SteveDwriter's Blog

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How the West Was Won

 

Artest will be speaking the Triangle offense to Kobe instead of parting words next season

Artest will be speaking the Triangle offense to Kobe instead of parting words next season

 

I guess it’s over. Wrap it up. Place your bets. Just go ahead and slate the Los Angeles Lakers in for a spot in next year’s Finals.

I wouldn’t blame you. With news coming out of Los Angeles today on an agreement between the Lakers and Lamar Odom, barring injury, the Lakers will have no choice but to repeat as Western Conference Champions for a third straight year.

If it was already a nation of Laker Haters, then President Obama is going to have to do something about border control because the resigning of Odom and the addition of Artest is going to mean several more anti-L.Aians jumping the fence, standing in line to kick rocks at the purple and gold.

Even though former outcast turned superstar Trevor Ariza split title town and agreed to join forces with the Houston Rockets, the Lakers didn’t sweat it, they just went ahead and added a better piece to their puzzle in Artest.

While Artest may not be the up-and-coming ultra-athletic defender that Ariza is, he’s still one of the premier locksmiths in the league with a better all around offensive game.

The summer of 2010 is supposed to be the Y2K of the NBA. The year when systems go haywire, fantasy leagues turn upside down, and more money gets dished out than a Vegas upset payout.

But the summer of 2009 is becoming more and more exciting by the week.

Jefferson moved to San Antonio, Shaq joined forces with LeBron and Carter went back home to Florida.

You could argue that each of the names on that list is probably a bigger headliner than Artest’s or Odom’s is right now, but none of which was a bigger transaction than the addition of the former NBA Defensive Player of the Year or the resigning of the most versatile 6-10 forward in the league.

Artest, Bryant, Gasol, Odom and Bynum is more size, skill, and length than what any competitor in the West or the East has to offer right now.

And with Odom renewing his vows to team, Los Angeles may take a run at the 72 mark that Jordan’s Bulls put up back in 95.

 

Relax Kobe, Odom's coming back after all

Relax Kobe, Odom's coming back after all

No joke, I can really see a possible run at the NBA record for the Lakers. They finished last year at 65 wins without even trying and does anybody remember the last time some media labeled defensive nut joined forces with the best player in basketball?

Yup, the year was 95, Clinton had the country on cruise control, music was actually likeable and Dennis Rodman was running the court with good ole 23 to a tune of 72-10.

No wonder Phil Jackson announced his plans to return for next season.

I mean after all, the Zen Master was controlling the reigns for the Bulls that season and Artest’s announcement probably made coaching away games next year appear less of a daunting task for the aging Hall of Famer before he even got word of Odom’s resigning.

Dwayne Wade and LeBron James have to be somewhere throwing darts at their Kobe posters.

Artest was this close to signing with Cleveland and Odom was even closer to signing with Miami.

Ah well, guess we don’t have to worry about that.

Artest is headed for Hollywood, Odom won’t be getting a tax break and the only thing us non-Laker fans can do about it is just sit here with our mouths wide open praying for a miracle. 

Man-oh-man, Odom resigning isn’t only a definite threat to the league but a crushing blow to my online subscription for the NBA 2K series on Xbox.

I can see the cheaters now, putting Kobe and Artest in the backcourt, running Odom, Gasol and Bynum up front. I’m shaking my head just thinking about it.

Even with all that firepower, it still wouldn’t be enough to keep me from playing my favorite video game and I’m sure it won’t keep the hundreds of professionals in the league from playing their favorite game as well.

No way is some verbal agreement or some resigning going to keep us all from playing the video game or the sport we love.

Now winning? Well…… that’s another story.

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July 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Less is More? Romo, Cowboys Hope So

America's Man Tony Romo

With a clear head, Romo can get back to focusing on football

The Dallas Cowboys entered the 2008 season with enough talent that made them pretty formidable on Xbox and PlayStation, but their real life counterparts were anything but.

