Wednesday, June 30, 2010

What's Wrong With the Utah Jazz?

Jerry Sloan, one of the most prestigious coaches in the NBA has been with the Utah Jazz longer than any other coach has been with any other team in professional sports. He began coaching the Jazz in 1988 taking over for Frank Layden. Since that time, his team has had one losing record (2004-05) and missed the playoffs just three times (2003-04, 2004-05, 2005-06). He has coached a 2-Time MVP, the all-time assist and steals leader and several NBA All-Stars. In the 1996-97 and 1997-98 seasons his team made it the NBA Finals only to be ousted by Michael Jordan both years. Since the retirement of John Stockton and departure of Karl Malone they've struggled to get to where they once were. Atop their division, have annual all-stars and be a championship contender.

So what is wrong with the Jazz now? Since Utah drafted Deron Williams 3rd in the 2005 draft they've won their division twice but have never been a top 3 seed in the playoffs. A place they frequented while Stockton and Malone were in SLC. Williams was the highest selected player the Jazz have ever drafter or ever had on their team. It has been a question as to what the problem is with the Jazz. How can a coach be so successful and not have any championships (or coach of the year awards)? The difference, is the caliber of players. Not only the top role players but the supporting cast as well.

Below is a list of the roster the two seasons the Jazz went to the finals. Underneath that is their current roster. They are listed in how highly they were drafted and in parenthesis of the team that drafted them if not by the Jazz.

Finals Roster

1st round
#4 Chris Morris '98 (New Jersey)
#8 Antoine Carr '83 (Detroit)
#10 Adam Keefe '92 (Atlanta)
#13 Karl Malone '85
#16 John Stockton '84
#27 Jacque Vaughn '97 (only played on 97-98 finals team)
#28 Greg Ostertag '94

2nd round
#30 Howard Eisley '94 (Minnesota)
#35 Greg Foster '90 (Washington Bullets)
#45 Bryon Russell '93
#46 Jeff Hornacek '86 (Phoenix)
#54 Shandon Anderson '96

Stephen Howard


1st round
#3 Deron Williams '05
#9 Gordon Hayward '10
#23 Kosta Koufos '08
#24 Andrei Kirilenko '99

2nd round
#34 CJ Miles '05
*#34 Carlos Boozer '02 (Cleveland)
#38 Mehmet Okur '01 (Detroit)
*#38 Kyrylo Fesenko '07 (Philadelphia)
#47 Paul Millsap '06
*#51 Kyle Korver '03 (New Jersey)
#55 Jeremy Evans '10

Sundiata Gaines
Ronnie Price
*Wesley Matthews
Othyus Jeffers

*Currently a Free Agent

Sloan has been given alot of credit for "having success with a bunch of second rounders on his team". He is back to having a winning record every year. Yet, that is still the difference between where they are now and where they want to be to win a championship (and keep Deron Williams). Of that entire list, one player, Mehmet Okur has a championship ring. He was buried on the bench of the 2004 NBA Champions Detroit Pistons. Jacque Vaughn was a part of the 2006-07 San Antonio Spurs Championship team after he left Utah.

From the above information I can see a few differences. The current squad's first round draft choices are often busts, or they're not involved enough in trades or the free agent market. The finals teams had five top 20 draft picks. The current team has four total first round draft picks. It is possible for players drafted low to succeed. Mehmet Okur and Carlos Boozer are All-Stars. Jeff Hornacek and Kyle Korver are two of the best perimeter shooters ever. Both have won a pair of three-point shootout contests. But surrounding your best players with top talent is highly important in having the success you want. And, usually players with that top talent are drafted high. That's a no brainer for us all to understand. Just don't tell the current Jazz front office that. Hopefully as the free agency market starts tonight at midnight eastern, Utah will be active in improving their team.

There's my take on what's wrong with the Utah Jazz. I can see the logic. Can you?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Officiating: Biggest Problem in Sports?

Regardless of their differences, skills and abilities they require, there is one thing all sports have in common. They are all watched over by officials. Anyone can agree, that is the most important job in any game. Making sure it's played correctly.

I have played sports, I've watched sports nearly my entire life and I have also officiated them. Experiencing all sides of a game is something I recommend to everyone. Having that experience makes you appreciate both the referees and players disputations in a discussion of a call that was made or not made. But today I'd like to address somewhat of a "problem" in the professional world of sports regarding this issue.

First, I'd like to start in the NBA. July 20th 2007, it was reported that NBA official Tim Donaghy had been approached by the law because he had been caught betting on games that he had been officiating and calling them in his favor. Eventually Donaghy pleaded guilty and served 11 months in prison for it. I'm sure there are some spectators who are suspicious that he wasn't the only one involved in such activities. Just the only one who's been caught.

