Archive for February, 2011

>By Evan Ream, with help from the Intern

Last Year: 9-16-5, 32 points, 6th in East, 13th overall
 
Key Losses: Cory Gibbs
 
Key Additions: Didier Domi, A.J. Soares, Ousmane Dabo
 
Projected Starting XI: There are a lot of questions concerning the Starting XI for New England this year. New acquisitions Didier Domi and Ousmane Dabo have the European pedigree, but do they have the desire to play in MLS, and on turf in the cold of New England? Tons of these signings have happened before and not turned out too well, but for now one would think that they would be penciled in as starters. Up top, Ilija Stolica had a decent season last year and should be a lock, but the other position is less obvious. Zack Shilawski scored an early season hat trick (though it was against Toronto) before hitting the rookie wall and only ending with five goals. Still, he seems like a more viable option than the inconsistent Kenny Mansally, who should also get time off the bench and a few starts. Marko Perovic started many games at forward last year, but with his skill set, he seems more suited at a midfield spot. Shalrie Joseph and Sainey Nyassi round out the midfield; they are two long tenured Revs who you should pretty much expect the same out of every year (transcendent play from Joseph, and the Findely-esque ability of Nyassi to beat his man and then run over the end line or deliver a terrible cross). Pat Phelan, a starter last year, can shore up the midfield if the Dabo signing doesn’t work out. The back line looks to be much improved with the signing of Domi who replaces a mediocre Chris Tierney (a decent player, but if he was right footed he would never play). Darius Barnes and A.J. Soares should form a solid partnership, but both are still young so we can expect the occasional speed bump. Right back Kevin Alston is one of the best young players in the league but he needs to cut down on his mental mistakes to move ahead of the other good right backs in the league such as Sean Franklin and Heath Pearce. Lastly, Matt Reis will start every game he his healthy; nothing new here.
 

Ilija Stolica          Zack Schilawski
 
Marko Perovic          Shalrie Joseph          Ousmane Dabo          Sainey Nyassi
 
Didier Domi          Darius Barnes          A.J. Soares          Kevin Alston
 
Matt Reis

 
Outlook: Besides being extremely boring, this team should be better than last year. Of course I say should completely disregarding this incident. I don’t really know what to make of it. Joseph and Alston are the two best players on this team and they were dismissed from training camp. Without them, this team is terrible; with them, they look decidedly average. I don’t know what Steve Nichol has up his sleeve, but it better be something good. Average. That is the best way to describe this team. Maybe one of the French guys will do something.
 
The Intern’s Take: Of last year’s four lowest finishing teams, I think that New England will struggle the most to rebound back towards the middle of the standings. Sixth place draft pick A.J. Soares will likely start which makes a statement about New England’s defense. No offense to Soares, but the lack of a more experienced central defender could be a difficult problem for the Revolution to solve this year. Ryan Cochrane is the only possible experienced substitute for this position but at the most will likely share the position with Soares. Despite the promise that Kevin Alston has shown, it took him all of 20 seconds last year to gift the opening goal of the MLS All-Star game to Federico Macheda, and he was dismissed from the preseason training camp along with Revs stalwart Shalrie Joseph. It seems he needs to improve his decision making, both on and off the field. Ousmane Dabo has the potential to form a great central midfield duo with Joseph but he has been without a team for the last seven months so there are definitely some questions about how effective he will be. Unless one of the new signings have an incredible breakout year, New England seem like a team that will likely be somewhere above the lowest spots in the table but not in serious contention for a playoff spot. I hope they prove me wrong, but I do not see this team having a big year.

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>By Evan Ream, with help from the Intern

