Sunday, February 18, 2018

More Than Meets the Eye - Utah Jazz Edition

Donovan Mitchell is your 2018 slam dunk champion! And on a current eleven game win streak, the Utah Jazz and their fans have cause to be excited!! This particular win streak, however, has three big reasons to give Jazz fans even more optimism about this team.

More road wins than home.

The Jazz have historically struggled on the road. They have always played much better at home. This win streak, however, has included more road wins (7) than home wins (4). Including a stretch where Utah had to play six road teams in a seven game stretch!

The Jazz are soundly beating the best the NBA has to offer.

During this winning streak, the Jazz beat the East's best record Toronto Raptors in Toronto. A few days later they destroyed the best team, the Golden State Warriors, by 30 points. They then soundly beat the Pelicans and the Blazers, two teams currently ahead of the Jazz in the standings, both on the road winning by 24 points and 19 points respectively. And then, perhaps the most impressive for Utah, the Jazz beat the team that has always given them the most trouble; the San Antonio Spurs... twice! Once at home and once in San Antonio. And it's not just two normal games - both games were the second game on a back-to-back for the Jazz, which usually teams will lose because of fatigue.

The Jazz are not just "clicking."

This winning streak did not come out of no-where. It isn't like the Jazz are just "hot." This is the first time the Jazz's two best players are playing together this season. Of course at the very beginning of the season, Rudy Gobert and rookie Donovan Mitchell were playing together - but Donovan Mitchell wasn't Donovan Mitchell yet. He was just getting started. Then just twelve games into the season, Rudy Gobert went down with an injury. He missed twenty-six of the next thirty-two games. He came back healthy on January 19th and the win streak started on January 24th. It's no coincidence that this win streak started just three games after Rudy came back from injury. This is first time we see Donovan Mitchell and healthy Rudy Gobert really playing together. And it's amazing.

So be optimistic Jazz fans! I expect the Jazz to continue to win games, play well against any team in the NBA, climb up the standings and make the playoffs this year. With Utah winning games on the road, beating the best teams, and with budding superstar Donovan Mitchell and a healthy Rudy Gobert - the Jazz could be the team nobody wants to have to play against in the playoffs.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Two Examples Why I Love Replay In Sports

“Those who can’t remember the past are doomed to repeat it.”

...or whatever version of that quote you like best ;)

Many people have been complaining about replay in sports lately. Nick Wright, for example, has said the following two statements in the last week: “Replay, in all sports except tennis, is just awful." and “the officiating has been damaged by having replay. You see it every weekend, where a pass is clearly-- a quarterback's throwing the ball, and the referees are like eh, let's not blow it dead.”

Nick Wright, and everyone who agrees with statements like those, have forgotten the past. Nick Wright also said this week, when Chris Carter sarcastically said "oh, so let's just go back to that" (when Wright was complaining how life used to be without replay), Wright responded with "Absolutely." Those people have forgotten how bad life was without today's instant replay.

My two examples (of many):

Example 1: Broncos vs Steelers 2011. Playoffs. Broncos had dominated the first half of the football game. In the middle of the third quarter, the Steelers start a drive in a pretty much "score or lose" situation. The score was 20-6. Ben Roethlisberger throws a backwards lateral to Mike Wallace which is dropped. A Broncos’ defensive player picks it up at the Steeler's own 17 yard line - essentially the dagger that would have ended the game. However, back then, refs weren't letting plays play out like they do now. They weren't airing on the side of caution. Refs decided to call in an "incomplete forward pass." Replay shows it was very obviously a backwards lateral and thus a fumble. But since it was initially ruled an incomplete pass, it was unreviewable. So a horribly wrong call lets Pittsburgh keep possession instead of the Broncos having it in the red-zone. Steelers end up scoring a touchdown on that drive; and with that momentum eventually tie the game and had a chance to win it in regulation. They did forced overtime.

Long story short - even though the Broncos ended up winning in overtime; that game should have been over a long time ago. The refs made a non-questionable wrong call that could have changed the outcome of this playoff game. IF ONLY the ref had done exactly what Nick Wright and others are complaining about! If only “the referees (were) like eh, let's not blow it dead.” That would have saved the horrible, nearly game changing bad call.

Example two: In 1998, The Utah Jazz and the Chicago Bulls are playing in the finals. Game 6. If Jazz win, they go back to Utah to play game seven. If Bulls win, the series is over. In the 2nd quarter, Howard Eisley makes a 3 point shot for Utah. The refs call it a shot clock violation. Replay shows not only did he get it off in time, but “the ball was 5 feet out of Eisley’s hand with 1 second left on the clock.” But without replay, the three pointer simply didn’t count because the refs made a non-questionable wrong call and didn't use replay.

In the fourth quarter of that same game, Ron Harper makes a buzzer beater from the corner for the Bulls in the last 4 minutes. Replay shows he didn't get it off in time. But the refs incorrectly decided it did.

That was a 5 point swing on bad shot clock calls alone in which replay would have shown they were obviously wrong and easily correctable. Bulls won ended up winning that game by only ONE point (and thus the finals as well).

