGoBlog, as always, was on top of it live blogging the press conference. Hopefully MGoBlue will have a transcript of it up soon as I wasn't able to catch it. As I said before I'm extremely excited for the new direction of our program. Coach Beilein is regarded as one of the best coaches in the game, but he has never had as much talent as he will have, and be able to get, at Michigan and I can't wait to see it in action.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

I can't believe I'm this excited this early

Probably due to quotes I've heard from other coaches regarding how good of a Coach, Coach Beilein is and also helps when I read this quote today:

"I am excited about this new opportunity at Michigan," Beilein said. "I wouldn't go there if I didn't think they could win a national championship."

For those that haven't seen, MGoBlog has a great post up on the 1-3-1 Zone.

Update: AA News is reporting that Michigan isn't responsible for the buyout. Which would be big, considering some did not feel that Beilein was worth paying the buyout. If this is correct then Bill Martin did an even better job than we thought.

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Welcome Coach Beilein!

As numerous media outlets are reporting, John Beilein will be the next head basketball coach at the University of Michigan. Coach Beilein is well respected by his colleagues as one of the best coaches in the game and I am excited to see him on our side.

Maybe I am expecting too much at this point but I can't wait to see this team on the floor next season. After 9 years of not making the tournament I hope that Coach Beilein can help change that next year. As I've said before I grew up with Michigan basketball and lived through some bad teams when I was in school. But I never gave up on them and I always went to the games, even when I was walking from Geddes down to Crisler to watch Ellerbe's last team. The basketball team hasn't been high on the priority list for many Michigan fans but I believe that is about to change. The press conference is scheduled for tomorrow so we'll probably learn more then about assistant coaches and other information.

There were reports that as many as 5 players were going to leave if Beilein was hired but that doesn't seem like the case as Deshawn Sims and Ekpe Udoh have both said they are staying. Now we wait for Beilein to meet with the incoming recruits and see what happens. I hope everyone stays but won't be surprised if Alex Legion decides to bolt. Michigan basketball is back and I can't wait to see it.

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