Just this past season, Los Angeles Lakers head coach Phil Jackson was fined $70,000 alone in the month of April for criticizing refs. Jackson said that Oklahoma City Forward Kevin Durant has been treated like a superstar by referees and he also stated that his own player Kobe Bryant got an unnecessary technical foul in a game against the San Antonio Spurs. Phil just won his 5th NBA Finals Championship with the Lakers and 11th of his coaching career. Is it odd that the man who has coached two of the best players in the NBA is criticizing it's referees? Is there a problem with those ref's? Why would the Champions complain about the officiating? NBA Commissioner David Stern had this to say about those criticims of the Referees on his payroll: "As you guys know, our referees go out there and knock themselves out and do the best job they can. But we've got coaches who will do whatever it takes to try to work them publicly. What that does is erode fan confidence.

"So our coaches should be quiet because this is a good business that makes them good livings and supports a lot of families, and if they don't like it they should go get a job someplace else."

Then he addressed the recent fines of coach Jackson: "If I had to do it again … the price wouldn't be a modest $35,000 fine. It would be whatever a day's pay is and then two day's pay and then a week's pay. And if someone wants to try me in the rest of this playoffs, make my day.

"The game is too important and I don't think that the people that are trashing it are respecting it, and we'll do what we have to do, players and coaches alike. They give the impression to our fans that our referees somehow have an agenda. Yeah, they have an agenda. It's to knock themselves out to give the best call that they can give and then to send their checks home to their mothers and give the rest to charity."

How intriguing would it be after those comments by the commish himself if there was another "Tim Donaghy" out there?

Moving on from the NBA to MLB. The rarest event that has ever happened in professional baseball is a pitchers perfect game. No walks. Nothing but 27 consecutive outs. That's only happened 20 times in Major League Baseball. Twice this season. Roy Halladay of the Philadelphia Phillies and Dallas Braden of the Oakland Athletics threw perfect games just within days of eachother. Not long after that Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Gallaraga was still on the mound in the bottom of the 9th inning against the Cleveland Indians. He was one out away from a perfect game. There was a hit groundball hit by Jason Donald. Standard play for any infielder. And it was a textbook play. Dug up and thrown to first. Just when the Tigers team started to celebrate Gallaraga's historic performance, First Base Umpire Jim Joyce waved his arms side to side calling the runner safe. The entire stadium was in an uproar. Gallaraga got the next batter out ending the game. Joyce was approached by media, said he watched that play over again and admitted he made the wrong decision.

“I just cost that kid a perfect game,” Joyce told reporters in Detroit. “I thought he beat the throw. I was convinced he beat the throw, until I saw the replay. It was the biggest call of my career.” Some have been saying Gallaraga's performance was the first ever 28 out perfect game.

The next day MLB said they weren't going to make any changes to that game. Even though, it was clear it should have been the 21st perfect game in the history of baseball. Like the NBA, the MLB defends it's officials. Some have been saying Gallaraga's performance was the first ever 28 out perfect game.

Watching that replay showed the true outcome of that play. That is something the NFL and NCAA (Football) has put in to their system of officiating. All coaches have a red flag in their pocket. If they see a play they thought was called incorrectly, they can throw that red flag and "Challenge" the play. The game will then be stopped and the head official of that game will go to a replay booth and see if there is enough video evidence for that play to be overturned. Now based on the time and how many timeouts a team has, that flag can be thrown. Also, there is an officiating crew in the press box who can stop the game to check out a play if they feel they should. This would not be considered a coaches challenge.

This is a great thing for football and all of sports. Referees are human. They can make mistakes and the NFL and NCAA have done a job well done in making sure that even though mistakes can be made, the truth can still prevail.

The most recent officiating event I wanted to touch on happened in the 2010 FIFA World Cup. A controversial call took a goal away from the United States late in their match against Slovenia. As a result, the American team had to settle for a 2-2 draw with Slovenia. The Americans trailed 2-0 in that match and that call gave them a T in the standings instead of a W. The following Friday there was a report that referee Koman Coulibaly who made that call would not be used by FIFA for any more matches in the World Cup. The next Monday, that was confirmed.

