April 19, 2007

Are You Ready? Break It Down!

...Bow to the masters, suck it!

Yeah that headline is a D-Generation X reference from 97'. Deal with it.

Before we get into the Bulls, congratulations to Mark Buehrle, the first White Sox pitcher to throw a no hitter in 16 years. Along with Paul Konerko, Buehrle has been the face of the franchise since the turn of the millennium, and has always been one of baseball’s most unheralded pitchers. Even though it appears unlikely to happen, we’d love to see Buehrle retire as a South Sider. He’s one of our favorite White Sox ever, and something like this couldn’t happen to a better guy.

There was only one little problem. We saw like four pitches of the game! A Sox pitcher throws a no hitter for the first time since we were 3 years old, and we miss the entire thing because the Bulls were on. We were so into the Bulls game, we almost forgot the Sox were playing. The immortal Johnny Red Kerr broke the good news just as the final seconds were ticking off the Bulls’ regular season. Say what you will about Johnny Red (he’s old, senile, old, blind, deaf, old) but those were some of the best words we have ever heard come out of his mouth.

And as for the Bulls, we’re not so worried. There are going to be tons of people between now and Game 1 against the Heat saying the Bulls ruined their entire season by losing to the Nets Wednesday night. We’re definitely not buying that. One loss doesn’t overshadow the fact that this team had a fantastic season, winning more games then any Bulls team since His Airness left. It was just an enjoyable season all around. Honestly, how many NBA teams are there that are actually likable? Three maybe four? Well this Bulls team is one of the few; a group of NBA ballers that aren’t complete thugs.

That’s the best part about this Bulls team, they win the right way. All of their major components, besides for Big Ben, are homegrown, and they’re all high character guys. Nobody is taking bereavement leave to go to a strip club like Zach Randolph and getting three technical fouls every night like Rasheed Wallace. This group of guys generally seems like they like each other and they banded together to do things no post-MJ Bulls team has done. Remember like a week ago when the Knicks were flipping out because the Bulls were beating them by too much? For those of us that remember the Marcus Fizer and Jay Williams years (or year) that was one of the most enjoyable nights of the season. A few years ago, teams were running up the score on the Bulls, now it’s the other way around. We really couldn’t be happier about this transformation.

The Bulls made the transition from competitive to good this season a couple different ways. People might automatically assume that Ben Wallace played the most pivotal role in all of this, but that could be any further from the truth. The real reason the Bulls are legit is because three guys have made the jump to become all star caliber players: Luol Deng, Ben Gordon, and Kirk Hinrich. Though they’re all still young- Hinrich is the oldest at 26 and Deng is only 22- the entire trio transformed into veterans this season.

Hinrich is the best defender on the team and one of the better perimeter defenders in the league. His defense often overshadows his offense, but after Nocioni went down, Hinrich really picked up his scoring. He posted the career highs in minutes, points, field goal percentage, and three point percentage. He’s unquestionably the leader of this team on the court and runs the show as well as any Bull since Pippen.

Deng has a great year too, probably becoming the Bulls best all around player. He’s so gifted offensively and is becoming one of the top small forwards in the NBA. Usually guys like him turn out to be second fiddles on good teams (Josh Howard, Tashaun Prince), but everyone sees Deng developing into the type of player that can carry a title contender. He improved his game as much as any player in the NBA; transforming from a 3-point chucking small forward to a dude who can score in the paint and knock down a mid-range J. He’s become one of the most versatile scorers in the Eastern Conference, and that has allowed the Bulls to contender this season.

But neither have been the teams’ most important player this season. When the Bulls recently announced their team MVP, and they awarded it to the entire team. While that’s nice, the Bulls real MVP is Gordon. The Bulls might have been able to withstand injuries to Luol and Kirk- they wouldn’t be good but they’d manage- but Gordo is the one player that was indispensable this season. Past criticisms of Ben included his streaky shooting, lack of height, and propensity to get into foul trouble. While he didn’t grow (but imagine if he did), Gordo has become a go-to scorer in this league. He finished top 20 in the association in scoring and joined A.I. as the only two players 6’3 and under to average 20 a night. He seemed to regress some in his sophomore season after a stellar rookie campaign, but Gordon’s improvement has meant more to the Bulls than anything else.

