The Super Bowl gets in touch with its "softer" side

We were having a very productive and enjoyable Friday here in the nation’s capital, until the moment we happened to stumble across this gem of a news story. It seems that the NFL has tabbed do-it-all, metro-sexual Ryan Seacrest of American Idol fame to emcee a red carpet event at this season’s Super Bowl. Apparently producers at Fox Sports are working with the NFL to funnel all celebrity arrivals through what is sure to be a vomit-inducing red carpet extravaganza during the network’s pre-game show.

Generally, we have nothing against red carpet shows when it’s tied appropriately to the Golden Globes or the Oscars, but the Super Bowl does not need a freakin’ red carpet and celebrity watching! The Super Bowl is a bellwether event for manhood and it doesn’t need to be “prissied up” by Seacrest and a celebrity red-carpet show. We understand the motivation to jazz up the generally snooze-inducing pre-game show with new ideas and segments, and the apparent need to appeal to a broader audience, but let’s try other options like more behind-the-scenes access with the players. Or, perhaps recruiting a comedian like Chris Rock (I’m sure he’s not very busy these days) to take a tongue-in-cheek look at the rules of the game, its history or its most outrageous characters. That’s what football fans want, not Seacrest.


It's hard being Kobe Bryant

Interesting read here, with Los Angeles Times sports writer T.J. Simers doing his job being a reporter and asking the tough questions and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant doing his best to keep his own mouth shut. Judging from his comments Kobe is clearly frustrated. But it probably has to do as much with the constant barrage of trade and Lakers related questions from inquisitive reporters like Simers, as it does with the general lack of movement this summer and the state of the Lakers thus far heading into the new season.

At least, for the first time all summer the interview did produce some significant news. Kobe was somewhat definitive when asked if he’d report to training camp when it starts in a few weeks.

“I’m not making it an issue anymore,” Kobe told the LA Times. “I have no reason not to be (at Lakers’ camp).”

Plenty of professional athletes in various sports have demanded to be traded and have held out of training camp to make sure those demands are met – several have done so successfully. So, given that precedence, if Kobe Bryant is so adamant about leaving the Lakers then why does he soften his stance with every new interview? There has to be some serious activity happening behind the scenes, in terms of trade talks that could net the all-star teammate that Kobe so desires. For all Lakers fans, let’s hope so.


Virtual GM: Sacramento Kings

With the Mike Bibby trade rumors heating up once again, and Ron Artest’s name still being linked in “rumorville” with the New York Knicks, we thought it would be a good time to play virtual GM and take a look at some moves that could help the Sacramento Kings pull itself out of the quicksand of mediocrity that its been stuck in the last couple of seasons.

Here’s the Kings roster as it stands today, and the number of years remaining on the contracts for each player in parenthesis:

Point Guards: Mike Bibby (2), Quincy Douby (4), Mustafa Shakur (not signed yet)
Shooting Guards: Kevin Martin (2), John Salmons (4)
Small Forwards: Ron Artest (2), Francisco Garcia (3)
Power Forwards: Mikki Moore (1), Shareef Abdur-Rahim (3), Kenny Thomas (3), Justin Williams (1)
Centers: Brad Miller (3), Spencer Hawes (5)

Free agents: Vitaly Potapenko, Corliss Williamson

It’s safe to assume that unless they’re bundled as part of a blockbuster deal, players like Quincy Douby, Kevin Martin, John Salmons, Francisco Garcia, Mikki Moore, Justin Williams, Spencer Hawes and Brad Miller probably won’t be moved this year – whether it is because of their youth, talent and/or length (and amount) of contract. Taking those players out of the equation the players the Kings could most likely look to move are Mike Bibby, Ron Artest, Shareef Abdur-Rahim and Kenny Thomas. Of those four, Artest and Abdur-Rahim have the most cap/trade friendly contracts, at around $8 million and $6 million per year respectively.

So, now that the stage is set, let’s put our GM caps on to work out some scenarios. The bottom line is that Mike Bibby shouldn’t even be in any trade conversations. He is, and has been, the face of the Sacramento Kings franchise for some time, and unless you’re able to get an all-star caliber player in return he shouldn’t be traded. That option, unfortunately, isn’t available to the Kings. Especially since he’s coming off a down season, this is not a sellers market when it comes to Mike Bibby. Perhaps next summer, when he’ll only have one year left on his large $14.5 million contract, someone might be interested in a solid starting point guard with an expiring contract.

