Sagramore is back, and once again teaming up with self-styled NBA expert Jordan. Listen and learn as they break down and build up a juicy finals match up and recap what has been an exciting playoff season.
It’s on. The Heat and the Mavericks have taken care of business, and are returning to the big stage for the 2006 NBA Finals–Remix! Where’s T-Pain? I am excited. Of all the possible match-ups, this is probably the juiciest. We’ve got the best team collusion and Cleveland’s tears can put together squaring off against the best squad Mark Cuban’s money can assemble. It’s the Heatles vs. the 2005 All-Stars! I’m joking, of course, most of the Mavs players reached their peak well before 2005. Can Miami’s star power and autoerotic self-absorption overpower the combined 837 years of NBA experience on the Dallas roster? We’re going to find out.
Seeds 1 and 8— San Antonio Spurs vs. Memphis Grizzlies (Spurs win in 5)
I really want to pick Memphis. They are such an athletic group, and I love me some Z-Bo. Do people know he’s averaging 20-12 this year? And he didn’t even make the All-Star team…shame on us all! I understand he’s kind of chubby and more than a bit crazy, but that boy can do some good things on the court. Mike Conley has been playing like a halfway-adequate point guard this year (almost 7 assists per game), so we no longer have to scratch our heads and wonder why he is employed by an NBA team. Marc Gasol, though unflashy and completely uninteresting, is an above-average center. So what if watching paint dry is more fun? He blocks balls and rebounds. I also think Tony Allen has been a really underrated presence this year; he’s got that swagger only an enormous, golden championship ring can afford. Also, Battier has brought some real tenacity into the fold. The team plays defense now. However, they’re missing Rudy Gay, who’s their second best player and really benefited from the TEAM USA experience last summer. His absence is going to hurt them. Also, let’s not forget they’re the 8th seed. It’s no coincidence the Spurs won 16 more games this year. I think in the history of all time, an 8th seed has beaten the 1 seed twice in the NBA. The Nuggets may have done it sometime in the 90’s (the beforetime), and, of course, the Warriors famously did it against the Mavs in 2007, after Dirk’s well-deserved-MVP season (sarcasm). Seriously though, does anyone think the Spurs are going to choke away a first round series? Right. I know Duncan is old, and I’m fairly certain the team is hobbled; one to all of their players might be injured, but they have one the NBA’s top 3 coaches, veterans with loads of playoff and championship experience, and…it’s Memphis. Come on, now. As in the East, there’s a reason one team is the #1 seed, and the other is the 8th. The Spurs might drop a couple of games, but they’re taking the series.
Seeds 1 and 8— Chicago Bulls vs. Indiana Pacers (Bulls win in 4)
The Bulls are a much better team than Indiana. That is an objective fact. The Pacers are a division foe, and have been heating up lately, but I just can’t give them a win the series. I’m not feeling charitable. Who are we kidding? The Bulls will dominate this series. Chicago is deeper, and more athletic. They also have the only superstar in the series, the very-probably-2011-MVP, Derrick Rose. Plus, Carlos Boozer should still be healthy; I don’t think the oncoming unavoidable freak injury will play in until at least halfway through the second round, though it will happen eventually. Indiana is a nice story, and the team is set up pretty well going forward, (cap space, young pieces etc.) but this team is just not ready to make any noise in the playoffs right now. People really seem to want Danny Granger to be a superstar, but unfortunately he plays like a great #2 option. Roy Hibbert has really come along this year, but he’s still crazy inconsistent, and I can’t see him steadily produce in a playoff series. Tyler Hansbrough has been OK lately, as well, but he’s also an awkward white guy, and unless you’re Larry Bird, that formula doesn’t work in the NBA. Mike Dunleavy is back in the rotation, and he brings some good things to the table, but OH MY GOD the Pacers are boring. I’m done. The Bulls are the #1 seed for a reason, and they’ll win the series with ease.
One month ago, on February 22, the Knicks finally put together a deal and brought in Carmelo Anthony. The move was hotly anticipated, and it made everyone happy, except maybe Chauncey Billups. The Knicks were happy because they finally got their no-LeBron consolation prize in the form of Amare+ Melo. Melo was happy because he could play in a big-market town. His wife Lala was happy because her career could flourish in NYC. I think her career so far consists of having hosted TRL 4 years ago…not sure, but anyway she needs to be in New York. The Nuggets were happy because they got to shed their unhappy superstar headache and get something in return; Cleveland please take notes. Chauncey might not be happy, since he maybe wanted to finish his career in Denver. Unfortunately, now he has to collect his $14 million paycheck in New York.
