Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Park to Start, Jenkins Released, Sheffield on the Way?

Wow, a lot of news coming from Todd Zolecki today:

Ruben Amaro Jr. announced that Chan Ho Park beat J.A. Happ for the fifth starter's job. Happ's fate with the team has not been decided, although Amaro said Happ, Gary Majewski, Jack Taschner and Bobby Mosebach are comepting for two bullpen jobs.

Amaro also said the Phillies have contacted the agent for Gary Sheffield, who the Tigers just released. Sheffield could be a bit now that the Phillies have released Geoff Jenkins.

My initial thoughts? I'd prefer to see Happ as the fifth starter and have Park in the bullpen, seeing as he did such a fine job there last year for the Dodgers, but Park clearly won the job and earned the right to be the fifth guy.

Plus, if it doesn't work out, Park could also be moved the bullpen and Happ (or later in the year, perhaps, Carrasco) can be called upon to fill the role.

It's sad to Geoff Jenkins go. I mean, the guy did have one of biggest pinch hits of all time.

But with the signing of Raul Ibanez and the emergence of Jayson Werth, not to mention Jenkins' struggles last year, the Phillies didn't have much need for Jenkins, especially with Greg Dobbs and Matt Stairs already providing two reliable left-handed bats off the bench. Jenkins was a very likable guy and I've never seen a player as excited as he was when he hit that leadoff double in game 5, part 2. It was a thing of beauty, and I will always remember Jenkins fondly.

And now that Sheffield is available, I'm hoping the Phils can sign him. Word on the street is he'd prefer to stay in the American League, but I'd welcome him to Philadelphia with open arms.

Sure, he's a malcontent from time to time, and he enjoys a little clear steroid cream every now and then, but the guy can hit a baseball. He'd be a perfect addition, providing the Phils with the power right-handed bat they desperately need off the bench. I'm in full support of signing Sheffield, if it happens. Plus, the way he wags the bat back and forth before the pitch is thrown is sweet.

BallHype: hype it up!

Bring It Home for Jerome

Man, I can't wait for Joe Paterno to de-pants Charlie Weiss yet again in the coaching department tonight. Wait, what? Penn State is playing Notre Dame in basketball? Huh. I thought it was some sort of spring football scrimmage or something.

Well, seeing as Villanova and UNC are in the Final Four and playing each other Saturday, it's easy to forget that Penn State is taking on Notre Dame in Madison Square Garden tonight at 9 in the NIT semifinals, but it's true.

I'll be at the Sixers-Hawks games, so I'll most likely miss the first half, but you bet your ass I'll watch the second half, hoping the Nittany Lions can manhandle the Irish the same way Jerome Hayes dominated Notre Dame in 2007:

And please, please let Hayes — my favorite player on Penn State, along with Navorro Bowman — stay healthy in his senior year, preferably returning to the form he showed before the two ACL tears.

BallHype: hype it up!

Maalik Puts on a Show Without Breaking a Sweat

With very little on in the way of actual games last night, it was a chance for most sports-obsessed people to take a night off and watch or do something else. Of course, I didn't because the McDonald's All America Jam Fest was on.

Now, there's no doubt that awesome dunk contest performances only come around once every so often because, quite frankly, just about everything there is to be done has been done. And last night's contest was no match for the epic David Lee-James White showdown, but it was highly entertaining.

First of all, Derrick Favors from South Atlanta, who's headed to Georgia Tech, is clearly a complete freak of nature.

He was doing windmill dunks off of a stand-still, taking no running starts and just throwing it down with authority. Had he just used a little momentum with a running start, he probably could have won the contest, but the way he was making it look so damn easy was incredible. Guess he was named the Naismith Trophy Award Winner for a reason. Without question, he looked like the most intimidating player on the court.

At first glance, Mason Plumlee looks like your average Duke recruit — a clean-cut white boy from Indiana. And upon hearing he enjoys basket weaving, I was prepared to hate his guts and completely question why he was in the dunk contest. And then he threw down a ridiculous two-handed slam on a pass from a friend off the side of the backboard.

It was incredibly impressive, and the kid looks like he's athletic as hell. While I'm sure to hate him once he puts on that Duke uniform, I was stunned at his attempt in the second round. The kid literally tried to dunk three basketballs at once, holding one in each hand, with the third squeezed between them. He didn't make it, but his second attempt he did throw one down. If he had gotten that to go, he would have easily won, and to be honest, I think if given enough time, he could do it.

That was something I've never seen before.

So was the first round dunk by Peyton Siva from Seattle, who's headed to Louisville. In his first attempt, Siva got a helping hand from Philadelphia's own Maalik Wayns. The Roman Catholic senior who is no doubt watching intently as his future school, Villanova, battles in the Final Four, threw a pass off the shot clock, high above the backboard, that Siva caught effortlessly, turned mid-air and threw down on a reverse … on the first try. Perfect pass by Maalik and easily the most exciting dunk of the night.

Siva is only 6'0" but the dude was sick with that dunk. It's a shame he couldn't get enough points on his second attempt to advance.

And while Siva, Plumlee and Favors were all impressive, the judges got it right. Avery Bradley out of Findlay Prep in Nevada was the most consistent and most impressive dunker of the night.

The Texas-bound 6'3" guard had a good variety of dunks, and of course, his height helped him look even more impressive. He threw down a sick windmill with authority, and throughout the competition, he had the most ferocity on his dunks. He was most impressive to say the least.