So, if we’ve decided that it’s best to hold onto Mike Bibby for at least another year, Ron Artest sticks out like a sore thumb on this defense challenged squad. Reggie Theus likes for his teams to get up and down the court, so to be able to do that the Kings need a more versatile small forward that can get out on the break to fill the wings and catch-and-shoot from the 3-point range on the perimeter. They have mobile big men that can run, a point guard in Bibby that can push the ball and a premiere shooter and slasher in Kevin Martin. The Kings should build around that core and look to trade Artest and possibly one of their aging power forwards, ie. Abdur-Rahim.

There’s a ton of trade scenarios that could work for the Kings, from trading Artest for Los Angeles Clippers forward Cory Maggette, or sending him in a package to the New York Knicks for Quentin Richardson and David Lee. But, the one that makes the most sense is packaging Artest with Abdur-Rahim and sending both to the Miami Heat for James Posey, Udonis Haslem and possibly a 2009 or 2010 1st round draft pick. Heat coach Pat Riley gets the defensive small forward he desperately needs and a serviceable presence at power forward in Abdur-Rahim that can play off Shaq -- besides Riley has shown a propensity for stockpiling veterans just slightly past their glory days.

The kings end up with two players that can thrive in Theus' up and down offensive schemes -- a small forward that can hit the open 3 and a power forward that can do the dirty work in the paint and hit the boards. Sacramento would also dump the 3 years still remaining on Abdur-Rahim's contracts and the headaches that come with having a personality like Artest on your team -- and they get younger and more athletic in the process. Besides, the major problem for the Kings last year was a lack of chemistry and team identity, not talent. With this trade the Kings can regain that swagger, and go back to being one of the highest scoring and most entertaining teams in the league.

Following the trade, the Kings lineup would be as follows:

Point Guards: Mike Bibby (2), Quincy Douby (4), Mustafa Shakur (not signed yet)
Shooting Guards: Kevin Martin (2), John Salmons (4)
Small Forwards: James Posey (new contract), Francisco Garcia (3)
Power Forwards: Udonis Haslem (3), Mikki Moore (1) Kenny Thomas (3), Justin Williams (1)
Centers: Brad Miller (3), Spencer Hawes (5)

Could Mike Bibby, J.R. Smith and Udonis Haslem be on the move?

The Mike Bibby to Miami rumors just won’t go away. An odds and ends report in the Miami Herald rekindles rumors that Sacramento Kings point guard Mike Bibby may be headed to the Miami Heat in exchange for Heat guard Jason Williams and power forward Udonis Haslem. The salary cap numbers seem to work, but the holdup remains the Heat’s reluctance to include Haslem in the deal.

This move makes sense for Miami, but we’re not sure how Sacramento makes itself better by getting Williams and Haslem back in return for one of the best pick-and-roll point guards in the NBA. Williams is better on the break than Mike Bibby, but is more of a liability on defense, is very erratic, inconsistent and injury prone, and isn’t nearly the clutch player that Bibby has been throughout his career. Haslem is a solid player, but what do you get from him other than a good locker room presence and a few more rebounds at the power forward position? And worst of all, this deal would leave Ron Artest as the Kings’ best player and leader, and the face of the Sacramento franchise. Seriously, nobody wants that.

We’ll post again soon on what we think the Kings should do with their current, disparate roster. So, stay tuned for that.

Among other NBA rumors, the Denver Nuggets apparently aren’t finished tweaking their roster. It seeems that they’re speaking with the Orlando Magic about sending shooting guard J.R. Smith and forward Reggie Evans for point guard Keyon Dooling and outside shooting forward Pat Garrity. Sure J.R. Smith was in Nuggets coach George Karl’s doghouse off and on for portions of the 2006-2007 season, but if this deal does happen it will be purely for salary cap reasons. The Nuggets may be looking for cap, and specifically luxury tax, relief by acquiring the expiring contracts of Dooling and Garrity.


Kobe recants Vanessa trade demands

We recently told you about an Internet rumor that Lakers star Kobe Bryant and his wife Vanessa Laine Bryant may be parting ways. The rumors started when a local Los Angeles based network affiliate posted the story on its Web site and later pulled it without explanation.

Apparently the rumors became so prevalent that Kobe felt it necessary to address it publicly. Kobe told Entertainment Tonight’s Kevin Fraser, exclusively we might add, that there is no way he and Vanessa are getting a divorce anytime soon.

We generally take “no comments” and “denials” with a grain of salt. But, our gut feeling is that Kobe’s denial is pretty genuine and the divorce talk was probably started by some freckle-faced kid sitting in his (or her) mom’s basement with a mouse and keyboard.

Soccer star says, I’m not gay! (not that there’s anything wrong with it)

A Brazilian soccer star named Richarlyson is telling anyone who will listen that he’s not gay. Really, he’s not. Honest.

