Friday April 16, 2004
NBA Playoff Predictions
NBA Postseason Awards
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
THE APPRENTICE THOUGHTS
HOOPS AND HARDBALL
NBA PLAYOFF PREDICTIONS
The NBA playoffs start on Saturday afternoon. I want to briefly make my predictions of what will happen in the first round.
Starting with the Eastern Conference (saving the good teams for last):
#1 Indiana Pacers vs. #8 Boston Celtics
Jermaine O'Neal will be dominant. Ron Artest will keep Paul Pierce in check. The Pacers had the best record in the NBA. The Celtics are in a downward spiral. This series could be ugly and quick. Pacers in four.
#2 New Jersey Nets vs. #7 New York Nets
The NBA will save travel money on this series. The health of J-Kidd and K-Mart is vital to the Nets in the playoffs, but assuming they are healthy, this team is as good as anyone in the East and have been there before with much of the same roster. I think Stephon Marbury alone will win a couple of games for the Knicks. Nets in six.
#3 Detroit Pistons vs. #6 Milwaukee Bucks
The Pistons, led by Ben Wallace, play great defense. The Bucks don't have a lot of offense outside of Michael Redd. The Pistons have Rip Hamilton, Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace to score. Pistons in four.
#4 Miami Heat vs. #5 New Orleans Hornets
How did the Heat get here? Dwayne Wade versus Baron Davis should be a key matchup. Jamal Magloire could become a star this series (even though he was already an All-Star). Jamal Mashburn has again been left off the playoff roster though. The Heat were expected to do nothing and suddenly they have home court advantage. Caron Butler is the key to the series! Hornets in seven.
And now to the competitive, fun to watch Western Conference:
#1 Minnesota Timberwolves vs. #8 Denver Nuggets
KG is the MVP. Spree and Sam are veteran playoff performers. Wally should thrive as Option #4. Carmelo Anthony will get hounded by Trenton Hassell. Nene, Voshon and Camby will have to show up to have a chance. Wolves in five.
#2 Los Angeles Lakers vs. #7 Houston Rockets
Karl Malone being healthy would make this an even easier call. He and Gary Payton will have complete focus at this point. For the Rockets to have a chance, Yao would have to neutralize Shaq. Cuttino Mobley and Steve Francis would have to neutralize Kobe. Those three are good, but two words... Shaq and Kobe. Lakers in five.
#3 San Antonio Spurs vs. #6 Memphis Grizzlies
Spurs are the best team in the NBA right now having won 12 straight to end the season. The Grizzlies have been struggling. Tim Duncan versus Pao Gasol will be fun to watch. Tony Parker and Jason Williams should be fun to watch because neither plays defense. Spurs are just too good. Spurs in four.
#4 Sacramento Kings vs. #5 Dallas Mavericks
Now this should be a fun game to watch. Neither team plays any defense. OK, Doug Christie does, but he is the exception. Total points in each game should exceed 230 most nights. Chris Webber really needs to step up. The Mavs have Finley, Nash and Nowitzki who can all score. The Kings have Bibby, Peja, Webber, Miller, and with Vlade, their size should be the deciding factor in this series. Kings in six.
There could be a couple of good series in the East in the first round, and the Mavs/Kings series should be great. But the real fun of the playoffs will start with the second round matchups. Then things will really get intense!
What do you think? Am I off on any of these predictions? E-mail me.
