In The News: August 31, 2007

Team USA coasted past what was supposed to be their toughest challenge of the FIBA Americas Tournament. Led by Kobe Bryant’s 27 points, the US squad beat Argentina 91-76. Sports Illustrated’s Chris Mannix looks at four things we learned about Team USA coming out of last night’s game.

Louisville scored on all but one possession of the game, and Heisman hopeful Brian Brohm threw for 375 yards and four touchdowns, mostly by the start of the third quarter, as the Cardinals beat hopelessly overmatched Murray State 73-10. Despite the lopsided score the game was pretty fun to watch, as college football season kicked off last night. Here is the TV schedule for the remainder of this weekend’s college football games.

Speaking of college football, check out the 2007-2008 Maryland Terrapins football schedule.

The buzz around the Google phone continues to build. Will it live up to the hype? The image below is one of the many representations of what it might look like.

If you want one of the 60GB PlayStation 3s at $499, you better act now. Soon, all you’ll find are the new 80GB models at the usual and outrageous $599 price point.

Apparently, some Chinese Shaolin monks are a little peeved about an Internet rumor that they were once beaten in hand-to-hand combat by Japanese Ninjas. We didn’t know Shaolin monks actually surfed the Internet, what with the whole simplicity and zen of life thing. But if they are, what are they actually searching for? The world may never know. What do you think? Who would win in a fight, Ninja vs. Shaolin monk?


The MLS is to International Soccer, as Nascar is to _____?

The answer is Formula One.

It seems that former Formula One star Jacques Villenueve will follow in the footsteps of Juan Pablo Montoya and take his services to the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series. This exodus of once talented, but relatively washed up, Formula One drivers to NASCAR seems eerily similar to the exodus of once talented, yet relatively washed up, international soccer stars (see Beckham and Denilson) to Major League Soccer.

“You know, after Formula One, when you want to carry on racing, you want it to be at a tough level,” Villeneuve said of the move. “And in North America, the top level is NASCAR.”

We realize the popularity of NASCAR, but comparing the two, Formula One blows oval racing out of the water, especially when it comes to driver skill and their lightning quick reflexes. See Juan Pablo Montoya’s rookie success, particularly on the non-oval tracks on the NASCAR circuit. Whether this trend helps raise the profile of Formula One in the United States, or gets more Europeans to watch NASCAR, remains to be seem, but either way it's a win for the sport of auto racing.

Celtics Danny Ainge needs a 10 step program

We would like you to read some comments from a man who is clearly in denial. In a recent interview with the Boston Globe, Danny Ainge, Director of Basketball Operations of the newly revitalized Boston Celtics, said the following when asked about his current point guard situation:

“Here’s the thing with point guard,” Ainge told the Boston paper. “You know how much we love Rajon, and that’s really important, but Ray Allen wants to play minutes at point guard, and Tony Allen two years ago, when he had a chance to play point guard, played fantastic…and we think Gabe Pruitt can help us there. Even though we don’t want to count on Gabe as a rookie coming in and playing a major, major role, we feel very confident with him (in that) role in case of an injury. And then Eddie House has played the point, and we think Eddie is actually a very good fit playing alongside Ray or Tony. So we think we have five guys more than capable of playing the point.”

Ainge rambles on like a man who is trying very hard to convince himself that his newly minted team has the point guard thing all figured out. Not that we expected Ainge to come out and admit that he stays up nights worrying about putting his otherwise Ferrari-like starting lineup in the hands of a second year point guard – one who is coming off a rookie campaign where he averaged a paltry 6 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.8 assists in 23 minutes per game. But, we did expect Ainge to have at least some perception of reality, admit the inexperience and severe lack of depth at point guard and put the onus on his 3 all-star veterans to show leadership on the floor and help Rando control the flow of games.

Ainge must overcome this denial and come to realize that even though the Celtics have a real problem it doesn’t mean that they are weak or a failure. Step 1, Mr. Ainge is admitting you have a problem.

Will the Celtics make it to the NBA Finals this year? Perhaps, given the fact that every other team in the Eastern Conference have their own huge question marks, but with aging superstars the window is small with absolutely no guarantees.

Rapper sues Canada, wants Kobe Bryant to testify

Earlier this year, a Detroit-based rapper filed a lawsuit against Canada – yes, the country – for $900 million. At the time, the self-professed hate rapper Jerome Almon, whose songs include such classics as “How Stella Got Her Backhand”, claimed that his right to entertain the throngs of Canadian hip-hop fans was being severely limited because of unusual harassment by pesky and devious Canadian customs officers. Almon alleges that during 117 of his 120 trips north of the border – a whopping 98 percent of the time – he was detained and questioned by Canadian officials.

