LeBron should go back to Cleveland.

I made this argument on a forum that I run, and so I’m going to make it here.

Here is my thing.  The Heat will be better than the Cavs will be if LBJ joins each of their sides: see Tom Haberstroh’s analysis, which includes WARP; the Heat project to 57-25 and the Cavs to 55-27.  The gap isn’t big, and LeBron has to be thinking beyond this year.  D-Wade is done as a full-time ass-kicker, and Bosh is either at or near his peak.  With the Cavs hounding Miller and Jesus Shuttlesworth with plans of bringing LeBron in, he will get the same deep shooting that he’s had in Miami1 to help him out in spreading the floor.  Bosh is really the differentiator, because the Cavs don’t have someone of his caliber on the roster2, and none of Irving-Waiters-Wiggins-Thompson-Varejao are up to that level just yet3.

But when you look at a WARP analysis and see two wins’ difference for this year with the promise of better things to come as Irving matures and Thompson-Wiggins-Waiters figure out the NBA, well you’re in luck, because all of your key non-LeBron players are going to be on rookie-cap or second-level contracts.  That’s just not the case in South Beach.  If LeBron has to think that he’s going to carry a team this season to a title while they figure it out, wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be carrying a team on the way up?

Even if LeBron gets paired with Bosh for four more years in Miami, big guys don’t age as well as wings, and Bosh already has a ton of minutes on his legs (28,602, 36.5 MPG career), and we’ve already seen what happened when the Big Three became the Big Two.  Bosh played less (32.0 MPG) last year, which is a good sign of Spo’s roster management4.  But when you look at the guys near Bosh in Elo rankings, well, it’s not good.  Guys in that cohort seem to break down around his age: Walton, Zo, DeBusschere, Arizin.  While the guys in Miami are more known quantities, NBA players in their 30s age haphazardly.

Then there’s LeBron’s aging to account for.  LeBron has played 33276 minutes in 842 games, 39.5 MPG.  He’ll turn 30 this season, which will be his 12th in the NBA.  Take five seconds to look at him play basketball and you know that he’s an athletic gentleman without peer.  But a guy who plays that much during the regular season and 42.5 MPG in the playoffs, to say nothing of going deep into the playoffs5, needs some help.  He can carry his team for a year or two6, but doesn’t he deserve some support at some point?  The Cavs, with younger players, are in a better position to give it.

I’ll be very curious to see what LeBron does.  I’m very surprised that Haberstroh did his analysis and appeared to come down so significantly on the Heat’s side when I just don’t think it’s that cut-and-dried.

  1. and would the Heat have fared better with Miller last Finals? 

  2. and I can’t fathom a way that they get Love without gutting the roster — Waiters, Thompson, and picks won’t be enough 

  3. or in AV’s case, anymore 

  4. even if the bench was weaker last year 

  5. coming up on two full NBA seasons 

  6. hell, he’s almost assured to be the best player on his team for seven or eight more years.  Don’t believe me?  Kevin fucking Garnett. 

A Brief Proposal for Improving the Late-Game NBA Sixth-Foul Situation

Episode 12 of Bryan Allain’s wonderful SchnozCast saw the host asking, “If you were the Commissioner, what’s the one thing that you would change?”  Bryan had a suggestion about changing the the foul situation to where you never foul out.  I have an idea, and it’s a decision tree.

