Monday, March 30, 2009

A few quick O's links

- Just in case you haven't been paying attention, baseball season is on the horizon. The Orioles' first game, in fact, is just one week away -- on April 6, at home, against the Yankees.

I'm excited for baseball season, but I haven't been examining the Orioles down in spring training except for what Roch Kubatko or Peter Schmuck write on their respective blogs. I haven't had a chance to watch any spring training games on TV, and I haven't been listening to the O's on the radio. I actually didn't even know the O's spring training games were being broadcasted until reading this interesting story today:

[T]he Orioles' radio announcing team of Joe Angel and Fred Manfra weren't around for the final eight innings of Sunday's 5-1 exhibition win over the Mets in Fort Lauderdale.

The duo had announced the game's first inning when rain hit the park and started rendering the field unplayable. Angel and Manfra talked their way through 40 minutes of the delay before letting the boys back home resume their regular radio and then heading home.

But about an hour later, the groundskeepers got the field under control and play resumed without anyone in Baltimore's booth. According to the Baltimore Sun, Angel, Manfra and the engineer were told to call it an early day by their superiors at 105.7 The Fan. Angel has even written a letter to Orioles fans explaining that they would have stayed to broadcast the game but simply didn't have an engineer or any equipment around to do so.

That letter from Angel, by the way, can be found here. Honestly, I'm kind of surprised that Angel even took the time to write that e-mail, but it does show that he's a professional. I'm not sure why any Orioles fans are/were really that upset. First, it's a spring training game, and second, the guys were told to leave. Get over it.

- Anyway, on to something more positive: The Orioles continue to receive plenty of props on their young talent. ESPN's Jayson Stark is the latest to jump on the bandwagon. Stark lists Nick Markakis and Adam Jones on his "All-Bull-Market Team," which gives the advice to "Buy stock in this group now before the world catches on."

And on his "All-Futures Market Team," Stark recognizes the talent that prospects Matt Wieters ("Superstardom just a call-up away") and Chris Tillman ("Scouts' pulse rates doubled this spring every time [he] pitched") possess.

It's a strange feeling to know that the Orioles have a lot of talent both on the club and waiting in the farm system. Hopefully Wieters and the young, talented pitchers pan out in the near future.

- Alfredo Simon may have earned himself a spot in the rotation to start the season after his performance tonight against the Mets. According to Kubatko, Simon "allowed one run and four hits, walked one and struck out three - including the last two batters he faced. He threw 63 pitches, 41 for strikes." Not bad.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Arenas returns

For the first time in almost a year, Gilbert Arenas suited up for the Wizards last night and took the court.

The Wizards lost by two to the Pistons, 98-96, but Arenas finished with 15 points and 10 assists in 29 minutes. I'm kind of surprised he played that many minutes, and he looked a bit rusty -- he shot three of 12 from the field -- but that's to be expected after such a long layoff. It was great to see him back on the court, and it's not surprising that there seemed to be more of a buzz at the Verizon Center during the game last night.

The Wizards travel to Indiana to play the Pacers tonight, and since it's a back-to-back Arenas probably won't play. But you never know; I wouldn't be shocked if Agent Zero found a way to get some playing time.

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Friday, March 27, 2009

Trembley's got jokes

After a poor performance earlier today in a spring training game against the Florida Marlins, Jeremy Guthrie received a little bit of Dave Trembley-style humor:

Jeremy Guthrie allowed six runs in the first inning, returned to the dugout and was congratulated by manager Dave Trembley.

"He told me, 'Nice job. We blocked the extra point after the touchdown.'"

Guthrie didn't have one of his best performances, but that's fine because it's spring training. And, according to this box score, Guthrie apparently walked 22 batters. Somewhere Daniel Cabrera is confused that this is possible (it's not).

But looking at the rest of the box score, which I'm assuming is actually correct, I get the feeling that the Orioles are going to be in a lot of games like this during the season. Obviously that's no huge revelation, and a potential rotation of Guthrie, Koji Uehara, Adam Eaton, and two of Mark Hendrickson, Rich Hill, Alfredo Simon, and Hayden Penn could very well end up being the worst rotation in the majors. Nonetheless, there's a lot of young and exciting talent both on the major league club and in the organization, so no matter how poorly certain pitchers perform this year, things are still getting better.

But for this season, a lot of high-scoring games certainly appear to be on the horizon.

