Iverson getting the winning bucket via goaltending with under 3 seconds to go. Finally, Mike Curry's guys have gotten into a little groove, quietly rattling off 7 straight W's. As George Blaha would say, "Don't look now, but the Pistons are only a handful of games behind the Celtics and Cavs in the East." It'll be tough for the streak to go too much longer, with tough road games at Portland, Denver, and Utah upcoming. Once this squad gets fully healthy, though, look out. They will be one of the most dangerous teams in the NBA in the second half of the season.
With the Celtics entertaining thoughts of bringing in Stephon Marbury, I'd say the Pistons chances are getting better each day. Hard to believe the Celts are serious about that. It's like when ABC added Rosie O' Donnell to "The View." Yeah, it might sell a few more tickets and create some headlines. But ultimately, the chemistry will be disrupted, feelings will be hurt, and nobody will be walking away with any hardware at the end of the season.
These five players were all on the floor at the same time for the Los Angeles Clippers earlier today. Deandre Jordan, Paul Davis, Mardy Collins, Steve Novak, and Eric Gordon. To repeat, that was not the lineup for the Bakersfield Jam of the NBDL...those guys were actually all on the court at one time representing an NBA team. If that isn't Sports Illustrated's "Sign of the Apocalypse" this week, I'll be very disappointed.
Amir Johnson is really starting to find an identity on the court. He is crashing the offensive boards hard every time down and is coming up with cheap points and second chances consistently. He's usually good for one highlight reel putback dunk every night now, too. Even on the ones he can't grab, Amir has been channeling his inner Ben Wallace and tipping a lot of balls out to the guards. Early in the year, he seemed uncomfortable and scared to make a mistake. The Pistons could have listed him as "Korleone Young" in the program and nobody would have batted an eye. Now he is playing with a reckless abandon, and really carving out a role on this squad. You never know what happens to his minutes when Rasheed and Rip get back to the lineup, but for now, it's nice to see Amir Johnson do what we have heard he is capable of doing for the last few years.
Kwame Brown should get a trademark on the play where he grabs an offensive rebound, finds himself right under the hoop, and before even entertaining the thought of going back up with it, kicking it right back out like the ball is literally on fire. And with Kwame Brown's offensive skill level what it is, I am perfectly fine with this play. Really mind-boggling that this guy was drafted #1 overall largely because of his "athletic ability" as a near 7-footer. I've watched this guy plenty over the years and his athleticism has always been much more Rasho Nesterovic than Larry Nance. That's where I think Kwame was brilliant in foregoing college and instead heading directly for the NBA. I really think if this guy went to a major school for 3 or 4 years, he would have gotten royally exposed and may never have reached the league. Instead, you let everyone guess how a dominating high school athlete will fare in the pros and you end up as a #1 overall pick and a 7-year veteran. And the brilliant executive that snagged Kwame Brown with that first selection...none other than Michael Jordan.
Hoops from the College Ranks
Very nice win for John Beilein and Michigan on Sunday afternoon over Illinois. After a lackadaisical home loss to Wisconsin earlier in the week, it was imperative for the Wolverines to come out and get a win on their home floor. And they did just that. As is the case often with Michigan and Illinois, it was a very entertaining game. It seemed like almost every basket in the 2nd half caused the lead to change hands. The thing this game really shows you is the balance that Michigan has now. On a day where neither DeShawn Sims or Manny Harris were at their best, a number of other guys stepped up and made big contributions down the stretch.
Zack Gibson was a big time spark in the last 10-12 minutes filling in when Zack Novak was in the locker room getting stitches. The versatile Gibson did it all. He had a fast break dunk when he ended up overextending himself and ultimately landing flat on his back. He rattled in an open 3 from the left wing. Came up big on the defensive end by wiping away an easy lay-up with a clean block from behind. Capped it off with a quick first step and a thunderous dunk to show the full repertoire. On a team with a lot of talented guards and swingmen, the 6'10 Gibson can serve as a pretty valuable piece off the bench.
What a nice addition Laval Lucas-Perry (above) has been. After transferring from Arizona and joining the team a couple weeks back, Lucas-Perry has scored in double figures in all 5 games. He really has the full arsenal on offense. Displaying unlimited range from deep and an ability to get to the basket as well, his presence on the floor makes Michigan much more difficult to defend. Before his arrival, this team had two consistent scoring threats (Harris, Sims) and a number of role players. With Lucas-Perry, they now have 3 dynamic talents capable of putting up 20-25 on any given night. He will only get better, too, as he becomes more familiar with his teammates and the offense. His 2nd half shooting today was much needed in getting the 1st Big Ten win of the year.
