Monday, March 9, 2009

So Long Sucker … the Weekend that Was

It was quite an interesting weekend around these parts, to say the least. One minute, a trade is getting nullified. The next minute, you wind up at a strip club with a few ladies that may or may not be able to legally drink.

And that was all before Sunday. For starters, let me touch on this Kyle McLaren nonsense. Believe it or not, I consider this an extremely good thing. I know the Flyers were looking for an imposing defenseman to come in and, if nothing else, provide some insurance depth should a blue line body go down. Understandable. Beyond Andrew Alberts, the Flyers don't have a guy back there who's looking to take people out, and considering what transpired last year with the injuries to Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn in the playoffs, insurance is good.

But, let's face the facts: Kyle McLaren is nothing more than Mike Rathje, and we all saw how that worked out for the Flyers. I'd feel infinitely more confident inserting Lasse Kukkonen, a guy who can actually skate a little bit, into the lineup should someone go down than the slow-footed McLaren. And hell, I'd have to think there's at least someone in the Phantoms organization that's a better option than McLaren. Either way, this trade getting nixed is a positive in my eyes.

As far as the Flyers themselves are concerned … Saturday's 4-1 win over Nashville was a nice way to rebound after that embarrassment at the hands of the Flames. Sure, the Predators aren't exactly, you know, good, but it was nice to see the Flyers take care of business. Joffrey Lupul deposited two goals, Mike Richards had another tremendous game and newcomer Daniel Carcillo notched an assist and was a +1. Oh yeah, and he fought, which was nice to see.

But, the story of the game was once again Martin Biron, who is officially stating his case to be the Flyers' man in net for the playoffs.

Following his tremendous display in his two periods against Calgary, Biron was fantastic again on Saturday, stopping 31 of 32 shots including a couple of dandies.

I think it's abundantly clear that Biron is the guy in net. He proved last year he's capable of coming up big when it matters, and suddenly, he looks as though he's getting into that groove again.

That was a nice primer before heading out to the Northeast to take in a little fun. And fun I had.

But unbeknownst to me, my alma mater wasn't having such a great time. Remember on Friday when I said Penn State should be getting their dancing shoes ready following the Nittany Lions' second win against Illinois. Yeah, well, scratch that. Turns out, for the second time this school year, Iowa ruined Penn State's season.

I didn't watch a second of this game, but it seems the Lions choked it up just like they did in football against those mother fucking Hawkeyes, this time with a double-overtime 75-67 loss. Apparently, Talor Battle did all he could, scoring 12 straight points in two minutes to keep the Lions in it, but his 26 points and 10 boards weren't enough to prevent Ed DeChellis from failing yet again.

Now, the Lions have had an excellent season, surpassing pretty much any expectations and bringing Penn State back to respectability. But that has been because of Battle, not DeChellis, who is pretty much as incompetent a coach as there is in the country. Get a decent coach in there with Battle doing his thing, and maybe Penn State would become more consistent. And seriously, someone needs to bomb Iowa to prevent the Hawkeyes from continually screwing us over. I fucking hate Iowa. Worthless state with nothing but dishonest jerks.

Now Penn State's gonna have to make a deep run in the Big 10 tournament and get a little help to make the Big Dance. A sixth seed in the Big 10 just isn't going to cut it on its own, nor should it. You lose to Iowa in your last game, and you don't really deserve to make it. That's just the way it is.

The Sixers, on the other hand, did manage to win on Saturday, albeit by just five points against a struggling Memphis squad. Here's the catch—they followed that up by losing to the Thunder without Kevin Durant. That's, as they say, god-fucking-awful.

As the calendar flipped over to 2009, the Sixers were playing some great ball and everyone, myself included, was saying how much better the Sixers are without Elton Brand. And that was and is true: The Sixers have played much, much better without Brand this season. Here's the thing: Better than bad still isn't good. And the Sixers are not a good basketball team. They're not really an awful team either, as the run in January proves, but losing to Oklahoma City this late in the year, with playoff positioning on the line, is not good. At all.