On a different, and much lighter, note, I'd like to commend Roch Kubatko, who is covering the Orioles in spring training right now, for going to work every single day and providing tremendous coverage of the team. Even while battling a cold today, Kubatko did a great job, as usual, and still offered some solid insight throughout the day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Wizards avoid embarrassment; Arenas done blogging

The Wizards, still missing Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood and playing without Caron Butler, Juan Dixon, and Darius Songaila, managed to beat the Charlotte Bobcats tonight 95-93. Antawn Jamison scored 27 points and grabbed eight rebounds, Nick Young scored 23 points, and Mike James and Andray Blatche each chipped in with 15 points. Dominic McGuire also contributed four points, six rebounds, three assists, one block, and one steal while playing a team-high 44 minutes.

Though the Wizards (17-56) and Bobcats (31-40) are both below .500, each team had something to play for tonight. The Bobcats were (and still are) trying to sneak into the Eastern Conference's eighth and final playoff spot (they're now 2.5 games back), and the Wizards were trying to defeat a Southeast Division rival for the first time this season. As mentioned before, no team in NBA history has ever gone an entire season without winning a game in its own division. And with tonight's win, the Wizards will not be that team -- hooray!

To shift gears, Arenas, who is apparently planning to make his return to the court on Saturday against the Detroit Pistons, has "retired" from blogging:

"I started looking at it as, before, it was fun, and everybody has fun reading it. And then it's like everything I said, everybody started using it as firepower, instead of saying it's just entertainment. You know, people started using it, trying to take bits and pieces instead of enjoying the blog," the three-time All-Star said. "So once I started seeing that, I just started visualizing, eventually, this is going to be the double-[edged] sword thing. It made me and it's going to kill me, so I might as well stop."

That's too bad; Arenas's blog entires were hilarious, interesting, and a great insight to his truly quirky self. But if he returns to the court and becomes the old Arenas again, no one will care if he's typing away on his computer.

I guess it might be time to get serious and make up for lost time. And hopefully no more seasons like this one happen again anytime soon. Wizards fans hope so.

AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta

Monday, March 23, 2009

Memphis reserve talks big after win

Memphis got by Maryland in Saturday's matchup rather easily; the Tigers won by a score of 89-70 and were never really threatened by the Terps. And Greivis Vasquez's words may have angered some of the Memphis players a little bit, but either way, the Tigers definitely won the game in convincing fashion.

But after the game, one player wasn't done talking: Pierre Henderson-Niles. Huh?

"We just beat them by 20 something points, so we shut him up real fast," Henderson-Niles said. "Whatever [Vasquez] said, we just came out and played and proved it on the court. ... "When I saw Maryland in the past on TV, they looked good, but we just showed them what Conference USA was about," he said.

Yeah, that's great and all. Memphis looked fantastic. But Henderson-Niles didn't exactly play a big part. In fact, he played three minutes in the game. I'm sure his one rebound, one block, one turnover, two personal fouls, and zero points were a huge key to the Tigers' victory.

I'm sure it must be nice to be a part of a great team that's on its way to the Sweet 16. But Henderson-Niles should just be glad that he's along for the ride. Vasquez may have made a poor decision to open his mouth before the game, but his 18 points were 18 more than Henderson-Niles contributed.

Whitlock is new to this whole 'picking games' thing

I didn't see this article by Jason Whitlock until last night, but it's essentially a picks column that he seemed to throw together before the NCAA Tournament began. He started off with a good-natured jab at his buddy Bill Simmons and then proceeded to botch each of his 10 game breakdowns:

My boy Bill "The Sports Guy" Simmons does a terrific NFL picks column. His advice is terrible, but the column is hilarious.

... For my money, Northridge is the worst team in the tournament.

... It's a sexy pick to take the Saints in an upset. Ohio State isn't that good, especially without star David Lighty. Siena won a tournament game last year. But the Bucks are playing at home. Don't be stupid. The Saints don't have the size and won't have the composure to overcome a BCS team playing in a "home" arena.

... I know nothing about BYU. I'm sure the Cougars' roster is loaded with nice Mormon boys who recently completed their missions and are offended by the stereotypes being promoted by HBO's "Big Love." That's legitimately what I know about BYU. ... BYU 78-74.

And that's just a small sample size. Look, I like Whitlock's writing. He's controversial and different, and he's almost always interesting. But I didn't know anything about CS Northridge or BYU either, so maybe that's why I'm not writing a picks column. I know nobody can predict the future and that 'hindsight is 20/20,' but I don't think I've ever seen a column before with so many wrong game predictions -- even if he was just picking against the spread.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Quick Arenas update

The Wizards only have 11 games remaining on their schedule, and they're trying to figure out whether Gilbert Arenas should play or not. According to Ivan Carter, the team still hasn't come up with concrete plan on what to do:

No real update on Gilbert Arenas other than to say that he and the team are still in the process of figuring out a plan for his possible return. Because Arenas did not make the trip, he has to sit down with Ed Tapscott and formulate a potential plan regarding his role, how many minutes he would play, how the team would handle the last two back-to-backs etc.