Postseason NBA Awards
Please check back to my pre-season predictions for this season. You will notice also that I predicted how each team would do. I was wrong about half the time. The biggest surprises for me were the Heat and the Jazz. Biggest disappointments includes Philadelphia, Orlando and much of the Pacific Division. But now, here are my thoughts on the post season awards:
MVP - Kevin Garnett, Minnesota Timberwolves
(Preseason Choice - Kevin Garnett)
This is the easiest pick to make. I have just one argument that makes it even questionable. My opinion is that Kevin Garnett should have been the MVP last season when he had less talent around him. Instead, Tim Duncan, who had better teammates won the award. This year, Kevin Garnett has help in Latrell Sprewell and Sam Cassell. Tim Duncan has less around him. However, KG is the clear-cut winner. He is by far the best overall player in the NBA. People always said that Michael Jordan became the best player in the game once he realized he needed his teammates. KG has always understood that. He makes his teammates better. He leads. He has such passion. If you want, we can look at his numbers too. His 24.2 points were 2nd in the NBA. His 13.9 rebounds were 1st in the NBA. Some say he is too unselfish. Well, he led the NBA in field goals attempted and scored more points than anyone in the league. His 33.13 Efficiency Rating was almost 25% higher than any other player in the NBA. Yeah, this should be a unanimous selection. Second place - Tim Duncan, Third Place - Peja Stojakovik
Coach of the Year - Stan Van Gundy, Miami Heat
(Preseason Choice - Phil Jackson)
Most people think that Hubie Brown will win this award, and I am fine with that. The Grizzlies were very good. Jerry Sloan deserves a lot of credit for nearly getting the depleted Jazz team into the playoffs. But for me, this was an easy selection. The Miami Heat were expected to be absolutely terrible. I mean, I think many were hoping they would win 15 games this year. Pat Riley quit on them right before the season started and Stan Van Gundy took over. They started out slow, but a great second half not only got them near the playoffs, but they have home court in the first round! The Heat aren't exactly full of star players either. Yes, they are in the Eastern Conference, but what the Heat did was impressive. Second Place - Jerry Sloan, Third Place - Hubie Brown
Rookie of the Year - Lebron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
(Preseason Choice - Dwayne Wade)
Honestly, I wish this award could be split between James and Carmelo Anthony. They both averaged 21 points a game. They both averaged about 6 rebounds a game. Lebron James had more assists. Both the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Denver Nuggets made playoff pushes with the Nuggets getting the 8th spot in the West. I predicted that James would average 15/5/5 and that people might be disappointed by that. Well, he actually exceeded expectations. I feared that Carmelo Anthony might be too arrogant and playing in Denver would bring him down. Well, not only did he play at an All-Star level, but he helped the Nuggets to respectability. But, don't forget that my preseason pick, Dwayne Wade, had a really incredible rookie season that would have won this award most years. Second Place - Carmelo Anthony, Third Place - Dwayne Wade.
Most Improved Player - Zach Randolph, Portland Trailblazers
(Preseason Choice - Mike Dunleavy, Jr)
A lot of people think that Andrei Kirilenko should win this award. My thought is that he was pretty good before, just hidden in Utah behind Stockton and Malone. Zach Randolph went from barely playing to averaging 20 points and 10.5 rebounds a game. Second Place - Carlos Boozer, Third Place - Brian Cardinal.
First Team All-NBA
C - Shaquille O'Neal, Lakers
F - Kevin Garnett, Wolves
F - Tim Duncan, Spurs
G - Peja Stojakovic, Kings
G - Sam Cassell, Wolves
Second Team All-NBA
C - Yao Ming, Rockets
F - Dirk Nowitzki, Mavericks
F - Jermaine O'Neal, Pacers
G - Kobe Bryant, Lakers
G - Tracy McGrady, Magic
So, what do you think of my selections? Agree? Disagree? E-mail me.
TWINS WIN AGAIN
What the Twins really needed last night... they got. A quality start from their "ace" starter, Brad Radke. The team had really needed to use its bullpen too extensively all season. But in his third start, Radke was on. He was able to give the Twins 8 shutout innings, throwing just 112 pitches. He walked one and gave up just four hits, and all of those were just singles. He also got some great defensive support around the diamond, but particularly from Corey Koskie and Michael Cuddyer, who was in left field for the first time this year (Shannon Stewart was the DH). As important was the fact that the Twins were able to put Joe Nathan into a save situation. After a walk to Jody Gerut, Nathan struck out the next two hitters before inducing a fly out to end the game, preserving the Twins 3-0 win. It was Nathan's first save as a Twin, and just his second career save. The other was way back in 1999 with the Giants.
On the offensive side of things, the Twins got a single run in the 4th inning when Corey Koskie singled in Jose Offerman (who had doubled earlier). They clung on to the one run lead until Koskie connected on a long, solo home run in the 8th inning. It was his third of the season. (He also stole two bases in the game) Jacque Jones added his third home run in the 9th inning, to give the Twins the three run lead. Lew Ford added two hits for the Twins.
Doug Mientkiewicz left the game after a first inning double play. The Indians pitcher, Jason Stanford (who was part of the USA Olympic Qualifying Team last fall with Twins Joe Mauer, Jesse Crain and JD Durbin) covered first and Mientkiewicz stepped on his heel, rolling his ankle. He was taken to the hospital for precautionary X-rays and they were negative. He is listed as day-to-day, but may need a day or two off.