It was a strong contest overall, as these kids definitely showed some creativity, and I can't wait for the game on Wednesday. However, since YouTube's search isn't working for me this morning and I can't find the video from last night anywhere, I'm offering up a couple dunks Antone kindly posted this morning, one by Jerry Stackhouse and another by Vince Carter:

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, March 30, 2009

Sounds Like Someone Has a Case of the Mondays Links

The older I get, the more I hate Mondays. They are more worthless than Adam Eaton. Oh wait, no they aren't. There is Monday Night Football in the fall after all. But still, Mondays suck.

What doesn't suck, however, is the Flyers reuniting their top two lines. It worked in the third period for Saturday, allowing the Flyers to erase a 2-0 deficit for the shootout victory, and again last night, even though they lost 4-3 to Boston, the Flyers generated 48 shots on Tim Thomas. The only tweak I might add is to put Powe with Giroux and Briere, but I wouldn't mess with Knuble-Richards-Gagne and Hartnell-Carter-Lupul the rest of the year. Oh, but seriously, even more than a defenseman, the Flyers desperately need to find a guy who can win face-offs next year. They suck horribly at them.

And now the links …

-Meech would like to let you all know that Ryan Howard is both dangerous and a beast:

-Seth Curry, going from one school I hate to the school I hate above all others.

-Calipari to Kentucky?

-Chris Paul is crafty:

-Evidently, Andre Iguodala is one of the best players in the NBA at making shots at the end of quarters.

According to Mr. Abbott's research, he's ranked 4th in the league. Although, he suggests that Iguodala falls in the category of a guy who plays alongside a superstar. Um, who exactly is the Sixers' superstar?

-Greg Paulus' "big shots" of the tournament:

Binghamton — Paulus scored five points on a SUNY school that has been Division I for seven years.

* His first bucket — a jumper — came with 12:00 left in the second half, putting the Blue Bloods on top by 20 points, 64-42.
* His second bucket came from behind the arc, giving Dook a 30-point lead, 83-53, with 3:35 left in regulation.

Texas — Paulus played a total of two minutes, failing to notch a single statistic.

Villanova — Paulus had quite the swan song effort, registering one more foul (4) than points (3).

* Greg’s final basket in a white collar uniform came with 15:45 left in regulation. He knocked down a 3-pointer off an assist from closet meth addict Greg Scheyer, cutting Nova’s lead to 38-29.

If Duke had stormed back behind their formerly proud leader, it would have been classified as a “big shot.”

Instead, Nova went on an 11-4 run and stretched their lead to 16 points. The surge — which lasted a little over four minutes — was aided by two Paulus turnovers and a personal foul.

At the tail end of the game, Paulus was subbed out. As he walked off the court, there was a noticeable emotional hum crooning from my TV set. It was apparent that the collective Duke fan base had transplanted the hearts of a million soccer moms into their chests. Teammates stood up and clapped, engulfing Paulus as he walked off.

The senior point guard, who had played 39 minutes in a win over Indiana a mere seven games into his freshman year, returned to the bench after playing a combined 41 minutes in the last seven games of his career.

-Who you got: Metallica or the coaches?

My money's on Bobby Knight and company.

-The Angry T provides the 10 girliest fights in sports history, topped by former Sixer Rick Mahorn, and the 11 worst sports-related video games, with Charles Barkley making an appearance:

-Nice little brawl between the Canucks and Blackhawks:

-He's back:

-The McDonald's All-American Jam Fest is tonight.

Seriously, this week needs to get over with fast.

BallHype: hype it up!

The Shot Heard Round the Main Line

Really, is there anything to add to this?

Maybe not, but I'm going to throw in my 2 cents anyway. As you may very well know, I'm a man who has chastised Scottie Reynolds perhaps more than anyone. At times, he's a terrible decision maker, a streaky shooter and a player that can disappear for long stretches of time. Having that said that, there aren't many players in the nation with as much confidence in themselves as Scottie Reynolds has in himself, and when push comes to shove, he's a player you'd love to have on your team.

Sure, he only shot 4-11 on Saturday, but he went 7-7 from the line, scored 15 points, and oh by the way, hit the biggest shot for Villanova in the past 20-plus years. For all the shit I've given him, I have to admit, Villanova would be nowhere as good a team without him. As Jay Wright said, Scottie's won a lot of games for Villanova.

Oh and to that anonymous commenter who claims Jon Scheyer is better than Scottie Reynolds, uh, when's the last time Scheyer hit a game-winning shot to send his team to the Final Four? Oh yeah, never. In his last game, Scheyer went 3-18 and looked awful as his team got blown out. Scottie meanwhile scored 15 points in his last game and led his team to Detroit. Enough said.

Now Villanova takes on North Carolina for a chance to play in the title game, and this one's going to be a battle. No one is playing better than Ty Lawson right now, and the Tar Heels have had a relatively easy time getting this far. However, no one is playing any better team defense than Nova right now, so this one should be a doozy. Oh, and so no one can accuse me of fence-sitting, I'm openly going to be rooting for Carolina in the game, just as did in the infamous Allen Ray "walk" game. Feel free to attack me for doing so, but as I've stated before, I root for all Big 5 teams, but Temple is my No. 1 college basketball team and UNC is 1A. That's just the way it is.

But no matter who wins, I thoroughly look forward to this game. Is it Saturday yet?

What? It's only Monday? Fuck.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, March 27, 2009

That was Sweet, but, uh, Did the Plane Go Down?

Yesterday, I pleaded with Villanova to destroy Duke. Clearly Jay Wright and company read the site, because that's exactly what the Wildcats did with a demonstrative 77-54 win. But the real question is, did Duke's plane crash? That would just be the icing on the cake. Anyway, first the highlights:

If there was one prevailing theme in this game, it was without question Villanova's defense. It was just incredible. Duke never had a chance, and the Wildcats' defense was the reason. Without question, it was the most dominant defensive performance by Nova all year long. Those deadly three-point faggots shooters from Duke went a combined 5-27 from three, 18.5%, because every single shot was contested, if not blocked.

