Get Well, Lamar Odom

My heart was broken earlier this week when I saw the news about Lamar Odom being found unresponsive in a Nevada brothel and the subsequent news about him going into a coma, and being on life support. Today I was delighted to find out that Odom is reported to be out of the coma and breathing on his own.

There’s no player in sports that I feel empathetic towards more than Odom. As a Lakers fan it was an absolute pleasure to watch Lamar create on the court. As a 6’9″ player who could run an offense, guard multiple positions, and create at will he was ahead of his time. In a lot of ways he embodies what it means to be a modern NBA player. The Lakers don’t even come close to winning the 2009 and 2010 titles without him.

Ironically it’s in this time where his game would shine the most, that Odom has hit bottom. I don’t want to get into all of Odom’s history, if you are interested you can read this incredibly well thought-out article from Sports Illustrated’s, Lee Jenkins. Just know that this is a man who has dealt with tragedy his entire life, but by all accounts has never been less than gracious and kind with everyone he has ever met.

It’s been in this time of crisis that so many players and coaches have come out to show their absolute support and love for one of the most genuinely good souls in the league.  Kobe Bryant, by no means the warmest of souls, spent hours by Odom’s bedside after he found about his friends condition. There has been a deluge of positive Tweets from current and former NBA stars, and here is Spurs Head Coach Greg Popovich on Lamar as a person.

I don’t concentrate on what kind of player he is,” Popovich said after Friday’s practice. “I feel all the other things, because I know him as a person. Warm-hearted. Good-humored. Wonderful guy to be around. Who cares about how he played? It’s about who you are and he was a good person

I’m usually the first person to tell people not to care about athletes personal lives, but I can’t help but feel for Lamar Odom. He is one of the most unique talents that I have ever watched play. I don’t think any basketball nerd will ever forget him. Now at the all too young age of 35 Odom is in a fight for his life. It’s not a game any longer. It’s not reality TV. It’s just a good human being trying to fight off his demons. I’ve never wanted to cheer for him more.

One Night Only: Yankees-Astros Playoff

Greg BirdTonight the New York Yankees play the Houston Astros in the MLB’s first Wild Card game of the postseason. As a Yankees fan I am excited to see my favorite team back in the playoffs for the first time since 2012. As a fan of advanced statistics I am excited to see the Astros organization’s patience be rewarded in the form of a super exciting young team headed up by probable Cy Young winner Dallas Keuchel, who will be taking the mound in this winner-take-all game.

I haven’t watched a ton of Yankees games this year, but it’s been fascinating following the team throughout the year. This team is like the island of really expensive misfit toys. To think that Alex Rodriguez at 40, coming off of an entire year away from the big leagues could hit 33 home runs, and carry a team for weeks at a time is pretty incredible. You could say the same about 35 year old, Mark Teixeira who stayed healthy just long enough to put the Yankees in a position for a playoff run. When Tex finally did succumb to a season ending tibia injury, the bombers got a huge push from the relatively unknown call up Greg Bird, who was able to come up with some really big hits in the 46 games he’s played.

You pair the Yankees patch work lineup and pitching staff with the an above average bullpen that boasts one of the best set-up man to closer bridges in the majors you get yourself just enough to make the playoffs in this modern day, 5 team playoff bracket.

And now New York goes up against their foil in the Houston Astros, a team with a loaded farm system players like short stop, Carlos Correa, second baseman, Jose Altuve and the before mentioned Keuchel. The Astros spent years building up their farm system, and now have most of that talent on the field for tonight’s game.

This is a fun way to start the MLB Postseason, with two teams that have gotten hear by drastically different means. Both teams will be heavy underdogs to the defending AL Champion Kansas City Royals, but baseball is a really goofy game, and typically doesn’t care much about which team is favored. It would be great to see this group of misfits make a run at the pennant.

Welcome Back

Whew. It’s been a while. In the time that Chad and I have been away from this site many things have changed. We’ve both moved, found new jobs, one of us is married and the other is currently on the cusp of asking the question.

With all of these big life changes its been tough to find the time to sit down and talk about sports, but cool stuff continues to happen even without us there to write about it. It’s been particularly hard to watch the NBA this year, with the game evolving into a fast paced, death from above, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it butterfly, without being able to sit down and write about it.

Look, I’ve always been a huge fan of the NBA. For my money there is no better sport when it comes to the style of play, the personalities of the players, the quality of the writing and the bliss that is NBA Twitter/Reddit/Vine. There is hardly a waking hour that goes by without me taking in some kind of NBA related shot. I work nights, so I miss a lot of games live, but thanks to social media and league pass I really don’t miss anything. When Stephen Curry decides he wants to hobble Chris Paul, the world let’s me know about it almost immediately.

