I received a few emails this week that were along the lines of, "glad to see you're blogging again--I'm curious what your thoughts on the Super Bowl will be." But there's one itsy bitsy problem: I'm in complete denial that a Super Bowl was ever played.
What was monumental about this past week, however, is the fact that my site counter is claiming that I've now had 2,000 hits on The Midseason Forum. Granted, I'm sure the counter is adding up each time I log on as well, but even so--that means that my seven readers have each logged on upwards of 250 times each. Words can not express my gratitude, my dear magnificent seven. When we hit 3,000 I'll auction off my Antone Williamson rookie card...But for now, in order to show my gratitude, I'll do what I do best...ramble...
My friend Brent is an absolute NBA fantatic. Seriously, if there was ever a guy that should appear in one of those "The NBA...It's fantastic" type commercials it would definitely be Brent. (For some reason I picture him dressed in a Michael Redd jersey, some 1980s style, too-tight shorts and a red Bucks headband. Not really sure why. But if you're going to be in my daydream of an NBA commercial, then you have to be prepared to dress appropriately.) He is also extremely savvy when it comes to the NBA salary cap and financial particulars. I've never met anyone who is as well versed on the whole luxury tax, mid-level exemption, balancing out of contracts gobbly-gook that is involved with NBA wheelings and dealings. For that reason, I respect the hell out of his opinion. And that's why I realize I'm treading dangerous ground when I disagree with him on anything NBA related. But I'm afraid I do disagree with him on the Shaq trade.
You see, just like almost every other NBA analyst I've heard on tv or read online (such as Yahoo's Adrian Wojnarowski's 2 articles below:
Brent too believes that the Shaq trade was a horrible move for the Suns. He believes that they not only failed miserably in getting any quality for Marion--especially when you consider that they could have had Garnett earlier this summer--but that they'll also be strapped down with Shaq's contract longer than they would have been stuck with Marion's. And of course, like so many others analysts who are cynical of this trade, I think it's safe to say that Brent believes Shaq retired two years ago.
(I can also say that Mo Williams of the Bucks also shares this opinion. This week I planned a school visit with Mo, and we decided to turn the tables on him and do our own version of the Mo Show. When he was asked, "Shaq of the Heat or Shaq of the Suns," Mo's response was, "Shaq with the Heat, 'cause I'm not sure how that whole thing in Phoenix is going to turn out." So even Mo would disagree with me on this and side with Brent...nonetheless...)
Now, I do understand the skeptiscism. I do. I don't believe, however, that the Wolves wanted Garnett in the Western Conference, which is why I believe THEY were the ones to back away from the Suns deal and accept a much weaker Celtics offer (not vice versa). The other thing is...I don't believe Shaq is totally washed up.
Now, please don't misunderstand me, I'm not foolish enough to believe that Shaq can bring it--Diesel-style--as he did four or five years ago. But there are reasons that I do like this trade--namely, because in the post-season you must be able to succeed in the half court. The Suns have been a perennial great regular season team, that falters in the post-season when refs tend to swallow their whistles and the game slows way, way down. Shaq can be the answer to that, to date, unsolved Suns' problem.
Again, I know Shaq can't play like he once did. And I know that he's been badly banged up. But answer me this--when Shaq is healthy even in his limited aging state, what players can defend him in the post one-on-one? As banged up as the Diesel is, you can count on your hand the number of players that could seriously disrupt him in the post. So let's say you're the Spurs and you're going to put Duncan on him. So who guards Amare? Oberto? Elson? Game on. I like my chances. And if the Spurs decide to put Duncan on Amare? Game on. I like my chances. You see, I don't believe that the Suns would ever get out of the Western conference with Marion at the 4. Not in these play-offs. No way. No how.
And I know--now comes the statement that I've heard thousands of times since the Shaq to Phoenix rumors started--everyone believes that Shaq will slow down the Suns offense. I can't remember ever hearing the phrase "square peg in a round hole" so many times in one week. But I really think it's over blown. Will Shaq slow down the offense? Sure, probably. But not nearly as much as San Antonio managed to slow down the Suns offense last post-season. And it's not like the Suns fast break consisted of five-on-four or five-on-three. No. Most fast breaks are three-on-two and two-on-one. And it requires somebody who can rebound (of which Shaq does quite well) and then pass (yep, Shaq does that very well for a big guy too) to an outlet. I guarantee that Sportscenter highlights are going to be filled with half court outlets from Shaq to Nash with Nash making the perfect decision on assisting a Barbosa, Hill or Bell dunk.