As I've been trying to tell people all year long, Gerald Henderson is the most overrated player in the country. Sure, the guy can jump through the roof, but he can't dribble, can't shoot and is only an average defender. Basically, he's Andre Iguodala without the great defense, or as much speed. Only worse than that. Just look at his performance last night: 1-14 from the field for 7 points in the biggest game of his life. Sounds like a stud to me.

See those two guys up there? They're the major reason Henderson couldn't do jack shit. Reggie Redding guarded the Episcopal Academy grad most of the game, and he certainly got the best of Henderson. Redding has been a guy that I sort of hounded early in the year, but man, he's turned into a very good player and one hell of a defender. And last night was his best defensive performance of them all. Ditto Dwayne Anderson, who often nabbed Henderson on switches or when Redding was getting a breather.

Bottom line is Redding and Anderson were physical with Henderson, quick enough to stay with him and athletic enough to deny him. They played the type of defense a guy like Gerald Henderson can expect to see in the NBA. And Henderson wasn't ready for it. He is a fine player, but people drooling over him need to realize he isn't good enough right now to take on NBA-caliber defense night in and night out. Hell, Redding and Anderson are far from pro prospects, and they shut him down easily.

I'd also like to point out how much Jon Scheyer and Greg Paulus suck. Literally, those two aren't better than a single one of Nova's regulars, yet Paulus started at Duke for three years before Coach K. finally realized he sucked this year, and Scheyer still is a starter there.

The two of them didn't stand a chance against Villanova, evident by Scheyer's impressive 3-18 shooting performance and Paulus' cameo in the second half where he managed to pick up 4 fouls in 10 minutes and turn the ball twice, in horrible fashion.

But enough about Duke. Let's take a look at Nova. Man, this team looks good right now. Scary good. After getting a little scare in the first round against American, the Wildcats completely undressed both UCLA and Duke. Their defense over the past two games has been ridiculous, especially last night. Going against a lethal shooting team, Nova held Duke to 26.7% shooting, outrebounded the Blue Devils 46-32, and played calmly on offense to get their buckets.

Dante Cunningham was too much for Duke to handle down low. Reggie Redding did a little bit of everything, and even with a quiet game, Scottie Reynolds led all scorers with 16 points.

Corey Fisher provided energy. Shane Clark added a big three-point play and played his usual tough style. And everyone, from Dwayne Anderson to Corey Stokes to Antonio Pena had a hand in the victory. Nova simply had too many athletes for the most overhyped program in sports to handle. Besides Gerald Henderson, I don't think there's a Blue Devil who could hang with a single Wildcat last night. Sure, Elliot Williams had a nice dunk, but he didn't do anything else. And Nolan Smith is supposed to be a stud, but he hasn't shown it his freshman year.

Meanwhile, Villanova, a team that absolutely no one expected to get this far back in December, when they couldn't buy a win over a ranked opponent, is playing as well as anyone in the country. With no certifiable superstar, it seems improbable ... until you look at this team. Scottie Reynolds, for all his faults (and he has plenty), is a talented point guard who can go off at any minute.

He should be a better player than he is by now, and I'm getting sick and tired of the excuses thrown out by the local media saying Scottie has improved -- he hasn't. But he still is a good player that makes clutch free throws and has the potential to go off at any moment.

Dante Cunningham is the most improved player in the Big East and easily Nova's best player. He can bang down low, yet shoot with deadly accuracy from 18 feet. He has quick feet and great power, making him a nightmare matchup for anyone. Reggie Redding and Dwayne Anderson are the defensive studs who are capable of scoring; Shane Clark will rebound and battle and, occasionally, get you some buckets; Corey Fisher is the sixth man of the year and an explosive, exciting fireplug off the bench; Corey Stokes can flat out stroke it; and Antonio Pena can give quality minutes inside. Basically, Nova is a complete team.

Sure, they don't have great size up front, but they do have good size across the board. They play hounding, relentless defense. They can score inside and out. And the Wildcats make their free throws, something that's huge this time of year. And now they take on Pitt for a chance to go to the Final Four.

If they play like they did at the Spectrum, they certainly can beat Pitt again. The unnerving thing for Nova is that Pitt hasn't played its best game yet and the Panthers are still in the Elite 8. But if Nova plays as it has the last two games, or as it did last time it faced Pitt, they'll stand a better than good chance at getting to the Final Four.

Let's Go Nova!

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

I Hate Duke and I Hate All of You … Links Edition

If you haven't gathered, I hate Duke. A lot. Like, as much as I hate Dallas, New York, Michigan, you get the idea. And when Duke is taking on a team from this area, the hatred grows even stronger. So tonight, I'm begging Villanova, Scottie Reynolds especially, to show up and play an even better game than they did against UCLA, which would ensure victory.

I want to see the same hard fouls the Wildcats bestowed on UCLA … only harder. I want Dwayne Anderson and Reggie Redding to rip Gerald Henderson's throat out. I want Corey Fisher and Scottie Reynolds to torch those stupid, ugly, douchey faces of Jon Scheyer and Greg Paulus.

I want Dante Cunningham to eat Brian Zoubek's and Kyle Singler's faces. And I want Nova to destroy Duke, then have the Blue Devils' plane to go down on the flight home after their loss, preferably crashing right into Cameron Indoor. I don't think that's asking for too much. Now let's link.

-Absolutely incredible Q&A with World B. Free.

K1X: What about your own quote, “passes don’t get paid”?

