31 March 2008
MVP talk is heating up the NBA. Right now, the major contenders seem to be Kobe, LeBron, Paul and Garnett. Here's a quick breakdown:
Kobe: 27 points per game, six rebounds, five assists. Also records two steals a game while shooting 46% from the field. The Lakers are 50-24 and have recently slipped to third place in the Western Conference. Kobe's season started off a bit rocky, but with Bynum making the leap (almost out of nowhere), the Lakers started winning. A lot. Then Memphis handed them Gasol (Jerry West is part of the Grizzlies organization.... coincidence?) and pushed them over the top.
LeBron: 30 points per game, eight rebounds, seven assists. Also records two steals a game, one block, and shoots 48% from the field. Oh, and he's 22. The Cavs are 41-33, good for fourth in the Eastern Conference. LeBron plays alongside such All-Stars as Devin Brown, Daniel Gibson, Eric Snow, Ben Wallace and Zydrunas Ilgauskas. No one other than LeBron scores more than 13 points per game.
Chris Paul: 21 points per game, four rebounds, 11 assists. Adds almost three steals a game, shoots 50% from the field. The Hornets are 50-22, tied for first place in the Western Conference. Paul leads the team in scoring as well as assists. David West is an up-and-coming forward, and Tyson Chandler has been transformed from a five points and 9 rebounds a night guy to a double-double average guy shooting 60% a night. Twenty-nine-year-old Peja Stojakovic has been reborn. Peja's scoring 16 points a game and hitting three 3-pointers a night(at a 45% clip). You can't discount Paul's influence here.
Garnett: 19 points per game, nine rebounds, four assists. He's shooting 54% from the field and 80% from the line. The Celtics are 58-15, owners of the best record in the NBA. KG plays alongside two All-Stars in Paul Pierce and Ray Allen, but he's the clear leader of the team. Garnett gives 110% every night and will until the day he retires. I think he may actually die of a heart attack on the court at the age of 55 before that day comes. His defense leads the Celtics, who give up a league-leading 90.2 points per game.
It's a tough decision. Each is playing on a contender for the NBA Championship, with the exception of LeBron, who is playing with a collection of players who are horrible, so I can't dock him much there. Each is putting up great numbers. Each is leading their team in a year where there are plenty of great teams.
I'm going to have to think it over for a couple of days before making my pick.
29 March 2008
28 March 2008
At last year’s NBA trade deadline, nothing happened. The weeks leading up to the deadline were full of rumors and speculation about Jason Kidd possibly going to the Lakers or Shawn Marion swapping places with Andrei Kirilenko. But when all was said and done, the vast majority of NBA squads sat and twiddled their thumbs as the clock struck midnight.
Fast-forward to 2008. The NBA season was kicked off by the Celtics’ acquisition of superstar Kevin Garnett in the off-season. General managers started to realize that maybe changing things up was a smart decision and not just a scary one.
Things started out slow. On Nov. 20, the Lakers traded Brian Cook and Maurice Evans to the Magic for Trevor Ariza. On Dec. 29, the Jazz acquired Kyle Korver from the Sixers in exchange for Gordan Giricek and a first-round draft pick.
Then, with the Feb. 22 trade deadline looming, general managers went crazy. The spark that lit a fire under teams across the league was the Grizzlies giving Pau Gasol to the Lakers for Javaris Crittenton and the spare change under Memphis’ couch.
Suddenly, every team in the West knew they’d have to make a trade or two to keep up with the Lakers, who went from being a decent team to a favorite to win the championship.
How did these teams do? Who panicked? Who made horrible decisions? Who was cool under fire and set their teams up for a possible championship? Who crippled their teams for the next decade? Let’s take a look.
The Lakers gave up Kwame Brown, Crittenton, Marc Gasol and three draft picks for a solid 20-and-10 power forward. Memphis gave away their franchise player for Crittenton (a solid young player, but who knows where he’ll be in five years?) and a cheeseburger. Kwame is worthless, especially with his $9-million-per-year contract. I never even knew Pau’s little brother was in the league before this trade, so in all, I’d say the Lakers got the better end of this deal. Since Feb. 1, the date of the trade, Kobe’s team is 20-6. Four of those losses came without Gasol.
Five days after the Lakers trade, the Suns sent Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks to Miami for Shaq. I didn’t understand the trade at the time, but lately it's started to look a little better.