As of today, Arenas has not discussed details of such a plan with Tapscott or Ernie Grunfeld, who is in Europe scouting Ricky Rubio among other draft prospects. I do hear that Arenas was aggressively working out at Verizon Center all week and is feeling good on that knee.

It really doesn't make sense to me to have Arenas play in any of the remaining games. Look, I want to see him on the court just like every other Wizard fan. It would be nice to have something positive happen since this season has sucked. Arenas and Haywood have been out, Eddie Jordan is gone, Ed Tapscott keeps playing Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler huge minutes for no apparent reason, and besides Dominic McGuire, the team still doesn't have a clue about whether other young players such as Nick Young, Oleksiy Pecherov, or Javaris Crittenton can be significant contributors because they haven't been given consistent minutes even though the team is horrible.

But the only thing that could make the Wizards' situation infinitely worse would be to have Arenas return this season and somehow injure himself again. With the Wizards' recent stretch of luck, a freak play or accident wouldn't shock anyone. I don't know if he's healthy enough to return; no one really does because he isn't really talking. He hasn't updated his blog since November, and except for reports of him working out or playing Nick Young in one-on-one battles after practices, he's barely mentioned at all.

Hopefully Arenas returns in top form, but he needs to be 100 percent before he gets back on the court. And if there's any chance that he's not, then I hope he waits until next season. If anything else is clear, it's that the direction of the Wizards franchise over the next few seasons depends on his health -- or lack thereof.

Terps fall to Memphis

At times this season, Maryland simply looked overmatched against various teams. And that's exactly what happened on Saturday in the Terps' matchup with Memphis.

Freshman Tyreke Evans scored 19 points, and Doneal Mack hit five three-pointers as Memphis cruised past Maryland 89-70. Five Tigers scored in double figures, and as a team, Memphis shot over 58 percent from the field and made 10 of 19 three-pointers.

For all of his trash talk, Greivis Vasquez played moderately well with 18 points, five assists, and three rebounds. Adrian Bowie scored 11 points, and Eric Hayes chipped in with 10.

But the story of the game was Maryland's inability to stop Memphis on offense. Nothing Maryland did -- man-to-man, 3-2 zone, press, trap, etc. -- seemed to do anything to slow down the Memphis attack. It also didn't help that the Terps lost the rebounding battle 33-23.

But even though Maryland's season is over, the Terps still did something that only two other ACC schools, Duke and North Carolina, can say they accomplished this year: win an NCAA Tournament game. Boston College, Florida State, Wake Forest, and Clemson all lost to lower seeds in the tournament in the first round, and all four of those teams can claim to having better overall talent than Maryland. So Gary Williams deserves a ton of credit just for getting Maryland into the tournament this year.

As for a quick look at the 2009-2010 season, the only player that Maryland loses, at least for right now, is senior Dave Neal. Of course, Vasquez could decide to turn pro; he'd probably be taken in the second round if he left. But if everyone returns and Maryland gets some help in the frontcourt from incoming freshmen James Padgett, Jordan Williams, and (possibly) Lance Stephenson, there's no reason why they shouldn't be back in the tournament next season.

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel

Friday, March 20, 2009

Vasquez has some words for Memphis

Maryland guard Greivis Vasquez is a guy who plays with tremendous emotion on the court. He certainly did on Thursday when he helped lead the Terps to a 84-71 win over No. 7 seed California with 27 points, five rebounds, and four assists.

But from time to time, he lets his emotions get the best of him even when he's not in a game. And he did just that earlier today while answering some questions about No. 2 seed Memphis, the Terps' second round opponent:

When Chick Hernandez from Comcast mentioned that some of the Memphis players couldn't pronounce Vasquez's name - implying that they didn't know who he was – Vasquez said, "I like that. They will know my name. They will know who I am tomorrow on the court ... I thought it was disrespectful not knowing my name, but, uh, it's definitely going to be a good game, a competitive game. Hopefully the best team is going to win and hopefully we get this win so we can shock the whole world."

Dan Hellie of NBC4 then suggested to Vasquez that the Maryland star wouldn't be shocked if the Terps won, right? Vasquez, you could see, was starting to let this idea of the Memphis players disrespecting him fester and take root in his head. He was about to ready to blow. And, on cue, Mt. Greivis finally did:

"No, not at all," he said. "We beat Wake Forest. If they play in the ACC conference, they would have a losing record in the league. Probably win all their games outside the league, but losing record in the league."

