Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Kobe Bryant is Still a Malcontent. And Leaves Change Color in Autumn.

There's very little that annoys me more than the continuing saga of Kobe Bryant. Billion Dollar talent, ten-cent head. The guy's never ponied up to any blame, not once taken responsibility, and I can't remember the last time he made a decision to assist another at his own detriment.
This situation is just another example of the exasperating nature of Kobe. The man is a blessing and a curse in the greatest sense of the word.
Supposedly, he's going to either Chicago, Dallas, or Phoenix. I'm here to tell you that he's not going anywhere.
It's another bit of acting by Bryant, another performance by Lakers' management-an attempt to prelude the inevitable trade. But don't confuse inevitable with impending.
Kobe's got two seasons to go before he can opt out and leave LA with nothing to show for their superstar. While they have him, there's no reason for Jerry Buss and co. to sell low on one of the 3 best players in the NBA. They'll milk his talent for all It's worth, and next offseason the highest approved bidder will claim Bryant.
What would Dallas give up to get Bryant? Howard and Terry seem to be the common factors in every suggested deal. They'd need to throw in either DJ Mbenga and Mo Ager, or alternatively DeSagana Diop; probably draft picks as well. That's one borderline all-star and a one-dimensional shooting guard, as well as two extremely raw youngsters and a late first rounder. Does that make LA better?
Chicago: Tyrus Thomas, Ben Gordon, and Tyson Chandler. Deal or no deal? If LA does this, it would be for potential. I really can't find fault with that way of thinking. But look at it this way; there is nothing remotely approaching a sure thing involved in this deal. Gordon is best used as a backup, and in LA he'd be the second best player on the team. Chandler is a good young center, but the Lakers are trying to develop their own. And Thomas could become Chris Bosh or Tyrus Thomas.
Phoenix: Marion+Diaw? I'm not convinced that Phoenix would do that, although it would give them the scariest threesome in history. Stoudemire straight up? I'm not sure that either club would pull the trigger; Phoenix because of his ability to dominate and his youth, LA because of his injury history.
To conclude: I simply don't see it. It may be me being overly skeptical, but this looks like showboating, overdramatization, making a mountain out of a molehill. Kobe Bryant will not be a Maverick on opening day, and he probably won't be a Bull or a Sun either.
But next offseason, I'll be watching.

Monday, October 15, 2007

What goes around comes around

What have we said about the Cowboys throughout this year? They're terrific in the second half, capitalizing on enormous bruisers that wear people down. And any one of their receivers has the ability to take over a game in conjunction with the rest of the offensive unit.
Ouch. That can be an effective strategy when used against you too, can't it?
The Cowboys looked dead out of the gate. That was to be expected, they've been that way all season long. The 14-0 lead seemed insurmountable, however, when you consider that Dallas went three and out on consecutive game-starting drives. In fact, the fearsome Cowboy attack amassed negative yardage through their first 8 plays.
Yet somehow, they managed to make the game genuinely interesting for a while. They'd score 24 of the next 31 points, actually taking a 24-21 lead. At this point the fans were giddy, the players looked hopeful, and Bill Belichick stopped sullenly grimacing, and instead looked sullenly contemplative. For a very short while, anyway. Because the Patriots would score 27 of the next 30.
What happened? It's really quite simple. Dallas put up a great fight yesterday, but a couple of things buried them. First and foremost was allowing the Patriots those lengthy early possessions. I believe the Patriots reached 20 plays before the Cowboys had 10, and the Cowboys received to begin the match. The Patriot linemen wore our rushers down to their last breaths, and their receivers turned our secondary players' legs to grape jelly.
Additionally, these penalties have got to stop. The Cowboys' red zone woes were largely brought about by Flozell and Company, as our team regressed by 98 yards spread over 12 plays. One play represents the struggle with the zebra-men best of all: 31-24 New England, 4th and one. Marion Barber powers his way to a first down, and the Metroplex rises in glee. But a few seconds later, we vent our fury to the huddled masses following the game through media mediums, as the play is undone with five additional necessary yards, via a holding call. Dallas was forced to punt, Brady led the Patriots down the field for another score, and the Cowboys never got closer than 11 points.
Speaking of 11 points... what the profanity was up with going for a field goal down 14 in the 4th? Under that logic, you'd have to completely and utterly stifle the Patriots twice, which you have shown no indication of being able to do- then come back and score two more touchdowns. What the hell are the chances of that happening? On 4th and goal at the 4 against this opposition, you've got to go for that every single time. I consider myself as die-hard and faithful as any Cowboys supporter, but at that point I turned away from the CBS coverage in disgust and took out my frustration on the Madden-rendered Patriots.
What was good last night? Our running game and our run defense. Barber and Jones rushed only 14 times, mostly due to being behind for almost the full extent of the game. But those 14 rushes resulted in 98 yards, for an average of 7 yards an attempt. On the other end of the ball, Patriot backs rushed 26 times for only 70 yards- less than 3 an attempt. That same sort of play will be very important against the Vikings next week, as they're a team that heavily relies on the running game.

