Wednesday, March 29, 2006


I briefly considered writing up a whole spiel on My First Mortgage to continue the Fischer Price series, but couldn’t convince myself that anyone in their right mind would get past the title.  So I’m going to land it here as the headliner of another grab bag.  Hmm.  Now that I think of it, maybe I should hide it in the middle.  You’ll never see it coming that way...

I’ll be happy when Bonds retires.  No reason other than getting past the endless carrying on about his steroids.  Yes, it sucks that he’ll probably overtake some of the most hallowed baseball milestones as a cheater.  But will history forget that?  Look at how Pete Rose’s legacy has been torched.  I think the biggest issue people have with Bonds is simple, and it’s not about his juicing.  No one can stand being lied to.  It’s like a wife that knows where her husband’s been.  Just tell me, we both know, just say it.  

Absolutely fantastic March Madness this year.  You don’t have to really care one way or the other about the teams, but the games will just suck you in.  How many regulations have gone down to the wire with two squads that outright refuse to lose?  It’s also nice to see an outmatched team like GMU knock out major schools by putting their unit up against of collections of individual talent.  

A lot of Pacer talk now that Jermaine is back.  Please.  This may be the most overrated franchise of the past decade.  They’ve NEVER gotten over the hump, and this team looks no better than any previous incarnations.  Swapping out a defensive force for Peja makes them a better playoff team?  Peja?  The same guy that develops vision problems in the clutch?   On the other end, there’s nonstop buzzard-circling over the Pistons now that they’ve lost some momentum and aren’t gunning for 70.  It’s the annual habit I had with Jordan’s Bulls, and was annually forced to watch them win despite my wishes.  With the Spurs hobbling some, the Suns limping, Dallas unproven, and the Heat still far below expectations, Detroit is still the obvious choice.

This is where I was going to warn against reading too much into Amare’s surprisingly strong 20 pt/20 min season debut, but was beaten to the punch when the Suns staff shelved him again.  He’s not injured, to be clear.  The trick with coming back from major injuries like this isn’t getting back to leaping and playing again, the trick is being able to recover quick enough to play 3 games a week again.  He can’t.  One of the alarming things happening during his rehab was soreness and swelling in his good knee and back trouble.  D’Antoni’s staff is making the smart decision to ensure his future health.

Hey, so I closed on a house this week.  Surprise!  Very anti-climatic, despite what all those Sallie Mae commercials led me to believe.  Maybe the wife and I will share a moment watching the bunny dart around his new mini-backyard.  The biggest thing for me was discovering how badly Mary Poppins misled me.  I was under the impression that banks stayed in business with the savings accounts of small children, and that you should feed the birds since it’s only toppins for a bag.  Well, ho ho ho.  Turns out mortgages may play a small role in the bank budget.  It all sounds so innocent and un-scary at first.  5.8% interest!  That’s only a few thousand dollars, not bad!  Then I sat down and crunched the numbers to see what the total loan repayment would be.  Nearly fell out of my chair.  Here’s what I’ve since garnered: front load until you’re relegated to eating 35-cents burritos.  Need to make it a little more real?  Take a mortgage and compare a 25% down 15 yr (fixed) repay versus a no-money-down 30:  the former has you on the hook for about 37 dollars in interest for every $100 of the total house price ($200k house --> ~$70k in interest).  Owch!  The latter?  You don’t even want to know (hint – you’ll effectively buy the house more than once).  Here’s the trick – if you double up on some payments and dump a big tax return onto the first year or two, you’ll cut into the principle which will slash the interest like a magic elixir.  The unfortunate truth is, we live in a world where this so much easier to realize than to implement.  Looking around, I don’t know too many people that could just toss in an extra few hundred a month on their mortgage, and if you could, I doubt that you’re that worried about interest.  Life can really suck.  But the Joes always told me that knowing was half the battle, so there you go.

In continued life sucks news, Mitchell Hurwitz has decided enough is enough with Arrested Development, which is most likely the nail in the coffin for the series.  No one seems interested in trying to continue without him and Showtime considered his invovlvment to be a key contingent for bringing the show over to their network.  There’s still faint hope for reconsideration or a film, but only faint.  The Season 3 DVD (2-disc) is expected to be released June 13th.   God speed!

Speaking of AD, we’ve got a TV to life jumper in Jessica Simpson pulling quite a Lindsay.  Turns out her Operation Smile interest came about through her hairstylist.  Her astoundingly for-show appearance in Washington with the organization really came across to me as a PR campaign in response to her pending divorce and revelations of her cheating.  Now she’s let it be known that she wants to adopt orphans a la Angelina and her publicist is letting the media know about all of the “anonymous” donating she does.  God bless celebrities.  

Now that I’ve finally gotten through the first 4 seasons of The Shield, I can definitively say that this show runs rings around 24, even before the writing for Bauer & Co slid so badly this season.  What kills me is that now I’ll have to wait until Christmas to watch Season 5 on DVD, made worse by the fact that its finale had legions of people doing backflips and chatting about it for a solid week.  Ugh!  Grabbed the first disc of The Wire to see if it might work as our next show via Netflix, but we voted it off before the first episode finished.  Extremely realistic, but extremely boring because of it.  Sopranos it is!    

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

NBA Draft Look-Over, Part 1

Now that my daily reading of the NBA beat writers includes several pages devoted to whether fringe-2nd rounders will declare, I know it’s time to start some draft prospect watches.  I’ll throw out what I see when I watch some of the guys possibly coming out.  Who I like as pros, who I question at the next level.  Won’t be all-inclusive, since that’ll just increase the number of times I’d talk out of ignorance.