After 30 days, how does the trade look? In the immediate aftermath, I admit I was down on the move for NY. Anthony seemingly wanted to play there no matter what, and I supported the whole “let’s wait until the summer and get him for nothing, while paying him $65 million less overall” plan. I also didn’t see the Knicks doing much in the playoffs this year, with or without Anthony, so I would have voted “nay.” The Knicks, however, wanted to lock him up now, lose some pieces, and pay him more over the next 6 years: all very understandable. They had a chance to secure on the league’s top 10 players, and they went for it. Bravo. I still wouldn’t have, but after a few weeks the move did grow on me, especially after the Miami beat down. That just felt good. Within 2 weeks I had experienced the whole emotional spectrum in regards to the trade.
But now, it’s been one month. Objectivity has arrived. Honestly, at this point I am a fan of the trade, as everyone involved seems to have gotten better by it, except for Minnesota and Golden State, which both just stayed crappy. Hear me out. First, let’s get the details out of the way. The Knickerbockers received Anthony, Billups, Renaldo Balkman, Anthony Carter, and former 2nd best player on a Duke Sweet Sixteen team/Atlanta Hawks lottery pick/somehow married to Candace Parker Shelden Williams. Digression alert: How is Williams in the NBA? In the all-time list of people who were given everything for nothing, his bust would be right next to Pompey Magnus’. He is an undersized center, who also happens to be one of the ugliest people you’ll meet, and yet he was drafted ahead of the likes of Brandon Roy and Randy Foye? And he’s married to Candace Parker, who’s pretty hot and also the best female basketball player alive when not pregnant? Why is there no justice in this universe?
Back to the topic at hand, The Nuggets got Wilson Chandler, Raymond Felton, Danilo Gallinari, Timofey Mozgov, Kosta Koufos (that’s a person, not a Middle Eastern sandwich wrap), the Knicks 2014 1st round draft pick (not a typo, that was the first available pick they had), the Warrior’s 2012 1st round draft pick, 2013 2nd round draft pick, and $3 million in cash just because…I guess the Knicks felt like adding in some cab fare after the sex. Minny and the Warriors were also involved, but just as accessories, so I won’t bother with them. Also, I’m not a math person, so I will ignore the financial aspect of everything.
So how’s NYC looking? Better than before. Lots of people opined the loss of alleged young superstars in the making, but let’s be honest. Gallinari, Felton, et. al. were nice pieces to bolster a rotation, but that’s it. The Gallinari love, especially, I don’t get. I’m half Italian; I think Italians are great; they are a very talented people…but I would never entrust my professional basketball team to an Italian player. If an Italian is anything more than the 5th best player on your team, you’re in trouble. I think Toronto would agree with me. Plus, at the time of the trade, the Knicks were like a couple games over .500, so they weren’t really re-writing the record books. I’m about as big a Ray Felton fan as there is, and I mean that literally since I’m the only one in existence, but even I’ll admit his performance had tapered off the past few months. Billups is definitely an on-paper upgrade at the point. Shelden Williams, Balkman, and Carter are just bodies, so no gain there. And then, of course, you have Melo, who is a top 10 player in the league. Let me rephrase everything: would you rather have Carmelo Anthony at 27 years old, or Gallinari, Chandler, and Felton? That’s what I thought. Short answer: yes, the Knicks are better now.
Well then, why are they playing so poorly? Coaching. It’s that simple. Some would argue having Melo should automatically make a team better, but come on, now. Anthony is not Wade or LeBron; he’s not a “make others better” superstar; he’s just a superstar. He will score 30 points for you, but all you’ll get extra is a couple assists and an offensive rebound. He’ll hit all the buzzer beaters you want, and score from all over the place, but he will not shut down the other team’s best player on defense, or secure some big rebounds, or hit an open guy when he’s getting double covered, or give a rousing speech to this teammates. He will clock in, score in bunches, and then clock out. The blaze’ attitude he’s been showing off during recent press conferences is a good example. You think Kobe wouldn’t be f%&ing god da%&ed pi$$ed off if his team was at .500? Whoever introduced Melo to weed should be in jail because he ruined what could have been a great career, had his physical talent been paired up with giving anything near half a damn about winning. The preceding paragraph also applies to Rasheed Wallace. That is why you need appropriate coaching. Billups, as great a player as he is, is not a D’Antoni point guard. He does not pick or roll; it’s just not in his nature. Melo, as great as he is, is not a D’Antoni forward, a la Joe Johnson or The Matrix. Melo isn’t good at standing around while a quick point guard makes lanes for him. He needs the ball, and he takes his time. D’Antoni doesn’t like taking time. He also doesn’t like defense, which is another big issue. If you have Steve Nash, Shawn Marion, Amare Stoudamire, and Joe Johnson in their primes, you don’t need to play defense. You can just play a ton of offense and then lose in the conference finals. I know this because it has, in fact, happened. Not to mention, Nash and Amare made the conference finals once without D’Antoni; conversely, Mike has not reached the playoffs at all by himself. Right now, I don’t see this Knicks team winning a playoff series this year. Even Philly would probably beat them in a 7 game series. Basically, I do support the trade from the Knicks perspective, but they need more than just Melo to get better, and I think NY fans are starting to figure that out.