It’s also easy to forget about Notch because he missed 28 games during the second half when this team was starting to make their push, but when healthy, he can be just as important as anyone.

If there is one thing we know for sure about this Bulls team it’s that their not going to roll over for anyone. And people who think the Bulls are going to bow down against the defending champs are crazy. Honestly, we here at TUP would rather see the Bulls play the Heat then the Nets in the first round. Maybe there’s something mental blocking the Bulls from winning in New Jersey; we know that isn’t the case with Miami. The Bulls played the Heat tougher then anyone last season during the playoffs (that includes Dallas) and took 3 of 4 meeting with them this year. And don’t think Miami doesn’t remember the 42 point beat down the Bulls laid on them opening night.

Did the Bulls make things tougher for themselves by losing yesterday? Of course, but really, how good is the 2007 incarnation of the Miami Heat? People forget just how beat up the Heat are. D-Wade is more injured then he leads on, Shaq had the burden of carrying them into the playoffs for the last two months, and guys like Eddie Jones and Jason Williams have also battled injuries all season.

Objectively, it’s hard not to like the Bulls in a lot of these matchups. It’s alright to point out how Shaq could have his way with Ben Wallace (something that may or may not happen), but how about Deng and Tyrus blowing by Zo and Udonus Haslem? Wade’s injuries are going to force him to focus most of his energy on scoring, so there a decent chance Gordo explodes for 40 multiple times during this series. Jason Williams has never been good defensively, and the Glove is just plain washed up at this point. Those dogs can’t handle Captain Kirk.

The most underrated aspect of this series might be the Bulls’ big three wanting to finally garner some respect. Outside of Chicago, no one considers Hinrich, Deng, and Gordon all star caliber players, and that is what they became this season. In the NBA, more then any other league, guys yearn for that respect. They want the recognition and treatment that comes with such lofty respect and status. What better way for them to get it then by beating the defending champs?

Prediction: Bulls in 6

PS: Fuck James Posey.

April 18, 2007

Grading the 02' Draft

Hey remember when this website was about the NFL and NBA Draft? Boy, those were the days. Well were going to get back to that shit soon, but with baseball just starting and with the Bulls rocking (more on this tomorrow), there has just been so much going on locally. Anyways, back to draft related nonsense for a bit. They say it takes five years to grade an NFL draft class, so instead of looking back at the class of 2006, let’s peer back to the 2002 class.

1. Houston Texans- QB David Carr
Now: Backup in Carolina
The first pick in Texans’ history, Carr had mixed results in Houston playing behind a historically bad offensive line. He’s gone from Houston now, replaced by Matt Schuab, and he’ll backup Jake Delhomme in Carolina next season.
Grade: C-

2. Carolina Panthers- DE Julius Peppers
Now: Starting with Panthers
People felt about Peppers the same way they feel today about Calvin Johnson: he’s not only the best athlete, he’s the best player. Peppers has not disappointed, fighting off double and triple teams, he notched sacks 13 last season.
Grade: A

3. Detriot Lions- QB Joey Harrington
Now: Backup with Atlanta
To say Harrington’s tenure in Detroit was disappointing would be an understatement. It now appears like he’ll be a career backup, spending last season with Miami, and backing up Michael Vick in Atlanta next season.
Grade: D-

4. Buffalo Bills- OT Mike Williams
Now: Playing with Jaguars
Most people were surprised Williams was drafted before Miami Hurricane standout Bryant McKinnie, but no one expected him to be as bad as he was. A huge bust in Buffalo because he had problems controlling his weight, Williams is now a fringe backup with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Grade: F

5. San Diego Chargers- CB Quentin Jammer
Now: Starting with Chargers
We had a lot of trouble handing out this grade, so if you’re a Chargers fan, or just smarter than us, give us a helping hand in the comments section. Jammer has not at all lived up to his lofty draft status, but San Diego locked him up with a contract extension last season.
Grade: B-