"My complaint is rather simple. I'm alleging that Canada Customs and Immigration are barring me from entering Canada to conduct business because I'm a black rapper from Detroit," the 41-year old Almon said as he filed his suit. "Their claim is that I have not turned in a police clearance to enter Canada as required by Canada Immigration and that I have a criminal record. Everything stops when the customs people run my name in their computers. Next thing you know there are cops everywhere."

Almon’s hearing has been set for September 22, where he’ll attempt to convince a judge that Canadians as just as disgusted by rap music as they are with NHL teams moving to US cities. To strengthen his case during the hearing, Almon has asked the judge to subpoena an impressive list of his closest “friends” to testify. Jay-Z, Eminem, Condoleeza Rice, Snoop Dogg, Paris Hilton, two Taliban officials, Colin Powell, Martha Stewart, Mick Jagger, Spike Lee and Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant were among the 37 celebrities listed by Almon as potential witnesses who can corroborate his wild claims. It remains to be seen how many of Almon’s powerful allies will actually show up to the hearing – or even has a clue that Almon exists – but it hasn’t stopped the ambitious hip-hopper from trying.

Some may believe that this is all a publicity stunt. And by reporting on the news we’re only propagating the hype. But, the circumstances are simply too bizarre to ignore and leave on the sidelines of the blogosphere.

All we can say is: what a Hoser!


Milwaukee Bucks patience is rewarded

Chinese basketball star Yi Jianlian, or more affectionately known as Alian, and the Milwaukee Bucks have finally reached a multi-year agreement. The versitile 7-footer will join the Bucks when training camp begins on October 1.

"We are very excited to associate ourselves with Alian. He is an extraordinary person and a great basketball player," said Herb Kohl, owner of the Milwaukee Bucks."Alian will be a great credit for the NBA and of course for the Bucks."

Kudos to Bucks GM Larry Harris and Kohl for their persistence against overwhelming odds, when Yi, his agent and handlers, his family and the Peoples Republic of China were against the player going to Milwaukee.


The top ten players in the NBA, or David Stern is mad

David Stern is sitting in his pimped-out office at NBA headquarters on 645 Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, mere blocks from Radio City Music Hall and Rockefeller Center, contemplating the state of his beloved league. TV ratings for the NBA Finals are just about lower than reruns of the Tyra Banks Show, NBA referees were last seen buying helmets and shoulder-pads in preparation for the post-Donaghy era, one of his draft picks, Chinese sensation Yi Jianlian, seems to think that all Milwaukee residents ever do is milk cows and eat cheese and a rogue group of millionaires are intent on extraditing the Sonics franchise to Oklahoma City of all places. And, these problems only begin to scratch the surface of dilemmas on Stern’s, admittedly brilliant, mind.

Given this unyielding pressure, let’s assume that Stern finally snaps and calls a hasty press conference to announce that in order to add some much needed spice to the beleaguered league he is breaking up the NBA, declaring every player a free agent and instituting a draft, fantasy basketball-style, from a pool of all 490+ NBA players. The fantasy NBA draft, where the largest US markets by population will select in order, is set for Tuesday, August 28, 2007 (Stay with us people, this article is definitely going somewhere).

Who Would Isaiah Thomas Pick?

Following the announcement New York Knicks GM Isaiah Thomas throws the greatest party the world has ever seen – having in an instant rid himself of the horrible contracts, and equally appalling talent, that he’s so unskillfully amassed over the years. But, with the first pick of the NBA fantasy draft he then proceeds to pick oft-injured forward Chris Webber and immediately signs him to a 6 year contract worth a record $192 million.

“We were looking for versatility with our first pick and Chris Webber is THE most versatile power forward in the league today,” Thomas tells reporters. “I happened to see some game tape from when Chris played for the Golden State Warriors and I was completely sold! I ordered my assistant coaches to burn all of the subsequent footage of Chris’ games, because I had seen enough! As long as Chris can remember how many timeouts we have left, I feel we have the steal of the draft, at the first pick no-less.”

Simultaneously a massive splash is heard in the East River, as every single red-blooded New York Knicks fan jumps off the Brooklyn Bridge, incidentally setting a new Guiness World Record for the most people simultaneously jumping off bridges – the Los Angeles Lakers are on the clock.

The 2007 NBA Fantasy Draft

Given this scenario, as fanciful as the circumstances may sound, it got us thinking; If your franchise had a top ten pick in the 2007 NBA fantasy draft, where your owner could select any NBA player he chose, what would that draft look like? (Note: David Stern set the draft order based on the top ten US markets by population that also currently has an NBA franchise – so, no San Diego or San Jose).