Basketball is now the second most popular sport in the world behind soccer football. The NFL is not going anywhere in the US for awhile, but with the new information we have on concussions, and the general seediness the league seems to currently be seeped in, there is a foreseeable future in which basketball could be the worlds most popular professional sport, and that delights me to no end.

I’m a hoops junkie. This year alone I’ve probably watched over a 200 games, read hundreds of columns and listened to endless hours of basketball focused podcasts. I’ve watched so many Warriors games that my normally basketball agnostic girlfriend has become a fan. There are even days (God help me) when I find myself re-watching games from earlier in the season.

All of this to say that there has never been a better time to start watching the NBA. The regular season is winding down, and the next couple of weeks will full of important games featuring teams playing a breed of basketball that I’m not sure the casual fan has had a chance to take in yet. There has been a space and pace revolution that teams like the Spurs, Warriors, Hawks, and even Cleveland are using to turn the entire Association on its head. It’s been a lot of fun to watch this style of player affect how every team shapes their lineups, as well as offensive and defensive philosophies.

The game is just a lot of fun to watch. Which brings me back to this website. I just can’t sit idle anymore while one of my favorite past times is blooming into the beautiful game. There’s so much I want to talk about. I want to talk about about how Kawhai Leonard is becoming the next Scottie Pippen, and how Stephen Curry is the leagues most valuable player (but probably not the MVP). I missed my chance to be one of the first people on the Anthony Davis is not a human being, but a cyborg built in a lab to be the ultimate basketball playing machine. Mostly I just want to write about the sport I love, and perhaps I may even have a thing or two to say about other goings on in the wide world of sports. We’ll see.

It feels good to be back. Just don’t ask me about the Lakers.

NFL Week 4 Picks – sure to do alright, maybe (?)

All hail our new Cardinal overlords?

Perhaps labeling all of my pick’em columns “sure to go wrong” hasn’t been the best way to instill confidence in myself. Sure it’s nice being right about something, because God knows I haven’t been right when it’s come to actually picking the games, but one has to wonder if all these pessimistic titles haven’t become a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy. So in an attempt to turn around this glorious train wreck of a season, from henceforth I shall start naming my pick’em posts “sure to do alright, maybe?”. It would be easy to employ the fake-it-till-you-make-it approach and call this posts, “totally baller picks that are sure to make it rain in this bitch,” but I don’t want to get sued for false advertising. Maybe when I get back to around .500 I’ll start dropping Kanye references in my subtitles.

So lets talk about some games that I’m excited to watch this weekend. I’m taking a flyer this week on the Vikings going into Detroit and beating the Lions straight up. Adrian Peterson has surprised a lot of people this year by playing as well as he has given the fact he’s less than a year removed from a torn ACL. Last week Peterson ran for 86 yards on the 49ers defense, which is like running for 150 yards against most teams in the league. When San Francisco played Detroit in week two Frank Gore averaged over five yards per carry against the Lions D, and I expect Peterson to have a breakout game of sorts this weekend. The Viking showed last week that they are able to play a conservative style well, the same kind of style that the 49ers used to beat Detroit in week two. If Minnesota can run the ball effectively and keep Megatron in check, there is no reason why they can’t pull off the upset.

The X-Factor in this game is Lions RB Mikel LeShure, who ran for 100 yards last week against the Titans. If LeShure can play well enough to draw extra defenders into the box to help against the run, all bets are off. It’s going to take more than an impressive performance against the Titans to get me on the LeShure bandwagon, but the Lions become a very interesting team if they can start getting consistent production out of their running back.

I don’t have much to say about Cardinals/Dolphins other than if Arizona can take care of business at home they will be 4-0 to start the season. Before the season started I would have guessed that the Cardinals would win somewhere between 4-6 games all year, when you add on the fact that Seattle could very well be 3-1 after this week, you have one very stumped 49ers fan. For God’s sake Seattle and Arizona have the two top scoring defenses in the league! For all of the hullabaloo about last weeks MNF game, everyone forgot to remember that the Seahawks sacked Aaron Rodgers eight times in the first half! The Cardinals look like they could have three or four pro bowlers on their defense in Daryl Washington, Darnell Docket, Calais Cambell, and Patrick Peterson. When was the last time you looked to the NFC West for dominant defensive ball clubs? I feel like at least one of these teams has to regress a little in the coming weeks, but until then it feels like –

Speaking of great defenses, did you know that Dallas has the best defense in football so far this year? Me neither! I found it out today when I was reading through Chad’s excellent post about this game for Gapers Block. For the Cowboys defense, everything starts with DeMarcus Ware, who has the ability to disrupt any offense on his own, either requiring opposing teams to double/triple team him or risk having their quarterback get destroyed. The Bears have one of the worst O-lines in football, and that’s as generous as I can be when talking about J’Marcus Webb and his merry band of matadors turned offensive lineman.Cutler has been sacked 11 times and has already thrown six interception in three games, now he is going to have to contend with one of the league’s best pass rushes and a greatly improved Cowboys secondary.