FREE: Uhh, I got that from Fred Carter. When I was a rookie he came to me and said, “Rook, let me tell you something: In this League, passes don’t get paid. Passes do not get paid.” And that stuck with me as soon as I stepped on the basketball court. It wasn’t my own theory, though. I got it from a veteran. There could be five guys open and he would still not pass it to you. [Laughs]

-Happy Birthday, Harry K.

Whitey is wishing you a great day from above as well. I just know it.

-David Price, minor-leaguer.

-Yes, yes, Duke losing would be sweet.

-Looks as though Lance Stephenson is heading to Kansas, via The Big Lead.

I got to see Lance Stephenson play on TV once this year, and he was amazing. Oh, and I saw him as a 15-year-old in "Gunnin' for That #1 Spot" and he was nasty back then.

-Remember the Professor? Well, here he is with an insane trick shot, that may or may not be real:

-Hilarious "interview" with Jim Calhoun and The Suave:

-Mike Kern has a good article on Nova.

-MJD breaks down the new NFL rules.

-Hey, tonight is Scott Hartnell wig night.

And yes, Mike Richards is absolutely a star. At the very least, he's one of the best players in hockey.

-And more from Puck Daddy: the top 10 goalies gone wild moments:

Of course Hextall made it, but check out Biron fight Ray Emery. Who knew? And that Garth Snow vs. the Sabres … could that be when Matthew Barnaby faked injury and Snow went to check on him then got jumped by Barnaby? I hope so, that was great. And shit, even Neil Little is on there. Apparently, Philadelphia has had goalies with anger issues or something.

-The McDonald's All-American festivities are just a week away.

Villanova-bound Roman Catholic senior Maalik Wayns will be playing.

-Best announcing teams never heard, and I agree with most of them. Of course, I'd have Merrill and Harry Kalas in there somewhere.

-Shoals offers up some video of Wilt:

-This is why cops get shot:

Moats was speeding towards the hospital with his wife in tow and at one point even threw his flashers on driving through a red light in an effort to make it to the hospital in time to say his final farewells and that is when he caught the attention of one Dallas police officer who finally pulled him over in the hospital parking lot. Moats' wife ran into the hospital, disregarding the officer, while Moats himself was pleading to the cop to let him go to his dying mother in law, all while being ignored. He never got to see her before she died.

-Penn State will take on Notre Dame in the NIT semis. When one blogger looks at Luke Harangody, all he sees is Officer Farva.

Yeah, he looks like he needs a liter o cola to me.

-The MVP candidates, in video form:

That is all.

Fuck Duke! Let's go Nova!

BallHype: hype it up!

Who's Your Thadde?

Thanks for the headline Joltin' Joe

I'm not sure if you're aware of this or not, but Thaddeus young is officially becoming a stud in the NBA. Just a complete stud. Last night, for the fifth straight game, Thad scored at least 22 points, leading everyone with 29 points in the Sixers' 96-88 win. The most telling statistic was Thad's 14 trips to the free throw line, making 11 of them, both career highs. Those 14 foul shots exemplify the current tear Thaddeus is on — right now, the youngest Sixer is playing more aggressive than he ever has.

Last night, there wasn't a Timberwolves player that could stay with him. He was the best player on the floor from start to finish, and his emphatic dunk to close the game was a statement: My time has come.

Throwing out the first two games of March, where Thad scored just 11 points against the Hornets and 14 against Memphis, Young is averaging 23.3 points per game and 17.1 shot attempts a game this month.That's a young man with growing confidence and a growing game.

No longer is he deferring to his older teammates, giving way to Andre Iguodala. Sure, Iggy may be getting paid like the man, and Andre Miller may be the one running the show, but Thaddeus has suddenly emerged as the best player for the Sixers heading down the stretch.

In the past 10 games, Young has scored 20 or more eight times, including a career-high 29 against Toronto followed by another career-high against the Bulls in the final game at the Spectrum, where he scored 31. In the past five games, Thad has scored 23 against Phoenix, 23 vs. Golden State, 22 at Sacramento, 25 in Portland and then 29 last night, and in those games, he hasn't taken less than 15 shots in any of them.

Oh, and the Sixers went 3-2 in those games and are 8-4 in the month of March, with Thad bringing his game to new heights. Now, with three straight wins, the Sixers are 37-33, good for sixth in the East, and only a half game behind the Heat. And Thad's been the biggest reason.

Say what you want about the decision to fire Maurice Cheeks and replace him with Tony DiLeo, but the decision has paid off.

I mean, how many times did we hear Mo say the Sixers didn't run any plays for Young, he was just getting them on his own? A thousand? A million? Well, Tony DiLeo hasn't necessarily run plays for Thad, but he's clearly made a conscious effort to run the offense through Young at times, something Cheeks never did and never seemed interested in doing. That, if for no other reason, justifies Cheeks' dismissal as coach. If he was so blind that he couldn't see what Thad could become given some touches, then he didn't deserve to be manning the Sixers' sidelines.

Just look at the results. Under DiLeo, Thad has flourished, and now he's becoming the best player on the team. All he needed was a chance. And with Elton Brand out and Cheeks gone, Thad has gotten that chance. Now he's making the most of it.

Admittedly, I was one of the detractors when the Sixers drafted Young. I wanted Al Thornton from Florida State, not some freshman out of Georgia Tech that I barely even watched play. But boy was I wrong. Chalk one up for Billy King there. About time he got one right.

I've never been more happy to be wrong about a player. Now, without question, Thaddeus Young is my favorite 76er (well, him and Theo), and the way he's been playing, he's also the best 76er.

