Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Anybody Want the Job?

It's a funny little tradition in the sports world. Whenever a coaching vacancy opens up, a list of "possible candidates" hits the streets almost immediately. The newspaper and radio guys peruse the rest of the league and figure out which coordinators led their units to strong years. The media also likes to look back and try to figure out what position coaches in the NFL might have once played with the GM of the team in question. This person automatically becomes a "candidate." There is also usually 2-3 coaching retreads looking to make their next pit stop. Or sometimes they make you a candidate simply because your last name says that you should be one. Translation: we don't care if you are Marty, Kurt, Brian, or Tito. If your last name is Schottenheimer, you are getting interviewed. Over the next couple of weeks, we will take a deeper look at some of the leading candidates for the prestigious position of Detroit Lions head coach. First up...

Steve Spagnuolo, New York Giants (Defensive Coordinator)

The defensive coordinator from the defending Super Bowl champion Giants and current top seed in the NFC. Hard to argue too much with this guy. Spagnuolo, or "Spags" if you want to act like you know more about him than the average fan, is possibly the hottest name besides Cowher this offseason. His Super Bowl winning defense held the 18 and 0 Patriots to a pedestrian 14 points in the big game. This year, he withstood serious injuries to key players to again form one of the league's best defensive units. I like this guy's pedigree. He spent eight years under Jim Johnson in Philly, learning his current 4-3 system emphasizing a number of blitzes from everywhere on the field. Spagnuolo's aggressive mentality would be a highly refreshing change from the "We're rushing only the front four on every down...either they get pressure or we get burned."

Only a couple of things scare me about Spags. First of all, he is a dead ringer for former NBA center Jim McIlvaine. You do not want to be mentioned in the same sentence as Jim McIlvaine at any point in your life. If you recall, McIlvaine is most remembered in NBA circles for the abominable contract he received from the Western Conference champion Sonics after a year in which he averaged 2 or 3 points a game, but was unfathomably seen as a player "about to break out." Yeah, just like Gabe Kapler and Juan Encarnacion were supposed to break out as a 3-4 power hitting force in the Tigers outfield. After McIlvaine inked the 7 year deal worth over $30 million, Shawn Kemp became so upset that he was being out-earned by Big Mac that he began eating his way through the city of Seattle. McIlvaine never came close to putting up numbers to justify the contract. He turned out to be a guy who merely showed some potential in a couple of years as a supporting player, but was not nearly ready to be in the spotlight. Essentially, he was just a poor man's Dave Corzine with a lot more publicity and less facial hair. Would Spagnuolo suffer the same fate as his exact clone and go down in flames after signing the big contract? Lions fans sure hope not.

One other bad omen regarding the Giants D-Coordinator. If he does get a head coaching job this winter, he would become the 3rd defensive coordinator this decade to use a Super Bowl victory as the springboard to an NFL head coaching job. The other two: Marvin Lewis and Romeo Crennel. Much like McIlvaine, this is not exactly elite company. Lewis has done nothing in Cincy. He had a once in a lifetime group on D in Baltimore, with Hall-of-Famers like Ray Lewis and Rod Woodson. He parlayed that into a head coaching gig. Crennel worked under Bill Belichick to win his title, and jumped from there to be the boss in Cleveland. That experiment was about as successful as the dual weight loss challenge that Crennel and Charlie Weis used to run up there in New England. First guy to get under four bills would get $10,000. The money was never collected.

Bottom line: simply getting a defensive coordinator from a former Super Bowl champion is not a fail safe. But in this case, I tend to believe in the guy. If there is anything this franchise needs, it is an identity on the defensive side of the ball. Spagnuolo would bring that here. The talent would still need to be accumulated, but at least a real defensive mindset would finally be firmly in place. Steve Spagnuolo, Lions Head Coach. Seems like a good fit. I can picture it now. He leads the Lions to a shocking victory in Week 1 next season. The entire city becomes enamored with their newest coaching savior. And, of course, a 99% chance that the headline in the Free Press on that Monday morning will read, "From Spags to Riches!" Book it.


How do you feel about Jim McIlvaine Spagnuolo? Drop a comment here, or shoot me your thoughts at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Three classic streaks...all going on at the same time! Let's hit it.

Imperfection at Last!


C
hances are, if you are a professional sports team in the city of Detroit and you have a player listed in the box score as "D. Bing," and it is anyone but the legendary Dave Bing of Pistons fame...you are in serious trouble. Well, on Sunday, the much less legendary "Darnell" Bing recorded his only tackle of the season for the Detroit Lions. Needless to say, they tallied their 16th loss of the season, becoming the first NFL squad in history to achieve the ignominious feat. It took a collective effort this year to accomplish such a horrendous task.

First, much credit has to go to Rod Marinelli and his "We will stay the course" approach. Other coaches might have tried changing things around after so many consecutive losses. Not you, Rod. With brilliant son-in-law Joe Barry by your side, you guys managed to set defensive football back centuries with your "Bend, but don't break...well, we're not gonna break right away, but probably sometime in the very near future" approach. Aaron Rodgers might have thrown an INT in 6 straight games heading into the finale against the Lions, but no such issues yesterday. This is a franchise that once branded 8th round pick Willie Clay with the moniker "Big Play Willie." In other words, DB's for the Lions making big plays are few and extremely far between.

It's hard to name everybody who had a hand in this train wreck 2008 campaign. The receiving corps, minus Calvin Johnson, must be noted. By the end of the year, there were so many guys jumping into the fray straight from the NFL scrap heap that I fully expected to see a "Rison, #80" lining up in the slot during a big 3rd down on Sunday.

The quarterbacking was a group effort. Daunte Culpepper was signed up to see what he had left. Turns out the only thing he ever had was an unbelievable group of receivers in Minnesota for a few years that made him look a LOT better than he really was. Dan Orlovsky was able to absolutely master the game where he looks alright, doesn't really wow you, but you walk away thinking, "I guess he earned another start next week." I don't think I was ever over or underwhelmed by any one of his games. They all leave you with the same empty feeling inside. Big ups to Orlovsky as well for somehow managing to play the last three games of the season without registering a single rushing attempt. Way to keep those linebackers on their toes, DanO!

And how about that kickoff return game?? The only time I can ever remember a less intimidating threat there was when Lloyd Carr used to have Anthony Thomas run back kicks with the sole intention of him getting it back to the 20 and not fumbling it. What happened to the days of Mel Gray and Glyn Milburn, and even Eddie Drummond before he passed away sometime during the 2005 season? Now it's this bizarre sequence each year when some random homeless fellow, like Brandon Middleton, does the runbacks for a little more than half the year until Aveion Cason returns from wherever he was to handle the remaining games. This has become an annual Lions tradition, along with the Thanksgiving Day game and the "Let's go with the throwbacks this week to try and turn things around!" game. The 2008 Detroit Lions now stand alone in the NFL record books. 0 and 16. It might not be for the right reasons, but this will always be a year to remember.


#1...In Jersey Number Only


B
aron Davis refuses to let his streak die. After today's dismal 4 for 13 effort at home against the Mavs, Davis has now failed to shoot over 50% in 47 straight games! 47 consecutive times he has stepped into an NBA arena...each and every time he has failed to eclipse the 50% mark. This is an astonishing streak that is as hard to believe as any stat or figure that I can remember in sports history. The last time he managed to make more than he missed in a game was way back on March 12th. That's last season. There are other interesting facts about that time period for Baron. It wasn't as if that 10-17 shooting night on March 12 was a shock, either. The opposite, actually. With the season winding down, and his contract expiring in a matter of weeks, that game ended a stretch for Davis in which he shot over 50% in 4 of 5 games. Since that fateful March 12th night, he has suited up 47 times...and failed to return to this statistical paradise even once. I guarantee if this were brought to Baron's attention, he would be absolutely shocked. After finding out about his ghastly run of ineptitude, I bet Baron would go out that night, make 2 of his first 3 shots, fake a strained hammy, find a cozy seat on the Clipper bench, and watch this "streak" go up in flames.

