Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Jimmy Patsos coaches to... make a statement?

If you don't know who Jimmy Patsos (above) is, he's the men's head basketball coach at Loyola (Md.) College. He's a former assistant coach under Gary Williams at Maryland, and he was around when the Terps' won a national title against Indiana in 2002.

Anyway, Loyola faced Davidson yesterday and Patsos employed a triangle-and-2 defense to try to stop Stephen Curry, Davidson's outstanding guard and a player who will more than likely be a high first-round pick in next year's NBA draft. (A triangle-and-2 defense is when two defenders shadow one or two players and the three other players on defense basically play a 1-2 zone.)

Patsos is a pretty good coach, but he figured his team had no chance to stop Curry, so he figured, hey, why not just take him out of the game and see what happens?

“If Oklahoma can’t stop him, how is Loyola College going to stop him?” Patsos asked.

Well, what happened was a 30-point loss. Then again, Curry didn't score any points, so, moral victory!

Unfortunately, some fans weren't pleased with Patsos's decision; the same goes for Davidson's head coach.

Some will remember the catcalls Patsos received from the fans when he stuck with the defense well after the game was decided. Davidson coach Bob McKillop was so annoyed he kept Curry in the game until the final minute.

“It seemed to me they were willing to risk the game at the expense of locking Steph up,” McKillop said. “When you put two people on somebody and you do it for 30 minutes and at the end of the game, you have to wonder what the reasons for that are.”

Those Maryland coaches are just off the wall, aren't they?

Blatche shows potential in Wizards win over Warriors

Playing at home against the Golden State Warriors, the Wizards, under interim head coach Ed Tapscott, looked more like a 10-1 team instead of a 1-10 team as they defeated the Warriors 124-100.

The Wizards filled the stat sheet as they dominated from the very beginning. As a team, the Wiz shot over 50 percent from the field, hit 40 percent of their three-pointers, outrebounded the Warriors 54-40 (including 23 offensive rebounds), and tallied 27 assists, 12 steals, and 9 blocks. The defense, which seemed much more active, limited the Warriors to 6 three-pointers made (30 percent) and forced 20 turnovers.

Individual numbers were just as impressive. Caron Butler was the game's high scorer with 35 points; he also finished with 8 rebounds, 6 assists, and 3 steals. Jamison scored 25 points and grabbed 11 rebounds. Rookie JaVale McGee started the game off strong with an alley oop from DeShawn Stevenson immediately following the opening tip-off, and he finished with 14 points and 5 rebounds.

But the most shocking and welcomed performance was by Andray Blatche. In 29 minutes on the floor, a season high, Blatche looked comfortable on both offense and defense. In his most complete game as a Wizard, he finished with 25 points (11-18), 12 rebounds, 5 assists, 5 blocks, and 2 steals. He only committed 1 turnover and played some strong minutes alongside McGee.

Jamison noticed a change in Blatche's production. "Maybe for him the biggest key is a new voice," he said, "a different voice in the locker room." Either way, Blatche looked like a completely different player.

Did the Wizards play with more energy because of some anger or frustration over the firing of Eddie Jordan? Probably. Did playing against the Warriors, a team that is allowing the second-most points per game this season (106.1), aid a rather stagnant offense? I'm sure it did. But the Wizards still played their best game of this still-young season, and Tapscott gave plenty of minutes to the young guys: McGee (20 minutes), Blatche (29 minutes), Young (22 minutes), and McGuire (17 minutes). McGuire's 17 minutes, a season high for him as well, came as a shock, but he didn't disappoint. He's not an offensive force by any means (2 points), but he did hustle on defense and managed to grab 5 rebounds and also finished with 2 steals and 2 blocks.

Tapscott also kept Thomas on the bench, which is where he should be unless McGee or Blatche gets in foul trouble or is injured. Thomas has played hard this season, but the Wizards just play better when he's not in the lineup. (For proof, check out his -29.9 Net48 total, the lowest on the team, on 82games here.) Tapscott also refused to play Songaila at center, another strong indication of how he will handle bench players' minutes.

The Wizards have two tough games coming up against the Orlando Magic and Atlanta Hawks, so hopefully Tapscott sticks to his guns and continues to hand out minutes to the young players, which he should do even if the Wizards don't play as well as they did yesterday.

Monday, November 24, 2008

More on Eddie Jordan

Earlier today, Ivan Carter, the Wizards' beat writer for the Washington Post, was interviewed on SportsCenter and basically said what most Wizards' fans think about the move to fire Eddie Jordan this morning. Jordan was certainly partially responsible for an underachieving start, but everyone on the team has to play better, period.