BallHype: hype it up!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Going to the Garden

So did anyone happen to catch the NIT match-up between No. 1 seed Florida and my alma mater, 2 seed Penn State? I know Black Shoes Diaries did:

This team doesn't know when to quit. They don't understand that they are supposed to be slow and nonathletic. They don't understand they are hurt and tired. They don't understand that Penn State basketball was supposed to end their season two months ago so as not to take attention away from spring practice in football. They don't understand that they aren't supposed to go into Florida and beat the team that won back-to-back national championships a few years ago by nine points. They don't understand that when you choke a ten point lead away into a two point lead in the final minutes in a hostile environment you are supposed to roll over and die.

But this team does understand two things. They understand that nobody believes in them, and they understand that they hate to lose.

And one man in particular wasn't prepared to lose, wasn't prepared to end his collegiate basketball career.

Last night, Jamelle Cornley was a certifiable beast. 23 points. 12 rebounds. 11 of 14 from the field. And a steal and two assists for good measure. In Florida. Against the Gators.

Sure, it's just the NIT, and no one really remembers who wins the damn thing, but as my roommate said last night, only two teams get to call themselves champions at the end of the year. Penn State has a chance to be one of them.

That's pretty impressive no matter how you slice it. Sure, the goal is to get to the big dance, but for Penn State, a program that has been virtually nonexistent save for a rare tournament appearance here and there, it's big. The team gets notoriety, recognition and, more importantly for a team as young as the Nittany Lions, confidence. With sophomore stud Talor Battle, fellow sophomores David Jackson, Jeff Brooks and Andrew Jones, not to mention talented freshman Chris Babb, gaining this experience, there's reason for optimism in Happy Valley.

But last night was about the seniors: Jamelle Cornley, Stanley Pringle, and yes, even Danny Morrissey. Pringle didn't have his best game, but he scored 15 points on five three pointers — all of them big — and added 5 boards, 4 assists and even a block. Morrissey, for a player who has tremendous inadequacies and seemingly has overstayed his welcome at Penn State, did make a key three in the game and didn't fuck things up.

But it was Cornley who stole the show.

Plain and simple, the Gators had absolutely no answer for the man who looks a lot more like a football player than a basketball player. But make no mistake about it, Jamelle Cornley can ball. He's a beast inside, a strong rebounder and a player who has extended his range each and every year. He's a warrior, as last night showed, playing with an injured left shoulder, and he really is the leader on Penn State's young squad.

It's really a shame the 6'5" 240-pounder doesn't have another 4 or 5 or 6 inches of height or so, because if he did, there's a good chance he'd be playing in the NBA some day. He has that type of game. But then again, if he was 6'10" or 6'11", he probably wouldn't be at Penn State.

No matter. What matters is that Jamelle Cornley, disappointed by his failure to reach an NCAA Tournament during his four years at Penn State, simply isn't ready to be finished. He could have put his down and not shown up. Hell, he could have used the injury as an excuse to call it quits. But that's the type of player, the type of person Jamelle Cornley is. He wants to keep playing. He wants to go out a winner. Because after three long season of losing, Jamelle Cornley and his teammates "understand that they hate to lose."

BallHype: hype it up!

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Public Service Announcement

Friend of this site, Antone, does a hell of a fine job on the Internet, dropping his knowledge, but his blatant disrespect of the Phillies in his baseball previews/predictions post deserves to be scolded. Really, you wouldn't be surprised if the Braves finished ahead of the Phillies?

Well, for people of Antone's beliefs, my friend Chase Utley would like to remind you who the World Fucking Champions are:

So keep on picking the Mets and Braves and Marlins. The road to the World Series goes through Philadelphia this year.

BallHype: hype it up!

Gotta Support the Team

Oh, how sweet it is to beat the Devils. There is no team in my lifetime that has single-handedly tormented one of my favorite teams more than the Devils. Not even Michigan. I hate the Devils. I hate them so very much. But the hatred isn't as loud or obnoxious as it is for Pittsburgh or New York or even Washington. Why? Because, besides David Puddy, there's no such thing as a Devils fan.

And that makes me hate the team that much more. All they do is win. And win. And win. Even if nobody is watching. And they do the vast majority of that winning against the Flyers. In fact, the all-time leader in wins for a goalie, Martin Brodeur, has more wins against the Flyers than any other team.

It's been infuriating watching the Devils own the Flyers. So when a 4-2 victory against the Devils occurs, highlighted by 3 power play goals, it's always fun. After a brutal stretch of games, the Flyers have come out unscathed, sitting pretty in the 4th spot in the East at 90 points and still 10 more games to play. Matt P. broke down the Flyers' current state quite well, touching on the new lines, the resurgence of Danny Briere and the power play, and taking on rivals like Pittsburgh and New Jersey.

I would like to wholeheartedly agree with him on the play of Briere. Like Matt P. said, Briere needed some time to get back into the swing of things, and now that he's healthy, he's becoming a real difference maker, especially on the power play. A healthy Danny Briere is a damn good hockey player, and he's healthy at the right time now.

But I'll let Matt P. finish his own thoughts there. Go check it out. I'd like to point to three Flyers that I feel have really been key. First and foremost is the play of Martin Biron. As great as it is to have balanced lines and Briere returning, Matt P. failed to mention that in the brutal stretch where the Flyers took on the league's elite, Biron was the best player on the ice almost every night.

Last night against the Devils was no exception. Biron faced 32 34 shots and stopped 34 32 of them. And the two he let through, he had no shot at. Basically since the new year, Biron has elevated his game right back to where he was last postseason. Lest we forget, there were people honestly questioning, yet again, whether or not he really deserved to be the No. 1. Antero Niittymaki was playing well and nipping at Biron's heels, but the veteran netminder has done exactly what he did last year. When the Flyers needed a guy to stand up in net and take off, Biron answered the bell. He is the goaltender for this team, and if he plays like he has been recently, and like he did last playoffs, he is absolutely good enough to win a Cup with. Marty is the man right now.