And if that wasn't enough, Vasquez had this to say:

"The ACC is too tough. You can't just win games night in and night because you're so athletic. I don't think those guys came to play yesterday. They won it, they won the game because they have a better team overall but tomorrow they’re going to face a good team. So I think we're good enough to win."

Regardless of whether or not the Memphis players who were talking about Vasquez were being disrespectful, Vasquez should be a little smarter. First of all, Maryland is playing inspired basketball right now -- probably the best they've played all season. And second, the Tigers were just pushed to the brink in their opening round game against No. 15 seed CS Northridge. They didn't look very good in that game, and they even needed 35 points and 10 three-pointers from Roburt Sallie, a reserve guard who averaged about five points per game during the regular season. If there was anything Maryland needed to avoid, it was to give Memphis some bulletin board material.

But even if you don't buy into that sort of thing, which I really don't -- really, is either team going to play any harder now? -- what exactly is Vasquez trying to say? Obviously the ACC is better than Conference USA, but I seriously doubt that Memphis would have a losing record in the ACC. But we'll never know that.

What we do know, though, is that Maryland does have a chance against Memphis, and Vasquez doesn't need to be talking about who Maryland played during the season or how they beat North Carolina who beat Duke so that means they're as good as Duke, or whatever he's trying to say. None of that means anything.

But for the record, Vasquez really isn't that hard of a name to say. Maybe they got stuck on the Greivis part, which is a little more understandable.

AP Photo/Ed Zurga

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Worst dunk landing ever

The title of the video is wrong. That was not the best dunk ever, and it was not a backflip. And it didn't look good at all. Even Kadeem Hardison (as Antoine) from The Sixth Man thinks that was a poor dismount after the dunk.

But I'm glad he's all right.

ESPN reveals Obama's tournament picks

In an ESPN special, President Barack Obama recently broke down his picks for this year's NCAA Tournament. And you know what? There's nothing wrong with that; who doesn't fill out an bracket? Well, there might be one thing wrong: ESPN's lame labeling of the event as "Barack-etology." But that isn't terribly surprising.

What is surprising, though, is that the president and I have one thing in common: our Final Four picks of Louisville, Pittsburgh, Memphis, and North Carolina. Hey, I'm all for change, so the change of me actually winning a few tournament pools this year would be well-received.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

CV31 wants you to know that he's 'gotta step up'

Charlie Villanueva is a pretty good NBA player. He's averaging 16.6 points and 6.9 rebounds per game this season while shooting over 45 percent from the field. But apparently, that isn't enough for him; he also wants you to know that he's paying attention to coach Scott Skiles's message at halftime -- via Twitter.

Using the screen name "CV31" -- Villanueva's initials and jersey number -- Villanueva posted the following message during halftime Sunday:

"In da locker room, snuck to post my twitt. We're playing the Celtics, tie ball game at da half. Coach wants more toughness. I gotta step up."

I can't say I'm surprised. Gilbert Arenas has admitted to playing online poker in the locker room at halftime. Still, it's pretty funny.

But Skiles obviously wasn't happy about it:

"We made a point to Charlie and the team that it's nothing we ever want to happen again," Skiles said after practice Tuesday. "You know, [we] don't want to blow it out of proportion. But anything that gives the impression that we're not serious and focused at all times is not the correct way we want to go about our business."

Then again, maybe the Bucks should just let him do what he wants. Villanueva had 19 points, seven rebounds, and an assist in an 86-77 win over the Celtics in that game.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Maryland is in

After a difficult and drama-filled season, Gary Williams has indeed led Maryland into the NCAA Tournament.

The Terps, who earned a 10 seed, will face seventh-seeded California in the West Region of the bracket on Thursday, time TBD.

Wizards close in on undesired record

I'm sure you already knew that the Wizards were pretty bad this year. After all, Ed Tapscott's crew is 15-51.

But I bet you weren't aware that Washington is close to accomplishing something that no other team has done in NBA history. That's right:

Washington is now 0-14 in the Southeast, two wins away from being the very first NBA team to go winless in its own division.

None of the other teams in the Southeast division -- the Atlanta Hawks, Orlando Magic, Charlotte Bobcats, and Miami Heat -- are unbeatable or so great that the Wizards shouldn't be able to win at least one game against them. But again, the Wizards are terrible, and they're about to do just that.

