Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Draft Strategy - Utah Jazz

This is a strange draft for the Jazz for a few reasons.
  1. It is rare they draft in the lottery since they normally are a playoff team and don't normally own other team's draft picks.
  2. They probably will be losing Carlos Boozer to free agency, which means they have a lot of low post production go replace.
  3. Mehmet Okur's injury puts in doubt his effectiveness for the short and long term future and
  4. After losing 3 straight years in the playoffs to the Lakers it is clear the Jazz need help in the front court. They just couldn't matchup with the Lakers size and didn't have anyone to guard Gasol, Bynum or Odom.
All of those signs seem to point that to the fact that the Jazz need a big man in the draft. Let's go over their roster to see their positional strengths and weaknesses:

Point Guard - Deron Williams is one of the best point guards in the game and is a huge advantage for the Jazz. He is young and as long as he doesn't get upset with the team should be the starting point guard for the next 10 years. Behind him is an average change of pace guard in Ronnie Price. They could certainly use a better backup point guard, but it isn't the most pressing need on the team. Overall the point guard position rated the best on with a +5.0 PER rating over the opponent. The Jazz point guards biggest advantage over their opponents were in field goal percentage and assists.

Shooting Guard - In typical Jazz fashion they found a player in Wes Matthews who wasn't thought highly of in the draft (he went undrafted), but fits in perfectly with the Jazz system. He replaced a former favorite of mine in Ronnie Brewer and while I don't think he played as well I think that he definitely showed signs of a productive NBA player. Backing him up is Kyle Korver and also despite being listed as a small forward CJ Miles would also sometimes play shooting guard. Miles is the only one of those three who is signed next year with Matthews being a restricted free agent and Korver being an unrestricted free agent. It would be smart to try and keep both Matthews and Korver since both were efficient shooters who if they would have had enough shots to qualify would have been in the top 5 in eFG%. Part of the reason they had such a high percentage of made shots is because they didn't shoot the ball that much and when they did shoot it they were usually open. They way they rated out on -0.4 compared to their opponents. The could definitely use an upgrade at this position, but it isn't something that is a must have.

Small Forward - When healthy you can just plug and play Andrei Kirlenko and have a very productive, if slightly neurotic player. Unfortunately he isn't always healthy, which meant that CJ Miles saw a lot of playing next to Wes Matthews. Miles has been with the Jazz for 5 years and still is only *23 years old. He is supposed to be a lights out shooter, but unfortunately the stats show that he only hit 34% from 3 last year. In fact his career shooting numbers are only 44%/34%/77%, which seems to suggest that he is an average shooter. He came around a little at the end of the year, but still he hasn't shown that he can even be an average NBA player. Another problem for the Jazz is Kirlenko's contract. He is going into his last year of a max contract, which means two problems. 1) He is overpaid. and 2) The Jazz can't count on his production after this year. The Jazz had the worst PER difference at this position as the finished -0.6 worse than their opponents. This is definitely an area of concern for the Jazz.

*Miles is only 2 months older than Ekpe Udoh, who is a projected lottery pick from Baylor.

Power Forward - This has been a position of strength for the Jazz with Carlos Boozer being a nightly double double player and Paul Millsap being one of the best young power forwards in the league. Boozer is a poor defensive player (especially against the Lakers), but on the offensive end it is hard to stop Boozer and Deron Wiliams. Millsap is not quite the offensive presence of Boozer, but he is younger and better defensively. Also, more importantly he is signed, while Boozer is an unrestricted free agent who will probably be in Miami or New Jersey next year. They both combined for a great year last year as they had a +2.7 PER differential compared to their opponents. They were able to shoot, rebound and pass better than the opposing team's power forward. Still this duo is probably not going to last and even if it does neither Boozer or Millsap are tall enough to play well against the Lakers big men.

Center - I was surprised to see a +2.9 PER difference at the center position since even before Okur's injury I thought the Jazz needed a young, defensive center. Based on that rating it looks like the combo of Mehmet Okur and backups Kyrylo Fesenko and Kosta Koufos were above average. The reason for the + PER difference is because the Jazz centers shot better than their opponents by 3.6%. One thing that counted against them was that they had 0.6 less blocks per game. I would rate this the biggest area of need since Okur is old and injured and I don't trust the young backup centers.

Recap - The Jazz could use some more outside shooting at the wing positions, but most importantly the need a post player to replace Boozer and help them try to beat the Lakers. While I would pass over a vastly superior wing player for a post player I would say that if it is even a little close lean towards a big man.

