Thursday, February 28, 2013

Alex Smith Is Fools Gold

The San Francisco 49ers have agreed to trade quarterback Alex Smith to the Kansas City Chiefs for a 2nd round pick.  This comes as no surprise since the 49ers found their quartrerback of the future in Colin Kaepernick and the 2013 NFL draft is light on signal callers.  Although Alex Smith has an impressive record in his last 25 starts (19-5-1) will he be a good fit for the Chiefs going forward?

Absolutely not.  The last two seasons Alex Smith played on a team that went to the NFC championship game and the Super Bowl.  The 49ers had a top 5 defense and an established running game.  The Chiefs had the worst record in the NFL playing in a mediocre division.  Alex Smith is used to playing in a system that doesn't ask him to do too much and Kansas City needs their quarterback to be dynamic.

In addition, coach Andy Reid is used to dealing with the likes of Bret Favre, Donovan McNabb, and Michael Vick.  Alex Smith doesn't possess that kind of ability.  In the pass happy offense Reid traditionally runs it will be difficult for Smith to duplicate his recent success.  He's never been known for his accuracy down field or making plays with his feet.  If he has to throw 35 to 40 times a game the Chiefs will struggle.

The Alex Smith trade says more about the 2013 NFL draft and free agency than it does about his potential to make the Chiefs relevant again.  There is no Andrew Luck or RGIII to be taken with the #1 pick and no big name free agent looking for a new home.  Alex Smith is certainly better than Geno Smith (no relation) and Matt Barkley so the logic is sound, but I think the results will be less than expected.  The Chiefs have too many problems for Alex Smith to be the answer.  Your thoughts?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Violence In The NBA

Sometimes the ESPN ticker can be misleading.  Last night the Indiana Pacers and the Golden St. Warriors got into a so called brawl that spilled into the crowd.  During the melee Pacers center Roy Hibbert and Warriors forward David Lee made contact with fans on the sidelines and almost escalated further.  On the surface this incident sounds like another horrible episode and a PR nightmare for the NBA, but in reality it was a success story.

I started watching the fight with the anticipation I was going to see the Palace Brawl II.  After 10 seconds I was highly irritated.  No one threw a punch, everybody looked scared, and the only person with any real fire was little old Steph Curry.  Truth be told you would probably see more violence at a Celine Dion concert.  These guys would make Screech from Saved by the Bell look tough.  Has the NBA really become that soft?

Absolutely.  The rules are different, the culture is different, the penalties are severe, and this generation is more passive and collaborative.  The players see themselves as co-workers or fraternity brothers as opposed to adversaries or rivals.  There is no such thing as "bad blood" and altercations that used to linger for years get squashed over the weekend.  In addition, players realize fighting not only hurts them financially, but the impending suspension could cost the team in the long run.  No one wants to be the guy that costs their team a championship for fighting.

As much as I would love to see these guys scrap like they did back in the day (imagine Kobe vs. LeBron) I understand the league's non violent policy is for the greater good.  Nobody gets hurt and the player's mind set has shifted.  Charles Oakley and Xavier McDaniel are not walking out of that locker room!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Myths About The NFL Combine

The NFL scouting combine is an opportunity for future NFL prospects to showcase their talents and impress team executives.  For some the audition goes well while others fall flat on their face.  A few years back the combine was the end all be all, but in recent years we've seen the impact diminished.  The top prospects usually host individual work outs and marginal players routinely decide the risk isn't worth the reward.  A bad performance could cost them several spots in the draft.  With limited participation is the combine still relevant?

Yes and no.  At this point the combine is really more to confirm the physical attributes of the top players as opposed to finding a diamond in the rough.  There is so much information, analysis, and video footage there's few surprises.  The ones that benefit the most are players from small schools that don't get national exposure, but have the talent to excel at the next level. 

In addition, the combine drills don't always accurately project who's going to be a star.  The top performers in each individual work out category rarely see those results translate on the field.  Just because you can lift 225 pounds 30+ times or run a sub 4.4 40 time doesn't mean you have Hall of Fame potential.  The game is about more than isolated physical gifts.

The NFL scouting combine is useful, but not always a solid indication of how good a player will be.  The game is still played on the field and the drills don't measure intangibles like leadership, durability, and instincts.  It's a good frame of reference, but it doesn't tell the whole story.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Richard Sherman vs. Darelle Revis

As you all know I'm a big fan of trash talking athletes.  Not the ones that run their mouth then get trounced by their opponents, but the ones that talk the talk and walk the walk.  The Gary Payton's of the world.  The Michael Irvin's of the world.  The Floyd Mayweather Jr's of the world.  For the 2nd time in my adult life one of these human megaphones plays in the 206.  His name is Richard Sherman.