Who is Ed Tapscott?

When the Wizards decided to fire Eddie Jordan this morning, I was unaware of who Tapscott was or that he was even on the Wizards' coaching staff. Now he's the head coach of the team (at least for a while), so a little background information seems useful.

This is Tapscott's first time as an NBA head coach, but "he has plenty of front-office experience, including as president and chief operating officer of the Charlotte Bobcats and, before that, as vice president of player personnel and basketball operations for the Knicks in the 1990s." Grunfeld was running the Knicks at that time, which appears to be why the other assistant coaches were looked over.

Tapscott also followed Gary Williams as head coach of American University in 1982. When he was coaching under Williams, Tapscott "was in charge of the defense, and advocated a full-court, 94-foot game, a pressure defense and a fast-breaking offense," which is interesting to note because the Wizards do none of those things, especially the whole playing defense part.

The above link to the DC Sports Bog also includes the following quote from Tapscott:

"While I was attending Sidwell Friends, I used to come to AU to watch practice. The doors were always locked so I had to look through the cracks between the doors. I was an admirer of Kermit Washington and Tom Young's coaching and I hope to continue that legacy. The doors might not be locked now, but there will be someone watching who comes in."

It remains unclear at this time whether or not Tapscott plans to lock Oleksiy Pecherov out of practice.

Wizards fire Jordan

According to Ivan Carter of the Washington Post, Eddie Jordan was fired this morning. Ed Tapscott, the Director of Player Development, will take over as head coach.

As the Wizards head coach, Jordan had a record of 197-224 and was 8-18 in the playoffs. He coached the Wizards into the playoffs in four of his five full seasons with the team, but the Wizards only advanced out of the first round once (in 2005), only to be swept by the Miami Heat in four games.

A 1-10 start to this season with a most recent loss to the short-handed Knicks didn't help Jordan's cause.

With the move, the Wizards relieve the Eastern Conference's longest-tenured head coach of his duties.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

One of the worst plays I've ever seen

The video speaks for itself:

(Found on Basketbawful)

Piling on

The Wizards are now 1-8 after a disappointing loss to an Atlanta Hawks team with Josh Smith and Al Horford. The game was competitive until the very end when, shockingly, the Wizards failed to get some timely defensive stops and instead left shooters wide open.

But I'm not going to go on a pointless rant. The Wizards are playing hard every night; they just can't finish games down the stretch because they don't have the talent to overcome as many mistakes.

Anyway, I'm just going to post a couple of heartbreaking videos that many Wizards fans know all too well. A 1-8 record is really bad, but I guess things could always be worse. At least the Wizards haven't lost like this yet. And Michael Ruffin could still be on the team.

Did I mention that I'm not fond of the Raptors?

Hey, at least JaVale McGee finally started!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Wizards need a change -- and fast

After consecutive losses to the Miami Heat, the Wizards' record stands at 1-7, the worst in the Eastern Conference. Fans and players are frustrated; here's what Jamison had to say after the most recent loss to the Heat:

"It's tough right now but we're going to stay positive and continue to work hard. We're going to do everything possible to turn this thing around. It's tough when you put yourself in position to win, but you just can't get it done. We're going to get on a plane, learn from our mistakes, and once we touch down in Atlanta, we need to get focused on a pretty good Atlanta team that is playing well at home."

Head coach Eddie Jordan is also starting to show some frustration:

"This team is built for Gilbert Arenas to lead us; this team is built for our all star forwards to do certain offensive things for us and for Brendan Haywood to have a career year manning the middle for us. We don't have those things. You're asking people to do things they are not capable of doing. They are not capable of carrying the load for us like a Dwyane Wade, like a Gilbert Arenas. You've got young guys who aren't going to make veteran plays night in, night out."

There's no questioning the fact that the Wizards would be much better off with Arenas and Haywood in the lineup. While Jordan is right about having several young players, he routinely sends his overmatched veterans out to start the first and third quarters, forcing his team to dig out of deficits at least twice a game. Want proof? Here are the +/- numbers to start the first and third quarters before Jordan makes his first substitution.