What to do in the draft?
  1. Is there anyway to move up in the draft? I would trade this year's 9th pick and next year's 1st round pick to move up in the top 5. I would trade this year's 9th pick and anyone but Williams and Millsap to move up to the top 5. The reason is that I would love to have DeMarcus Cousins 292 pounds to battle against Bynum and Gasol. Also, I would love to see Cousins and Millsap control the rebounds.
  2. Assuming they stay the 9th pick here is the order of players I would like to draft - Greg Monroe, Cole Aldrich and Ekpe Udoh. I don't really like Monroe, but if he really is as good of passer then it would be great for the Jazz system that really so heavily on passes to open cutters. Aldrich and Udoh don't rate very heavily with Holinger's statistical analysis, but I think that discounts too much the defensive impact those players will bring in the NBA. I love how both were in the top 11 in shot blocking percentage in college. The reason Aldrich is the pick over Udoh (since I don't think Monroe will be available) is because he is taller, stronger and a year and a half younger. All year long I have kind of assumed that Aldrich would play for the Jazz in the same way that I assumed that Deron Williams was going to be drafted by the Jazz after he led Illinois to the title game. Some players seem like Jazz players and after watching him play it just seems like Aldrich is destined for Salt Lake City. He is a better, safer pick than the guy (Udoh) who I mostly remember for dominating against Duke in the Elite 8.
  3. Don't draft Al-Farouq Aminu. He isn't a good player and isn't a good fit for the Jazz. I don't really want the Jazz to add a player who can't shoot from the outside and turns the ball over too much.
  4. While you are at stay away from Xavier Henry (is there any difference between him and CJ Miles?) and Gordan Hayward. I saw a few Kansas games and I can't believe anyone would pick Henry over Aldrich in the draft. I know that he is young, tall and a good shooter, but at best he seems like a spot up shooter. As for Hayward did anybody else see that he shot under 30% from a college 3 point line last year. I know he was the #1 option and that everyone was keying on him, but still to shoot that poorly in the Horizon league on a shorter 3 point line doesn't make me think he is an incredible outside shooter. It is too bad since he is tall and a very good athlete.
  5. If you have to take a wing player then draft Nevada's Luke Babbitt. He is rated 8th in Hollinger's Draft Rater and I am starting to warm up to him being a Jazz wing player. I am worried that he is going to be another Luke Jackson (both are slow, high scoring, white players who played out west) I think he is worth a shot at the 9th pick. The things I liked about researching Babbitt where his high percentages (50% from the field 92% from the line and 42% from 3) despite taking a lot of shots. Also, while his speed is definitely questionable I liked how he had a 37.5 vertical and had only 5.6% body fat. To give you a comparison John Wall had a 39 vertical and Derrick Favors had a 35.5 vertical. I will refrain from making a joke about how I guess this white man really can jump.
  6. In the 2nd round please take Jon Scheyer from Duke. I know this is a homer pick, but he is actually rated very well statistically and could get a spot in the rotation for the Jazz. The Jazz normally do well with their 2nd round picks, so lets hope that continues and that Chad Ford's mock draft is accurate.
Let's see how everything plays out and how the Jazz do in the draft. I am hoping for Aldrich or Babbitt or some type of miracle that the Jazz get Monroe or Cousins.

Draft Strategy - Minnesota Timberwolves

My last post broke down what I thought about individual players, so this post is going to be about what I think the Minnesota Timberwolves should do with the 2010 draft. I liked to use and this wages of wins article to get some insight on why the Twolves only won 15 games last year. Lets look over the Twolves roster to see what we are working with:

Point Guard - Jonny Flynn - Flynn is entering his 2nd year after being drafted 6th overall in last year's draft. He is very fast, but isn't the best shooter, passer or defender and his numbers haven't translated very well in advanced basketball statistics. Backing him up is Ramon Sessions while waiting in Spain is Ricky Rubio. This position should be a strength for the Twolves considering they invested two top 6 picks in last year's draft on point guards. Still it is a question mark because Rubio isn't guaranteed to play for the Twolves and Flynn hasn't shown the ability to be anything more than a change of pace back up guard. If you look at their production by position on you will see that the point guard position for the Twolves scored the 2nd most points per position, but unfortunately they didn't shoot the ball that well (eFG% of .457) and the opponent's point guard dominated them in shooting percentage, assists and turnovers. The overall net for the point guards from Minnesota was a -3.7 PER difference between the Twolves and their opponents. It all comes down to Rubio. If Rubio ends up playing for the Twolves and being as good as the hype then this is a position of strength. If Rubio doesn't come over then the Twolves are hoping for a huge change in production by *Flynn or Sessions.

