Sunday, January 11, 2009

Week in review: Lessons in crab dribbles and Morgan State basketball

Right now, the Steelers are up 21-10 over the Chargers. Earlier today, the sixth-seeded Eagles took down the top-seeded Giants, and yesterday the Ravens and Cardinals both won playoff games on the road against higher-seeded teams. Lots of people probably picked the Eagles and maybe even the Ravens, but just about no one figured the Cardinals would beat the Panthers on the road -- very shocking indeed.

But besides football, it's still been an odd week.

Sunday, 1/4:

-- Last week, LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers came to Washington to face the Wizards. I was in attendance and had a great time as the Wizards actually won, 80-77. If it wasn't surprising enough that basically the worst team in the East took down the best one, LeBron was actually called for traveling on a crucial play with less than a minute left in the fourth quarter. Here's a recap of the game, with that questionable play around the 2:00 mark.

First of all, the call was obvious. That's a travel in a real game, a pickup game, or even just when you're in the gym by yourself. Still, it's impossible for James to admit it. Instead, it's a "bad call" because he took a "crab dribble." Caron Butler would have none of that: "A crab dribble is when you, uh, travel." (For more coverage, check out this hilarious posting on the D.C. Sports Bog. This one too.)

Second, the faces of the three guys next to us in red shirts after the Cavs lost were priceless. Not only did they look like they'd never been to a basketball game before, but they cheered like crazy even when LeBron made a simple layup. Thank you, basketball gods, for that small gift.

Tuesday, 1/6:

-- The Orioles reached a deal with pitcher Koji Uehara. Uehara will become the first Japanese player to play for the Orioles. Roch Kubatko, who wrote the blog posting I linked to, adds:

John Stockstill, the Orioles' director of international scouting, has seen Uehara pitch in person about six times and really likes him. But the true test always comes on U.S. soil.

Uehara won two games in the 2006 World Baseball Classic and has found a tremendous amount of success in international competition, which leaves team officials encouraged.

If he turns out to be consistent at all, Uehara will be able to provide some relief for Jeremy Guthrie, who is the only reliable starting pitcher the Orioles currently have. We'll see how he performs.

By the way, I'm getting tired of Orioles' fans whining about the team not trying to sign Adam Dunn or failing to go after Ben Sheets, Derek Lowe, or whoever. I know people will always complain on message boards, and frankly, they have the right to after the last decade plus, but the organization is finally rebuilding the right way -- and now is the time to start complaining? The Orioles aren't going to be very good next season, so what's the point in paying a lot of money for players who won't be able to help the team? The past several seasons have shown that quick fixes just don't work, especially for the Orioles, and it's time to do things the right way. I have no problem with anything that Andy MacPhail has done so far; I wish more people shared that enthusiasm.

Wednesday, 1/7:

-- Even though Washington Post writer Jason La Canfora, who covers the Redskins, seems to like stirring up some trouble, he had some very interesting comments about Redskins rookie wide receiver Devin Thomas in a recent blog posting. La Canfora hinted that Thomas didn't exactly have an easy time adjusting to life in the NFL, to say the least. He wrote:

With a swagger that was not backed up by his play, he did not do enough to get himself physically and mentally ready to play, and many in the organization wonder if he ever will. He could be surly, he enjoyed the nightlife and he never made any real strides toward becoming a regular part of the offense. He continually ran poor routes - often three yards or more too deep or too shallow - which is a massive difference in an intricate precision system. He didn't do nearly enough to earn the confidence of the quarterbacks. He was drafted to be the bigger, deep threat to complement Moss on the opposite side, replacing Brandon Lloyd, and ended up being similar to Lloyd in far too many ways. Thomas has already talked about the need to get away from football for a while, which, for as little as he played, is alarming. He needs to work his tail off all offseason to be ready to help this team.

Not exactly a promising summary of his rookie season, is it? Here's to you, Vinny Cerrato.

-- After that solid win over the Cavs, the Wizards went right back to putting up awful performances. They lost to the Magic, which wasn't surprising, but then the Toronto Raptors came to the Verizon Center. With injuries to Jermaine O'Neal, Jose Calderon, and Jamario Moon, the 14-21 Raptors were without three of their five starters. Fortunately for them, they were playing the Wizards, who were apparently intimidated by such fill-ins as Will Solomon at point guard, who scored 14 points on seven of 11 shooting, grabbed four rebounds, and dished out five assists, and solid NBA starters Jake Voskuhl and Roko Ukic. For the record, until this season, Solomon hadn't played in the NBA since being a member of the Memphis Grizzlies in 2001-2002.

-- Not to be outdone, the Terps fell at home to Morgan State, 66-65. That's right -- Morgan State. Greivis Vasquez shot five of 21 from the field and one of nine from three-point range. As a team, the Terps shot just one of 14 from outside the line.

Obviously, Gary Williams was not pleased with the performance:

"Until you get to where you're playing at a very high level for all 40 minutes or at least close to 40 minutes, that's always a possibility," Williams said. "We got caught tonight against a team that made some big shots and played with a lot of poise. When we had to run some really good plays, we settled for the first open shot and that really hurt us. We can't get away from the fact that we have to pass the ball very well. We missed some shots inside that we should make, but we've done that all year. This is our 14th game so we have to accept the fact that that can happen."

Thursday, 1/8:

-- The Florida Gators beat the Oklahoma Sooners in the BCS National Championship Game. Hooray. We still want a playoff.

Saturday, 1/10:

-- To be fair, Maryland did rebound nicely (sort of) by at least getting a win in the team's ACC opener against Georgia Tech. It wasn't the best-played game ever -- Georgia Tech committed 28 turnovers, and the Terps shot 31.5 percent from the field -- but they still got the win.

So I guess I'll end on this positive: the Redskins still can't draft properly, the Orioles won't be good next season, and the Wizards stink right now. But Maryland basketball won and at least showed a little promise. If they can get into the NCAA Tournament this year, I'll be happy.

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