I like the stability that Kelvin Grady brings to the team at the point. The former standout running back at East Grand Rapids, Grady is lightning quick and can get the ball up the floor as fast as anybody. With the plethora of shooters and slashers on this team, having a point guard like Grady that can get out in transition and make things happen is a nice asset to have. There's one unsettling thing about Grady, though. He's a point guard and he wears #44. That aint right. Real good point guards do not wear numbers that high. Think about it. Isiah, 11...Nash, 13...even Magic only went up to #32. Then there's Greg Anthony, 50...Jason Williams, 55...Kyle Watson in the tournament at the end of "Above the Rim"...54. Which group would you rather be in? If I were Grady, I'd hand in the 44 and get somethin' with a single digit...you'll just feel quicker.
(Play-by-Play Note: Tom Hamilton of the Big Ten Network. He's a decent announcer, but this ballgame was not his best. Consistently referred to Michigan's Stu Douglass as "Meachem," and spent the majority of the afternoon whispering sweet nothings to partner Jimmy Jackson on the air, making me and the rest of the viewing public uncomfortable. Never thought I'd say this, but I could have used some Wayne Larivee today.)
Pretty impressive start to the Big 10 campaign for the Spartans. A very impressive win at The Barn in Minnesota, followed up with another road win at the 'House that Evan Eschmeyer Built'. What was with the Northwestern point guard, Juice Thompson, in that game?? Every time the guy got the ball, he would almost immediately break into a violent spin move, regardless of whether or not he was being guarded. And it was never even to improve his position, either. My man Juice never used the spin to get to the hoop or to get penetration. It was always done about 25 feet from the goal, and usually followed by a pass to a teammate. One of the more bizarre "go-to" moves in recent memory. If Thompson literally was a juice, he would have to be grapefruit juice. A lot of hype, publicity, and pizazz...but when you actually stop and take a sip, you realize it looks a lot better than it tastes.
Making the Wrong Choice
Having trouble falling asleep the other night, actually ended up catching most of "Boys Don't Cry" on TV. Wasn't ever that crazy about seeing it, but with not much else on and knowing it had an Oscar winning performance in it by Hilary Swank, I took a shot. Talk about a wrong movie to try and watch before embarking on a peaceful night's sleep (Also on that list are 'Hostel,' 'Ted Bundy,' and 'Mr. Holland's Opus'). Now "Boys Don't Cry" was not a horror movie or anything, but I'm pretty sure I smiled or laughed maybe once or twice the whole time. When I think of pleasant images to zonk out to at 3 AM, Hilary Swank looking and acting like a teenage boy while being sexually assaulted by a couple of hooligans in Podunk, Nebraska is most definitely not one of them. I mean, damn. How about some kind of warning before that last half hour? The movie was coasting along relatively incident-free before all hell broke loose in the last few scenes. Sure, it was a terrific performance by Hilary Swank (though I really don't think the role was too much of a stretch for her). Next time I can't fall asleep, I will be opting for re-runs of 'Roseanne' on Nickelodeon instead of a dramatic showing by Mr. Swank.
(You might wonder why Mr. Holland's Opus made that above list of movies to avoid before bed. Too many f'ing emotional turns in that bad boy. One minute, Dreyfuss is getting a new job and finding out he and his wife are going to have a baby. Twenty minutes later, the job is taking over his life and his kid turns out to be Marlee Matlin. Bummer. Then he turns a no-music football star into a respectable drummer. Just when you start to feel good about that, the kid goes off and dies in 'Nam. Bummer again. And just when the music program gets shut down, they put on the most amazing assembly of all-time for Mr. Holland, culminating in his old students coming back to play the symphony that he wrote years earlier. Wow. Like I said, not a great flick to check out before your head hits the pillow. When the credits roll, you never know if you should be happy or sad. To be honest, I'm usually just still crying from that inspiring final scene. I wish I was kidding...)
Questions about the NFL Playoffs
Why do the commentators on FOX and ESPN insist on calling the guy playing quarterback for the Vikings "Tarvaris Jackson?" I thought his name was Anthony Wright.
Are there any dermatologists in Blacksburg or San Diego? Yomma-Homma!! Between all the close-ups of Frank Beamer and Norv Turner in the last couple of days, I think it's about time we all took a step back and considered whether HD-TV is doing more harm than it is good.
Projected Starting Rotation for the 2009 Detroit Tigers
1) Justin Verlander (Came closer to losing 20 last year than a lot of people realize)
2) Armando Galarraga (Only guy to really feel good about)
3) Edwin Jackson (Not many guys named "Edwin Jackson" can say they were born in Germany)
4) Whatever is still left of Jeremy Bonderman's right arm
5) A side of Rice Pilaf
Other Important Thoughts
The fries at Ruby Tuesday are underrated. Usually I'm not a big 'seasoned fries' guy, but I am in this case. Normally I believe in simply frying the potato, dipping in ketchup, and proceeding with destruction. However, I call 'em how I see 'em, and the seasoned fries at Mr. Tuesday's establishment are to be taken seriously. Well done, Sir.
Happy New Year to the thousands of you reading the column at this very moment...hope it is an excellent year for all. Shoot me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org