Shooting Guard - I am tempted to write nobody, but I guess technically I should note that another former lottery pick (this team is full of them) Corey Brewer is the starter for the team. Backing him up is former UNC star Wayne Ellington. Brewer got a lot of hype from the Twolves for most improved player because he increased his PPG from the 6 point range in his first two season to 13 PPG. Also, his FG% increased to 43% and he shot and made a lot more threes, but despite this increase in FG% he still finished 22nd out 23rd in eFG% for all qualified shooting guards. In other words Brewer improved his shooting percentage and still was one of the worst shooters at his position in the NBA. Wins produced doesn't look kindly on Brewer or Ellington as both are rated as players that hurt the Timberwolves. Also, the net production on is a negative 5.1 difference. A little deeper analysis seems to suggest that the problem was with shooting as opposing players shot 5.4% better in eFG%, which isn't too surprising considering Brewer's eFG% ranking in the NBA. This is a huge need area since neither Brewer nor Ellington should be a starter in the league. In basic terms the Twolves need a shooting guard who can shoot.

Small Forward - I am hoping this doesn't come off too depressing after my negative review of the shooting guard position, but the small forward position is an even bigger need for the Twolves than shooting guard. Ryan Gomes is the starter with Damien Wilkens listed as the backup. Wilkens was actually listed as a slightly above average NBA player according to wages of wins, which is appropriate since he currently isn't even signed with the team for the 2009/2010 season. When you combine Gomes and Wilkens the small forward position came out to be the worst position in terms of net PER. Opposing teams shot better, scored better, passed better and generally had better numbers across the board than the Twolves. This nets out to the small forward position being the worst postion for the Twolves with a -6.4 PER. If the Twolves needed a shooting guard who could shoot then they need a small forward who can do everything better then their current crop.

Power Forward - After the first three positions it is easy to see why this team only won 15 games. Now, we get to the position that contributed most to those 15 wins and is the one position with a positive net PER of 0.6. You can thank Al Jefferson and Kevin Love for what is going to be the only positive position review of the Twolves. Both Love and Jefferson continued the trend of having a worse eFG% than the opponents, but they made up for that with better numbers in free throw attempts, rebounds, assists, turnovers and personal fouls. Not surprisingly to anyone who watched the Twolves neither of these grounded players were proficient shot blockers, so that is one area that was a negative for these two talented offensive players. There have been talks about trading one of these players since they aren't supposed to be able to play *together, but I would have reservations about making that move. Jefferson had a down year coming off an injury and Love is still young and improving. Even considering those two points both players were above average players in wins produced and both had a net positive rating on

*I checked out the top 10 lineups the Twolves used last year. There were only 4 lineups that had scored more points than they allowed during their time on the court. 3 of those 4 including the top 2 included both Jefferson and Love. This isn't a stat that backs up the "they can't play together" argument. And for the record the best lineup of the top 10 for the Twolves was their 8th most used lineup of Sessions, Ellington, Gomes, Love and Jefferson. That seems to make sense based on the skill level of those players, but what doesn't make sense is why it was only the 8th most used lineup. I would much rather have that team than the most often used lineup of Flynn, Brewer, Gomes, Jefferson and Hollins. Why did Kurt Rambis win the best coach in the Twin Cities again?

Center - After such a positive position review for the power forwards it is back to being negative with a review with the center position. Ryan Hollins started 27 games and Darko Milicic started 18 games and most of the ones at the end of the season. It really doesn't matter which one you list as the 1st team center since both players are horrible. The both were negative in terms of wins produced and net rating. One quote to describe Hollins was that he "had the dubious distinction of being the worst player in the league (according to Wins Produced)." The only reason the net PER was only -4.1 (compared to -6.4 for the small forwards) was because the Twolves played Love or Jefferson at center occasionally. Anyway, center is another area of need.

Recap - The Twolves need a point guard, shooting guard, small forward and center. The strengths of the team are the hope that the point guard position is going to turn around thanks to Rubio coming over or Flynn improving and also the power forward position.

