Friday, February 27, 2009

Rasheed Wallace's Legacy: Hero Or Goat?

I wonder what Rasheed Wallace’s ultimate legacy is going to be in Detroit?
Will he be looked back upon fondly because of the 2004 NBA championship season and the subsequent salad days? Or will he be remembered mostly for his technical fouls and emotional outbursts?
I have always liked Wallace’s game. He shares the ball. He is a good post defender. He is capable of scoring inside or out.
Like most, I think it would behoove the Pistons if he played more in the low post and spotted up less for 3-point shots. Yet, it isn’t the worst thing in the world to have a 6-11 player who can shoot like that from the outside. It definitely stretches defenses.
To say he is a player without good character isn’t true. He has played well in some big games. There are many aspects about Wallace that are team-oriented.
It’s just that the technical foul act went stale a long time ago. And his apparent indifference to coaching sometimes has been bothersome.

Random Thoughts

- Just the fact Joel Zumaya has already pitched in an exhibition game for the Tigers is a good sign. The fact he pitched reasonably well is an even better one. Dontrelle Willis did not pitch well Friday, although he was not helped by a key error behind him. Willis retired just three of the nine hitters he faced and threw 43 pitches. It was not, to say the least, a good sign. The problems with Willis appear to be deeply-rooted - along the lines of Steve Blass and Rick Ainkiel.

- It’s amazing how much pressure the Feds keep putting on Barry Bonds’ former personal trainer Greg Anderson - and how he still refuses to talk. What he knows likely holds the key to jail time for Bonds. What he isn’t saying will likely land Anderson back in jail for contempt of court. He previously spent a year in jail because he refused to testify against Bonds. I wish Anderson would come clean about Bonds. It would clear up a lot of matters about what Bonds did or didn’t do involving performance enhancing substances.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

In Truth, Orlovsky And Lions Need Each Other

It’s strange soon-to-be free agent quarterback Dan Orlovsky and the Lions are so apart when they are an ideal fit for each other.
From Orlovsky’s standpoint, his best opportunity to start would come by returning to the Lions, even considering general manager Martin Mayhew’s apparent fixation on Daunte Culpepper. It’s been awhile, five years, since Culpepper has been an effective player in the NFL. His underwhelming performance last season wasn’t just because he didn’t have much time to prepare after the Lions essentially signed him off the street in the middle of the season. He has also been injury prone, missing the end of last season. So if Orlovsky does return to the Lions, even without being the No. 1 QB, his odds of eventually starting would still be good.
From the Lions’ standpoint, Orlovsky was their best quarterback last season. He is still young enough that he may be developing. If the Lions do select a QB early in the draft, they still need a starter to begin the season.
It would be wise for both Orlovsky and Mayhew to cut the rhetoric here. The team and the player could help each other.

Random Thoughts

- Being a lot heavier this season than last season isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Joel Zumaya. He lost a lot of weight last season, and there was some concern among Tigers officials it hindered his performance. It’s actually being viewed a good thing within the organization.

- Boston College defensive tackle B. J. Raji was a lot more impressive in his Senior Bowl workouts in pads than he was at the NFL Combine. Don’t see the Lions considering him first overall. Aaron Curry is a different story. He really aided his cause at the combine.


Monday, February 23, 2009

On NFL Combine, Manny Harris And World Baseball Classic

Some opinions on what has transpired on the NFL’s scouting combine so far:
- I don’t believe there is an offensive left tackle worthy of the first overall selection. Jason Smith from Baylor isn’t nearly the run blocker Jake Long was at Michigan, nor did he workout as well as Long or Joe Thomas, the left tackle from Wisconsin, the year before at the combine (Thomas ran a sub 5.0 40-yard dash). Few other than draft geeks even knew about Smith a month ago. He was a converted tight end from high school. Virginia’s Eugene Monroe is a superior pass blocker, but not a great run blocker. Both are legitimate Top 15 picks in the draft, but taking either one first overall is anything but a safe pick.
- Seems like USC quarterback Mark Sanchez has done well. His throwing has been good and he’s been pretty athletic in drills. He runs well, as does Georgia’s Matthew Stafford. Kansas State’s Josh Freeman has shown some athleticism.
- Ohio State’s Beanie Wells looks really good in the drills. Bet his stock rises as the draft nears.
- The injury to Michael Crabtree is not going to drop him that far down in the draft. He will still go in the Top 5. But it will probably stop the possibility a team like Oakland would want to trade up to No. 1 overall with the Lions for Crabtree. There is a lot of depth at the wide receiver.