Last Year: 8-15-7 31 points, 7th in East, 14th overall
 
Key Losses: Fred, Alejandro Moreno
 
Key Additions: Brian Carroll, Faryd Mondragon, Carlos Valdes, Carlos Ruiz
 
Projected Starting XI: Because of the fact that Carlos Ruiz hasn’t been good since 2007, I doubt that he starts for this team, at least on opening day. Should Ruiz be good enough to start, or even Jack MacInerney be good enough to start (though that seems unlikely), Sebastien Le Toux can move and play either outside midfield spot as he did with a good amount of success last year. Le Toux, who scored 14 goals to go along with his 11 assists last year, is the key player for this team. He should pair with2010 Rookie of the Year finalist Danny Mwanga up top as long as both of them are healthy. In the midfield, the addition of Brian Carroll was one of the most important moves in the offseason. Carroll, who has been underrated for his entire MLS career, has won MLS Cups with DC United (2004) and the Columbus Crew (2008). His experience will be valuable for a side that relies mostly on young and unproven players. The rest of the midfield seems a bit less obvious to figure out. Roger Torres showed flashes of brilliance last year on the right side, but always seemed to be taken out at the half. Justin Mapp looks like a for sure starter; he provided a huge spark to this team last year when he arrived mid-season from Chicago. Amobi Okugo is a very raw player, but look for him to contribute in a central position. Philadelphia will hope that their porous backline of last year will have improved. The signing of Carlos Valdes from the Colombian first division should be a good one; many are comparing him to Jamison Olave. Other than that the backline remains unchanged from last year. Faryd Mondragon looks to be the default starter after Philadelphia got rid of both Chris Seitz and Brad Knighton. Coming from the German Bundesliga, Mondragon should be an improvement despite the fact that he is 40 years old.
 

Sebastien Le Toux          Danny Mwanga
 
Justin Mapp          Amobi Okugo          Brian Carroll          Roger Torres
 
Michael Orozco Fiscal          Dan Califf          Carlos Valdes         Sheanon Williams
 
Faryd Mondragon

 
Prognosis: This team has all the tools to make the playoffs this year. Though they are a bit short on depth, they have signed enough players to shore up the majority of the problems they had last year (central defense and goalkeeping). This team has a plethora of young players with potential. This won’t be the year that they will win a championship, but I would compare this team to the NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder of last year when they made their first playoff appearance. Not all of their players are ready to be stars in this league, but they will make the playoffs and challenge a major contender to its full before burning out and becoming even better in the coming years. Peter Nowak has a good team on his hands here and he should expect to be one of the 10 teams in the playoffs, anything else would be a failure.
 
The Intern’s Take: It’s hard to add a whole lot more that hasn’t been said above. The biggest improvement by far this year for the (null)Union is the addition of Faryd Mondragon. Chris Seitz cost the Union far too many points last year and needed to be replaced for the Union to improve. Mondragon is going to be crucial to this team if they are to make the playoffs, which they should be able to do. The Union drafted another former Terrapin goalkeeper this year, highly touted Zac MacMath. If the forty-year-old Mondragon goes down at any point during the season, the untested MacMath will have to ready to step in immediately because he is the only other keeper on the roster at this point. There is a twenty-year age gap between the Union’s two keepers and an injury to either one, especially Mondragon could jeopardize the entire season. Just to get the Union on your mind, check out these clips from last year’s 1-1 tie at home against New England. These highlights show two moments that demonstrate the problems and potential of the Union. First, Le Toux helps create the opener through some nice passing and then hits a great shot by basically taking the ball off of Mwanga’s foot. Watching this sequence play out, I thought for sure the two would mess each other up but Le Toux saved the play with a wonderful goal, displaying the quality of the Union’s attack. Then in the second half Chris Seitz lets in a Marco Perovic free kick that should have been a routine save that costs the Union the full three points. With a more experienced keeper, the Union should be able to reduce the number of cheap goals they let in, which will result in more points because of the talent they have up top.

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>By Evan Ream, with help from the Intern
Last Year: 8-18-4 28 points, 8th in West, 15th overall
 
Key Losses: Jonathan Bornstein, Sal Zizzo
 
Key Additions: Francisco Mendoza, Heath Pearce, Jimmy Conrad, Alejandro Moreno, Tristen Bowen, Victor Estupinan (that guy that said he would score 25-30 goals this season)
 
Projected Starting XI: This team is so bad that it’s hard for me to even come up with a projection. There are definitely not 11 quality-starting players on this team. Look for a traditional 4-4-2 formation with Bowen, Moreno, or Estupinan playing off Justin Braun (BRAUNALDINHO) up top. Braun is an adequate MLS goal scorer who should reach double digits if he has the correct service, which is a big if. Michael Lahoud, a mediocre player should be worthy of a starting spot on the right side of the midfield due to a lack of quality. The recently signed Francisco Mendoza should start on the other side. Mendoza, the only quality player from the original Chivas USA team looks to recreate the success he had early on in his MLS career as a fast paced winger. The central midfield should be composed of the always solid, if unspectacular Paul Nagamura. Nagamura flourished playing with Sacha Kljestan, but Blair Gavin is no Sacha. Gavin looks to build on a promising rookie season in which he was a first choice starter most of the time. The defense should be the strongest part of the team with the pickup of four-time MLS Best XI player Jimmy Conrad. Though Conrad is getting up there in the years, he should be solid, especially in partnering with the highly-touted rookie Zarek Valentin. Ante Jazic is one of the better left backs in the league, but that isn’t really saying much. If he was right footed he would be average at best. The trade for Heath Pearce was a coup, as he is one of the best outside backs in the league as well as the most versatile. This team has a lot of depth in terms of players that played last year; unfortunately, most of those players aren’t MLS quality. If a few of the key guys go down for this team, it could get ugly, especially if it is Justin Braun, their most important player.
 