Jerry Buss Drives Kobe Bryant Nuts

Stern walks out to the podium at Madison Square Garden. “With the 2nd pick the Los Angeles Lakers select Kobe Bryant.” After giving some thought to Dwayne Wade and LeBron James for about 2 seconds, the Lakers are more than content to bring their disgruntled superstar back into the fold. On both ends of the floor Kobe Bryant is a more skilled player than James or Wade – he’s a better shooter, better defender and a better clutch scorer. Yes, he’s older, but Kobe is still in his prime and the Lakers – the glamorous franchise that it is – wants to win now. Kobe Bryant, for his part, immediately goes on The Today Show, Larry King Live, Meet the Press, Inside the Actor’s Studio and American Idol, and asks to be traded. He even accepts a role in the next Will Farrell basketball-based movie where he ironically plays an NBA superstar asking to be traded.

With the 3rd pick the Chicago Bulls select LeBron James. Bulls GM John Paxon loves James’ unselfish play and his ability to physically overpower just about every other guard and most small forwards in the league. Besides, LeBron is certainly the leader in the clubhouse of over-exposed NBA superstars and fits right into that media-friendly role vacated by “his airness” Michael Jordan. After learning that Jordan’s number “23” is perpetually retired, LeBron successfully petitions the league to switch his jersey number to the roman numerals XXIII.

With the 4th pick the Houston Rockets select Tim Duncan. With Kobe Bryant and LeBron James off the board, the clear selection is the crazy bank-shooter from the Virgin Islands. Besides, Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey takes a little pleasure in snagging the four-time NBA champion from their cross-state rivals the San Antonio Spurs. Duncan, for his part, is devastated by the move for having to leave his long-time friend David Robinson back in San Antonio. He takes up writing Haiku and hiking to get over the seemingly devastating pain and a hopelessly broken heart.

With the 5th pick the Philadelphia 76ers select Dwayne Wade. It feels like deja-vu all over again for Wade, who was originally picked 5th overall by the Miami Heat in the real NBA draft. The Philadelphia franchise for its part is ecstatic to bring in a superstar guard that doesn’t believe he’s playing within a black hole and actually acknowledges the other four players on the floor with him, and values the importance of practice – a unique player indeed!

Hassellhoff and Nowitzki in the same frontcourt?

With the 6th pick the Phoenix Suns select Dirk Nowitzki. As tempting as it must have been to draft Steve Nash in this spot, and not break up the good vibes they have going in the valley of the sun, Nowitzki and his versatile game is entirely too much to pass up at this pick – particularly given Nash’s advanced age. Phoenix likes shooters at every position, so what better anchor to a shooting team than a 7-footer who can light it up from anywhere on the floor. Nowitzki could not be more excited, as he pops in his latest David Hassellhoff CD and jumps into his drop-top convertible for the long road-trip from Dallas to Phoenix. (He’s German, give him a break)

With the 7th pick the San Antonio Spurs select Amare Stoudemire. Having lost out on the Tim Duncan sweepstakes, Spurs GM R.C. Buford looks to fill the void left at Power Forward. The surgically repaired knees are a bit of a concern, but given Stoudemire’s youth, he was graded slightly higher on the Spurs’ draft board than players like Gilbert Arenas, Kevin Garnett, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Steve Nash. In the subsequent rounds – in a clear ploy to confuse Spurs fans and TV announcers everywhere -- Buford attempts to build the all-Stoudemire team by also drafting Damon Stoudamire and Salim Stoudamire to play alongside Amare.

With the 8th pick the Dallas Mavericks select Kevin Garnett. The choice for Mark Cuban came down to Garnett or young power forward stud Chris Bosh. Sure Bosh has the age thing going for him, but Cuban wants to win now. Garnett probably couldn’t lead a gaggle of ducks to water, but the seeming lack of leadership skills are perfectly counterbalanced by his unearthly rebounding and defense, heart and hustle. Besides, Mark Cuban has never heard of Chris Bosh, but he did see Garnett in that Adidas commercial where the NBA star freakishly appeared from inside some type of plant.

Spontaneous combustion and the all-NBA legend team

With the 9th pick the Detroit Pistons select Chris Bosh. Just missing out on Garnett, and with Steve Nash still sitting in the green room, the Pistons take one of the most exciting and talented young players in the NBA today. Bosh’s workmanlike game and team-first attitude is a perfect fit for the “motor city” and its clever GM Joe Dumars. Everyone is happy and all seems well, but as Bosh sits down to calculate the amount of actual tax dollars he’ll save in the US, as opposed to his last Canada-based team, his head spontaneously combusts and explodes into a thousand pieces. The Pistons are back on the clock.

With the 9th and a half pick the Detroit Pistons select Yao Ming. The Chinese population in Troy, Michigan couldn’t be more excited, and Yao Ming is thrilled right along with them. (How can you not like Yao Ming?)

