Monday, October 24, 2011

Lions Bad Boys of NFL

What the heck is going on.  The Lions are showing too much emotion?  Bobby Layne must be standing up and applauding in the afterlife.  This is not your Matt Millen Lions and this is not your Barry Sanders Lions.  This is a new one for Lions fans.  This is something out of the New York Jet playbook.  Controversial coach, some controversial players, and a few really classy ones (see Calvin Johnson, Matt Stafford, and Jason Hanson).  The Lions are following their coach's emotional example.  Whether it is NdamukongSuh and Cliff Avril kicking/insulting Matt Ryan while he is writhing in pain or Coach Schwartz chasing Jim Harbaugh trying to make a point-whatever it was. 

The best word to describe it is pretty much what kind of ride we are on-a roller coaster.  I mean the first 5 games were back and forth, heart stopping victories.  The next 2 games (both losses) were the same, gut wrenching, heart stopping, but still losses.  I will say this, the Lions definitely know how to deflect attention from their losses. It is pretty clear that the Lions can't really run the ball and offensively rely on the big play or home run too much.  Just check their 3rd and 4th down efficiency.  Defensively, if the line doesn't get to the QB or stop the run, well, it is an adventure.  Yet, no one is talking about that.  All we can talk about is how dirty Suh is or how unstable Schwartz is. 

Being a life long Lions fan, I love the fact that we are relevant and that these two losses, while to pretty good teams actually make the Lions themselves mad that they lost.  Listening to Suh, Stafford, and Schwartz talk after the games makes me think, gulp, of the Detroit Pistons of the 80's.  Love them or hate them, they were winners.  Dirty or not, they were relevant.  Laimbeer, Mahorn, and the guys up front did the dirty work (like the Lions defense) and the backcourt got the points and the glory (like the offensive skill players and quarterback).  No matter what, these Lions are not going to go back to their old ways.  They just can't.  They have come too far from the scourge of 0-16. 

The playoffs have to the be the goal.  Think Rams and the Greatest Show on Turf.  They turned it around real quick and became relevant for 5-6 years going to 2 Super Bowls and winning one.  The next game is Denver and I think that Suh and the boys have a statement to make playing Tebow.  Now, I am not saying hurt the lad...just hit him hard.  Win by more than a dozen.  Let's put these two losses behind us and move into better playoff position.  Other than the Packers, Saints, and 49ers, making the wild card is in the Lions power and in their own grasp. 

Now, emotions are great and I say keep it up, but don't blow any your best Mike Singletary or Mean Joe Greene and make it count on the field.  Do I think Suh is dirty?  Not really, but I am a homer and the perception is that he is a dirty player.  That is a tough one to beat-just ask James Harrison or Rodney Harrison (who said Suh was a dirty player-how's that for an oxymoron).  The entire defense needs to decide that being emotional is not the only part of them.  They need to show the NFL that they are emotional but also hard hitting, aggressive and willing to do what it takes to win.  The Lions have gone too far with the over emotional stuff to change their tune now to become cerebral and heady players.

Remember, you give a guy a fish for one meal and teach the another a guy to fish for many meals.  The Lions need to focus on sustainability.  Suh, Stafford, Johnson, Pettigrew and the entire team need to decide are they in this for the long run.  If so, let's get back on track.  Play daring, be emotional, but remember the goal is always, always to win games and you can't let your emotions get in your way.

Go Lions and thank you for making a long time fan very happy!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Open Letter to Dads

To all you open letter to encourage each of you to focus on what is important in your relationship with your kid.  Notice I didn't say your relationship with your student athlete.  You see, your kid may be a student, an athlete, a student-athlete, an all star, a bench warmer, a reserve, a 5 star recruit, an academic genius, or even a combination of some of these.  Maybe your kid is the 5.0 student athlete who is a 5 star recruit being looked at by both the Ivy League and the SEC.  It doesn't matter.  First and foremost, your kid is exactly that-your kid.  They may be smart, athletic, musical, or anything else.  But that is what they do and what they have accomplished.  No matter what, the big thing is they are your kid.  And guess what, your first priority is being their father, not their quarterback or pitching coach, not their academic advisor or college counselor, or not their musc teacher.  Now, as a father, part of your duties might include coaching, tutoring, or teaching music.  But, c'mon, your first job is to love them as a father.

It doesn't matter if your kid is a 5.0 student with 3 honors courses.  It doesn't matter if they have 50 schools wanting to recruit them for a sport, or their SAT scores are off the chart.  If you are not there in their lives making a difference by loving them, guiding them, listening to them, and protecting them then you really have missed the point of being a father.

I can appreciate all the sacrifices fathers make for their children, especially if it is out of love.  But if love is lacking and it is not the motivation for you in your relationship with your kids, you are really missing out.  Now, I am not going to dole out a lot of advice on how to raise your kids.  How you raise your kids is a decision that you and your spouse have to make.  But, what you need is to begin by loving your kids, every day of their lives.  When kids know that they are loved and that love is unconditional it gives them a comfort level and strength that cannot be matched.

If your kids make a mistake and discipline or correction is warranted, you choose how to do that, but make love the key component.  Your kids need to know that you love them when you discipline them, when they drop the game winning throw, when they win the long jump, when they get a C or an A, or when they get in a car accident because they weren't paying attention.  No matter what the scenario, start with a hug and I love you and go from there.  I know there may some situations that very serious and have serious consequences for your kids, BUT you still need to let them know you love them no matter what.  Again, hug and say I love you and then begin sorting out the issues, working on challenges, or facing a life crisis.

Don't let your kids at any age feel they are alone.  Let them see your love in action.  Play a video game with them.  Let them show you how they use a notebook or their computer.  Listen to their music sometimes with them-trust me, your ears won't bleed (not much).  Talk to them about school, sports, sex, drugs, the sky, cars, peanut butter, or anything.  Just talk to them!

There is alot going on for kids today.  Alot of pressure to be number one in everything they do.  Part time jobs are hard to find.  Getting into college is harder and more expensive.  Temptations regarding drugs, sex, and other stuff are staring them right in the face.  Again, you choose how to raise them and deal with these things, but please love your children unconditionally.  It is the greatest gift you can give to them.  Trust me, you will make mistakes as a father, but kids are pretty forgiving and guess what, deep down inside under all that sarcasm and silence, they love you back. 

So, dads, get to it-love your kids-every day and in different ways!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Lions 3-0

All things in the world must be okay.  The stock market is volatile?  Gas is high?  Politics are partisan?

How can it be?  C'mon, the Detroit Lions are 3-0.  Did you hear me?  They are 3-0.  Let it soak it in.  Let it breathe like a fine wine.  Let it permeate the air like a good deodorizer.

Bottom line is it has been 30 years since something like this has happened.  If I hadn't just had heart surgery, I think, I would need heart surgery.  This is epic stuff.  This is like Ben Hur, Gladiator, Braveheart, Star Wars, and Indiana Jones combined.  Now...what lies ahead you may ask.

Stop, don't ask.  Don't question.  Just knock on wood, kiss your rabbit's foot, and pick a four leaf clover.  Whatever you have been doing for the past 3 Sundays, keep doing it.  If you get up wearing one sock on Sunday AM, keep doing it.  If you stay late Saturday watching infomercials, don't stop.  Whatever you are doing, do it again and again.  Just like the athletes that wear the same t-shirt or socks for good luck.

Glory be, though, these Lions are not about luck.  They are about "getting it" and "getting after it".  First their GM is, well, not Matt Millen.  But that does not make him special.  What makes him great is his ability to choose draft picks.  Suh last year and Fairley this year.  The D-line is set for awhile.  Calvin Johnson at WR and Matthew Stafford healthy.  This is monumental stuff for Detroit.  Couple this with the Tigers and ....

....sorry, I fainted and lost my breath for a few moments.  All I can say is thanks to the Lions and deep down, thanks to Coach Schwartz.  Watch him on the sidelines.  He is not Mr. Calm or Mr. Cool.  He is a football coach who wants to win, expects to win, and makes sure the team is ready.

Now, I still hold to a little bit of reality to say that the Lions won't be undefeated, but I can wish for a playoff spot and maybe, just maybe a playoff win.  Thank you Lions, one and all!  You have made some pretty tough times a little easier to handle.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Dangerous Parts of the Game

They say football and hockey are the most violent sports.  I have seen boxing matches and MMA fights that were pretty bloody and looked painful.  My son wrestled this year and never really knew how hard those mats were until I heard him hit it pretty hard.  Rugby is pretty tough too.  What if I told you the most dangerous sport League Baseball.  Especially if you are a Dodger fan.

It has gotten out of hand in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium.  The senseless beating of the Giant fan on opening day was a travesty.  I heard all the politicians and community leaders today talk about how this can't happen, we will get the suspects, and every other politically correct statement.  But why did it have to come to this?  A few years back, a brother of one of my co-workers was killed in the parking lot.  But the parking lot was dangerous even before that time.  I am not here to pinpoint the exact date when Dodger Stadium became a scary place.  I am here to say it is and has been for a long time.

First, we must avoid stereotyping different cultures and people who attend the games.  I don't what color the perpetrators are, what they wear, or anything like that.  Whoever did this are gutless and aren't any better than terrorists.  Anyone who would attack another human being because of their game attire; well, those attackers are sick and deserve to be punished to the full extent of the law.

But let's get back to the issue at hand.  The parking lot at Dodger Stadium.  Simply, it needs better lighting, better exit strategy, and a better environment.  Dodger Stadium really starts as you enter the parking lot, not when you enter the park.  So make the parking lot look better, decorate it up a little.  Put the security guards who stand on the field in the parking lots before and after the game.  As Tim Conway Jr said in his radio show today, how many times have you seen 2 guys raking the infield and one guy attacks the other with his rake until all the security guards come running.  Hey, have enough guards on the field, but let's think of the safety of your fans all over Dodger Stadium...

Hiring former Chief Bratton as a consultant is a shrewd move.  You know what would be smarter, McCourt should sell the Dodgers.  The perception is that he and Jamie are selfish, broke, clueless, and don't care.  Maybe that is only partially right, but they just don't seem genuine.  And that has caused alot of the blame for this violence to land at their feet for not investing in security at the park.  But what is the answer?