Justin Braun          Tristen Bown
 
 
Francisco Mendoza          Paulo Nagamura          Blair Gavin          Michael Lahoud
 
Ante Jazic          Jimmy Conrad          Zarek Valentin          Heath Pearce
 
Zach Thornton
 

Prognosis: Don’t expect much from Chivas this year. In order to contend they have to actually get a solid midfield, a second goal scorer, and perhaps a better keeper, as “Snacks” Thornton may just be too old. Chivas should play some lock down defense at the back, but with a midfield that is as bad as this one is, they could end up letting in a few too many goals with bad team defense. In all this should be a rebuilding year in which new coach Robin Fraser looks to give young players such as Tristen Bowen valuable experience. Chivas seem like they are a year or two away from contending for a playoff spot.
 
The Intern’s Take: Although I do not think Chivas USA will make the playoffs, I think they will be slightly better than the above writer seems to believe. I am excited to watch the forward duo of Justin “J-Money” Braun and Tristan Bowen, and I think that Alejandro Moreno is an excellent addition to the team. Although he is not the most dangerous goal scorer, I liked watching him with the Union last year and at the very least will be able to bring competition to the starting forward spots along with Alan Gordon. In addition to the obvious help that the pickup of Heath Pearce brings to the defense, I think he will also be encouraged to get forward as much as possible, something he does very well. Given the doubts about the quality of the midfield, I think Pearce will be an important part of the attack and have the duty of sending as many crosses into the box as possible. Somewhat surprisingly, Heath Pearce finished second last year among FCD in total assists, trailing only David Ferreira, so he can clearly help offensively and I imagine he will be expected to play a similar role for Chivas USA this season. Zarek Valntin is an intriguing new player to watch and I am excited for him that he will have the chance to learn under Jimmy Conrad and hope that he will develop into a quality player. I like the situation that he is coming into because he should get plenty of playing time and will be part of a defense boasting three players who all have more than 20 caps for their respective national teams and Valentin should be able to learn from these experienced players. Despite not making the playoffs, I think there are some players on this team that will be fun to watch but in the end I think the team will finish somewhere in the bottom six.

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By Brent MacDonald

nba_trades_illustration1x_576

*buzz buzz*

Wow….

*buzz buzz*

No Way!

*buzz buzz*

HOLY SH-T!!!

 

This is a glimpse at the series of events that occurred this past Thursday when a flurry of texts from ESPN graced my phone over a span of about two minutes.

 

Apparently, teams around the NBA decided the time was right to give their fans a few unexpected heart attacks.

I haven’t to this date remembered such an explosive and seemingly random quality of trades go down. The Carmelo Anthony trade was to be expected, but the rest? Even Ms. Cleo wouldn’t have seen that coming.

 

So let’s take a look at just a few of the trades that went down this past week. Overall, there were good trades and bad trades, trades that made you scream with joy and cry with sorrow. Here’s a re-cap and review of this past Thursday, a day that will hereby be referred to as:

 

‘That one trade deadline day in 2011 that happened way too fast for anyone to realize what the hell was going on and I hope the Kings don’t move to Anaheim.”

 

The Baron Davis Deal. AKA: “Aww man…”

It’s usually unreasonable to feel pity for professional basketball players. They are arguably the greatest athletes on earth, and are some of the richest and most recognizable figures in the public eye. However, this year has been different… there hasn’t been a Cleveland Cavs player I have not at some point felt sorry for this season. And now Baron Davis tops the list.

 

Mo Williams on the other hand must be pumped to get out of Cleveland. Though Williams lacks the size and power of The Beard, he does have a much better perimeter game, which will complement fellow guard Eric Gordon and will give LA the inside-outside balance that could make them strong playoff contenders in the coming years, and will help rid the Clippers of the streaky inconsistency they have been experiencing over the past few seasons.

 

Bottom Line: Clippers got the better deal on this one. Blake Griffin will be using Moon as a toothpick soon enough.

 

Carmelo Back in New York. AKA: “Everything Must Go-Except Spike.”