And how’s Denver looking? Even better than the Knicks. This is some Bill Simmons hyper-Ewing Theory at work. At the moment, I think Denver would beat the Knicks in a playoff series, and it wouldn’t be so close. First of all, let me put on my clear heels, and ride Ty lawson’s pole. I love this guy. I thought he was way underrated coming out of the draft considering how well he played for Carolina in the tournament that Spring. No one could keep up with him. As a side note, how ironic is it that out of the 3 point guards David Kahn inexplicably drafted in ’09, he traded away the only one worth a damn? Actually, I guess it’s not ironic at all, since that’s not what the word means, but I’m using the meaning of “ironic” everyone else does, so cut me some slack if it’s the Alanis Morrisette definition. I was also hyper-mad when he went to Minny in the slot right before my Hawks picked. We had to settle for Mike Bibby/Kirk Hinrich backup Jeff Teague. I guess we felt we had to make up for not taking Chris Paul by selecting a less-good, undersized Wake Forest point guard. So anyway, I’ve been pole-riding Lawson as long as he’s been riding NBA benches, and was glad to be proved right once he moved into the starting role. He has been great for Denver the past month. And former fellow Tar heel Ray Felton is about as good a backup point guard as you can find in the league, so Denver is set there; if anything, they can turn him into a good trading piece. Nene (whose last name is Hilario, if anyone cares) has been playing lights out without Melo hogging the ball away from him, and if he can stay healthy he’s not a bad player around which to build a team…who are we kidding? He’ll get hurt again; this guy is more fragile than Mr. Glass from Unbreakable. But for now, he’s looking good. J.R. Smith has really grown into his role, too; seems like he’s been getting a steady 20-24 points every game, and what more can you ask from your shooting guard? He’s making the Bulls look pretty foolish for not trying harder to trade for him. Gallinari and Chandler are also filling in their new roles nicely though the Italian’s been hurt lately.
I’m well aware what we have in Denver is a sum-is-greater-than-its-parts deal going on, but that may not be so bad. They’re a young team, with a good coach, playing damn well; plus, they’ve got a cornucopia of draft picks coming up and some good trade assets, so Denver is really looking good coming out of this trade. The Knicks have their superstar, and if they’re smart about how they build their team in the next couple years a few championships may not be out of reach. Not to mention, Lala Anthony’s movie career(?) can finally take off like she’s always wanted. Everybody wins; except the Knicks right now. In short, I really think this will go down as a great trade for both sides. Now, let’s wait another month to see how wrong I was about everything.
P.S-Sorry about the horrible “Melo” pun in the title, but every other sports writer is doing it, so I thought I’d follow suit.
Well…the 6th headline down on the ESPN homepage was this little gem of an article. No lies, at first I was damn excited to see my Hawks had made a trade. But then I read the specifics. I am at a loss for words.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but it looks to me like the Hawks traded Mike Bibby’s corpse, 2 young reserve players, and a first round draft pick for Kirk Hinrich. If you have no idea who Kirk Hinrich is, that just proves my point. Kirk Hinrich was until recently the second string point guard on the Wizards. Ladies and gentlemen, the Hawks traded 3 players and a FIRST round draft pick for a point guard who couldn’t find his way into the starting line up of the second worst team in the league. Are you kidding me?!
On the heels of the Nyets pilfering top 3 point guard Deron Williams from Utah for Devin Harris’ corpse and Derrick Favors (who will never be good because he went to Georgia Tech), the best my Hawks can do is overpay for a white point guard who isn’t even Steve Nash?! Why couldn’t we get Deron? Throw Bibby at them! Draft picks! Anything!