Simple, the McCourts need to sell the team and get out...Fast!!  Mr. McCourt talk to Bud Selig and the other owners (though they may not want to talk to you) and find out how fast you could get out.  The fans don't trust you and unfortunately, they don't like you and that's not just because of your messy divorce.  Sell, sell, sell.  Maybe Bud or someone can broker a deal where you and Jamie make a little money, so you can start over selling crafts at a local Farmers Market or become a motivational speaker on how to own a baseball team with no capital and no money down.

Frank...Jamie.  Jamie...Frank...go back to Boston.  We appreciate the playoff appearances and hiring Joe Torre, but you just seem not to get it.  Baseball is really a family or group outing.  Peanuts, hot dogs, programs, Take Me Out to the Ballgame,double plays, Derek Jeter, infield pop up rule, etc.  Not kick the Giant fan in the head.  Or not come forward to help solve the crime of who kicked the Giant fan in the head.  Not email LA Times and say that anyone wearing Giants gear deserves what they get.  You see what I am saying...the culture and atmosphere at Blue Heaven on Earth has changed.  It has changed because Dodger management has let it change.  They have turned a blind eye to the crimes and violence.  They love to tell you the 2011 crime is less than 2010 crime, but that doesn't bring a Giant fan out of a coma.  Where is the type of security needed to keep fans safe to enjoy the game.  Oh yeah, the extra cost of security is somewhere in a Divorce Court being split different ways for the final settlement.  You see, to  the McCourts, the Dodgers, their fans, and the brand name in general don't count. 


Friday, April 1, 2011

Lakers Using Tough Love

You ever hear the phrase "tough love"?  Right now, the Lakers are showing the NBA what "tough love" really see, the Lakers love being counted out, told they are too confident, that they don't have the same fire, and what they really, really love is being told they are soft.  What did Jason Terry call Matt Barnes this morning on ESPNRadio-the "Charminator" because he is soft like toilet paper.  The NBA needs to wake up.  Some of the Lakers are not and never have been soft.  These Lakers have never given up and keep playing hard whether good times or bad.  These Lakers are, in no particular order, Kobe Bryant, Derek Fisher, Matt Barnes, and Phil Jackson.

 No real need to explain Kobe's toughness, his inner strength, or competitive fire.  Sometimes, it looks like that fire will burn him up or that toughness will zap his energy, but it doesn't.  It is just time that all the bandwagon Kobe fans and Kobe naysayers admit one him or hate him, Kobe doesn't have too many equals today when it comes to competitors...especially in the NBA.  Maybe Duncan in his prime.  Or maybe Garnett or Pierce (nah, you have to have more than one championship really to know how tough winning is).  Kobe has always played tough and at times, had it tough.  He played thru all the junk that happened in Colorado.  He played thru the issues with Shaq and the constant barrage of gossip and insults in the media.  He played thru trade rumors, injuries, and shooting slumps.  Tonite, he banged the knee of Utah player and he stayed in to put the game away.  Kobe is tough...and only a few NBA legends are at or near his level.  Of course, MJ is right up there-probably a few notches higher.  Magic and Bird are right there as is Russell and West.  I would put Willis Reed, Havlicek, Frazier, Cowens, Wilt, Kareem, Duncan, and Hakeem right there. But they are below Kobe.

D-Fish is tough and I have explained it before.  He takes screens and give screens like a full back.  He hits shots with no time left.  Gets criticized for all of the Laker woes including getting killed by opponent point guards, not being quick to rotate or get back on defense, and inconsistent offensive execution.  You can't blame Fisher.  You should remember when his daughter suffered the eye cancer and how stoic he was.  He has given big licks and taken big hits.  And, he does not back down from anyone.  No matter how tall you are, look at Derek and tell me, he couldn't play fullback or safety in the NFL.  To measure his toughness, just ask the players that have been screened by him or charged into him committing an offensive foul.  Once those players get the little birdies to stop flying around their heads after running into D-Fish, they will try to tell you how tough he is, but it is hard to remember when you develop amnesia from that contact.

To observe how tough Barnes is, just watch last nite's melee and understand that is the reason Matt is here.  He will not allow anyone to push any teammates or cause any harm to the Lakers.  Some of you might say he is journeyman and not a real Laker.  I say, if he is getting paid by Dr. Buss and providing the supporting muscle, then he is a Laker.  Other teams may hate him but he wears the Laker colors and makes contributions not found on the stat sheet, so he is a Laker.  When it comes to mixing it up, no one is better.  John Ireland from the Mason and Ireland radio show in LA, said that Matt doesn't look to start a fight, but he looks to finish them.  

Phil is tough and provides the tough love.  This is not the easiest bunch of ballers to coach.  From Kobe's super competitive nature and complaining to Bynum's sulking to Artest's emotional pendulum to Lamar's new reality show to whatever else pops up, he does not get rattled.  However, he does know when to "zing" his players in the press, during the game, at practice, and pretty much anytime.  I don't hear Phil attending many of the players' birthday parties, graduation for kids, or going out for burgers and beers.  But he still cares and really what matters, he still wins more than other coaches.  The toughness Phil shows is when he criticizes the team, the league, or anyone else.  For one, he is usually right and Two, he always takes any responses or league warnings in stride.  He looks laid back, but he is tough as nails and cool as a cucumber during the finals.

Why the NBA needs to wake up is because the Lakers are making a historic run to a 3 peat.  They love being criticized, maligned, misunderstood, and insulted and they show the love by being tough on the other teams.  Just ask Michael Beasly of Minnesota, Coach Stott and Jason Terry of the Dallas Mavericks.  Also, just watch them.  Have you seen Kobe as engaged at any other time this year?  Jumping up and exhorting his teammates when on the bench.  Clapping and yelling after a Bynum or Brown dunk.  Double pumping his fist after someone else makes a big play.  He is focused in the right way.  He is holding himself responsible and mixing in tough love, encouragement, and leadership for his teammates.  Fisher is showing everyone but quietly remaining a human tackling dummy.  He doesn't go around picks, he rumbles nextto  them and hopes to side step the screen.  If not and he takes or gives a big hit-oh well.  Phil smirks from the sideline and calmly pokes Cuban, the league ownership of the Hornets, Jason Terry, the MVP candidates, and whoever else he needs to poke for his folly.  Barnes, well, as mentioned above, he is the muscle.  I know Artest is strong and Bynum is not backing down; however, Barnes takes his cue from other tough guys in Lakers past-Kurt Rambis, Michael Cooper, Rick Fox, and Happy Hairston.  He will never, ever back down unless on the bench.  He is here to provide the toughness and be a great teammate.  So where is this tough love?

In a nutshell, the Lakers love the fact people think they are tougher now than they have been in the past 5 years or since Shaq left.  If I were the rest of the NBA, I would start chewing some nails or gargling with paperclips in an effort to be as tough as the Lakers.

Monday, March 28, 2011

We Are So Short Sighted

Phil Jackson told us not to worry.  Kobe said that while disappointing we shouldn't overreact.  Derek said that the veterans know what to do.  While alot of us were running around yelling to trade Andrew Bynum for Melo and try to find a way to unload Ron Ron (Artest), we underestimated the fact that Phil, Kobe, and Derek know this team better than anyone and, oh yeah, they know how to win.

16 games after the All Star game, we are watching the injury and losing bug hit San Antonio and Boston.  Inconsistency hits Miami, Orlando, Dallas, OKC, and New York.  Atlanta, Portland and Dallas are playing a wee bit over their heads when they win and show their true colors when they lose.  And, just when you want to anoint Chicago as the heir apparent, they lose to Philadelphia on a bad shooting nite by Lou Williams.  What is this, the NCAA tourney?  Shades of Butler and VCU...are Atlanta and Portland going to make their conference finals?  I doubt it.  Still a few games to go and I don't hesitate when I say that the Lakers and Spurs should battle it out for supremacy in the West.  While in the East, Boston and somebody else will battle for their conference crown.  I say Chicago because they are somewhat consistent and play that suffocating defense that wins championships (see Detroit and Boston in this decade).  No matter how you slice it, it should Boston and LA again one more time.

Why did we doubt the Lakers?  Let's be honest, we are die hard LA fans-which goes against popular opinion-it actually means we live and die with this team.  Yet, we still  overhype their wins and winning streaks and become ultra depressed when they lose.  Why?  First, Kobe and Phil demand perfection in their own way and set the expectations and the bar high.  So when Pau Gasol just misses meeting those expectations or has one bad game, we jump to the conclusion that he is tired. If D-Fish has an off night, he is too old or too slow.  If Barnes doesn't hit a 3, it is his injury or his attitude-same can be said for Artest with one difference.  We sometimes think Ron Ron is complaining or doesn't like Kobe.  Really, I don't think Kobe is winning any teammate of the year contests.  What he is winning and wants to win again is a championship.  We think Shannon Brown is still immature if he doesn't constantly drive to the basket.  Steve Blake is a bust when he misses one three point shot.  Bynum doesn't look like he is running on one play and we immediately think he is lazy or hurt.

Looking at the Celtics, Spurs, and other teams facing losing streaks or inconsistency, all I can say is the Lakers may have been inconsistent and had some injuries, but at least they were smart enough to do it earlier in the year.  Now, as noted, Kobe demands perfection and often when it doesn't happen he tries to take over, which lately looks like a great strategy.  Note to Kobe, just don't do that too often as your friends Pau, Lamar, and Andrew all have scoring capabilities and your team is at their best when the "bigs" touch the ball on both ends of the court.  Again though, we or I cannot be shortsighted...we or I need to trust Kobe to lead us to 3 in a row.  Kobe leads by example and understands that he will make some mistakes but his successes outweigh his mistakes by a wide margin.

Phil, while demanding perfection and setting that expectation, doesn't just want it physically, he wants it mentally.  He emphasizes decision making-he wants the right choices being made AND in the last 16 games these decisions are looking terrific.  Bynum's positioning on the glass is text book.  Ron Ron seems to know when to shoot, when to drive, and thankfully when to pass.  Pau and D Fish seem to be getting stronger and becoming a bigger part of the offense.  Lamar has been the steadying influence on this team.  His calmness is only overshadowed by his decision making-when to bring the ball down court, when to post up, when to drive, when to shoot the three-pretty much all year, he has been making the right decisions.

