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Westsider Rider

Thursday, May 31, 2007

My head is still spinning

At this point most people know that Kobe has now backed off his initial comments of wanting a trade. But then in the LA Times today he stated "It's just a matter of I don't want to go no place else." But asked if he still wanted to be traded: "Yes." So what the heck is going on here? As fans we can speculate all we want but I think for my sanity I will be just sitting back and letting it unfold because this situation has already made me lose my head at times. Dr. Buss is always about winning and I think he will find a way to diffuse the situation and we will look back on this a few years from now and laugh, well that's my dream scenario that I will stick with until I have to think otherwise. The Times article says that Buss will speak with Kobe today before he leaves for vacation so hopefully that will be able to clear some things up and calm Kobe down even more than talking with Phil and Magic. I cannot fathom seeing Kobe in anything other than Forum Blue and Gold and I hope I never have to.


Wednesday, May 30, 2007

At a loss for words

I got a call from a friend yesterday afternoon telling me about Kobe's tirade on the radio and how upset/angry/frustrated he sounded. Then drops the other shoe today as Kobe tells Stephen A Smith he wants out and there's nothing the Lakers can say to change his mind. I'm one to say never say never, but at the same time I'm starting to brace myself for this. There's a lot that's gone wrong in Lakerland the past few years but I never thought it would come to this. There is so much that is running through my head right now about it that I can't fully post right now. I'll have something up later on it. But keep in mind as TrueHoop posted today: "It's going to be very tough to accomodate Bryant's trade request. My bet is that only a very small number of teams have anything even close to the talent, salaries, and cash to make a real offer." Just remember though Kobe's opt out isn't for two years so it's not as imperative to trade him as it was to Shaq who was going into the last year before he could opt out.


Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The West just got tougher

Last year at this time, no one really cared about the draft lottery and it didn't matter if you got #1 or not. Andrea Bargnani was nothing to get excited about. That changed this year with two potential franchise players coming into the draft in Kevin Durant and Greg Oden. The lottery was a major event and would immediately help two struggling franchises. Except most expected those two teams to be Memphis and Boston. Instead it turned out to be Portland and Seattle. Regardless of who Portland takes and leaves for Seattle, it means that the two best players in this draft are not only coming into the Western Conference but the Pacific Division.

Portland is already a good young team and is only getting better with their luck. Throw in Oden with Lamarcus Aldridge, Jarrett Jack, Brandon Roy and Zach Randolph and that is a very good lineup. Although this could allow the Blazer front office to move Randolph which is very possible, maybe even to the Lakers. Then Seattle with Ray Allen and Kevin Durant, and possibly Rashard Lewis, although I would assume they would try to move Lewis in a sign and trade considering he wants a big contract and since they Durant and Lewis have somewhat similar type games. So it makes the already difficult Western Conference that much tougher and since they are both in the Lakers division that means those 8 games a year are now more difficult. Also Memphis slipping to 4 may just begin the start of the rebuilding process there and they may be willing to move Pau Gasol.

Now where does that leave the Lakers in this offseason where they need to make some major changes if they are to compete for a title? I don't know. Bringing Oden into the division could make the Lakers front office realize they'll need a low post presence and end up keeping Bynum because of it. On the other hand it could make the team think that Oden will need a couple years to be brought up to speed before he becomes the dominant force that many believe he will and the front office could sacrifice the future for the present realizing their window is very small. Who knows what Lakers management is thinking, all I know is that sure it may have hurt the Lakers to get both of these great talents into the Pacific Division but at least it provides a greater sense of urgency knowing that everyone else in the division is getting better and if the Lakers even want to make the playoffs they will have to make some big time moves.


