Verbal volleys and prognostications and predictions from The Times Sports staff posted every day. Read their views from the sidelines and from the comfort of their office chairs. These Monday morning quarterbacks rarely wait until Monday to call it like they see it.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Shockey a Saint?
Driving in to work today, I caught ESPN's Chris Mortensen talking on a New York sports talk radio show.
The question was about the New York Giants' situation at safety, then Mortensen dropped this morsel.
He said the Saints have talked to the Giants about tight end Jeremy Shockey. And that the Giants would be interested in a safety in return.
For the New York audience, that suggests Gibril Wilson might be leaving as a free agent.
For the Louisiana listeners, wow.
First of all, isn't the Saints' biggest problem on defense? I realize they could upgrade the tight end position with a healthy Shockey. And maybe the desire to add him says something about what they got from their receivers on the outside last year.
It's just that I would target defense before I would worry with the offense.
Mortensen went on to say that the Giants aren't shopping Shockey. And that other teams have also inquired about him.
Still, it's an interesting idea for Saints fans to ponder if nothing else.
Overlooked in last week's state soccer championship by Caddo Magnet was the work of the Shreveport Regional Sports Authority and Mary Ann Tice.
When the SRSA announced last spring that it had won the tournament for Shreveport, it received just a blip on the radar screen in the local media. But by hosting the event in Independence Stadium, Caddo Magnet didn't have to travel to win their state title. They were well-rested in their own beds, which must have given them an advantage over their opponents.
There were also a lot more Magnet supporters in the stands due to the short drive. Additionally, the team received more extensive media coverage from playing within an easy drive of all the local media outlets.
The Mustangs may have won the state title, even if it had been played in Baton Rouge, New Orleans or Lafayette. But kudos should be given to the SRSA for letting them play in their own backyard.
HORNETS WIN 120-103 Great game, great crowd. SHAQ'S RETURN SO-SO Shaquille O'Neal had a monster slam or two, but didn't do much to impress. O'Neal finishes with 15 points and seven rebounds. Amare Stoudemire had 32. HORNETS TIGHTEN THINGS UP FURTHER New Orleans will win big to move to 38-18 and pull into a virtual tie with Phoenix (39-19). Chris Paul and David West were incredible tonight, but Jannero Pargo was exceptional. The kid from Arkansas came off the bench to break the 20-point mark and ignite the crowd several times. Tonight's game is why the Hornets continue to fly under the radar in the NBA. West, Paul, Pargo, Chandler, Stojakovic -- they are names well respected around the league, but not ones that people jump off their couch to turn on and watch. Maybe they're missing something, because tonight's game was incredibly entertaining. SELLOUT! The announced crowd is 17,931, a sellout. The crowd filled in nicely after the opening tip -- it was a 7 p.m. start -- and the Hornets need more nights like this to raise their attendance toward 14,000. MVP! MVP! MVP! The electric crowd is chanting for Chris Paul, who has 18 points and 15 assists midway through the fourth quarter. The Hornets' lead is still 19. HORNETS MAKING THIS A LAUGHER It appears New Orleans' three-game losing streak is going to come to an end tonight. David West is on fire and the Hornets are showing incredible balance as they take a 97-77 lead into the fourth quarter. After West's 25, there are already FIVE Hornets in double figures (Chris Paul 16, Jannero Pargo 16, Peja Stojakovic 13, Morris Peterson 11 and Tyson Chandler 10). HORNETS HEAT UP, LEAD Peja Stojajovic’s 3-pointer with 3:22 left in the first half sent the crowd into a tizzy here and gave the Hornets a 53-51 lead. After a Suns timeout and a turnover, Tyson Chandler threw down a monster slam that sent everyone in the building onto their feet. New Orleans hits the locker room with a 59-55 lead. 3-POINTERS PUT SUNS ON TOP AFTER ONE Back-to-back 3s in the final moments of the first quarter helped the Suns take a 29-25 lead after one period. Shaq has played about 6 minutes. Amare Stoudemire leads the Suns with 10 points while David West has 13 for New Orleans. Phoenix shot 4-of-5 from long distance in the opening quarter while the Hornets missed both their attempts. LITTLE DISAPPOINTED BY THE ATTENDANCE There are plenty of seats to be had at New Orleans Arena tonight, which is a bit disappointing. Remember, if the Hornets don't average near 14,700 this season, they have an out in their contract here and could leave after a financial penalty. Currently, New Orleans averages in the mid-12,000 range. SHAQ NOT DOING MUCH EARLY; SUNS LEAD BY A BUCKET We're halfway through the first