For Phil, the pain has to be the bench, mainly Matt Barnes and Steve Blake.  They have been so inconsistent this year that they are consistently inconsistent.  Barnes due to injury and Blake due to the fact that in this offense there is no need for a dominating point guard.  Shannon Brown is having a steady year and there is hope he will continue to grow.  Luke Walton is a fan favorite who seems to be getting less and less quality time and it may be about time to move on.  Overall, I give the bench a C+ and Phil may grade it lower.  All we really need the bench to do is come in and pick the pace of the game.  Hustle, Hustle!

Why are we short sighted, well we want the view of what have you done for me lately and we overreact to every piece of bad news or loss that comes are way.  Playoffs are around the corner, so we can be short sighted because a series usually lasts only 7 shortsightedness is probably a good thing.  Anyway, here is Kobe and Phil as they work towards 3 in a row.  When we feel like we want to complain, let's just not say anything at all and go talk either one of them.  They are both honest.  One in a gritty, intense way and another in a humorous, transcendent way.  Either or, as long as Kobe and/or Phil around, we are good hands and should get our eyes check for shortsightedness.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

My Fav of all time

Everyone has favorites or fav's these days.  Here's my fav athlete of all time-

1.  Magic Johnson...greatest passer, greatest point guard, greatest winner of all time.  Yes I know other athletes won more championships and others have better talent.  But you have to look at his body of work. He won an NCAA championship game that set the table for the annual event we call March Madness.  Michigan State vs Indiana State is one of the top three NCAA finals of all time and not due to the excitement.  It set the table for Bird v Magic.  Lakers v Celtics and as I mentioned, March Madness.  The other 2 championship games would be NC State v Houston (Jimmy V running around looking for someone to hug) and West Texas (UTEP) v Kentucky with Coach Haskins team beating Coach Rupp's Wildcats with an all African American lineup.  Back to Magic-he became one of the faces of the NBA in its heyday.  He won with joy and lost with courage.  And whole body of work you say...he has handled HIV as well as could imagine and his post NBA resume' is right up there with his business prowess.  Now if he leads a charge for an NFL team to LA, then he will reach even higher than the stratosphere.  What I remember best about Magic was his jump hook against the Celtics that won the game.  The smile, the charm, the competitive desire, the courage, and the talent made him magic, but his big heart made him Ervin "Magic" Johnson.

I remember the jump hook the best but my favorite, determining Magic moment is when he announced he had HIV.  I was on my way home from a conference near LAX.  I actually pulled over and cried a little.  Not because the Lakers would possibly begin losing, but because a true sports hero was hurting.  He handled it with class and integrity or at least as much as he could.  Let's understand that while we don't know all the ins and outs of his lifestyle pre announcement, we do know that he did not always use protection.  Since that announcement, Magic has shown that a condition doesn't define a man, but how he responds to that condition defines him.  Again, the words that come to mind are integrity, class, and with Magic-joy-always joy.

When you think of him as a basketball player there was never anyone like him before or after him.  Nobody really has become Michael Jordan or possibly was like him, but when you think of MJ, you can compare Kobe, Elgin Baylor, and others.  With offensive centers like Kareem, you may think Hakeem.  With Wilt you think Shaq.  With Bill Russell, you think Tim Duncan.  LeBron falls into the Elgin Baylor category and besides neither of them won a championship.  Larry Bird may be close because there was not a forward that big who could shoot and pass like him.  You may think Manu, Gervin, Havlicek, Dolph Schayes, or Bob Pettit.  With Magic, you can't think traditional point guard because they are too short.  Big O, Oscar Robertson-I don't think so.  Magic was 6'9 and played point, rebounded like a forward and could guard anyone. Remember game 6 in his rookie year when he played center against the 76ers?  No one like him, ever...period.

When I watch a sporting event, I seem to always hearken back to Magic and compare whether or not the players in the games handle winning and losing like he did.  He won with joy, competed with hear, and lost with integrity.  Again, no one like him, ever...period.  Thanks Magic.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Butler Did It AND we have been CONN'd

Well, let's just say my 16 brackets have been blown up, torn up, and forgotten.  Let's just be glad my life did not depend on my bracketology skills.  Yet, that does not mean this has been a boring tourney...anything but.  Just look at Kemba Walker and the 9 post season games UConn has won in a row and tell this isn't fun.  Now, I am not and really have never been a huge UConn fan.  Rip Hamilton and Emeka Okafor were good players and steady pros while winning an NCAA championship.  But, nothing really gets me excited about Husky basketball until Kemba showed up.  He is the real deal.  He plays D, can pass the rock, and is the best offensive player in the nation.  Today, he showed it in the last minute of the game.  He played great denial defense and knocked the ball off of the Arizona player out of bounds.  He hit the step back jumper over the bigger defender and he made a great play on the defensive rebound against a much taller player.  If he continues to get help from Jeremy Lamb and the rest of the squad then they have as good as chance as anyone to win.  However, let's be honest about UConn or maybe we can't because UConn isn't really that honest.  Remember the past few years they have had players stealing things, phones, and Coach Calhoun had to fire some assistants for discretions on the part of the program.  So, I will be excited about Kemba but I won't be conned by UConn. 

Arizona played them well, but Derek Williams needed some help like he did on Thursday and it just wasn't there.  They played game of the year against Duke in the Sweet Sixteen, but it ended there.  The energy was there, but the Wildcats took some bad shots, couldn't hit their shots and could not put together a run in this game like they have during the season.  Will Derek make a great pro-probably.  Remember there are alot of good 6'8 players in the Association.  He will need to work on ball handling to separate himself from the rest of the guys like him.  He does have heart and that goes along way.  The rest of his team plays hard but are somewhat inconsistent.  This inconsistency hits them at strange times during games and often puts them in position to have to fight to the wire to win.  I will give them credit though for going much farther than anyone would have thought.

Now Butler...I can think of many teams that will try to hire Brad Stevens this year.  Or maybe next year.  Big Ten teams like Indiana and Iowa may be contacting him soon.  Possibly, he wants to set up the Gonzaga of the Mid West and be like Mark Few.  Well, he actually has gone farther then Mark Few.  A national championship game last year and Final Four this year.  Welcome to the big time.  How does he do it?  Well, he has an excellent system that is flexible enough to fit the offensive talents of his players into it.  But, remember he seems to always coach upperclassmen which guys like Coach Calipari and Coach Pitino don't often do because they get the upper echelon players that are once and done.  I mean Matt Howard and Shelvin Mack are special players and leaders but they play like the seniors they are.  Throw in an old fashion defensive intensity and you have a winning combination.  If he stays at Butler, I would like to see what his tourney record looks like in 5 years or 10 years.  No matter what, Butler shows what is right in sports and
Coach Stevens is an example of coaching integrity.  Even though my brackets have been blown up, I can thank the Bulldogs for making this tourney fun.  Here's hoping they get to the final and maybe, just maybe...can they win?

Butler played Florida, who seem to forget what was working during the game at the end of regulation and OT.  I know Vernon Macklin can't shoot free throws, but he can definitely dominate inside.  I understand that it is risky having him shoot at the end of a game, but honestly, it was better than launching a bunch of outside shots.  Coach Donovan had another good year.  He is truly a good coach, who also is a man of integrity.  Remember when he suspended some of his current stars a few years ago for lack of effort and other things?  He taught them a lesson.  They ran into a resilient, experienced team tonite and just made a few more mistakes at the end of the game than Butler (who actually made more mistakes than Florida during the game).  But when you are one 3 pointer away from a win in OT, you can bet that your season wasn't a disappointment.

Finally, I don't like to see any teams lose this time of year, especially if the games are close.  Someone has to lose...sometimes it is the team I am rooting for and some times it is the team I want to lose.  No matter what, this tourney has been better than predicted and the Final Four should be interesting now that we an 8 seed and 3 seed in it with potential of no 1, who would have thunk it.  I hope Jim Valvano is smiling down from Heaven.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Help...Please Read!!!

I know sports are important to many especially.  The NFL, NBA, and NCAA basketball/football are great escapes and just a joy to watch.  You can't beat an exciting fast break in basketball or great last minute drive in football.  An awesome dunk or perfect spiral are truly wonderful.  A big block shot or bone crushing hit are unbelievable.  However, some things are more important than peace, integrity, fighting diseases like cancer or AIDS, raising your children or taking care of your family.  So, let's put down the remote, turn down the ESPN talk radio, turn off the DVR, pause Youtube, and minimize the sports websites and talk about things that need to discussed....

Let's be honest, things in the world and in the USA right now are a little out of whack.  Gas prices are way too high.  Too many countries in too many wars or conflicts that don't make alot of sense.  People are losing homes and jobs at alarming rates.  Corruption at all levels of government.  Unnecessary arguing and disagreement on important issues by government officials, elected and unelected.

I don't want to pick any certain issue or topic and make some impassioned plea for support or a donation. 
What we need is perspective.  I have mentioned this before when discussing sports.  However, we need perspective at a global, national, state, county, city, and individual level.  I know not all parties will agree and every society has those folks that are too stubborn to listen to what others are saying so there is no compromise.  My hope is that there are enough folks with integrity and compassion to truly listen to other points of view and gain the right perspective to come to some difficult yet necessary decisions on the economy, world issues, joblessness, and other things.

We need some leader or group of leaders to step up and step out of the noisy arena of useless name calling and accusations to really work on key economic issues that affect the heart and soul of this nation.  That would be jobs, gas prices, keeping homes, and things that are important to all persons of all walks of life.  I mean these are important to the large business owner, the assembly worker, the teacher, the mini mart store owner, the actor, the bus driver and folks of all walks of life.  But who will step up?  Please, someone have the intestinal fortitude and leadership to confront the issue of lost jobs, high gasoline prices, and keeping homeowners in their homes.  Don't blame anyone.  Don't blame the refineries.  Don't blames a race or religion. Don't blame big business.  Don't blame Mom and Dad for making some bad financial decisions.  Just work on answers that involve compromise, consensus and success.  That means that everyone, and I mean everyone will feel some pain whether it be a political party, a business owner, a shareholder, a middle class worker, a union member or anyone else.  We will never get total agreement but let's agree to disagree and at least tackle these problems.