Tuesday, May 22, 2007

One opening left in 08

One of the two openings in the 2008 schedule has been filled as Michigan has announced they will play Toledo. The Rockets will be filling in the opening on October 11th, a week before traveling to Penn State. Knowing the philosophy of all athletic departments at major football schools we should know that the majority of these announcements will be announcing games against MAC opponents. Michigan believes that playing ND is enough for a non-conference schedule and will fill remaining holes with home games against teams that will play at Michigan for the payday. I have discussed previously my preference of mixing up the big non-conference game so it isn't Notre Dame every year, but it doesn't seem like many people agree with me. There is still one remaining opening in the 08 schedule on September 20th, the week after we travel to Notre Dame. Considering that 08 will most likely be the beginning of the Ryan Mallett era, I'm willing to bet that the opening on the 20th will also be another team from a non-BCS conference. I'm getting so excited just talking about football schedules, the season will be here faster than you think.


Friday, May 18, 2007

Add number 5 to the list

It's being reported around the internets that TE Brandon Moore has committed to Michigan this morning. This is a huge pickup for the Wolverines especially at a position of need at TE. After Carson Butler was dismissed from the team the depth chart looked extremely thin and that probably had to help with Moore who was considered an OSU lean early, and then when the Buckeyes didn't offer, looked like he was southern bound as he had a number of big time offers from southern schools including the big three in Florida as well as Georgia, LSU and Clemson. Moore was part of the Rivals Pre-Evaluation Top 100 and is listed as 6'6", 243 lbs and has been clocked at 4.65 in the 40. He is a great student sporting a 4.2 GPA as well so it seems like a great fit for us. Welcome to Michigan Brandon! This is definitely a great way to kick off the weekend.

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Thursday, May 17, 2007

Welcome to Michigan Kurt Wermers and Ben Cronin!

This time of year is usually the slow season for recruiting after spring practice and before summer camp, when another batch of players will earn offers, but news has spread today that OL Kurt Wermers from Indiana has committed to Michigan. He is listed as a 6'5", 260 lb OG and is now the 4th commitment, 3rd on the offensive line, for the 2008 class. OL is definitely a position of need and it is great to lock up another one in Kurt. As always MGoBlog is on top of it and already has a write up.

Also, on Wednesday Coach Beilein picked up his first basketball commitment as Ben Cronin a 7 footer from Syracuse, NY decided to join the Maize and Blue. He is from the 08 class and adds some much needed help to the front line. Cronin had been recruited by Beilein at West Virginia and continued to pursue him after he took the Michigan job. Syracuse came in late with an offer but Cronin wanted to play for Coach Beilein. Cronin is not highly ranked but considering most of the top ranked kids for 08 are already committed or deep in their recruitments it will be tough for Coach Beilein to get some big name help immediately. As the team picks up some W's the players will start warming up to Michigan again and Beilein will be able to recruit a higher caliber athlete than he was used to at West Virginia so the 08 class may disappoint many recruitniks. Just trying to keep a realistic level of expectations considering as soon as he was hired I was telling people I expected Michigan back in the tourney this season, which I still believe we can accomplish. At least its some positive news during what is usually the dead period of recruiting.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Props to Braylon Edwards

Just wanted to take a moment and give mad props to Braylon Edwards as ESPN.com is reporting that he is pledging $1 million for college scholarships for students in Cleveland. This is in addition to the $500,000 he donated to endow a football scholarship at Michigan. It's great to see athletes give back to the community, especially in this way, investing in education for children. As I am part of a scholarship foundation I know it is very difficult for many students to afford the cost of college and in some cases these types of scholarships are the only way for these students to get a college education. It's even better to see a former Michigan athlete such as Braylon represent the school in such a positive way. Great work Braylon, and hope next season is the year you really break out in the NFL.


Monday, May 14, 2007

Back to Dodger Stadium

On Saturday, for the first time this season I went back to Chavez Ravine for my first trip to Dodger Stadium of the 2007 campaign. The Dodgers took on the Reds so it was an opportunity to see one of my favorite players growing up Ken Griffey Jr. In addition, Brad Penny was pitching for the Dodgers so I knew we would have a great chance of winning. That's exactly what happened as Penny pitched a great game, retiring 17 consecutive batters as the Dodgers won 7-3. The seats I sat in were by far the best I've ever had at a Dodgers game so I took advantage of it by taking some pictures.