Entangled in a PR nightmare of a season that nearly ripped the team apart, Dallas limped away from their season finale against the Philadelphia Eagles a shell of the squad that was the popular Super Bowl pick for most sports writers.

In-house bickering, rumors and silly antics reminded fans more of an episode on the popular soap opera Dallas than the more prestigious NFL franchise that fans had come to recognize and respect.

While coaches receive their share of the blame during times of struggle, players usually take the brunt as the more recognizable faces of the team. 

Terrell Owens, Adam “Pacman” Jones, Tony Romo and Wade Phillips were usually at the forefront of the blame for 2008, but only one name on that list has been associated with much of the blame over the last three years of the Cowboys failures: Tony Romo.

Since his inauguration as the quarterback of “America’s Team” in the middle of the 2006 season, Romo has typically been isolated and bound in front of firing squads packed full of hungry Cowboy crucifiers.

Utilizing every ounce of blame from his private life to his playing life, critics have tried every possible angle that they can obtain just to take a shot at the signal caller. Seems like if Romo even checks his mailbox, critics will argue he should be in his house studying game film while his assistant retrieves and sorts his parcel.

Recognizing the situation, the Cowboys have been doing their best to cut off some of the more accessible angles of blame since the end of last year’s campaign and lighten the load off of Romo’s psyche.

Romo has also been doing his own share of spring cleaning this offseason. After the team dumped his favorite (or least favorite, depending on the context) receiver in March, Romo dumped his favorite (or now least favorite) gal pal Jessica Simpson a couple of weeks ago and appears to be distraction free walking into the 2009 campaign.

For all of Romo’s difficulties the past couple of seasons, the media has made it an objective to link the pro bowler’s struggles directly to Owens and/or Jessica Simpson by any means necessary, instead of placing the blame where it squarely belongs: the coaching staff.

In years past, the Cowboys have continued to make the mistake of trying to place the team solely on Romo’s shoulders instead of in the hands of a could be, would be and should be punishing ground game. Not that Romo isn’t one of the upper echelon quarterbacks in the league, but trying to introduce a guy who just completed his second season as a full-time starter this past year as the focal point of the offense is just foolish on so many levels.

Especially considering the strongest facets of the Cowboys offense over the past few years have been a mammoth offensive line which excels at run blocking, and one of the most punishing backs in the league in Marion Barber who excels at running the ball.

But the offense was catered around the explosive Owens and the uber-talented Jason Witten, which is completely understandable, but not suitable for a very young quarterback in terms of starting experience.

If the Cowboys want to thrive in December, they'll need more of this from Barber

If the Cowboys want to thrive in December, they'll need more of this from Barber

With Owens making reality shows off in Buffalo and the promise of rising stars Felix Jones and Tashard Choice, Dallas is expected to relinquish some of Romo’s extensive duties this season and return to the winning formula of over a decade ago.

For all of the accolades that orbit around Cowboy greats Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin, any lifelong Cowboy fan will tell you the last few Dallas Super Bowl teams were at their best when they enforced Emmitt Smith and a grind-it-out run game.

In the three seasons that culminated in Super Bowl victories for the Cowboys in the ’92, ’93 and ’95 campaigns, the Cowboys passed for over 300 yards in only two games as a team as opposed to the 14 times the ‘Boys have accomplished the feat since Romo’s insertion as a starter in the middle of the ’06 season.

Although the ‘Boys have gone 12-2 in those games, the team hasn’t passed for over 300 yards in the month of December during that three-year stretch, even with Romo’s passing attempts remaining in the 30’s and 40’s. Which leads me to believe the coaches in Irving aren’t adjusting the game plans accordingly.

With the release of Owens and emergence of Jones and Choice, Dallas could be in line for a return to the pound-then-pass approach of the early 90’s. The strategy certainly worked for division rival Eli Manning and Ben Roethlisberger’s first Super Bowl wins and even one of the most prolific passers in the league, Peyton Manning, saw his team run for 191 yards in the biggest game of his career.