Random Thoughts

- Manny Harris is a terrific talent, but his inconsistency might prove to be why Michigan doesn’t make the NCAA Tournament this year. A key for the Wolverines’ basketball future: How much Harris learns from it.

- A reason not to like the World Baseball Classic: The Tigers can’t decide whether Justin Verlander will be their opening day starter because he might be involved in the World Baseball Classic.


Friday, February 20, 2009

The resting of Chris Osgood and the calling up of Jimmy Howard from Grand Rapids is a good move by the Red Wings because it serves several functions.
One is seeing what Howard can do. He is eligible for free agency following this season. The Red Wings need to know if he has made improvement from the past when it seemed like they were less than enamored with Howard.
The Red Wings always say the right things about Howard, but their actions have suggested something different. They signed veteran Ty Conklin to backup Osgood this season, and drafted a goalie in the first round, Thomas McCollum, last summer.
Howard has shown flashes of brilliance. Few goalies can butterfly the way he does. He’s also been very inconsistent when he’s played in the big league. You can just tell that has made the Red Wings feel uncomfortable. Will it be different this time? We’ll find out Saturday in Minnesota when he gets the start.
As for Osgood, the irony is his win-loss record is better than that of Conklin because he is way off in virtually every other statistical category.
This sends a message to Osgood that time is running out. The Red Wings need him to get his act together. The sooner the better. The playoffs aren’t that far away. Conklin has played well, but has just six minutes of playoff experience.
Name a veteran backup goalie who emerged out of nowhere to win the Stanley Cup as the primary goalie? It just hasn’t happened that way. Conklin - as well as he has played - would be a risk.
Howard, if he has improved, would give the Red Wings a Plan C, although they are obviously still trying to figure out what Plan A and Plan B are.
The preferred choice remains Osgood, but he is playing his way out of the No. 1 spot.

Random Thoughts

- Lets see, this coming week the Pistons play at Cleveland, Miami, New Orleans, Orlando and Boston. Not exactly an ideal situation to be facing. The Pistons’ saving grace might be how dismal the Eastern Conference is, because it may allow them a chance to elbow their way into the playoffs.
Or would backing their way in be more accurate?

- I love the scouting combine. Enjoy it being on the NFL Network where in the past the public - and media - couldn’t view the workouts. I still think the Lions should take a QB at some point early in the draft. Wonder how Kansas State’s Josh Freeman will workout this weekend.

- I kind of get the sense that Joel Zumaya and Ryan Perry will be competing with each other for opening day spots this spring. I mean, if Zumaya returns to form, it would greatly reduce the chances of Perry sticking with the big club heading north.


Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Another Blowout Road Loss At Purdue Not A Good Sign For MSU

Nobody respects Tom Izzo more than I do. I think he’s a great coach. I think he’s an even better person.
But lets be honest here: If he wants to get his program back to where it was during the salad days, when the Spartans were a bonafide threat to win the national championship each year, he’s going to have to find a way to measure up better in late-season conference road games.
It’s one thing to lose some of those games. That’s bound to happen. But the Spartans weren’t even competitive - again - Tuesday night at Purdue.
They were well-rested. There really wasn’t any excuse for it. It’s a sign something is still missing. It’s an intangible factor, as much as anything else. There is plenty of talent on that team. The Spartans are the best team in the Big Ten. Why can’t they play like it at Purdue? That’s three blowout losses in a row there.

Random Thoughts

- Funny how nobody really talked much about Gary Sheffield during the off season, but he was the first one seemingly everybody in the media went to on the first day of full-squad workouts at spring training. Like him or not, Sheffield spices up the game by speaking his mind. I see that as a good thing.