Many in the sports world will always believe that Joe DiMaggio's 56 game hitting streak in 1941 is the greatest streak of all-time. While I show nothing but respect to Joe D and his miraculous 56-gamer, Baron Davis' nightly bricklaying show is becoming a global phenomenon. Only problem is, Baron's Clippers head up to Sacramento this Tuesday for a showdown with the Kings. The same Kings that rank 29th out of 30 in the NBA in FG % defense. Let's hope the drama does not end here...I'm still enjoying this too much.

(Original piece on Baron's shooting woes can be found here.)


From a Guy Who Can't Make One to a Guy that Can't Miss One

Another fun NBA streak to keep your eye on as we approach the New Year. Jose Calderon, the underrated point guard for the Toronto Raptors, has connected on 69 straight free throws. The NBA record belongs to former Pistons title winner Micheal Williams. The former garbage timer for the Bad Boys once knocked down 97 in a row from the charity stripe. I always enjoy streaks and records like this because it is something we have all tried to do when we're messing around at the gym. Head to the line, see how many you can hit consecutively. For most of us, getting to 10 or 15 is a nice feat. Or, if you are like Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, making 100 without touching any part of the rim while Ramadan is in full force is what you're shooting for.

Jose Calderon is a fun player to watch, and this little run he has going at the line is really not getting much publicity to this point. I know I will be paying attention as he gets closer to the magic number, now a mere 28 away. I'm calling out the pressure starting to get to the Spaniard right around #85, and him leavin' one off the front rim to end the run. When that happens, Micheal Williams will finally be able to sleep peacefully again, knowing his record is safe and that he will continue to be remembered for something besides the incomprehensible spelling of his first name.



What other streaks are out there? E-mail me at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Life Begins at 40

40 points. It has been brewing for a while now. Throughout the month of December, Rodney Stuckey has been scorching the nets at a ridiculous rate. The 2nd year guard has been getting to the hoop at will. His jump shot, at one time considered to be his weak link, has improved dramatically, right in front of our eyes. With his shooting percentage hovering around 60% for the month, an explosion from Stuckey was bound to happen very soon. He just needed to get the shot attempts, and the rest would take care of itself. 40 points later, it was possibly a career changing night for #3.

It was clear early in the game tonight that Rodney Stuckey was simply in no mood to mess around. No more losses to middling teams like the 76ers and Jazz. No more settling for jumpers when this team is obviously built to run and outscore the other club. In the 1st quarter, Stuckey got off to a hot start by driving for layups on 3 of 4 possessions. Timeout, Bulls...Vinnie Del Negro needed to find a solution to stopping the possessed guard from Eastern Washington. A pattern was developing. He tacked on 5 more points the rest of the quarter, culminating in a picturesque three-point play where Stuckey displayed a beautiful left hand while taking the hit from Luol Deng (or whoever that is impersonating Deng this season).

The first 6 minutes of the 2nd quarter represented the only stretch of time all night that the Bulls would not be lit up by Mr. Stuckey. After all, he was on the bench. When he returned, and for the next 3 quarters, it was more of the same. Stuckey driving to the bucket time after time, creating contact and hanging in midair for what seemed like an eternity while controlling his body and nestling the ball in off the glass. When the defender took a step off, daring Stuckey to shoot, he burned 'em.

Vinnie Del Negro is another of the 1st year head coaches that seem so common this year in the NBA. The guy might have a nice career on the sidelines, but he won't forget this night for a long time. Del Negro is the kind of coach that not only seems to live and die with each game, but with each possession. Each time Stuckey dropped in a basket Tuesday, Del Negro slumped his shoulders and turned to his assistants as if to say, "What more can we do?" Not to diminish Stuckey's night in any way, but let's just say Coach Del Negro did not exactly reinvent the wheel with his coaching innovations against the Pistons. When a player gets in a zone like Stuckey was, coaches will often send a double team to force the ball out of his hands. 'Make somebody else beat you,' the saying goes. There were maybe 2-3 times all night that Stuckey was trapped on a pick-and-roll and forced to dish. Otherwise, it was mostly one man preventing him from putting the ball in the hole. And clearly, Stuckey was blistering anybody the Bulls put in front of him.

-Derrick Rose, #1 overall pick, savior of the Bulls franchise...phhhh...I liked you better when they called you Darius Washington, Jr.
-Larry Hughes took a shot at him. After all, he did lead the NBA in steals a few years back. Tonight, the only thing he stole was a paycheck.
-Thabo Sefolosha, the lanky guard from Switzerland known for his defense, proved two things tonight. One, he has no business guarding Rodney Stuckey 1-on-1 unless they are the last 2 guys left on Earth, and even then, he's better off going zone. Two, the only things that should come from Switzerland are watches and tennis players.
-Lindsey Hunter, or as Doug Collins would describe, "The best on-ball defender in the history of this league. Just a great person. If I ever had a son, I would want him to be just like Lind...oh right, I already have a son. Well, you get the point." These things might have been true 10-12 years ago, back when Collins was still representing the boys in Teal. But tonight, Lindsey Hunter was clean shaven, 20 pounds overweight, and helpless in stopping the man he might have thought he was once going to turn out to be...Rodney Stuckey.

In Monday's column, I talked about Michael Curry and his questionable coaching in the Atlanta loss this weekend. In that game, Curry sat Stuckey for almost half of the deciding quarter after he had just torched the Hawks in the 3rd, bringing the Pistons back from a big hole. Tonight, the circumstances took care of themselves. Allen Iverson suffered a minor injury early in the 2nd half, thus removing any chance of Sunday's history repeating itself. Stuckey played the entire 2nd half, looking fresher as everybody else wore down. When the Bulls went on a 12-0 run to start the 3rd to cut the lead to one, momentum seemed to be all on the side of the visitors. Now was the time for Stuckey to unleash his entire arsenal of skills on the now-confident, soon to be stunned once again, Chicago Bulls. Bombs away from downtown, Stuckey's only 3 of the night. Loses his defender and drops in another layup on a nice feed from buddy Arron Afflalo. A minute later, he drove the paint again and scored. The 1 point game was now 11, the crowd was on its feet, and Vinnie Del Negro did the only thing he could all night to stop the unstoppable Stuckey, if only for a few minutes. He called time out.

If there is a bigger picture to this game, it is the Allen Iverson trade and what it means in terms of the development of Rodney Stuckey and the prospects of this year's Pistons. I was never one to be in favor of the trade. Like most Piston fans, I had become attached to Chauncey over the years. The first "big shot," a 3 over Chris Mills to beat Golden State, the near half-courter against New Jersey, the Finals MVP...he was everything you wanted in a Piston. But I could understand if Joe Dumars decided this team needed some kind of shakeup. This current group may have topped out, and almost seemed resigned to lose every year in the Eastern Conference Finals.

My main problem is, with Dumars knowing even better than any of us how good Rodney Stuckey can be if given the opportunity, why deal Chauncey for a guy like Iverson? A guy who has made a career out of making things happen for himself, but not for others. I don't recall him doing much for the careers of young superstars in Jerry Stackhouse and Carmelo Anthony. He is a player that needs a certain number of touches a game to stay happy. Essentially, when you are an Allen Iverson team, you win or lose with the rock in his hands. But if it's in his hands, how can it be in Stuckey's hands as well? Short answer: it can't. Tuesday night, Piston fans got a glimpse of what could be if young Stuckey were given this kind of freedom on a nightly basis. Allen Iverson is still a valued member of this team and his production is needed for them to do anything special this year. But the sooner he understands that he cannot be "The Man" anymore and that he needs to defer to Stuckey on a nightly basis, the better off everyone will be. Essentially, we have an "Old Stuckey" and a "Young Stuckey" on this club...how about we let the young fella do his thing?