I would much rather have these controversial replay calls than go back to having those few non-questionably wrong calls that rob a team from their chance of winning it all. Replay has tremendously helped sports to eliminate that bad call that sends teams home and changes history. We don't really remember that because replay is awesome and has fixed most of that. Today we are spoiled. People are getting so worked up on debatable calls. We are living in such a privileged time is sports! One where the only calls we argue about are calls that are questionable instead of calls that are non-questionably wrong. Today's replay has pretty much eliminated the "Oops. We made the wrong call and now you're eliminated. Too bad!" mistakes. Thank you replay!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Quin Snyder - Robbed the Opportunity To Be Robbed of Coach of the Year

Quin Snyder has been doing amazing things in Utah as the head coach of the Jazz since being hired in 2014. He took over a very messy roster that was in complete rebuild mode still trying to recover from losing their all star Deron Williams and their long time head coach Jerry Sloan just a few years prior.

Snyder quickly started to work with a roster nobody envied. Two season ago, the Jazz finished with a losing record (40-42) and missed the playoffs. Even after trading starter Enes Kanter to the Thunder for a peanut butter sandwich, the Jazz improved a lot and won 51 games last year (51-31) - tied for 4th placed with the Clippers. Also tied with the Cleveland Cavaliers; who got the 2nd seed with that record in the East.

Turning a non-playoff team into a 51 win (in the West) with a bunch of people you've never heard of, except for barely-an-allstar Gordon Hayward, would normally win you Coach of the Year in the NBA.

Unless you coach the Utah Jazz apparently.

However, not only did Snyder not win COY last year, he wasn't even in the discussion! He wasn't even a nominee! "2016-17 Coach of the Year" turned into a three man race between Erik Spoelstra, Mike D'Antoni, and Gregg Popovich.

Erik Spoelstra - His Heat, the year before, got 48 wins and the 3rd seed in the East. Last year? Missed the playoffs with only 41 wins (in the East!). How Erik Spoelstra got COY votes and not Quin Snyder is beyond me.

Greg Popovich - Always in the COY debate and deserving so. However, his team also dropped from last year. They went 67-15 the year before and last year went 61-21. winning 6 less games.

Mike D'Antoni - Ended up winning COY for doing the exact same thing Quin Snyder did but with more talent and in a larger market - going from 8th seed last year to 3rd seed this year (41 wins to 55 wins). He had MVP finalist James Harden instead of couldn't-even-make-All-NBA-3rd-Team Gordon Heyward. And he coached the Houston Rockets instead of the Utah Jazz.

So Speolstra's team misses the playoffs, Popovich's team does worse than last year, and D'Antoni's team does the same improvement as the Jazz (but with a better roster) and they were the three in the COY race. Quin Snyder not even a footnote.

Expect more of the same disregard this season.

The Utah Jazz are currently on a 6 game winning streak. During the win streak, they have been destroying good teams - Including beating the playoff bound Bucks, Pelicans, and Wizards (a 47 point win).

Oh - By the way, they are doing this without the one player that you knew from last year - Gordon Hayward that left in the offseason.

Oh yeah, their best player Rudy Gobert missed 5 of those 6 games with injury. And they are still winning.

Quin Synder should have won or at least been in the conversation for COY last year - but wasn't.

And he will most likely be overlooked again this year.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

3 things we learned from the first two NFL weeks.

1. It’s the Falcons vs the field in the NFC

After the Packers beat Seattle and then Atlanta destroyed Green Bay, it looks like the Falcons are the team to beat in the NFC. Atlanta is great on all sides of the ball. On offense, they have the reining MVP Matt Ryan, great receivers starting with Julio Jones (every time you try to go one-on-one with Julio Jones, Matt Ryan makes you pay). And great running backs starting with Devonta Freeman. They also have a great defense. Aaron Rodgers is maybe the best QB in the league and specializes in avoiding sacks but Atlanta was getting to him all night long. Atlanta’s secondary was also able to go one-on-one with all of Green Bay’s receivers. Atlanta is a well-oiled machine and nobody seems to be on their level in the NFC.


The AFC, right now, seems to have five of the top six teams. Atlanta being the NFC team and then Kansas City, Pittsburg, New England, Oakland and Denver being the other five.

3. The AFC West is the best division in the NFL

The AFC West could realistically send three teams to the playoffs. Rarely does one division take both wild card spots – because you play each other twice each and thus knock each other down. However, the Chiefs, Broncos, and Raiders all look so good they could all make the playoffs despite being in the same division. Their schedules are hard but not too hard. Their out of conference schedule is the NFC East and the AFC East (Cowboys, Giants, Redskins, Eagles, Patriots, Dolphins, Bills, Jets). Besides New England, those are look like very winnable games. And even the Patriots have been losing players left and right this year to injuries so they may be quite beatable as well. Kansas City already beat them in week 1.

Overall, at the start of the season it looked like the AFC would be dominated by the Patriots and the NFC was up for grabs. After two weeks in the NFL, it looks like the complete opposite. The Falcons look to be the juggernaut in the NFC, and the AFC looks to be up for grabs right now.