The two remaining games are against the Bobcats on March 25 and Heat on April 4. So, at least the Wizards have a goal for the rest of the season: to avoid becoming historically bad.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Carter to host Washington Post Live (updated)

It's a little strange that the day I write something about Wizards Insider, the D.C. Sports Bog announces that Wizards beat writer Ivan Carter will be leaving the newspaper business to host Comcast Sportsnet's Washington Post Live. Maybe I should start writing about Redskins Insider a little more frequently then.

I can't recall ever watching more than 15 minutes of WPL, but I've seen Carter on it before, and he's been pretty good. I'm sure he'll do just fine.

As for him leaving the Wizards beat, it's sad for Wizards fans. Carter does a great job covering the team from all angles, plus he updates regularly and seemed to enjoy his job. But I guess he just wanted to be on TV a little more:

"I think we all knew that Ivan was destined for a career in television," said Post sports editor Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, who hired Ivan as an intern in Minnesota and later brought him from the Kansas City Star to The Post. "Ivan is a natural on television, and we're not surprised that the folks who run CSN would see the same thing."

Carter hasn't notified fans on the Wizards Insider blog yet; I'm curious what he has to say.

I guess this horrible season for the Wiz isn't sparing anyone.

Update: Carter posted a brief note on Wizards Insider today about leaving for WPL:

As my guy Steinberg reported yesterday, I'm leaving the Post in a couple of weeks to host Washington Post Live on Comcast. It's always a risk when a career print guy jumps to the tube and I love this job and this newspaper but it's just something that is too good to pass up.
After 10 years covering the NFL and NBA as a beat reporter, I'm ready for a new challenge. Anyway, if I horrifically bomb, I fully expect to hear about it from you faithful readers. I'll miss you guys and gals. In the meantime, no tanking in my game. I'll keep bringin' it in print on this blog until I'm done......

He's a hard worker, and I'm sure he'll do just fine. But it's still sad to see him moving on. Good luck, Ivan.

Maryland on the brink of NCAA Tournament berth

I'll admit it. I never thought Maryland would even get close to making the NCAA Tournament. For many, the 41-point loss to Duke was the worst point of the season, but for me, it was really the game after that, against Boston College, that made me think the season was going in the wrong direction.

In that game, Maryland led 40-29 at halftime, and it looked as if the team had put the Duke game behind them. Then, BC outscored Maryland by 20 in the second half to earn a valuable ACC road win. Greivis Vasquez shot seven of 20 in that game, and Maryland shot a terrible three of 17 from three-point range. Even though it was still early in ACC play, the loss pushed Maryland to a 2-4 record in conference, and I didn't think the team would recover.

I was wrong.

After that game, Gary Williams and the Terps won every game they were supposed to until the debacle at Virginia. In that stretch, Maryland beat Miami, lost to North Carolina, beat Georgia Tech and Virginia Tech, lost to Clemson, beat North Carolina, lost to Duke, beat N.C. State, and lost to Wake Forest and Virginia. The Virginia loss was by far the worst, but Maryland nearly beat Duke in the two teams' second meeting and almost knocked off Wake. Maryland also had a strong first-half showing against Clemson before getting outscoured by 23 in the second half of that game.

But after the crushing loss to Virginia, Williams rallied the troops again for the ACC Tournament. Maryland won a tough game against N.C. State in the opening round and then yesterday completely frustrated Wake Forest in a 75-64 win.

The weird thing is, Maryland didn't play particularly well during significant stretches of the game. Maryland turned the ball over eight more times than Wake Forest; Vasquez had 22 points, but it was on six-of-19 shooting; and Cliff Tucker and Adrian Bowie combined for only six points.

But after a few minutes in the first half, Williams switched to a three-two zone, and Wake Forest had no idea what to do. Jeff Teague and Al-Farouq Aminu (potential lottery picks in the upcoming NBA draft) shot a combined five of 25 from the field, and Wake Forest as a team shot an awful three of 25 (12 percent) from three-point range. Instead of trying to get into the paint and use their size anyway, the Demon Deacons just kept launching threes, which played right into Maryland's hands.

And you wouldn't have figured it by watching the game, but Maryland also won the rebounding battle (43-34). That's right, Wake Forest, a team with a starting frontcourt of two six-foot-nine guys and a seven footer got outrebounded by two six-foot-seven forwards and a six-foot-six guard.

Maryland can be frustrating to watch at times because, obviously, fans want them to be better. They want to see another final four run. This team doesn't have that in them, but that doesn't take anything away from the effort they've been giving night in and night out. The Terps start out every game with an emormous disadvantage: Their "center," Dave Neal, is only six foot seven. No other team in the ACC is that small, so Maryland must rebound as a team. And the Terps' only post presence comes when Neal does some kind of YMCA-type move in the paint to get a layup or floater to drop in. Vasquez has to truly do it all for this team to have a chance to win; he's basically the only player on the team who can consistently create his own shot, even if he does force the ball from time to time.