quarter and the Suns have a 14-12 lead. Shaq has been strong on the defensive board, but hasn't been involved in the offense. He one opportunity heavily contested in the paint, but missed the shot. AS EXPECTED, SHAQ GETS BIGGEST OVATION Time to tip this one off. SHAQ'S FIRST GAME IN NEW ORLEANS SINCE ... Tonight will be Shaq's first game PLAYING in New Orleans since April 2, 2005. He was injured when the Miami Heat played here in January and last year's Hornets-Heat game was played in Oklahoma City -- Shaq was injured then, too. The teams also played at Ford Center in the 2005-06. The last time O'Neal played here, he had 34 points and 15 rebounds as the Heat pounded the Hornets 111-99. WHY WE'RE HERE Greetings from New Orleans Arena where the Hornets are set to face Shaq Daddy and the Phoenix Suns. The atmosphere should be pretty special tonight as the former LSU star has made a huge splash with the Suns and of course people here absolutely adore him. From a writer's point of view, there is no better quote in all of sports than Shaquille O'Neal. The guy has dealing with the media down pat and always provides the best anyone in our business could ask for. I've taken a small break from the Girls Top 28 tourney in Hammond to come down here and work on a piece about the Hornets. Be on the look out for the story in the near future. The Hornets have been a pleasant surprise in the NBA this season and led the tough Western Conference until last week. While the Hornets are fighting for a playoff spot in the NBA, they are also fighting to stay in New Orleans. Check in all night for details on the Hornets-Suns game as well as Shaq.
There are a lot of talking heads going on about Vanderbilt upsetting Tennessee on Tuesday night.
Which brings me to my annual point. Just because a higher-ranked team loses in college basketball doesn't automatically make it an upset.
In this case, I had already told people in the office,'Watch Tennessee lose at Vanderbilt.''
That's not being negative. That's having covered SEC basketball on the road in the 1990s.
It's not always travel that makes winning on the road. It's playing in a different gym without fan support. And, in the case of Tuesday's game, Vanderbilt is pretty good. The Commodores are No. 18 in the country.
Just some tidbits from the NFL Scouting Combine on NFL Network.
For some reason, maybe it's because he's smaller, I always thought Felix Jones was the faster of the two running backs at Arkansas. It turns out I'm wrong. Darren McFadden ran a 4.33 40-yard dash. Jones turned in a time of 4.47.
Tulane running back Matt Forte may have boosted his stock with an impressive time of 4.46, faster than that of Jones.
For what it's worth, USC quarterback John David Booty ran a 4.82. I say what it's worth because Booty is a drop-back quarterback and won't need to win any foot races in the NFL. Booty will need to be able slide around the pocket more than he'll need to win any north-south races.
Jacob Hester has gotten a lot of attention from Chicago area media. Several media outlets are running with Hester's story of wanting to switch jerseys with Devin Hester after LSU and Miami played in the Peach Bowl. The postgame brawl negated that fact.
LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey's knee has become the center of much speculation. My thought,the guy never missed a game. Isn't that enough?
I had just about come around to the thought of LSUS going deep into the NAIA tournament, maybe even winning a national championship this season.
I saw a potent offensive team. I thought they had improved defensively. They had beaten three NCAA D-I teams. Free throw shooting was my main concern.
Now, I am reconsidering those lofty thoughts. Oh, the free throw shooting is still a concern.
But it's the defense that has gone back to looking like the defense that was always the Pilots' downfall in the NAIA tournament.
They allowed 100 points on Saturday in a 100-80 loss. They never could get a stop when they needed to against Spring Hill.
You could say it's just one game. But just two days before, they won a game when they allowed 97 points. The game before that they allowed 86. All of this comes after their best defensive effort of the season on Feb. 14 when they allowed 55.
Look, I understand the Pilots play a fast-paced style that leads to lots of points. But if you are going to win a championship, particularly on the national level, there will be times when you have to have stops. And on Saturday, LSUS couldn't do it.
There's still time to shore up the defense before the national tournament. And I'll be glad to change my opinion. But as this team is playing defense on Feb. 23, I don't see a long run in the national tournament.
Here it is folks. The future of major league ballparks.
Architects embraced the nostalgic look when building new stadiums over the last decade or so. Baltimore's Camden Yards provided the blueprint for the next generation of major league ballparks.