6. Kansas City Chiefs- DT Ryan Sims
Now: Plays with Chiefs
Sims could have been the Vikings problem had they got their 6th pick in on time. Sims has been a bust in Kansas City, barely getting any playing time the last 3 seasons.
Grade: D-

7. Minnesota Vikings- OT Bryant McKinnie
Now: Starting with Vikings
Mount McKinnie never gave up a sack in college, and has been a standout in the pros. He solidifies the left side of a very good Vikings o-line with guard Steve Hutchinson.
Grade: A-

8. Dallas Cowboys- S Roy Williams
Now: Starting with Cowboys
Williams has been a starter on a very good Cowboys defense since his rookie season, but has still had some problems. He’s a big hitter but struggles in coverage.
Grade: B+

9. Jacksonville Jaguars- DT John Henderson
Now: Starting with Jaguars
The Jags built their interior defensive line around the turn of the millennium with Henderson and Marcus Stroud. While not as dominant as Stroud, Henderson has been one of the better players on the Jags defense the past few seasons.
Grade: B+

10. Cincinatti Bengals- OT Levi Brown
Now: Starting with Bengals
Most famous for getting punched out Joey Porter in a casino earlier this year, Brown has done a nice job in recent years of protecting franchise QB Carson Palmer.
Grade: B

11. Indianapolis Colts- DE Dwight Freeney
Now: Starting with Colts
Freeney might have earned an A after 2005, but his sack numbers dropped a little bit last season. We just can’t give him the same grade as Peppers.
Grade: A-

12. Arizona Cardinals- DT Wendell Bryant
Now: Out of football
B-U-S-T bust, bust, bust. What a horrible pick. Maybe the Cards should never draft a d-lineman in the first round again after Bryant and Andre Wadsworth stunk up the joint. The defensive tackle out of Wisconsin never made an impact in the pros and is now out of football.
Grade: F

13. New Orleans Saints- WR Donte Stallworth
Now: Signed with Patriots
The Saints traded Stallworth last season and it opened up a spot for rookie surprise Marques Colston. Stallworth was solid in Phili and will likely become Tom Brady’s favorite target in New England next season.
Grade: B-

14. NY Giants- TE Jeremy Shockey
Now: Starting for Giants
Greg Olsen will continue the long line of Miami tight ends this season, and often draws comparisons to Shockey. Known just as well for his game as his mouth, Shockey has become one of the better tight ends in the NFL.
Grade: B+

15. Tennessee Titans- DT Albert Haynesworth
Now: Starting with Titans
Drafted out of Tennessee, Haynesworth has been a good pro since being taken by the Titans. While he is best known for stomping on some guy’s face last season, he is still one of the better players on the Titans.
Grade: B+

16. Cleveland Browns- RB William Green
Now: Out of footballIs he better or worse then guys like Tim Couch, Courtney Brown, and Gerard Warren?
Grade: F

17. Oakland Raiders- CB Phillip Buchanan
Now: Out of football
Buchanan looked good to start his career in Oakland, but then his play began to slide. The Raiders made up for absence by drafting a plethora of defensive backs early in drafts in recent years.
Grade: D-

18. Atlanta Falcons- RB TJ Duckett
Now: Plays for Redskins
Duckett was one of the D’s in the Falcons vaunted DVD rushing attack for years until he was shipped to Washington last season. He may be their third best back now, however, behind Portis and LaDell Betts.
Grade: C-

19. Denver Broncos- WR Ashley Lelie
Now: Plays for Falcons
The Falcons acquired the speedy Lelie last season from the Broncos to give Michael Vick another weapon. Lelie struggled in Atlanta doing what every other Falcons wideout did: drop passes.
Grade: C+

20. Green Bay Packers- WR Javon Walker
Now: Starts for Broncos
Walker may be the best receiver in this class, making a pro bowl or two. He has enjoyed a pretty good career with Farve’s Packers and last season after Denver traded for him.
Grade: B+