Richard Sherman is the kind of guy that will rip your skin off just to get on your nerves, a certified chatter box.  He's the kind of guy that could provoke Mother Teresa into taking a swing at him.  He talks so much he makes Kanye West seem humble.  You almost want to see him fail so you won't have to hear his mouth.  Like most great trash talkers Richards Sherman is constantly looking for new victims and sources of motivation.  His latest target is Darelle Revis.

Sherman has pulled Revis into his world and the war of words is in full swing.

From Revis:

I've never seen a man run his mouth so much like a girl.  This dude is steady putting my name in his mouth to get notoriety.  Sit down young pup and wait your turn.

From Sherman:

Don't need ya name...Ur name will be irrelevant once u step back on the field bruh.  Get ya picks up!

For the record I think Darelle Revis is slightly better, but I like where Sherman's head is at.  If you're going to proclaim yourself the best cornerback in the game you might as well go after the top dog!  I'm sure this is not the last we will hear about this new found rivalry and the fodder can only help Sherman and the Seahawks.  The position requires supreme confidence and it's obvious Sherman has it in spades.  Too bad we won't get full resolution to his claims for another 10 months.  Who do you think is better?

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Jerry Buss: The Greatest Owner Ever

I was watching ESPN yesterday when I heard the news Laker owner Jerry Buss passed away at the age of 80.  The news came as a shock to me.  I heard he was in the hospital, but had no idea of the severity of his condition.  After hearing some of the comments made by former players, executives, and reporters the legacy of Jerry Buss is absolutely mind boggling.  During his 34 year tenure as owner the Lakers had 16 World Championship appearances, 19 division titles, and 10 NBA titles.  If I stopped right there he would be considered one of the greatest owners in the history of professional sports.

As I delve further it gets even more ridiculous.  It can be argued that his former players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson, Shaq, and Kobe Bryant are among the 10 greatest players to ever play basketball.  It can be argued that Phil Jackson and Pat Riley are 2 of the 3 greatest coaches in NBA history.  From 1980 to 1991 the Lakers played for the championship 9 times.  From 2000 to 2010 the Lakers played for the championship 7 times.  In the era of free agency and salary escalation this type of dominance is unfathomable.

In addition, Jerry Buss forged a partnership with Magic Johnson that is unheard of in professional sports today.  Not only did they kick it together at the Playboy mansion after games (who does that), but he also made him the highest played player and gave him part ownership of the team when his playing days were over.  Magic credits his experience with Buss as the main reason he's been so successful as a businessman.

Buss also brought excitement and entertainment to the NBA.  With the Laker girls and the up style tempo of play the Lakers became an event that attracted stars and high profile people from all walks of life.  Jack Nicholson, Denzel Washington, Penny Marshall, and countless other celebrities are routinely seen at Laker games.  That didn't exist before Jerry Buss.  The experience turned Paula Abdul and Karyn White into stars.  Amazing you can go from being a cheerleader
to being a Grammy winning performer. 

It's safe to say this kind of success won't be duplicated in our lifetime and his absence is already being felt.  The Lakers have been nothing short of dysfunctional since he passed the reigns over to his son Jimmy and without his presence and guidance I don't see things getting better anytime soon.  It's sad that such an incredible legacy can't be sustained.  Then again if you heard the numbers and the stats I just rattled off a franchise would be lucky to achieve 1/10 of that.  The Lakers have been fortunate, but they've also been resourceful and calculating.  It's no surprise other teams have tried to follow their blueprint (Boston, Miami, New York), but I doubt they can match the production.  I don't know what your criteria is for determining the greatest owner in sports history is, but whatever it is Jerry Buss should be at the top of the list.  Laker Nation lost a great man, innovator, and owner.  RIP Jerry. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

The Nerlens Noel Case Study

On Tuesday Kentucky freshman Nerlens Noel tore his ACL and will miss the rest of the season.  It is a devastating injury that has caused a ripple effect throughout the college basketball world.  From the mind of an over analytical sports enthusiast this story is compelling on many levels.  Depending on how you look at it the Noel injury has a different meaning.

The cynical perspective:

I guess he'll have to start going to that biology class he's been skipping for the last 3 weeks.  Don't think David Stern will be calling his name this June.  The John Calipari recruiting speech suddenly has to add an injury clause to the verbiage.  All you one and done guys better stop counting your chickens before they hatch.