So of these issues, take on lowering, controlling or fixing the gas issue.  It is pretty easy to see that if gas keeps going up faster than the cost of living or any pay increase then people will have to cut back even more and that really hurts the economy.  I didn't go to the Wharton School of Business, work on Wall Street, or even have lunch with Mr. Buffet.  I am not really much of financial wiz on my own money, but I know that gas is something most of us need and use for business and personal reasons.  We need it to go to work and we need it to run to the store.  We use it to go on vacation or take our family to the doctor.  It is not going away any time soon.  Someone, a Senator, Congressman, State Leader or Governor, Cabinet Secretary, Business Leader or National Union/Organization Leader please lead the charge.  I could, but not many people know or care who I am.  Yet, someone with some clout and integrity could really make a difference leading a discussion with true benchmarks about our gas price problem.  Even a slight success as stabilizing prices would be beneficial.  Who can step up?  Who will step up?  Who will take a risk and understand that taking this kind of necessary step might mean you don't get reelected or your company removes you as CEO.  Someone has to be brave enough, right?

Think about the possibilities if we just address the gas issue with integrity, objective compromise, professionalism, and respectful consensus.  No name calling or accusations.  No back door deals or backbiting.  No giving in to lobbyists.  Just reasonable discussion with intentions to listen and put solutions on the table in a timely manner.  Wow, sounds so easy, but I know it is not.  That is why I say this first step would be a HUGE accomplishment and set the tone and prepare the way for future debate on problems we face.  Again, who is brave enough to do this?

I know not all issues may be able to be resolved like this.  Certain morale issues are very divisive and should probably be the issues we tackle after our gas prices, home foreclosures, jobs and the economy.  These would be marriage, right to life, immigration, etc.  However, everyone who has an opinion on these morale issues is touched and affected by problems with our economy.  Each of us has either experienced or know someone who lost their home.  Or know someone who has had to cut back on certain necessities to pay for gas.  Or someone who lost their job.  Maybe this has happened to your family or maybe you. 

Today, I say that all of us should look inward and gain our own perspective.  Is there anything we can do to help.  Of course, volunteer your time or donate goods or money for those less fortunate.  Call up your friends or family who are hurting.  Hug your kids.  Kiss your spouse.  Say I love you to your loved ones.  Show up to work on time and work hard for your wages.  If someone disagrees with you, don't get angry, show the ability to listen and use the power of peaceful persuasion.  If multitudes of us act in this manner then it may set an example for our leaders and leaders of the world that we are tired of the insults, petty disagreements, name calling, violence, stagnation, and everything else that bogs down government and progress.

So to all leaders, someone please step up and take the lead without any expectation other than doing what is right.  Here is to all of you out there who put others before yourself and love your families.  God bless you and God be with you and all of us.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NFL, NBA, NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball, then...?

What sport would logically follow the pattern above.  If it was an SAT or ACT question then maybe it would be MLB, MLS, or NHL.  Or possibly Golf, Tennis, or NASCAR.  Maybe Australian Style Rugby, Bowling, or Curling.  Possibly, Horse Racing, Cricket, or Water Polo.  No matter what all of the sports listed really don't interest me.  I will watch some of the Masters and the other majors...but really only when Tiger or Lefty are in contention.  I might catch an Angel or Tiger game occasionally.  My sons like to GO to hockey games but not watch them on TV.  I did watch a few World Cup games.  The Williams sisters are interesting because they are talented and have some personality.  I like to bowl.  Only seen a few horse races and unsure what the difference is between rugby, curling, or cricket.  I do know that curling involves some janitors scrubbing and sweeping ice while a big teapot slides down the ice.  I think this came from Canada.  Here is hoping that Hockey stays the official sport of our neighbors up north.

As you can see, we have 4 basic sport groups that are required to have a healthy sports diet.  They are football and basketball at both the college and sport levels.  First and foremost, the main sport is and will probably remain the NFL.  In the last 50 years, no matter what controversies there may have been in football, whether off field violence, some minor strikes in the 80's, NFC dominated Super Bowls in the mid 80's to mid 90's, untimely and early deaths of former players, violent hits on the field, and the list could go on-this sport runs deep into our collective souls.  I am unabashedly a Detroit Lions fan living in California.  I live and die by their performance.  Though lately, I do not measure their success (or my life and death) by the scoreboard because I would have attended 24 of my own funerals by now.  I think of success for the Lions in practical terms like "hey, Matt Stafford didn't get hurt today" or "we only had 2 turnovers."  In the NFL, everyone's team to them are like the Yankees or the Red Sox or the Celtics and the Lakers.  I mean I see the faithful fans of teams like the Bills hang tough in bad weather, bad drafts, and coaching changes-never wavering of their support.  In other sports that are not football, very few teams really have the support of the millions of NFL fans.  The proof is pretty much in the Super Bowl.  It has surpassed what Lamar Hunt and the owners of the 60's thought it would be.  To be honest, Vince Lombardi might be rolling over in his grave, but that first Sunday in February is running neck and neck with July 4th and Halloween as the biggest holiday next to Christmas.

NCAA football is a distant second.  On Sunday, most everyone stops to watch an NFL game and millions plan their weekends around the games on Sunday (plus Fantasy Teams throughout the week).  On Fall Saturdays, many alumni and boosters live and die with their alma maters and colleges, but I vote for USC all the time and never went there.  I have always voted for them from Pat Haden and Anthony Davis to Matt Leinert and Reggie Bush (I still think they were hosed by the NCAA penalties), but when USC loses I may shed a tear.  When the Lions lose, I mourn.  As you probably know, I spend alot of time mourning.  But after I get over my sadness, a new feeling of hope arises and I think that the Lions will be victorious the following Sunday.  So NCAA football is exciting and fun to watch, but as where the NFL really doesn't have any true weaknesses in their product other than it is not on all year round, NCAA football really doesn't understand how to crown a winner.  Does the Armadillo Bowl or Save the Otter Bowl have the same importance as the Frito Lay/Michelob/Chevrolet/Subway National Championship Bowl called the Rose/Fiesta/Orange/Sugar bowls?  Come on NCAA guys, get the playoff going.  You know America will watch on Saturday because, DUH it is football.  Try to mimic the NFL as much as you can because they usually get it...right now they are having a slight brain fart due to the lock out.

NBA and NCAA Basketball.  Both very entertaining at 2 specific times of the year.  From April to June, the NBA is relevant and we want it to be a stars league.  Let's be honest when looking at the potential championship matchup no one wants San Antonio or Dallas.  It is the Lakers and some day probably the Thunder.  And in the East, you can't go wrong with the Celtics, Bulls, Heat, or even the Magic given the superstars on each team.  The Celtics and Heat have more known stars but Derek Rose of the Bulls and Dwight Howard of the Magic are actually two of the better players around...just remember though when the NBA season starts most fans don't know it  because the juggernaut NFL is rolling fast and furious in October.  The NBA probably understands that until the 1st Sunday in February, they will be a way distant second banana to football. 

Now, I love NCAA basketball and March Madness.  Last second shots, great point guards, upsets of top seeds, bracketology BUT if you moved the tournament to some time during football season well then I would miss all the last second shots, great point guards, upsets of top seeds and bracketology because I would be watching NFL football and find that a collision between Clay Matthews and Calvin Johnson in the middle of a blowout in the 3rd quarter is still music to my ears.  Music at the level of the Beatles, Elvis, Sinatra, or the Stones.  NCAA basketball would be Buddy Holly, the Beach Boys, Tony Bennett, and the Peter, Paul and Mary.  Great musicians and singers but not the iconic brands like Paul, Ringo and the boys, Mr. Presley, ol Blue Eyes, and Mick and the band.  If the NFL and NCAA basketball played at the same time, have the college athletes play at halftime of NFL games.

So as you can see, in the world of sports, reigning supreme is the NFL and they will continue to do so unless there is some nasty damage done during the lockout.  The prince in this world is NCAA football because some of them become pros.  NBA basketball and NCAA basketball would be a duke or a high ranking official.  MLB would be some boring advisor to the king.  NHL would be the security force or bodyguards.  Golf would be the royal judiciary or scholars.  NASCAR would be the knights and Tennis would be the royal pillow fluffers or gardeners.

No one is going to catch the NFL in popularity unless it is some central religious figure OR in an alternate universe Charlie Sheen.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hey Knick Fans-You Got What You Wanted-lotsa offense and no D

Carmelo Anthony has no D as in defense and discipline.  When the times are good, send him the accolades.  When times are tough, let Amare and Chauncey stand tall and take the heat.  Not going to tell the Knick fans I told you so because I have never really weighed in much on this topic as I tend to be blinded by Laker purple, gold and home whites this time of year.  But had I weighed in...Hey Knicks I told you so!

First of all, let's get it out in the open, Melo is a great offensive talent.  He can shoot, drive, and when he wants, rebound.  However, he is an isolation player when you get into your set halfcourt offense.  When the team is on the break, only a few players finish better.  The problem is he is like some countries, he is an isolationist in a world that depends on sharing.  Coach D'Antoni's offense requires passing, movement, good screens and open looks.  It is a quick, bang bang offense that scores alot of points.  Carmelo likes to dribble or settle for a jump shot.  He really doesn't know what an assist looks like.  The Knicks otherwise fast offense can slow to a turtle pace with Mr. Anthony.  I am not saying that D'Antoni's offense is great but it is exciting.  However, I would rather a team win than always score alot of points-just ask Steve Nash and all the former Suns who saw many efforts to go to a Finals wasted because of the sole emphasis on uptempo offense and no defense.  So, not all the blame goes to Melo but he is the new guy who made a big deal of coming to the Big Apple...he supposed to have big shoulders.

With Amare, the Knicks have a blossoming leader who is putting the team first and doing whatever it takes for his team to succeed.  This is a far cry from the days when he would pout in Phoenix.  Amare understands the responsibility of being a big time star in the biggest city with grand expectations.  He continues to develop his leadership skills while playing some defense and embracing New York fans on nites when he is on his game and nites when he is not.  He is the new and developing leader.