- At least A-Rod admitted he used performance enhancing substances. What I have to be suspicious about, however, is the degree. I think it would be naive to think he used them for just a three-year period. He had a great year in 2007 - perhaps his best. To me, that has to come under question, too.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Joe Dumars Has To Do Something, Doesn't He?

The NBA trade deadline is arriving Thursday and the Pistons are not playing well at all.
January was a disaster and February, so far, has been even worse. The Pistons are just three games above .500 - and a game under since making the trade for Allen Iverson.
The idea of not making the playoffs, which seemed remote just a month ago, could become real if the Pistons don’t turn it around quickly.
New Jersey, which would be the last team out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference as the NBA returns from the All Star break, is just four games behind the Pistons.
The Pistons’ schedule isn’t that easy, either, especially given they have lost their home court advantage. The Pistons are just a game above .500 at home this season. That might be the most disturbing aspect of all about their slide.
Joe Dumars has to do something about this, doesn’t he? The Pistons can’t remain silent at the trade deadline under these circumstances, can they? And how much of the blame falls on first-year coach Michael Curry?
It doesn’t have to be a blockbuster deal involving Amare Stoudemire, but at least some augmentation to shore up their defense.

Random Thoughts

- Brandon Inge is a lifetime .237 hitter. A key for the Tigers is that he raise that into the .260 range and provide power (around 20 home runs) near the bottom of the batting order. If that doesn’t happen, the Tigers lineup will be too top heavy.

- Stephen Threet’s transfer from Michigan was predictable. The handwriting was on the wall once Michigan landed Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier. Threet’s style was a mismatch for Rich Rodriguez’s offense. The Wolverines will have much different look offensively next season, but will it better? Opening the season with a freshman quarterback is always a precarious situation. And I doubt Nick Sheridan will win the job.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Kitna, Culpepper Not Right Options At This Point

Jon Kitna or Daunte Culpepper? What a choice that would be for the Lions at quarterback.
To me, the better answer is none of the above.
Obviously, the better pick would be Dan Orlovsky, but he will command attention on the free agent market. Maybe the Lions should pay him that little extra to retain him.
The Lions need to breakaway from their past and select a quarterback for the future early in the draft, and either sign a free agent, or make a trade for a quarterback, to bridge to the future.
Kitna and Culpepper represent too much of that past. Kitna is the better player right now, but that isn’t saying much, Culpepper hasn’t been an effective player for five years. It isn’t that he was just rusty when he came to Detroit.

Random Thoughts

- I don’t know what’s worse, Alex Rodriguez’s admission he used performance enhancing drugs or Bud Selig coming out and acting hurt and shocked about it. If there is anybody who needs to look in the mirror when it comes to this issue, it’s Bud Selig.

- If Kitna does stay with the Lions, please, no more predictions of a 10-win season. Call it ironic if you want, but the Lions won exactly 10 games in the nearly 2 1-2 seasons Kitna was their starting quarterback.


Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Will Porcello And Perry Be The Next Verlander And Zumaya?

Both Tigers manager Jim Leyland and general manager Dave Dombrowski have hinted this off season that pitchers Ryan Perry and Rick Porcello - the Tigers’ last two No. 1 draft choices - are closer to the major leagues than many believe.
I think they are on the right track with such thoughts because of what has transpired in the Tigers’ recent past.
In the spring of 2006, both Joel Zumaya and Justin Verlander were viewed as long shots to make the team for opening day. Deciding to keep both to begin the season might have been the most important decision Leyland made that entire pennant winning season.
Porcello is 20 - the same age as Zumaya in the spring of ‘06. Perry will be 22 opening day- the same age as Verlander in ‘06.
Zumaya came out of the high school ranks, Verlander the college ranks, also mirroring Porcello and Perry.
And, if anything, Porcello and Perry were more polished as amateur pitchers than Zumaya and Verlander.

Random Thoughts

- The Pistons aren’t playing that poorly overall, but they sure haven’t been able to close games. And don’t believe for a second the trade rumors aren’t hindering the play of Rodney Stuckey. They clearly have been.