21. New England Patriots- TE Daniel Graham
Now: Signed with Broncos
Coupled with Ben Watson, the Pats took tight ends in the first round in back to back seasons. Watson worked out- now one of Brady’s favorite targets- while Graham really didn’t. He’ll take his game to Denver next season.
Grade: C-

22. NY Jets- DE Bryan Thomas
Now: Playing for Jets
Note: I’m not sure if he remembers this, but this was my Dad’s guy in this draft! While not as good as the Old Man expected, Thomas had a career season in 2006, notching 8.5 sacks. His previous career high was 3.5 sacks.
Grade: C+

23. Oakland Raiders- OLB Napoleon Harris
Now: Playing with Kansas City
Harris will forever be remembered for being traded for Randy Moss (and the #7 pick in the draft a few years ago, aka Troy Williamson. Yikes), and has now been on three teams during his career. He’s not a standout, but he has become a quality fourth linebacker.
Grade: C-

24. Baltimore Ravens- S Ed Reed
Now: Starting for Ravens
Already named Defensive Player of the Year, Reed may be the NFL’s top safety, and along with Peppers, the best player to come out of this draft.
Grade: A

25. New Orleans Saints- DE Charles Grant
Now: Starts for Saints
The Saints defense surprised people last season and the d-end tandem of Grant and Will Smith was a big reason why. Grant tallied 6 sacks in 2006.
Grade: B

26. Philadephia Eagles- CB Lito Shepard
Now: Starts for Eagles
While he is often overshadowed by his higher profile teammates in Phili, Shepard is a vital cog in the Eagles defense. And he’s a lot better then the guy drafted after him…
Grade: B+

27. San Francisco 49ers- CB Mike Rumph
Now: Playing for Jaguars
The 49ers have a good young team, but Rumph isn’t a part of it anymore. He struggled in coverage in San Fran and now plays safety for the Jaguars.
Grade: D

28. Seattle Seahawks- TE Jerramy Stevens
Now: Started for Seahawks last season
Stevens’ mouth and poor hands drew the ire of Seahawks fans during his time in Seattle. He will most be remembered for dropping multiple passes in Super Bowl 40.
Grade: C

29. Chicago Bears- OT Marc Columbo
Now: Starts with Cowboys
This looked like a safe pick at the time, but a devastating knee injury derailed Columbo’ career in his rookie season. He rebounded nicely last season, however, starting at guard for the Cowboys.
Grade: C-

30. Pittsburgh Steelers- OG Kendall Simmons
Now: Starts with Steelers
A solid starter on a good offensive line in Pittsburgh, Simmons helped the Steelers win the Super Bowl in 2005.
Grade: B

31. St. Louis Rams- MLB Robert Thomas
Now: Playing with Raiders
Thomas’s career never got off the ground in St. Louis and he now plays for Oakland.
Grade: D

32. Washington Redskins- QB Patrick Ramsey
Now: Backup with Jets
Ramsey was never the same after Bears linebacker Lance Briggs atomic clothlined him in the first week of the 2005 season. He will compete with Kellen Clemens to backup Chad Pennington in New York next season.
Grade: C-

April 17, 2007

Brian Anderson Needs To Play

If there is one thing White Sox fans know about Ozzie Guillen, it’s that he plays favorites with the guys on his roster. Get on his good side, and you’ll see plenty of at bats. Get on his bad side, and you’ll be riding the bench, or as Brandon McCarthy and Sean Tracy will tell you, shipped out of town.

For whatever reason, Brian Anderson has been unable to reach Guillen’s good side since he began last season as the club’s opening day center fielder. One reason could be because he was playing the shadow of Aaron Rowand. One of the most popular players from the White Sox championship team in 2005, Rowand was dealt to the Phillies in exchange for Jim Thome shortly after the tickertape stopped raining down. Guillen loved Rowand as much as anyone, and maybe any young player thrust into centerfield in his place would have been doomed from the start. Anderson didn’t help himself either by hitting about .180 through the first half of the season. It seemed like no matter how good he was after the all star break, Brian Anderson had already dug himself a pretty deep hole with his manager.