The paranoid perspective:

You saw what happened to Noel.  Forget North Carolina, I'm going overseas when I graduate from high school.  I gotta get my cheese while there's still time.  I gotta strike while the iron is hot and my stock is on the rise.  I got too much to lose and you never know what can happen.  Nothing in life is guaranteed.

The rival perspective:

Now that Kentucky doesn't have Big Noel in the middle they are vulnerable.  I wasn't going to buy tickets to the SEC tournament before, but now our team has a legitimate shot to win.  We don't wish bad things on anyone and Nerlens seems like a good kid, but Kentucky's loss is our gain.  They get whatever they want most of the time so you can't feel too bad for their misfortune.

The purist perspective:

This is why we are advocates of the student/athlete model.  Go to school for 4 years, become part of the campus culture, enjoy the college experience, and earn your degree.  Even if you don't make the pros you have something to fall back on.  Nerlens Noel was projected to be a top 5 pick.  What about now?  Will he ever be the same player?  If he's been taking his education seriously he's created an insurance policy for himself.

When it's all said and done I hope this kid comes back good as new and gets the chance to continue pursuing his dream of becoming an NBA player.  His injury serves as a stark reminder that life comes at you fast and your path to success is not always linear.  There are bumps in the road and obstacles to navigate and overcome.  Good luck Nerlens Noel.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Is Dan Marino Still A Hero?

I can't believe he did that to his wife.  I used to have a lot of respect for that guy, but now I think he's an a$$hole.  His wife should divorce him and take him for everything he's worth!

Dayna Wilson

A few weeks ago reports surfaced that Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino fathered a love child out of wedlock and paid the mother millions of dollars to keep quiet about it.  It was an embarrassing admission for the Marino family and tarnished what was otherwise considered a squeaky clean image.  Infidelity in itself isn't a crime, but did Dan Marino lose the case in the court of popular opinion?

Let me start out by saying I'm completely biased when it comes to the subject of Dan Marino.  He is one of my favorite athletes of all time (not just football) and I have way too many positive memories about Dan to be objective.  I've won thousands of dollars betting on Dolphins games, seen miraculous comebacks, and touchdown passes that defied the laws of physics.  Dan is a legend on the football field and his personal indiscretions (at present) don't offend me that much.

On the other hand I realize heroes and role models are held to a higher standard than most other individuals and the same rules don't apply.  People have a different level of expectation and their moral compass is meticulously scrutinized.  I don't condone what Dan Marino did, but I don't feel it's my place to judge another man's issues and the decisions he makes in life.  Everyone has things they may not want the whole world to know about them.

The bottom line is heroes and role models are human.  They are flawed and very few can live up to the persona and expectation other people put on them.  If you look at it from that perspective you won't be disappointed or upset to find out they're not perfect.  It would be wrong to forget or discount all of his great deeds because of one bad mistake.  Dan Marino is still a hero in my eyes.  Your thoughts?

Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend Observations

It was the first weekend without football in almost 7 months and I have to admit it felt kind of weird.  No Bradshaw, no Marino, and no getting around trips to Bed, Bath, and Beyond.  Fortunately for me the transition into a full time hoops state of mind isn't that difficult.  LeBron, KD, Carmelo, Kobe, Duke, Michigan, and Syracuse all have interesting storylines.  There will be no lack of drama in the next few months and lots of predictions from yours truly.  As you might expect I already know who's going to win the NCAA tourney and the NBA championship.

As for my B3TZ game?  Tim Duncan and the Spurs did me wrong paving the way for the Tran's to slide into 1st and 2nd place.  Congrats to Winston and Danielle as well as Joan Pinto for coming in 1st, 2nd, and 3rd respectively.  My therapist says I shouldn't worry about losing so much at my own game, but I'm pissed I haven't notched a "W" in quite some time.  This is not the way things were supposed to go.  My ego is fragile and without victories and championships to gloat about life is kind of boring.  Due to technical changes to the system Cleavie's Platinum Picks is suspended and will resume after Feb. 24th.  It seems like an eternity, but what can I do.  Here are some observations over the weekend.

King Felix had a routine check up that may cost him $130,000,000.  The Mariners were all set to make him the highest paid pitcher until they realized there may be some structural damage in his pitching arm.  After watching the way Alex Rodriguez has become a liability late in his contract Seattle may decide to shorten the length of the deal significantly.  Let's hope there's nothing seriously wrong with the King.

The Kardashian karma might be rubbing Kris Humphries the wrong way.  In a shocking turn of events it looks like Kris might get traded from Brooklyn to Charlotte.  That doesn't sound like fun to me.  Kanye got his way after all.  Apparently Rocafella loyalty runs deeper than we thought.

