Monday, February 9, 2009

Yet Unnamed Monday Weekend Sports Re-Kap

Maybe You Don't Know a Good Thing Till It's Gone

I never thought I would say this...but the Pistons miss Lindsey Hunter. Yes, the same Lindsey Hunter that continued to return to the Pistons the last few seasons, always one year older and 30 pounds heavier. His jumper had all but deserted him. His decision making in transition was fading faster than Meg Ryan's sex appeal. And he practically sent my boy Harold jumping off the nearest bridge whenever he attempted to go coast-to-coast, forgetting that he was now closer to 40 than he was to 20. But beyond allll that...the man could still bother the hell out of the other team's point guard. Chest-to-chest defense, swiping at the ball constantly, and taking charges...Lindsey continued to be a pretty good pest even in his later years. Well, this past weekend, the old dog could have been an absolute savior for these Pistons. On Saturday night, albeit in an overtime win, Ramon Sessions of the Milwaukee Bucks tallied 44 points and 12 assists. No, I did not say Pete Maravich. I did not say Walt Frazier. I said RAMON SESSIONS. The words "Ramon Sessions" and "44 points" should never be uttered in the same sentence. Not only is the guy a former D-League player that is really only playing big minutes because of a slew of injuries, but he also pronounces his name "Rah-MAHN." I'm all for originality, but if your name is spelled R-A-M-O-N, you're "Ra-Mone." No questions asked. Go ahead and ask Ramon Santiago or Razor Ramon. They'll tell you how it is. Regardless, the Pistons could not hold him in check whatsoever.

Last night, Steve Nash matched up against AI and company. Nothing to write home about...just 15 points to go with 21 assists. The box score does not indicate such things, but I'm pretty sure 20 of the 21 assists led directly to layups or dunks. Of course, Nash is a superstar point guard that can rack up assists on anybody, but the way he carved the Pistons up all night begged for a Lindsey Hunter sighting. Nice call on my Dad's part, too, who claimed a day earlier that "Nobody had Jumped the Shark faster than Steve Nash." It's tough to remember a two game stretch in which the opposing point guards put up such prolific numbers on the Pistons. You might have to go back to a Stockton-Payton back-to-back, when our lead guards were guys like Mark Macon and Negele Knight. There are rumors abound talking about Amare Stoudemire coming, Rasheed Wallace leaving...but you don't hear much about Lindsey Hunter making his annual comeback to the D. It might be rock bottom in admitting this, but the Pistons need him more than ever before. At the very least, just sign Lindsey to a special one-game contract, solely for next Tuesday's tilt at the Palace. After all, Rah-MAHN is coming to town that night, and Lindsey is the only one capable of blocking his current path directly to the Hall-of-Fame. I just gotta make sure Harold doesn't find out about it...

You Can't Get Too Comfortable When You're Sitting Directly on a Bubble

In a game that could have done wonders for Michigan's NCAA tournament chances, they came up just short on Saturday, falling on the road to Connecticut, the #1 team in the land. For a good part of the 1st half, Michigan looked to be in control of the game and on the brink of a double digit advantage. One of the turning points in the contest came with Michigan holding an 8 point lead. Stu Douglass, who otherwise had a marvelous game, somehow missed a wide open layup that would have stretched the lead to 10. UCONN would have most likely called a timeout, the Wolverines would have been fired up beyond belief on the bench, and things might have been different. Instead, UCONN went down following the missed bunny and got Hasheem Thabeet a dunk. Next time down, Jerome Dyson banged a 3 and now it was John Beilein signaling for a T.O., his lead now down to 3. When play resumed, Dyson knocked down another 3 and the game was tied. It was one of those games where the underdog played a very good 1st half and should have entered halftime with a solid 6-8 point lead. Instead, they went in to the break up a single point, probably thinking that they had fumbled away their best chance at taking this game.

A game like this, against an elite opponent, will usually spotlight your team's biggest points of weakness before the final buzzer sounds. This game was no exception. John Beilein had such success at West Virginia over the years by utilizing a system that put numerous shooters on the court at all times with an emphasis on stroking the three. He is trying to do these same things at Michigan. There's just one pretty big problem. His shooters just aint that good. While Stu Douglass looks like a pure shooter and was sizzling in the UCONN game by hitting 6 of 8 from downtown, his teammates do not exactly breed the same kind of confidence when the shots go up. Most of the Wolverine players are capable of knocking down 3's, but there is a difference between being capable and being consistent.

Take Laval Lucas-Perry, for instance. He joined the team in December and showed his range early and often. In his first 6 games, he buried 16 3-balls. In the 9 games since, he's only managed to hit 6. It seemed like he was going to be a dynamic player in this system, and he still may be down the road. But for now, his confidence is at an all-time low and he is a complete non-factor when he's in the game. Zack Novak is another guy being relied upon to knock down shots from the perimeter. Unfortunately, he has been drinking from the same water as Lucas-Perry. Novak scored in double digits the first two Big Ten games of the year. He was becoming a serious threat from the long line, with 8 triples in those 2 games. But in the 9 contests that followed, he crashed head first into the Big Ten wall, failing to reach the 10 point mark again and completely losing his once reliable 3-point shot. Michigan fans are aware that Manny Harris and DeShawn Sims will never be pure shooters from the outside. Their strength is attacking the basket, getting to the line, and yes, occasionally knocking down a 3. But without ample support from the perimeter, there is no way Michigan can beat good teams on the road, let alone a team sitting at 22-1 on the year. They shot 9-29 from deep on Saturday, a stat that only Baron Davis could be proud of. For Michigan to get back to their first NCAA tournament since 1998, the 3-point shot must return to being their greatest weapon instead of their Achilles heel.