But after the all star game was when Anderson really started to come into his own. He was able to finish the year with a .225 batting average, pretty impressive when you consider how horrible he was the first two months of the season, and emerged as one of the American League’s premier defensive centerfielders. Even as Anderson was cranking out doubles in August and September and providing the club with defense that was at least 90% as good as what Rowand did a year before, Ozzie continued to split his at bats with Rob Mackowiack.

Mackowiack was god awful in center, as he was primarily third basemen for most of his career with the Pittsburgh Pirates, but he was one of Ozzie’s guys so it really didn’t matter. The platoon was especially curious when you consider the last thing the White Sox needed was more offense. They had four guys jack 30 or more home runs last season, so you would think that the offense would be able to withstand Anderson hitting eighth or ninth. The Sox main problem in 2006 was their pitching, a department where Anderson’s stellar defense could have helped by saving some more runs late in the season.

The only move the White Sox made in the offseason was signing veteran Darren Erstad who was supposed to be Anderson’s competition for the centerfield spot in spring training. It must never have really been a competition, however, as Erstad was handed the starting job despite being outperformed in spring by Anderson.

After only getting seven at bats through the first 11 games of this season, now is the time for Anderson to start playing more. Erstad has been anything but spectacular so far, only hitting .189, and while his defense is better then Mackowiack’s was last season, it still isn’t what Anderson brings to the table.

I know Ozzie likes Erstad because he’s a gritty veteran and because it allows him to hit Iguchi deeper in the lineup, but Brian Anderson deserves another shot. Looking at the situation objectively, playing Anderson would be far better for the future of the ball club. Anderson’s only 24 and Sox should see what they really have in him. They already traded away one centerfield who looks like he’s going to be a future star, Chris Young in Arizona, so the organization owes it to themselves to see what Anderson can give them. Unless your name is Delmon Young, young players always have trouble adjusting to major league pitching, and Anderson showed solid improvement offensively in last year’s second half. He already brings great defense, and if the kid gets regular at bats, who knows, he might even start to hit consistently.

But the way Guillen is using Anderson so far this season is pretty much the worst way possible. It would be better for him to playing everyday in Triple-A Charlotte then to be rotting on the bench in the majors. If the Sox don’t start to give Anderson a shot at more playing time soon, then they may never know how good he could have been.

April 16, 2007

Seriously, I Feel Bad For You Guys

The Cubs had a lot to be optimistic about coming into this season, they really did. But what a difference 11 games can make. A disappointing 4-7 start has already taken a toll on an entire fan base that is seemingly bracing themselves for another awful year. For all that money they spent in the offseason, things just aren’t going the Cubs’ way right now. Their new manager flipped out after only 9 games. Their new center fielder, all $136 million of him, is hitting only .234 without a home run and only one RBI. Their cleanup hitter is already battling a lingering injury.

Maybe that’s why this week’s news that Mark Prior and Kerry Wood aren’t coming back anytime soon really didn’t cause a commotion. There are just too many other depressing things to focus on. Two guys that were once considered a one way ticket to the promise land for a franchise that hasn’t been there in nearly 100 years now seem to be out of the long term plan.

I’m a White Sox fan, and even I feel bad for these Cubbies. Can you ever remember a franchise in any sport that pinned so much hope on two young players, only to have both become colossal busts during the time when they should be in the prime of their careers?

Though Jim Hendry and Lou Pinella said throughout spring training that this season won’t be all about Prior and Wood, inevitably, it always will be. Until they’re retired or playing night games in a different color uniform, every Cubs season will suffer from the hope and eventual disappointment that both right-handers bring. Even this year, when their expectations have never been lower, Cubs fans are left to imagine how much better the club would be if both were finally healthy. If Prior was a solid #4 starter and if Wood could help solidify a shaky bullpen, maybe that would help turn a lackluster start around. It’s not like they’re both being asked to win 20 games anymore, but the pressure Mark Prior and Kerry Wood shoulder is still some of the heaviest in baseball.