With the addition of Carmelo Anthony, New York is beginning to build a squad in resemblance to the Miami Monstars, though they are lacking the third piece. If New York can pick up a solid point guard such as Chris Paul this offseason, they will become big-time contenders not only for the conference championship, but throughout the league as well. The Knicks received PGs Chauncey Billups and Anthony Carter, both of whom they will be able to deal with for a player such as Paul, as both Billups and Carter would work better coming off the bench.

 

The Nuggets received everything they could possibly want from New York, except for Spike Lee. Gallinari, Chandler, Mozgov, three draft picks over the next three years and point guard Raymond Felton are now under George Karl’s guidance.

 

Felton will be able to step in immediately and make an impact in Denver, and the addition of his fellow teammates will help him adjust to the role of starting PG on a different team even easier. Felton is averaging 17 points and 9 assists this year, and is one of the most underrated guards in the league. Watch for the Nuggets to use him as they try to return to high standing in the Western conference.

 

Bottom Line: The Nuggets were smart to get rid of their entire offense in Anthony. They’ll be able to build around a younger PG and upcoming draft picks.

 

The Kendrick Perkins deal. AKA: “Danny Ainge Has Lost His Mind”

Celtics GM Danny Ainge made history when he somehow brought Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to join Paul Pierce as the Big Three in 2008. This move led to a championship for Boston, and ‘Executive of the Year’ accolades for Ainge.

 

Ainge has obviously become not only drunk with power, but also sh-tfaced with success.

 

By trading Kendrick Perkins away to Oklahoma City, Boston has left a gaping hole in its frontcourt. With his size and physicality, Perkins is one of the best post defenders in the league. Perkins was a huge reason last year’s Celtics made it to the finals, and almost beat LA for the ‘ship. Without Perkins in Game Seven of last year’s NBA finals, Boston was outrebounded 53-40 and gave up 23 offensive rebounds; the highest of the series.

 

The addition of Nasty Nate gives the Thunder a solid reserve point guard, and Perkins will bring size to a team full of gangly spidermen such as Westbrook and Durant. After taking LA to six games in last year’s playoffs, Oklahoma now has the talent and pieces it needs to make a long run in the playoffs.

 

Bottom Line: With the addition of Perkins and Robinson, OKC has officially moved from the middle of the pack in the West to become definite conference contenders. Look for some upsets during this post-season.

 

The Houston-Memphis-Phoenix Soiree. AKA: “Something’s A-Brewin’ Down South”

The Houston Rockets made one of the biggest trades of the day when it sent Aaron Brooks to Phoenix and Shane Battier to Memphis on Thursday, successfully losing their best defensive weapon and best point guard in the process. In return, the Rockets received Goran Dragic from the Suns and DeMarre Carroll and Hasheem Thabeet from the Grizzlies.

 

Thabeet will play blowout minutes, if he’s lucky. Coach Rick Adelman is not the type of guy to test a player if he’s not positive they’re ready, and Hasheem was barely ready for the D-League after getting drafted two years ago. Dragic on the other hand is a huge addition.goran-dragic

 

Getting Dragic out of Steve Nash’s shadow will allow him to mature as a player and develop his skills much quicker, especially when he has a player like Carroll to pass to. Carroll was the Grizzlie’s leading scorer with 19.8 ppg, and when he returns to full health from his current shoulder injury, will be expected to add to his offensive power for Houston.

 

Bottom Line: It seems the Rockets got the better deal here. They traded defense (Battier) for offense (Carroll) and added a solid point guard that will be able to grow into his newfound leadership role.

 

The Hornets-Kings Trade. AKA: “Whatever. Just keep the Kings in SacTown.”

New Orleans has decided to trade Marcus Thornton and cash to Sacramento in exchange for Carl Landry.

 

Bottom Line: The only thing I, as a lifelong Kings fan, am worried about as of now is having a team in Sacramento, rather than worrying about who’s on it. So welcome to your new home, Marcus Thornton. I’ll see you at Arden.

 

The Jazz-Nets Deal. AKA: “OK, Jerry Sloan, You Can Come Back Now”

Many NBA analysts have referred to an ongoing negative relationship between former Jazz PG Deron Williams and former Jazz coach Jerry Sloan as the cause of Sloan’s unexpected retirement this season. With Deron Williams part of a multi-player trade involving New Jersey and Golden State, Sloan may want to return to Utah.

 

Or maybe he won’t.

 

Regardless, Utah has traded its best player in Deron Williams away to the Nets. A two-time all-star in just his sixth year in the league, Deron is one of the top three point guards in the league. New Jersey had to give up a lot to get him, including Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first round draft picks, and cash, but in the end, it has a player that Mikhail Prokhorov and Jay-Z can build a franchise around.