Random observations
This team badly needs Anthony Henry back.
So much for the fabled matchup of 81s. Barely 130 yards between them.
Demarcus Ware is a truly premier defender. I love this man.
Why was the Romo-Witten connection so intermittent? Our QB went to our TE twice at the end of the second, both very successful completions. But the ball barely got near him through the other 59 minutes.
The secondary got burned time after time, but for once it wasn't really Roy's fault.
The Patriots seem to force deeper kickoff than us.
Terrence Newman probably should have waited for that plantar fasciitis to fully heal. He looks slow, and what is he without speed?
Better luck next week.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

The Conflict of Collossi

5-0. The Cowboys hadn't done it for two decades. The winningest single-decade quarterback in NFL history couldn't take us there, neither could the league's all-time leading rusher or a historically effective offensive line. But questions emerge; questions that those lauded squads didn't have to put up with.
Is the secondary stable enough? Is Tony Romo sufficiently reliable? Are two runners really no runners?
And most prominent, has this team played anyone competent enough for us to anoint them into the class of elite clubs in the 2007-08 NFL based on numbers alone?
One thing is for certain. If the Dallas Cowboys are still undefeated by Sunday evening, the last of these questions will have been answered, for The Patriots are clearly a juggernaut in every way. The league's best passing game is accentuated by a fearsome running attack, for which the way is paved by a justifiably feared offensive line. The defensive secondary includes two superstars (Asante Samuel and Rodney Harrison), and the defensive line is up there with the very best, with cornerstones like Brushchi, Thomas, and Wilfork. Let this sink in: They have yet to score less than 34 points, and yet to give up 17. And they've played two or three teams probably better than anything the Cowboys have faced.
Can the Cowboys win? The Bills looked like they were going to last week, so sunshine does indeed use a canine's behind as a landing pad occasionally. But going in line with that euphemism, it doesn't happen often.
What will the Patriots do? Allow me to preface this assessment by saying that Bill Bellichick's greatness lies in his ability to adjust on the fly. If something's not working, he'll change it up.
I believe that Bellichick's perceptive enough to take a leaf out of the Bills'' incompetence last week. Buffalo was incapable of putting pressure on Tony Romo, and look what happened? Romo got comfortable and got careless. Bellichick has the personnel to force Romo into scrambling around in the pocket, but I regret to say that he won't-because he will have realized that this is where Romo is at his best. Bellichick will rush four or five for the entirety of the game, concentrating more on coverage and leaving a linebacker or two back to contain our relevant halfback. If Romo's performance last week was a harmless aberration, praise the gods and realize that you may have a shot at not only victory in this game, but in a playoff matchup for the first time in over ten years. But if my fears are proven to be well founded, woe and calamity.
Offensively, the Patriots will do what they always do. Brady is a completion machine, as automatic as it gets .They have a crop of receivers rivaling our own and a stalwart group of blockers to allow the league's best quarterback time to be his usual opportunistic self. Oh, they've also got a two-eheaded monster better than ours, with Laurence Maroney and Sammy Morris.
If the Cowboys want to win this thing, they'll have to do everything right. Don't give an inch on either side of the ball; knock their feet out from under them and shove their faces into the turf, grabbing the ball in the process. Don't make mistakes, another 6-turnover performance will get this team absolutely routed. Force your own, and you've got a shot.
Asante Samuel's not exploitable, as he's one of the top cornerbacks in this entire league. But if TO is on anyone else, use him. I expect Jason Witten to be covered like a sleeping baby in a blizzard for the full extent of the game, so get creative. He can catch the ball through a regiment of thermal blankets and five shadows if It's well-placed. Trick plays are there for a reason; Jason Garrett, It's time to pull out ALL the stops. Leave not a stone unturned, any potential at an opportunity must be seized, turned over, and exploited to its full extent.
In short, It will take a lot for the Cowboys to win this one. This is not in any way a derogatory statement on America's True Team, because New England is very possibly the mightiest squad to have graced the green plains of the NFL since their upcoming opposition circa fifteen years ago.
New England: 31
Dallas: 24