What to do in the draft?
  1. Try to trade for the 2nd pick and draft Evan Turner. I would give up the 4th pick and Flynn or the 4th pick and the 23rd pick. Would I give up all 3 first round picks? If pushed for an answer I would say yes. I think Turner is going to be a good player who fits in well with the Twolves short term and long term strategy. Also, I don't know if the value you will get at the 16th and 23rd pick. I know that the team needs both quantity and quality right now, but right now I would lean to adding more quality than just quantity.
  2. If you don't want to trade up then stay at #4 and draft DeMarcus Cousins and put him in as your starting center for opening day. There might be questions about how you can have a front court of Cousins, Love and Jefferson when only two can play at a time. I think it is best to have a rotating front court where Jefferson plays 34 minutes a game, Love plays 34 minutes a game and Cousins plays 28 minutes a game. That adds up to 96 total front court minutes and has the added bonus of zero allotted time to Ryan Hollins or Darko.
  3. If Cousins isn't available then draft Wesley Johnson. He might not ever be an All Star, but at least he will provide some valuable outside shooting at a position (small forward) where the Twolves need the most help. If we were just to use the tier system he would be the pick. I would be happy with him.
  4. Stay away from Derrick Favors. I don't care how great of an athlete he is I just don't see him becoming a good NBA player without a lot of work. That isn't to say he can't put in the work, but I wouldn't bet on it. Also, unlike Cousins I see him as a true power forward and not a center, which means that the Twolves would be drafted a player who plays the one position that was actually a strength for them.
  5. Don't trade Al Jefferson...and if you do please don't trade him for somebody like Zach Randolph. This should go without writing, but just in case I want to have it down as proof when he is making the All Star team next year for Memphis or somebody else.
  6. Don't even consider draft Aminu, Davis or Monroe with the 4th pick. Don't consider trading down in the lottery for either of those players. There is no reason to get cute and there is no reason to trade down in a draft where there is a huge drop off from the first 5 picks (Wall, Turner, Cousins, Favors and Johnson) to the rest of the draft.
  7. The 16th and 23rd pick depend a lot on what you do with the 4th pick. If you go with Cousins with the 4th pick then I would target a wing player (Henry, Babbitt, Hayward, George) to help out. Any of those players should be an improvement.
  8. Hassan Whiteside would be a great pick at 23rd. The Twolves need to improve their defense in blocked shots and while he is raw he might be able to help there.

I am hoping for Turner or Cousins and would be fine with the consolation prize of Johnson for the Twolves. This draft is probably not going to be the one that turns around the franchise, but hopefully it is at least a step in the right direction.

Monday, June 21, 2010

2010 Nba Draft Preview - Player preview

It is that time of the year again. It is time for baseball on tv, softball every Monday/Thursday, traveling and outdoor festivals here in Minnesota. Also, it is time for the Nba draft and my annual draft preview in which I give my unsolicited advice to the Minnesota Timberwolves. If you have missed previous year's editions feel free to check out 2008's preview where I suggested the Twolves take Kevin Love instead of OJ Mayo. Or there is 2009's preview where I was high on Ty Lawson and Stephen Curry. This year is great because not onl do I get to offer my advice to the Timberwolves, but thanks the Isiah Thomas I can give advice on what Utah should do with the 9th pick in the draft.

First things first is to provide with you the article I like to use as a good starting point on my analysis - John Hollinger's Draft rater: Most pro potential?

Unfortunately for this year's draft I don't have as strong of opinion as in 2008 when I really wanted the Twolves to take Kevin Love. I have certain opinions that I will share, but first I would like to run through some of the key prospects.

Evan Turner - this player makes the most sense for the Twolves. He plays two positions (shooting guard and point guard) that the Twolves need help in. My main concern with watching him play is that he needs the ball in his hands to be effective. That might not work with a team like the Jazz who already have a player like Deron Williams who controls the flow of the game. However, it works perfectly for the Twolves who have nobody on the perimeter that can really take over the game. My second concern with Turner is that he might be one of those Shareef Abdur-Rahim players who puts up great numbers on a losing team. In other words I don't know if he is one of those players that will take a team from good to great. My final concern is that my OSU friend Brian calls him Evan Turnover. This probably has something to do with the fact that he averaged 4.4 turnovers a game last year and had the 3rd most turnovers in all of college basketball. Despite that if the Twolves would have gotten the 2nd pick in the draft this would have been a short draft preview for them since I would tell them to select Turner and hope for the best.

Wesley Johnson - Johnson is not like Turner in the fact that I think he can succeed as an NBA player without having the ball in his hands all game long. He would instantly become the best long distance shooting option for a Twolves team that finished 23rd in 3 point field goal % and 26th in number of 3 pointers made. In other words he address a huge problem for the Twolves. And in addition to that he plays a position (small forward) that could use an upgrade. It is hard to imagine Johnson becoming a superstar, but it is also hard to imagine him not being a productive player in the Nba for 10-15 years. Now is that something you want with the 4th pick in the draft?

DeMarcus Cousins - An *offensive rebounding machine, which with the amount of shots the Twolves miss (25th in the league) probably would help them out. Also, it would be amazing watching Kevin Love and Cousins hit the glass for the Twolves. The two main problems with Cousins though is that he seems to be a head case (Zach Randolph?) and the Twolves one position of strength is power forward with Love and Jefferson. Now if you could play Cousins at center then we might be talking.