When the dust settles on this season, someone might look back on this game as just 1 of 82 on a never-ending NBA schedule. But it could end up meaning a lot more. Ever since Rodney Stuckey was drafted from little known Eastern Washington in 2007, we've been told that he has all of the skills to be one of the greats. In flashes, these skills would be displayed. At some point, all of it would come together, we hoped. The athleticism, the strength, the touch, the aggressiveness, and the will to be the best player on the court at all times. On Tueday night at the Palace, everything came together for the man his teammates simply call "Stuck." Only, on this night, he was anything but.


E-mail me at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Monday, December 22, 2008

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

Believe in Never

T
hey say that you learn something new every day. Well, yesterday, I learned the lesson that if you are trying to gain credibility with a relatively new sports blog, predicting a victory for the 2008 Detroit Lions is not the path to go down. I knew things were bad on the car ride over to Ford Field with my boy BK. He is as much a die-hard Lions fan as there is in this city. He still makes noise when the Lions are on defense and is known to shout things such as, "Watch for the Play-Action!" on approximately 78% of the opposing team's plays. And he killed me for going public with the Lions victory prediction on this once-respected site. I thought our defense would be so jacked up that a couple big plays would just fall in their lap for the first time all year. Didn't exactly go down like that.

Very quickly, the game developed the feel of a pre-season contest. Sparse crowd, zero energy in the stadium...only difference was that if it were indeed an exhibition game, the Lions would have come out firing. Instead, they were fired upon...repeatedly. Drew Brees threw for 351 yards, and if he wanted to, it could have been 500+. His ample time in the pocket throughout the game reminded me of an old Detroit Vipers commercial. The Vipers' goalie was just chillin' by his net, sitting in a beach chair, watching some tube and enjoying a beverage. Even though the game was going on, there was no action coming his way, so he was the picture of cool. Same deal with Brees. When he wanted to look for the deep ball, it was there with his receivers a good 15 yards past any Lions "defensive" back. When he wanted to check it down, he found Jeremy Shockey or Billy Miller or a running back and bagged 10-20 yards that way. After seeing the time and comfort afforded him in the pocket by the gracious Lions defense, I'm convinced he could have thrown for Two-Fiddy playing lefthanded.

It was most definitely the nastiest performance of the year by a soon to be historically pathetic football team. It was the perfect storm on Sunday: zero desire, extreme lack of talent, a coaching staff trotting out the same game plan for the 15th game in a row, and a crowd so dead that the only real cheers I heard all day were those reserved for Dashing Donut. The lesson I learned is that if I feel the need to toss out some bold prediction regarding events at a Lions game, I'm better off keeping things simple and just calling out a dominating win by the Donut. After all, the Lions disappoint you week after week. But when's the last time you felt anything but ecstasy after spending some quality time with a 'glazed and sprinkled?' Live and learn.


Most People Really Enjoy Their Sundays

A
rthur Spooner, the character perfected by Jerry Stiller on 'The King of Queens,' once uttered the following pearl of wisdom, "Ah, Sunday. You know what I like to call it...Fun Day." Well, I know one NBA team that would vehemently disagree with that statement. The Detroit Pistons hate Sundays. After a setback to the Atlanta Hawks yesterday, their Sunday record on the season sits at a Lions-esque 0-6. Their record every other day of the week: 14-5.

Somehow, the story after this game ended up being the "benching" of Allen Iverson in the 4th quarter by Michael Curry and the possible breach this created between the two. Apparently, Curry felt the big day by Mike Bibby was directly related to Iverson's struggles on the defensive end and sat him down for a few minutes in the 4th quarter. Just hard to understand how this can be looked at as a "benching."

It is true that Iverson was lifted from the game with 4:30 left and the Pistons only down 6. However, he had only managed one bucket in the 2nd half, and was largely ineffective for most of the game. And he was coming out for Rodney Stuckey, the Pistons' best player by far on Sunday and someone who had been curiously sitting for almost half the quarter. The move seemed 100% within the flow of the game to me, and not this controversial punishment that many are making it out to be. This is a little bit of a different team than most in the NBA, with crunch time lineups varying from night to night. With that said, though, Michael Curry has to do a better job of identifying who the best guys are heading into the crucial stretches of the 4th and making sure they are on the floor. Rodney Stuckey had 10 points in the last 5 minutes of the 3rd quarter on Sunday, singlehandedly changing the momentum of the game. In the last quarter, Coach Curry sat Stuckey for 5 minutes while managing to get him one measly shot attempt, a jumper he buried in the last minute with the game no longer in doubt.

Now this is not a bad loss, by any means. The Hawks are quietly turning into one of the East's more formidable foes, especially at Philips Arena. But it tends to sting a little more when you lose the game without really exposing your big guns at the biggest moments. Understandably, Michael Curry is a rookie head coach and is still learning the craft. However, after his late-game clock mismanagement on Friday against Utah and the aforementioned Stuckey problems yesterday, this inexperience is coming through a little too frequently. The only saving grace to all this; the Pistons have next Sunday off.


Couple Other Quick Hitters

-
Very impressive win for Michigan State over #5 Texas in Houston. Not the prettiest of games, but a gritty, statement win nonetheless. The Spartans had yet to record a real quality win this season, and this victory should serve as a big confidence booster heading into Big Ten play in a couple of weeks. Excellent job by Tom Izzo and the coaching staff for devising a game plan intent on shutting down the Longhorns' high-powered guard, A.J. Abrams. Travis Walton badgered him relentlessly whenever he was in the game, and the Spartans held Abrams to just 8 points while playing the entire 40 minutes. The two best players for MSU both came off the pine. Goran Suton was in superb form on his way to 18 points, making the squad much more formidable with his presence in the lineup. Durrell Summers hit the biggest shot of the game, a cold-blooded 3 from the right wing with 20 ticks left to grab the lead. Credit Raymar Morgan as well. Despite his odd night statistically (3-3 from the field, 6 turnovers), he was able to penetrate just enough to grab some attention before setting up Summers for the game-winning bomb.

-Am I the only one that feels bad for Evander Holyfield? It sounds as if he was completely robbed in his majority decision loss to giant Nikolay Valuev on Saturday in Switzerland. I know the guy should probably not be fighting, and he is most likely damaging himself for later on in life, but he ought to get the W if he's earned it. Valuev was so passive during the bout that he was described to be "in a coma" for most of the fight, but somehow it was good enough to garner the necessary points from 2 of the 3 judges. I've always been a Holyfield guy. From an early age, I respected his toughness in handling much bigger heavyweights when he was naturally a cruiserweight. Maybe this will be the end of the road for the former champion. I always enjoyed watching him when he was at his best. It is frustrating that this bout will possibly send him out of the ring for the last time with a sour taste in his mouth...he deserves better.


What did you notice this weekend? Drop a comment here or Email your boy at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Believe in NOW

No matter how bad things have gotten for the Lions this season, I never believed they could run the table and go a full regular season without registering one single W. No matter how many injuries, no matter how many horrible calls by referees at the most important junctures of games, it is simply too much for an NFL team to lose all 16 games in a season. Even the Lions. And as Lions fans, we all know there is a 0.00 percent chance that the boys in Honolulu Blue can get a win in Lambeau the last week of the year. The game in 10 hours against the New Orleans Saints is the last chance in 2008 for the Lions to get a victory. And they're going to do it. The last time the Saints won a big game, it was in the 2000 playoffs when they knocked off the defending champion Rams in a home playoff game. They simply are not prepared for the kind of atmosphere that is waiting for them at Ford Field later today. After being eliminated from NFC playoff contention with their loss last week, and slumping in with a 1 and 6 record on the road, all signs point to the Lions shocking the world. Dan Orlovsky will throw a couple touchdowns...Kevin Smith will rumble in for a score...Calvin will be Calvin...and the D will make a few big plays. This Detroit Lions team is most definitely not good...but they are due.