The comical drama, which could rival any daytime soap opera, began when a local newspaper reported that a prominent player in the Brazilian league team Palmeiras would soon come out of the closet. Palmeiras manager Jose Cyrillos Junior went on television soon thereafter to deny that any current players on his team is gay, but he did throw a passing jab at Sao Paolo FC player Richarlyson before signing off. Cyrillos insinuated that Richarlyson was almost hired by Palmeiras and perhaps he was the subject of the vague newspaper report.

Now this is where the story takes its greatest and most inane turn. Richarlyson, like any wrongly accused, red-blooded citizen would do, took Cyrillos to court. But, the judge took things to a whole new level by issuing a ruling that suggested that Richalyson leave the game if he’s homosexual.

"Not that a homosexual can't play soccer," said Judge Manoel Filho. "He can, but he must form his own team and federation, setting up matches with those who want to play against him."

The judge ordered Richalyson to defend himself on the same television program on which he was originally accused by the Palmeira head coach.

And, what does Richalyson’s mother have to say about all this?

“My son does not have this kind of problem,” she stated emphatically.

Mother knows best.

On an unrelated note: The steaming rivalry between Thailand and Mexico goes way back to the days of….well yesterday, when a crazy brawl broke out among players and then fans at a World University Games (did you know there was such an event?) soccer match. Four players were red-carded, fighting broke out in the stands and fans threw water battles on the field. (Fun times)


NBA Watercooler: August 13, 2007

Our journey around the league begins in Seattle, where minority owner Aubrey McClendon, according to reports, plans to move the Sonics to Oklahoma City. But don’t believe some of the sensational headlines in the mainstream media, which gathered most of its facts from a profile on McClendon in the Oklahoma Journal Record. In the article, McClendon did say:

“We didn’t buy the team to keep it in Seattle; we hoped to come here (Oklahoma City). We know it’s a little more difficult financially here in Oklahoma City, but we think it’s great for the community and if we could break even we’d be thrilled.”

However, a few paragraphs earlier he also said the following, putting the pressure clearly on the Seattle government officials to approve new stadium funding and leaving the door open for the Sonics to remain in Seattle:

“They’ve got 60 days to make some decisions they haven’t been willing to make in the past year, and if they make them in a way that satisfies Clay (the team’s majority owner), then the team will stay there. If they don’t meet the requirements he’s laid out, the team will move and Clay has indicated they’ll come to Oklahoma City.”

This is not really the breaking news that it’s being made out to be. We’ve know for some time that the new ownership in Seattle has been playing hardball with the city for a new arena, threatening to take their shiny new Kevin Durant down to good ‘ol Oklahoma. In 60 days, or sooner, we’ll see who’s able to stick to their guns, the city or the out of town owners.

Next stop San Antonio, where former Portland Trailblazers starting small forward and Portland State standout Ime Udoka is leaving home and has agreed in principle to sign with the Spurs. Udoka is a good shooter, hitting more than 40 percent of his shots from 3-point range last season, and brings youth and athleticism to the defending NBA champs. He won’t be a critical cog just yet, but he’s certainly a good complimentary player for 2008 and a solid prospect beyond that.

Finally, we hit Los Angeles where the Clippers signed…wait a minute, who cares about some no-name role-player the Clippers just signed. If we’re talking about signing no-name role players, let’s hear from the man who’s turned it into an art form, Mitch Kup-cake the GM of your very own Los Angeles Lakers. Here’s what Kup-cake had to say recently about his “brilliant” off-season moves:

"If this was the team that we started the season off with, I would be fine with it. I feel that we're an improved team over last year.”

He went on to say:

“I look at our team and look at a very balanced team with veteran and young players. I do feel there is more pressure or more expectations to dramatically change this team. My season-ending comments were that we were going to be more aggressive than we normally are. That's a byproduct of the season ending the way it did. But having said that, we're not going to do deals or sign players just to do it. We're going to do things we feel are going to improve the team. We feel that our team as it is structured right now is improved over last year.”

As inept as Kup-cake is at being a NBA GM, he’s not a complete idiot. It’s fair to say that given the addition of Derek Fisher and the improved health of Chris Mihm, Vlade Radmonavic and Lamar Odom the Lakers will be a stronger team this season than last. But, that’s not what Laker fans and its lone superstar Kobe Bryant demands from this team. Laker fans are hardly satisfied with humiliating yearly first-round playoff exists and unproductive off-seasons.

The time is now. Whether it’s a straight two-team deal to bring Jermaine O’Neal to town, or a creative salary-cap manipulating three- or four-team swap that does the same, there needs to be some movement soon. Step up to the plate Mitch! Or soon enough, Laker fans will be speaking in unison asking Jerry Buss to buy you a one-way ticket out of town. Who would you rather keep around? The best player in the NBA? Or, the most inept GM in the NBA?