Maybe I'm making too much of this tournament run, but no one can deny that this may be one of Gary Williams's finest coaching seasons. Even if Maryland gets in the NCAA Tournament and loses its first game, it'll be huge just for them to be there at all.

Maybe Williams was right after all. Just give him some hard-working players, and he'll coach them up. I won't doubt him again.

AP Photo/John Bazemore

Friday, March 13, 2009

Wizards Insider: a little late, aren't we?

I'm a big fan of Wizards Insider, which is written by Ivan Carter and Michael Lee on Carter does a great job covering the Wizards from most, if not all, angles, and Lee does a solid job of writing about the rest of the NBA to keep fans informed.

But yesterday, Lee, who occasionally covers the Wizards, decided that now is the time to jump on the bandwagon of giving the younger players like Javaris Crittenton, Nick Young, and JaVale McGee more playing time. Dominic McGuire and Andray Blatche have both been playing more, so he was mainly focused on the other three (but primarly Young) in his post:

But perhaps it is time to start focusing on the future and giving JaVale McGee and Nick Young more consistent minutes. Yes, giving, even if they haven't earned them. Their sometimes poor and sporadic play might well be the result of insecurity and fear. If they make mistakes, they will not always get much of an opportunity to correct them.

I was talking to an NBA veteran recently about Young and he said he believed Young should get more minutes. This veteran was a fan of Young and his potential. He mentioned that when he watches Young play, he notices that if Young makes his first few shots, he's fine, but if he misses his first few, he immediately starts looking at the bench, expecting to get yanked. While waiting for the inevitable hook, Young gets distracted and unfocused on defense, then an avalanche of mistakes follow -- more bad shots, defensive lapses, etc.

The veteran said the only way to resolve that is to guarantee Young at least 20 minutes a night, so that he can shoot his way out of slumps and figure out how to mature on the floor. If Young knows that he has 20 minutes to work his way through his problems, he might actually do it. He might even earn a few more minutes.

Who was the NBA veteran? Captain Obvious?

I'm glad that someone close to the team is finally on board with this idea, but why didn't he write this a few months ago? It's March already! There's only 17 games left in the season! They're 15-50! Sorry for all the exclamation points, but it's not like the Wizards just suddenly turned into a bad team.

I don't really want the Wizards to tank, but what's wrong with playing the young guys to see what the team has? When a team is 15-50, the goal is to improve the team for next season. The Wizards already know what they have in Antawn Jamison and Caron Butler; they don't need to be playing 40 minutes in any game, such as the other day when Jamison played 38 minutes against the Minnesota T'Wolves.

And Crittenton and/or Young not getting at least 20 to 25 minutes a night is just disappointing. Who would rather watch Mike James for 30 minutes than one of those two?

I'm not saying that any of these guys will be superstars, but if the Wizards are going to compete next year, which hopefully means Gilbert Arenas and Brendan Haywood are healthy, then they'll need a solid bench. They already have McGuire and Blatche; what's wrong with seeing if Young, Crittenton, or McGee can make a similar jump?

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Jason La Canfora will miss Shawn Springs

I meant to post this the other day, but apparently a certain Redskins' beat writer will miss cornerback Shawn Springs more than most fans will.

Don't get me wrong, I thought that Springs was a fantastic player for the Redskins -- but only when he was able to play. He just simply missed too many games, and Springs, who actually turns 34 tomorrow, may be slowing down a bit as he enters his 13th season in the NFL. He managed to play in all 16 games in 2007, but he played in just nine games each in 2006 and 2008. That's a little over 70 percent of the Redskins' games in the last three regular seasons, and that's not accounting for the snaps he missed when he had to leave during the first and second quarters.

But La Canfora isn't worried about that. Instead, he throws some love Springs's way, which is fine, I guess, but then he manages to take a shot at the rest of the Redskins' nickel cornerback options.

Wanted to give a shout out to Shawn, one of the coolest cats I have ever covered in any pro sport, and someone who should be a great fit with the New England Patriots. His sense of humor, candor and outgoing nature will be missed by those who cover the team. ... Fred Smoot lacks the size to really play there, aadn his game was on the steep decline in 2008. Justin Tryon is downright tiny, and he has a ways to go to show he can play at this level. It will be interesting to see who becomes that third corner, and how he fares.

Obviously since I'm not around the team, I don't know how cool Springs is off the field. I just thought that was weird to see, but it made me laugh. As for the negative tone of the post, I don't understand why it's such a big deal unless La Canfora is just upset that one of his buddies won't be in Washington.