Detroit Lions 31
New Orleans Saints 27

You can call the Lions a lot of things...but after today, "winless" will not be one of them.



1-14 might be a sick record for an NFL team, but for Baron Davis, it's a normal night from the field... E-mail me at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Friday, December 19, 2008

I've Got A Basketball Jones


Anybody that has ever played basketball at any level knows that you will have your share of great days and your share of forgettable ones. Sometimes you head out on the court and the bucket is the size of an ocean; you can't miss. Other days, that rim might as well be covered with an immovable lid because you can't buy a bucket. But what separates me and the other gym rats out there from the men playing in the NBA is that their bad days are much more infrequent. Sure, those guys go cold every now and then. Five games in seven nights...limited rest...even an elite NBA scorer might hit a rough patch. But you can pretty much guarantee that this player will bounce back in a big way soon after. Something like 12 of 17 from the floor, with a few treys, for 34 points. Even a solid ballgame, maybe 7 of 13 from the field, is the norm on a lot of nights for those in the Association. When I look at an NBA box score to see who shot the ball well and who didn't, usually the invisible benchmark is the tried and true 50%. Did you make more than you missed? It's what the game comes down to. Which is what makes the following streak all the more astonishing...and downright embarrassing, especially for a so-called "Superstar" player. Spanning the end of last season and ALL 24 games this season, Baron Davis has yet to shoot over 50% in 43 straight games!! He of the 5 year, $65 million dollar off-season contract with the Los Angeles Clippers. He of the deceiving 18.4 points per game. He of the 7-18 Clippers. The Detroit Lions might be getting all the headlines as the current "loser" of the sports world. But Baron Davis is just as deserving...or undeserving, however you want to look at it.

Just to make sure this "streak" was in a class of its own, I did a little digging. I dug, I dug, and I dug some more. Nobody could match this run of ineptitude on a nightly basis. Of all the players qualifying for the league leaders in scoring this year, meaning on pace to play in 70 games or score 1,400 points, Mr. Baron Davis was the only man yet to sniff the plus-50 mark for a night. To find a guy that is in the same company as Davis this season, you have to go alllll the way down the NBA scoring list (of every player, not just those who qualify) to #273, Desmon Farmer of the Spurs. Only thing is, Farmer has played in just 3 games. Come back to me when you've struggled in 40 more.

How can a player so celebrated and so highly thought of in NBA circles go 43 consecutive games shooting under 50%?? Every self-respecting NBA ballplayer is going to find his stroke in one game and knock down some shots. They are all so talented that it is nearly impossible for any extended cold streak to occur for very long. And we're not asking for a 17-19 performance, or anything out of the stratosphere. Just give me a 6 for 11, a 9 of 17...put the ball in the bucket for one night more than you clang it off the iron. Even Ryan Bowen, the guy my Dad has long considered to be the worst player in the NBA, managed a 2-3 shooting night this season! And there are no excuses for Davis, either. I do not want to hear that he's on a terrible team, forced to take contested shots, has nobody around him. Look at guys like O.J. Mayo in Memphis, Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City. Same situation, but you do not see them getting targeted in this piece. I know Baron Davis is an extremely talented guy. He can get to the bucket most anytime he wants. Has the capability of posting up smaller point guards. Outside shot leaves a lot to be desired, but he can get hot from deep on occasion...or so I thought. It's been 43 games, and it hasn't happened yet.

The signs for Baron's struggles were there a long time ago. I remember a few years back, when Davis was with the Hornets, him letting the media and the rest of the NBA world know that he did not enjoy being called "B-Diddy" as some had begun calling him. He would prefer the more mature "B-Dizzle." Real superstars allow nicknames to find them...not the other way around.

For all I know, this little streak that I've discovered will never get the media's attention. They look at a guy like Baron Davis, and say, "Hey, the guy is averaging 18 and 8 for a terrible team...what more do you want from the guy?" I want ONE NIGHT where he can go home after the game, call up his mom on the phone, and when she asks how he shot the ball that night, reply honestly, "I shot the ball well." A glance at his numbers shows a disturbing trend. Davis is shooting his usual 30% from the 3-point line this year, par for the course for this below average shooter from distance. But why is a guy shooting so badly from deep also jacking up the 3rd most 3's in the NBA? Is it possible that the burly point guard from L.A. is also aware of this streak, and is doing everything in his power to keep it alive? His shot selection has become much more "Air Bud" than "Air Jordan," and that dog never passed the rock.

With each 6 for 23 and 11 for 29, with countless 3-balls going wayward at the basket, it becomes more and more of a possibility that Baron Davis could go the whole year without breaking through that 50% barrier. In all likelihood, however, the dream will end sometime soon, because after all, the man is extremely due. But it's fun while it lasts, and if anything, it gives you another reason to check a Clippers box score besides "I wanted to see how many times Paul Davis got dunked on." In the meantime, I hope Baron's mom isn't waiting by the phone...it might not be ringin' for a long time.


A Night of Basketball

Went to see my cousin Mayer hoop it up for his high school basketball team. Had a "funny" exchange while sitting courtside. The ref came up, and trying to be part official, part comedian, commented that we were like celebrities at an NBA game. So he points to my uncle, "Oh, hello Jack," as in Jack Nicholson. Then moving on to the next guy, but clearly stumped to think of another high-profile NBA fan, says again, "Nice to see ya, Jack!" You can't pay for that kind of quality entertainment, and thankfully, I didn't! Mayer's guys were outsized in a big way, and the final score reflected it. But damn, that game was so physical that it could have taken place at San Quentin and nobody would have batted an eye. I'm talkin NO EASY BASKETS, NO EASY BASKETS!! Very proud of my younger cousin, though. Handled himself extremely well on the court, grabbing an offensive board, drawing some fouls, and delivering a clean, while vicious, body block to an opposing player while the guy was in mid-air that resulted in a turnover and a perfectly ruled no-call on Mayer! Gotta love it.


Watched a good part of the 2nd half of the Suns-Blazers tilt on TNT. Blazers won it late in what was probably the best NBA game I've watched this season. Brandon Roy put on a ridiculous show, pouring in 52 points and receiving numerous "MVP" chants at the line from the Portland faithful in the 2nd Half. (Hmm, little early for that) He was absolutely unstoppable in the 2nd half, culminating in a memorable exchange that led to his go-ahead three in the final minute. Roy was bringing the ball up in a semi fast-break and got it ahead to Steve Blake on the left wing. Blake, without so much as a thought of attacking the basket, dropped it right back to him. Roy, almost insisting that Blake take advantage of the space being given to him, moved it ahead to his point guard a second time. Blake's decision was the exact same. Snaps it right back to Roy, while thinking in his head, "Stop giving me the ball!! You have 47 points and if you haven't forgotten, I am Steve Blake!! SHOOT THE BALL!" Roy did just that, dropping in the long 3 to give him a 50-spot, and sending the Rose Garden crowd into a frenzy. A brilliant performance from one of the league's best players.

Couple other quick thoughts on this excellent game.
-Interesting little coaching staff out there in Phoenix. Like a flashback to all complementary players in the NBA Finals of the early 90's. Terry Porter coaching the squad, Bill Cartwright and Dan Majerle serving as assistants. I bet somewhere, Terry Teagle feels very left out right now.

-Jason Richardson has become a glorified Hubert Davis. He seems content to camp out on the 3-point line with the rest of the Suns, forgoing his old formula of attacking the rim and throwing it down. Not that he can't help the Suns by canning some bombs and providing a few highlights here and there, but he's not the same guy I remember on Golden State and in East Lansing. Maybe it's the injuries he's dealt with, maybe he's finding his way with a new team, but he did not look to have the same bounce as the old J-Rich. Travis Outlaw practically skied over him for an offensive rebound towards the end of the game, preventing the Suns a chance to tie on the other end. Doesn't happen to the Jason Richardson of 3-4 years ago.