Pre Game 40's? Check

The Dodgers get ready for Griffey

Penny Delivers

Rafael Furcal up with the bases loaded

Russell Martin at the plate

Joe Beimel delivers to Griffey

The trademark Griffey swing, but this time only to the warning track

Andre Ethier catching the last out



Thursday, May 10, 2007

Since the Lakers were eliminated from the playoffs I have lost most of my interest of the NBA Playoffs. I'll still catch parts of games here and there but I don't clear out my schedule to watch Cleveland/New Jersey. But the Jazz-Warriors game was on at the gym and they showed Derek Fisher walking into the locker room after getting back from his family situation which had kept him from playing in Game 1. As a Lakers fan I always have great memories of Derek Fisher, hitting 3's, drawing charges and of course 0.4 seconds against San Antonio in the playoffs. No one knew what his family situation was, but figuring that it must be ok if he is playing in the game immediately coming in from the airport it was a good sight to see.

Then after the game he announced what it was, his daughter had to undergo surgery for a rare form of eye cancer called retinoblastoma. According to the link via truehoop, 87% of children with the disease die but thankfully Fishers' daughter got surgery just in time. It is amazing to think of athletes in these situations where they have off the court trouble and then end up making big plays as Fisher did for Utah last night. I will always consider D Fish a Laker and it is great to hear that the surgery went well and I wish Fisher and his family all the best.

Other news in the league surrounds another former Laker Shaquille O'Neal. Who has been the subject of possible trade rumors considering the Heat were swept out of the playoffs in the first round. Pat Riley has come out and stated that Shaq will not be traded. This is exactly what I was talking about when I defended Kobe to all the Kobe and Lakers haters when Shaq was dealt in the summer of 2003. Kobe did not run Shaq out of town, it was a business decision that the Lakers made and they were right. Big men decline drastically as they get older and the numbers prove it this year as Shaq averaged 17.3 points per game as he missed 42 games. Those numbers will only get worse as Shaq keeps aging and with the Heat on the hook for his salary at $20 million per year for the next 3 seasons it can easily be seen he is not worth that money. It was the right business decision made by Dr. Buss and the Lakers, now they just need to take those savings from not re-signing Shaq and putting it towards making the moves necessary to put a contender on the floor. A lot easier said than done but the Lakers will be making some moves this offseason or, I don't even want to think about that scenario.

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Wednesday, May 09, 2007

R.I.P. Diego Corrales

Wasn't able to update yesterday but there was a sad story in the boxing world as Diego Corrales died on Monday night in a motorcycle accident. Ironically it was on the two year anniversary of his battle with Jose Luis Castillo, a fight that goes down as the greatest I have ever witnessed. I remember watching the fight because I had heard from someone that it was supposed to be a good one and it did not disappoint. It was the most action packed fight I have ever seen, fights like that are what turn casual fans into real boxing fans. After being knocked down twice in the 10th round, Corrales came back to TKO Castillo as the ref had to step in because Castillo was against the ropes and could not defend himself. Corrales was a warrior, he would go toe to toe with you in the ring. He challenged a lot of good fighters and did not shy away from any fight. Fighters like him are rare nowadays because he would accept fights against other great boxers and he was not afraid to just exchange blows with you. Because of that he immediately became one of my favorite fighters.

Corrales promoter Gary Shaw said it best in the article:

"He always told me he had to please the fans, and I should never worry about him getting knocked out. He would say they would have to carry him out of the ring. That's the way he fought. That's what made him so exciting."

For those that haven't seen it here's the 10th round of Castillo-Corrales I which goes down as one of the greatest rounds of boxing ever in my book.


Thursday, May 03, 2007

College Football Saturday Night

ABC/ESPN announced part of the schedule for Primetime College Football on Saturday night. Probably due to the lack of big time non-conference games this season's schedule none of the game stand out as OMG MUST WATCH!!! like Texas-Ohio State was last year but still there are some quality games, and I'm sure more will be added as the ACC, Big XII and Big East portions of the schedule have not been released. There is one major complaint I have with the schedule and that is the lack of games on September 8th and October 13th as the network will air Nascar instead. I was born and raised in Southern California so I have no idea how or why Nascar is so big. It is stupid and boring. Let's watch a bunch of cars drive around in an oval 500 times and see who wins. I don't care what game you put on, it could be a I-AA game for all I care and it would be better than watching Nascar, but that's just my opinion.

