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Wednesday, May 23, 2007

stay back: geniuses at work

For what it's worth nbadraft.net (an excellent mock draft site that's updated year-round) has the Celtics taking Al Horford-power forward from Florida at Number 5. Horford is a good player and there's many other nice players that'll be available if the Celts use the pick but they're not sure things like Durant and Oden. It just makes you wonder, what could have been (again)?

Luck of the Irish? Not so much




I had meant to write a little draft preview going into tonight's NBA lottery but I forgot/didn't want to jinx the Celtics chances. Well, as we can all see by now, the Celtics are completely screwed. For the second half of this past terrible season, Celtics fans were banking on finishing with one of the worst records (second-worst, check) so that they would have the best shot of landing either Kevin Durant-forward from Texas or Greg Oden-center from Ohio State. As both were eliminated from March Madness and cryptically declared for the draft, things seemed to be turning up the C's way. The Boston Globe the last few days bombarded readers with the odds of the Celtics getting picks 1-5(the worst possible spot they could get). So what happened? As I waited anxiously for the cards to be drawn in beautiful Secaucus, NJ (the NBA bunker's headquarters), the NBA hit Boston with a low blow: the fifth pick.
I was in seventh grade when the Tim Duncan fiasco occurred (the Celtics had two lottery picks, a 44% chance to get no. 1 and only ended up with #3 and #6) so while I have memorized all of its key elements after the fact, I didn't really pay too much attention to it at the time. Durant-Oden is my initiation into Celtics fan hell. I can't say I'm a die-hard Celtics fan-who can these days?-since the only real above average squad in my formative years was the 2001-2002 version led by Antoine Walker, Paul Pierce, Tony Delk and Rodney Rogers. They were up 2-1 in the East Finals on the Nets after having the greatest fourth quarter comeback in playoff history and then they proceeded to lose their next three. Thereby eliminating the possibility of a Lakers-Celtics Finals reunion (a 80's rivalry for the ages). Since then, the Celtics have gotten progressively younger and worse. Not to mention the fact that the NBA is pretty terrible as a whole. Too many games, dead crowds, all one-on-one play, music during play and uninspired players would be the initial gripes off the top of my head. This was supposed to be the night that turned the franchise around.
I love college basketball-my favorite sport (ie. I can watch any game, any time)-and watching Durant and Oden to a lesser degree was a privilege and an honor this year. They both have incredible games, upside, demeanor, etc. They will both be All-Stars for years to come, they transcend the sport. People that know little about baskeball already know these two. For practical purposes, Oden would have been a better fit since the Celtics biggest weakness is interior defense. His offensive game is still developing but he can already play low-post d with the best of them. And Durant is just a player. He can fill it up like few I've seen yet he's unselfish and can do pretty much everything else on the court.
I go to multiple Celtics games a year but lately it's just gotten pathetic. They have talent (Pierce) and budding stars (Jefferson) but they're so young (Gerald Green) and have made so many bad moves (signing Scalabrine to a $30 million dollar deal; trading the pick that ended up being Brandon Roy for Sebastian Telfair) not to mention the fact that Danny Ainge is utterly incompetent. And Doc Rivers? The jury is still out on him. Good guy for the media and no one could have done much with the borderline NBDL team they had in the late part of the season but still, he has never consistently won in the NBA. As terrible as the Celtics are, a healthy and motivated Pierce, Jefferson + Durant or Oden would have made them a playoff team in the East. Don't believe me? Did you see the Nets in the playoffs? They won a series. And the Cavs are in the East Finals, anything is possible in this joke Conference.
I won't play the woe is me card, I'll leave that to Bill Simmons. While the Celtics past 20 years have been horrific, Boston as a sports city has nothing to complain about with the Patriots and Red Sox outstanding play in the last six years. All we wanted was for the Celtics to be relevant again. I've heard the stories, seen some of the games and vaguely remember the final days of the Garden. It's clearer now than ever that those times are gone forever and it's best just to move on with our sporting lives. With the Suns controversial exit last week in the playoffs and this latest setback for the Celtics, the NBA continues to slide in my eyes.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