 

Harris is a solid point but doesn’t have the creative ability that Williams did, and won’t be able to spread the floor in quite the same way with his passing and driving. However the two first round draft picks for Utah will bring in strong talent to take over for Williams’ absence, and the cash considerations give the Jazz freedom to make more moves this offseason.

 

Bottom Line: After giving away its best player, Utah made out pretty well. This seems to be a fair trade, although Deron Williams will have to wait a few years before reaching playoffs again.

 

Needless to say, this year’s NBA trade deadline came and went with more twists and turns than Inception. Recovery methods include sitting on the couch for eight hours straight watching college basketball, gluing David Stern’s face to a dartboard, and buying Costco-sized packs of Bayer.

Enjoy the weekend.

>By Evan Ream, with help from the Intern

Ladies and gentlemen, we are now just 19 days away from the 2011 MLS regular season. I would like to welcome you all to the first of our MLS previews. Last year I thought I was badass for writing two articles (links please) previewing the entire season. Well this year, I am going to one up myself; or to be more accurate, 17 up myself. That’s right, with help from the intern, we are going to spam previews so hard for the next 19 days that you will be thinking this about our stuff from last year.
We will start off today with DC United (the worst team in the league last year), and work our way up the 2010 standings culminating in our preview of last year’s Supporter’s Shield winners, LA Galaxy and then the two expansion teams, Portland and Vancouver. Finally, the day the season starts we will have a comprehensive article compiling all of our predictions for awards and other miscellaneous things as well as our trophy and standings predictions. So without any further waiting, here is our inaugural team preview:
 
Last Year: 6-20-4 22 points, 8th in East, 16th overall
 
Key Losses: Jaime Moreno, Troy Perkins, Rodney Wallace
 
Key Additions: Dax McCarty, Charlie Davies, Perry Kitchen, Joseph Ngwenya, Josh Wolff, Rodrigo Brasesco, Pat Onstad (temporary), Fred
 
Projected Starting XI: Ben Olsen has been using a straight 4-4-2 in preseason. Olsen has many options and thus this lineup could change a lot. If everyone is healthy, I think this is the starting lineup used opening day, but it could be changed for a few reasons. Joseph Ngwenya has been impressive in preseason, and he could take either of the forward spots, though I think Olsen likes what the Pontius/Davies combination brings to the table. As far as the midfield goes, it looks as of now that Branko Boskovic is the odd man out; disappointing for the designated player. He has been playing well in preseason, but I think Olsen sees the four starters here as key players. Boskovic could and should still have an impact coming off the bench and starting a few games if players are tired, but he doesn’t look to be first choice as of now. Acquiring Dax McCarty was the biggest steal of the offseason. McCarty is one of the best players in the league and should show that this season. For all the good midfield moves that DC has made, I don’t understand the acquisition of the always underachieving Fred. Fred always showed flashes of brilliance but never consistency; he should be nothing more than an attacking substitute. Defensively, United seem to be content with what they have, due to the release of Julius James. They are clearly comfortable with the on loan Rodrigo Brasesco and Perry Kitchen. Look for the young Kitchen to beat out Brasesco in a backline that will surprise many. In goal, the youngster Hamid is the clear starter, but he appears to be out for the first couple of the games of the season due to shoulder surgery. With the backup (Steve Cronin) also out, United signed Pat Onstad who will likely start the first few games before giving way to the impressive Hamid.
 

Charlie Davies         Chris Pontius
 
Santino Quaranta          Dax McCarty          Clyde Simms          Andy Najar
 
Mark Burch         Dejan Jakovic         Perry Kitchen          Jed Zayner
 
Bill Hamid

 
Prognosis: No matter what, this team will be better than last year’s team, the only question is how much better? I happen to think that DC boasts both MLS_DC_United_Davies_Soccer.sff_s640x456the best quality and depth in their midfield in the entire league, which should be enough by itself to drive them to a playoff spot, not to mention what can happen if Charlie Davies proves successful and Chris Pontius, can actually stay on the field. This is a young team so there will be mistakes and sloppy play at points in the season, but this DC team is a dark horse contender for a top five finish as long as Dax stays healthy and Ben Olsen doesn’t make too many coaching mistakes.
 