Dwight Howard Sr. got involved in the Laker circus with his comments criticizing Mike D'Antoni and Kobe Bryant.  Last time I checked most 6'11 giants making over $20,000,000 a season didn't need their daddy to stick up for them.  If Dwight Howard doesn't resolve this nonsense soon he's going to lose street cred and baller status.  Maybe that's happened already and I just haven't acknowledged it yet.

Michael Vick signed a one year deal with Philadelphia and will get a chance to run Chip Kelly's offense.  If this happend 5 years ago I'd be excited for him, but this late in his career I'm not sure how much he has left in the tank.  If he can stay on the field he might flourish in the new system, but what are the chances of that?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Texas B3TZ

San Antonio vs. Detroit

This probably isn't a surprise to anyone, but The San Antonio Spurs have the best record in the NBA.  Anchored by future Hall of Famer Tim Duncan and Tony Parker the Spurs seem to have things on cruise control going into the All Star break.  They are currently on a 11 game winning streak and I don't see the Detroit Pistons interrupting their flow tonight.  The Spurs will win big.

Houston vs. Portland

When the Houston Rockets play the Portland Trailblazers tonight 8th place in the Western conference is on the line.  Both teams are playing .500 ball over the last 10 games so there's been no separation between the two.  James Harden will give you his usual 25 or so, but the Rockets need Jeremy Lin to step up and contribute as well.  This game will be close, but I think the Rockets will pull it out down the stretch.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Celtic B3TZ

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Boston

Surprisingly the Boston Celtics have played well recently in the absence of Rajon Rondo.  The Celtics have won 5 games in a row heading into tonight's contest versus the Lakers.  Injuries are a part of the game and Boston has made the necessary adjustments so far.  The Lakers on the other hand have been decimated with injury losing both Pau Gasol and Dwight Howard.  Kobe Bryant is getting fed up and team chemistry is in jeopardy.  Whenever you have a 5 time champion still capable of playing at a high level losing will take its toll on their psyche.  Don't expect Bryant to continue with his facilitator role either.  The Black Mamba will be looking to take matters into his own hands.  The game will be close and Kobe will score a ton of points, but the Lakers will come up a little bit short.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

California B3TZ

Golden St. vs. Houston

The Golden St. Warriors have won 7 of their last 10 games behind the sharp shooting of Klay Thompson and the gritty play of David Lee.  Although the Clippers and the Lakers get all the headlines in California the Warriors deserve some attention for their stellar play in the first half of the season.  Houston on the other hand is just trying to hold off Portland for the 8th and final playoff spot.  James Harden is doing his part, but without a lot of help from Jeremy Lin and no other scorers to take some of the pressure off the success of the team falls squarely on his shoulders.  Where would the rockets be without that trade?  The Warriors will win, but Harden will get his.

Los Angeles Lakers vs. Brooklyn

The Brooklyn Nets started out hot after the firing of Avery Johnson, but since then they have come back down to earth playing .500 ball over their last 10 games.  The Lakers have re-invented themselves with Kobe Bryant as the primary facilitator of the offense.  It's a strange role for Kobe and although he's embraced it for the moment deep down he doesn't trust those guys enough to keep this up.  As the games become more critical we will see him revert back to his old ways.  This is not a bad thing if the Lakers win more games, but it's not a good thing if Dwight Howard isn't the factor he was supposed to be.  Hard to tell what's the best direction for the Lakers going forward.  Brooklyn will win tonight and Kobe will most likely abandon his pass first mentality under the bright lights of NYC.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Super Bowl XLVII Observations

Super Bowl XLVII ended somewhat as I predicted as the Baltimore Ravens captured their 2nd Lombardi Trophy with a 34-31 victory over the San Francisco 49ers.  I thought the Ravens would get out to a big lead (they did), I thought Colin Kaepernick would make the game close (he did), and in the end the 49ers wouldn't be able to convert a 4th down conversion when it counted (they couldn't).

To be honest, the game turned when former Oregon running back LaMichael James fumbled at the Baltimore 25 early in the first half.  The Ravens capitalized with a touchdown to Dennis Pitta and never looked back.

The momentum almost switched back in the 49ers favor when Beyonce's Bootylicious halftime performance used up all the power in the Superdome.  The Niners got a chance to gain their composure while re-evaluating their offensive and defensive schemes.  I'm not going to say there was foul play involved, but I wouldn't put it past a Niner fan to do something dramatic to save their team from complete and total embarrassment.