I would like to give the NFL, and FIFA a big thumbs up as they have recieved my respect for the way they have handled the problems with officiating. I hope that someday the games of basketball and baseball can adopt the NFL's replay system. And I hope we as sports fans don't have any more Tim Donaghy's officiating the games we so love to watch. It's about everyone competing with no edge whatsoever other than their own athleticism. No one ever said all is fair in love, war and sports!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

2010 NBA Mock Draft

The 2010 NBA Draft is one day away and it is not too late for my mock draft. Here we go

1. Washington Wizards - John Wall, 6'4 PG Kentucky

The Wizards had a dissapointing season mostly because of All-Star Point Guard Gilbert Arenas and his "Gun Scandal" (which took a huge blow on my fantasy team). That led to a midseason trade and now DC is in rebuilding mode. The question remains if Arenas is on the trading block or not. Regardless, John Wall is the man at number one. I didn't get a chance to see him play that much. But what I did see was a lot of NBA potential. He does have room to grow, but being a tandem with Agent Zero might just be perfect for him and I can't wait to see them in the starting lineup together.

2. Philadelphia 76ers - Evan Turner, 6'7 SG, Ohio State

Turner was one of the most athletic players in the NCAA tournament this past season. He is very fun to watch. Philly just traded away Samuel Dalembert to Sacto, so some may think Derrick Favors will be their man at number two, but i like Evan Turner here. Andre Iguodala is supposedly on the trading block and Turner would be a perfect replacement. Or perhaps they could be a tandem at the starting wing positions? Unless Iverson returns again.

3. New Jersey Nets - Derrick Favors 6'10 Georgia Tech

The Nets had the worst record all season and were supposed to win the John Wall lottery. However, taking Favors at number three is no disappointment. Could this be the next twin towers with Favors and Brook Lopez? The Nets have a lot of work to do, but Derrick Favors is their man at number three.

4. Minnesota Timberwolves - Wesley Johnson 6'8 SF, Syracuse

The T-Wolves have a lot of potential. Solid big man in Kevin Love. Outstanding upcoming sophomore to the NBA Johnny Flynn (who is so much fun to watch on the hardwood). Wesley Johnson is perfect for them right now. They lack the wing positions and pairing two Syracuse guys seperated by one year could bring much chemistry.

5. Sacramento Kings - Demarcus Cousins 6'11 C, Kentucky

The Kings got a steal in Tyreke Evans last year. Phenomenal 2009 Rookie of the Year season. However, the kings still find themselves in the lottery and need a big man. They just acquired Samuel Dalembert from the Sixers and Cousins seems likely here. Many question his maturity level and that could be a question mark for his career. But his talent level is too good to be overlooked by the Kings.

6. Golden State Warriors - Greg Monroe 6'11 PF, Georgetown

At this point in the draft it's really uncertain in the draft order. Monroe has impressed many in his team workouts and in result has slid his way up in a bunch of mock drafts. Golden State seems perfect for both Monroe and the Warriors. He will have instant impact and will be on a team with Monta Ellis and ROY runner up Stephen Curry. Look for Monroe to a huge part of their season.

7. Detroit Pistons - Ed Davis 6'10 PF, North Carolina

Detroit is in a serious rebuilding mode. Rip Hamilton and Tayshaun Prince have been on the trading block for awhile. Al-Farouq Aminu is also in serious consideration for Detroit. The only reason I have Davis over Aminu is because there is a question as to if Aminu plays the 3 or 4. Davis is a more solid Power Forward and It's likely one of the Rip and Tayshaun duo will stick around. So Ed Davis it is at number seven.

8. Los Angeles Clippers - Al-Farouq Aminu 6'9 SF, Wake Forest

Here the Clipps are again in the lottery as it seems they are every season. Blake Griffin might finally get to play this coming year. Baron Davis and Eric Gordon are a solid 1 and 2 duo. Slide Aminu to the 3 or 4 with Griffin in the lineup and this team should contend. To me, it seems they always have decent talent but always choke so don't be surprised to see them in the lottery next season as well.

9. Utah Jazz - Ekpe Udoh 6'10, Baylor

The Jazz are seriously hoping Greg Monroe slips to them with number nine. That not being very likely anymore, some think Utah will take a wing player with this pick. But the Jazz still have AK-47, CJ Miles (who just had the best year of his career and could continue to improve), and undrafted rookie phenom (and fan favorite) Wesley Matthews who I'm all but guaranteeing they'll resign. So, I do believe they'll still go with a big man which they desperately need right now since they're starting center Mehmet Okur is a 6'11 shooting guard, and Carlos Boozer could be on his way out of Utah. That leaves Paul Millsap as the only true starting bigman for the Jazz. Udoh is perfect for Utah and is exactly what they need. He's long and can block shots. Ekpe is a no brainer to me.