Game 1 (95-85 L to Nets): tied in 1st (4:16), +1 in 3rd (4:16)
Game 2 (117-109 L to Pistons): -14 in 1st (2:47), -7 in 3rd (5:05)
Game 3 (112-104 L to Bucks): -10 in 1st (3:46), +4 in 3rd (5:03)
Game 4 (114-108 L to Knicks): -6 in 1st (3:45), -5 in 3rd (6:56)
Game 5 (106-81 L to Magic): -6 in 1st (2:42), -6 in 3rd (4:31)
Game 6 (95-87 W vs. Jazz): -4 in 1st (3:36), -3 in 3rd (7:41)
Game 7 (97-77 L to Heat): -8 in 1st (1:57), +7 in 3rd (6:28)*
Game 8 (94-87 L to Heat): -4 in 1st (4:39), -8 in 3rd (9:41)

* Darius Songaila started the quarter in place of Etan Thomas.

Other info: The starting five for games 1, 2, 4, and 6 was Daniels, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison, and Thomas. The starting five for game 3 was Daniels, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison, and Blatche, and the starting five for games 5, 7, and 8 was Dixon, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison, and Thomas.

The Wizards are a combined -69 (!) before the first substitution is made in the first and third quarters. What that means is the following: The young guys that do come in the game like Young, McGee, and Blatche have their work cut out for them and need to work hard to get their team back in the game. Sure, the starting lineups are also playing against the starting lineups of other teams, which may be tougher, but they're still getting significantly outplayed.

I also don't think it's a concidence that two of the three positive starts to quarters came with Etan Thomas not in the lineup. And that means that either McGee or Blatche should start in his place. Or, at least Blatche would be in a position to start or play more if he didn't have problems with his conditioning. According to Jordan, Blatche's conditioning "hasn't gotten to the point where it's where it should be, where he can sustain a high level of intensity and a high level of concentration." In that case, McGee should be the starting center until Haywood returns.

The case could also be made that Nick Young should be starting in place of DeShawn Stevenson. Not only has Young played better than Stevenson after eight games, but Stevenson also appears to be dealing with a hamstring problem. Stevenson is averaging 8.0 points, 1.5 rebounds, and 1.6 assists; last year, he averaged 11.2 points, 2.9 rebounds, and 3.1 assists. He played about 5 more minutes per game last year, but he also shot better from the 3-point line (38.3% in '07, 29.0% in '08). He's obviously struggling a bit, and even though he's been known to play through injuries before, if he's hurting the team in the starting lineup, then he needs to be replaced.

Young, on the other hand, is almost doubling his offensive production from last season. The injury to Gilbert Arenas and the departure of Roger Mason have given Young more minutes (over 28 per game), and he's scoring 14.8 points per game off of the bench. He's also shooting a solid 47.2% from the field despite shooting a miniscule 14.3% from 3-point range. It goes without saying that Young seems to be at his best when he's creating off the dribble or shooting fadeaways. According to 82games, the Wizards are also +7 when Young is on the floor and -91 when Stevenson is playing.

While Young has been solid, McGee has probably been the biggest bright spot on an otherwise ugly start to the season. The McGee selection in last year's draft was ripped by several analysts and colunnists (here, here, and here), but McGee has been one of the best players so far this season. In a little over 21 minutes per game, the rookie is averaging 9.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, and 1.1 blocks. McGee seems to have a big future, and he should continue to get plenty of minutes. The Wizards are also +1 with McGee on the court (and -66 when Thomas plays).

Besides two blowout losses to the Magic and Heat, the Wizards have been competitive; a few plays here or there and the team could be .500 right now -- but they're not. Starting Young and McGee wouldn't necessarily guarantee the Wizards any victories, but having Jordan revamp the starting lineup and bench rotations would give the team more of a chance to win some more games.

Monday, November 17, 2008

LeBron 'absolutely' thinks Yankees will land Sabathia

I'm not really sure why this is an MLB headline on, but apparently LeBron James, a huge Yankees fan, is positive that CC Sabathia will eventually sign with the Yankees.

"Asked before Cleveland's game against Utah on Saturday night if he thought the Yankees would win the Sabathia sweepstakes, James smiled and said, 'We're gonna get him. Absolutely.'"

No word on whether Caron Butler thinks the Nationals have a shot at Mark Teixeira or not.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Howard has huge game vs. lowly Thunder

It feels weird to read and write "Oklahoma City Thunder," and I'm not sure that will ever change.

Anyway, Magic center Dwight Howard recorded his first career triple-double in a win over the Thunder today. Howard had 30 points, 19 rebounds, 10 blocks(!), and even managed 3 assists.

"It was the first time a player had at least 30 points and 10 blocks in a game since Hakeem Olajuwon had 31 points, 13 rebounds and 10 blocks against Dallas on April 13, 1996, according to the Elias Sports Bureau."

Pretty crazy.