Tuesday, October 9, 2007


The local football team's taken the league by storm. Baseball's playoffs have taken a decidedly upwards turn, greatly spurred by the Yankee loss last night (How's that for an evening of delight?). College football is in full force.
But people seem to have forgotten that last year's top regular season NBA team exists.
I won't say I'm complaining. We all got a bit overexcited last year, some crowning them as the champs before the season was over, others-myself included- scoffing at the matchup against Clown Coach Don Nelson and his brand of basketball. It was not to be.
But yeah, the Mavericks are nearing another season. They come back with the squad almost entirely intact, as the only departee with any name recognition is the spare 3rd string shooting guard Greg Buckner. Notable additions include Trenton Hassell, Nick Fazekas, and Eddie Jones.
Low key additions, to be certain. Two one-dimensional players and a has-been who may not play as many minutes as Buckner did last year.
I like it.
The best core in the league is fully composed. All there is to do is add the supporting cast. Do we have that guy who can step in during a critical time and truly contribute? Do we have an Alonzo Mourning, a Fabricio Oberto, or, as we make use of the way-back machine, a Rick Fox?
I don't know, but this team has been adding candidates for the position. And this pleases me.
Dirk will be Dirk. He's vowed to come back with a better interior game, and I'm sure he'll post up more. But he'll still play his game, because that's what makes him great.
Josh Howard's a genuine all-star. We've tagged him as the MVP's sidekick for several years now, but last year we saw him take his game to another level. He's now part of the second tier; Those 10-15 players who aren't quite legitimate superstars, but are necessary to any championship team.
I believe that Devin Harris has a chance to join that tier as well. He's back motivated, rich, and still humbled by last season. He'll be the starting point guard this season, there should be no further experimentation with Jason Terry in that role. If he can refine his abilities to finish at the rim, the Tony Parker projections will materialize.
The shooting guard position is deep to an unprecedented level. There's the proven scorer in Jet, the hard-nosed sparkplug in Stack, the proven veteran is Eddie Jones, Trenton Hassell the defensive ace, and the inconsistent but usable Devean George. Minutes will be hard to come by, and I could see Devin and Josh's minutes getting cut simply because the depth here is so irresistible.
The Center position will be iffy until the return of Big Damp, but I believe that with 5 minutes a game from Fazekas, Nowitzki, and Mbenga we can hold down the fort.
Do us all a favor and don't predict a championship. Don't even predict 60 wins. Just know that there is reason for optimism.