Andre Iguodala, who has had quite the inconsistent year, played his worst game since early in the season last night, scoring just 9 points on 3-11 from the field and 6 turnovers. That's not good for a guy who's supposed to be the man on this team. And that's the problem with the Sixers. They don't have that guy. They don't have a closer, the man who will put the team on his back and will them to victory. Andre Iguodala is getting paid like that guy, but he just isn't that guy. He does a lot of good things on the basketball court and is without question a player anyone would like to have on their team, but he's not a guy you feel confident will get you that bucket you need when you need it.

Andre Miller is probably the closest thing the Sixers have to that, but even when he's carrying the team and making big shots, it never seems like the Sixers can make it over the hump. With last night's loss, the Sixers dropped a game below .500 again, still in 7th place and two games ahead of Chicago, but they look like nothing more than a mediocre team. And as each day passes, the Sixers get closer and closer to facing either Cleveland, Boston or Orlando in the first round, meaning quite a short stay in the playoffs yet again.

It certainly hasn't turned out to be the year the Sixers had hoped.

Luckily, all was not lost yesterday, at least for me. In a fight of good vs. evil, the caretakers of the universe, North Carolina, topped the appropriately named Blue Devils, preventing Satan's minions from disrupting the balance of the Earth. What I'm trying to say is, as I've said before, when Duke loses, the rest of world wins. And yesterday, for the second time this season, Duke lost to North Carolina, giving UNC the outright regular season ACC championship.

Because this photo never gets old

It's pretty easy to say that North Carolina went 2-0 against Duke this season because UNC is simply better than Duke. And that would be true. But there's more to it than that. The Tar Heels are better for two main reasons: balance and versatility.

Take yesterday's game for instance. North Carolina had five players in double digits: Danny Green (12), Tyler Hansbrough (17), Ty Lawson (13), Deon Thompson (14) and Wayne Ellington (16). Duke had just five players in the entire game score, one of which had a measly two points. Contrast that with North Carolina's seven players who made a basket, and you get the idea.

The other thing is, UNC can beat you in different ways. They have guys who can score inside, guys who can score outside, drivers, slashers, shooters, pounders … and a point guard who should be a lock for ACC Player of the Year and be in the discussion for National Player of the Year (although Blake Griffin in a lock for that). On the other side, Duke has to hit the three ball to win, and that's a recipe for disaster come tournament time. You can't be one-dimensional, but beyond Gerald Henderson, Duke doesn't have another player who can get to the basket. The rest of the Dukies, Kyle Singler included, need to be on point from three to beat the top teams. That dependence on the three has been the reason Duke hasn't done jack shit in the tournament for a decade—and it's the reason they won't do jack shit again this year. This makes me very, very happy.

Now, surprisingly, yesterday's game was the most bored I've been in years watching a Duke-Carolina contest. I'm not exactly sure why, but it was. The game just wasn't very exciting. However, I'd like to give a little love to Philly's own Wayne "The Brain" Ellington for putting on quite an impressive showing (free throws aside) yesterday.

Ellington, who's been notorious over the years for coming up small in big games like yesterday's, scored 16 points and did it in impressive fashion. Known as nothing more than a deadly shooter as a freshman, Ellington has improved his ball-handling and aggressiveness attacking the rim over the past two years, and yesterday he used the whole repertoire to get his 16 points. At one point, he crossed up his former high school teammate Henderson badly, getting to the rim for a layup. On another bucket, he crashed the offensive glass on a beautiful putback. He also made a three, a couple short jumpers and a couple layups to account for his 7-10 shooting.

However, the 80-plus percent free throw shooter did go just 1-5 from the foul line, which was driving me nuts. In fact, the Tar Heels went a combined 17-25 from the line, just 68 percent, which was pretty annoying considering UNC is typically an excellent free throw shooting team. But nonetheless, the Tar Heels won the ACC Championship yesterday, giving Danny Green and Tyler Hansbrough a very nice gift in their senior seasons—not to mention two more wins this year against Duke.

It was a damn fine way to wrap up the weekend. Although Flight of the Conchords was pretty week last night, but I digress …

BallHype: hype it up!


  1. so let's hear more about this strip club and these possibly underage females?