I think the big problem is that most of us in Milwaukee have been permanently scarred by the way that Anthony Mason slowed down the Bucks offense by pounding the ball into submission with 974 dribbles (while rubbing his ass end up against the defender as if his name was Macy and the defender just paid $25 for the lap dance of his life) and then settling for a low percentage fall away shot as the shot clock expires. These nightmares still haunt me too, so I understand this concern. But that's not Shaq. And for those who say he was already complaining about touches in Miami I say--of course he was. When you're losing by twenty points night in and night out and you feel like you could be a difference maker, you would complain about touches. But I don't believe that will be the case when the Suns are winning night in and night out. Winning cures a lot of ills. And I believe the Suns are built to win.
Now, I'm not proclaiming the Suns the Western Conference Champs. Shaq's health is certainly a big gamble that Ainge rolled the dice on (perhaps even more of a gamble is them banking on Grant Hill's health, now that Marion is no longer an option at the three). But I think it's a gamble worth taking. And I think the suns chances of rising in the West have infinitely improved...
Kudos to FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS for their recent storyline in which Smash lost his scholarship to TMU. I thought it was some pretty damn fine writing as we see how kids can get blackballed after getting stamped with the reputation of having "character issues." I know most people don't encourage high schoolers to punch kids in the face, but admit it--you'd do the same thing if someone was talking junk to your sister. The storyline is actually similiar to what Randy Moss went through in high school. According to Moss the kid that he kicked the snot out of (which subsequently cost him his scholarship to Notre Dame) had etched some racial slurs into his desk. Now the last person I plan to defend in my blog is Randy Moss, but I do think too often the media portrays these kids as thugs without providing all of the details. Anyhow, if you have absolutely no idea what I'm talking about because you've never watched Friday Night Lights, all I can say is--Shame. On. You.
I can't mention television on NBC without rejoicing in the return of AMERICAN GLADIATORS. Has there ever been a more entertaining hour of television? The writing is lame and contrived, the trash talk is poorly rehearsed, you'd have a better chance understanding Charlie Brown's teacher than you would Hulk Hogan...and yet I love every minute of it. I think Monday's semi-final features the soccer mom who bounces around like a cheerleader but somehow manages to win just about every challenge they throw at her. She's my favorite contender, solely by virtue that she doesn't take the compettion as seriously as the others. As far as the Gladiators themselves go--how about a big round of applause for Hellga? That is one big woman. She's not really muscular or buff, but her voice alone intimidates the hell out of me. My wife enjoys laughing at Wolf and all the zany things he says. She especially likes when he gets behind the contender and sniffs him. Personally, every time Wolf speaks I feel very uncomfortable for him, myself and any child who is watching the show. Sonia also accuses me of having a crush on Crush. And I admit, she is my favorite. And I guess she's the cutest of the women gladiators. But that's sorta like saying Smurfette is the cutest Smurf, isn't it? There's not a whole lot of competition in Gladiatorland, and I'm just guessing that a few of those lady gladiators might very well be smurfing each other....
Ok, I'll admit it. I did watch the game last Sunday. It hurt me to do it, but I watched. I thought it would be unAmerican if I didn't. And I thought the David Tyree catch was absolutely incredible--largely because Tyree is far from being a household name. As a matter of fact, in our twelve team postseason fantasy league--no one drafted Tyree. That's what makes the play all the more special. It's kind of like when Mark Brouhard and Marshall Edwards chipped in on the Brewers '82 teams. Once something like that happened, you just knew the Giants were going to win. And as much as it kills me as a Packers fan to admit it--the Giants won the NFC Championship because they were only the team that could have beat the Patriots. As much as I love Kampman and the boys, there's no way the Packers front four puts that kind of pressure on Brady. How the Giants D-line didn't win a collective MVP award is beyond me. Ah well, at least I can hope that McCarthy did some serious recruiting of free agents at the Pro Bowl...
In the midst of Packers and Bucks depression, there's only one thought that can save me--pitchers and catchers report this coming weekend.