  1. If you commit six physical fouls before the 8:00 mark of the 4th quarter, you’re done.  The chances are that you’re a big man brought in to bang bodies and get Dwight Howard and DeAndre Jordan to the line.  If you get six fouls in 40:00, you’re done.  Why?  The chances are that you’re not a key part of the game.  If you’re a star big, you’re not getting a sixth foul that early anyway unless Joey Crawford hates you.  Put another way: if you pick up six in 40:00, you’re A) having a really bad night of things and B) playing for a coach that’s too dumb to sit you out enough to get you halfway into the fourth quarter.
  2. From 8:00 to 4:00, any sixth or higher foul awards two shots to the fouled player and possession of the ball to the fouled player’s team.
  3. From 4:00 to 2:00, any sixth or higher foul is two shots, possession, and the offender cannot check in to the game for 2:00.  This is much like hockey’s minor penalty situation, except each team would still have five players on the court.  The goal is to get the offender off the court but not remove them completely from the game.  A late-but-not-very-late foul shouldn’t hamstring the squad.
  4. From 2:00 to the buzzer, any sixth or higher foul is two shots, possession of the ball, and the player sits out the rest of regulation time.  If the game goes into overtime, the penalty would carry over to the start of overtime.
  5. Overtime: other than carryover time, a sixth or higher foul is two shots, possession, and the two-minute rule again, unless the clock is at 1:00 or less, at which point the player is gone from the game, regardless of the number of overtimes.

Any two-shots situation would increase to three if the foul is made on a shooter beyond the three-point line.

The calculus here switches from “if I take this foul, I’m gone” to “if I take this foul, we give up shots and a possession, and maybe I’m out for two minutes”.  There may be times that you want to take the foul; e.g., Dwight Howard is going to get an emphatic dunk that will light up the home crowd and his teammates.  Your rim protection prevents the easy two and shifts play to the foul line, which slows the game down and puts pressure on a shaky foul shooter.  Moreover, possession would either come on the side or end line, which puts the offensive team into a half-court situation, which may favor your matchup.

But you get the penalty regardless of make or miss.  Foul Dwight but not enough to prevent the dunk, and you give him two shots and possession.  That’s a huge swing, so you have to know that the foul will impact the shot.

What are your thoughts, Bryan?

It’s time for Donald Sterling to go.

The New York Times is reporting that the NBA will investigate comments that LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling made that made his racism quite clear.  Look, if the stodgy old-boys club that was Major League Baseball in the 1990s can force Marge Schott out for being am embarrassing racist, sexist, and homophobic old coot, then the NBA can make Sterling give up his ownership stake.  Schott is the touchstone for the act that is clearly necessary.  I was embarrassed by her ownership of a team that I loved.

Please Properly Possess Plurals

Morris is singular. The plural is Morrises. My house is Mr. Morris’s house. My parents’ house is the Morrises’ house. Plural nouns that possess things end in ‘, save for plurals that do not end in S, such as men, women, and children, which end their plural possessives with ‘s.

This was not the Charger’s worst hockey season, but it was the Chargers’. They won and lost as a team, and in America, teams are plural. (Step off, Britain.)

I just read a sports team’s alumni-run site, and they kept using “the Tiger’s season” repeatedly.1 Perhaps I am sensitive to this issue because my last name ends in S, but for fuck’s sake, people, this is not rocket surgery.

  1. Note: it’s not a team of tigers. 

Jake Anderson and Gregory Campbell

Deadliest Catch returns to air on Tuesday night, and I’m excited.  With that coming in and the Boston Bruins’ season coming to the playoffs, I thought that I’d present you with the following:


There was a period of time when I would watch Bruins games and see Greg Campbell on the ice and go, “Now who does he remind me of?”  A few months ago, I figured it out: he looks like Jake Anderson of the F/V Northwestern.  That image of Soups is the one that I think best captured the angle.

I know one thing: each of these guys works they’re ass off and are good at what they do.

My Thoughts on the 2012 Boston Celtics and the Immediate Future

Okay, so the Celtics’ 2012 season is done. Congratulations to the Heat, who played well in the fourth and deserved the win. The fellas were just out of gas.

Here’s what I expect will happen for next year:

1. Ray leaves in free agency. He’ll get his ankles fixed by the end of the month, and he’ll rehab through the summer and be ready to be a sniper from outside. Will he come back to Boston? I think this is doubtful, because he’ll get more money elsewhere. The only way he comes back is because …

2. KG signs for below-market value to win another title in Boston. I think he’s fully bought in to being a Celtic. I love that, because I love seeing guys do that. I think KG stays because Rondo and Truth go up to him and say, “Please stay. We’re going to be better next year.” Kevin wants to win another title, and Boston is the best place for his talents.