10. Indiana Pacers - Gordon Heyward 6'8 SF, Butler

Heyward was THE Cinderella story of march madness. Some think he may go to Utah at the 9th pick (apparently he has a solid fan base there). He made himself known in the Energy Solutions Arena with his fantastic performances on the way to Butler's final four appearance at home. Why not keep him at home? He'd be a great compliment to Danny Granger and would likely put some more butts in the seats being a hometwon (almost) hero.

11. New Orleans Hornets - Paul George 6'9 SF, Fresno State

New Orleans has a lot of problems. Darren Collison and Marcus Thornton look as if they are the future 1 and 2 of the franchise. CP3 is health but is open to being traded. David West and Okafor fill up the frontcourt so Paul George could be an instant impact player along side Collison and Thornton. Stoyakavic career looks to be over real soon. This could be the replacement they need.

12. Memphis Grizzlies - Xavier Henry 6'7 SG, Kansas

OJ Mayo the Grizzlies best player is likely to bolt in free agency this summer. Memphis acquired Ronnie Brewer from Utah at the trading block last season but i still look for them to take a wing with this pick (if it's not traded tomorrow). Henry is perfect at number twelve.

13. Toronto Raptors - Patrick Patterson 6'9 PF, Kentucky

The Raptors also face a scary off season with Chris Bosh one of the high coveted free agents on the market this summer. Toronto is still an option for him and regardless, I think Patterson could be their man. Bosh and Patterson would be a dominant front court. I've heard Patterson to be compared to a Mehmet Okur with a better post game. That is very attractive to a lot of teams. Versatile big men.

14. Houston Rockets - Cole Aldrich 6'10 C, Kansas

With Yao Ming's near future uncertain, Aldrich could be a good replacement at Center for the Rockets. Some like to compare him to Greg Ostertag. That being said he still will be in the top half of the draft.

15. Milwaukee Bucks - Luke Babbitt 6'9 SF, Nevada

Babbitt's size and sharpshooting have teams in the lottery looking at him. Utah really likes him and if they go with a big man I think he'll fall to either Memphis at twelve or Milwaukee right here at fifteen. With Jennings, Bogut and Babbit Milwaukee could make a better run in the Eastern Conference in the near future.

16. Minnesota Timberwolves - James Anderson 6'6 SG, Oklahoma State

Anderson fills another whole for the Wolves. Flynn, Anderson, Johnson (4th pick), Love, Jefferson. Yep, I think he'll fit right in. If Minnesota keeps this pick a two guard will be taken. But wait, there's more for Minnesota later.

17. Chicago Bulls - Avery Bradley 6'3 SG, Texas

This is one of the top projected landing places for Lebron James this summer. I don't think this pick with affect that so look for a two guard to be taken. The Bulls have much potential and Bradley I think would be a nice fit in their lineup.

18. Miami Heat - Eric Bledsoe 6'2 PG, Kentucky

Just about every mock draft has Miami taking Bledsoe. Chalmers hasn't impressed and Arroyo isn't really the man D Wade needs. Wade can play both the 1 and 2. That's not a question. Eric Bledsoe is the perfect man to take the 1 responsibilities off of Wade so he can be ... well Dwyane Wade.

19. Boston Celtics - Daniel Orton 6'10 C, Daniel Orton

Here we complete the ridiculous 2010 draft class of the Kentucky Wildcats. Sheed's future is uncertain and who knows how much longer KG has. Perkins is a solid biggy and Orton would work great right beside him.

20. San Antonio Spurs - Solomon Alabi 7'1 C, Florida State

The Spurs need a big man. Manu Ginobili tried to carry them through the playoffs this last season. Timmy just doesn't have what he did and there aren't enough pieces for this team right now. Tony Parker could even be on the trading block. Look for a big man here and in this scenario, Alabi would be that guy.

21. Oklahoma City Thunder - Craig Brackins 6'10 PF, Iowa State

I have grown highly fond of this team. Russell Westbrook did amazing things for my fantasy team last year. He was the reason I made the playoffs. With Russ, The Durantula and the rest of the supporting cast, all that lacks is a solid front court. Brackins could be that compliment for KD35.

22. Portland Trailblazers - Damion James 6'8 SF, Texas

Portland just always seems to have things go wrong for them. Greg Oden hasn't been able to do anything. They suffered with injuries througout the 2009 season and still made the playoffs. It seems they could always use more wing players. They're stacked with big guys.

23. Minnesota Timberwolves - Kevin Seraphin 6'10 PF, France

Here we are. The final pick of the first round for the Wolves. Why not grab a solid backup for Love and Jefferson. They got just about everything else from this mock draft. But once again, don't be surprised to see this pick traded.