Tonight, the Twins start a home weekend series against the Kansas City Royals. It is very early in the season, but it is always good to win division games, especially against a team that many believe will be the Twins steepest competition throughout the season. Here are the series pitching matchups:
Friday - Jimmy Gobble versus Johan Santana
Saturday - Kevin Appier (?) versus Kyle Lohse
Sunday - Darrell May vs. Seth Griesinger (although it is possible that Terry Mulholland will start this game)
The Twins are back over .500 at 5-4, one game behind the White Sox and Tigers... Just 153 games to go!! Any thoughts on the Twins? E-mail me.
ROCHESTER REPORT - The Redwings improved to 8-0 on the season with a 4-3 win over Scranton/Wilkes Barre last night. As usual, Justin Morneau was the big story. He went 2-3 with two walks. The two hits were solo home runs. Should Doug Mientkiewicz need to go on the Disabled List (which is unlikely), the Twins could turn to Morneau and not lose a lot (actually, he should be the everyday DH up there already, especially with Matthew Lecroy on the DL). Morneau is hitting .516 at this point. Peter Munro pitched five great innings before giving up a couple of runs in the sixth. He walked one and struck out six. Adam Johnson pitched a scoreless inning of relief. Jesse Crain showed he could come back from a disappointing game with a 1-2-3 ninth inning for the save. On a negative note, 3B Terry Tiffee was put on the 7 Day Disabled List with a sore back.
ROCKCAT REPORT - AA New Britain was rained out last night... again! They play this weekend at Norwich.
SWING THINGS - The Swing of the Quad Cities scored the games final five runs to win a 9-8 decision over Kane County. Matt Moses was 3-5 with a double and an RBI single in the 10th inning. Dusty Gomon and Ben Pattee each had a home run and 3 RBI. Evan Meek struggled with the start. He lasted just 1 1/3 innings and gave up two runs, walking six! Billy Mauer was the lone pitching highlight. He pitched two scoreless innings, striking out three. Levale Speigner got the win pitching the final three innings giving up just one unearned run and striking out four (while walking two and giving up two hits. The Swing will be starting a four game series at Burlington.
Just a few thoughts on some of yesterday's games:
Mike Lieberthal hit a three-run homer in the bottom of the 8th inning off the Reds' Ryan Wagner to give the Phillies their first win in their new park. Lieberthal is pretty underrated. He's been solid for a few years. The bigger surprise? David Bell hit a home run!
After getting shelled by the Tigers on Opening Day, Roy Halladay turned the tables yesterday, shutting down the Tigers for a complete game win. And some were worried about him? I think he is just fine!
The White Sox and Royals played another crazy game full of heroics. Magglio Ordonez hit a game-winning home run in the 10th inning off DJ Carrasco to give the Sox the 6-5 win. Who has the most home runs of these players: Juan Gonzalez, Frank Thomas or Aaron Rowand? Trick question, they all hit their first in this game. Oh, I was watching Baseball 2Night the other night and Harold Reynolds said something to the effect that Carlos Beltran will become a star this year. Note - he has been a star in baseball circles for a few years now!!!
Rich Harden was called up before yesterday's A's/Rangers game. It didn't go so well for him. 6 runs on 11 hits in four innings. Ouch! What happened to Harden? After his remarkable big league start last summer, he has really struggled. He's got all the tools! On the other side, Kenny Rogers doesn't have the tools, but he gets the job done! He went to 2-0 with 7 innings of one run (unearned) ball.
Did you know Jack Wilson is hitting .412 for the Pirates??? And he has two homers! Speaking of non-hitters, how about Michael Barrett's two homer game for the Cubs? We know Aramis Ramirez is a hitter. He has proven that with three homers in the last two days against his former team.
Montreal just finished playing its "home" opener (so to speak), in San Juan, Puerto Rico. They played the games in Hiram Bocachica (I mean Bithorn) Stadium where runs were plentiful last season. In their three games against the Florida Marlins, they lost by a combined score of 17-0! Not one single run in three games?! Yesterday, they had just three hits and two of them were from Jamey Carroll. Raise your hand if you've even heard of him? What position does he play? Major League Baseball has ruined the Expos. By taking forever to decide where the team would be relocated and not allowing an owner to buy the team, they have lost so much talent. Vlad Guerrero and Javier Vazquez were just the most recent losses. Jose Vidro and Orlando Cabrera are about all they have left, and with their looming salary hikes, they won't be around much longer. It is really unfortunate.