So while Fantasy Football owners and Romo might miss the gobs of touchdowns he’s thrown to Owens over the last few seasons, if Dallas really wants to get back to the promise land, maybe a little bit less is a little bit more.

July 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

Suspension Smension, Vick Lucky Just to be Back in the League

Vick might be a free man, but he's not out of the clear yet

Vick might be a free man, but he's not out of the clear yet

If you would’ve asked me two weeks ago, I would’ve said “of course not.”

If you would’ve asked me two months ago, I would’ve said “for what, what’s the point?”

If you would’ve asked me two years ago, I would’ve said “no way, what else do they want from him?”

But if you would’ve asked me two minutes ago, I would’ve said “yeah, probably, I don’t see why not.”

So i’m driving to work Tuesday morning listening to one of those morning talk shows. Although I like to substitute a little pep music into my system instead of French Roast before I step foot into the office, I do enjoy a rousing conversation every now and then.

So the biggest topic of the morning is the reinstatement or partial reinstatement or whatever it is of Michael Vick.

The biggest question of the morning is should he or shouldn’t he serve a six game suspension to start the season?

If you would’ve asked me a short while ago, I probably would’ve given you one of the first three aforementioned answers.

Many a voices have spoken out on this from the always enjoyable Terrell Owens to the guys and gals at your local barbershop and salon and the majority of people seem to agree that Vick has “served his time.”

So as I’m turning the corner on the main street of my job, a female caller chimes in to give her response and it’s a pretty good one.

Her rebuttal: if Vick was employed with any company in Corporate America, we wouldn’t be talking about a suspension and it wouldn’t even be a discussion if Vick should get reinstated, it would be a clear-cut, loud and emphatic NO!

Good point. So good it got me to thinking: if I got locked up for a federal charge for two years, could I just waltz out of a jail cell and expect to be slapping fives and cracking jokes with my old coworkers around the water cooler a couple months later?

The answer: YEAH RIGHT!

Only in the entertainment world can a multimillionaire professional go away for a big house bid and get out and start making millions again months later.

For the average taxpayer, one federal stint upstate and we’d probably be regulated to picking up trash or sprinkling salt over deep fried french fries (not that there’s anything wrong with that) once we got out.

For the average songwriter, actor or professional athlete, one federal stint upstate and America would be counting the days down waiting upon the release of their favorite icon.

Although I still believe to this day he never committed the act, Mike Tyson was tried and convicted on a rape charge and sentenced to six years, only serving three of his bid.

He was released in March of 1995 and went on to fight in August later that year, setting a record in pay-per-view sales along the way. After a three-year hiatus, we couldn’t wait to see Tyson climb back into the ring and pummel some bold innocent soul.

Let some keyboard pushing high-profile accountant get locked away for a three-year rape charge and let’s see how fast it takes for them to step foot back into some top notch corporate firm.

Then there’s the “but he already served his time” excuse.

To that I pose this scenario to anyone not too far removed from the clinched fist and waist belt treatment we used to receive as children whenever we acted up.

Let’s say you’re an adolescent going to school everyday. You’re in class talking back and forth to your friend while the teacher is trying to give their lesson. The teacher overhears you talking and asks you to be quiet. You respond by calling the teacher a name (whichever you prefer) loud enough for him/her to hear it. The teacher hands you after-school detention and then proceeds to call your parents.

After you serve your afternoon discipline, you head home towards your usual no-play, no-nonsense parents. You open the door to your house and see your raging mad guardian standing in the foyer with a clinch fist and ripped waist belt upon the sight you respond with a “haven’t I already served enough punishment?” before they abruptly raise their arm and you then proceed to blank out.

See what I’m getting at?

No matter what punishment an institution hands you for your crime, there’s always the further punishment you’re going to have to face from society or some other entity whether it be your job or your mom.