The Intern’s Take: As previously mentioned, the pickup of Dax McCarty, who recently wore the captain’s armband for the USA against Chile, is huge for this team. Paired with last year’s Rookie of the Year, Andy Najar, DC’s midfield should be able to compete with some of the top teams in MLS this season. With service from McCarty, Charlie Davies should have plenty of opportunities to score, even if he is not 100% healthy. As many have said before, a 90% Davies is better than DC’s other forward options at 100%. Charlie Davies should help DC improve upon last year’s scoring rate of just 21 goals in 30 games, and will ideally give the back line a bit of a cushion, as they will be DC’s biggest weakness. Perry Kitchen is a great selection and based on the few games I saw him play for Akron last year, he will be a great asset to DC’s defense, while also being able to come forward in attack, perhaps firing off a few of these every once and a while. The fans at RFK may have a rough start to the season though, as DC’s first seven home games are all against teams that made the playoffs last year. DC needs to take a decent amount of points from these home games and stay competitive, perhaps even winning a few, to prove that they can be playoff material and establish themselves as contenders early on. With so many new faces on the team this year, it will take DC a considerable amount of time to establish chemistry and flow as a team. The biggest concern for DC must be that they do not play themselves out of the post season early on. As long as they can stay within sight of the playoffs, they will be in good shape, because once the chemistry on this team clicks they will be for real. The talent is there for a triumphant return form the last year’s bottom of the standings finish; it just depends on how soon the new group can play effectively together.

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By Dylan Davis

As I re-watched highlights of the travesty known as Game 6 of the 2002 Western Conference NBA Finals yesterday, the first thing that struck me (besides the WWF-style officiating) was just how talented the Sacramento Kings were that year. When thinking of the early 2000s version of the Kings, most people envision a freewheeling offensive juggernaut that wasn’t quite good enough to capture a championship. What people don’t remember is just how balanced and superbly fun the Kings were. They had outside shooting with Peja Stojakovic and Mike Bibby to complement the inside capabilities of Vlade Divac and Chris Webber. The entire first unit of Bibby, Doug Christie, Stojakovic, Webber, and Divac were superb passers and they were aided by a deep bench that included Bobby Jackson, Hedo Turkoglu, Scot Pollard, Lawrence Funderburke, Gerald Wallace, and the immortal Mateen Cleaves. While they weren’t exactly savants on the defensive end of the floor, Christie and Divac did provided a nice one-two shutdown punch.

 

The Kings cruised to a 61-21 record, which was good for first in the league and home court advantage throughout the playoffs. The Kings balance was shown when they only had two all-stars and a second-team all-NBA performer (Webber) despite being the only team to top the 60-win plateau. What pushed this talent over the edge, besides Rick Adelman’s guidance as head coach, was the best home court advantage in the league. The Kings were in the midst of 354 consecutive home sellouts to go along with a 105-18 run in home games from 2000-2003. I was just beginning to explore the supreme athleticism and excitement of the NBA at this point and the front running Kings were the perfect team at the perfect time to hold my interest and bring me back for more. While I did enjoy watching Peja threes and Bibby dimes on TV, I was never able to take in a Kings game live at Arco Arena during this run. I missed that three year window of opportunity and I’ve regretted it ever since. When the Warriors had Oracle Arena rocking in the 2007 playoffs against the Mavericks and Jazz, I was reminded of the raucousness that had passed me by at the start of the millennium.

 

I eventually did get to a Kings game. On February 12th of this year I attended a Kings-Thunder tilt with fellow Sack Lunch writer Will Robinson that featured four of the league’s best young stars in Tyreke Evans, DeMarcus Cousins, Russell Westbrook, and Kevin Durant. I figured that if Kings fans would show up for any game this year, it would be to see the best young team in the league, and the reigning scoring champion. Boy was I wrong. We got to our seats right after tip-off and I had a perfect view of a half-empty arena. I spent half of the game wondering when the rest of the spectators would arrive before realizing that no one wanted to watch a last place team, no matter whom they’re playing. While Sacramento used to supply the best crowd in the league that was contingent on the Kings winning, and being competitive in every game, that’s just not the case anymore.

 

This is not me pleading for the Kings to stay in Sacramento; the time for that has come and gone. The decision will be made soon enough by the league as to whether or not there will be a franchise in Anaheim next season. If the Kings move away from Northern California, I will continue to root for them, and that’s why they must do the following two things to be able to compete for a championship for years to come. If they stay in Sacramento, I would like to be a part of a crowd that makes a difference in playoff games, but obviously that can’t happen with the current roster. Here’s what needs to happen.