Again, Springs was great during his time with the Redskins. But the team freed up $6 million in cap space with the move, and the Redskins have younger options in DeAngelo Hall and Carlos Rogers at the starting cornerback positions. It would be nice to have a lockdown cornerback in the slot, but how many teams actually have that luxury? Instead, the Redskins brought in a younger and better player in Albert Haynesworth to help give the team a more consistent pass rush, which aids the entire defense (including the nickel corner).

La Canfora may be bitter, but he doesn't need to be grasping at straws every time the team makes a move. The Redskins wanted to free up some cap space by not paying too much money for a player almost into his mid-thirties. Isn't that what Redskins' fans have been begging for?

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Maryland to play N.C. State -- not Miami

Oops. Disregard the previous post; I forgot that Florida State had to play Virginia Tech today. That breakdown will now only be relevant if Maryland somehow faces Miami in the ACC Tournament, which probably won't happen.

Anyway, Florida State's win today moved the Terps from the ninth seed in the tournament to the seventh seed, which means a first-round game against N.C. State.

Maryland beat N.C. State in the two teams' only matchup of the year. Greivis Vasquez scored 33 points in that game.

If Maryland gets by the Wolfpack, then they'll face Wake Forest. But again, Maryland needs to take care of business against a team they should beat.

Miami up next for Maryland

After a disappointing 68-63 loss to Virginia in a game Maryland desperately needed to win, the Terps' last chance to make the NCAA Tournament is to win a couple of games in the ACC Tournament.

The tournament, which starts on Thursday, begins with eighth-seeded Miami taking on Maryland, the ninth seed.

The two teams split their matchups during the regular season, with Miami winning 62-60 at home and Maryland winning 73-68 at the Comcast Center. In that first meeting, Maryland held a 35-23 lead at halftime but failed to seal the deal and get the road victory. Adrian Bowie led the Terps with 23 points, and Jack McClinton had 18 points, including some huge threes down the stretch.

In the second game, Greivis Vasquez missed a triple-double by one assist -- 11 points, 10 rebounds, and nine assists -- and Landon Milbourne led Maryland with 17 points. The Terps' 3-2 zone also had success as Miami shot just 10-31 (32.3 percent) from the three-point line. McClinton again led Miami with 18 points, and interestingly enough he shot six of 15 from the field -- the same as in the first game.

Other notes from Miami's win:
  • 12 Miami turnovers, 10 for Maryland
  • Miami outrebounded Maryland 36 to 28
  • 43.9 percent shooting for Maryland, 39.3 percent for Miami
  • Nine free throws (four made) for Miami, six free throws (four made) for Maryland
Other notes from Maryland's win:
  • 15 Miami turnovers, seven for Maryland
  • Miami outrebounded Maryland Maryland 37 to 34
  • 41.5 percent shooting for Maryland, 40.7 percent for Miami
  • 14 free throws (10 made) for Miami, 17 free throws (14 made) for Maryland
I don't think it's a coincidence that Maryland won the game where they rebounded better, forced more turnovers, and got to the free throw line more often. By the way, getting to the free throw line just six times in any game is simply unacceptable -- especially for a solid free throw shooting team like the Terps.

I might be looking at the two previous games a little too much, but Maryland absolutely has to beat Miami on Thursday. If they do, they'll face either North Carolina or Duke (the one seed) depending on who wins their battle today. That'll be a touch matchup either way, but first things first for Maryland: beat Miami. If not, it's back to the NIT.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Decision on Evans makes little sense

On Wednesday, defensive end Demetric Evans signed a two-year, $3.8 million deal with the 49ers. In part-time duty last season, Evans had 33 tackles and 3.5 sacks; he also accumulated 12 total sacks in his five years in Washington.

With the departure of Jason Taylor and the 29-year-old Evans, who turns 30 in September, the only other defensive ends on the roster are Andre Carter (29), Chris Wilson (26), Rob Jackson (23), and Alex Buzbee (23) -- which isn't exactly the best group in the league.

Even if Philip Daniels (36) returns for cheap after missing the entire 2008 season with a torn ACL, the Redskins will still need help at defensive end. Unfortunately, the Redskins have only four draft picks and significant needs to address on the offensive line and linebacking corps, so picking more than one defensive lineman doesn't seem likely, barring a trade to move back and pick up more draft picks (if there's enough cap space by then).