-I know the Blazers fans were lauding Brandon Roy with the "MVP" chants throughout the 2nd half...but where were those same chants for my man Joel Pryzbilla? If you haven't noticed, the big fella is quietly shooting an eye-popping, anti Baron Davis, 79% from the field. And do not think he's skating by on like 12 shots this year to attain that percentage. Pryzbilla has attempted 89 field-goals this year...and canned 70 of them! Sure, most of them are because other guys did all the work by penetrating and setting him up under the rim for an easy dunk, but that's insignificant! The man is shooting 79% from the floor, and if there was an MVP ballot in my mailbox tomorrow morning, he would have my vote.

And on that disturbing note...


Let me know how you feel about Joel Pryzbilla at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Got Me Wonderin...

-Is there any bigger dilemma than how to best throw away a cereal box when it's finally empty? It's such a large, obtrusive, object...and it plays mind games with even the most crafty individuals. You could have a brand new garbage bag going in the kitchen. After one empty cereal box gets jammed in there, it appears as if it needs to be taken out again. Do you go through the labor-intensive practice of folding the box together 11 different ways to conserve the space? Some of us aren't strong enough to perform such a procedure. And who's to say it doesn't start unfolding once it's been tossed anyway, unfurling every which way like a peacock spreading its wings. There's also the semi-insane approach of maniacally ripping the box apart into several smaller pieces. This might work, but it comes with a price: your self respect.


-You could be in the best mood of your life. You won the lottery in the morning, got a promotion in the afternoon, discovered the meaning of life at night. One seemingly harmless event could bring you all the way back to zero. You know what I'm talking about. Walking around your kitchen in socks on a winter night when you're blindsided... and you're never the same. You just stepped in a big puddle of water because somebody decided they were "that guy" who doesn't remove the slushy, dripping shoes upon entering the home. You just went from hero to zero, in the blink of an eye. Now your socks are wet, your mood is dampened, and you pretty much want to curl up into a ball and never be seen again. If you started the day with clean socks, it's a double whammy. What do you do with the socks at the moment? Take 'em off right then and there? Now you're barefoot guy in the winter...not a solution. You can go on wearing them for spite, but you're only hurting yourself. You can try to seek out the culprit for destroying your socks, but it's not worth the trouble: nobody has ever come "clean" on this matter. With a long winter ahead in Michigan, all I can say is, "Watch Your Step." You never know when it will be your last dry one.


-I'm the kind of guy who doesn't just kowtow to the conventional way of thinking. I'm here to tell the absolute truths about all matters of national importance, so I'll just say it. Both "Major League II" and "Major League 3: Back to the Minors" were pretty damn good movies. I'll give a little leeway on the third one...some people found it reprehensible, and I understand that.

But "Major League II" was a quality piece of film. Of course you'd like to see all the original actors play the same roles, but Omar Epps stepped in as Willie Mays Hayes just fine. After all, my boy Epps has pretty much played every sport in a movie at one point or another. (Football in 'The Program,' track and field in 'Higher Learning,' basketball in 'Love and Basketball,' boxer in 'Against the Ropes') And who didn't want to see the full-length feature of that movie Willie made in the off-season with Jesse Ventura?? That looked amazing. "Black Hammer...White Lightning!"

Jake Taylor settling in perfectly as manager for the ailing Lou Brown. I left West River Theater that day wanting the Tigers to install Tom Berenger as the new skipper, effective immediately. Lord knows he could have done better than Buddy "Am I or Am I not Buck Showalter" Bell. New catcher Rube Baker might have rubbed some people the wrong way, but the guy was all about team and I respected that. This movie also gets points for giving Bob Uecker's partner, Monte, a little bit more face time. That guy did things with 8-10 lines of dialogue that I'm still in awe of. The one very, very, negative factor throughout this movie is the presence of "superfan" Randy Quaid. It pains me to say it, because I'm a Randy Quaid fan. Loved him in "Kingpin," loved him in "Bye, Bye, Love." (Yea, I said it.) But he is soooo friggggin annoying in this movie. I guess that is the point of his character, to get on people's nerves. But if his scenes make the moviegoers want to leave the cineplex and drive right off a cliff, then I think he took the character a little too far.

Quick thoughts on the 3rd "Major League." You always feel kind of dirty watching it, like you're doing something you're not supposed to. It's a little bit depressing that the movie focused on a minor league team, especially one called the "Buzz." But the scene where Uecker announces the game with perfect accuracy while blindfolded, wearing a hood over his face, is worth the price of admission. And $4.99 for the DVD.



Share your thoughts on these important matters in the comments area, or E-mail your boy at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

Not Your Garden Variety 2-Game Winning Streak

With the way the Pistons have been going lately, a two-game winning streak is cause for a minor celebration. After all, this is a team that had recently shown the ability to lose to all sorts of NBA squads. Teams that were struggling mightily, with head coaches about to be shown the door, still had enough to walk into the Palace and get a win (Minnesota, Philadelphia). Teams like the Wizards, sitting at 3-15 and still adjusting to new boss Ed Tapscott, were able to take out the Pistons by double digits. Michael Curry's team was quickly becoming the one you wanted to play if nothing was going right and you wanted to right the ship with a solid win. Hopefully with this much needed, albeit bizarre, two-game run, the Pistons can really start to make some waves in the East.

The win over the Pacers on Friday night proved one thing: the Pistons cannot defend Danny Granger...at all. He went off for a career-high 42. To go with his opening night 33, that's 75 in 2 ballgames against the Pistons this season. Yikes. One thing that has become noticeable since Curry switched to the smaller starting lineup is the inability to keep talented small forwards even remotely in check. With the smallish backcourt of Stuckey and Iverson, Rip Hamilton has been forced to routinely line up against the opposing team's 3-man. Caron Butler torched him for 33...Granger dropped his 42. Somehow, the Pistons are going to have to become more of a feisty, scrambling, defensive team to make up for the mismatches created by the new starting 5.

The Bobcat win Saturday night is that rare win that somehow feels like a loss. Having a 29-point 3rd quarter lead dwindled down to 1 in the last minute, only to pull it out with a Sheed triple, is not a win you go bouncing happily into the locker room with. The little lineup really worked in this game just the way Curry must have imagined it would. Rip, Iverson, and Stuckey all shot the ball extremely well, and each contributed nicely on the glass. It's always nice getting a win over Larry Brown, too. It's funny...normally, when your hometown team wins a championship, you look back on everything about that year with such fond memories. And that 2004 title will always be extremely sweet to me. But with the way LB left the team, and then his behavior during the '05 run to the Finals in talking with other teams, I really hold nothing but sour memories for the title-winning coach. And I know a lot of other Pistons fans who feel the same way. It takes a special kind of guy to be able to win a title in a city, and have those same fans in that city hating you within 5 years. Larry Brown was able to accomplish this rare feat. For now, his Bobcats have lost 6 straight and are the only NBA team averaging less than 90 points a game. Couldn't happen to a nicer guy...

If there is one puzzling thing about Mr. Curry's rotation right now, it is his insistence on keeping Tayshaun Prince on the floor for about 40 minutes a game. Tayshaun has obviously been put into a difficult spot moving to the starting power forward spot. However, with the return of Antonio McDyess, one would think that Tay would get more breathers, so as to recover from the banging he's encountering on a nightly basis. Not the case. In the 3 games since Dyess returned, and Tay moved to the 4-spot, he has logged 40, 41, and 38 minutes. Not coincidentally, he has scored in single digits in all three games, the first such streak for him this season. In one of those games, Prince labored through his 40 minutes while super-sub Jason Maxiell never got off the pine. It is well known that in the last few years, Tayshaun's game has tended to disappear the further the Pistons advance in the playoffs. With this in mind, it wouldn't be a bad idea to try and keep his minutes at a more manageable 32-33, hopefully leading to a fresher #22 come late May.