Letting Out Some Serious Frustration

As per usual, Tom Izzo's group in East Lansing bounced back in a serious way after a tough loss. When Penn State tagged MSU with their second straight home loss last weekend, you knew that it was going to be a rough go for whoever had to play them next. Minnesota waltzed into the Breslin Center and promptly got taken immediately to the woodshed. Then Indiana came to town and was given the same treatment. In a weird coincidence, the final scores from each game were nearly identical (76-47 over Minn, 75-47 over Indy). Michigan State is now sitting pretty at 19-4 overall with a two game cushion atop the catbird seat of the Big Ten. And they're doing it without the services of 2nd leading scorer Raymar Morgan, who has not been able to make a real contribution in nearly a month as he fights off a mysterious illness.

In the last week, the Sparties began playing the lockdown defense they are famous for under Tom Izzo. On Tuesday night, the Spartans will invade Crisler Arena with hopes of dealing a crushing blow to Michigan's tournament dream. It will undoubtedly be an electric atmosphere in Ann Arbor, as this is the only matchup between the schools this year. For Michigan to pull the upset, they will need to keep the State supporting cast from getting off. Izzo's crew has started getting big nights from unexpected sources of late. Draymond Green, potbelly in tow, notched a double-double against Indiana. Future star Delvon Roe also seems to be rounding into shape and has been making a solid impact down low every time out. With Kalin Lucas doing his thing at the point, Chris Allen and Durrell Summers making shots from the outside, and Goran Suton maintaining his presence on the inside, Tom Izzo may very well be coaching in a National Semifinal at Ford Field come April 4th.

Caution... Do Not Attempt To Shoot Over 50% Past This Point

The Baron Davis traveling circus made a stop in Memphis on Friday night. The Clippers played their best game of the year. They put up an eye-popping 126 points and thrashed the Grizzlies by 21. For the game, LA shot 59 percent from the field. Pretty much everything they threw up went in. Even Ricky Davis, who has yet to turn down a shot in his NBA career, made 9 of 14. This was the night Baron Davis finally shot above 50 percent from the field, right???? How could he not?? Alas, while his teammates spent the evening cashing in from everywhere on the floor, B-Dizzle dug down deep and did what he had to do to keep his historic streak going, posting a pedestrian 4 of 10 from the field. That brought his run of failing to shoot above 50% to a nasty 55 straight games.

'Errant' Baron and his cronies cruised into the ATL on Saturday night still riding high after their manhandling of Memphis. Unbelievably, the 11 and 39 Clippers registered their second straight blowout victory, pasting the Hawks by 24. Again, they scorched the nets, scoring 121 points and shooting 57 % from the field. All followers of the High Socks Legend have come to keep calm even on a night such as this. Baron never disappoints. Our man sent 12 shots flying toward the rim on this night, and in classic Baron fashion, only 4 of them ended up pressing the nylon. This wild ride now sits at 56 consecutive games. 56 times in a row, Baron Davis has played in an NBA game and failed to make more shots than he missed.

To put it in perspective, just think of any random player in the league. Go check out his game log for the year. Chances are, you won't have to look through more than 5-10 games before you see your player with a plus-50 effort. What Baron has done and continues to do ranks as one of the most unlikely accomplishments in sports history. It's right up there with Bobby Higginson's '4 home runs in 4 straight at-bats' and Tim Biakabatuka's 313 yard game against undefeated Ohio State. When you get a chance to witness history like this on a nightly basis, you have to cherish it. You never know when a feat like this will come along again. Baron steps to the floor tonight to face the Bobcats in Charlotte. I'm counting down the minutes...

Other Things Floating Around In My Skull

-Has anybody ever walked into the store "Lids" at the mall and stayed for less than 45 minutes?

-I'm willing to admit when I make a mistake or a real bad decision. So I will go ahead and tell you that for approximately five full minutes yesterday afternoon, I watched the Pro Bowl. I am not proud of myself.

-For a supposed defensive specialist and otherwise average shooter, Arron Afflalo sure enjoys shooting that rock. He spent 8 minutes on the court against the Suns. He jacked up 6 shots. He made zero.

-Maybe it's just the nostalgic feeling I got from watching it, but I damn near jumped off the couch when G-Hill turned back the clock with a sweet one-handed finish on the fast break Sunday night. He'll always be one of my favorite Pistons of all time. Nobody can deny the guy's heart and courage for trying to play through severe pain and injury in that last playoff series against the Heat. He would suffer in the years to follow for trying to play on that already messed up ankle, but he didn't care. I get a little choked up thinking about it. (High Socks Legend preview: 25,000 word article on Hill to come somewhere down the line. Not kidding.)

-I enjoyed the movie "Notorious," but I definitely liked it better the first time I saw it...when it was called "Selena."

-From a guy who has consumed his share of Asiago bagels over the years, I will just come right out and say it. Why do these bagel places think it is OK to only cover the middle part of the bagel with cheese?? The outside turns into a simple plain bagel. And God forbid they threw a little cheese on the bottom, too. By only covering the top with cheese, this bagel becomes impossible to cut in half and enjoy both sides equally. Instead, you're forced to be a complete savage and eat it like a big sandwich with Asiago only patrolling 35% of the total surface area of the bagel. In other words, I'm completely insane and will now stop before I write a long essay on people that eat every part of the pizza except the crust and why they should all be shipped to a deserted island with no food or water to speak of. Until next time...

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