Monday, October 8, 2007


4 interceptions in one half. 2 of them before the second completion. Six overall.
A kickoff return returned for a TD.
Dropped passes galore, four from the lead wideout.
A running game that looked completely impotent for large portions of the game.
Blockers who chose to look their worst against one of the league's worst defensive units.
A defense that allowed an unheralded rookie quarterback to complete 24 of his 31 passes.
It was ugly. It was disgusting. It was an eyesore, and awful, and downright obscene. And the Dallas Cowboys came out of it 5-0.
Sometimes you look back at games and you simply can't comprehend the outcomes. The Green Bay-Chicago decision yesterday was one of these. But tonight's was a far more radical example.
How the hell did the Dallas Cowboys overcome all of the insurmountable barriers mentioned above, how did they rebound from adversity, how did they show up in rare form when all hope was lost?
Damned if I know.
Jason Witten was big tonight. Tony Romo's security blanket executed his role perfectly on a night when he was sorely needed.
Patrick Crayton has established a rapport with Tony Romo. There's plenty of reason to rip on our QB, but he creates these mental bonds between he and his receivers that I've never seen paralleled.
Demarcus Ware is an animal, Jay Ratliff is making some of us scratch our heads about the Tank's necessity, Ken Hamlin looks like a better signing every day.
Key stat: The Cowboys have gone consecutive weeks without allowing an offensive touchdown. Allow that to sink in.
All that being said, I still can't figure out how this rabbit was unhinged from its headgear. Party on, Dallas. Next week will be a blast.

Ropers vs. Big Game Preview

Analysts have a knack for declaring every game with a line greater than 10 points a 'trap game'. My question: Why the hell is there a double digit line if you genuinely believe that there's a good chance of an upset?

Call me cocky, call me overconfident. I deserve the distinctions, but you can't blame me for claiming them. The Cowboys have been dominant to this point of the season, the Bills awful in almost every respect. They have a promising young running back and a rookie QB who's exceeded expectations-through four games. The Bills' pass defense is unspeakably bad, their run defense not much better. The Cowboys are getting healthier by the week, despite Anthony Henry and Keith Davis sitting out this one.

It's hard to foretell Jason Garrett's intentions, as his greatest single strength is unpredictability. He's daring and fearless, and his players execute in a similar fashion. I expect to see the Cowboys exploit the pitiful secondary laid before them, forcing the Bills to commit a great deal of additional help to stemming the bleeding from the gaping wound caused by Tony Romo's reckless shenanigans. This will free up our dynamic duo of runners to soften up the defense in conjunction with our massive group of blockers, and the Buffalo defense will completely crumble... if I had to estimate, I'd say sometime in the middle of the third quarter.

The Bills will lead with a balanced attack, but most of all try to exploit Jacques Reeves. The man's played beyond expectations, but is still a liability at the second corner spot. Expect Ken Hamlin to lend a hand on that side of the field with fair regularity. Mershawn Lynch will make his way through a good group of offensive linemen and probably pick up his fair share of yards, albeit not enough to make a serious dent. He may be the best Running back the Boys have faced to this point, but that's more a detraction from previous opposition than an acknowledgment of Lynch's competence.

Both teams have strong special teams units. The Bills have the one punter who might be superior to our own Mat Mcbriar, that competition should be enjoyable to view. They have a good tandem of returners, and with Keith Davis out of the picture that could be especially problematic. I may give Buffalo a slight edge in this facet of the game.

To conclude, my fellow Cowboy supporters, I don't believe we have much to fear. This team will be playing for their coach's retribution, for recognition on Monday Night Football, for the preservation of their unbeaten record, and for momentum going into next week's delicious matchup with the Bostoners.
Dallas: 41
Buffalo: 14

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Rangers: Season in Perspective