Everett...Laird...Jackson...Can You Say '27 Yankees?

Conversation overheard at the Winter Meetings...

Yankees Fan: "Yeah man, we just gotta figure out who we want to throw Game 1 of the World Series come next October! C.C. got the big bucks, but Wang has been our best guy the last couple years. And A.J. Burnett might have been the best AL starter down the stretch last season."
Tigers Fan: "With Adam Everett taking over at shortstop and Brandon Inge going back to 3rd Base, I think we might have the worst hitting left side of the infield in the history of baseball!!"

The Tigers have quietly been adding pieces to their 2009 roster in the last week. Understandably, with a team that scored the 4th most runs in the AL last season, defense and pitching have been targeted as priorities. While many in the Motor City thought heading into last year that the team would simply slug their way into the playoffs, that's never been how baseball works. The best teams have potent lineups, no doubt. But while bats can go cold for a week or two, good glovemen usually remain so for the duration of the season.

The shortstop position was not exactly a strength of the Tigers last season. Edgar Renteria had a less than stellar year at the plate, and he wasn't exactly Eddie Brinkman with the leather, either. Normally on a grounder to short, you can start writing the 6-3 in your scorebook when you see it's going to be routine. When Mr. Renteria is involved, you best wait until the play is fully completed before going to work with your 3-inch pencil. Which makes the recent signing of the aforementioned Adam Everett seem pretty sensible. The only thing you wonder is whether the obvious upgrade in the field is enough to offset the drastic drop you prepare to take in offense with Everett presumably getting 4-500 at-bats. Widely considered one of the smoothest fielders in the game, Everett has had trouble staying healthy the last two years, while also struggling with the bat like never before. Last year, in his first season in the AL, Everett hit .213 in 48 games for the Twins.

One thing Tigers fans might be hoping for with Everett replacing Renteria is an upgrade in team speed. With the Tigers ranking last in the AL in stolen bases in '07 (even behind the plodding White Sox), you might think Everett's legs would be a small bonus. However, last season, he stepped up to the plate 150 times and not once attempted to steal a base. For a guy that used to swipe 10-20 bags, it's a pretty surprising statistic. Best case scenario is that he stays healthy, plays about 125 games, picks the ball up at short, and hits somewhere in the neighborhood of .240. Worst case scenario is that he stays healthy, plays about 125 games, picks the ball up at short, and hits somewhere in the neighborhood of .165. (It's scary...but with Everett and Inge's batting averages declining severely in each of the last 4 years, they could become the first SS-3rd duo in MLB history to both check in under the Mendoza line...by the way, plenty of 2009 season tickets still available!!)

The Gerald Laird pickup is notable for two reasons: first, he has a terrific arm behind the plate, and should help Tigers pitchers keep runners from collecting too many thefts next year. Secondly, he is widely considered one of the uglier players in all of baseball. There's an old story floating around that Laird was a great outfielder growing up, until his coach noticed the unfortunate looking melon atop young Gerald's shoulders. "Put this on, QUICK!" the coach yelped, as he handed him a catcher's mask. Laird's been behind the dish ever since. When fans in opposing stadiums next year shout to the Tigers, "Hey You! With the misshapen head!," Placido Polanco can take some satisfaction knowing that he won't be the only one looking up to the stands to see who said it.

As for Edwin Jackson...I liked him better when they called him Mike Harkey.


At Least Our Coach Wasn't The One Wearing A Sweater Vest


Yes, the Lions managed to lose their 14th in a row to continue their magical run of incompetence. But it was not in typical embarrassing Lion fashion. Dan Orlovsky looked respectable for the most part at quarterback. The offensive line did a very nice job all day, and Kevin Smith made plays when he needed to. The special teams were terrific, forcing turnovers and winning the field position battle. However, the defense got carved up when it mattered most and the Colts pulled out the victory 31-21.

Give defensive coordinator Joe Barry all the credit in the world, though, for making zero adjustments during the game as to how they would defend Peyton Manning and company. Anytime you can allow a guy to complete 76 percent of his passes and force zero turnovers in the process, you've done your job as a Lions coach. Honestly, it looked like Manning and his guys were going through the motions for stretches of the game today. When they needed to put a drive together if the game got too tight, like at the end of the 1st half and in the 4th quarter, they moseyed on down the field without breaking a sweat. Admittedly, Marinelli's son-in-law does not have a ton of talent at his disposal. However, I have never seen such vanilla approaches on a week-to-week basis as I have in watching Barry's units this season. Somehow it has become acceptable to get thrashed basically every week by opposing quarterbacks without any accountability by the guy in charge of the group. Really, would anybody object if the Lions hired the guy who played Coach Yost in 'Remember the Titans' to be the D-Coordinator next season. He wouldn't even permit his boys to allow one yard!

Next week, the Saints come to town with their abysmal 1-6 record on the road. Their playoff hopes went up in flames Thursday night with a loss at Soldier Field. Really, if there ever was a team ripe for the picking, it's this Saints club. They have a history of collapsing down the stretch and now there are rumors of in-fighting between Reggie Bush and Coach Sean Payton. Really, how motivated will they be coming to Ford Field next Sunday? I've said all along I think it is just too hard for an NFL team to lose all 16 games in a year. With decent efforts each of the last two weeks against probable playoff teams, I think the Lions finally pull the rabbit out of their hat against the 'Aints. Calling out 31-24 Lions, with a 98% chance that the headline in the next day's Free Press will simply read, "FINALLY!"


Feel free to post your own Lions predictions, along with Monday's newspaper headline, in the comments section found at the conclusion of the article. (Do not have to be registered to post) Or shoot me any other thoughts or comments at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Little Roll Can Go A Long Away

It might sound like a blanket statement, but a fact is a fact. There is no better precursor to a meal, on Earth, than the rolls at Buddy's Pizza. You get a little basket of these gems delivered to the table, down a Coke or two, and you're full before the Za has even hit the checkerboard tablecloth. They are not quite circular, but more of a long oval kind of thing. This hot number is also the rare roll that arrives pre-buttered, negating any wasted prep time on your part before joyous consumption can commence. Only thing is, can they spare these roles? I'll go with my Dad and my brother Gabe and the waitress will hit us with a 4-bagger of rolls. Four rolls for three men? Buddy's is making these rolls; they ought to know that there is no way that 4 rolls are gonna tide over a group of 3. I think sometimes that they just want to see a fight to the death for that 4th roll, because it's gonna happen at some point. Buddy's also deserves credit for not falling victim to the recent trend in which places will throw in some raisin or black bread to go with the traditional fare. No such shenanigans here...these classic rolls have the basket to themselves, just as it says they should in our great nation's Constitution. You also feel like a member of an elite club when you get the bread because you have to know how to work the system. They really won't bring em' to the table unless you ask for them. When I found this out for the first time, it immediately became one of the five most important lessons I have learned in my 24 years of life. I hope these Buddy's rolls can continue to play their vital "role" in our society...my taste buds are forever in debt.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

Hello, and welcome to the first installment of the "Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap" column. A pretty eventful few days on the December sports scene. You had the SEC title game Saturday afternoon, where John Parker Wilson would try and squash the long-standing belief that it's never a good thing to have a 3-named quarterback for a big game. Big fight on Saturday night, where Oscar De La Hoya would take on Manny Pacquiao and try to beat his first real opponent since Seinfeld went off the air. Usual Sunday bit of the Lions trying to somehow secure a W, with me in attendance for the first time this season. The Pistons had a couple of very winnable games on the schedule, which could mean anything with this group right now. And a very big tilt at Crisler Arena Saturday afternoon with the Fightin' Krzyzewski's in town. Without further ado...