In the end the San Francisco 49ers just weren't good enough to win a Super Bowl.  Colin Kaepernick's inexperience showed in the big game.  Perhaps it was a mistake to bench Alex Smith and go with a youth movement.  In addition the vaunted 49ers defense looked very mortal.  I'm not sure I heard the announcers call Aldon Smith's name all game long and cornerback Chris Culliver repeatedly got beat like a rented mule.  The Niners missed their golden opportunity and it's unlikely they will be in this position anytime soon.

They had their chance and they missed it.  At least they came close and fans in the Bay area should take solace in that.  Hopefully they will greet the team at the airport and show their appreciation for giving a great effort and almost winning a Super Bowl.

As for my B3TZ game?  I rattled off 8 of my last 9 B3TZ's, but like the 49ers I came up a little short.  Congrats to DJ Tang for taking the title this week.  It is imperative that I get off to a better start and not dig myself such a deep hole to climb out of.  The quest for the title this week starts with LeBron James!  He better deliver!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Super Bowl B3TZ Part II

San Francisco vs. Baltimore

In Super Bowl B3TZ part I I gave you the blueprint to success for both teams, but I didn't mention the intangibles.  An improbable catch, a big punt or kick off returned for a touchdown, or a field goal that hits or misses.  Scott Norwood will go down in infamy for missing wide right and Adam Vinateri will go down in history as a hero for his clutch kicks.  David Akers has struggled all year and it wouldn't surprise me if his futility is the difference in the game.  Likewise Torrey Smith could find himself in the same position as David Tyree if he can get behind the Niners secondary.  Typically a quarterback wins the MVP of the Super Bowl, but every once in a while it's someone that makes a big play at the right time.  I still think it will be a quarterback this year, but you never know.  Frank Gore and Ray Lewis are good candidates for the award if Flacco and Kaepernick don't do something spectacular. 

Super Bowl B3TZ Part I

San Francisco vs. Baltimore

If the San Francisco 49er are going to win the Super bowl it will be because Colin Kaepernick gets out of the pocket and makes plays with his legs, but it's also important for him to keep the Ravens defense honest.  If he becomes too one dimensional Ray Lewis and Ed Reed will have a field day.  Intermediate throws to Vernon Davis and slant routes to Michael Crabtree should do the trick.  Another key for San Francisco is to establish the run with Frank Gore to keep the Ravens defense off balance and maintain a time of possession advantage.  Of course the Ravens will have something to say about this with Ray Rice and Joe Flacco.  I don't think Rice will be much of a factor, but Flacco is due to have a big game.  I think his ability to find Torrey Smith and Anquan Bolden for big plays will be the difference.  I've explained how San Francisco can win, but I don't think they will.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Super Bowl Prediction: Ravens By 5

It's strange getting ready to watch the Super Bowl when you're indifferent about who wins or loses.  Unlike most years I don't have a team to pull for.  The Ravens have my guy Ray Lewis, but he's been a distraction all week defending himself against the allegations he used deer antler spray.  Deer antler spray?  Really?  That sounds like a Navajo cure all from 1704.  What's next?  Blackberry seeds mixed with pine cone extract to gain a competitive advantage?  The 49ers have Randy Moss, but he's slipped into the Stephon Marbury zone with his claim of being the best wide receiver of all time.  Jerry Rice should punch him in the face wearing all his Super Bowl rings brass knuckle style.

Then there's the Harbaughs, a touching story if you give it 2 hours of coverage.  After 2 weeks however you don't want either one of them to win.  You just want them to go away so you don't have to hear about them anymore.  It's pretty obvious John got the charm and charisma while Jim got 9/10 of the a$$hole gene.  I'm not sure anyone likes that guy outside of a 15 mile radius of San Francisco.

As far as the game goes?  It will come down to Baltimore's ability to make big plays and keep Colin Kaepernick in the pocket.  If he gets out like he did against Green Bay the Ravens have no chance.  If they keep him contained their chances increase exponentially.  Ray Rice needs to get his touches, but he won't determine the outcome of the game.  It's all up to Torrey Smith and Anquan Bolden.  Kaepernick has to be able to keep Baltimore's defense honest with his passing game and Frank Gore has to eat up big chunks of yardage to keep the chains moving.  If they control time of possession they will win.

My prediction you ask?  With no emotion involved and no skin in the game I should be picking San Francisco, but for some reason I think Baltimore is going to come out swinging.  I think they're going to get out to a big lead and hold off a late surge from Kaepernick.  The Niners will fail an a 4th down conversion and Baltimore will run the clock out.  The Ravens win 31-26.  Your thoughts?