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Tim Duncan Ends the Chain of Great NBA Centers

When Tim Duncan retired, it broke a beautiful chain of amazingly dominate centers in the NBA.

Bill Russell came into the league and dominated right away. During Bill's dominance, Wilt Chamberlain came along. In a student/teacher type relationship, the two had epic duals against each other. Both competing for best center in the league. By the time Bill Russell retired, Wilt was already well established and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar came along. Wilt became the roll of the teacher and Kareem the student. That started a beautiful chain of student/teacher or master/appendance rolls of centers. I'll let the pictures do the talking:

Bill vs Wilt

Wilt vs Kareem
 Kareem vs Hakeem

Hakeem vs Shaq
Shaq vs Duncan

Duncan vs NA

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Creating the Greatest NBA Starting 5 All Time

In sports writing, I often see an all time starting 5 list complying, in their opinion, the best NBA player ever at each position. This time, however, I want to make an all time starting 5 while also considering how well they would complement each other - not just using overall skill.

I'll pick them in order of the thought process.

1st pick - Easy. Michael Jordan. No-one was a better go-to scorer than MJ. The best primary scoring option of all time. MJ could also defend very well, had good court vision, etc. An all around player that was the best go-to scorer of all time. Plus, SG is the most shallow position of the 5. Picking MJ first was an easy choice to build a team around.

Now that I have a primary scorer, having another "go-to" guy could cause problems. I want players that can be great without having to be the "first option." Players that will perfectly compliment Michael Jordan.

2nd pick - Bill Russell. MJ is the ultimate go-to player, Bill Russell is the ultimate team player, and both are the two ultimate champions. Bill was the best defensive player of all time. He had great court vision and was always the smartest player on the court. MJ/Bill would be an unstoppable duo. MJ would anchor the offense and Bill would anchor the defense.

As I now have MJ and Bill, I am looking for complimentary players. Players that don't need to dominate the ball, that have good ball movement, and just be good overall. Also MJ works best when the floor is spaced, so I want at least one great three point shooter if not two.

3rd pick - I'm going with Tim Duncan. Duncan has proved he is all about the team and all about winning. He wouldn't have any problem letting MJ be the go-to guy. "Mr. Fundamental" would be a perfect fit down low with Bill Russell.

4th pick - I'm taking Stephen Curry. Steph has good ball movement and is a team player. He cares about winning and would concede to let MJ be "the guy." Curry is the best 3 point shooter the league has ever seen. With his extra range and quick release, it will really spread the floor for Jordan to work.

5th pick - Because of his range, the SF I am going with is Larry Bird. Along with Curry, that gives me not one but two great 3 point shooters to open the lane up for MJ. Bird is also an all-around player. He'll contribute greatly to ball movement, rebounding, etc.

Starting Five
PG - Stephen Curry
SG - Michael Jordan
SF - Larry Bird
Big - Tim Duncan
Big - Bill Russell

Bill and Duncan are both skilled and athletic enough to play either center or power forward, so I just listed them both as "big."

This, in my opinion, would be the best all time starting five anyone could assembled. This team would be able to out score anyone with MJ leading the way and Bird and Curry spacing the floor. Ball movement would be top notch. With Bill Russell anchoring the defense, they could shut any team down defensively. Curry and Bird could "cheat" a bit, going for steals and such with Russell, Duncan, and MJ's help defense abilities. Basketball IQ would be through the roof with Russell, Duncan, Bird and MJ. Experience wise they have a combined 27 rings and 17 MVPs (and counting).

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Responding to Charles Barkley's "State of the NBA" Address

Charles Barkley says:

To quote Nick Wright -

"(Charles Barkley) is bordering on not being taken seriously anymore." (link)

This last decade has been the most diverse NBA league we have seen since the 70s. Charles Barkley (as well as others)can't seem to remember the past. They think that there used to be so much parody in the NBA until recently. We'll lets take a look back on the different decades of the NBA:

NBA in the 60s - the Celtics won 9 of the 10 championships.
NBA in the 70s - was the decade with the most NBA parody. There were 8 different champions in 10 years.
NBA in the 80s - the Lakers or Celtics won 9 of the 10 championships.
NBA in the 90s - the Bulls won 6 of the 10 championships. There were only 4 different champions in 10 years.
NBA in the 00s - the Lakers or Spurs won 7 of the 10 championships. There are 5 different champions in 10 years.
NBA in the 10s - We've already had 6 different champions out of 7 years. That's more than any other decade except the 70s and there are still 3 more years to go.

60s = 2 different champions
70s = 8 different champions
80s = 3 different champions
90s = 4 different champions
00s = 5 different champions
10s = 6 different champions and counting.

The NBA has always been top heavy. This decade is actually the most diverse the NBA has been since the 70's. The sentence "the NBA is worse than it's ever been because there's only 4 good teams" is an oxymoron. It contradicts itself. There's been more good teams than ever this decade and we're not even done yet! There was only 2 good teams in the 80s and 2000s. There was only 1 good team in 90s. You either have to say "the NBA is worse than it's even been because there's more good teams than ever" or "the NBA is better than it's ever been."