The Suns were built to run. Five years ago, Phoenix started gathering players who could get up and down the court and shoot the 3. Then they brought Steve Nash in to run the show. Only a few months after a playoff run where one bogus suspension kept them from reaching the Western Conference Finals, they abandoned the “run at all costs” mentality and brought in a 36-year-old Shaq, the player who epitomizes half-court play, especially at this stage in his career. Since the trade, the Suns have gone 13-7, and six of those wins were against teams under or near .500.
On the other side of the table, Miami is 3-18 since shipping Shaq. To be fair, the Heat lost Dwayne Wade for the season on March 10, and they weren’t exactly tearing it up before the trade, so the result here is more of a wash than a negative for the Heat.
The Jazz got a much-needed 3-point threat. Philadelphia removes some cap space and picks up a first-round draft pick. Utah is 30-9 with Korver, who is spreading the floor on offense and giving Carlos Boozer more room to work. The Sixers are in a better position to rebuild their team as a result of the trade.
The Mavericks essentially moved their only inside defensive presence, their point guard of the future, two future first-round draft picks and two other players in exchange for Jason Kidd.
I believe Kidd is one of the top-10 point guards ever, maybe top-5, but he's 35 years old and only has a small window before he leaves that elite status. The Mavericks mortgaged their future for a chance to win it all now, or at least within the next two or three years. I don't see it happening, to be honest. Dallas is 9-8 with Kidd, so at least for now, it doesn't look like a great trade.
And with the recent leg injury to Dirk Nowitzki, it looks like Dallas will fall even father. In a year where a 50-win team is likely to miss the playoffs, this doesn't look good for Mavs fans.
The Nets moved a player that was on his way out in exchange for a good young point guard and future draft picks. Good decision, in my opinion.
There were many more trades made before the February 22 deadline, and I can't cover them all here. But overall, I believe trades are good for the league. They shake things up and renew fan interest in their teams. Here's hoping NBA general managers don't abandon this newfound courage in favor of the do-nothing approach of last year.
26 March 2008
Obama apparently claimed Clinton's time as First Lady doesn't really count as leadership experience, because Hillary fired back, recounting an experience she had in Bosnia back in 1996.
Boy, Mrs. Clinton sure is getting desperate. It's becoming more and more clear that she'll do whatever she can to win the presidency.
If you're going to fabricate something like this, I recommend choosing an event where a reporter wasn't traveling with you the whole time.
23 March 2008
I watched the second half of the UCLA/Texas A&M second-round March Madness game on Saturday night. Texas had a double-digit lead and pretty much choked it away. Either that or UCLA put the clamps on them defensively. Both factors were involved, in my opinion.
Anyway, UCLA comes back to take the lead 51-49 with 9.5 seconds left. Aggies have the ball, so their coach called a time out. Now, 9.5 seconds is not a lot of time, but it's enough time to run some sort of play.
Instead, the Aggies' David Sloan (pictured above), drove the ball down the court, crossed over the UCLA point guard, and took a shot in the key while being essentially triple-teamed.
Somehow I doubt that was the play A&M's coach drew up.
Sloan's shot was viciously blocked and the Bruins won the game. At the time, it looked like Sloan's last shot was blocked cleanly. Replay after replay seemed to show no foul on the play. I was beside myself at how stupid this kid was... there were a good five seconds left on the clock when he took the shot, and he had two teammates wide open on the wings who had much better looks at the basket.
But examining the above picture, it sure as heck looks to me like Sloan was fouled on the play.
So whatever. Boo on Sloan for taking a bad last shot and ruining what had been a great game to that point. Boo on the UCLA players who got away with one and boo on the refs for not catching it.
Onward to more March Madness on Thursday!
21 March 2008
For all those who are fans of the BYU Cougars and Utah Jazz, yesterday was a bad day.
BYU was handed its latest first-round tourney loss by Texas A&M, 67-62. While this isn't anything new (BYU's last win in March Madness was in 1992), it's still disappointing. A&M (6th in the Big 12 conference), looked very beatable, but outside of Jimmer Fredette, a freshman, no one really showed up.
Oh well. Maybe next year.
Later that night, the Jazz played at home against the Lakers. The Jazz were riding a 19-game home winning streak. The West race is so tight that even a two- or three-loss skid could bump you out of the playoffs altogether. The Lakers were missing Bynum and Gasol.
The stage was set for a Jazz win.
Unfortunately, Utah decided playing defense was not necessary, and trailed 38-18 after one on their way to a 106-95 loss.
Yeah, didn't go well. The above picture is entertainingly captioned as ""Kobe Bryant dunks over Carlos Boozer and Mehmet Okur" at espn.com.
