Thursday, March 1, 2007

Return of the Hack

Wow, I've really been slacking lately. Two posts in two weeks? That's unacceptable. Things have gotten so bad, even Charles Barkley is calling me fat and lazy. Of course, I would have kicked his plump posterior in that All-Star race, so he can just drown himself in another tub of Chunky Monkey and shut it. Anyway, I can deal with the insults. The part I can't handle is how far behind I am. Let a week in the world of sports go by and, suddenly, you're out of touch and irrelevant. So that means it's time to play catch-up, stream-of-consciousness style.

The Chuckster Cozies Up to His Next Meal

  • The NFL season never actually ends, does it? Hard to believe that nearly one month ago, I was mourning the loss of pro football for another eight months, yet it still manages to steal the spotlight on a weekly basis. Kind of says something about the current state of thugball, roidball and mulletball (AKA the NBA, MLB and NHL). I could easily riff on the NFL for an entire column right now, but I'll keep it short and (somewhat) sweet for the time being.
  • First of all, for those of you who enjoyed the heartwarming tale of Najeh Davenport, feast your eyes on this story about the divorce proceedings involving Amani Toomer. Make sure you read the entire thing, because they saved the best part for the end. Trust me.
  • Now, in matters that actually relate to what takes place on the field, the Randy Moss rumor mill is heating up. One published report has Mr. Happy Pants heading to the land of lard for Green Bay back-up QB, Aaron Rodgers. Forget for a moment that this deal is likely little more than your typical run-of-the-mill internet fodder. The truly important nugget is that the Raiders seem intent on ditching the disgruntled, past his prime, Moss. What does that mean? Get ready for a draft board shake-up. I think Oakland will find itself a semi-serviceable quarterback via trade (the aforementioned Rodgers or David Carr, perhaps?), free agency (Brad Johnson, Drew Bledsoe or Joey Harrington) or later in the draft (Drew Stanton or John Beck). As for their number one pick? It will be none other than the best player on the board, Calvin Johnson.
CJ Attempts to Run Away From Al Davis
  • Obviously, if this scenario takes place, it would send teams scrambling to re-evaluate their options. Would Detroit still nab Joe Thomas, even after JaMarcus Russell fell into their laps? Like I said, I could write an entire column on this. But I'll save it for next week's revised Mock Draft. Needless to say, I'm really hoping the Raiders follow through with this plan. Not only would it make me look smart (always appreciated), but it would also add a major dose of much-needed intrigue to a somewhat lackluster draft.
  • Hope you had a chance to watch last night's Texas-Texas A&M game. Not only was it an absolute treat to see two rivals trading blows in late February, but the stars delivered the goods as well. Kevin Durant is making it increasingly difficult for NBA teams to keep Greg Oden at the top of their draft board and Acie Law continues to solidify his standing as the most clutch player in the college game.
  • As for each team's prospects come tourney time: A&M will be just fine, thank you. They play tough D, have a great coach and a go-to guy in crunch time. They're going to be a very difficult out and while I doubted their final four prospects earlier this season, I think the Aggies are a lock for at least the Elite Eight now. Sizing up Texas is much more difficult. Any team with Durant and D.J. Augustin is going to be a handful. But the Longhorns have two fatal flaws that will prove to be their undoing, probably in the round of 16. Number one: They still suffer through stretches where they simply can't get the ball into the hands of Durant. Number two: Augustin is their lone ball-handler, making UT susceptible to a team adept at playing a trapping, pressing style.
  • In the NBA, The Spurs are waking up, the Rockets are falling down and Miami knows any chance it had to repeat as champions disappeared the moment Dwyane Wade was placed in a wheel chair after dislocating his shoulder (WTF?!?). So this seems as good a time as any to reprise my NBA "True Contender" Power Rankings.
1. Dallas Mavericks (48-9)

The more I see the Mavs, the more I believe nothing can stop them except the injury bug. Seriously. This team has no weakness. Well, maybe a teeny-tiny one: That little voice in their heads that reminds them of their choke-job last summer. Still, Avery Johnson is too mentally tough to let a psychological hurdle keep his troops from lifting the O'Brien trophy in June.

2. Phoenix Suns (44-14)

The Suns look human these days, sporting a rather pedestrian 6-4 record during their last ten games. Of course, injuries have a lot to do with that. Steve Nash, Shawn Marion and Boris Diaw have all missed time during that stretch and, since Phoenix only goes seven deep, the Suns have suffered as a result. Still, Phoenix is unquestionably the second-best team in the league and I can't wait to see how Nash and Co. fare in the playoffs.

3. San Antonio Spurs (39-18)

Winners of six in a row, San Antonio seems to have finally awoken from its season-long slumber. Yet, everything I said about the top three title contenders three weeks ago holds true now. Meaning the Spurs should never, ever be counted out, but their odds are long due to the NBA's evolution which places a premium on speed and athleticism (which Dallas and Phoenix have, but San Antonio doesn't).

And, folks, that's it. Yes, this week I've narrowed the list from five to three. The Rockets failed to add anything of consequence (sorry, Jake Tsakalidis, you don't count) at the trade deadline, meaning their aging, worn-out reserves aren't getting any help. True, Yao Ming's return (when is that happening again? Mid-March? Late March? April 2009? I'm confused.) will inject new life into a weary lineup, but I just can't see Houston putting everything together in time to storm its way past the Mavs, Suns and Spurs. And if you think I'm being too harsh, let's just say my spirits were not buoyed by losses to Toronto, Boston and Atlanta over the course of the last week.

As for everybody else, well, the only other teams with a legitimate shot are Miami and Detroit. Wade's injury crushes the Heat, even if he does decide to come back. You think a player who makes his living by hurling his body into harm's way again and again is going to make it through and entire postseason without re-injuring his shoulder? No way. So Miami's D-O-N-E. Detroit? Hey, I think the Tigers will be fun to watch this this summer.

Back early next week (for real this time!) with a new Mock Draft. Enjoy the weekend, everyone.

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