3. Paul is under contract, and he damn well better end his career a Celtic. 1 If Ray leaves, I think Truth moves out to the SG spot where he can work off of screens and fire daggers when he feels like it, and he’ll also have smaller guards that he can post up with that spin-shake-stepback he has. Just because Paul can play the 3 or the 4 doesn’t mean that he should do it on a regular basis. Paul also has to come into camp something close to game shape. Why does Paul get to move outside?

4. Jeff Green gets signed up to be the 3/4 guy that he was supposed to be after the Perkins trade. He can get 30-40 minutes with a starting bid, playing more inside if you go with a small-ball lineup and hanging on the perimeter the rest of the time. Green was supposed to be a super-sub, but he never got going with that after being traded to Boston. As the draft pick in the Ray Allen deal, it would be fitting for him to come in after Ray leaves.

5. Brandon Bass is clearly the power forward going forward for Boston. Maybe he slides out to the 3 if the Celtics can sign another big, but he’s shown a willingness to bang down low and fight for rebounds. Also, his lack of size really didn’t hurt the Celtics that much. His ability to hit that 15-footer and drain free throws like, well, Ray Allen, makes him a solid contributor. He can go stretches as the primary scorer on the floor, and I don’t think anybody had the idea coming into the year that he could do that. Would I have loved to have David West over him? Yes, but I’m very happy with Bass. His ECF performance was a revelation. He’s all growns up and he’s all growns up!

6. I’ve completely ignored Avery Bradley here, which is a shame, but I’m just not sure what you’re going to get out of him after the shoulder surgery. Can he step in and play SG? Yes, he probably can. Jeff Green may end up being the sixth man if Zilch can come back, drain from outside, and make stops. I’m just honestly not counting on it, which is not a knock on him but is just realism on shoulder surgeries.

7. The bench needs to be flushed away save for Pietrus, Dooling, and Stiemsma. Okay, maybe you keep Daniels around for his ability to be ready to play 15 minutes when Pierce is in foul trouble2, which certainly has a certain value. Rollins, Pavlovic, Wilcox can all go away. Maybe the Purdue kids will thrive in summer league and a full training camp. Can we get JaJuan in a weight room and to a training table? I don’t think he’s got the bulk to be a 4 in this league.

If tonight was the last run for the Big Four, I’m happy that I got to see it. This lineup ran longer than anyone truly expected. This team was one bad game and one bad fourth quarter from their third Finals in five years with three future Hall-of-Famers who were all over 30 in a young man’s league. They’re one torn knee ligament from getting enough rebounds to beat the Lakers in 2010. That this team was so close so often is a testament to how good they are despite their obvious frailties. This season’s team was a lot of fun to watch, and I got to do a lot of it thanks to League Pass Broadband’s support for the AppleTV. I’m still proud of the Celtics, and I probably always will be. I hope the fellas get #18 in 2013.

  1. Do you hear me, Danny? I will flood your INBOX. 

  2. Which he is more as he gets older. I think he’s losing body control on the defensive end. Plus, I think refs are just tired of the antics. Still, nobody draws a foul like Paul. 

Two Quick Thoughts on NHL Realignment

I often have to get out of bed and write something down before I can sleep; otherwise, my brain will spin about trying to first hash it out and then remember to write at a later time.1

So the NHL has embraced radical realignment. The more I think about the idea, the more I like it. It provides the league with flexibility for future team movement and also returns divisional—now conference—rivalries to the playoffs. The two thoughts rattling around relate to further realignment and conference naming.