With Mr. Big Shot, Chauncey Billups, the Knicks have an established leader with NBA final experience and international experience.  Yes, he is on the downside of his career but his leadership and veteran instinct are so important for this team.  He may not like it, but he has stepped out to shooting guard if he has to.  Chauncey will abstain to Melo and Amare, but he shouldn't.  He should exhort Amare and get on Carmelo.  With this season pretty much an expectation of out in the 1st round, the Knicks need to lean on Chauncey to lead them and help them grow.

With these two leaders, why is it important that Melo lead and show commitment?  No matter how you put it, he is the MAN.  When he is on, he is REALLY on-ask the world in the Olympics when he played or ask the Lakers in their playoff series.  He is downright scary.  All he needs is perspective and I have mentioned that before.  He needs to understand his role in the offense, defense, and on the team.  He should search this out.  One simple gesture to play better defense consistently will send the right signal to management, fans, his teammates, and to other teams who worry about the Knicks next year and beyond.  As far as offense is concerned, Carmelo should just man up and play within the system AND be like Kobe...recognize when the system is not working and THEN takeover the game.  As far as leadership is concerned, stay tight with Chauncey and develop your rapport with Amare.

Now, for the Knicks to truly succeed they need a few more pieces from a younger point guard to a defensive low post presence to some role players.  Young point guard may be hard to find unless they figure out how to get someone like they had in Raymond Felton (ask the Lakers if you need a top 3 point guard to win)...and if Oklahoma City can get Kendrick Perkins than can't the Knicks get someone like him.  Dallas got Tyson Chandler.  Just someone to block some shots and block out.  For role players, take a tip from Boston and LA-AND THIS IS WHERE MELO COMES IN-good role players want to play with stars that make the team better and have a chance to win a title.  So Melo, grow and grow-put team first, play D, and send out invitations to role players who can make a difference.  Did anyone ever think Kobe would play with Matt Barnes or Ron Artest?  No, but his ability to put differences above the team and win is legendary (how about winning a 3rd championship when not even talking to Shaq).

Finally, the Knicks need to dump their Coach.  Nice guy and fun offense, but keep that for teams like the Warriors or Suns who fill stands year after year but don't win in the playoffs.  This is New York, Pat Riley, Patrick Ewing, Walt Frazier, Red Holzman, Bill Bradley and Willis Reed.  Your heart and desire make you a star here.  Ask the fans about Amare...he has done everything right and the fans love him.  As far as the Coach, you need to have the team play a gritty defense where players trap and dive for loose balls.  Your offense is run and gun so why can't your defense?  Oh yeah, you think defense is rest time for your offense when the other team has the ball.  I am sorry Coach D'Antoni, but move on to Milwaukee or wherever Sacramento ends and run some more.  Those fans will love you.  New York fans want a winner and nothing less.  They want to be relevant.  That is why Coach Riley was loved when he was here because he made the Knicks matter.  So, who do they hire...that is tough because there are not too many great coaches these days.  Doc Rivers is good and will remain in Boston.  Could you get Phil Jackson?  If so, do it and do it as soon as the season is over.  If not, what about Jerry Sloan or Larry Brown?  I don't think so.  Both are too old.  Any college Coaches?  Any assistants?  Set your sights high, but look at X's, O's, and personality.  If the Coach can't handle the NY press and make the Knicks matter than move on to the next candidate and I did not mention Isaiah.  Sorry, but please ask him to bud out.  Start with Coach K, Billy Donovan, Bill Self and top college coaches (don't laugh) or ask the Lakers about Brian about...Patrick Ewing in Orlando?  Long shot, but a great long shot.  Be great if he won a championship as a coach because he sure put in a lot of effort as a player.

So, Melo, man up and become a team first leader who demands the ball at crunch time, plays D, and is the face of the team even when you don't want to be.  Amare, hang in there, you are fun to watch and a joy to New York.  Chauncey, let's hope the Knicks keep you as you are a class act who deserves the best.  Knick management-keep moving forward and get whatever pieces you need to continue to increase the win columns and start by getting rid of D'Antoni.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Good Sports...

Let's thank VCU Coach Shaka Smart and Marquette Coach Buzz Williams for showing what is good in sports.  Coach Smart has taken all they naysayers and critics and used what they said to motivate his team in a positive manner.  His kids have won 3 NCAA games in 5 days and deserve to be in the Sweet Sixteen.  They may not win another game, but they have truly given us another memorable NCAA moment, a Cinderella team that proves heart and determination can get you pretty far.  As Kenny Smith has been saying as an analyst in the CBS studio, heart will win but will also lose to heart and skill.  Well, VCU has taken down a few giants with heart (and skill), but mostly something else people forget-determination!  Going into the next 2 weekends, I don't think that VCU will go George Mason or Butler on us and make the Final Four or the Championship Game, but if they did, I would cheer and smile.  They are winners, but most of all they have integrity.

Buzz Williams showed the raw emotion that basketball should have at every game.  It may not have been Jim Valvano, but his outburst of joy, tears, and emotion with his players and ultimately, his wife and kids, cements him as one of the all time greats in March Madness.  Earlier after the brackets were announced, he said the only way to prove you were tournament worthy was to win your games.  That is so true...but now, he has shown what too many athletes and coaches don't-emotion is okay...winning is great in context.  Enjoying a win can be done without disrespecting the other team.  In fact, when shared with your family and team, it shows your perspective is clear and priorities are straight.  Good job, Buzz.

I really don't have any bad sports...some of the losing coaches showed some class, especially Lorenzo Romar at Washington and Jamie Dixon at Pitt.  Both could have complained about the refs or other end of the game issues, but each congratulated the victors and made no excuses.  Romar is an excellent recruiter who habitually has Washington in the top 25 and the tournament every year.  But this year, he showed true sportsmanship.  Roy Williams of UNC said he liked Romar and had such a hard time enjoying the victory because of his fondness of Coach Romar.  Recruiting is always important and winning is the ultimate goal, but thanks Coach Romar for giving us a dose of integrity to mix in.

Coach Dixon's team was a number one seed...possibly a title contender all year.  They did not have a huge individual talent, but their overall team talent won the tough regular season Big East.  Coach Dixon now has the bigger monkey on his back of getting to a Final Four.  He hasn't and obviously, won't this year.  Does this make him a bad coach?  No way...took Dean Smith and John Wooden awhile to get to the Final Four.  Coach Dixon may need to tweak a few things to get a team to a Final Four, but don't label him a failure.  He has a bright future and is an outstanding leader.  Remember how he stood tall with all the emotion surrounding his brave sister's death a few years back.  How about when he stopped at a car accident scene to assist.  Dixon understands balance.  Sure he is disappointed that he hasn't had better results in the tourney, but c'mon, in real life points, he is a true winner to his team, school, family, and fans.  Add his coaching success and you have the makings of an outstanding person.

Don't want to critique anyone today, not even the NFL.  Maybe they can read this or other testimonials about athletes with integrity and owners with ethics and get the lock out thing squared away.  Fortunately for us, when you add players like LT, Drew Brees, and other top notch individuals (notice I did not say athletes) and add them to the Rooney family, the Green Bay trust, and other great owners (as well as coaches like Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton and GM's like Bill Pollian) you know that the good guys always the NFL will be okay.

Good sports in the NBA?  Well, how about Derek Fisher?  I mean, this guy really goes all out every night, leads the union, and still has time to make public service commercials for his family.  Let's just say that everyone, in sports and not in sports, could benefit by reading a little about D-Fish and his outlook on life.

Thank you Coach Dixon, Coach Williams, Coach Smart, and Coach Romar showing that you can be a goo sport in victory or defeat.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Time Out...

This morning, I caught myself gazing, er staring at the TV again watching Kentucky and West Virginia waiting for UCLA and Florida.  My brackets are pretty much officially busted now that Louisville and some of the lower seeds were one and done.  So, I asked myself, why do I always watch without a horse in the race.  Well, it was clear that I love NCAA basketball...but I love my family more.  After a quick run to Costco and dinner, it was time for a movie with the family.  Watched "The Boxer" and saw why Christian Bale won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.  Enjoyed slowing down and just having a great time with my loved ones.  Thank you to them for being a great team!!  So, I enjoyed my time out today.

I got to thinking, what about other ways to use a time out?  Hey NFL, Time Out!!  Each side take a deep breath, hire an objective mediator, and think of the fans...

Hey Lakers, Time Out!!  If Bynum's knee is hurting and Kobe is not 100% then let them sit.  If either one is not close to 100% healthy, you can bet the OKC Thunder and other teams won't be playing soft.  Plus it will give the other guys a chance to catch up to the post All Star Game efforts of Andrew and Kobe.

Hey Heat, Time Out!!  Stop trying to figure out whose team this is.  It is about chemistry and when the big three play with chemistry it would be hard to beat them in a long series.  But, sometimes they can't even spell chemistry and the games fall apart.

Hey Celtics, Time Out!!  Get Jeff Green in the lineup more...he and Rondo are your future AND he is playing well.  He had some serious playoff experience last year and can play either Forward position.  The older yet wiser big Three for the Celtics need more rest.

Hey Dodgers and Angels, Time Out!!  Do you think we could hold off televising your games and broadcasting them on the radio until after the NBA season is over?  Wait, possibly hold off until August if the lock out is over because we will have alot of NFL talk to catch up on...or maybe wait until October?  If there is no lockout, use this logic-only broadcast games when I AM NOT listening to Sports Talk radio just like I wish trucks only drove when I was at home or in the office, not when I am driving.  I can dream right?

Hey Tennis, Time Out!!  Take a second and realize that you need major personalities to be a sport that counts.  The more Williams sisters, Rafael, and Federer types you have, the more likely someone in the US will tune in.  Just ask golf about Tiger's issues.  Anyone seen their ratings?

Finally, hey World, Time Out!!  Let's take time outs on issues like health care, budget reduction and jobs-find solutions that work and work together to get them done.  Yet, no Time Out for helping Japan or the citizens of Libya...they need help now, so start up the Hurry Up Offense.

To my family, thanks!!  Love you very much and here is to a smartly called Time Out no matter what the sport or activity...

