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Saturday, December 29, 2007

The Hockey

I don't write nearly enough about the Coyotes, or hockey in general, because i haven't had a chance to watch much of the Coyotes or the NHL this year yet. That being said, there is something going on with this Coyotes team. While still very young and inexperienced, they are an entertaining team with lots of talent, albeit raw. They are playing well, getting some wins, and not playing bad.

I have been watching more of them lately, though not enough yet to put together a coherent post. Wait until football season is over. Until then, check out my friend over at One Fan's Perspective. He writes a great blog and loves the Coyotes (and hockey in general).

Also, be sure to meander over to the Coyotes official site. They are the only professional team here in Phoenix, or anywhere for that matter, who have read my blog and actually contacted me about that. That impresses me.

NFL Picks

Full column coming tomorrow, but wanted to pick tonight's game.

New England -14 over New York Giants
Neither team has anything to play for except for the whole undefeated thing, so i think Belichick will try to score early and often, then let his start rest in the 2nd half. Either way, i don't think the Giants put up much of a fight...

Friday, December 28, 2007

Suns 108, Clippers 88

Wow. Apparently i should write posts blasting Amare more often. That was an absolute dominate performance, going for 30 and 15 in less than three quarters of play. If Amare could play that way every game, or even 80% of that 80% of the time, then people would believe the Suns are the Western Conference favorites. Impressive...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Suns: 28 Games Into The Season

I haven't written much about the Suns yet this year, for a couple of reasons.

1) The Suns are gonna do what they're going to do. They're a great team, they're gonna finish in the top half of teams in the West, and no matter how much we talk about them or dissect them, coach D'Antoni has proven he's not going to change what he does.

2) The other reason is, that despite the fact i love the Suns and have watched almost every game this year, i'm just not that interested in the regular season. And therein lies the problem. The Suns just don't seem that interested in the regular season either.

Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing has yet to be decided, but it's painfully obvious to me that this team is basically just going through the motions right now.

If nothing else, it's an interesting development along the path for the Phoenix Suns. To me, it is an imitation of the Spurs of the last few years. The Spurs don't care about the regular season. It doesn't matter if they finish 1st in the West or 4th. They know they're going to be in the playoffs, they know they're going to have home-court advantage for at least the first round, and they know it's stupid to over-extend themselves during the long, regular season.

Exhibit A for this argument would be the Dallas Mavericks from last year. They played every single game of the regular season as if it was a playoff game, rolled to 67 wins and the #1 seed in the West, and promptly lost in the first round of the playoffs. They ran out of gas, a product of too much energy spent over the course of a very long season. In my opinion, the Suns have evolved to a point where they realize that the difference between 65 wins and the #1 seed and 58 wins and the #3 seed isn't all that great. They're going to be in the playoffs regardless.

That being said, it doesn't mean there aren't some things about this team that concern me a little bit. First an foremost is Amare Stoudemire. The guy is a man among boys in almost every game he plays, but is inconsistent at best in playing like that. He has the potential to be the best player on this Suns team, which is saying a lot, but doesn't seem to give the effort night in and night out, or even quarter to quarter. Take the Dallas game the other night. At times in the first three quarters he seemed to disappear, then in the 4th quarter was all over the place, dunking on pick and rolls, blocking shots, and even making a couple of nice assists. If he played that hard every play, he would be nearly unstoppable.

Then there is the matter of his 'game'. Is it just me, or is he falling in love with taking 18-footers? Especially turn around, fall away 18-footers? This part of his game is really starting to frustrate me. He is 6'10 and 250lbs, and has a quick jump and long wingspan, resulting in the ability to make some fantastically explosive dunks. Those dunks can be game changing, getting the crowd into or out of it, depending on if they are home or away. They also have the ability to get Amare on the line, where he is a great free throw shooting. Yet Amare seems to shy away from those opportunities way more than he should be, instead using finger rolls and jumpers. And don't get me started on his refusal to use the glass...