24. Atlanta Hawks - Hassan Whiteside 7'0 C, Marshall

Whiteside is the most likely bust of this years draft (along with Cousins). Needs to work on growing up a bit. Extremely talented however and with number twenty four, this would be a great pick for the Hawks. Say Hassan grows up. His talent could ride him into being an All-Star. Wouldn't that be a steal for Atlanta?

25. Memphis Grizzlies - Quincy Pondexter 6'7 SF, Washington

Memphis with another wing guy right here. This is also a pick that could be traded as well but i think Pondexter could also be a good filler for the hole OJ Mayo would leave.

26. Oklahoma City Thunder - Larry Sanders 6'11 PF, VCU

Another big guy for OKC. Yep, that's all they need.

27. New Jersey Nets - Jordan Crawford 6'4 SG, Xavier

If i'm correct and the Nets come away with Favors and Crawford out of the first round, no one in New Jersey (or Brooklyn) could be anything but looking forward to the future. Crawford was exciting in the NCAA tourney as Xavier surprised some and busted some brackets. Devin Harris would finally have the complimentary players he's been looking for. Or would he be trade bait for a true PG?

28. Memphis Grizzlies - Devin Ebanks 6'8 SF, West Virginia

Yet another trade possibility. But I like Ebanks and if Memphis doesn't trade any of these picks, he's got a lot of potential for the Grizzlies and would compete well with Pondexter. Rudy Gay is definately a starting wing if OJ Mayo is gone. But Ronnie Brewer finds himself in another logjam with Xavier Henry, Quincy Pondexter and Devin Ebanks. Many possibilities for Memphis that could include trades.

29. Orlando Magic - Darington Hobson 6'7 SF, New Mexico

Hobson carried his Lobos team into the second round of the NCAA tourny last year. From not being ranked in the pre-season to a 3 seed, they made some noise. Hobson won the MWC player of the year when all season he wasn't even in running. Orlando misses Hedo Turkoglu and Hobson would be perfect for SVG's system.

30. Washinton Wizards - Terrico White 6'5 SG, Ole Miss

With Arenas and Wall, White could be the first guard off the bench or even a started if Agent Zero is traded.

There it is folks. Highly looking forward to the draft tomorrow. Wont be able to watch with a busy night ahead but that's what the ESPN app for my Blackberry is for.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Rivals United, Rivals Hated

Since last October there has been much talk of movement in the world of NCAA football. These last few weeks have followed up in response to that as there has been little movement, much anticipation and a lot of drama.

Everything started with the Big Ten conference expanding to twelve schools. They snagged powerhouse Nebraska from the Big XII. Shortly after, the Pac 10 invited the University of Colorado to be the eleventh member of their conference. The Buffaloes showed no hesitation to accept the invitation. That is where the majority of the drama begins.

The Pac 10's expansion plans were made very carefully. The primary plan was to create a 16 school powerconference. Now with Colorado in, their focus remained in the Big XII. Texas, Texas Tech, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State were heavily recruited to finish the gaps the Pac 10 was aiming for. That left basketball powerhouse Kansas nervous. A&M was also talked of bolting for the SEC conference. The fate of the Big XII conference lied directly in the hands of the Texas Longhorns. If they didn't head for the west coast, the others weren't wanted. Negotiations of new TV deals (Texas gets their own network) were a result of the Big XII remaining as a 10 team conference. No worries. There was a secondary plan. With eleven schools, expansion was irrelevant for the Pacific 10 conference. NCAA rules state that a conference must have at least twelve schools for a conference championship game to be played. That twelfth school was the University of Utah. Since 2003 the Utes have put their stamps on the college football rankings and discussions. They have won three conference chamionships in the Mountain West as well as two BCS bowls in seven years. Gladly, they accepted the invitation to join the Pac 10. However, the drama behind that was completely reversed from the Texas situation. Utah's rival BYU (at least their fans) have seemed to be jealous. This has made the rivalry between the two schools more fueled than ever. Unlike Texas and Oklahoma who have been very united in all of this realignment, the Utes have said good riddance to the Mountain West and their longtime bitter arch rival BYU. Boise State (who also has 2 BCS bowl victories since 2006) has taken Utah's place in the Mountain West. The Utes are said to have gained a much better recruiting base and will recieve ten times more money then they did in the MWC.

Will this be the end of the Holy War? Or is this a truckload of gasoline dumped onto the fire in Salt Lake City and Provo? Is the realignment finished? Will the Big XII live on? Word has it, conference expansion isn't over.