Ebbs and flows.
Is there a more appropriate way to describe the 2007 Rangers? This had to have been one of the streakiest squads I've ever seen assembled. In fact, I honestly can't recall the last several times the Rangers had a winning or losing streak of less than three games throughout this year. The problem was as such: The season started with such a precipitous slide that the rest of the campaign became unsalvageable. The first months were absolutely awful, as Ron Washington's team compiled a record of 20-35. They proceeded to not have another losing month, but as stated above-the slide left this team beyond repair.
Despite all that, there are bright spots on the horizon. The one most oft quoted is the sudden surge of young talent. This is a valid point, as Eric Hurley is really the only player considered as one of the organization's top seven or eight players both prior to the season and in the current state of matters. The system depth behind the plate is fantastic. There is a shortstop prospect the likes of which we haven't seen in this city for quite some time. There are multiple promising outfielders at the low levels of the minors. And most importantly, there are pitchers accumulated to the point of overflow at all levels of the minor leagues.
Fortunately, though, hope stems not solely from the prospects. Players like Brandon McCarthy and Edinson Volquez exhibited flashes of talent to demonstrate the reason for the organization's commitment to them.
Michael Young somehow recovered from a forgettable slump, hitting .335 in the last five months to put up another 200-hit season. Jason Botts posted an on base percentage of .380 in September, holding true to his trend of acclimating to a league after a month or two of adjustment.
While good sense advises me to temper my enthusiasm for a 25 year old with few enough at bats to still be considered a rookie next season, David Murphy has me very excited.
Ian Kinsler posted the highest OPS on the team, stole successfully in 23 of his 25 attempts, and emerged from an injury a new defensive man- he who obviously had butter spread all over his glove during the first half of the year had replaced the condiment with gorilla glue.
Joaquin Benoit had the breakout year we'd all been waiting for, pitching seventy times, striking out eighty seven hitters, and posting a stellar 2.85 ERA. In a pressure role.
C.J Wilson came veritably out of nowhere to emerge as the closer in waiting, finishing 12 of his 13 real save attempts. His numbers were equally impressive to Benoit's until a late-season burnout inflated them substantially, but he's a young player whose workload potential will gradually rise.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia has already attracted his share of detractors,most of them pointing at his high strikeout rates and defensive incompetence. But keep this in mind: At the age of 22, the player Salts is most often compared to was still in the minor leagues, undergoing a position switch that left him frustrated. Mark Teixeira turned out alright.

Don't get me wrong, this team has needs. It didn't have a 25 home run hitter, nor a 100 RBi man, nor a starter with an ERA under five. Only two full-time players hit above .270.
Keep this in mind, though. This team suffered through a horrible series of injuries evidenced by only Michael Young playing more than 140 games, only Kevin Milwood logging 150 innings, and still posted a Pythagorean W-L record of 79-83. It's not difficult to imagine this team contending with only a couple of additions.
Believe in Jon Daniels, folks. I have confidence in his ability to assemble this team the right way, whether by signings, drafts, or trades.
Believe in Ron Washington, folks. His lineups are unconventional, some of his decisions spotty.
But he's the natural leader this team has lacked since Johnny Oates.
I won't ask you to believe in Tom Hicks, but I will allude to Daniels. I bet he can be pretty persuasive, even when it entails convincing grouchy old men to give dozens of millions to young club swingers.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Analysis of Another Relaxing Thrashing

Their opponents may be 2-13, but the level of pure dominance that has been exhibited by America's Team is simply stunning.
Romo is magic. I'm sorry, do you have a better explanation?
It's great to have Greg Ellis the player back. But Greg Ellis the person is a manipulative, whining douchebag. I'm not sure if I would have caved in Jerry Jones' shoes.
Demarcus Ware is Demarcus Ware. He's one of the top pass rushers in this league, and isn't exactly lacking in the other aspects of his game. Anyone rushing beside him is made immediately better.
This secondary is stout again. You can easily convince me that the opposing O-Line was the absolute worst in football yesterday, but that core of pass catchers remains terrific despite age. We shut them out.
MBIII and JJ both looked solid. They didn't break huge runs, but they very rarely flailed their legs in a vacuum. There was progress. I'm perfectly content with keeping the running game this way until both of those guys grow past their prime.
Put the Cowboys recievers in a hat. Next week, the one you pick may go for 150 yards. The way this team is playing, it could be Sam Hurd.
It could be Anthony Fasano.


Greg Buckner traded

I'm a bit behind the times on this under-the-radar story, but the infamous Buck has been traded to Minnesota for the bigger, more athletic, younger, and generally more capable Trenton Hassell.
This looks to me like first and foremost a change of scenery situation, and secondly an attempt by Minnesota to reduce payroll.
I like this trade for the obvious reasons stated above. Buckner was a waste of a roster spot last year, Hassell is a truly good defender who can score from more than one spot on the floor. I don't expect him to win the job, but he'll contend with Jet for the starting SG spot.