I reality, neither Boozer nor Okur even attempted to move over and challenge the dunk, preferring instead to watch from a safe place. It essentially captures the problem with the Jazz... no interior defense to speak of.
Even Andrei was timid. On a different play, Kobe beat his man baseline, and Andrei moved over to help. He was at the basket with plenty of time to at least jump and go for the block, but he instead stayed on his feet and watched Kobe do his thing. Wow.
Anyway, bad times.
In other news, my March Madness bracket is following its typical pattern. The first day most of my picks are good. I'll miss a couple, but not enough to discourage me or completely blow up my bracket.
Day two (today, things go to pot. I've already lost three of my Sweet Sixteen picks and the games have barely started.
Even if gambling wasn't against my religious beliefs, I'd never gamble. I've got horrible luck and worse sports prognostication ability.
20 March 2008
I've watched about three total minutes of American Idol in my life. It's something I'm very proud of.
But I know enough to be aware that there are a couple Latter-day Saints doing pretty well this year.
Unfortunately, it seems Mike Huckabee will stop at nothing to destroy anyone who lends Mormonism any credibility.
HOPE, ARKANSAS — Last Thursday night, America chose its top 12 finalists on Fox’s hit show, “American Idol.” On Friday, former presidential candidate and erstwhile Baptist preacher, Mike Huckabee announced he would campaign to win the nation’s biggest singing competition.
Despite the initial shock among the entertainment elite at the politician’s decision, Huckabee has a lot of support among his base of Evangelical Christians. They see two Mormons among the top twelve contestants, and clamor, “Who can stop them?”
“Naturally, I thought of Mike Huckabee,” said one Idol fan from rural Kansas. “He’s the one who can step in and stop these Satan-worshipers from winning and legitimizing their cult….’cause that’s what it is, a cult!”
Many in the Evangelical community revere Mike Huckabee for his surge in the Republican primaries, and credit his “Huckaboom” with derailing the campaign of a Mormon, Mitt Romney.
One supporter added, “If Romney took the White House, it would make his religion look legitimate and everybody would want to join his church, just like how I’m pretty sure lots of people became Methodists after George W. Bush got elected in 2000.”
Huckabee admits he does not know much about singing, but argues he knew nothing about foreign policy, tax policy, immigration policy, or really anything except how to play the bass guitar when he began his campaign for president in 2006.
“I’m sure I’ll learn how as I go along” Huckabee said about the ins and outs of the singing competition, “the important thing is, I need to give the voters a choice. I want them to know I am the Christian Singer running for American Idol, and that they won’t find that in David Archuleta or Brooke White.”
“One more thing: Whenever either of the Mormons in the top twelve tries to out-sing me, by definition, they are engaging in negative singing. I hope voters reject their vicious attacks and vote for me.” Huckabee said.
At the end of the interview, almost as an afterthought, Huckabee asked, innocently, “Hey, don’t Mormons,” he paused, “believe singing brings glory to Satan, whom they worship?”
Update: Since our exclusive interview with Mike Huckabee, his surrogate, Charles “Chuck” Norris, has attacked David Archuleta as “too old” for the job of American Idol. Norris asserts that, based on the way past American Idols have aged under the stress of the prize, the 16 year-old Archuleta would be 84 by the time his first record goes platinum.
19 March 2008
Western Conference standings as of tonight:
1. New Orleans 46-21 0.0
2. Lakers 46-21 0.0
3. Houston 46-22 0.5
4. Utah 45-24 2.0
5. Phoenix 45-22 1.0
6. San Antonio 44-23 2.0
7. Dallas 44-24 2.5
8. Golden State 41-25 4.5
9. Denver 40-28 6.5
Good gravy. Teams one through 8 are separated by less than five games. Teams that go on a four- or five-game losing skid could easily find themselves on the outside looking in come May.
And the playoffs themselves will be fantastic. I honestly believe that any of these teams can beat any other team in a seven-game series.
As a Jazz fan, the only teams that really frighten me are the Spurs and the Lakers. The Spurs positively own Utah in any situation that matters. My hope is that one day Duncan and Ginobili will retire, because the Jazz have no answer whatsoever for them. And the Lakers... I'm still upset that the league allowed such a ridiculous trade for Gasol.
Not only did L.A. rid themselves of Kwame and his horrible contract, they picked up a top-10 power forward in exchange. Just despicable.
The Jazz and Lakers play Thursday night, so that'll be a good preview of a possible playoff matchup we'll get in a few weeks.
13 March 2008
"Maybe McGrady can become a combination of Michael Jordan and LeBron..." I mocked.