10.5 games and counting



When I wake up tomorrow morning and check out the standings in the Boston Globe, my beloved Boston Red Sox will be 10.5 games up on Baltimore, 10.5 up on the Yankees, 11 games ahead of Toronto and 12 games in front of Tampa Bay. It will be May 21 and tomorrow night's game at Yankee Stadium (the start of a three game set) will be the 44th of the Sox' season. It's way too early to start popping the champagne and thinking about playoff matchups but I for one can't help but feel a little strange about how things are going.
The Sox took 2 of 3 from the Braves this weekend-the first interleague action of the year-while the Mets (thanks Bee Rock) won 2 of 3 against the Yanks. Baltimore and Tampa Bay as usual look like also-rans rather than contenders while the Blue Jays and Yankees are enduring an almost comical string of injuries to assorted players. A three game set with the Yankees in the end of May usually doesn't mean all too much but in this case I think it's time to kick 'em while they're down. We all know the Yankees aren't as good right now as they most likely will be in the coming weeks and months. Sweeping this series would put the Yankees 13.5 games back. That's fun to write, let alone dream about. 2 out of 3 would make them 12.5 back before Memorial Day. A little history lesson: the '78 Sox were up 14 games on the Yankees and somehow managed to choke (Bucky Dent) and lose the division to the Yanks (pre-Wild Card). Fast forward to 2007 and you'll find two different teams: the Sox are the front-runners this time as well but they're not the overachievers. This Sox team is stacked. Great starting pitching, very solid lineup and good bullpen. The 2007 Yankees are looking older by the day, unless you're focusing on their revolving door set of local little league pitchers that get to dress up as big leaguers and get knocked around for a few starts.
I know what you're going to say. Yes, Clemens is coming back. But as discussed before (scroll down), he probably won't make that much of a difference to this old and flawed team. And yes, the Sox will undoubtedly endure some injuries because this is baseball. Josh Beckett just went on the DL earlier this week with another tear on his right middle finger (the 7th time in his career that he's been on the DL for hand ailments). The Sox started two AAA pitchers on Saturday and Sunday and split the games. Hopefully Beckett will be back soon and everything will be hunky dorey but for once we have some pitching depth. This isn't the Sox of my middle school and high school days where it was Pedro, Wakefield and a cast of assorted clowns. Schilling is still pretty reliable, Wakefield has been great (which you can't expect all season), Tavarez has been very good for him and Dice-K is quickly becoming a stud MLB-style.
The Yankees have never been down 10+ games in the Torre era (1996-present). Get used to hearing that stat consistently as these two teams seem to be headed in opposite directions. It's time to step on the Yankees throats (like they did to us in last August's brutal five game sweep at Fenway).

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

the Rocket lands in the Bronx


Big news yesterday coming out of Yankee Stadium. Never one to shy away from obnoxious amounts of media attention, Roger Clemens announced during the seventh inning stretch that he's coming back to the Yankees. Immediately, there was a jolt of excitement added to what is already regarded as the best rivalry in sports-Sox vs. Yankees. This season, the Sox have won five of the first six against the Bombers and for once, it looks like they have the upper-hand on a Yankees team short of capable pitchers. Word is Roger will come back in the beginning of June and would you believe the Yanks come to Boston, June 1-3? You can bank on that. Roger at Fenway. I wonder what clever design the guys that sell anti-Yankees t-shirts outside of Fenway will come up with this time around? I'm giddy with anticipation for those alone.
When you sit down and think about it, was there ever any doubt Clemens would go to New York again? Pettitte came back to the Yankees in the off-season and the Astros have continued to go downhill. Why not cash in on one last big pay-day ($28 million pro-rated over the season)? The Rocket is many things, a poor man is not one of them. I guess that dream of pitching to his son Kody (the Astros minor league catcher) will have to wait.
The big question is how effective can Clemens be in the 2007 American League? The AL lineups are far tougher without the NL's wasteland of 7-8-9 hitters. Also, he'll be 45 in August and steroids or no steroids, the man has to break down at some point. He's a power pitcher. He's defying all common sense by having such a long career. He last pitched for the Sox in 1996 which seems like about 50 years ago. I guess there is no measuring stick, we'll have to wait and see what'll happen. He's pitched very well in Houston the last three seasons (ERA's of 2.98, 1.87 and 2.30 respectively) and famously gotten terrible run-support. The Yanks will certainly back him up from an offensive standpoint but I think the biggest problem will be that he'll only last 5-7 innings in most starts which'll leave the game in the hands of the Yankees crew of hapless relievers. Even-dare I say it-Mariano Rivera is no longer invincible. Clemens can only pitch every fifth day. Then again, I'm a Sox fan and their former G.M. Dan Duquette said in 1996 that Clemens was heading into the "twilight of his career." If you stop and look at that bum under the bridge next time you're in Boston, you might recognize him-it's Dan Duquette. What a fucking idiot.