 

1. Trade Tyreke Evans: This may sound tyreke-evanslike heresy to Kings fans. Why would they trade the 2010 Rookie of the Year? If the aim of the Kings is to make the playoffs intermittently for the next 15 years while not ever winning a championship, keeping Tyreke is the perfect move. Winning Rookie of the Year doesn’t seem to have any bearing future championships as 19 of the past 22 winners since 1990 have a combined zero titles in the NBA. Evans did play very well last year, there is no doubt about that, but what value can he have carrying over into the future? Evans is only a point guard in the sense that he brings the ball over half court, he’s not a shooting guard as that would involve being good at shooting, which he certainly is not. You may be saying, “But he’s young, give him time and he’ll get better at shooting.” Assuming that he does get better at shooting, he will probably approach, and possibly precede, the level of play Gilbert Arenas achieved before he got a monster contract and blew out his knee.

 

Arenas averaged between 25 and 30 points from 2004 to 2007 and was considered one of the best offensive guards in the league. He was flanked by all-stars in Caron Butler and Antawn Jamison while playing in the decrepit Eastern Conference. During none of those three years did the Wizards make it past the second round. It has become clear that Tyreke looks for his own shot (just like Arenas) before looking to pass and there is not a precedent for title teams having shoot-first point guards. In fact, other than the 2006 Miami Heat, no team that had a shoot first ball handler has won the title since the mid 1980’s. Tyreke is a good player because he can get to the basket and score, but that is not a recipe for winning it all. Many teams around the league are looking for a quick fix that can get them ticket sales, and acquiring Tyreke would be the perfect move to get some buzz going for decrepit franchises such as Toronto, Cleveland, and Detroit. If the Kings were to trade Tyreke this summer, they would be able to sell high and stockpile future draft picks and young players. While people may call this a panic move, I say doing nothing is a panic move. Letting the young players grow up together is a good strategy if you have a good group of players that can fit a championship type, but Tyreke is not that type. Completely blowing up the team is not the best move either, that’s why they do this:

 

2. Keep DeMarcus Cousins: This may seem obvious to some people, but with Cousins’ attitude and penchant for throwing temper tantrums like a six year old, some have talked about trading the mercurial big man before he destroys the team. This would be a horrible move. Let’s hop into the NBA time machine and travel back to the early careers of Hakeem Olajuwon and Magic Johnson. Both were derided as selfish, me-first players hat needed to be run out of town. Obviously, both stayed with their original franchises (Houston and L.A. respectively) and combined for seven rings. When looking at their careers from today’s perspective it’s hard to tell that both were looked at in the same way that Cousins’ is now, so let’s look at another young big man that was traded early in his career: Moses Malone. Moses is remembered as the greatest rebounder of all time (Cousins’ best trait) but came into the league as an immature teenager (like Cousins) and was spent time on eight teams in his illustrious career. Big men that can rebound and have good post moves (like Cousins already does) are often the cornerstones for championship contenders, and with Cousins, the Kings can compete for championships for the next 10-15 seasons. If they just can weather the storm…

 

While I’m obviously not an NBA general manager, I’m not a total idiot when it comes to NBA moves. A lot of fans only look at stats when deciding how good a certain player or team is, but the style of play and chemistry are often much more important, and that’s why the Kings would be better off in the long-run if they traded the popular Tyreke Evans and kept the mercurial DeMarcus Cousins.

 

Have a great weekend, see you next week when the Kings are hopefully still in Sacramento.

>By Nick Gallaudet

Our six week trip around the Major Leagues continues this week as The Sack Lunch looks at the American League Central division. Over the past few years, this has been one of the more exciting divisions in baseball, needing one game playoffs in two of the last three years, with the White Sox beating the Twins 1-0 in 2008 and the Twins beating the Tigers 6-5 in 2009 in one of Chip Caray’s last games with TBS, and rightfully so. The Twins are coming off back-to-back division titles, do they have what it takes for a three-peat?


CHICAGO WHITE SOX
The White Sox used this offseason to beef up an already potent lineup, and with the addition of 1B/DH Adam Dunn, the Sox look like they could have one of the best lineups in the league. Dunn is joining Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, Alex Rios, and Paul Konerko, who quietly finished in the top five or six in nearly every major offensive category last year. With that firepower, even if two of the five of those players underperform, which is a distinct possibility given the shaky track records of Quentin, Ramirez, Rios, this offense should still be able to put up plenty of runs.
 
The pitching staff is in decent shape, too. The staff is full of talent from top to bottom, and if you’re relying on Edwin Jackson or Mark Buerhle as your 5th starter, you’re probably feeling pretty good about your team. The only real question mark with this team is their bullpen, and with unproven Matt Thornton up for the closer job, but no matter what happens, they probably can’t do much worse than Bobby Jenks did last year. I really like the makeup of this team and think they could make a serious run at unseating the Twins atop the division.
 
