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Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Working the Wire

This week's fantasy hoops column on is live... picks for the week include:

  • Orien Greene -- Sacramento's starting point guard while Mike Bibby is out
  • Kenyon Martin -- Apparently healthy, finally
  • Malik Allen -- This year's winner of the "Stats inflated by Jason Kidd" award
  • Paul Davis -- The Clippers' first big man off the bench
Feedback is welcome, as always.

That Jim Boeheim is a Terrific Recruiter

I'm watching the game on ESPN tonight, and that kid playing small forward for Syracuse is just great. I think he may have a future in the NBA.

The 'cuse can't seem to stop Nowitzki, though.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

I Respect Grandma Cora

Possibly the best ESPN commercial since Charlie Steiner appeared in war paint...

TrueHoop has the complete set. The wax figure of Jeff Van Gundy in the spot with KG, Pierce and Allen looks particularly lifelike.

(UPDATE: Apparently these got yanked from YouTube... but are available from directly. Links and embedded file have been updated.)

Monday, October 29, 2007

Fool Me Once...

Indiana University hired Kelvin Sampson despite the fact that he was facing NCAA sanctions for making illegal recruiting phone calls while at Oklahoma.

Hired him even though he was banned from making any phone calls to recruits.

So what happens, now that Sampson's been caught with his hand in the cookie jar, er... on the receiver... for the second time in two years?

An assistant is taking the fall, obviously.

Rob Senderoff, a 34-year-old assistant on Sampson's staff, will resign from his position as a result of the latest -- or is it the ongoing? -- scandal. Sampson is not expected to face any additional punishment from the NCAA -- though the university took away a scheduled $500,000 raise and one scholarship when reports of the illegal calls surfaced last month.

You could register your displeasure at the latest development -- and the fact that Sampson is apparently going to get away with this -- at, though you'll note a distinct lack of activity on that site.

Did we mention Indiana is expected to have a top-ten team this year?

Think that has anything to do with the apparent lack out outrage?

Wondering what would have happened if a coach that wasn't running one of the NCAA's flagship programs pulled a stunt like this?

Me too.

You're Doing It Wrong...

The St. John's basketball program ranks with programs like North Carolina, Kansas, Kentucky and Duke in terms of all-time wins*. But the Red Storm has fallen on hard times of late, bottoming out badly during the tail end of the Mike Jarvis regime with off-court controversies, player transfers, and NCAA sanctions.

And lots and lots of losses.

The university is taking steps to right the ship and emulate some of the other programs on that list.

Unfortunately, one of those key steps is "soak the fan base for every cent you can extract."

St. John's recently unveiled a new method for assigning seat locations for season ticket-holders -- the best seats will go to those who have donated the most cash to the university.

This is a common practice at universities where basketball tickets are as hard-to-get as opening night seats for Young Frankenstein the Musical. But the Johnnies play to mostly-empty houses, except when teams like Connecticut or Duke are in town.

Perhaps the athletic department should consult with one of the professors teaching Economics 101. See, you're only supposed to raise prices when demand is high... not when your squad has been picked to finish 14th out of 16 teams in the preseason coaches' poll.

* Remarkably -- or perhaps not so remarkably -- the NCAA hasn't updated that list since 2004.

Fair & Balanced Reporting
One note on the New York Post article linked above... the author quotes Ron Naclerio, a "season ticket holder since 1975" as saying:

They are saying, 'Thanks for 30 years of loyalty - see you later,' and the last few years have been hard to watch. "I understand that it is a business, and you have to generate money, but it doesn't seem right that it has to be on the backs of the loyal fans."
The article doesn't identify Naclerio as the coach of Cardozo High School -- or as someone who has reportedly campaigned for an assistant coach position with the Johnnies on more than one occasion.

Recruiting with Rubber Chickens

There are more rules governing recruiting of big-time college ballplayers than there are governing what is and isn't allowed in carry-on baggage. And yet, in both cases, people will continue to find loopholes.

Here's a recent example, as reported on the ever-informative forum. Because this is a third-hand account and cannot be verified, I'll refer to the players and coaches involved in the vaguest of euphemisms.

A big-time college coach is speaking at a rubber chicken dinner/high school sports banquet. The town's star player is in attendance... but because the dinner is scheduled during a recruiting "quiet period," the coach cannot so much as say hello to the player without risking sanctions from the NCAA.

During the Q/A portion of the speech, the coach is asked what he looks for in a recruit. Without missing a beat, the coach goes on to describe, in great and obvious detail, the star player that he's not allowed to approach.

Legal? Probably.

Ethical? Questionable.

Effective? Let's just say the player in question will be suiting up for the coach in question next fall.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Legalize It!

It appears that gambling among NBA referees is far more widespread... and far less serious... than many had feared.

ESPN's Chris Sheridan reports:

Stern said an internal review had found that all of the league's 56 referees violated the contractual prohibition against engaging in gambling, with more than half of them admitting to placing wagers in casinos. But Stern said none of the violations was major, and no referees had admitted to wagering in a sports book or with a bookie.

Emphasis mine. The "no referees had admitted to wagering with a bookie" part is sort of amusing, no? Was the league really expecting a lot of refs to step up and cop to placing bets with Chris Moltisanti and Paulie Walnuts behind the Bada Bing?

But anyway... it seems like the league has come up with a remarkably simple solution to the problem. They're going to re-write the policy on gambling to allow referees the same leeway as players, coaches and officials. Which means no one is going to get fired for placing a side bet on a golf game or playing a few hands of blackjack at Mohegan Sun.

(Hmm... an outright ban doesn't work, so legalize it. Where have I heard that argument before?)