Friday, March 18, 2011

NBA/NCAA In, NFL Out, MLB who cares

Okay, how many of you have enjoyed the first 1.9 days of the NCAA tourney?  March is as mad as ever, especially if you are Louisville, St. Johns, or Vanderbilt.  Well, honestly, I think St. Johns and Vandy lost to better teams and actually thought this would happen.  Louisville was a split decision...some of the mothership pundits had them going out in the 1st round and ESPN guys had them going deep into the tourney.  Let's just say my brackets are toast thanks to Coach Pitino, Preston Knowles' injury, and the gutsy kids from Morehead State.  Oh by the way, don't think for a minute UCLA was scared last nite with Michigan State's big comeback.  It was one of those games for the Bruins that was who cares...they had a bounce back season with a young team with no real leadership.  Well, round 2 comes with expectations and how many times can one program lose to another?  Well, at least they're playing Florida in the 2nd round and not the championship or final four like they in 06 and 07.  Finally, on the tourney, all number one seeds looked good, but let's be honest, Ohio State still has the toughest bracket and the best overall team.  They should be crowned champion at the end.

The NBA is way may have most great teams they have had in years.  In the East, you have the Celtics, Bulls, Heat and Magic + a developing star laden team in the Knicks.  Throw in the Hawks for good measure and the East hasn't been this deep in years.  I mean each of these teams has 2-3 true superstars.  In the end it should be Miami and Boston battling out-well at least, one of them will be the ultimate East champion.  Miami has too many big time stars not to go deep in the playoffs.  Wade has won a championship, James really wants one to prove his place as an all time great and Bosh may be playing his best ball in awhile.  Now can Bibby, Chalmers, Miller, and company help them.  Too bad Udonis Haslem is not up to speed because he is just the Kendrick Perkins/Derek Fisher/Michael Cooper/Danny Ainge type of player that defines champions.  For the Celtics, Kendrick was their soul, but Krstic adds some offense and a big body while Jeff Green's talents cannot be overstated.  He is going to replace Garnett, Pierce, or Allen in a year or two as the next part of the big three and actually, he and Rondo are the future with Big Baby.  I say the Celtics.

In the West, you still have to get through the Lakers and I just don't see anyone else unless Kobe's ankle gets worse, Bynum regresses/gets hurt, or somehow someone tells Dallas they really have championship caliber talent and can win a title.  Really though, Dallas does still lack some toughness outside of Jason Terry and maybe Shaun Marion.  Their only hope is Dirk gets hot and Kobe does not.  San Antonio...c'mon, Duncan is a sure Hall of Famer who doesn't need another championship to prove his worth and his age shows.  Manu and Parker can't carry this team.  So, who is going to carry them, Richard Jefferson?  George Hill?  Tiogu Splitter?  They just don't have the athletic bigs to beat the Lakers.  Now the Thunder-well they scare everybody.  Jeff Green's absence may hurt them this year, but watch out for years to come.  Kendrick is just the tough as nails presence they need.  Still, the Lakers match up well with them because of the different looks defensively they give to Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.  Durant is covered by Artest, Barnes and sometimes Odom.  That may not keep him from getting 30, but he will have to work hard for the points and his field goal percentage will be low.  If he does overcome the defensive pressure and wills any series with the Lakers to 7 games, then I guess he showed he was ready a year earlier than expected.  Westbrook will have to carry them and while he is good shape and can be in alot of places.  He is not good enough to will the Thunder over the Lakers.  He will be muscled by Kobe and Derek (though not as much because of D-Fish's age) and hounded by Blake and Brown.  In the West, Lakers come out alive and beat the Celtics.

The NFL is out for alot of reasons, but I am so glad for basketball right now because instead of talking about the draft and who will get Cameron Newton, we talk about the union and who will get the best deal.  Newton, whether you love him or not, is a polarizing figure who could be a top rank quarterback or a Mr. Universe version of Vince Young.  No matter what, he should be dominating football talk and not a lock out.  The fact that Peyton is 35 should be make us want to debate if he is getting old.  I would even like to talk about Tom Brady's hair, Terrell Owens' mouth, or even the Lions.  But no, AJ Feeley (who?-not Jay Feeley the kicker, but AJ the quarterback-remember he backed up Donovan McNabb for a few moments in Philly) tells how close they are at the table.  But wait, Adrian Peterson and Rashard Mendenhall make slavery comparisons and Mike Vrabel says that the owners should meet with players one on one.  C'mon, where are hugs and hats for the first round draft picks? Where is Mel Kiper and his hair hat talking about what a great pick the left guard from Sonoma State will make for the Cardinals in the 5th round unless they trade him for the Austrian born long snapper that the Bears will draft from Southwest Idaho A and M?   Where are all the NFL retirees and ex-coaches talking about players they have never seen-telling us that heart and grit in the Tangerine Bowl outweighs the running back's 5.0 40 yard dash.  To the NFL-you're killing me and you're killing the sport.  Everyone says the owners have the fans support and the players soon will.  You know what, all of my friends and their friends support one thing-getting this stupid thing over with as soon as possible.

Sports Illustrated this week has an article about how great the Kansas City Royals' farm system and scouting department are.  Who cares?  Until they make the playoffs, no one will care if the Royals minor leaguers were ranked in the top 5 for the past 10 years.  That is like those ridiculous recruiting sites that say USC had a better recruiting class than Boise State.  I don't remember Auburn being in the top 5 or Texas Tech or Boise State, but guess what the recruits that became starters on their teams this year were better than Florida, LSU or other supposed top ranked colleges.  So, to the Royals, good job on selecting talent from high school, college, and internationally.  Start looking at the Red Sox, Yanks, and Phillies and pick out a few no names from their systems because why not trade the minor leaguers now because some way, somehow they will end up in bigger markets.

More Who Cares for Baseball tomorrow...but hooray for basketball...and big C'Mon for the NFL. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

What a Great Time to be a Detroit Lion Fan

Many of you may know, I am an unabashed, somewhat naive Detroit Lion fan.  What is that you say?  Detroit still plays football?  Of course it does-how else would most NFL teams get a guaranteed win.  You know the old saying, Detroit only has one good Sunday each season and yeah, it is the Bye week.  Also, I know that our most famous coach in the past 40 years is Wayne Fontes.  Yeah, yeah, our greatest quarterback was Greg Landry...but it is looking up.  Why you may ask?  Please ask...because usually when I mention that I am a Lions fan, all I hear is crickets or the people clearing their throat as the sounds of footsteps running away is heard.

I have two words that begin with S that make it a great time to be Lion fan-Stafford and Suh.  Add to that Mr. Calvin Johnson and another word that starts with S-Schwarz, as in Coach.  There is somewhat of a foundation being built and this one is at least on solid dirt and not rushing waters like Matt Millen used as the foundation.   C'mon you say, this can't be the only reason why it is a great time to be a Lion fan.  You're right.  What makes it so fun is that this is the time of year when the Lions are the most competitive with the other teams.  I know there are no games, but the Lions are competitive in other areas.  Have you seen the lobby of their headquarters?  Only 3 other teams have better chairs.  And the flowers are terrific.  The blooms on them are huge and only warm weather teams Miami and San Diego have bigger blooms and more blossoms.  Throw in Detroit's website and you have the makings of a topnotch team, until draft day.  BUT...and I say but...the two aforementioned S's (Stafford and Suh) are beginning to make Detroit's ability to compete last beyond draft day, preseason, and maybe, yes maybe even the regular season.

Stafford is the real deal when healthy.  He is the Lions version of Andrew Bynum of the Lakers.  When healthy he makes a difference; however, injuries leave us wondering how good it could be or even if he will ever be good.  He is tough all over except in an important area for football players-the shoulders.  It wouldn't be a problem if the O line would actually know their assignments.  They can block, but the problem is knowing the schemes and assignments and putting it into action.  I sure hope the Lions look at the smarts of O lineman during the draft and when they make trades.  Stafford's health is the the most important thing to the on field success of the Lions offense.  Protecting him is job one.  He has weapons to throw to, especially one who is top 3 among receivers-Calvin Johnson.  No reason if Stafford stays healthy that they can't hook up for over 100 catches and close to 15 scores.  But back to the Bynum comparison, Stafford doesn't have the overall talent of the Lakers like Bynum does when he is out.  Calvin Johnson ain't bad, but boy does the bottom begin to fall out after him.

Bottom line, Suh is a disruptive, energized defensive force-a once every few years player who can dominate games from different positions on the defensive line.  He can showboat, but when you can back it up, who cares?  Plus, a little attitude would be good for the doormats of the NFC North and pretty much the whole NFL.  The comparison to the Lakers ends with Stafford's injury.  The closest comparison for the Lions, really, is the Clippers.  And I say that without trying to insult the Clippers and their fans.  Well, maybe a little knock on Donald Sterling, but he usually deserves it.

Why am I being so sarcastic and smug about my team-and yes they are my team.  I buy the NFL package just to watch my Lions.  The reason is first, I need to have a sense of humor and skepticism because other than Barry Sanders and maybe Bobby Ross, I haven't had much reason to be confident about their chances.  I mean the Saints won a Super Bowl before the Lions.  God help us that Cardinals do it before the Lions...wait, at least they went to a Super Bowl.

The second reason is that just as I get excited about a draft, an off season, preseason, and ultimately a season, here comes the lockout.  I should be encouraged because I know as long as there is a lockout, the Lions are fairly even with all other NFL teams.  They aren't losing any games or signing free agnets who will bust.  But then again, neither is anyone else.  Yet, last year did give us Lion fans some hope.  Hope that a 8-8 season or better could be around the corner.  A Calvin Johnson TD, or Suh sack, or Stafford scramble away from a, dare I say it, gulp, playoff birth.  But wait...a lockout.  What are Lion fans supposed to do?  Oh yeah, pretty much what we always do, sit around and complain then hope that things will get better.  Maybe, we will draft an offensive lineman who really can protect your biggest investment.  I mean our last few drafts have been somewhat encouraging.  What am I thinking?  Boomer, get a hold of yourself...these are the Lions.  So here is my dream season (nothing too big):

The Lions keep most of their starters healthy.  They start the year 4-4 and give us some hope.  They finally destroy someone on Thanksgiving and they go into the last game needing a win for a playoff birth.  Stafford hits Johnson for the game winning TD and the Lions actually are the last wild card team in the playoffs.  They lose the next week, 77-0 but who cares, we made the playoffs.