*Is offensive rebounding the next new "it" stat? Anybody who watched the NCAA tournament or game 7 of the Nba Finals had to have seen the importance of getting offensive rebounds. There is no way Duke (7th in offensive rebounding % in college basketball) or the Lakers (7th in offensive rebounding %) would have won their respective titles without the additional shots gained thanks to offensive rebounds. The way those two teams won the title has to help Cousins since he looks like a player born to get offensive rebounds. I watched a few Kentucky games and it looked like he would just establish position under the basket and then move people out of the way until he was able to get the rebound.

Ekpe Udoh - This player puts to test Hollinger's draft ratings sytem more than any other player in the draft this year. You see Hollinger has him rated as the 50th best prospect behind players like Tiny Gallon, Aubrey Coleman and Jeremy Lin. I don't know why he is rated so low, but my guess is that it has something to do with his age (23) or the fact that he doesn't score (14 points per game) much. However, it is hard to look at his numbers and not notice the 3.7 blocks per game that was good for 11th in the nation in block %. I generally tend to like players who have one incredible skill. I call it the Paul Millsap rule or if you wanted the Kyle Korver rule. Normally I would look for 2nd round picks (think Jarvis Varnado) who are NBA ready in one specific area (Varnado = blocks). For Millsap it was rebounding and for Korver it was shooting. Not surprisingly both are very good in the NBA at those two areas. That is why I like Udoh. he seems like he is already NBA ready at blocking shots. I don't think he will be an All Star, but I can't imagine someone who blocks shots so well won't be a productive NBA regular.

Ed Davis - This is somebody that Hollinger and I can agree on since I think he is overrated and not just because he is from UNC. I do think that I can judge him better than other since I have seen him play plenty of times over the past two years. The good is that he is an efficient scorer who really seems to have a good soft touch close to the basket. The bad is that he is rail thin and always has seemed to be more potential than production. Also, since he isn't very strong he can't be expected to play the power forward position and since he isn't a good outside shooter he can't be expected to play the small forward position. At best I can see him being a rotation player who is a good change of pace forward. I will be upset if either the Jazz (at 9) or the Twolves (at 16) take Davis.

Derrick Favors - He is a tough player to judge since I don't really like him, but he is rated very highly by many people including Hollinger. However, I never once watched a Georgia Tech game and thought that much of Favors. From watching a few games it was clear he was a great athlete, but besides that I didn't see much from him. He didn't have any post moves, couldn't shoot the ball from outside 5 feet of the rim and never really seemed to show any interest or aptitude in passing the ball. I looked up some stats on him and they seemed to reinforce my subjective opinion. He shot only 63% from the line and had a very high turnover rate of 2.5 turnovers a game.

Cole Aldrich - I don't think anyone will ever confuse Aldrich with Hakeem Olajuwon on the offensive end, but that doesn't mean he can't be an effective NBA center. I think that his defensive presence as a shot blocker would help any team looking to match up with the Pau Gasols and Andrew Bynums of the NBA. He was 5th in the NCAA last year in block percentage and only one of the players ahead of him (Jarvis Varnado) played in a power conference. Overall I think he will be a solid player who you can just plug in the center position and not worry about getting production.

Xavier Henry - Much like Ed Davis this another player who I think is more potential than production. I never watched a Kansas game and thought that Henry was one of the best players on the court. He always seemed like nothing more than a spot up shooter with good height. He doesn't seem to have any star potential and that might be best evidenced by his "best case scenario" being James Posey on He is worth a mid to late first round pick, but I can't imagine ever getting the production worthy of a lottery pick.

Luke Babbitt - The first thing that sticks on for me is his lack of speed. He ran 3/4 court sprint in a slower time than post players like Derrick Favors, Greg Monroe and Cole Aldrich. Either the clock was wrong or Babbitt is incredibly slow for the small forward position in the NBA. From all accounts he seems to be a crafty scorer and a good shooter. I don't know if he is going to be a good player since his numbers are tough to analyze. If I was just judging his offensive ability it looks like he would be a good late lottery pick, but I would like to actually see him play to understand whether or not he can play defense. He seems like one of those players that I could be talked into either liking or not liking.

Al-Farouq Aminu - As another ACC product I feel like I know the player probably more than I actually do. With Aminu I have never been impressed and never understood why he was always considered a potential lottery pick. He didn't seem to be especially athletic or a good shooter (69% from the line, 27% from 3) or much of a passer (1.3 assists to 3.2 turnovers a game). He didn't really dominate and I never really cared much for his body language. As a Duke fan there was never a point where I celebrated that Aminu was going pro since I thought that would hurt Wake that much. With Favors I could see him learning some post moves and becoming a very good NBA player since he is such a great athlete. Even with Ed Davis I could see him adding some weight and becoming an effective low post scorer. Those two players have to make some adjustments to be effective in the NBA, but with Aminu it seems like he almost has to become another player. In order to be effective I would have to see him improving his feel for the game, passing, shooting and demeanor.