But in order to hoist the Stanley Cup, the Flyers are going to have to take a serious look at themselves in the mirror and admit they have a problem. The Flyers take entirely too many penalties for a team that has aspirations of hoisting the greatest trophy in sports. And I don't want to hear about the referees' biases toward Philadelphia or any of that crap. Watch a game, like last night's, and count how many stupid, legitimate penalties the Flyers take.

The Flyers were penalized 11 times last night, putting the Devils on the power play 7 times. And that's been a common trend for the Flyers. I know last night, and against Pittsburgh, and really all season, the Flyers have been incredible on the penalty kill. They're one of the best teams in hockey shorthanded, giving up few goals and even posing offensive threats on the opposition.

But in the playoffs, you can't take too many penalties. Every little detail matters, and continuing to put yourself a man down, against the top teams in the league, is a recipe for disaster. Players like Scott Hartnell, Daniel Carcillo and Matt Carle, really the Flyers as a whole, need to be more disciplined. You can't expect to give the opposition 5, 6, 7, 8 power plays a game in the playoffs and win. If they don't cut down on that by the time April rolls around, you won't have to worry about Detroit or San Jose; the Flyers won't get that far hanging out in the box.

Maybe this isn't the best time to be bringing this up, seeing as the Flyers are playing extremely well, so let's get back to the positive. As I stated before, Claude Giroux is my favorite Flyer. Sure, I love Mike Richards and Jeff Carter and Knuble and Gagne and all the rest as much as everyone, but Giroux is my guy. And man, oh man, is he making me look like a genius for choosing him.

Giroux is a magician with the puck. When he's on the ice, it seems as though he's moving at full speed and the rest of the players are going in slow motion. He seems to have the puck on a string, toying with defenders, and his passing acumen is second to none. Really. Just check out his pass on Gagne's goal:

That's just filthy. The kid is amazing. Admittedly, I was apprehensive about shuffling the lines, and I still sorta am, but having Giroux center Knuble and Gagne has been exciting. Gagne and Giroux already look as though they have great chemistry, and the other lines have continued to play well even with the reshuffling. As sad as it was to see Scottie Upshall go, I'm sure as shit glad that Claude Giroux is getting more and more ice time.

Of course, not as much ice time as Kimmo Timonen. I've said it before and I'll say it again: Kimmo Timonen is as good as any defenseman in the National Hockey League. Any one of them. Maybe he won't put up the same numbers, but the man just notched his seventh straight 40-point season with two assists last night, including this beauty of a pass to Briere:

But more important than that, Timonen is the definition of a shutdown defenseman. He hounds the opposition's top line, top players, and gives them nothing. He sacrifices his body, blocking more shots than you can imagine. He quarterbacks the power play, anchors the penalty kill, organizes the rush, moves the puck well, skates, hits, takes the hit to make the plays, and never seems to make a mistake.

Mike Richards is the Flyers' captain the most complete forward. Simon Gagne is the best sniper, Jeff Carter the best scorer. Daniel Briere and Claude Giroux are the best playmakers, Scott Hartnell and Daniel Carcillo the best agitators, Lupul and Knuble the best players along the boards. Braydon Coburn is the fastest defensemen, Matt Carle the most offensively talented, Andrew Alberts the biggest, Randy Jones the quietest. But Kimmo Timonen is the most important. The best.

And that's saying a lot for a team with as much talent and depth as the Flyers. This team is playing incredible right now, and they provide plenty of reasons to be excited. Let's just hope they can stay out of the box, stay healthy, and stay hot.

BallHype: hype it up!

Monday, March 23, 2009

Moonshine and Links

As you know, Friday was my birthday, and I have to say, it was quite a good time. After watching Temple lose because no one but Dionte decided to show up on offense, Toonces headed toward my house bearing gifts:

Yeah, tequila and moonshine. Well, we decided to leave the tequila alone and focus on the moonshine and some beers. Let me tell you something, if you've never had moonshine before, it's fantastic. You get plastered drunk and don't even realize it. After killing the jar of toxic moonshine and downing quite a few beers, we headed out to the bars, where we took more shots, drank more beers and watched the thrilling tournament games. Also, apparently I was causing quite a few problems in my drunken state. Blame it on the moonshine.

Anyway, it was a grand old night, and not a bad weekend. Nova looked great. Temple not so much. The Flyers beat the Penguins. The Sixers won. Things went well all in all, especially the save by Marty Biron about 2:06 in:

Since you all saw all the games, I don't have much more to say. So I link ...

-It's almost baseball season, which means The Fightins is in full swing: Sarge Matthews has his own hat line coming out, and Jimmy does a Charlie impression:

-Kendrick and Marson were optioned to the minors.

-Shawn Bradley "highlight" reels, via Deadspin:

-Take that, Ohio State:

-People should get off Iverson's back, like Shoals says.

If the man says he's hurt, he's hurt.

-Wide receivers are dumb, quarterbacks smart.

-Ricky Rubio may or may not be entering the NBA draft.

-Les Bowen has a very nice article on Eagles cornerback and former Wisconsin star Jack Ikegwuonu, and it sounds like Ikegwuonu is handling his situation well.

"I feel like it wouldn't be fair to the coaches to say that I'm a rookie,'' he said. "Just going through those meetings, listening, breaking down film - you've got to learn something. If you're not learning something, you're not paying attention and you're not doing your job. I definitely learned a lot. I learned a lot about the defense, and about the complexity of the defense. I know what [defensive coordinator] Jim Johnson expects."

The biggest thing Ikegwuonu learned had nothing to do with coverages, though, he said.