This may not seem wholly logical, but the only way for the Cubs to ever compete is to get rid of both of them. While Wood’s days in Cubbie blue are numbered as his one year contract runs out after 2007, Prior might be sticking around a little longer. Remember at the beginning of last season when a potential Prior for Miguel Tejada deal drew the ire of Cub fans everywhere? If only they could go back and make that deal a reality. Then maybe the franchise could finally move on.

April 15, 2007

Oden Not Turning Pro Yet

Contrary to published report, Greg Oden has not yet decided his basketball future. This according to Mike Conley Sr., one day after Greg Oden Sr. said his son was leaving Ohio State for the NBA. Conley Sr., who is expected to be Oden’s agent whenever his professional career begins, said Oden has not committed to turning pro just yet.

"No. Definitely not. Not to say he's not going to decide that -- but, 100 percent, as of this moment, he hasn't decided," Conley, father of Oden's high school and college teammate, Mike Conley Jr., told The Associated Press.

"I talk to his mother every day, and I talk to [Ohio State coach] Thad Matta every day, and if Thad Matta and his mother and I don't know, then how can anyone else know?"

The news that Oden may not leave Columbus after just one year will surprise a lot of people, but I’ve figured all along that Oden would return to Ohio State for his sophomore season. Oden just seems like a different kind of cat; he’s unbelievably humble and said earlier this season that he feels he still needs to work on his game at the college level. He even told ESPN’s Andy Katz that after he found out he needed surgery on his right wrist, he asked Ohio State coach Thad Matta if he could redshirt. If anyone else of Oden’s stature said that, it would be assumed they were joking, but I’m not sure if Greg Oden knows how to be funny. He will almost certainly be the #1 pick whenever he comes out, so Oden may not feel the pressure most college ballers do to make their millions right away.

And if Oden doesn’t come out, that would beg the question, just how good is this incoming draft class? For a year people have been saying how this is one of the most stacked classes in NBA history with two guaranteed blue chippers at the top (Oden and Durant), and a slew of other freshman (not to mention Florida’s trio of juniors) who were barred from entering the NBA out of high school because of a new rule passed by David Stern. If Oden goes back to school, Durant is the for-sure number one pick, but who would go after him? Guys like Al Horford, Brendan Wright, and Corey Brewer are all considered possible top 5 picks, but now one of those guys has to go #2 to an NBA team pissed off they didn’t land Oden or Durant.

For my money, I think Oden would be dumb not to go pro. Another year in college won’t fix any of his flaws because he dominates college ball already. He won’t need to work on his footwork and post moves because in college he can get by on his pure size and strength, something that won’t work for him in the NBA. But I’d love to see Oden go back to school just see the looks on the faces of all the NBA GM’s that instructed their teams to tank during the last two months of the NBA season. All that losing for nothing. Take that Milwaukee.

Starters Carrying White Sox

Despite only having a .500 record, Ozzie Guillen has to like what he’s seeing from his Chicago White Sox so far this season. While the middle of the lineup has gotten off to a slow start, the starting pitching has picked up the load, showing signs that a poor 2006 may have been an aberration.

Every starter has now pitched twice and they have all thrown the ball better in their second start. The rotation’s biggest surprise thus far has to be Javier Vazquez. Vazquez was inconsistent last season as he struggled to get out of the fifth inning, but this year he has pitched better than any Sox starter. Leading the rotation with a 1.50 ERA, Vazquez is keeping himself out of trouble because he is striking guys out. In his two games he has pitched 12 innings and has 12 strikeouts. If that ratio holds throughout the season, the extension he recently signed, 3 years for more than 30 million dollars, will be viewed as a bargain.

Jose Contreas had a horrible opening day against the Indians but pitched great in his second start in Oakland. Though he had trouble getting his split finger over the plate for strikes, Contreras still went six innings and allowed only one run against a pesky A’s lineup. No one expects him to pitch as well as he did through the middle of last season, winning 17 straight decisions at one point, but he will have to steady for the White Sox to keep pace in the AL Central. Even though he was the opening day starter the Sox really don’t need him to be a true ace. If he can eat up innings and keep his walks down, Contreras should have a good 2007.