Now that the player profiles on some key players are over and we can look back on that it in a few years and make fun of my analysis. My next posts will be on the draft strategy for both teams.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Mississippi and The Help

I just finished reading Kathryn Stockett's NY times best selling book The Help and I wanted to share with you my favorite passage. It came after the novel was over and is the author writing about Mississippi. I could relate very well to what she wrote about since I have been asked the same question from people in Ohio and Minnesota since I moved from Mississippi when I was 18.

Also, I can find myself doing the same things (minus the stiletto and the ladylike portions) when confronted with the reaction to the unveiling that I am from Mississippi. It is common place among my friends and coworkers to hear me talk about how someone (usually a professional athlete) is from Mississippi. I am showing my pride about being from Mississippi with a list of names of famous people, since it a lot easier to roll off that list then to try and describe my true feelings on Mississippi. I try not to overextend myself with pointing out the contradictions of the state. I don't want to get into why I couldn't imagine growing up anywhere else, but how when the subject of where to lives comes up I never have included Mississippi on the list. Generally I stick to defending Mississippi since the negativity people have toward the state doesn't match my viewpoint.

I am rambling a little bit now and will leave it to the pro to describe best her feelings on Mississippi.

Kathryn Stockett - page 449 - The Help

"The rash of negative accounts about Mississippi, in the movies, in the papers, on television, have made us natives a wary, defensive bunch. We are full of pride and shame, but mostly pride.

Still, I got out of there. I moved to New York City when I was twenty-four. I learned that the first question anyone asked anybody, in a town so transient, was "Where are you from?" and I'd say, "Mississippi." And then I'd wait.

To people who smiled and said, "I've heard it's beautiful down there," I'd say, "My hometown is number three in the nation for gang-related murders." To people who said, "God, you must be glad to be out of that place," I'd bristle and say, "What do you know? It's beautiful down there."

Once at a roof party, a drunk man from a rich white Metro North-train type of town asked me where I was from and I told him Mississippi. He sneered and said "I am so sorry."

I nailed down his foot with the stiletto portion of my shoe and spent the next ten minutes quietly educating him on the where-from-abouts of William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, Tennessee Williams, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Oprah Winfrey, Jim Henson, Faith Hill, James Earl Jones and Craig Claiborne, the food editor and critic for The New York Times. I informed him that that Mississippi hosted the first lung transplant and the first heart transplant and that the basis of the United States legal system was developed at the University of Mississippi.

I was homesick and I'd been waiting for somebody like him.

I wasn't very genteel or ladylike, and the poor guy squirmed away and looked nervous for the rest of the party. But I couldn't help it.

Mississippi is like my mother. I am allowed to complain about her all I want, but God help the person who raises an ill word about her around me, unless she is their mother too."

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The wedding

It is official. I am a married man. This past Saturday I took the plunge and married M in Columbus, OH. Since last April when I proposed wedding planning was a big topic in our life and something that I am glad to have experienced once in my life. Now that the wedding is over we can get to enjoying the marriage. However, first things first has to be the recap of the wedding. Here are my thoughts on the wedding:
M - she did a great job with planning and even though she could get a little stressed at time she was able to almost always keep her composure. And of course I loved her dress and the way she looked. The compliments she received were all well deserved.

Being the center of attention/all the pictures - I love taking pictures and I can certainly understand the importance of documenting such a big day. However, sometimes the amount of pictures and the time it took could be a little excessive. There were so many friends and family members I wanted to talk to instead of getting the 225th picture of M and I kissing.

Having a funny best man - Johnny was able to take the pressure off of us, make people laugh and generally help make things more fun. He helped keep me sane all weekend and then he became the life of the party at the wedding reception. This was something that I will always remember about the wedding and not just because their is a video on facebook of Johnny rapping "Bust a Move."

The Limo service we picked - Unfortunately the limo broke down outside of the church (something about an overheated radiator) and there was no backup. The net result was that the bridal party had to find alternative rides to the reception. For M and I that meant her Aunt had to drive us in her SUV. It worked out fine, but still it was a little disappointing not to have a limo take us.

The DJ - Our DJ at the wedding was incredible. He did a great job of introducing the bridal party (to the Bulls theme song from the 90s) and then played great music all night. One thing I especially liked about him was that he had great timing and a very calming demeanour. He kept telling us about how it was "our night" and whatever he could do to make it better he would do. I would recommend him to anyone in Columbus.