I'm here to eat some crow. The Rocket are 8-0 without Yao, and have won 20 straight. Good grief. Mutumbo is playing like he's 22 instead of 42, Luis Scola is giving Houston some good minutes, and Tracy has been playing like a man possessed. He's averaged 24 points, five rebounds and six assists over the last month while turning the ball over only two times a game.
When he's healthy, Tracy one of the elite in the NBA. Unfortunately, he's dealt with chronic back problems for years, dating back to 2004. In my opinion, it's only a matter of time before McGrady's back issues flare up again and then the Rockets are sunk.
Yesterday I decided not to wear a coat to school. I bravely strode my way from class to class in only a t-shirt and jeans. It wasn't exactly warm enough for that, but I didn't care. It was mid-March and I was going to dress like it was mid-March.
After my East Asia History class every MWF, I meet up with my brother Matt and his roommate Dallin to walk down to the north end of campus. As soon as they saw me yesterday, Dallin said, "You're making the weather gods mad, Brandon." He was referring to a theory of mine.
It's happened a few times this spring that we'll get a spectacular day. One Saturday in particular it was probably 50 degrees and sunny. Absolutely beautiful for up here. I wore a t-shirt and flip-flops around town all day. It was good times.
The very next day? Snowy snowy snowy. Roads are horrible, wind is freezing, cars are buried. I believe the Rexburg weather gods tested us to see if we truly fear them or not, and we failed by not bundling up.
Angered by our obvious lack of respect for them, the Rexburg weather gods plagued us with a "reminder" of their power.
The same thing clearly happened today in response to my arrogance, as this morning we were assaulted by a few inches of new snow. It's March 13!
Please compare this picture to one I took December 10th.
Annoyance Number Two:
I bought some Swedish Fish from a vending machine on campus today. Here is the bag as I bought it.
And here is the same bag, folded to show how many Swedish Fish are actually contained within.
I have half a mind to send it in to Consumer Reports.
This is from the TV show Flight of the Conchords (which I've never actually watched). A friend of mine originally sent me the link a few months ago, but I'm only getting around to posting it now to go with the One Semester of Spanish Spanish Love Song.
I love it. Much funnier if you've taken a semester or two of French.
"Voila- a conversation in the park!"
09 March 2008
06 March 2008
Random sports thoughts from a Thursday morning:
1. BYU basketball clinched its second consecutive outright Mountain West Conference title last night after beating down Wyoming last night 78-61. That makes it two years in a row where BYU dominated the conference in basketball and basketball, the two sports that matter in college.
I'm starting to take it for granted, but then I remember the football years of 2002-2004 and the 1-25 basketball season in 1996 and I'm grateful again.
2. The Jazz destroyed the Timberwolves at home last night, 105-76. It's amazing how different this team is at home compared to on the road. Just a few days ago they lost to this exact same team at Minnesota.
The West race is as tight as ever, and the Jazz could fall out of the playoffs entirely if they have a small four-game losing streak. They need to beat teams like the T-wolves, so this win was definitely appreciated.
It's interesting how similar BYU and the Jazz are right now. Both teams are very good, but not great, and not quite able to jump to the elite level in their leagues, in my opinion. I see BYU winning a first-round game in the Big Dance, if things go right, but no more. I see the Jazz at most advancing to the Conference Finals, but even that could flame out if they meet San Antonio before then.
I could be wrong, but I guess we'll see.
3. LeBron is amazing. Okay, we all know that, but going for 50 points, 10 assists, eight rebounds, four steals and only two turnovers in regulation is amazing to the point of unbelievable. After watching the Sportscenter highlights, I was impressed with how far his 3-point ball has progressed since even just a couple seasons ago. It's a lot smoother, quicker, and more accurate. He hit seven last night. SEVEN. And the two turnovers is so impressive considering other players who handle the ball as much (Nash, Williams, Kidd), also lead the league in turnovers.
04 March 2008
BYU-Idaho students Doug Hatch and Andrew Curtis live to play hockey. So when they first arrived in Rexburg, they both signed up to play intramural hockey, and competed during the 2006-2007 season.
However, both Hatch and Curtis, as well as other participants, noticed that there were some things lacking about the program. They were bothered by rules that prohibited checking, and were disappointed that student hockey fans had to divide their support among several teams.
After intramural hockey's “American versus Canada” game, in which the best players in the league play an All-Star-type game, Hatch and Curtis noticed there were a lot of talented students.
“We just thought it would be awesome to structure a team and go play an official game against BYU's hockey team,” Hatch said.