Continue reading Two Quick Thoughts on NHL Realignment

  1. The writing at a later date rarely happens. 

Thoughts on the Hiring of CCHA Commissioner Tom Anastos as Michigan State Head Coach

In the past couple of months, I have been prone to waking in the wee hours of the morning, whether I’ve slept well or poorly otherwise. It’s generally been in the 0300 hour, but last night, I was up a skosh before 0200, probably because I was in bed at 2000. If you had sat me down last night and told me, “Tom Anastos will have a new job today,” I would have mumbled, “Hmmm, guess the Big Ten’s hired him for their commissioner,” waited for you to go away, and then gone back to bed. Instead, Anastos will coach his alma mater, Michigan State.

For those of you who do not follow college hockey as I do, let me provide some background. Tom Anastos played his college hockey from 1981-85 at Michigan State University. After one professional season, Anastos moved to coaching. He coached at UMichigan-Dearborn from 1987-90, then for two years under the legendary Ron Mason, who coached him as a Spartan. After leaving the coaching ranks in 1992, Anastos then presided over first the North American Hockey League, the Tier II junior league in the US at the time, and then became commissioner of the Central Collegiate Hockey Association in 1998. The Spartans are one of 11 teams in the CCHA, but they have announced their intention to join with Michigan, Ohio State, Minnesota, Wisconsin, and new-to-varsity Penn State for a Big Ten-flagged hockey conference come the 2013-14 season. This announcement, months in coming, was made Monday.

In short: great player at State, short pro career, banged around in college coaching for a few years, went the administrative route for 20 years, and now will coach one of the top 20 programs in the country.

I mentioned 11 teams in the CCHA. Sports conferences typically have an even number of teams. The CCHA saw Nebraska-Omaha move to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association this season. My alma mater, The University of Alabama in Huntsville, applied to fill the spot vacated by UNO, seeing as the conference we were a part of folded. Our bid was denied.

[Brief sidebar: I am the president of the UAH Blue Line Club (booster organization), and I am currently the interim Assistant Sports Information Director at UAH. The opinions expressed in this post are not those of either organization. Argue otherwise and I will cross-check the hell out of you.]

The creation of a B1G conference guts the hockey traditions of the Midwest, especially the Lower Midwest. The CCHA was seen as a top conference only when Michigan and Michigan State left the WCHA for the CCHA in 1981. Once the three name schools leave, the CCHA will consist of the following teams: Notre Dame, Miami (OH), Bowling Green State, Alaska-Fairbanks, Northern Michigan, Ferris State, Lake Superior State, and Western Michigan. Notre Dame is the school most folks know, and Miami is known nationally in football circles chiefly as Ben Roethlisberger’s alma mater. All eight of those schools have fine hockey programs, but only two of them draw any water at present: Notre Dame because it’s Notre Dame, and Miami because George Gwozdecky and then Enrico Blasi have built the Redhawks into a national-level team.

I look at Anastos’s leaving as a further delegitimization of the CCHA. If your league commissioner quits to go coach his alma mater, who happens to be leaving the conference, what does that say about the future of your conference? It’s bad enough for the CCHA that three of their four marquee schools are leaving, but to have the commissioner bail?

It would be easy to wish the CCHA teams ill will from my perch here in Huntsville. I really don’t. They deserved better than this, and I’m hopeful that they’ll find a strong advocate for their league. I’m also hopeful that they’d consider a new application for membership. UAH wants to continue to play varsity hockey, and we best fit western college hockey, and specifically the region covered by the CCHA.