Hilton's guest service - When M and I showed up at the Hilton there was a line about 10 people deep with only one person working at the Hitlon check in. None of the Hilton employees walking around helped this poor lady out with people checking in. Also, none of the guests ahead of us in line seemed to care that M was in her wedding dress. We ended up having to wait 30 minutes to get our key. This was ridiculous.

Gifts - I don't mean this is a greedy type of way, but more the fact that I really appreciated all the generosity people showed us. We opened most of them yesterday and I am just in awe of how nice everyone was. A lot of people (M's parents, my bestman, groomsmen, etc) who didn't have to get us anything because they had already done so much got us some truly wonderful gifts. I hope to convey how great of gestures these gifts were in our thank you notes.

Driving through Iowa to get to Columbus - This was a mistake to try a different route on our way to Columbus. I would rather take bad Chicago traffic then to drive down through Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Peoria and Champaign again. Google maps had that way taking only 30 minutes more than driving through Wisconsin and Chicago, but from M and I's experience it took about 1.5 hours longer. Also, another reason this was a mistake is that it is much better and more scenic to drive through Wisconsin.

Rehearsal dinner speeches from people from St. Andrew's - My sister, brother-in-law and my friend Marty all gave wonderful speeches at the Rehearsal dinner. Each one of them was different and each one was great. I might post Marty's speech (her second guest blog post) since she gave me a copy of it after dinner. I really enjoy how it is a southern tradition for people to give speeches at the rehearsal dinner. The speeches given at the rehearsal dinner pleasantly reminded me of my sister's wedding where everyone stood up and said a few words at the rehearsal dinner.

Waking up at 3:45am on the night before the wedding sick to my stomach - I didn't think I would get nervous since I at no point during the engagement did have any doubts about the wedding. However, just like I didn't have any reservations about proposing to M and still got nervous the same thing happened the night before the wedding.

The food - I thought the Jessing Center was a great place to have the reception and the food turned out to be excellent. The bacon wrapped scallops, chicken and Asian ribs were all things I could eat every day of my life and be happy.

The amount of food I ate - It might have been because I was nervous or because I was busy talking to people, but whatever the reason I wasn't actually able to eat much of the food. This is true for both the rehearsal dinner night and the wedding reception. I wish I could have just taken some of the food home with me.

The Pac Rim group's attendance - 100% of the people I invited from the group of friends that went on the Pac Rim trip back in 2004 came to the wedding. These included people from Grand Rapids, Boston and other cities outside of Columbus. This is an amazing group and I was glad to see everyone there.

Minnesotans attendance - This isn't meant to be a slight on Minnesotans since I know there were many good reasons (money, conflicts, distance) that prevented them from coming, but still it was disappointing. M and I have made some good friends up here and besides a few key people there just seemed to be a hole in our attendance. I wish there was a way for M and I to get married in Columbus, Jackson and Minneapolis, so that we would have a chance to spend time with all of our friends.

Going out on Friday night before the wedding - In retrospect this might not have been the best idea since I should have just probably gone to sleep and got my beauty rest before the big day. However, with a bunch of friends that I normally don't see in town I thought it was best to go have a few cocktails. This ended up being a great night and despite certain reservations no harm was done to the wedding day.
The heat inside our "naturally cool" church - I don't know what the caretaker of the church was talking about since there was nothing naturally cool about that church. While it did make the Mississippians feel at home a church with AC would have had one big advantage.
The way the church looked both in person and in pictures - It is a really nice looking church and one that I was happy to be married in.

Overall the day and evening was a success primarily because of the great people that M and I are surrounded by on a daily basis. Our families were there every step of the way and I really appreciate their support. Also, our friends traveled from near and far to be there for this big day and I don't know if I can convey my gratitude on this post. Despite a few "dislikes" above it really all added up to a great day that was definitely better than my expectations. Even some of the dislikes (limo, 3:45am nerves, etc) are things that I already have started to look back on and smile. Now that the wedding is over the real work begins for me as I have to put together all the pictures and video for the massive "Mary/Kevin wedding" documentary.