Hatch managed to secure a sponsorship from Apex Alarm, who provided jerseys for the event. Hatch and Curtis then recruited other BYU-I students to play, and found there was enough interest to make the game a reality.
The newly-formed Rexburg Bulldogs played their first-ever game against BYU's team in March of 2007.
Their hockey appetite whetted, Hatch and Curtis began searching for a way to play other colleges more often. They contacted the American Collegiate Hockey Association, or ACHA, for more information on how to become a member. They also sent e-mails to the athletic directors of colleges in the area such as Utah State, the University of Utah, Air Force and Wyoming, and received a very positive response.
Hatch and Curtis, self-proclaimed co-vice presidents of the Bulldogs, spent the summer drumming up additional sponsorships and gaining ACHA membership. Travel and equipment costs for a hockey season are upwards of $20,000, so gaining the support of local businesses was important.
By the end of the summer, the Bulldogs, now a member of the ACHA, had a full schedule for the upcoming season and were practicing in Logan, Utah, every other weekend in preparation for the coming months.
The Bulldogs traveled everywhere from Provo to Missoula, Montana, and gained the respect of opposing coaches and teams wherever they went.
“We've had coaches tell us they've never seen such heart,” Bulldog Dustin Fadale said.
It's important to note that while the team is made up entirely of BYU-Idaho students, the Bulldogs are not an official BYU-I squad. They are affiliated with the school, but that is so they can play other college teams.
The Bulldogs are gaining student and teacher support.
“Hockey's a game of passion, I think,” Curtis said. “There's just something about hockey; the physicality, the speed.”
The Bulldogs finish their season at Montana State this Friday and Saturday night.
Tryouts for the upcoming season will be March 21-22.
For more information on the Bulldogs, including next season's schedule, visit their website at http://rexburgbulldogshockey.com.
Photo courtesy of Doug Hatch
03 March 2008
But then again, the Jazz fighting and clawing their way back to only a four-point deficit in the fourth quarter is definitely amazing.
So I'm a bit undecided.
Anyway, Utah played Dallas tonight. Dallas is another team that's right in the mix of things in the Western Conference... so this game was pretty important, because things are so tight in the conference right now that a four- or five-game skid could mean you're out of the playoffs in May.
The Jazz looked good. Deron had a monster game, recording 17 points, 20 assists and five rebounds. Not too shabby. Carlos went for 28 and seven, and Korver hit a couple huge 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and Millsap showed some nice moves in the post.
But I think the biggest positive of the game, and lately, has been Okur's play. 20 points, 12 rebounds and 2 blocked shots on 7 of 10 shooting is a darn good line no matter who you are. But the impressive thing is the way he got his points. Mehmet has a problem remembering he's 6'11", and tends to sit back and shoot jumpers all day.
But lately, he's been driving to the hoop and scoring more inside. I like it.
Dirk threw Andrei to the ground as AK was going up for a layup in the first quarter. Kirilenko had to be helped off the floor and had to go to the hospital to get checked out. Luckily, he has no broken bones and should be fine.
I'm upset at Dirk, but I'll have to see the replay a few times to decide if the play was dirty or not. Jerry Sloan said the foul was "not that flagrant," and he's not one to sugarcoat stuff, so we'll see.
The Jazz currently lead the Northwest Division and would be the four-seed if the playoffs started today. The Rockets haven't lost since Yao went down, so maybe they'll be better off than I thought.
You're surprised, I know. Dislike of Affirmative Action? From a white male? No...
Here's the problem with the program... skin color has nothing to do with disadvantage.
To my understanding, Affirmative Action was created to give the disadvantaged an advantage. Our country's history is bad when it comes to treatment of non-whites and non-males. (As well as every other country on earth, but I digress...)
I get that. It stinks. Countless individuals were horribly abused and lived sub-par lives because America was dead racist and sexist.
But I had nothing to do this kind of institutionalized racism.Neither did you. Well, if you're old enough, maybe you did.
The point is, I don't understand why we need to atone for the sins of our fathers.
And even if we do need to pay for the wrongs of the past, using racism to fix racism doesn't make any sense to me.
Which brings me to my first point: the color of one's skin has nothing to do with one's abilities or opportunities. It's meaningless. There are plenty of white kids who live in trailer parks with one parent and are kept out of school. And there are plenty of Native American kids who grow up in the suburbs with plenty of money for extracurricular activities and earn 4.0 GPA's.
If we want to help disadvantaged kids get into college, let's do it right. Look at factors like household income, where they live, their parents' level of education, etc. These factors actually matter.
Not that the system will change any time soon. It feels too good to battle the monsters of bigotry and racism.