He was viewed as a question mark coming into the season, but John Danks has pitched better than anyone expected through his first two major league starts. The only runs he has given up this season have come off home runs and Danks hasn’t let the dingers rattle him. He’s shown tremendous poise on the mound for such a young pitcher and is living up to his lofty billing so far. Danks pitched well on Saturday against the Indians, going 5 1/3, allowing 7 hits, but only two runs.

The Sox other two starters, Jon Garland and Mark Buehrle, have been predictably solid to open the season. Buehrle had an awful second half in 2006 which seemed to lower expectations for him this year. People seem to forget that he has only had two bad halves his entire career and is showing that he will return to form this season. Pitching seven strong innings and giving up three runs against the A’s on Friday, Buehrle proved that a wrist injury he suffered in his first start had no lingering effect. While the game Buehrle pitched on Wednesday was good, Jon Garland was dominate the day before. Garland allowed just three hits in his second start on Tuesday against the A’s, going seven innings and not allowing an earned run. Winning 18 games each of the last two seasons, Garland was second in AL in victories in 2006, only behind Johan Santana.

If Garland can pitch the way he has the past two seasons, and if Buehrle can keep from going into a prolonged slump, the two should carry the White Sox rotation. Vazquez hasn’t pitched this good since he was in Montréal, and his performance this season could decide who wins the AL Central. Contreras just has to keep the offense in the game and anything the Sox get from Danks this season has to be considered gravy. The middle of the lineup will start hitting eventually and Scott Podsednik and Juan Uribe, two players who struggled mightily in 2006, have been spectacular so far. Though the season is only ten games old, the White Sox are already showing they should compete in 2007.

April 13, 2007

Would The Bulls Be Better With Eddy Curry?

There was a great article in the Sun Times yesterday about the Eddy Curry trade. It’s hard to believe Curry, one of the most polarizing players in Bulls history, has been in New York for two full seasons now. Most people blasted John Paxson for not getting enough in return when he shipped Curry to the Knicks for a couple draft picks, but the emergence of Tyrus Thomas and possibility of the Bulls landing another high lottery pick look like pretty good compensation for the 24 year old center.

But did the Bulls really get the better end of the deal? Would the Bulls be better this season if they still had Eddy Curry?

Seemingly the only thing keeping the Bulls from a being a shoe-in for the NBA Finals this season is their lack of a low post scoring threat. Eddy Curry could have been that guy. Playing a career high 35 minutes a game for the Knicks this season, Curry is averaging over 19 points and 7 rebounds a game. He recently dropped 43 in a road win over the Bucks including a game tying 3 pointer at the end of regulation. Before the Knicks recent string of injuries, which saw them lose David Lee, Stephon Marbury, and Jamal Crawford, Curry had New York right in the playoff hunt at 29-34. Remember, the only reason the Bulls traded Curry in the first place was because he refused to take a DNA test after it was found that he had a potentially life threatening heart condition, something that has yet to ever effect his career.

Had the Bulls kept Curry the roster could look completely different. They wouldn’t have Tyrus Thomas, probably wouldn’t have Ben Wallace, and might still have Tyson Chandler. While the Wallace versus Chandler debate could go either way, it’s impossible to overlook the impact Tyrus Thomas has had on the Bulls in the second half of the season. With Andres Nocioni virtually missing the entire half, Thomas stepped in and gave the Bulls’ bench a much needed surge. He was as important as anyone in games against the Celtics and Cavs, and his tip-in as time expired gave the Bulls a huge road win over the Denver Nuggets. Thomas’ big play ability is something the Bulls never got from Curry and it adds another dimension to the team on both ends of the court. His block of a Josh Smith dunk in Atlanta and his block-to-dunk sequence in New Orleans could be two of the best plays of the NBA season, and both were momentum changers that led to Bulls’ victories.

And don’t forget the Bulls will swap first round picks with New York this year. If the season ended today, the Knicks, at 32-46, would have the eight worst record in basketball. The Bulls could look to add a big man with that pick. If they get lucky, Ohio State’s Greg Oden would make the Bulls one of the NBA’s elite teams for the next decade (I’m on the record as a Durant guy, but the Bulls would be dumb not take Oden). Even if the pick stays at eight, the Bulls should have options with big men like Washington center Spencer Hawes, Florida forward Joakim Noah, and Georgetown center Roy Hibbert all likely available.