First, my ground rules: 1 - no mock drafts.  Even from experts they’re silly and less reliable than March Madness Brackets.  Once you’re past pick 4, it’s almost always a game of craps.  
2 – I have my biases, and they will be in full effect.  The most notable of them: I devalue frosh and foreign guys because of the higher bust probability and the time it takes to develop them; combo guards are almost always 6-1 SGs or PGs with Iverson syndrome and rarely make teams better; if you didn’t know ahead of time that a 7-footer had star written all over him, he’s probably a thrown away pick; athleticism coupled with good height is everything.  
3 – no foreign player chatter.  Very clearly, I haven’t seen any of these guys play of late.  Even if I had, our post-Dirk and –Peja foreign gold rush has established these guys as big a risk as high schoolers.  It’s been ugly the last few years, with teams taking on Euro scrubs like there was a quota: Sasha Pavlovic, Zoran Planinic, Tskitishvili, Boki Nachbar, Marko Jaric, Jiri Welsch, Rafael “Hoffa” Araujo, Andris Biedrins, Korolev, etc.  It’s getting bad.  In short, the points have been wretched floor generals that are only useful as haphazard scorers and the bigs have been pansy perimeter players.  Yes, if you pit a NHL-like USA vs the World NBA all-star game, I might be tempted to place money on the Yao-Dirk-Peja-Ginobili-Parker (Gasol off the bench!) squad.  But the odds of finding a guy overseas that’s ready to contribute are low.  The big name this year is a skinny 7-foot sharpshooter out of Italy, of course hyped as the next Dirk.  Paint me doubtful.

With the rules out of the way and in no particular order:
JJ Redick – Always the first guy that people want to talk about.  He should have a career in the league, but as a Eric Piakowski/Eddie Johnson niche player.  The best thing about him is that he’s got a Reggie-like ability to run through staggered screens all game and doesn’t depend on his devoid playmaking skills to create opportunities.  He’s only 6-4, but that’s taller than Ben Gordon.  Needs to be on a playoff team with a post player.

Adam Morrison – I have doubts about his transition to the next level.  He seems to throw himself into traffic and launch nothing but contested shots, and there’s no way he can get away with that against NBA defenses.  Does everything well, nothing great, and that could make him another Devean George.  He’ll be out-quicked on both sides of the floor by any 3 he meets.  

Rudy Gay – Strikes me as a Caron Butler type.  Good shot but with limited range, classic SF size, surprisingly decent in the post, not much of a handle.  Would be a fantastic fit with the Bobcats but a disaster in Portland or Atlanta.

Lamarcus Aldridge – I really like him as a pro, though that could be the Texas bias talking.  The biggest reason is my aforementioned love of athletic guys with size.  He’s got a reputation for being soft, but can still get after boards and doesn’t simply depend on his size to get his shots.  When a guy like this has moves outside of “tip-in” and “alley-oop”, it’s a major plus.

Tyrus Thomas – This year’s biggest March stock leaper, aside from Noah.  Seems to have an NBA-ready body, but strikes me as an Antawn Jamison without the outside game.  I have to wonder if he’s simply out-talenting guys on the floor with no real discipline.  I can fully appreciate the hype and don’t think it’s off-base, but would love to see another year from him to justify the recent #1 pick talk.  This is why scouts and GMs prematurely gray.

Brandon Roy – A guy I would feel very safe picking in the draft.  Solid all-around SG with everything you’d want at the position, aside from one or two more inches.  Makes excellent snap judgements, quick reflexes, good shooter, playmaker, everything.  He might not be an All-Star, but he could start for someone today.

Josh McRoberts – A freshmen big with questionable footspeed?  I think this might qualify for one or two of my frowny-face stickers.  At no point in the tourney did I see him on the court looking like he could succeed at the next level.  Yet, there he is as a projected top-10 pick.  

Shelden Williams, Josh Boone, and Hilton Armstrong – I think there’s a place for these guys in the NBA.  None of them have much of an offensive repertoire, but all have the look of the mythical rugged power forward that every team in the league seems to be desperate for.  Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman proved that offense doesn’t matter if you can secure boards and play defense, and I think this trio would fit the bill as a complimentary frontcourt addition in the Udonis Haslem mold.  

Ronnie Brewer – The perfect opposite of JJ Redick.  Gifted playmaker and ballhandler at the 2, but with the ugliest shot since Anthony Mason.  Decent defense with good size.  In a league with too many one-dimensional scorers, he could really help as a distributer.  I wouldn’t recommend the inevitable attempt to convert him to  point guard, though.  

Marcus Williams – My pick for the top point guard in the draft, primarily because he can play the position, unlike his shot-oriented peers Foye and Rondo.  He’s no Jason Kidd or Steve Nash, in that he can make some horrifyingly bad judgements in high-pressure situations.  It’s possible that he won’t become much more than a bench guy.

Joakim Noah – From “who” to top-3 talk.  The wife thinks she’ll have a great WNBA career.  He has a chance to make it as another Camby, but don’t forget how bad Gumby was on the boards his first 4 years.  I just can’t picture him starting for anyone for a while, and keep in mind that Jenny Craig companion Hakim Warrick has been virtually AWOL as a Grizzly this year.

Rodney Carney – A senior swingman with serious explosiveness, but is a rather streaky shooter from the outside and could get exposed against ball-hawks when he goes into his helter-skelter offensive mindset: he doesn’t have the ballhandling or smart shot selection needed to get away with his Kobe impressions.  

Randy Foye – Amazing offense that covers up the fact that he’s one of a million SGs masquerading as points.  At 6-4, he could get away with a Bobby Jackson/David Wesley game, but he needs a coaching staff that will use him correctly.