The one other thing about this team that causes me concern, which has been an on-going problem under D'Antoni, is his stubbornness to not use his bench. Marcus Banks, at the beginning of the year when he was getting playing time, i thought played fairly well. His defense is great, he's quick with the ball, and has the ability to knock down some shots. Sean Marks, when he got in, played decent defense. Piatkowski was hitting the 3's.

I'm not saying we should be using them in a regular rotation. But is this team, as it appears, is basically running through the motions waiting to get to the playoffs, would it hurt them that much to get Banks 10-15 minutes a game? Or Marks and Piatkowski 6 or 7 minutes? Would it really kill us? We already have shown an inability to score or even run a basic offense through Barbosa when Nash is off the floor, would it hurt us that badly if our bench guys were on the floor?

Does it not concern anyone that Grant Hill, Mr. Injury Prone himself, is second on the team in minutes played at a shade under 35? And Steve Nash is right next to him, with the same average? You couldn't shave a few minutes off each of those guys for the bench, to keep our starters fresh and ready to go for the playoffs?

All that said, i still like this team. Despite what a lot of local and national media are saying, i think this Suns team may in fact be better than last year's squad. I absolutely love what Grant Hill brings to the team, and Brian Skinner is pretty much the same player as Kurt Thomas was last year, right? He plays solid defense, can rebound and shot-block, and hits the 15-footer regularly. Where's the difference? Boris Diaw, if he continues to be aggressive as he has been lately, is still a good player on this team. Barbosa's shot is coming around, and Raja is getting healthy and playing that tough-nosed defense he's known for. Marion does Marion things, which is perfect for this team.

All in all, i like this team and i like our chances. Let's just get to the playoffs already...

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

More College Bowl Picks!

Off to a rough start, going just 2-4 to start the bowl season. I have a lot of making up to do apparently to get a respectable record. Hopefully, since we're getting into more teams i know and have seen play, i can do a little better. This will cover the next round of games, through Sunday.

Central Michigan +8 over Purdue
In another matchup of two teams that faced off in the regular season, i like the Chippewa's to avenge their loss to Purdue early in the season. Ask UCLA how hard it is to beat a team twice in the same year...

Texas -2.5 over ASU
ASU beat absolutely no one this year, and lost to the only two good teams they played (USC and Oregon before Dixon was hurt). Their might be somewhat of a letdown for the Sun Devils because they thought they might make a BCS game, but i think their coach Dennis Erickson will get that out of their system. Still, i like Texas in this game.

Boston College -4 over Michigan St.
Let's see, a team who's notorious for collapsing down the stretch against a team with arguably the most NFL-ready qb in college football? I like the qb, and i think BC has something to prove.

TCU -4.5 over Houston
Ok, i'll admit i know absolutely nothing about either of these teams...

Maryland +5.5 over Oregon St.
This game was a hard one to pick. I like the way Oregon St. played at the end of the year, but i also like Terrapin's coach Ralph Friedgen's ability to gameplan with a month to do it. In the end, i still with a team who has been in more big games the last few years, Maryland.

UCONN +3 over Wake Forest
The fact that this game is in North Carolina scares me, as it's only about 2 hours from Wake's campus. I do like the way the Huskie's played this year though, so i'll go with them.

Central Florida -3 over Mississippi St.
It would be a good story for Mississippi St. to win this game, as they've had a good year and have a great coach. I don't think they will be able to pull this one out though.

Penn St. -5.5 over Texas A&M
This is one of the rare occasions this bowl season you'll see me pick a Big Ten team, cause i think they're losing most of their games. Like Penn St. here though, and haven't been impressed with A&M when i've seen them play this year.

Colorado +3.5 over Alabama
Any team that beat Oklahoma and dropped 65 on Nebraska has my vote...

NFL Picks Review

Not a bad week for me, after a couple of brutal weeks. 4-2-1, putting my sixteen week record at 44-31-6. Not too shabby. One week left to go in the regular season, then it's time for the playoffs, where the real bettors make their money...