Vick being conditionally reinstated by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn’t a plot to teach Vick a further lesson. It’s more of a plot to keep the millions of people who don’t think Vick should even be reinstated from climbing further up the commissioner’s back.

I consider Vick lucky. Although there’s some other cases pending in the league that I think should definitely be handled by Goodell, the fact of the matter is that Vick has already been tried and found guilty of his crime, thus forcing Goodell’s hand in the matter of a suspension.

I’m nowhere near a Vick hater. I thought he was dynamite while displaying his super hero abilities at Virginia Tech and I applauded him for his one-man show efforts in Atlanta.

Even with a college degree and years of watching CNN, I had no idea you could go to prison for dog fighting up until it caught up with Vick.

I was just as stunned and disappointed as the rest of you seeing Vick walking in and out of a courtroom everyday fighting against a case that maybe millions of others should be on trial for right now.

But when it comes to Vick serving a possible six-game suspension to kick start the 2009 season, I just can’t see that as a serious problem.

Having any job in America isn’t a right, it’s a privilege. No matter if you’re chucking a spiral 80 yards downfield or chucking debris into the back of a trash truck, just receiving a tax eaten pay check is a joy nowadays.

Vick’s lucky to be in the position to reclaim his role as a professional athlete. He’s also extremely fortunate to be in the position to start providing for his family again as the primary caretaker.

Should Vick be reinstated back into the National Football League? In my opinion, yes.

Should Vick serve a six-game suspension on top of the prison sentence he just completed? Well…… try asking Vick what he thinks and i’m sure he’ll tell you he’s fortunate to even be able to serve a temporary suspension with a chance to play professional football again.

July 29, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | | 10 Comments

Three Positions Will Define Redskins 2009

Late July, early August is typically the time when the cookouts start revving up and the back to school shopping gets started for the average citizen. For the average NFL player however, the time period is all about the job game: it’s either your job to win or your job to lose.

When training camp opens July 30 at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia, the Washington Redskins could be considered fortunate to not be in dire need of a host of new starters. While the open positions are few, the importance of the spots up for grabs have the potential to define the season for last year’s last place finishers in the NFC East.

With spots open at right tackle, wide receiver and strong side linebacker, the Redskins already have some frontrunners listed at the top of the depth charts for those respected positions. But if a fresh face or two can step up to claim a starting title, Washington wouldn’t mind at all.

RIGHT TACKLE

Right Tackle

Stephon Heyer

Stephon Heyer became the obvious choice for Jon Jansen’s replacement at right tackle when the long-time veteran was released in May. Although Heyer is expected to be the starter, the Redskins aren’t taking anything for granted, bringing in Mike Williams and Jeremy Bridges to push Heyer. All three options have severe questions with them, meaning that the Redskins are taking a big gamble on one of their most important positions in a run orientated offense.

Heyer is an undrafted experiment who desperately needs to improve his run blocking if the team expects Clinton Portis to have a semblance of a successful season. Starting 12 games over the last two seasons puts him as the favorite but that’s more by default than strong and encouraging play.

Williams hasn’t been in the league in three seasons and is only a few months removed from the 450 weight mark he was hovering around back in February. Down to a respectable (I guess) 381 pounds, the former No. 4 overall draft pick will have a long ways to go to even resemble the man he was before he stepped away from the league and even that former gentleman wasn’t all too impressive in his disappointing stint with the Buffalo Bills.

Ironically, Jeremy Bridges is probably the safest choice out of all three. The former Carolina Panther is a serviceable big body who can alternate between guard and tackle with 39 starts over the last six seasons. Of course there has to be a question mark surrounding Bridges and his two misdemeanor assault charges with one currently pending provide the answers to those question marks.

Bridges may have to fall out of the running for right tackle in order to compensate as interior depth thanks to starting guard Randy Thomas’ offseason arthroscopic knee surgery.

Although Thomas is expected to be ready to start the season, any mishap in his rehab would mean two new starters on the strong side of the Redskins offensive line. Should the replacements falter, the consequences could be too much for Washington to overcome on short notice.