It looks as if ballparks are going in the direction of the Jetsons instead of the turn of the 20th century look. The Tampa Bay Rays revealed their plans for their $450 million stadium they hope will be opened by 2012.
The stadium has a "sailboat" look to it that incorporates a translucent roof that will allow sunlight into the stadium, but protect it from the elements.
While I don't follow the NBA closely, I have noticed this much.
National media pundits like to talk about the West being stronger than the East (although the East has the team with the best record.) And when they talk about the West the talk usually is about the Spurs, Suns, Lakers and Mavericks.
No one talks much about the New Orleans Hornets.
Listening to a talk show out of Dallas-Fort Worth, you wouldn't even figure the Hornets were in the NBA Western Conference.
Yet on Wednesday, there were the Hornets running the Mavericks right out of New Orleans Arena.
Maybe that's the way it's going to be this year. Me? I'm a believer.
Man, all you hear out of DFW these days is about the Jason Kidd trade.
Amazingly, a vast majority of media and Mavericks fans think this is a good deal.
Hate to be the one to disagree here, but Jason Kidd isn't getting the Mavericks over the hump this year and certainly trading for him isn't good for the future.
Yes, he's the point guard Avery Johnson wanted. But Kidd is making less than 40 percent of his field goal attempts so he better be getting a whole lot of assists per game.
Did I mention Jason Kidd is getting older?
Look, I understand the need to make a move. I understand the need to shake some things up. And maybe Kidd was the best fit for what they were looking for. And at least they didn't trade away so many players.
Still, I prefer trading for youth and not guys in the "twilight of their career'' as former Red Sox GM Dan Duquette once said of Roger Clemens.
Greetings from New Orleans Arena, site of the 57th NBA All-Star Game.
More on tonight's game and the city of New Orleans in a minute.
When you visit New Orleans (and I really encourage you to make the trip) don't leave without going to Brennan's .For dessert, try their Bananas Foster. Fantastic food. Great atmosphere. If you go on weekends, ask for Paul. He’ll make you feel right at home.
The NBA couldn’t have picked a better city to host this year’s All-Star Game.New Orleans is still on the mend, to be sure. But the city hasn’t lost its flair. Hornets guard Peja Stojakovic told me that New Orleans’ laid back attitude reminds him of cities in Europe.
The locals I talked to desperately want tourists to frequent the area, and they go to great lengths to make tourists feel at home.
Last season, NBA players association director Billy Hunter expressed concern about the players’ safety.
But here's what he said yesterday:
“I can assure you that any concerns I previously had have been fully allayed. I think the city has done an excellent job. I think it’s been a great weekend, and I think we’re going to have a great All-Star Game.”
The French Quarter has been lively and festive this week, but I’ve yet to hear of any major problems – OR minor ones, come to think of it.
For several years now, the NBA's All-Star Slam Dunk Contest has been a miss.
The lack of big names has been compounded by the lack of creativity among the dunkers.
Not so Saturday in New Orleans and, if you're an NBA fan, that's a good thing. The dunk contest usually is the highlight of All-Star Weekend. Thus, a bad dunk contest usually meant a bad weekend.
This year, Gerald Green (pictured) and champion Dwight Howard took the bar and raised it. Not necessarily to the 12 feet Howard and fellow competitor Rudy Gay wanted the basket raised to.
Green's second dunk may have taken the (cup)cake. The defending dunk champ placed a cupcake on the bracket behind the rim, lit the candle then blew it out while throwing down a vicious two-hander.
Howard, not to be outdone, broke out a Superman cape and perhaps the most jawdroppingly powerful dunk of the night as teammate Jameer Nelson threw the ball over the backboard. Howard caught the ball over his head in midflight and threw down a tomahawk jam in one violent motion.
Say what you will about the NBA regular season, for one night, the league's best put on a worthy display of entertainment.
The top-two schools? Michigan and Ohio State. Michigan climbs to the top of the list for two sports - football and hockey. Don't think LSU, Florida or Tennessee (which also made the top-10) crank out hockey players like Michigan.
Still, this gives me some verbal ammo in debates with zealous SEC fans.
I'm no NBA sage. About this time last year, in an office conversation I decried the San Antonio Spurs as "too old" to be true title contenders.
Looks like I'm bad at picking everything, not just baseball postseason winners.
But after watching Dallas play Phoenix on Thursday night it's clear the Mavericks need to make a move. And that move is obtaining Jason Kidd.
Now if Dallas can only find a way to make Devean George happy about leaving Big D for the Jersey swamp.