While having Curry would add another dimension to the Bulls offense, the pieces added via the trade with the Knicks more than make up for his absence. With the draft picks the Bulls acquired from the trade they have basically rebuilt again, only this time a steady foundation is already in place with guys like Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, and Luol Deng. It would be unfair to say New York got fleeced in the deal, but trade let the Bulls add some young pieces that should have them competing in the Eastern Conference for years to come.

Things You Should Read

Yeah, I know some of these links are pretty old, but they’re all awesome.

1. This gets my vote for the best quote in the history of sports.

2. HUGE NEWS: Devin Hester will have a 100 speed rating in Madden 08’!!! If that doesn’t deserve triple exclamation points I don’t know what does. This post also became my favorite Deadspin thread ever. I advise you read the whole thread, but some of the highlights include:

•Grossman got a 100 for sex appeal. (if you don’t get this click here.)
•Tom Brady got 100 for fertility.
•Kyle Orton got a 100 for Proof of Bloodstream.
•Pacman got a 100 in ones for making it rain.
•Charlie Rose got a 100 for fagging out.
•T.O. got 100 in asshole.

3. A great post on Sammy Sosa over at AOL Fanhouse by the dude who runs Foul Balls.

4. I wrote last month about the Suns possibly getting Kevin Durant, and now what do you know, everyone has jumped on the bandwagon. You can read about here at AOL Fanhouse and here at The Big Lead.

5. One word. Bukkake.

April 12, 2007

Great Idea: The Bears and Calvin Johnson

One of my buddies brought this to my attention, and needless to say it got me excited. There is a chance the Bears could get Calvin Johnson. Everyone knows Detroit wants to trade out of the two hole, presumably to land Gaines Adams, a guy who Rod Marinelli envisions playing the Simeon Rice role in Detroit's new look defense. So here's what the Bears do. First, they make the Briggs trade with the Redskins.

I've said all along that the Bears should just sign Briggs to a long term deal- they have the cap room and weakside linebacker is vital to the cover 2- but Angelo said last week that a long term deal is very unlikely at this point. So the Bears have to make a trade and the deal with the Redskins is a pretty good one. That will put them at #6. If JaMarcus Russell goes number 1, there is going to be a bidding war for Detroit’s number 2 selection that will most likely include the Falcons and Bucs. The Bears should get in on that.

As I detailed in an earlier post, the Bears really don’t need anyone who would be available at six, but they could definitely use Calvin Johnson, the best player in this draft and possibly the best wide receiver prospect ever. The Bears should outbid Tampa Bay and Atlanta, and go hog wild to make a deal with Detroit happen. They might have to give up a lot- a few years ago the Browns gave the Lions their next years first round pick just to move up one spot to grab Kellen Winslow Jr.- but it would be worth it.

Just imagine CJ in a Bears uniform. He’d immediately be the Bears #1 receiver and could dominate a relatively weak pool of NFC North defensive backs right away. The best part of potentially grabbing Johnson? He would make Rex Grossman awesome. No NFL player was more maligned last year then Grossman, but give him Calvin Johnson and there is at least a 50% chance he turns into the best quarterback in the NFC. You couldn’t build a more perfect receiver for Grossman then CJ, a guy who’s basically a cross between T.O. and Randy Moss without the character issues. Rex could take his seven step drops- out of the shotgun this year!- and chuck it down field all game long. Johnson has the speed (4.35) and size (239 lbs) that he would come down with those jump balls all the time. How unreal would a Bears offense be that pounded the rock with Cedric Benson on first and second down and then chucked it downfield to CJ whenever they needed a big play. You could not tell me that wouldn’t work.

Of course, the deal would be contingent on the Raiders taking Russell number 1, something that is looking less likely as we inch towards the draft. But if Johnson is available at 2, Jerry Angelo would strongly have to consider trading up in the draft for the first time in his tenure.