Cut Carson Palmer

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Medheads like my friend Will Carroll speak of injury cascades, where compensating for one injury causes another one. I think that’s what’s happened to Carson Palmer, quarterback for my beloved and beleaguered Cincinnati Bengals. Consider:

  • On the Bengals’ second play of their first playoff game in 15 years, Carson dropped back and threw a seriously awesome strike to Chris Henry for a 66-yard gain. As he finished his delivery, Kimo von Oelhoffen, himself a former Bengal, hit Carson’s leg, tearing his ACL and MCL as well as the meniscus and a bunch of other cartilage. If you do the math on that, there wasn’t much holding his lower leg onto his body. Palmer had a seriously tough rehab in the offseason, as you’d expect given the severity of the injury. Amazingly, he was back under center in the 2006 preseason. It’s a testament to his toughness and willingness to work.
  • In 2008, Palmer tore a ligament and tendon in his right elbow. The tear was a partial one, and Carson elected to not have any surgery. At the time, I thought it was a bad idea; now I think it was even worse. If he’d undergone the surgery, he would’ve been back healthy and ready for 2009, given his prior abilities to rehabilitate after surgery. [Again: nearly ripped his leg off, played football seven months later.]
  • In 2009, Carson seemed to not have fine control on his passes. In baseball, we’re told that shoulder injuries affect velocity and elbow injuries affect accuracy. The 2009 Bengals went 11-5, which would portend that Palmer was good, but it was a running-and-defense team, with the defense really relying on a ball-hawking ability, which is something that isn’t usually repeatable.

So here we are in 2010, with Palmer chucking picks all over the place. And at this point, it’s not just the elbow:

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I think the Bengals have to draft a QB in the 2011 NFL Draft, preferably someone with 2+ years of college starting experience. My argument for cutting Carson now is simple: you don’t have the cap hit as 2010 is an uncapped year. Maybe you even work with him on this and sign him to a deal with a good annual salary for 2011, but a negligible bonus. His best days are behind him, sadly, unless he takes a year off to really take care of his arm. I’m afraid that he’s done entirely, which is sad, because early in his career, Carson was a joy to watch on the field, and he understood the Steelers rivalry. He’s still a great guy. He’s just not a great QB now.

On NCAA Eligibility in re: Professional Sports

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  • In college football, once your eligibility is exhausted or you forego said eligibility for the draft, you cannot go backwards.
  • In college basketball, you can declare your intent to be drafted, but you can withdraw your eligibility prior to the draft occurring and retain your amateur status. Also, whereas at one time players could skip college and go directly to the NBA, they now have to wait at least one year after their graduating class matriculates. Nearly all who do so choose college; rarely, athletes play overseas.
  • In college baseball, you can be drafted prior to college and choose whether or not you sign. If you sign, you play professionally; if you enroll in classes at a four-year institution, your draft rights expire and you are not draft eligible for three seasons. If you choose to attend a two-year institution, you can be a part of the draft-and-follow process, where you have until the week before the next season’s draft to lose your eligibility.
  • In college hockey, it’s even kookier. The basic eligibility requirements for the draft: be 18 by 15 Sep of the draft year, and no older than 20 by 31 Dec of that same draft year. If you’re from North America and over 20, you can’t be drafted. If you’re from Europe, you can be. When it comes to NCAA eligibility, you can be drafted and play college hockey. You may choose to leave college at any time; some players leave mid-year if they’re dissatisfied with their hockey/college experience. The drafting team retains your right until 30 days after you’re done with college.

Even better, you can play professionally in one sport and retain your amateur status in another one. The canonical example is a football player who plays minor league baseball during the summer.

Exactly how does any of this make any sense? Well, there is one way: leverage. That list goes in decreasing order of leverage that the NCAA and the professional leagues have over their charges. In football, the only viable path to the NFL is through college football, as there are no alternatives. In basketball, it’s much the same, except for those pesky overseas leagues—and, now, the D-League. Baseball is a sport with a long-term approach towards talent acquisition at as young an age as possible. Part of this is because it takes a few years for most players to become viable professionals, and the rest of this is tradition. College baseball has little leverage, because its shorter seasons mean less skills development than a comparable player getting five months’ minor-league PT. College hockey has next to no leverage, given that the major junior system has been the dominant source of talent for the last few decades. Without the lax eligibility rules, the NCAA would have a vastly inferior hockey product for players between 19-23.