Bottom line, the NFL needs to get their act together.  Don't tell me you care about the head injuries of the players and continue to treat them as second class citizens at the bargaining table.  In this case, I side with the players who are not Brady, Manning, or Brees.  The last guy on Punt Return or the guy that keeps getting signed every other week and is just waiting for one long run, a good tackle, or great block to get the coach's attention and really jump start his career.  Those are guys we care about.  They give it their all every Sunday hoping something great will happen.  They may break a bone, but no matter what, they try and try again until the game is over.  I know the NFL is a quarterback league (star quarterback), but I will take the guys like Suh, Julius Peppers or Jared Allen anyday.  So, please NFL owners, even thougth the Lions are even Steven with their opponents right now, please open your books, think of the fans and tear down this wall.  The fans deserve this, I deserve this and please, the Lions need this.  Here is to Stafford's shoulders, Johnson's hands, and the NFL's brains(s).  It scares me to think the fate of the NFL 2011 season may be in the hands of two Jerry's-Jones and Richardson.  (side note-doesn't Jerry Jones look like he is always in a state of surprise?).  (another side note-Jerry Richardson is out for one thing-money, money, money for himself).  Hey, at least Carolina has the top pick in a draft that doesn't have alot of superstars-though Patrick Peterson will be and Cam Newton wants to be.

There are 9 billion reasons to have a lock out and that is dollars, but there is 1 reason to get this settled and that is little Timmy Thomas in Wahoo, Iowa.  He has cried himself to sleep at nite when the Lions lose.  He has lost feeling in his thumbs by squeezing his hands so tight when they lose by double digits.  He has had to replace his TV 9 times because he throws shoes and drinks at the screen when the Lions fumble or let an opponent score.  Finally, he breaks out into a Lion blue rash every Thanksgiving because whether the Lions win or lose, it usually is meaningless.  Wait, that's not Timmy Thompson, that is me.  For now, I will keep voting for the Lions.  Tomorrow the carpets in the visitor locker rooms get cleaned at the stadium and from what I understand the Lions are paying lower cleaning fees than all but 2 go Lions!

Monday, March 14, 2011

When did Bracketology become overdone? Another step for Lakers?

Okay, the title may not fit my actions.  Last nite, I stayed up to the wee hours filling out 14 brackets.  I must have 7 different teams winning the championship.  However, no matter how I look at, Kansas and Ohio State look like the favorites.  Ohio State has what you need to win, good guard play (by 3-4 guys), good rebounding (as long as Sullinger is on the court), good decision making (check out the 53% shooting percentage) and great defense (they guard the perimeter as well as anyone and Sullinger is a defensive rebounding machine).  Kansas runs their half court offense as well as anyone and can score from just about anywhere.  They have great chemistry, can rebound, and play defense.  The problem may be their guard play is not quite the same level of a Ohio State, Duke, Kentucky, Louisville, or possibly Pitt.  Yet, the Morris twins make up for a lot.  Now that they have extended their shooting ranges, watch out for the Jayhawks.  Longshots might be Kentucky or Louisville.  Two number 4 seeds who probably deserve higher seeds.  If Louisville can hit their threes beyond Preston Knowles, they are a threat against anyone.  Kentucky, what can you say, they have some size, good athletes, good defense, and can hit the three.  If Calipari gets them moving more on offense and not settling for the three all the time, they could make some noise.  Finally, I am a West Coast guy and have to put in my 2 cents for a team to watch in the West-not SDSU or Gonzaga.  Not Arizona or Washington and not Utah State.  I say UCLA.  Inconsistent yes, but with Malcom Lee, Jerime Anderson, and Zeke Jones they have the potential in such a short window of games to cause some defensive damage.  Their big men, mainly Reeves Nelson, Tyler Honeycutt, and Josh Smith are strong on the boards.  Now, if Reeves can play with emotion but not get too out of control.  If Josh can stay out of foul trouble, they will do well-Sweet Sixteen?  Okay, let's say Ohio State.

Now, why is March Madness overdone?  C'mon, 68 games and teams playing on TRU TV?  We are now crying because St. Mary's or Colorado are out and happy that 14 game losing teams like Michigan State and USC are in?  We have a one hour show on ESPNU that has 6-7 ex-coaches and players talking about how Jimmer won't be able to beat Gonzaga in round 2.  The analysis by these guys was as if the games had already been played and we were talking about the results postgame.  I am all for someone making a buck, but how many analysts can you have?  I mean you can only tell me in so many ways why Ohio State might win or lose in the Sweet Sixteen.  I like what Marquette Buzz Williams has been saying about the whining of coaches this time of year-simply win the games you are supposed to and surprise, you will usually be in the tournament.  Also, the conference tournaments not called the ACC or Big East are way too hyped.  I know the fans agree.  You needed cardboard cut outs at Staples to watch a good game between Arizona and Washington on Saturday nite.  Why not make it simple-conference champs get in automatically and the conference tourney winners may get in if they win.  It gives the bubble teams a chance to earn some more mojo to get into the tournament.  To be honest UCSB does not excite me in any way in the tournament.

I am all over the map in my musings about the tournament.  Don't get me wrong...I love Gus Johnson calling a game.  In the last 2 minutes, no announcer is better.  Dan Patrick said they should advertise the games as UCLA vs Florida State starring Gus Johnson.  I love the games, almost better than the pros.   But I know my opinions are all over the map because the coverage and thinking behind the tournament is all over the map.  Too much analysis-first in, first out, ranking of number one seeds, top 50 wins, RPI, Digger, Coach Knight, Dickie V...stop the Madness I say or at least simplify it.  Don't over hype it too much...sometimes the best movies are ones that you go to without much expectation.  Not every NCAA tourney game is going into 2 OT's.  There are blowouts and there are games where both teams are cold.  Let's take a deep breath, watch them play in games, get some popcorn, soda, beer, or veggies and turn down the volume and enjoy.  Only turn it up when Gus Johnson is announcing.

Quickly, I still need to see Bynum do what he is doing the last few games between now and the championship clinching game this year and then I will be a huge believer, BUT the Lakers are just cementing why they should be the big favorites in any 7 game series.  You may beat them once or twice, but 3 or 4, I don't think so.  For the Purple and Gold, keep throwing the ball inside and everything else will fall into place.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

How the West Was Won

NCAA brackets are out.  NFL is in a Lock Out.  Tsunamis and Earthquakes.  Protests and union busting in Wisconsin.  Civil strife in Libya.  Gas prices higher than my first hourly wage.  What is going on?  Well, alot...but slow down a little.  I will have NCAA picks tomorrow.  All I can say it go to all the free sites like Yahoo, MSN, ESPN, et al and fill out brackets.  It takes some time, but after 14 entries, my head was clear and ready for this week.  Thank Heavens for March Madness!

As far as NFL...well, let me know what is going on when draft day comes.  If no progress by then, it will be a long summer and let's hope all the big market MLB teams are good.  If not, it will be a really really long summer.  So here is to Goodell, Jerry Jones, the NFLPA, the attorneys, and anyone else involved in negotiating.  I don't want to think about depending on the Angels, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, Mets, and any other team for ALL the summer sports news after July 1.  Let's hope the NFL does what it always does-make the right decision and keep it the number one American sport even in the off season.  By the way, doesn't it seem odd that Peyton, Drew, and Tom B are plaintiffs in lawsuit asking for money?  Don't these guys have more money than some owners?  Well then again, seeing Jerry Jones and other NFL owners whine about money issues is not just laughable and pathetic, but really insulting.

World and National News is usually something I stay away from, but I say yes to No Fly Zone, lower gas prices, God bless Japan, Libyan citizens and all the unfortunate in the world.  Wisconsin please show the nation how to compromise on key issues so our Nation's President and Congress can learn from you (both Republican and Democratic leaders)...that's if for regular news.

Now who is going to win the West in the NBA.  I put all the other stuff in today's comments, to fill space because the Lakers will win the west.  The Spurs are all chemistry but really don't have the primetime players like the Lakers and Kobe and the rest of the group will be ready.  Again, Dallas showed that they have a weakness-in this case, the key players are old.  If the Lakers can beat them with a hobbled Kobe scoring only 16 points then they aren't going to beat LA.  Poor Mark Cuban-maybe he should sell the Mavs, buy the Dodgers and try to get a minority share in the could only dream of Mark Cuban in Laker purple and gold at Staples every nite?  Hey New York thought they would get LeBron...

Again, the West is the Lakers to lose right now.  Bynum and Gasol seem to be getting longer.  The role players are pretty much, well, fitting into their roles.  Kobe is the wild card but he showed his value in game 7 of the Finals last year when the shot wasn't falling but he made sure to contribute in a variety of ways.  Bottom line is that even if the NFL lockout lasts, we can only hope and anticipate a LA-Boston finals going 7 games...the adrenaline rush after a game 7 victory by the Lakers would take us into August when the NFL would probably be seriously discussing ending the lockout.

Tomorrow...NCAA bracketology by someone who last won his bracket contest in 1991.   What, nothing on Lakers in this blog tomorrow-wait and see...

Have we been ful-Phil'd? What is next?

Phil wasn't impressed with Kobe's shooting practice after the Heat loss.  Today, before the Dallas game he told John Ireland that in retirement he wanted to introduce musicals on HDNet for Mark Cuban (Maverick owner and owner of HD Net plus in a running verbal combat with Phil).  These are two sides of Phil Jackson.  This guy is complex and has more sides than a Rubik's cube has combinations.  But that is what makes Phil unique.  He remains calm (or as some call it Zen like) while providing provocative responses to questions that often make him appear aloof, somewhat arrogant, and supremely self confident.  We wouldn't him any other way.  His main talent as a coach is his ability to lead, motivate, or guide egos and attitudes.  He knows when to poke Kobe and when to lift him up.  He seems to know when to criticize in public (see Ron Artest) and privately (see Kobe again).  No matter what he is one of the main players in our current soap opera version of the Lakers.  He is Clint Eastwood or the guy who directs the movie and stars in it.  His presence takes up as much room as any Laker, even Kobe.  The entertainment and interest level of the Lakers would be lower if Phil wasn't around and guess what, he won't be next year.