CLEVELAND INDIANS
I really like the Indians; they’re one of my best friends from childhoods’ favorite team and I want desperately for something good to happen for the city of Cleveland, but don’t bank on this team to snap the city out of decades of misery. The lineup is not very good, Grady Sizemore’s reckless play in the outfield seems to have caught up to him, prematurely ending his last two seasons, and without Sizemore, their cupboard is pretty dry. Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo anchor this lineup, and while you could do worse, you could do a lot better. The supposed power bats of Michael Brantley, Travis Hafner, Matt LaPorta could provide some help for this pedestrian lineup, but don’t count on it.
 
The pitching staff looks a lot like the lineup. Cleveland fans are still waiting for Fausto Carmona to return to form from three years ago, but it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen anytime soon. After that, there’s just not a lot to work with. Jensen Lewis, Justin Masterson, and Mitch Talbot all have potential, but I just don’t think they’re ready to take over the central, and their hodgepodge of relievers isn’t going to help them win many games. With the talent in this division, the Indians just aren’t ready to compete this year, sorry Ben.
 
DETROIT TIGERS
We all know what happened to Miguel Cabrera and it’s sad to see such a talent derailed by alcohol. Granted it’s definitely not then end of the road, he’s come back from a similar issue before, and just look at Josh Hamilton. The more telling part about this is the fact that his teammates didn’t seem surprised and were very dubious about his recovery. It’s a shame, because I’m not a Tigers fan, and I don’t like Cabrera very much, but I would hate to see such a dynamic hitter waste his prime. Hopefully he can come out of this, and produce like he’s been doing the last few years, but if not, I’m sure Dr. Drew would save him a spot on Celebrity Rehab.
 
Now, as far as the rest of the lineup goes, they have a little to fall back on if Cabrera’s issue is big enough to cut into his playing time once the regular season starts. The Tigers have a nice mix of young talent and veteran smarts, and it should translate to a decent offense. Austin Jackson and Ryan Raburn both proved they could play last year, and with a manager like Jim Leyland, don’t expect them to rest on their laurels. The pickup of 1B/C Victor Martinez will fill some holes in their lineup, but unfortunately, it’s going to add a couple holes in their defense, but again, his bat should make up for it and fit in well with Magglio Ordonez and Jhonny Perralta (and yes, the “h” goes before the “o” in “Jhonny”).
 
The Tigers’ pitching has the potential to be great, but young phenom Rick Porcello did show signs of slowing last year, so we’ll see if he can bounce back strong. Justin Verlander is still the stud of the staff, and Max Scherzer rounds off a solid top three, but they don’t have much to offer after that. Their bullpen is a little rag-tag, but it should be serviceable if Joel Zumaya can return to his pre-Guitar Hero ways and Jose Valverde doesn’t fall off the face of the earth like he did last year. This team can make a run, but I don’t see them making the playoffs this year.
 
KANSAS CITY ROYALS
No Zach Greinke this year means no reason to care about the Royals. I do have to say, I am mildly invested in the Royals, though, because I really want my boy, Vinny Mazzaro to do well. His stuff is filthy, and if he can throw strikes, he will be a great guy to build your staff around. However, with that being said, the Royals have little to offer this year. They are filled with what is widely regarded as the best farm system in the American League, but that doesn’t help you get wins in the Bigs. Billy Butler is all they have to offer offensively, so sorry KC, but football is just around the corner…oh wait…
 
MINNESOTA TWINS
The Twins are always in the hunt, manager Ron Gardenhire always puts a competitive team out there, regardless of who’s available. They should be getting closer Joe Nathan and 1B Justin Morneau back from injury, and they also re-signed big boy Jim Thome. This looks like another typical Twins team, not too flashy, grind it out, win ugly, consistent team, and they should be able to compete for the title.
 
Minny’s starting rotation is the same as last year, and that young rotation was good enough to get them to the playoffs last year, so they should be poised for another good season. The bullpen lost a few key relievers in Matt Gurrier, Jon Rauch, and Jesse Crain, but they’re not irreplaceable. I don’t know if they’ll have the firepower to compete with the wildly upgraded White Sox, but it should be a fun race to watch.
 
TEAM                     W-L
Chicago White Sox  90-72
Minnesota Twins      88-74
Detroit Tigers           81-81
Cleveland Indians     70-92
Kansas City Royals  4-158