- Now that’s the Henrik Zetterberg this town has come to know and love.

- Seems to me like Alex Rodriguez only came clean about steroid use because he understands the ramifications had he lied. Look at what not telling the truth has done for Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. Their alleged lies, not actually taking performance enhancing substances, is what has them in such legal hot water.


Monday, February 09, 2009

Stoudemire Deal Might Not Make Sense (Or Cents)

It’s not that I don’t think Amare Stoudemire is a really good player. Obviously, he is. But it doesn’t seem to me as if he would necessarily solve the Pistons’ problems.
He is a big, powerful player who runs well in the open court, but he is not an exceptional off the ball defender at the rim nor post presence, which is what the Pistons really need. He has had knee problems, and his attitude has been less than stellar.
If this were prior to his knee injury, or before his attitude soured, the Suns wouldn’t even consider giving him up.
Would I trade Rasheed Wallace even up for Stoudemire? Not sure. Wallace’s expiring contract means a lot to the Pistons. They would be on the hook with Stoudemire at $15 million next season. Tayshaun Prince’s name has been speculated, but Prince’s role is a defensive one for the Pistons. Richard Hamilton would have to guard Joe Johnson, LeBron James and Paul Pierce in the playoffs. He is a good defender, but Prince is better. Rodney Stuckey is a building block for the Pistons future at a relatively inexpensive price and perhaps Joe Dumars’ best draft pick ever. Doubt he will part with him.
In the past, Dumars has had his best success seeing something special in players like Hamilton and Chauncey Billups others didn’t - and being right. That’s more the type of move he should be looking to make now to shore up the Pistons rather than taking a costly shot at Amare Stoudemire.
Random Thoughts

- This much I know: If Michigan beats Michigan State Tuesday and finishes .500 or better in the Big Ten, it will make the NCAA tournament. And the Wolverines would deserve it. They have remarkable strides in John Beilein’s second year as coach. Michigan played a very good game over the weekend at Connecticut.

- Don’t be surprised if, as the NFL combine nears, Boston College defensive tackle B.J. Raji’s name does emerge as more of a possibility for the Lions at No.1 overall. He’s 6-4, 335 pounds and they are looking for gap control defensively more than anything else. Raji was the most impressive player at the Senior Bowl.


Friday, February 06, 2009

Defense, Penalty Kill, Not Ozzie, Red Wings' Biggest Issue

Red Wings coach Mike Babcock was critical of Chris Osgood following their win Wednesday over Phoenix, but their biggest issue isn’t goaltending.
They just have too many lapses in their own zone, and are not nearly as proficient at breaking out as they used to be. There have been too many giveaways.
Also, the Red Wings’ penalty-killing unit has been bad. It used to be their great strength. It’s difficult to put a finger on the exact reasons why this is happening. Could be that Kris Draper, Kirk Maltby and Nicklas Lidstrom are slowing down. They are advancing in age. But I don’t understand the breakdowns from players such as Niklas Kromwall and Brian Rafalski, who were so solid in those areas last season.
Osgood has played better the last couple months after a woefully slow start. His statistics aren’t good, but he has been getting bombarded with a lot more scoring chances than in the past. That’s a cause of the Red Wings’ defensive play overall as much as on Osgood - especially when the Red Wings are short-handed.

Random Thoughts

- Tigers general Dave Dombrowski said something very interesting when I interviewed him Thursday night on 97.1, The Ticket’s Tiger Talk. He said that the Tigers’ first round draft choice in 2007, right-hander Rick Porcello, would pitch every fifth day for the major league club in spring training, and that several scouts and coaches in the organization already feel like he is among the best five starters in the organization, and would be capable of pitching in the major leagues to start the 2009 season. Dombrowski, however, added he isn’t leaning that way.
Porcello has exceptional command of the baseball despite his youth (20). His off-speed pitches are very good. He should move quickly.

- If the Pistons played the Atlanta Hawks in the opening round of the playoffs, would they win the series? As it stands, that’s who’d they play. And they wouldn’t have home court advantage. To me, it would be a toss up. Atlanta is 18-5 at home. It is imperative the Pistons move past the Hawks to secure homecourt advantage.