Phil's departure is part of the Lakers' transition and the reason they need to make some major changes after this year.  Despite Bynum's big game tonite against Dallas, I think the Lakers should continue to make a run at Superman Dwight Howard when he is available and Bynum would get the most interest for any trade to free up cap space and get role players.  So, while making the changes to get the right players, there is a need for the right chemistry and the coach plays a huge role.  You see, Phil doesn't always believe in chemistry. He believes in perspective.  If each player knows the system, understands his role, and plays his part, the Lakers cannot be stopped.  However, when one of them lose focus, Phil adjusts their perspective, getting them to understand what they need to do for the team to win.  Notice how Bynum whined a little about not getting the ball and then all of sudden began getting rebounds, playing defense, and not shooting much.  The Lakers won and he dominated.  See, Phil showed him perspective.  The same way he gave perspective to Ron Artest after his feelings were hurt when Phil criticized him publicly.  Hey, Phil never asked to be liked and I don't think he attends many current or former players  birthday parties, but he does win.

So why is team chemistry going to be important after Phil leaves?  It is because Phil is leaving.  No coach today with the possible exception of Coach K at Duke could come in and lead this bunch with the right swagger and not really being concerned about the players focus without a thought of chemistry.  So, do we hand the keys to Brian Shaw or look for a big name assistant?  BShaw would definitely be a good fit as the players know him and respect him, but that is as an assistant coach.  Can he coach the number one NBA franchise day in and day out with success?  Do we want to find out? 

I don't want to find out...too many years of Mike Dunleavy, Randy Pfund, Del Harris, and Rudy T makes me believe that Dr. Buss may feel the same way,  Let's keep the show moving forward.  If you make a run at Dwight Howard and get him.  You are going to need a respected coach that both Kobe and Dwight can accept.  It's not Jeff Van Gundy or any current coach.  If it is not Phil than what about Coach K? 

Coach K doesn't have anything more to prove in college.  He proved this summer that he can coach the pros (grant it he had good guys like Kevin Love, Kevin Durant, Lamar Odom, Russell Westbrook and Chauncey Billups).  But we know Kobe respects him and that is pretty much the battle.  Once Kobe supports the leader, the rest of the team follows.  That would be the same with Dwight Howard.  He wants to win a championship and be thought of as a great center like Wilt, Russell, Kareem, Duncan (or PF), Hakeem, and Shaq.  Be part of the Lakers and he should be on his way.

How do you entice Coach K?  Send Kobe to his house everyday for a month?  Coach K will quickly become annoyed at Kobe's arrogance, overconfidence, ultra competitive personality, and drive.  Pretty much it would be like becoming annoyed with himself because those traits while not so great when playing Uno with the family are terrific attributes for an NBA coach and player.

The only hangup might be the dollars.  That is something that no fan can help with except to plead with Dr. Buss to follow his usual great instincts and work on getting Dwight Howard and Coach K. 

So to recap the last few blogs written here...Kobe is better than LeBron and shouldn't be compared to MJ.  The Lakers should make a run at Dwight Howard when he becomes a free agent and consider moving Andrew Bynum to help with cap space/obtain role players.  Finally, Coach K should coach the Lakers.  Pretty easy, right?  Well, probably not, but we got Shaq when it seemed impossible.  We traded for Wilt when he seem untouchable.  Pau was a steal.  Kareem cost us decent talent that never really panned out after the trade (sorry Brian Winters).  The list goes on and on.  For the Lakers nothing is impossible, but with their rich history, instead of waiting to hire coaches who will fizzle out or not spend on certain free agents only to see LA bounced in the first round of the playoffs, let's move now and work to stay on top.  Boston did it for years and the Lakers have done it.  Let's run this thing a little like the Patriots or Steelers, make the cuts or changes just before it is too late.  Always stay a step ahead. 

Next up, who comes out of the West to the finals?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lakers Need to Look into Crystal Ball

Even with tonite's uninspiring loss, the Lakers still won 8 straight and didn't play well tonite, yet they were still in the game.  This season still has a long way to go.  The benefit for LA is that in the playoffs it is who wins the series, so having games like tonite can be erased with some key victories that clinch a series.  But, and this is important, do the Lakers have energy needed to go thru the entire playoff run.  Kobe, Lamar, Shannon, Blake, and Barnes should be okay.  But Artest seems preoccupied and at times, downright distracted.  Pau seems tired despite some great games of late.  Can Bynum stay healthy?  That is a question we have to raise every 2-3 weeks or at least until he proves he can stay healthy and contribute over a longer period of time.  Finally, what about D-Fish.  Still can be Mr. Clutch, but concerns about his age are creeping up fast.  The Lakers should be fine during this year's playoff run.  Ultimately, a trip to the finals and another victory parade outside Staples is a distinct possibility.  But what about the future?  Dr. Buss never sits on his hands.  When things start to look even a little bit stale, he has his executives make bold moves that usually pay off.  So looking into the short term crystal ball, seeing the Lakers and San Antonio in the Western Finals with Lakers winning is no stretch.  In the East, the Celtics will humble the Bulls.  In the finals, Lakers in 6.

So, what happens after the playoffs.  To get some perspective, you have to look at Lakers' history, especially their championship caliber teams.  Other than George Mikan, all the Lakers big men of note (Wilt, Kareem, Shaq, and Pau) were obtained via trade or free agency.  The wing players who made a difference on these teams often were drafted or picked up on draft day (Jerry, Elgin, Magic, and Kobe).  So, why not follow that recipe.  Every Laker championship team has had a dominating and talented big man with a wing player who sets himself apart.  Of the players listed, I know some of you might say that Pau is not dominating, but he does in his own way.  He has more low post moves than just about any big man in history.  But, I digress.  How could the Lakers effectively move forward in the next year or two without forsaking their winning tradition?

First and foremost, understand that they will not and should not get rid of Kobe.  The statue in front of Staples makes him a Laker for life.  As soon as this season is done, Dr. Buss should begin talking to Kobe about his role with Lakers when he retires.  Part ownership after he retires is definitely something to think about.  The same deal Magic received.  If Kobe knows that at the end of his playing days he will be part owner, think of the return of investment for LA.  Kobe will always work hard, but now he knows he even has responsibility to the fans after he retires and his input now and in the future will be invaluable.  Keep Kobe in the family and use him to lure players, work with them, and be a face for the franchise.  Just as Magic smiled and charmed his way to LA's heart, let's put Kobe's grit and determination on display.

So, if you keep Kobe, do the Lakers still follow the same recipe by acquiring or signing a game changing big man and drafting or trading for a young wing or guard?  First of all, can you say, Superman or Dwight Howard?  The Lakers got Wilt, Kareem, and Shap, all pretty much at the top or near the top of their games.  Why not Dwight Howard.  He brings intangibles that are necessary.  First and foremost, he dominates.  Grant it, he may not be Hakeem or Pau around the basket, but who cares, Shap never won style point competitions.  So, how do we get him.  Well, this will hurt, but to make room for the salary he would want, the Lakers need to move one of their current bigs.  Pau is getting older, but he has shown that he can play power forward and center.  So, that leaves Mr. Bynum.  I know many people discouraged any thoughts of trading him for Melo and they were right.  Melo is a talent but not the type of guard/wing player the Lakers needed.  They will need a leader to step in when Kobe leaves.  So, when you trade Bynum now, you need to focus on trading him for the dynamic wing player.  To recap, the next step after keeping Kobe is do whatever you can to obtain or sign Superman, but keep Pau so you have a top notch talent during any transition.

Who is the wing player?  First and foremost, you will need Kobe's blessing and everyone will need to compromise some.  The new guard/wing will need to understand that as long as Kobe can move effectively and is healthy, he is the leader of this team.  But Kobe will need to understand that ultimately, when he steps down, someone will need to take over and it is much easier to have a candidate ready than have a rudderless ship.  There are alot of young players who are talented, but none that really are avaible.  The key would be to package Andrew with some of the role players (take Ron Ron please) and send them to a somewhat decent team.  How about Philadelphia?  In some sort of combination of Andrew Bynum and others (doesn't matter who except Kobe and Pau) for Evan Turner and possibly Andre Igodala.  For the sake of this discussion, this is an example.  But, getting a talent like Evan Turner would be huge given his up side.  Working with Kobe and the veterans in LA would boost his confidence and speed his development.  Plus his personality is such that he would defer to Kobe when necessary, but still speak up when it is caller for.  Igodala is really only a suggestion-though a great one.  Put him on the floor with Pau, Dwignt, Kobe and Evan Turner and you would have a an awfully tall and talented team. 

For the record, I am not on any type of narcotic or alcohol at the current time.  Grant it, all of these things are conjecture and just prediction.  Don't sell Dr. Buss or Mitch Kupchak short.  They know what it takes to win and know how to get it done.  The recipe needs to stay the same.  Get a dominant big man and use Andrew and most any other players (except Pau or Kobe) to trade for a talented guard and some role players.  Try not to resign or invite Joe Smith Theo Ratleff, or Ron Artest when their contracts are up.  Free up some space that way.  Just remember Lakers, the guard/wing needs to have extraodianary upside.  Kobe, Jerry, and Magic had super talent.  Maybe they decide to draft some of the young players coming out, but that can be risky, especially since there are really no dominating players coming out of  this year's draft or next.

I urge, no I beg Mr. Buss begin to lay the seeds to get Dwight Howard here and crank up the scouting department because we need to find a slashing wing who has those intangibles that Kobe, Jerry, and Magic had.  Now by trading Andrew and other players, remember we are not breaking up the Beatles.  Remember a few years ago when the Lakers were getting hammered by Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups and the Pistons.  The veteran 5-Rick Fox, Derek Fisher, Shaq, Kobe, and Robert Horry asked Phil if they could start the deciding game.  They didn't, but they wanted to make one last stand.  Now is not that time for these Lakers.  Things move fast, so setting the ground work for Dwight Howard and making some tough decisions regarding players in the off season is imperative.  The Lakers are more than just Kobe or their championships.  They define LA and the LA sports scene.  LA is a star driven city, so with the Lakers biggest star getting older, the Lakers need to begin to fill the void that can be left when a star retires.  It will hurt, but it will keep the Lakers going and to remain competitive.

Next up, life after Phil-can LA survive?