Friday, December 16, 2011

Another Round of "What If"

I love great “what if” questions, and when it comes to sports, asking those questions just makes me giddy. So with the way the NBA is set up today, where the elite players will force trades to ideal situations and teams, I was wondering how things could have been different if the NBA was like this just 20 years ago. Wow, I can’t believe I’m now able to say things like “just 20 years ago.”
First case that comes to mind: Shaq. He was a part of a winner in Orlando in the early 90s, but he wanted to spot light of the big city. He also wanted to be a rapper and an actor, and was trying his hand at both. Basically, he wanted to be in LA. He made that happen when he hit free agency, and left Orlando with nothing. Today, Dwight Howard is copying most everything Shaq did, except dominating games, and he’s looking to be traded to LA or New Jersey/Brooklyn.
1996 was Shaq’s last year in Orlando, and they almost won a title, so I doubt they would have considered trading him at the time. Even if they hadn’t, they still would have been able to perform a sign and trade, so they could get SOMETHING back for him. But that’s not as much fun. Let’s say that in October of ’95, Shaq made it clear he wasn’t coming back. They’d have to shop him , right? Only he was hell bent on being in LA. This leaves two options: the Lakers and the Clippers. Sounds like one legit option, right?  
Orlando is giving up a center, so they’d want one in return, that’s pretty obvious. As Orlando wasn’t a bad team, with a young (and healthy) Penny Hardaway and Nick Anderson backcourt. So you start with the Lakers offering Vlade Divac. That gives Orlando a pretty good lineup, but just Vlade isn’t enough to land Shaq. So they have to offer Orlando their first round pick, which LA ended up using to draft Derek Fisher. Orlando had no need for Fisher, they would have needed someone who could rebound, to help replace Shaq. Franky, there wasn’t a whole lot of options at the end of the first round in 1996. Maybe instead, Orlando’s scouts saw that this wasn’t the year they’d find a steal at the end of the draft, so instead of asking for the Lakers’ 96 first round pick, they ask for ’98 (LA didn’t have a pick in ’97). In 1998 there happen to be some decent to very good players available at the end of the draft. Guys like Rashard Lewis, and Nazr mohammaed. Not world beaters, but they would have fit in nicely around Hardaway, Anderson, Dennis Scott and Vlade dadi.
What’s the big deal? So far, it doesn’t appear that things are really all that much different. Well, Vlade was traded by LA, after they signed Shaq. He was traded for a young guard the Hornets had selected, in the ’96 draft, that had no interest in signing and wanted to be in LA. His name? Kobe Bryant. Well, it’s safe to assume the Hornets would have still drafted him, I don’t believe they did it just to trade him for Divac. So how does LA land Kobe now? I’m thinking they offer Charlotte another 7 footer, Elden Campbell. Same age as Divac, and actually averaged a point more a game in 1995.
LA actually traded Campbell to the Horents, but that was in 1999, along with Eddie Jones, for B.J. Armstrong, J.R. Reid and Glen Rice.  Jones was a very good player; he just had to be moved because Kobe had proven himself to be the better shooting guard.
So, it appears life as we know it now wouldn’t have been much different at all. Unless this happened: the Clippers want Shaq. They offer Stanley Roberts and Loy Vaught. And in the 1996 draft, instead of taking a center as they did, Lornzen Wright, they look for a shooting guard. Two shooting guards were taken in the next six picks after the Clippers picked Wright; Kerry Kittles and some kid out of high school with dreams of playing in LA. Oh yeah, Kobe Bryant. What if Shaq and Kobe could have been playing together in LA, just as Clippers?

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Gregg's Eleven

I’m a big fan of Ocean’s Eleven. For my money, it was one of most fun movies to watch. Obviously it was far from a great flick, just a fun one. With Hollywood so hell bent on remaking everything, I decided that I could handle a remake, if they followed my rules. Make it with either a mostly black cast or mostly a female cast. I made it real easy, I already cast all the roles and picked directors. Just send me a check.

Oceans Eleven
Black Cast
Female Cast
Daniel Ocean
George Clooney
Denzel Washington
Charlize Theron
Rusty Ryan
Brad Pitt
Will Smith
Sandra Bullock
Linus Caldwell
Matt Damon
Mos Def
Emma Stone
Terry Benedict
Andy Garcia
Laurence Fishburne
Julianne Moore
Basher Tarr
Don Cheadle
Jason Statham
Thandie Newton
Malloy brothers
Casey Affleck/Scott Caan
Wayan Brothers
Zooey Deschanel/Krysten Ritter
Saul Bloom
Carl Reiner
Danny Glover
Hellen Mirren
Livingston Dell
Eddie Jemison
Dule Hill
Janeane Garofalo
Frank Catton
Bernie Mac
Louis CK
Chelsea Handler
Julia Roberts
Halle Berry
Ryan Gosling
Ruben Tshikoff
Elliot Gould
Samuel L Jackson
Susan Surandon
Steven Soderberg
Hughes Brothers
Kathryn Bigelow