I hope all is well and just in case I don't say it enough - thank you.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Marty's 8th grade graduation speech

Since I am in the spirit of sharing and I enjoyed my friend Marty's 8th grade graduation speech I thought I would post it on the blog. Here is a guest post in the form of the text from the speech:

Marty's speech
The one word that I would offer up if asked how I am feeling right now is envious. (And if I got two words, I might throw in “nervous” too…) But most of all, I am feeling envious. And far be it from me to speak for others, but I think everyone here is envious (all of us here in the audience at least). All of us who are teachers, parents, alumni, adults… anyone who is a job-holder, rent payer, grocery-buyer, or car-owner… we are ALL feeling envious. And it is you, class of 2014, that we are envious of! We are envious of every single one of you. Why? Because you are about to enter one of the most exciting, challenging, and absurdly FUN times of your entire life. I’m talking about high school. It’s one of those places and times that you will enjoy all along the way, but you can’t even begin to realize quite how much you love it until you get to the other side.

That’s where I am speaking from today and from where all these people are watching you from—from “the other side” that is. “The other side” is this nostalgic, bittersweet place where you get to look back on those experiences in life that we sometimes call “Remember when?” times. You know the ones I am talking about because you are already at an “other side” place in your life tonight. You are now at a time in your life where you are on “the other side” of your Middle School career. And you too can look back on the “Remember when?” times. Even tonight, with your “other side” perspective, I bet you will look back on 8th grade and play this game of “Remember when?” I imagine you might say things like:
  • Remember when Lee spelled “rutabaga” correctly?
  • Remember when the ghost would write on Ms. Hitt’s board?
  • Remember when we blamed Sheldon for EVERYTHING?
  • Remember when Tuna whined all the time?
  • Remember when we had a historian who accidentally deleted all the pictures from that EPIC Street Jam?
  • Remember when we were probably the only 8th grade class in the history of St. Andrew’s to have not one, but two dances affected by snow?
  • Remember when Carlos and Peryn gave Weezy and Drake a run for their money with their lunchtime raps?
  • Remember at the retreat when a bathroom flooded the girls’ cabin?
  • Remember when Ford convinced Helena everyone’s locker was refrigerated except for hers?”
  • Remember Bob Saggett, animal bracelets, toms, Boo Radley the sketch and “What’s the dill?”, Jack Cooke’s blackmarket belt business, and Harrison’s frightening old lady voice, and I could keep going on and on…

There are so many things to look back on and laugh about! And if I can come up with that list as a teacher, there is no telling how many other memories and “Remember when?” stories you 8th graders can come up with. And good news… Next comes high school… where you have even more freedom and even more activities that will give you so many opportunities to create these kinds of memories.

Ok so we’ve talked a little about y’all. Now let’s talk about me. I am getting married in about 2 months. (So while y’all are nervous about spending the next 4 years with the same 90 people, think about me... I’ll be spending the rest of my life with ONE person.) But anyway, the point is, you and I will have lots of changes by the time next school year gets here. Come this Fall, and I’ll be Mrs. Kelly, you’ll be freshman, I’ll be sharing a closet, and who knows, maybe JG will be getting to school on time…

But all jokes aside, here is why I tell you about my wedding. As most of you know, I went to St. Andrew’s… for 13 years… and I sat where you are sitting… and I have already done what you are about to do… I went to high school, and then college, and then graduate school, and now I have a job … and you know what? Those people that I went to school with here at St. Andrew’s, those people who were with me when we did what you are about to do, those same people are still my people. Some of them are my best friends. And they will be beside me this summer when I do what you are doing and starting a new chapter in life. One of them is my maid of honor. One of them is my matron of honor. One of them is a bridesmaid. And one of them, well, we’re calling him a bridesman.

And I bet, I just bet, that on that day this summer, we will play the “Remember when?” game. And although our version of the game will be “the St. Andrew’s 2K3 edition” because we are at a different “other side” than you are, we will still remember all the same kinds of things as you will tonight: teachers, friends, sports, drama, good times, catastrophes, changes, failures, victories—all these things you have experienced in Middle School that you will experience again in your journey to the other side of high school.

So what now? How do you best go through high school and come out smiling on the other side? Well, I guess I could remind you of the fact that your freshman GPA matters (really—it does!) and the earlier you do your service hours the better and you should participate in anything and everything, but….while I do hope you do all of the above, I think you already know all of those things.

So…. I asked our good friend Atticus Finch what his advice would be to you today… and he told me he had just one thing to tell you. So here is my, I mean, his advice for your journey in high school: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it…” So be good to one another. Be good to everyone. Even your teachers. Even your parents. But especially to one another. High school is fun and exciting and full of laughter if –IF-- you take care of each other.
We are a small school…so we are a lot like family. And just like family, you don’t have to like everybody and you don’t always have to agree with everyone and you don’t always have to get along, but just like family, you are stuck with one another, so you owe it to yourself and you owe it to each other to climb into one another’s skin and walk around in it. Allow yourself some changes in perspective. You’ll be glad you did. Especially when one day, your perspective is looking back from “the other side.”