George is holding up the trade, refusing to report to New Jersey if he is indeed traded. The Mavericks need a spark, especially after the Lakers and Suns landed All-Stars or former All-Stars in the last two weeks.
Right now the Mavericks are staring at a hump they cannot clear without Kidd's wizardry. Without Kidd, Dallas may once again move past the first round of the NBA playoffs, but without Kidd, it's hard to fathom the Mavericks hoisting the Larry O'Brien Trophy.
So I'm listening to a sports talk radio show out of New York and Michael Kay is going on about how he can't believe Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo is staying in New York and not taking the head coaching job in Washington.
Kay keeps going on and on about how he's never not wanted to do better, never not wanted to make more money and how he can't understand Spagnuolo's decision.
I'm thinking -- MAYBE HE DOESN'T WANT TO WORK FOR DAN SNYDER.
You know, sometimes the grass isn't greener. Sometimes you may have a good working situation.
I understand he may never be a hotter coaching candidate than he is now. I understand that few, if any, coaching jobs in the NFL are ever good ones.I understand all of that.
I just don't see how you get all over a guy for making a decision he thinks is best.
Bye bye, Bobby:Before John Feinstein detailed the inner workings of Bobby Knight's Indiana program, legendary Sports Illustrated writer Frank DeFord dissected Knight in his great story for SI back in 1981.
There's tremendous insight to Knight, who was 41 years old and ready to take the Hoosiers to their second NCAA crown with guard Isiah Thomas.
I was listening to Randy Galloway's radio show out of Dallas last night (don't you just love XM radio) when the questioned was posed: "Would you trade Tony Romo straight up for Eli Manning?''
Galloway said he would. Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback and current Cowboys radio hack Babe Laufenberg said he wouldn't.
Me, I'd do that deal if I were the Cowboys. And here's why:
It has nothing to do with Manning coming off of a Super Bowl win. It has to do with a couple of other things. Manning has classic quarterback height and Romo doesn't -- which makes a difference with bigger defensive linemen. Manning also has shown a knack -- since his days at Ole Miss -- to play better late in the game than he does early.
Those are the reasons I'd take Manning over Romo at this point.
Mike Lupica, heralded columnist for the New York Daily News, comes right out and says it in his Monday column:
"The best Super Bowl of them all really ended in the left corner of the end zone at University of Phoenix Stadium, one last ball in the hands of Plaxico Burress, who called this one the way Joe Namath called one once."
Really? The best Super Bowl of them all? The ratings showed the public tuned in (Sunday's game was the most watched event in television history, behind the M*A*S*H swan song). But to call this the best of them all is an overstatement. For three quarters, the game was hideously dull. Tom Petty's halftime show from 1990 was looking to be the highlight of the game. If you like defensive stalemates, Sunday's game was for you. Super Bowl XLII came down to two drives.
Would Lupica really say it was the best of them all if a New York team wasn't involved? Probably not. The guy's got to sell papers and draw hits to the Daily News' web page. And, it's kind of a weak lead to write if you label the game as one of the best. You might as well crown it the ultimate victory, right?
The Daily News has an online poll asking readers if the game was the greatest upset in NFL history? Eighty percent said yes. Not Super Bowl history, but NFL history. I think there's a quarterback from Beaver Falls, Pa., that wore No. 12 for the Jets that would argue that.
There were some people out there who did pick the Giants to win this one. The Giants nearly beat the Pats during the regular season, remember? Who gave the '69 Jets a snowball's chance to beat Don Shula and his Colts? Joe Namath. That's why it was a big deal when he guaranteed the win.
Ah, but New York media is fickle, and if ain't the biggest, the grandest or most sensational, then it doesn't belong in print or TV, especially in the Big Apple.
Look, I like the New York Giants. I liked their chances against Tampa, Dallas and Green Bay. I only picked them to win against Tampa. But still, I like the Giants.
That being said, I can't possibly see the New England Patriots winning 18 straight games only to stub their toe on the last one.
I can't see it.
Can the Giants win Sunday's Super Bowl?
Anything can happen.
I have a feeling about the Giants that is just the exact opposite of the one I had about LSU in the national title game.
In the LSU game, I figured if LSU played a clean game, there was no way the Tigers would lose. Even after falling behind 10-0, LSU wasn't playing sloppy. Sure enough, LSU rolled after that.
With the Giants, I think they could play a perfect game and will still need some help from the Patriots -- whether it's turnovers or penalties or special teams mistakes, just some kind of help. Otherwise, I think you're looking at a 19-0 Super Bowl champion.