WIDE RECEIVER

kelly_feature

2008 NFL Draft's Second Round Picks Malcolm Kelly (left) & Devin Thomas (right)

Right tackle aside, the Redskins aren’t that far away from having a high-profile offense. With a top flight tight end in Chris Cooley, a top ten back in Portis, a serviceable offensive line, one of the better receivers in the league in Santana Moss, a strong armed signal caller in Jason Campbell and a supposed offensive guru calling the shots, the Redskins are a premier receiver away from being highly explosive.

Since signing a seven-year deal with the Redskins back in 2006, Antwaan Randle El has been everything the Redskins didn’t expect when they dangled a luxurious $31 million deal in front of the former Pittsburgh Steeler. With a dismal eight touchdowns in three seasons as a Redskin, the team is badly in need of an upgrade at his position.

Enter Last year’s second round draft picks Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly. Both youngsters possess the size, hands and skill set to take Washington’s offense from mild-flavored to extra spicy. With game breaking athleticism and respectable speed, either of the two stand a good chance to win the starting job or significant playing time opposite Moss over the incumbent Randle El.

Selecting two potential number one receivers in the second round of 2007 provided Washington with room for error should one of their prospects not pan out. While either would probably need a monster training camp and preseason to overtake Randle El, a solid showing out of either or both should still be enough to guarantee more playing time in the 2009 season.

SAM LINEBACKER

brian-orakpo

NFL Draft 2009 13th Overall Pick Brian Orakpo

With Rocky McIntosh and London Fletcher-Baker firmly entrenched at the weakside and middle linebacker positions, Washington has two athletic and productive backers who can run the field and deliver a couple of crushing blows on demand.

Going into the offseason, Washington knew if they could find a third productive backer to line up beside the duo, it would essentially make the unit one of the strengths on the team, and so our story begins.

When the Washington Redskins stumbled upon Brian Orakpo still sitting in the Green Room at the Radio City Music Hall in New York City waiting to be drafted, they jumped on the chance to select the premier pass rusher they had long been lacking quicker than a New York minute with the 13th pick. Once they got the 6-3, 263-pound Orakpo back to D.C., they started tinkering with the idea of moving the college defensive end off the ground and in the air.

The idea wasn’t too foreign. A few scouts were predicting that Orakpo could make the transition to a pass rushing outside linebacker in a traditional 3-4 scheme. How successful Orakpo could be in a 4-3 alignment might be a different story however. Playing in space might not necessarily be the former Lombari Award winner’s strong suit, but Orakpo possesses the elite athleticism to pull off such a switch.

Which is why the Redskins were playing their top selection at the SAM linebacker position in OTAs, giving him a chance to get adjusted to his new home before the season kicks off. Orakpo is expected to remain in the role and move to his natural strongside defensive end position on third downs, where he can focus on attacking the passer as opposed to dropping back in coverage.

Should the move work, Orakpo will give Washington blue chip athleticism at two of their weaker areas on defense, should the move backfire, expect the team to limit Orakpo to mainly rushing the quarterback as a pass rush specialist.

No real camp battle here, the Redskins traditionally get their first-rounders on the field so the job is Orakpo’s to have, the only way he’s not the starter opening day would be due to injury.

redskins-training-camp-guide

Washington’s defense was already top notch last season, playing lights out football for a good portion of the year. That defense is expected to only improve with the acquisition of newly signed Albert Haynesworth and Orakpo.

If Washington really wants to make noise this season, it’s absolutely vital that someone step up and claim the right tackle position and at least one of last year’s draft prospects at wideout have a breakout year.

With the mega talent flowing heavily throughout the NFC East, the Redskins aren’t in the position to just have one of the two critical spots on offense produce.

It’s absolutely vital that a consistent second receiver emerges and the right side of the offensive line is solidified and ready to produce if Washington is to make any kind of noise in a strong division.

July 28, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 2 Comments