The line on Arizona's Casey Daigle yesterday was better than his big league debut last week. When you find out that yesterday he went 4 innings and gave up six runs, you better understand that it was not much of a compliment. However, Casey Daigle is the luckiest man alive. Why? Because he has made two career major league starts? No. Because even if he gets sent back down to the minors, he is still married to Jennie Finch! He should never frown!
Pedro Martinez got shelled yesterday, giving up 7 runs in 5 innings. Why does that make me smile so big!? Ha! Ha!
The Orioles have a couple of fantasy sleepers. I have previously mentioned that I think Luis Matos could be really special. Their left fielder, Larry Bigbie, will be a star too!
After being shut out by the Braves John Thomson the night before, the Mets shut out the Braves with a 4-0 win. Al Leiter got the win, but the highlight was seeing him run out a double. He looked just shocked that he had to run that far!!
Junior Spivey was an All-Star two years ago. Last year he was hurt and struggled. It really shouldn't be a big surprise if he has a huge season season in the hitter-friendly Miller Park. And, Geoff Jenkins can flat-out hit.
Seattle's Ryan Franklin might be available in your league. If he is, strongly consider picking him up! Last year, he was just 11-13, but had a 3.57 ERA. His WHIP was 1.23 and opponents hit just .251 off him. He went 8 innings last night, giving up just two runs.
And finally, don't forget to watch the Fox telecast of the first Red Sox/Yankees game of the year tonight! 7:00 central time! It should be fun just to watch. Unfortunately, Fox has decided to use Sponge Bob Square Pants to help explain baseball stuff. Uggh!
Any other baseball thoughts you would care to share? If so, e-mail me.
AMERICAN IDOL THOUGHTS
The American Idol's elimination show was on last night. First, here were my rankings and predictions.
How would I rank the performances?
1.) LaToya London
2.) Fantasia Barrino
3.) Jennifer Hudson
4.) Jasmine Trias
5.) John Stevens
6.) George Huff
7.) Jon Peter Lewis
8.) Diana Degarmo
Who will be The Bottom Three?
Diana Degarmo, Jasmine Trias, John Stevens
Who will be eliminated?
Well, the actual results put Diana Degarmo, John Stevens and Jon Peter Lewis in the bottom three. John Stevens was sent back to safety before it was announced that JPL, Jon Peter Lewis was going home. As you can see from my rankings, I am not completely surprised. However, Lewis was fun, and I thought he would last a little bit longer because of his charisma, something Stevens has zero of. But, let's all be honest here. There are three singers that are at the top of the talent that remains, maybe just two. LaToya London and Fantasia Barrino are clearly the top singers remaining. It could be argued that George Huff is right there with them, but he really struggled on Wednesday night. The others are really just jockeying for position, trying to finish fourth!
Do you have any thoughts about American Idol? If so, e-mail me.
THE APPRENTICE THOUGHTS
Last night was the two-hour finale of The Apprentice. Bill Rancic was hired by Donald Trump to head up a part of his ever-expanding empire. For that to happen, Kwame had to be fired. Bill had led a group in running a celebrity golf tournament while Kwame was in charge of a Jessica Simpson concert at the Trump Taj Mahal. Both are really incredible and I think that both are great leaders, but in different ways. Anyway, Bill was given the option of overseeing the building of a 90 story Trump hotel in the heart of Chicago, or running an incredible golf course on the Pacific coast in Los Angeles. The Chicago native chose to stay home and work on the skyscraper. Either way, he was making $250,000 for the year and also won a car.
I have to be honest, I really enjoyed The Apprentice. It was fun to watch. Unlikely standard reality shows where there is strategy and ugly scenarios, the best people ended up at the end of the competition. Donald Trump fired at least one person per week based on their performance in a business situation. The contestants did not have that final say. American didn't make the decision. Donald Trump, with the help of a couple of his leading employees, made the decisions or who to eliminate.
One final note... Omarosa is a really non-good person. First, she is suing Erika for using a racial term (that, of course, Erika said she didn't say). Remember in an episode where they were arguing. Erika made the comment, "Oh, isn't that the pot calling the kettle black." That is a frequently used term for when someone makes a comment about another person when the same could accurately be said of themselves. Anyway, Omarosa accused her saying that was a racist statement. Also, apparently Omarosa was fired from four internships in the White House.
What were your thoughts on The Apprentice and its finale last night. E-mail me.
Welp, that is it for today and for this week. There may or may not be any updates to the site over the weekend, but stop by and check at anytime. I invite any questions or comments you may have about this site, about baseball, about fantasy sports, about basketball, about me, about anything... by simply clicking here to e-mail me.
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