I Always Thought Tim Tebow Was a Great Player...I Just Didn't Realize That He Was Also The Messiah

Can't take anything away from Tim Tebow. Completed another exceptional year at Florida with a 31-20 win over #1 ranked Alabama to win the SEC Championship. His numbers are truly eye-popping. Over the last 6 games of the year, Tebow threw for 16 touchdowns, ran for 7 more, without throwing a single interception. He seems to play every down as if it's his last, and above all, the guy is a winner. But listening to the various commentators yesterday, it was as if Tebow were the only guy on the field for the Gators as well as the only quarterback in college football history to display emotions after a big play. Gary Danielson might as well have broadcast the game wearing a "Florida #15" jersey, doing the Gator Chomp after every big play. Brandon Spikes and the Gator D shut out Saban's boys in both the 2nd and 4th quarters, but during and after the game, it was TebowMania. Not saying the guy isn't an unbelievable player. Just that I haven't witnessed a love-fest quite like that since Cris Carter caught his 1,000th career pass in a Sunday nighter against Detroit in 2000 and Mike Patrick, Joe Theismann, and Paul Maguire spent the entire night doing everything short of collectively proposing marriage to the Hall-of-Fame receiver.

Really cannot say enough about Urban Meyer. Might be the best coach in all of sports right now. Took over a bumbling Bowling Green program in 2001, and won MAC Coach of the Year in his first season there. Meyer then moved on to guide Utah to an undefeated season in '04, culminating with a thrashing of "BCS School" Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl. Quarterback Alex Smith was able to parlay that season into the #1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, despite proving since that his talent is more on-par with Jim Druckenmiller than Jim Kelly. Two years later, at Florida, he took the solid but unspectacular Chris Leak and made him a National Championship quarterback. Just a caution to NFL general managers: I'm not saying that Tebow is going to be the top pick like Alex Smith, nor am I saying Leak's game is equal to Tebow's. Just that Urban Meyer has a track record of turning semi-marginal quarterbacks into title-winning leaders...so despite Danielson and many other's undying affection for "Tim Terrific," I think the jury is still out on our boy's NFL future.


The Legacy Continues

Somewhere, yesterday Billy Joe Hobert and Billy Joe Tolliver were smiling like proud papas. The legacy that they so carefully crafted as unmemorable 3-named quarterbacks was clearly embraced by Alabama's forgettable tri-namer, John Parker Wilson. Wilson finished the SEC title game with a pedestrian 12 of 25 for 187 yards with 1 pick. Just the kind of day you'd expect from a triple-naming QB. If you are an up-and-coming passer entering the college or pro ranks, think twice before you make that middle name a permanent part of your title...a world of mediocrity awaits you.



Pistons...A Weekend to Forget

Tuesday night, the Pistons played their best 4th quarter of the season at San Antonio on their way to an impressive 12-point win. Rasheed was on fire from downtown, Iverson did a little bit of everything, and it seemed like maybe, just maybe, the post-Chauncey Pistons were turning the corner. With two very winnable games on the horizon over the weekend following a few days of rest, a winning streak seemed to be in the cards for the 'Stones. Not to be.

The 76ers came into the Palace Friday night with an underwhelming 8-11 record and proceeded to sleepwalk through the first three quarters. The 2008-09 version of the Pistons, however, can sleepwalk with the best of 'em. They essentially took the 4th quarter off, giving up an embarrassing 38 points to a 76ers team that has lacked much explosiveness this year. (26th out of 30 in the NBA in scoring) Obviously, it's one loss in a long NBA season full of ups and downs. But it's a disturbing loss, nonetheless. A 15-point lead late in the 3rd quarter at home to a sub-.500 team is not a game the old Pistons would give up. Nor would the old Pistons allow a guy who many believed to be dead, Donyell Marshall, to beat em' with a late game 3-ball. (No matter how knowledgeable you think you are about the NBA, there is a zero percent chance you could recite, in order, all of the teams Mr. Marshall has suited up for. And if you can, then you have real problems...as well as my full respect)

The Sunday loss to the Knicks was one of those unusual noon NBA starts where there is a good chance one team will come out flatter than Lori Petty and be down 25 points before the first NFL games kick off at 1:00. That team was the Pistons, finding themselves in a 29 point 2nd quarter hole, en route to a 2nd straight sad loss. Some disturbing numbers from the loss.
-The Pistons are now 0 and 5 on Sundays. Who do they think they are, the Lions? Ba-zing!!
-David Lee hauled in 19 rebounds. Our starting frontcourt (Tayshaun, Rasheed, Kwame) had 18
-Chris Duhon scored 25 points to go with 9 assists, while playing the full 48 minutes. In other news, he is in fact still Chris Duhon...not Clyde Frazier, as his numbers might indicate.
-Rasheed Wallace hit 4 of 6 treys in the San Antonio win Tuesday night. The two losses since, he connected on 1 of 9. As Pistons fans, we know a hot night from downtown for Sheed will usually lead to too many 3's launched in the subsequent games. As the legendary Doug Heffernan once said after using two packets of icing on one toaster strudel, "Happy now...Sad later."

The hometown boys have a very friendly schedule leading up to the New Year. Despite these most recent lackluster efforts, I still think there is too much talent here for it to continue too much longer. Rip is starting to break out of his funk for the first time since the trade and Antonio McDyess should be back with the club this week. With 11 games left on the 2008 calendar, I say the Pistons bag 9 wins and head into the New Year all smiles.


You Don't Just Walk Into Crisler Arena and Pick Up a Win...

The Michigan basketball program has not been to the NCAA tournament since 1998. In the time since, Wolverine fans have endured Brian Ellerbe and Tommy Amaker. They've endured exciting, new "recruits" like Avery Queen, Lester Abram and Josh Asselin. I was matriculating there during an especially depressing time. It was so bad that a home win against a mediocre N.C. State team consisting of Julius Hodge and a side of rice pilaf was cause for a riot down State Street. You ended up trying to talk yourself into Bernard Robinson, Jr. as an NBA prospect, saying things like, "The jump shot, ball handling, and court awareness will come in time...the important thing is that he's very muscular." It was not a fun decade of Michigan hoops...until now.

The basketball team in Ann Arbor is finally relevant again. With John Beilein making all the right moves, Michigan took down #4 Duke Saturday afternoon, giving the Maize and Blue their 2nd win over a top-5 team in the young season (Also beat #4 UCLA). Beilein's boys were the aggressors throughout the game, getting to the line 22 times to Duke's 6. The 1-3-1 zone employed by Michigan forced Duke into hoisting up a staggering 33 shots from beyond the arc. Junior DeShawn Sims was the best player on the floor. Pulling down offensive rebounds, getting to the line, hitting 3's...Sims displayed the full skill set on the way to 28 points. Manny Harris played the perfect second fiddle, remaining under control and shooting a high percentage. It was a big win for a program that is almost trying to reinvent itself after a decade of gawd awful basketball. The win over a semi-fraudulent #4 team in UCLA on a neutral court was a nice win. But slaying previously undefeated Duke, after the Blue Devils just wiped the court with this year's Big Ten darling, Purdue; different animal entirely.

Crisler Arena seemed to be rocking for the first time in a long time on Saturday. Not too long ago, it was so quiet that you could clearly hear Tommy Amaker instruct LaVell Blanchard during an offensive possession, "Vell! You are top side, Vell! My turtle neck is too tight, Vell! Vell, I cannot breathe!!" Thankfully, things are much different now in Ann Arbor.