This hurts. Having grown up in Atlanta, it’s just strange to see some teams’ goal is to actually win a championship. The Hawks seem happy to pay Joe Johnson as much as Kobe Bryant and secure the 5th seed in the East. Excelsior!
And don’t get me stareted on Joe Johnson! (rhetorical: I’m starting) This is a guy, who at his best, gives you 20-24 points a game, a few assists, and maybe one rebound. And after turning on his own fans, badmouthing Atlantans after they had the gall to boo and criticize Joe for completely choking up in a historic playoff sweep to the Magic, he gets rewarded with a max 6-year contract?! Apart from the fact our only tradeable asset, which may have been useful in getting a certain Jazz pg, is now untradeable, we also have to pay him Kobe Bryant money for next 6 years to ensure 1st and 2nd round playoff exits. Hooray!
New ownership/management, please.
f♥♥ king disgraceful. Monday night’s showdown against The Saints was not just another regular season game, it was an opportunity to make a statement. It was a chance to jump from good team to great, and we didn’t. But now I get to gloat because the Falcons proved what I’ve been saying all season long. While all the fair-weather fans jumped on the Matty ice bandwagon and were chanting all that “Rise Up!” bulls♥♥ t, I knew the truth. I knew this year’s Falcons were not a good team destined for playoff success.
Matt Ryan has finally revealed to everyone what more discerning fans have understood for a while now, i.e- that he is nothing more than a serviceable NFL quarterback, better suited as a backup. Now, everyone knows there’s no love lost between Matty Ice and myself; hell, I never gave him a chance from the get-go. While all the sportswriters were riding his pole during a “succesful” rookie season, I kept on using my line about “how many 5th year seniors out of BC have ever been pro-bowl quarterbacks?” etc. But whatever, people need hope, and so they kept on believing in Matty Ice. Fast forward to his 3rd season, and in probably the most important game of his young career, an opportunity to make a real statement against a division rival and conference powerhouse, he completed 51% of his passes for less than 150 yards. For those of you not familiar with football, that’s not good. Other people seem to want to see greatness in this fratboy-looking almost ginger, but I see the truth. The poor kid has a limp-noodle arm weaker than a Democrat-controlled Congress, and in terms of defenses he’s illiterate. He couldn’t read coverage if his team’s victory depended on it. And it does! That’s how we know. Hell, pay me $63 million dollars, and I’ll stare down Roddy White for half a minute before launching the ball to the middle of the field to a double-covered Tony Gonzalez. And “Matty Ice”?! His nickname is based off a beer a desperate middle schooler wouldn’t touch. Even the poorest of the poor, living in urban hell/warzones stay away from Natural Ice. That’s why God invented the 40. Hell, “Mattwaukee’s Best Ice” or “Matt’s Blue Ribbon” would have been better nicknames. I say trade Matt Ryan to Carolina and draft Andrew Luck. Let’s end this never-living-up-to-lofty-expectations train wreck we’re on.
And the coaching staff…if you could call it that. What does Mike Smith even do? I have no idea. The only news stories I’ve read about him detail his verbally abusing opposing players and pulling hammies while running down the sideline. Boy, that inspires confidence. I say get rid of Smith, and bring in a real coach like Bill Cowher. And let’s not forget the other Mike: Mularkey, which isn’t an Irish curse word, apparently, but a last name. He is allegedly a hot head-coaching prospect for next year. Don’t ask me why. Personally, I’d be fine with letting him go off to greener pastures and replacing him with someone who’s offensive repertoire expands beyond “run up the middle on 1st and 2nd down every time, all the time.”
Oh, and what about little lord Thomas Dimitrioff, another one of Bill Belichick’s hell brood, out to cripple all other franchises outside of New England. Since taking over the GM role, he has drafted 17 defensive players, that’s 63% of our drafting total. We must have a pretty serviceable defense, huh? Wrong! Our defense ranges from mediocre to atrocious, depending on the phase of the moon or something, especially the secondary, one of the NFL’s worst over the last 3 years, despite our GM using 30% of our draft picks on the defensive back position. Well, at least the offense picks paid off, right? We have 3 starters on the offense out of the past 3 drafts, including prodigious wunderkind Matt Ryan. But hey, why spend any draft picks at all on running back, the most short-lived position in the NFL, when you can just feed the ball to the fat shell of Michael Turner, who was already burned out and broken by the end of 2008? I say ditch Dimitrioff and get a real GM whose strategy is something other than “draft defensive backs, and if none are available, draft injury prone defensive linemen.”