Wednesday, February 04, 2009

About The Tigers, U-M's QBs, Manny And Millen

A couple of the baseball preseason magazines have come out, and it’s interesting how they portray the Tigers’ coming season.
The Sporting News doesn’t see them doing too well. In fact, they are picking the Tigers to place last in the American League Central - with the Twins winning the division.
Lindy’s picks the Tigers for third - and also has the Twins winning the division.
I see the Tigers as a .500 ball club that could go in either direction. How they swing from that point depends on a numbers of factors.
Foremost is starting pitching. Will Justin Verlander, Jeremy Bonderman and Nate Robertson have bounce back seasons? Can Armado Galarraga and Edwin Jackson maintain double figures in victories?
Second is how well the bullpen holds up. Better starting pitching will make the relief pitching much better, but there are two huge "X" factors in the bullpen - Joel Zumaya’s health and how quickly 2008 first-round draft choice Ryan Perry develops. The Tigers also need a couple surprises along the way - like non-roster spring training invitee Juan Rincon returning to the form he displayed a few years ago with Minnesota
The Tigers are going to be improved defensively, but did they give up too much hitting in the process?
The division isn’t that strong. Winning 89 games captured it last season. I don’t see the Tigers as long shots, but their margin for error in the above-mentioned areas is relatively slim.

Random Thoughts

- The Michigan player with the most expectations and pressure on him entering next season will be Wolverines’ quarterback recruit Tate Forcier. He was able to enroll early, and it’s been widely anticipated he will be U-M’s starter. Denard Robertson from Deerfield Beach, Fla., who Rich Rodriguez closed on well during national signing day Wednesday, is definitely another option. He is a legitimate 4-star recruit, too, and is more elusive than Forcier. That will be an interesting competition come fall.
There seems to be little doubt, though, the Wolverines will open the season with a freshman at QB.

- I can’t recall a player lifting a team into the postseason to the extent Manny Ramirez did for the Dodgers last season. Yet, clubs still view him as a gamble because of conduct issues. I hear they were far worse in Boston than the Red Sox let on. It’s why he is having issues getting the desired contract.

- Honestly, I thought Matt Millen added nothing to NBC’s Super Bowl coverage. I don’t understand the rush - ESPN is also reportedly interested in him - to get Millen back on the air after the way his credibility as a commentator was damaged by his performance as Lions’ team president.


Monday, February 02, 2009

Will Calvin Johnson Be The Next Larry Fitzgerald?

The Cardinals surprised me Sunday. I thought it was a fluke they reached the Super Bowl. I thought they were going to get crushed.
And it looked like they were going to fall apart in the latter stages of the game - and the Steelers were going to trounce them.
I’m glad it didn’t turn out that way. To me, that was the best Super Bowl of all time.
Super Bowls tend bog down. One team takes over. The second half is often a bore. Although the last two haven’t been that way.
The Lions have taken a lot of heat for drafting wide receivers in the first round - and justifiably so - but this Super Bowl was a classic example of how a truly special performance by a wide receiver can change the course of a game. Larry Fitzgerald is spectacular.
The Cardinals were in that game because their defense continued to perform better than expected. Their offensive line did an excellent job of protecting Kurt Warner. Those allowed Fitzgerald to become the factor he did. But it does make you realize if the Lions shore up their other areas, just how important a player Calvin Johnson could be down the road.
Seems like he has the same things going for him as Fitzgerald - except he’s faster.

Random Thoughts

- The recent incident involving Michael Phelps is a classic example of how, just when you start to think somebody is too good to be true, they prove they aren’t. But it shouldn’t diminish everything that he has accomplished, and all that is good about him.

- It’s amazing how much better the Cavaliers are with Mo Williams running the point. They will give the Celtics all they can handle in the playoffs.

- There were a lot of things that could have been anticipated this college basketball season. Michigan State losing to Northwestern and Penn State at home weren’t among them. Can’t help but be stunned.