While there's no questioning Howard's huge game, it is worth noting that it's not all that surprising that the Thunder's three-headed monster at center, Johan Petro, Robert Swift, and Mouhamed Sene, couldn't slow Howard down.

Monday, November 10, 2008

A's acquire Holliday from Colorado

The A's made a surprising move today by dealing for the Rockies' Matt Holliday. While the deal has not yet been finalized, the A's appear to have acquired the power hitting Holliday in exchange for pitchers Greg Smith and Brett Anderson and outfielders Ryan Sweeney and Carlos Gonzalez.

The trade is interesting on a number of levels:

1) Billy Beane actually traded for a superstar in the prime of his career instead of trading one away.

2) Holliday only has one year left on his deal, and the A's rarely give out big money.

3) The Rockies managed to pull off the deal; many figured they wouldn't get it done.

This Sporting News article also does a great job of explaining the motives for the move and the possibilites for what the A's may do with Holliday during the 2009 season.

Another 0-5 start for the Wizards

For the second consecutive year, the Wizards have started the season with five losses in a row. Last year, the losses came to the Pacers, Celtics, Magic, Nets, and Nuggets; this year, the losses have been to the Nets (2-3), Pistons (4-1), Bucks (3-4), Knicks (4-2), and Magic (4-2). While it’s way too early in the season to take a lot out of opposing teams’ records, the Nets, Bucks, and Knicks, a combined 83-163 last season, all appear to be at least somewhat improved this season. But that’s a completely different angle altogether, and it doesn’t matter who you play; it matters if you win -- and the Wizards haven’t done that yet.

Except for the most recent loss to the Magic, the games have been competitive, and the Wizards could have earned a victory if they made a few more plays in crunch time. Unfortunately, they didn’t and now face the possibility of a horrific 0-6 start when the Jazz (5-1) come to Washington on Wednesday.

Believe it or not, I had the exact same idea for a Wizards write-up as Bullets Forever, a great read by the way, with "The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly" theme, but they beat me to it. So I’ll just go with some good and bad news; obviously the bad outweighs the good.

Good News:

Nick Young: Young (16.6) is third on the Wizards in scoring behind Butler (20.2) and Jamison (17.6) despite coming off of the bench and playing fewer minutes. Young has been one of the team’s best offensive weapons and is basically taking over Arenas’s role as one of the "Big 3" scorers. Though he doesn’t add much in terms of rebounds, assists, or defense, Young has been limiting his turnovers to 1.4 per game and seems to be better conditioned. Remember, Young is just 23 years old and this is only his second season. He appears to be developing into a very formidable scorer who can give the team a spark at any moment.

JaVale McGee: Yes, it’s extremely early, but McGee is fifth on the Wizards in scoring with 7.5 points per game. Fair or not, McGee is basically doing what every Wizards fan wants Andray Blatche to do: hustling up and down the court, blocking shots, playing hard, throwing down dunks, and showing progress with each court appearance (no pun intended). In a little over 17 minutes per game, McGee is also grabbing 5.8 rebounds and blocking 1 shot. If he keeps it up, he could easily find himself starting at center in the next few games/weeks.

Juan Dixon: To illustrate just how bad the Wizards’ point guard situation is, Dixon, a jump-shooter who isn’t really known for his ball-handling ability, started at the one against the Magic. Dixon, though, has played surprisingly well and has teamed with Young to form the best backcourt combination for the Wizards in the first several games. Dixon is averaging 5.8 points, 4.2 assists, and 2.2 rebounds and has a 10.5 assist-to-turnover ratio. With Antonio Daniels battling a knee injury, Dixon may earn the bulk of the point guard minutes until Daniels is healthy or Arenas returns to action.

Bad News:

Andray Blatche: I mentioned his name before, and his case is very frustrating. Blatche seems to possess all of the physical tools to excel on the court, but he just hasn’t done so. For every solid stretch of play that Blatche has, he seems to have just as many boneheaded plays and careless turnovers. He seems to forget that he’s not a 3-point shooter and often settles for jumpers instead of drawing contact and trying to get to the free-throw line. Haywood’s absence in the lineup should provide Blatche with an outstanding opportunity to play more minutes and prove to Eddie Jordan that he’s improving, but he’s actually averaging 2 minutes fewer per game so far because of his inconsistent play. Make no mistake about it: Blatche still has plenty of games to showcase his talent. It would just be nice for the Wizards if he would do so sooner rather than later. Also, giving up easy baskets to Kwame Brown, of all players, doesn’t exactly help his case.