And that's exactly why the move to let Evans walk doesn't make much sense. It's great that the Redskins have such a dominant force on the line now in Albert Haynesworth, but not only would it have cost very little to re-sign Evans, but he already knows the defensive system. Evans can also shift to defensive tackle on occasion. He's pretty versatile, which is important for a team with little depth at the position. And it's not like Evans was blocking the development of younger players behind him; Jackson couldn't stay healthy, Wilson is more of a third-down sack specialist, and Buzbee is a practice squad player.

It appears as if the Redskins are going to need to sign at least one defensive end via free agency. That's fine, but it probably won't be as cheap as it would have been to simply give Evans a one- or two-year deal. But the team apparently wanted to go in another direction.

Again, that's fine; the loss of Evans isn't season-crippling or a huge deal. But the decision just seems a bit odd.

By the way, Evans wasn't really happy that the Redskins didn't even make him an offer:

"I knew when we played in San Francisco (the final game of the 2008 regular season) that that was going to be my last game for the Redskins," Evans said. "You see how they operate in free agency, and I'm not the kind of guy they value. Guys like me, Ryan Clark, Antonio Pierce, guys who start at the bottom and work their way up, they don't keep those guys around. So, I never, never thought I would be coming back to Washington.

"I'm not that sexy defensive end. I'm not bringing that Jason Taylor appeal. But I still made the sacks and tackles. At the end of the day, though, everything happens for a reason and I'm excited for the opportunity to go to San Francisco and compete for a starting job and show them what I can do."

Anyway, good luck in San Francisco.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Len Pasquarelli doesn't like to go out on a limb

In a recent free-agent winners and losers column, ESPN football writer Len Pasquarelli praised the Washington Redskins as a winner for their free agent additions of Albert Haynesworth and Derrick Dockery and the decision to bring back DeAngelo Hall. Pasquarelli wrote:

Despite not qualifying for the playoffs, the Redskins still ranked fourth in the NFL in overall defense in 2008. Adding Haynesworth and keeping cornerback DeAngelo Hall, who started the last seven games after replacing Carlos Rogers, will make this an even better unit. ... Bringing back guard Derrick Dockery for a second tenure, after his release by Buffalo, will bolster the interior offensive line. Maybe this is the year that owner Dan Snyder is known for winning more than just the free-agency sweepstakes in the spring.

Pretty nice stuff, huh? He seems rather optimistic about the whole thing, but he's right. The moves should make the Redskins better, especially since they fill positions of need.

So then I figured, hey, Pasquarelli already considers the Redskins to be winners, why not see if the Cowboys were listed as losers for signing Keith Brooking, a 33-year-old linebacker, to a three-year deal and then trading Anthony Henry, a decent cornerback, to the Lions for the 36-year-old Jon Kitna to be the team's backup quarterback. Yeah, the latter moved saved about $4 million in cap room, but it left the Cowboys with very little depth at corner.

Anyway, much to my surprise/amazement, the Redskins somehow managed to be listed at the top of the losers' list as well. Pasquarelli again wrote:

Wait a minute, the Redskins are listed above as the big winner in free agency. How can they also be a loser? Easy. If Dan Snyder's pricey additions are no more successful than the high-profile players he has signed in the past, the Redskins' owner will have wasted a lot of money. And in this economy, with the crowds at the amusement parks he owns shrinking noticeably, squandering money is not a good thing. ... If Haynesworth and Hall play to their capabilities, the Redskins will be in the playoff chase most of the season. But if they play like most of Snyder's past free-agent signings, the only title Washington will win once again will be the league's springtime championship.

Stop me if you've never read something like that before about the Redskins, but what exactly does that even mean? Is squandering money a good thing in any economy? Who cares about Snyder's bank account or his amusement parks? Is it even worth saying that if the players actually play well, the deals will make sense? What's wrong with making an actual prediction; is it that hard to do? How many more rhetorical questions will I ask in a row?

Not to be outdone, "leadership" managed to find its way into the group of free-agent losers. But after having one team make both lists, I guess I should have figured it was coming.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Vasquez propels Terps over N.C. State

Greivis Vasquez scored 33 points on 13-of-22 shooting as Maryland pulled out a tough ACC road win against North Carolina State. Vasquez also shot four of eight from the three-point line and dished out five assists.

The next three highest scorers for Maryland were Dave Neal with 11 points, Eric Hayes with nine points, and Cliff Tucker with seven points -- so yeah, props are definitely in order for Vasquez's performance tonight.

Bubble watch: The Terps finish the regular season at home against No. 14 Wake Forest and at Virginia.

My take: Win both games and they're in the NCAA Tournament; beat just Wake and they're in; beat just Virginia means winning at least one ACC Tournament game; lose both and they're in big trouble.

AP Photo/The News & Observer, Ethan Hyman