"Just learning about how to be a professional - what it means to be in the National Football League . . . You have to completely change the way you act, from what you put into your mouth to how you spend every minute of the day, whether you're at the facility or not," Ikegwuonu said. "I think the biggest thing that separates people who play this game in the National Football League is what you do when you're not at the complex, when the coaches aren't watching. That's really what a true professional is judged on."

As a Penn State fan, I got to watch Ikegwuonu in college, and the guy was a stud. If he is recovered fully from his ACL injury and can play anywhere up to his pre-injury potential, he'll become a really good corner in this league.

-Remember Danny Briere? Well, for his role in the Flyers' 6-4 Friday, he was named Puck Daddy's first star:

No. 1 Star: Danny Briere, Philadelphia Flyers

Mocked all year for an ineffective and injury-plagued season -- and booed mercilessly by Buffalo Sabres fans -- Danny Briere was the difference for the Flyers in their 6-4 victory. Elevated from a fourth line assignment to a line with Jeff Carter and Scott Hartnell, Briere scored two second-period goals to spark a Philly rally: a rebound slap shot past Patrick Lalime (25 saves) to tie the game and then a slapper from the slot to give the Flyers the lead and the momentum.

-Gilbert Arenas may or may not be returning Saturday.

-Is Ben Woodside an NBA player? I don't know, but he sure as shit looked like one against Kansas.

Oh, and I hear Curt Schilling retired. That guy was all right with me. I always wanted to wear a towel over my head when Mitch Williams was pitching too.

BallHype: hype it up!

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's Friday, Time to Dance

So today is my birthday. It's also the first day of spring and the first Friday of the NCAA Tournament, meaning my birthday is the shit. After much debate, I decided to take the day off just as I did last year, when my birthday was on the first day of the tournament. Therefore, I'm going to be sitting on my ass all day, watching basketball, specifically Temple, and getting drunk off my ass. Sounds like the perfect day.

So, today, this all you get: Danny Green dancing his heart out.

Now stop reading stuff and go watch the tournament. Idiots.

BallHype: hype it up!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Let the Madness Begin

Here I am at work, against my will, as the most glorious of events begins — the NCAA Tournament. Nothing, I mean nothing, can beat the four-day excursion that is the first tournament weekend. It's fantastic. Basketball beginning just after noon and ending in the wee hours of the night. It doesn't get any better than that.

But you know what sucks? I have to work. And that's bullshit. Let's face the facts people, I'm not going to be very productive at work. I'll be watching the games on CBSsports.com because that site is the shit, and I'll be grumpy that I'm not sitting on my couch, relaxing and enjoying the show. It's 2009. Haven't we realized by now that it would be best to make the first Thursday and Friday of the tournament national holidays? It only makes sense. Get with the times, America. What better way to cheer up a country in economic shambles than by letting everyone play hooky for two days to enjoy some of the most exciting basketball they'll ever witness in their lives?

I guess I'm fighting a losing battle with my crusade, but I won't stop until I'm dead. This needs to be rectified. And seeing as tomorrow is my birthday, I may just fake illness or put in for a half day so I can enjoy myself the way I should: by sitting on my ass, drinking beer and watching the tournament.

Frankly, I'm restless already. I want the games to start. Now. In fact, this morning, the first thing I did was sign up for another bracket, and for the first time in literally more than a decade, I decided to fill out an alternate bracket — one with some very different outcomes. More than likely, I will severely screw up on both of them.

Here is my main final four and champion, followed by my alternate picks:

Louisville, Memphis, Pitt, UNC — UNC beating Louisville in title game
Louisville, Memphis, Pitt, Oklahoma — Memphis beating Oklahoma in title game

And to be honest, I'll have my eyes glued to the television from the moment I get home until the moment the last game ends, keeping especially close tabs on the Nova game at 7:20 tonight and anticipating the Temple game at 2:45 tomorrow.

Now, I'd like to say, my five favorite college basketball teams of all time have not lived up to expectations. Not a single one of them. That's really sad. Those teams are as follows, in chronological order:

1994-95 North Carolina Tar Heels, 1995-96 Villanova Wildcats, 1997-98 North Carolina Tar Heels, 1999-2000 Temple Owls and 2003-04 St. Joe's Hawks

The 94-95 Tar Heels were a stacked squad led by Rasheed Wallace, Jerry Stackhouse, Jeff McInnis, Dante Calabria and Serge Zwikker.

It was a team that had it all. The National Player of the Year, Jerry Stackhouse; Philly's own beast on the blocks Rasheed Wallace; the deadly three-point shooting of Dante Calabria, the do-it-all Jeff McInnis and the big white stiff that paid homage to Eric Montross, Serge Zwikker. Oh, and they had a pretty good coach too. Some guy named Dean Smith.

Well, just two short years after George Lynch led the Tar Heels to the national title, I was certain UNC, even with a No. 2 seed, was going to win it all. How could they not? Sheed and Stack were the best duo in all the land, and the pieces around them were serviceable. UNC absolutely made its run, topping Murray St. in the first round, then Iowa St., then Georgetown and found itself in the elite 8 against the No. 1 seeded Kentucky Wildcats.

And the Cats were no joke. With the likes of Tony Delk, Walter McCarty, Jeff Sheppard, Antoine Walker and a freshman named Scott Padgett (who I'm pretty sure played 15 years at Kentucky), Kentucky and coach Rick Pitino were the real deal. The winner of this game, many thought, had the title all but locked up. When UNC won by 13 to get to the Final Four, I was ready to witness another title for Dean and celebrate with a team I followed since I was six years old.

But it was not to be. Nolan Richardson's Arkansas team put North Carolina through 40 minutes of hell, and my hopes were crushed … and at the same time, the Flyers, Sixers, Eagles and Phillies were not so good. Ugh.