But let’s not overlook the real issue here. The main problem underlying all of this. And that is Atlanta football fans. No one in town really cares about the Falcons. They’re a side note who pique a fair bit of interest during fair-weather regular reason hot streaks, and that’s it. This is a town that celebrated achieving back to back winning seasons. Who the f♥♥ k celebrates back to back winning seasons?! Do people yell out “Hallelujah” when both their appetizers and main course are cooked properly? It’d be like me filing a contract correctly 2 days in a row, and throwing a god d♥♥ n party. It’s what you’re supposed to do! Don’t rejoice over mediocrity; you celebrate Super Bowls, or league records!
But Atlanta doesn’t. We have an apathetic fan base that golf claps every time the Falcons finish above .500. But I won’t have it! None of the pro-sports teams I follow have ever won anything. It’s not fair! Why do LA, Boston, and New York have to win all the damn titles under the Earth?! Well, I say the Atlanta Falcons fan base needs to RISE UP, and demand success. Not mediocrity, but actual, tangible success. Look at New Yorkers and Bostonians. Everyone knows they’re over-demanding assholes, but their teams win! They win because the players know if all they do is win most games, they’ll get made fun of. Falcons, win the Super Bowl! Your fan base demands it!
I am angry. -Sagramore
Two years removed from dog killing, prison, alienating an entire city’s fan base, and setting an NFL franchise back 5 or 6 years, he drops this bomb on us Monday night.
20 for 28 (72% comp) 333 yds. 4 TD’s
8 for 80 yds rushing (10 ypr) 2 TD’s
Are you kidding me?! 6 total TD’s and over 400 yards of offense while producing 0 turnovers? In one game?! And this offense-gasm didn’t come against the 2007 Lions’ secondary or anything. This year’s Native Americans’ defense has been pretty average, and had a few shut-down/superb performances (Note: I don’t call them the Redskins since that name is offensive), including a 4 pick game against the Bears and DeAngelo Hall’s favorite quarterback, Jay “Redzone INT” Cutler. And yet, our boy Michael Vick and the Eagles carved them up for 59 points. How is this fair? During 6 years in Atlanta, Vick’s offensive repertoire was :
A. Overthrow Roddy White
B. Complete a 4 to 7 yard pass to Alge Crumpler
C. Rush for a few yards, maybe break out a big run on occasion
D. Awkwardly scramble around the pocket looking like Redd Foxx from Sanford and Son, and then lose 15 yards on a sack.
Fast forward to 2010 and he’s carving up a decent defense like it ain’t no thang. Just having his way with them like Kobe in a Denver hotel. Why, God? Why couldn’t he have been doing this for my team? Why did his focus need to be on filming Vitamin Water commercials and killing puppies instead of training and learning the playbook?
I hate Michael Vick. I do. It hurts me to see him play so well, and achieve such success for another franchise. But you know what? At some point you need to put your grudges aside and recognize greatness.
His performance Monday night was greatness. I don’t mean he had a good game for the season; we’re talking historical levels of dominance. The numbers tell half the story. Look at the highlights from that game. None of the 11 players on defense across the field from him had any answers for Michael Vick. Why? Because when he plays like that, there are no answers. Field 5 defensive backs, drop linebackers into coverage, and lock down his receivers, and he runs forward half the field. Stack the box and defend against a run, and he completes an 82 yard bomb to DeSean Jackson. Nothing you can do. What we saw Monday night was the reason my boys the Falcons drafted him #1. What we saw was the most talented player in NFL history finally delivering on what we were promised. And I mean it; I’m not weaving gross hyperbole right now. Of course, other players have been “better” than Vick, but none have been as talented. No one has ever displayed such a blend of speed, vision, elusiveness (is that even a word? Elusivity?), and a laser/cannon/bazooka/sniper rifle arm. I hope Vince Young saw the game while he was sitting on the sidelines not starting for the Titans, and I hope he cried. I hope he cried and realized what a sad poor man’s version of Vick he is. I hope Jeff Fisher and Bud Adams saw it too, and I hope they cried too. Start Rusty Smith! That is a football player! But I digress.
Monday night, against the Redskins, Michael Vick finally played the way we had all been expecting him to. And it was scary/gorgeous. And if he does it again next week, wow. And if he figures out how to produce numbers like that steadily, watch out NFL. Greatness is tough to defend.