Brandon Marshall is going to spend most of this week being draped by Brandon Carr and Morris Claiborne, depending on whether the Cowboys want to alternate their man coverages. Cutler has targeted Marshall 31 times this year, when you compare that with 14 targets for rookie Alshon Jeffery and 14 for Earl Bennet you get a good idea of who Jay is looking for most of the time. The big question for the Bears is whether or not Matt Forte will play, and if he does, how effective will he be coming off of a high ankle sprain. As good as Michael Bush has been for Chicago, Forte is just a more versatile back who makes life a lot easier for Jay Cutler with his ability to make plays in the passing game.

I can’t wait to listen to people complain about how poor Cutlers attitude is next week after he was sacked three times, hit another five to ten times and at one point acted like he would rather be somewhere else, preferably where he wasn’t getting knocked into senility. We are a matter of days before the special kind of Bears fans start calling into Chicago sports talk radio stations to make the case for Jason Campbell starting. There are a lot of aggravating things about being an out of market fan, but not having to hear all of the sports stupid surrounding your favorite franchise on a weekly basis is truly a blessing.

Chicago has the fifth ranked scoring defense in football and have been holding opponents offenses to just 76 yards per game rushing. It’s going to be interesting to see what happens when both teams are forced to throw the ball because I’m sure Tony Romo is not thrilled with playing a defense that has already racked up 11 sacks and six interceptions. This game could get very ugly, and if I was really a gambling man I’d stay far away from this one.

But Peyton, Papa only wanted one million free pizzas, don’t be unreasonable!

It’s going to be an interesting week of football. If the Patriots get upset by the Bills this week we are looking at a lot of people’s Super Bowl favorite starting the year 1-3.

Both the Falcons and Texans have a great shot at starting the season 4-0 and becoming the early favorites to win their conferences.

Can the Packers and my beloved 49ers get back on the right track after posting disappointing losses last week?

If Peyton Manning throws up a stink bomb at home against the Raiders I’m going to be officially worried about his prospects of ever being a great QB again. At what point do we have to stop lying to ourselves about Manning’s arm strength? Believe me, I don’t want to live in a world where Peyton has a 85.6 passer rating, fails to bring his team back in the final minutes two weeks in a row, and seems to be nothing more than the leagues mascot -but it appears we are living that nightmare right now.

Perhaps the most important question that will be answered this weekend is whether or not I will be able to troll my friends with this video after Chicago loses  Monday night. Because the only thing better than listening to surly Bears fans is making surly Bears fans cry.

This weeks picks – home teams in caps.

Patriots -4 over BILLS
Vikings +6.5 over LIONS
FALCONS -7 over Panthers
49ers -4 over JETS
Chargers +1 over CHIEFS
TEXANS -12 over Titans
Seahawks +2.5 over RAMS
CARDINALS -6.5 over Dolphins
BRONCOS -6.5 over Raiders
Bengals -2.5 over JAGUARS
PACKERS -7.5 over Saints
BUCCANEERS -3 over Redskins
Giants +2.5 over EAGLES
COWBOYS -3.5 over Bears

Last Night: 0-Flacco pick in the redzone. Sigh.
Season: 19-27-1

Tonights Ravens/Browns pick sure to go wrong

A smart gambler would tell you that it’s not smart to pick a team that is giving more than ten points after they just played four days ago, but I’m not a smart gambler – so…

Ravens +12 over Browns

The Browns have not won a game this year, and their rookie quarter back, Brandon Weeden is going to have his hand full in Baltimore against the Ravens defense looking for a little bit of payback after the Partios hung 30 on them last week.  In a perfect world for Cleveland fans, Trent Richardson has a over 100 yards rushing and Weedon doesn’t have to throw the ball a ton; but as anyone who lives in Cleveland can tell you that’s not the world we live in.

The Browns defense is 27th against the pass and 23rd against the run through three weeks. The Ravens offense this year has been dynamic, as we saw last week when they were able to score on three drives of over 80 yards. If you have anyone on the Ravens offense this week in fantasy you should probably be starting them.

I certainly wouldn’t consider this game a lock given the Ravens short rest time, but they played at home on Sunday which means they didn’t have to travel between games. Baltimore’s not the kind of team that takes games off, so unless we see a lot of bad turnovers  or some horrible officiating out of the newly returned officials (Welcome back guys, I look forward to cursing at your incompetence soon!), Flacco and company should take care of business tonight.

Last Week: 7-8-1
Season: 19-26-1

Waiting for Superman

Here’s a picture of Dwight Howard looking like he’s about to fly.