What has me really excited about the schedule is that two games that I plan on attending this season are on the schedule. Those games being the September 1st game Tennessee at California and the October 6th Notre Dame at UCLA. Michigan has one game on the schedule so far which is the October 20th contest at Illinois. I've always been a fan of night games because I think playing under the lights just adds more excitement and buzz to the game as most of the time it is a big time game so it is intensified. Granted I never want to see Michigan-Ohio State as a night game, but I wouldn't mind one day to see some night games at the Big House. With constant pressure from TV for Michigan to host a night game it wouldn't shock me to see one in the next few years, but I also know that the administration will try to hold it off as long as they can.

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Get me some help damn it!

As expected the Lakers dropped Game 5 to Phoenix and are now eliminated from the playoffs. Kobe had a poor shooting night but Lamar Odom finally showed up and put in 33 to help the Lakers make a run, but as has been the case during this series, the Lakers made a run to make it interesting only to fade down the stretch. This game and playoff series has had me torn as I find it difficult for myself to root for the Lakers knowing that any win would just give the front office false hope that this team can compete as currently constructed. In a scenario that is very similar to Michigan football from 2003-2005 the Lakers thought they were good enough but this past season showed that they are not.

In 2003 and 2004 Michigan got to the Rose Bowl in back to back seasons but ended up losing both of them. Coming into 2006 a lot was expected of the team as the core of the previous two teams came back but combination of injuries and bad luck along with the bad coaching that all Michigan fans had been complaining about for the past few seasons brought the worst Michigan football season in 20+ years. So near the end of the 2005 season I was also torn because I knew only more losses would bring about the changes that would be necessary to make the national championship runs that all Michigan fans knew the team was capable of, but at the same time the fan in me wouldn't allow me to root against my team. Many times we must take one step backwards to take two steps forward and this is another one of those situations.

Last night's loss might have been the best thing possible for the future of this Lakers franchise. It was good to see TNT panned to Mitch Kupchak a couple of times near the end of the game so we knew he was watching in person how this team was not capable of making a championship run that the front office, coming into this season, believed it could make because it had the same core as last year's team that took Phoenix to 7 games. I'm still torn on the Andrew Bynum situation, I don't think we should trade him because his ceiling is so high but at the same time I am coming around on it because Phil and Kobe are here to win now, Phil is only under contract for a few more seasons and this Kobe that we see is only here for a few more years. I still believe not trading Bynum for Kidd was the correct move but if Indiana is willing to listen for Jermaine O'Neal I may change my tune.

Regardless the front office has a lot of work to do this offseason. Marc Stein has a good article up on ESPN about it. For those that are interested RealGM.com has a trade checker which you can mess around with and come up with your own trades for the Lakers to make this offseason. For those that are curious, Lamar and Kwame will match up enough salary to bring in Jermaine O'Neal or Kevin Garnett and the deals still work if they throw in Bynum as well. Perhaps O'Neal can be had for cheaper this offseason as he just had knee surgery? That is my main concern with Jermaine as he has had a problem staying healthy. Perhaps the Ron Artest talks will re-open but will the Maloofs sign off on trading to a division rival? There was a deal in place for Bibby but the Maloofs rejected it because of that so it will be difficult to deal with them. Finally the Kevin Garnett dream scenario everyone has been dreaming about, the problem is Kevin McHale is the GM in Minnesota, as a Celtic he hates the Lakers and I doubt he will ever deal with the Lakers to help them out, especially for the cornerstone of their franchise like Kevin Garnett has been. Regardless of what players they try to pursue we now know that changes should be coming, Kupchak better do something to earn his salary this offseason or there will be a lot of unhappy fans and most importantly a very unhappy Kobe.