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rock Chalk

This past Saturday afternoon I had the extreme pleasure, call it downright joy, of taking my wife and Kyd to their first Kansas basketball games at Allen Fieldhouse. It was my first game in probably seven years, and that’s just silly. I’m a mediocre KU fan. I wasn’t raised a Jayhawk, and in fact, I really didn’t consider going to Kansas until my senior year in high school, when it was clear that I wasn’t leaving the state. Hell, I was lucky Kansas let my ass in.
And I’m not usually the kind of guy who adopts a new team to cheer for, I’ve made it very clear that I wouldn’t become a Royals or Chiefs fan when we moved here, and I’ve kept my promise. But I wasn’t really a huge fan of any college while I was growing up. When I was 12, I fell pretty hard for UCLA after visiting my cousin and hanging out on campus and in Westwood. To this day, there’s a spot in my heart for UCLA. I kind of view UCLA as my own biggest rival for KU and the stick I use to measure everything about Kansas. But I root for them, always hoping to see a KU-UCLA Championship. Well, and to win that game. So far, we’re 0-1 against them in the Final Four. A fact that would really needle me, except that was the night I had my first date with the woman who would become my wife. So it worked out better than okay.
So I entered my freshman year at Kansas with no real ties. Then I went to my first game at the Fieldhouse and I was thoroughly impressed. At the time, I was the sullen kid who tried to not get impressed by anything.  I didn’t go to games to cheer, I went to study.  Or so I liked to think back then. Clapping? Nah, I’d leave that to everyone else. I was too cool for that, plus I thought I knew the game better than just about everyone else. Except maybe Bum and V.
Things really changed for me 15 years ago. Really, the anniversary was the day I took my girls to their first game.  The defending National Champions were coming to play KU. This opponent just so happened to be the UCLA Bruins. I was stoked, to use a word picked up from my visit to UCLA.  A few days before the game, someone knocked on my dorm door to sell shirts for the game. It read “PHUCK UCLA.” I purchased two, one for me and one for my UCLA alumni cousin. Yes, I sent it to him. He said he kept it for a while, I doubt that. I did wear mine to his wedding under my tux a few years later.
Kansas had a fun and very talented team that year. It was an easy team to fall for. We were ranked second in the nation. So here we are, trailing the defending champs by 15 at the half. I was fearing all the electronic mail messages that would be waiting for me if I was able to get a connection that night. Yep, it was so long ago, “Email” was new. Hell, that very month I spent over $400 on AOL because they charged by the hour, and I didn’t have a life. True story. Sad story, too. (About two years later I did the math, to see what I would have earned had I purched AOL stock instead of logging all the hours I had. At that time, I would have earned over $75k. No shit. I will now slam my head on my desk)
The second half started and we put such a beating on UCLA, that they made me a KU fan. It was no longer about cheering for my cousins school, but beating the shit out of him and them. Mission accomplished. And for 15 years, it’s been the single best sporting even I ever witnessed in person.  The energy in that place could have powered Lawrence for years.
Walking in to the Fieldhouse this Saturday was completely different, on every level. For one, the place has been upgraded and it’s absolutely beautiful when you enter. There’s a Hall of Fame worthy of being called just that. And there’s a nice gift shop that makes their prices almost excusable.  Now there’s a difference between how an 18 year old male and a 10 year old female view a sporting event, and everything else in life. But she’s not so different from me. Just a lot taller than I ever was. She’s too cool to be impressed. She doesn’t want to clap and she’s more interested in the cheerleaders (okay, I was too. I said was) and how cute Baby Jay is. But then we got to the introduction, and she smiled. It was an ear to ear smile. The perfect smile.  Absolutely beautiful smile, as it always is, but this was also the smile of someone in the middle of being impressed.
The girl who has chosen to remain loyal to her father, which I totally accept and respect, by often stating that she’s an MU fan, leans over to me and says, “I want to go to school here.”
Oh the places you’ll go.

Jose, Jose....

It’s a sad day to be a Mets fan. I know this, because I’ve been a fan since the early 80’s. We’ve been through a lot, but we’ll never be confused with Cub fans. We have a couple of titles and we’re a young franchise (relatively speaking) but we’ve also had our share of gaffes.  Last night my favorite Met, since Dwight Gooden, signed with the Florida Marlins. Jose Reyes, you will be missed. Not just for how you sped around the bases and slid into third for yet another triple (the most exciting play in baseball, outside of an inside the park home run) but also for how you always had a smile on your face. It’s rare to see someone enjoy himself in sports, as much as you see it on Jose’s face.
That being said, sigh, letting him go was the right thing to do. I’ve done my research over the years and I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s a mistake to give any player a deal over five years in length. Unless he’s giving you a huge discount, like 20% off.  An unpopular opinion, since teams often hand out six and seven year deals to the elite and not so elite (Jasyon Werth) players on a regular basis.  But almost all of those signings have proven to be too long.
I’m willing to give a pass on resigning a franchise own player to a long term deal, provided the player hasn’t yet reached free agency. Even then, it’s a tough sell. It worked with when the Yankees signed Derek Jeter to a 10 year, $190 million deal. But the Twins could be ruined over the 8 year, $184 million contract they gave Joe Mauer.
Consider these deals:
·         2005, the Mets signed Carlos Beltran to a 7 year, $119 million contract.
·         2005, the Tigers signed Magglio Ordonez to a 7 year, $115 million contract.
·         2006, the Red Sox signed JD Drew to a 5 year, $60 million contract.
·         2006, the Giants signed Barry Zito a 7 year, $126 million contract.
All four players struggled immensely, and did so early on in their deals.  Zito hasn’t had a winning season, a season with an era under 4.00, nor pitched 200 innings in a single season.  The Giants still owe him at least $56 million.
Still don’t believe me? Look up the contracts and production from the following: Mike Hampton, Kevin Brown, Vernon Wells, Alfonso Soriano, Jason Giambi, Ken Griffey Jr, and Carlos Lee. Consider the fact that the Texas Rangers signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10 year, $252 million contract in 2001. They had to trade him, and eat a good portion of his contract to do so. He opted out of his deal after the 2007 season and the Yankees resigned him to another 10 years at $275 million. He hasn’t played a full season yet, and they have six more years to go.  
It will be hard to see Reyes in another uniform. And for the next few years, I expect he will still be a fantastic player. I also expect him to get injured and that halfway through the contract, the Marlins will look foolish, even if they’ve won a World Series title in that span.