With the 10th pick of the 2007 NBA fantasy draft the Indianapolis Pacers select Dwight Howard. With Carmelo Anthony, Steve Nash, Gilbert Arenas and Tracey McGrady still on the board, the Pacers go for a power forward, following the mantra that unless there’s a player at guard that is truly head-and-shoulders above the rest always select a big man. Overcome with excitement, Dwight Howard takes a running jump, reaches the top of Conseco Field House and puts a large life-size sticker of his smiling mug on the arena roof. Pacers GM Larry Bird announces that his team will no longer participate in the rest of the fantasy NBA draft, but will instead field a team with himself, and pals Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, Hakeem Olajuwan, Charles Barkley, Reggie Miller, Kevin McHale, Patrick Ewing, Robert Parish, James Worthy and Dominic Wilkins around his young star.

Whether it’s age in the case of Steve Nash, health in the case of Tracy McGrady, poor shot selection in the case of Gilbert Arenas or the unusual personality and the lack of defense in the case of Carmelo Anthony, those four players were left out of the top ten in David Stern’s fantasy NBA draft. Teams went for size for sure, but outside of Chris Webber of course, we believe the players drafted would probably go in the same order if this type of draft were to happen in real life.

Disagree? (or agree). Post your comments now by clicking below.


In The News: August 27, 2007

Team USA finished the preliminary round of the FIBA Americas Tournament with a perfect, never in doubt, 4-0 record. Led by 21 points each from Carmelo Anthony and LeBron James and 20 points, and what is now becoming his trademark suffocating defense, from Kobe Bryant, Team USA beat the Brazilian National Team by a final score of 113-76. In reality, the game wasn’t nearly that close, as the US Senior National Team pulled away in the late second and third quarters. Extensive fourth quarter garbage-time against the Team USA second team produced the final relatively respectable tally. We could go on here and discuss the talent laden Brazilian team and the fact that they will likely pose the greatest challenge to Team USA during the FIBA tournament, but that in-depth discussion isn't really necessary. This version of Team USA looks good, really good. They’re starting to develop the type of swagger where Brazil could be replaced with any number of teams, from Germany to Argentina, and it wouldn’t really matter – the result would likely be the same. Team USA hasn’t had that type of sway since the original 1992 Dream Team, or 1996 Olympic team.

Leave My Sister Out of This!

If you follow soccer, or perhaps even if you don’t, you’ll likely remember French legend Zinedine Zidane treating Marco Materazzi of the Italian National team like a soccer ball at the World Cup last year with the infamous head-butt. At the time, both Zidane and Materazzi refused to discuss the exchange of words leading up to the surreal incident. But, with a new book on the episode coming out soon, Materazzi went into full publicity mode to let the world know exactly what he said to his French counterpart. We’re still not sure if Zidane should have resorted to an ejection inducing head-butt particularly during such an important game for his team, but you can certainly understand his anger. Materazzi’s lewd comments were entirely too harsh, as retaliation to the relatively tame trash-talk by Zidane that preceded the remarks.

Denilson Adds MLS Paycheck to Social Security Earnings

FC Dallas announced late last week that it had signed former Brazillian midfielder Denilson to a contract. Terms of the agreement were not announced, and the team said that Denilson would play as soon as he is able to secure a Visa. Denilson is a significant name in the world of soccer, having won the World Cup in 2002 following an illustrious career with the Brazilian national team and league teams like San Paolo FC and Flamenco, but he is also well past his prime. Not surprisingly, Denilson’s signing with the MLS produced barely a blip in the American sports landscape. Once again this goes to show that although David Bekham’s signing and subsequent games with the Los Angeles Galaxy has and continue to receive considerable attention, the cat-like curiosity toward Bekham, and his Spice Girl wife Victoria, is almost entirely celebrity driven. We don’t expect the same type of attention even if the MLS were to sign other legendary, yet past their prime, players like former Brazilian star Ronaldo or the aforementioned Zidane. For soccer to really take off in America, the MLS will need to spend the millions, which it incidentally doesn’t have at this point, to sign a few of the current stars like Ronaldinho, Christian Ronaldo, Messi, John Terry, Kaka and others -- not has-beens looking to make a few extra millions before riding off into the sunset.

myPhone, yourPhone, Everyone Gets a iPhone

A 17-year old kid in New Jersey, named George Hotz, has figured out a way to “unlock” the iPhone. It’s a relatively complicated process for sure, but Hotz, having worked with other “hackers” in the US and in Russia, was able to unlock his own iPhone and use it on the T-Mobile network, instead of the requisite AT&T service. Apple and AT&T haven’t commented yet on the developments, but we’re sure T-Mobile is already planning the company-wide happy hour in celebration. You can read more on Hotz’s blog. Hotz, incidentally, recently sold the first-ever “unlocked” iPhone for enough money to buy himself a Nissan 350Z and 3 new iPhones for his online partners who helped with the project.