That was the start of my college basketball disappointment, and it didn't take long to have that feeling again. In fact, it happened the very next season. Villanova, led by Kerry Kittles and Jason Lawson, were the toast of the town in 1996.

Steve Lapas, he of the buck teeth and stupid face, guided Nova to a three seed, and the Wildcats demolished Portland in the first round. With the inside-outside combo of Lawson and Kittles, it looked as though Nova was poised to go deep in the tourney. And then Lousiville happened. The Cardinals edged out Nova in the second round, and Steve Lapas' career never recovered. For a long time, neither did Villanova.

Two years later, the most exciting college basketball team I can remember following showed up. The 1997-98 Tar Heels were one of the most loaded squads ever. Led by Dean Smith understudy Bill Guthridge, Vince Carter, Ed Cota, Brendan Haywood, Makhtar Ndiaye, Ademola Okulaja, Shammond Williams and National Player of the Year Antawn Jamison ran roughshod through the country, heading into the tournament with the No. 1 overall seed at 30-3.

I mean, this team was scary good. Even scarier than the 94-95 one. In fact, a lot scarier. And there was no team that was more fun to watch. Jamison, with his lightning quick release, dominated everyone down low. Vince was the most athletic player in the country, throwing down thunderous, crowd-rousing slams that he became known for. Ed Cota and Shammond Williams provided calm, steady backcourt play, with Cota running the show and Williams doing a little scoring, a little passing. Haywood and Ndiaye banged down low and protected Jamison. And Okulaja was the lock-down defender every national champ needs.

This team was going to win it all, no doubt. The Tar Heels cruised right through to the final four, topping Navy by 36, then Charlotte by 10, Michigan St. by 15 and UConn by 11. Then the final four happened. Utah, led by none other than current Sixers point guard Andre Miller, the big white man with the jump shot, Michael Doleac, and the annoyingly efficient Hanno Mottola.

Andre and company knocked off the heavily favored Tar Heels by 6, and I never imagined I'd ever like a player from Utah. But Andre Miller is pretty damn good and plays for the Sixers, so I like him. But I hate what he had to do to the Heels back then. The ride was over for the most fun team of my lifetime.

While I've certainly grown up rooting for the Tar Heels passionately, my favorite basketball team in the land is Temple, mainly because John Chaney is my favorite coach ever.

Chaney is a coaching icon and a Philadelphia treasure. Some accused him of being overly grouchy, a coach who couldn't develop big men and even some have accused him of being a racist. I simply saw John Chaney as one the best basketball coaches I've ever laid eyes on and a defensive genius.

In 1999-2000, Chaney had perhaps his best team since the tandem of Eddie Jones and Aaron McKie. With Lamont Barnes, Lynn Greer, Mark Karcher, Kevin Lyde, Juan Pepe Sanchez and Quincy Wadley, the Owls were a rugged defensive team with versatility all over the place.

Temple had a fabulous year, earning a No. 2 in the NCAA tournament, and with the way Temple played D and took care of the basketball, they were a threat to make it to the Final Four and beyond. Certainly, Duke, No. 1 in Temple's bracket, had their eyes on the Owls, and for good reason. Pepe ran the team brilliantly, and his senior leadership, along with fellow seniors Barnes and Wadley, provided Temple with stability. Mark Karcher was having a breakout year and had visions of the NBA. Kevin Lyde showed promise as a young big man, and Lynn Greer could hit a shot from anywhere on the floor at any time. Add in the tremendous defense of Sanchez, Wadley and Barnes, along with that hounding zone, and Temple was creating a lot of buzz.

They took care of business rather easily in the first round … but it was the only win Temple had in the tournament. Somehow, some way, the Owls lost in the second round to 10 seed Seton Hall by 2 points. It was the most damaging loss I can ever remember for a team I root for in college basketball. I mean, it was just devastating. There was no doubt in my mind that Temple could have beaten Duke, or anybody else for that matter, that season. Yet they couldn't even get to the second weekend.

I almost cried.

And then there was that little school on City Ave who had a magical run in the 2003-04 season. Phil Martelli's squad that year was led by the best backcourt in the country, seniors Jameer Nelson and Delonte West. West was deadly, and he's proving his worth in the NBA. And Jameer, for an undersized guard out of Chester, had perhaps the best season I've ever seen a guard have in college basketball, rightfully winning the National Player of the year.

The Hawks ran through the regular season undefeated and earned a No. 1 seed in the tourney. They demolished Liberty, took care of Texas Tech and edged out Wake, heading to the Elite 8 to take on Oklahoma St. Surely the Hawks would advance, get to the Final Four with the likes of UConn, Duke, Georgia Tech. After all, Delonte and Jameer had been brilliant, and the national media was for the first time in my memory swarming Hawk Hill. The excitement was everywhere. Everyone in the city, even Villanova faithful, was pulling for Jameer and company. The Hawks had Philadelphia's heart, and the championship-starved city hoped and prayed St. Joe's just may give them a reason to celebrate.

But then, John Lucas happened. He hit the shot that put the dagger in St. Joe's heart. No Final Four. No title. No fun.

It was a painful letdown, especially seeing as the Hawks had a chance to tie it up with the ball in the National Player of the Year's hands. That season, Jameer had hit that jump shot inside the key probably a hundred times. The exact same shot. When it left his hands, I knew it was going in. Only this time it didn't. For the first time all year, Jameer couldn't make the big shot to win the game. And it was stunning, and painful. Just like all the rest.

This year, I'll be pulling for Temple and Villanova and UNC again. More likely than not, I'll be let down, I'll feel hurt. But one thing's for sure, I have to watch. Because even when my teams let me down, the tournament never does.

BallHype: hype it up!