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Working the Wire

Fantasy hoops enthusiasts take note: the first of my weekly columns was published today on

Once the season tips off, we'll use the column to find fantasy value from the players sitting on the waiver wire in most leagues... for this preseason installment, we're mostly looking at the guys -- like Portland's Martell Webster and Philly rookie Jason Smith -- who may earn jobs based on strong training camp performances or roster changes.

Here's a link to the full article
-- feedback, as always -- is welcome.

In Honor of Game One...

Here are ten reasons to hate Red Sox fans.

We'll be using many of these to explain why we hate Celtics fans later this year, I'm afraid.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Genius or Madman?

I'd like to thank the New York Jets for ending their season nice and early... gives me plenty of time to concentrate on hoops...

But while we're charting the demise of the J-E-T-S Jets Jets Jets, I'd like to ask one question...

Please don't take this as heresy, Jets fans, but if Eric Mangini is so freakin' smart, why can't he come up with a defense in which his two big-ticket first-round draft pick keystones aren't liabilities?

Even when they were winning last season, the Jets' run defense was atrocious. People blamed the fact that DT Dewayne Robertson and MLB Jonathan Vilma aren't ideal fits for Mangini's preferred 3-4.

So here's my question...

Isn't it the job of the coach to play a system that maximizes the strengths of his players?

Laurence Frank wouldn't put Jason Kidd in the triangle offense and let Vince Carter or Richard Jefferson initiate plays from the wing... well, not for long, anyway. Terry Francona wouldn't ask Manny Ramirez to slap singles through the first-base hole or bunt runners over... or ask Big Papi to steal second.

So why does Mangini get a free pass for asking these guys to play a 3-4?

Most of the key players on the Jets defense were drafted when Herm Edwards was running the show, and playing a 4-3 "Cover Two" base D. Vilma and Robertson are well-suited to that system. They're both small for a 3-4... which makes the Jets very vulnerable up the middle... as evidenced by the fact that they made Kenny freakin' Watson look like Emmitt Smith yesterday.

Would Bill Belichick stick with a defense if he didn't have the right players for it?

C'mon, coach. You need to do better. (I hope.)

Saturday, October 20, 2007

OK Computer

A league of guys from one of my former employers drafted the other night, using Yahoo. I'm very pleased with my results. Here's my squad:

  • Monta Ellis (PG/SG)
  • Kobe Bryant (SG)
  • Kevin Durant (SG/SF)
  • Rashard Lewis (SF)
  • David West (PF)
  • Ron Artest (SF)
  • Marcus Camby (C)
  • LaMarcus Aldridge (PF/C)
  • Randy Foye (PG/SG)
  • Andris Biedrins (C)
  • Anthony Parker (SG/SF)
  • Andrew Bynum (C)
  • Chucky Atkins (PG)
Not to shabby, eh? I have a couple of scorers. I have shooters. I have a sleeper or two. The injury risk with Camby is mitigated by the potential of guys like Aldridge and Biedrins and Bynum. I even got Atkins -- a guy that I consider to be a serious sleeper this season -- and a lineup that's fairly well set for the "Tanking Assists" strategy, which I wanted to try.

I'm even more pleased because I didn't draft a single one of these players. This one was 100% auto-draft. I didn't even pre-rank my players -- I thought I'd be drafting live.

Generally, I fear the auto-draft. I was fully expecting a roster full of Elton Brands and Greg Odens and Mikki Moores. This one -- it ain't half bad.

Anyone else had a positive experience with Yahoo's auto-draft this year? Have they improved it? Or am I just the blind squirrel that found a nut this time through?

Houston, Last Stop?

A couple of weeks ago, over on the fantasy blogs, I questioned Allan Houston's judgement for even considering a comeback attempt with the Knicks.

I'm all for a comeback -- hell, the NBA could use as many Allan Houstons as possible. But the Knicks, aside from nostalgia and "ease of commute" from his home in Connecticut, were perhaps the worst possible destination. New York already had more than the max number of players under contract; in order for Houston to make the team, Isiah Thomas would have needed to cut at least two players. Meanwhile, there are several potential contenders who could use a spot-up shooter of Houston's skill. Why play for a potential cellar-dweller when he could chase a ring with the Cavs or Heat?

Apparently he's come around to my way of thinking -- Houston has left the Knicks, but hasn't ruled out one last shot at playing in the NBA. I'd like to see him land in Miami, in the Jason Kapono memorial "I'm going to stand still and wait for Shaq to pass out of a double-team" role.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Not a Banner Day...

Today's stories should be about the new-look Celtics, who pasted New York by 40.

Or about Kobe Bryant -- because everyone loves a good trade rumor.

Instead, we get a bunch of reminders that several NBA players, coaches and organizations seem to have problems treating women properly.

One has to wonder when David Stern will get all "Roger Goodell" on us and start putting his foot down. When he was concerned that players looked to sloppy arriving for games, he insisted on a dress code. What does he do when players -- and coaches, and owners -- act like they're getting relationship advice from a bunch of drunken frat boys?

Take a cue from the NFL, Mr. Stern. The NBA needs to have a zero tolerance policy towards the sort of behavior that reinforces every negative stereotype about athletes. A significant fine directed at Thomas, his boss Jim Dolan and the entire Knick organization would be a step in the right direction.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Don't Call It a Comeback...

LL Cool J said it best... "Don't call it a comeback... I've been here for years."

Well, maybe not years.

And though I haven't been posting much, I've been active writing about basketball -- primarily fantasy basketball -- for, Rotowire and Yahoo. (The Yahoo stuff is part of their premium package.) I also had several articles published in's fantasy preview magazine, which is available now at the sorts of places where you buy magazines.

I'll post links to everything that's available without a subscription next few days. And then, as the season ramps up, I'll use this space to post notices about the fantasy articles I'm running on, Rotowire or Fox -- and to write general hoops/sports notes.

Here's hoping you'll be along for the ride.

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