Oscar...You are Played....Sooooo Played

Oscar De La Hoya was dominated by the undersized Manny Pacquiao Saturday night. This should not have been breaking news. "The Golden Boy" last beat a good fighter about six years ago when he knocked out Fernando Vargas. Pacquiao beat De La Hoya to the punch all night long, and eventually Oscar decided he'd taken enough punishment after 8 rounds. Apparently De La Hoya thought that his height/reach advantage would somehow just magically win the fight for him...didn't happen. I've been an anti-Oscar guy ever since he lost the welterweight title to Felix Trinidad in a highly controversial decision, a fight in which Oscar threw exactly ZERO punches in the 12th and final round. He was the Champion, in a hotly contested fight. A real Champion takes the fight from you in the closing rounds. Our "Golden Boy" decided to run and hide in those "Championship Rounds," giving Trinidad the win and title. He was never the same fighter. 31 and 0 going into the Trinidad fight. 8 and 6 since. Hang em' up, Oscar...even if it is about five years too late.

(Sidenote: my older brother Gabe, despite being the most knowledgeable boxing guy you will ever come across, is also the most biased when it comes to his favorite fighters. De La Hoya is one of them. Leading up to the Pacquiao fight, Gabe claimed his boy had only lost twice in his career, despite the five red marks on his record. The Trinidad loss...he got robbed by the judges. The two losses to Mosley...only cause Sugar Shane was on the juice. He concedes the Hopkins and Mayweather losses. It'll be interesting to see which category he puts this Pacquiao beatdown in. I'm thinking it'll wind up in the "conspiracy" bin, leaving De La Hoya's make-believe record at 43-2. Maybe he shouldn't retire after all.)


Tell The World My Story

That was the slogan I scribbled in big capital letters on a brown, paper bag minutes before I was picked up for the Lions game by my boy BK. I have always been oddly jealous of the guys who donned the "paper bag over the head" look as a fan of a crummy sports team. I thought the above quote, taken from Newman in a Seinfeld episode, was the perfect fit for this historic season. I folded it 12 different times and stuffed it into one of my front jeans pockets. Survived the bizarre patting down by the Ford Field security where they basically make you extend your arms outward so they can check under your armpits to make sure there are no weapons there. My left front pocket was practically about to burst with my clever paper bag, but that was no big deal. I was all ready for my big moment. Except that the Lions actually played a competitive ballgame. The sign would not work in a Lions win. The game wasn't totally "in the bag" until under a minute remained, with the Vikings finally securing victory. By then, my dreams of national TV exposure and bursts of laughter from adoring fans in our section were long gone. Maybe I just don't have it in me to wear a bag on my head at a live sporting event. Or maybe being the Paper Bag guy was never really the fantasy I'd built it up as. Either way, the Lions lost and the only thing I regret is not getting a chance to "tell the world my story."



As always, feel free to drop a comment or your thoughts below in the "comments" section...or just shoot me an email at highsockslegend@gmail.com

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Out Of My Mind...

Sometimes you go to the well of ideas for the next 2,500 word piece and nothing really jumps out at you. The world does not need another "here's how to fix the BCS" article. The "Lions Road to 16 Losses" stories are so played right now (I'm looking at you, Michael Rosenberg) that I think the Free Press could just re-print the same front page article every day and nobody would bat an eye. Was contemplating the inevitable 35-paragraph breakdown of the Bruce Willis masterpiece "Striking Distance," but that really can't be forced. So in lieu of all that, here are a few things that have been trickling through my mind of late...

Cheese Sticks...Just Keep Doin What You're Doin

As I sit here on a cold, snow-filled, Michigan winter night, I search for the right words to describe this life-changing appetizer. Cheese sticks have done so much for the world and humanity itself. Ever been pretty hungry at lunch, but you feel like that tuna melt and fries aint gonna cut it?? What`s always there for you?? A big group out to dinner in search of the perfect "appetizer we can all share"?? Cheese Sticks shows up again, and it just flat gets the job done. You're under so much pressure, Sticks, and you come through every time.

I know it must be real hard to have that sizzling cheese inside you while a crisp breading is attached to your body. But you withstand it for the pure love of your customers, and I'm here to say "Thanks, fellas." Yea, sometimes your cheese might flow out a little too much and we're left with an empty fried stick, but hey, nobody's perfect and we totally understand. Hey, I dip that empty stick in the Marinara and I'm a happy guy, anyway. Name me another appetizer that can flawlessly interchange the end of its spelling with a simple "X" and get away with it. Admit it, it's just a little more fun when it shows up as "Cheese Stix" on the menu.

Truthfully though, I just want you guys to know how much we appreciate all that you do. Potato Skins, Chips and Salsa, and the depressing new "it" item, Lettuce Wraps, have all tried their best to be the appetizer of our dreams. But only one can lay claim to that immortal shrine: it's you, Cheese Sticks. And for that, we are forever grateful.

(Note to all establishments serving this timeless classic: enough with the bed of lettuce underneath the Cheese Sticks. It's highly inappropriate. The lettuce is usually wet and it's always that weird kind of lettuce where you're not even sure if it's edible. This can ruin the whole experience for me, so please refrain from this unlawful procedure in the future. All of America thanks you.)


Worst Birthday Present of All-Time...Hands Down

There is no debate on this...the worst birthday present ever handed out was 'The Game' that Sean Penn gave to Michael Douglas in the highly underrated 1997 thriller "The Game." I mean, who wants a gift certificate to Circuit City or a new Polo shirt when you can have your own 'Game,' replete with traumatic events of your childhood being re-lived and several near-death experiences?!? Sounds like a blast!

No need to recap the entire film, as everybody has seen it. Briefly, the whole movie centers on Connie (Sean Penn) buying older brother Nicholas (Michael Douglas) this "Game." The game in question consists of a number of hired actors royally screwing up Douglas' life at every turn, threatening his life numerous times, all while he basically has no idea why/how any of this is happening. Of course, there's the classic staple of "all money in bank account is now gone in the blink of an eye for no apparent reason." (Also seen in various forms in Changing Lanes, Enemy of the State, and Unlawful Entry) The movie borders on terrifying and hilarious. Terrifying when people from the Game put on a stunt to mimic his father's suicide. Hilarious when Douglas returns home one night, only to be greeted by a sign simply reading, "Welcome Home, Di#*face." The movie finally culminates when Nicholas leaps off a building, intending to kill himself, only to drop through some breakaway glass onto a giant target and into his perfectly planned birthday party. With my birthday approaching in January, I will be reminding all those around me that the only "Game" I want for the big day is one that involves Reverses, Skips, and Draw Fours.

(We all know how girls can be in selecting movies. Whether it's renting or going to see one at the theater, many females are only comfortable seeing something with the words "Music" or "Lyrics" in the title. Perfect example is my girlfriend Emily. REFUSES to see anything with any hint of action or adventure. I think one weekend we might have seen "Devil Wears Prada" and "Waitress" back-to-back...I'm pretty sure I blacked out at some point. (I think it was during the scene in 'Waitress' when Keri Russell gets yelled at by her husband...oh right, that was the whole movie.) You get the point...any bullets, explosions, or things that "will give me nightmares" is off-limits with my Emmy. Well, I get a call from her one night after she finished watching a movie with some guy friend of hers. I ask her what they watched, expecting to hear something "Ya-Ya Sisterhood" related.

"We watched 'THE GAME'!! It was pretty good!!" she tells me.

I know it's good...damn! After months of chick flicks and Sex and the City re-runs, I found out she finally gave in and watched a "scary" movie, and I wasn't even part of the equation! Talk about one dude warming up the slot machine, and another brother swooping in, pulling the lever, and hitting the jackpot. Not that I'm still bitter or anything...)


Will Tyler Hansbrough wear the Double Zero as a Tribute to his Hero?

When I close my eyes, I can almost picture this exact scene. Eric Montross, laying on his couch in podunk, North Carolina...frozen Tombstone 'Za cooking in the oven, half-full Keystone Light in his hand...watching Tyler Hansbrough on TV with a big grin on his face, thinking, "Enjoy it now, Big Fella. Within 4 years, you'll be averaging 4 points and 3 boards, traded twice, and announcers will only bother mentioning you so as to point out 'there's another 6 fouls to use on Dwight Howard.'" In other words, Tyler, enjoy this Senior season as much as possible.