It’s around this time of year, as the leaves start to turn and a chill fills the air, that I can hear the faint siren song of the upcoming NBA Season. While last year I spent all summer obsessing over when the NBA was coming back, and searched the internet for any morsel of hoops coverage I could find, this year I’ve been enjoying football and haven’t been as antsy for the first jump ball of the season. That all changed this week, like a coming out of hibernation, I spent my first couple of mornings in five months catching up on news from around the league.

Every year the first question I ask myself, besides how the Lakers can win another title, is which teams I want to follow using NBA’s League pass (the NBA”s version of Sunday ticket). If you are even a casual fan of The Association I would highly recommend League Pass, being able to follow quality teams for an entire season makes watching the games so much more enjoyable, especially if the team that’s in your local market isn’t so hot (I can’t imagine there are many NBA fans in the greater Charlotte area.)

Since I have not yet reached true baller status I buy the discounted five team package ($120), and to be honest choosing which teams to follow is one my favorite parts of the NBA preseason.  Last year I followed the Lakers, Clippers, Thunder, Heat and Timberwolves; and I was really happy following that group of teams… Yes, even the Wolves, they were a lot of fun to watch before Rubio tore every ligament in his knee.

For the next couple of weeks I’m going to highlight a team that will be in my League Pass Five starting with the…

Los Angeles Lakers.

Shocker I know. What a crazy couple of years years it’s been for the Lake Show, with everything from the Chris Paul trade that wasn’t, to Lamar Odom demanding out, to this off season’s craziness, there has not been a dull moment for fans of Los Angeles basketball. I have to admit that watching CP3 play for the Clippers last year made me extremely jealous, and probably made a little bitter towards Derek Fisher before he was traded to the Thunder.I’ve been so envious of teams with real point guards for so many years that when Steve Nash signed with the Lakers I started dancing in the streets. I’d like to imagine that if I actually lived in LA the site of a man spontaneously dancing over the signing of a basketball player wouldn’t have been as awkward to as it was in Northwestern Illinois, perhaps on Venice Beach. Nash turns 39 in February, his points (12.5) and assists (10.7) per game were done last year, and there are questions about how well Nash can adapt his game to work in LA, but I have little doubt that he will be able to maximize the talent around him and will also be a much needed three point threat that the Lakers haven’t had in years.

Que thematic song.

As exciting as it was to sign Nash, it would only serve as an opener to the Dwight Howard main event. To be honest I had become just as sick as everyone else having to deal with trade rumors for two years, and I honestly felt bad about how the Magic organization treated Stan Van Gundy last season, but if history has taught us anything it’s that nothing washes the stink of a player like having him on your team! So welcome Dwight, I look forward to hating you in six months when you are waffling on whether or not you want to commit to a contract extension! When the Nets were the clear front runner to make a deal for Superman I tried to convince myself that LA was fine with Andrew Bynum, but watching Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant destroy us in the paint in the Western Conference Semifinals was sign enough that bringing Howard into town would make the team better. Last year Dwight Howard was second in the league in defensive win shares, with Bynum coming in at 13th. As much as I love Steve Nash, he’s not going to make the NBA’s All Defensive team, and for this whole thing to work the Lakers need a top defensive player under the basket.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the Lakers play without Howard as he continues to rehab his back. My guess is we’ll be seeing a lot of lineups that include Pau Gasol at center and nearly acquired Antawn Jamison and power forward. I was a big fan of the Jamison signing, he averaged 17 points and six rebounds per game with Cleveland last year, getting him for $1.6 million was a shrewd move in an offseason full of big spending. It seems like Metta World Peace decided to stay in shape this offseason, which is great news because he played absolutely horrible last year, and if the Lakers want to contend they need the artist formerly known as Ron to play a little more like Artest and a little less like Metta World Hamburglar.

The final piece of the puzzle is Kobe Bryant, who is doing everything he can to remain an elite NBA player. It was unsettling to watch Kobe shoot 43% from the field, and my hope is with the new talent in town the mamba will pick his spots a little bit better, but that’s kind of like telling… Actually I can’t find a metaphor better than telling Kobe to stop shooting, it’s just not going to happen.

I honestly have no idea how good this Lakers team is going to be this year. It wouldn’t surprise me if they won the title or lost in the first round of the playoffs, and that’s honestly kind of exciting. Sure it will probably make for some frustrating games where the Lakers are having to rely on Jordan Hill and Jodie Meeks more than any team should have to, but it really beats having to watch a carbon copy of last years team struggle to stay relevant. It’s going to be a fun season, Lakers fans truly live in interesting times.

Replacement Refs

Replacement officials confused on last second pass in Seahawks win Monday night.

It was inevitable. A lot will be said about what happened tonight, but you know that saying about a picture being worth a thousand words? Whoever came up with that saying didn’t have to deal with Twitter’s word count limit.