Defense: As in, the Wizards barely play any defense. The Wizards are currently ranked last (30th) in the NBA in points allowed (108.8) and are tied for 19th in defending 3-pointers (36%). The Wizards also allow 18 assists per game to opposing offenses, the most in the league. Last year, the Wizards gave up 99.2 points per game (12th in the NBA): 9.6 fewer than this season. Haywood’s absence is certainly a big reason for a few more points being given up per game, but that is no excuse for poor defensive rotations and the knack for allowing so many wide open 3-point shooters.

Free throws: The Wizards are 26th in the NBA in free-throw shooting (70.6%). Last year, the Wizards made 78.2% of their free throws, good enough for 5th in the league. Because the Wizards play so many close games, they obvoiusly need to make their free throws; if they had made more, they may have won a game or two by now. Daniels, a career 79.2% from the free-throw line, is shooting 66.7%. Butler, who shot over 90% from the line last year and is a career 85% free-throw shooter, is hitting just 76.5% of his shots from the charity stripe. These free throws percentages need to improve if the Wizards are going to pull out some close games.

Fans’ increased grumblings of Eddie Jordan: I’m a supporter of Jordan, but I fear that if the Wizards continue to play so poorly, he will lose his job. While I don’t think that would be the worst decision in the world, I also don’t think he’s responsible for the awful start.

I do, however, blame Jordan for the loss to the Bucks; he failed to play his best lineup that night (Dixon, Young, Butler, Jamison, Blatche/McGee) down the stretch and instead went with Daniels, Stevenson, Butler, Jamison, and Songaila. Leading 89-76 with 7:16 left in the game, Jordan substituted Daniels and Stevenson into the game for Young and Dixon. While the Wizards had several opportunities to make shots and get stops, they didn’t and the game was tied at the 1:15 mark. The Wizards then went on to lose in overtime. After that game, Jordan played Dixon 28 minutes against the Knicks and 23 minutes against the Magic, and Young received 30 minutes in both games, so Jordan is showing some flexibility as he searches for some kind of answer to get the Wizards a win. Then again, with Arenas and Haywood out for a while, he doesn’t have many options to turn to. Unless, of course, you think Oleksiy Pecherov is the answer.

Next 5 games:

11/12 Utah
11/14 at Miami
11/18 Miami
11/19 at Atlanta
11/21 Houston

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lawrence Taylor's still got it

I just saw this video a few minutes ago via Awful Announcing:

Good thing Chad Johnson and Terrell Owens don't have to share a locker room with LT.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

First trade of the offseason is a questionable one

On October 30, the first MLB trade of the offseason was made when the Marlins sent first baseman Mike Jacobs to the Royals for relief pitcher Leo Nunez. The motives for making this move were different for both teams: the Marlins seemingly wanted to dump Jacobs because he's now arbitration eligible and acquire a cheap, serviceable reliever at the same time, while the Royals felt Nunez was expendable and wanted to add a first baseman with some pop.

Nunez should be a reliable addition to a Marlins bullpen that posted a solid 4.04 ERA last season. He's only 25 years old, and he put up pretty good numbers in 2008: 4-1, 2.98 ERA, .249 BAA, .660 OPS against. Plus, Nunez made $405,000 in 2008 and will make about the same in 2009, which is important for a team like the Marlins that doesn't spend much money.

Jacobs, 28, on the other hand, is due for a significant raise from his $395,000 2008 salary; he'll probably be rewarded a few million in arbitration. Last season, he batted .247 with 32 home runs, and a .813 OPS -- decent numbers.

Unfortunately, Jacobs's numbers don't belong with the top power hitting first basemen in the league. Out of all eligible first basemen, Jacobs was tied for eighth in home runs. The following players (most HR first) were ahead of him: Ryan Howard, Carlos Delago, Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez, Prince Fielder, Prince Fielder, Mark Teixeira, and Jason Giambi -- not a bad group of players to be listed with. But Jacobs didn't (and doesn't) get on base nearly as much as the rest of these power hitters; in 2008, Jacobs had an awful .299 OBP (his career OBP is only .318). The closest player to that mark was Howard at .339 -- 40 points higher. Jacobs, like the rest of the group (except for Pujols and Teixeira), struck out over 100 times, but he also had the fewest walks (36). Cabrera was closest to Jacobs with 56 walks -- 20 more. Because of his low OBP, Jacobs ranked last among those players in OPS, which was more than 58 points below anyone else's.

Is it going out on a limb to say that Jacobs is not one of the league's top first basemen? Of course not. But then why are the Royals trading away a cheap, young, solid reliever for an average first baseman who hits home runs but doesn't get on base very much?

Maybe the Royals know something that no one else does.