Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The top 14 things for Jazz fans to be excited about this season

In honor of former Jazz great Jeff Hornacek below are the top 14 things I am excited about with the upcoming season and how it relates to the Utah Jazz.

1. Al Jefferson playing with a real point guard. Jonny, Flynn, Sebastian Telfair, Marko Jaric and Delonte West are some of the better point guards that have been passing Big Al the ball. Now one of the best low post scorers in the NBA is playing with one of the best (if not the best) point guard in the NBA. Jefferson is now happy, motivated and in a great situation for him to succeed. I can't wait to see his first 30 point 16 rebound game.

2. The potential of Jeremy Evans - I have never seen Evans play even one minute of basketball. In fact if he walked past me on the street I don't know if I would even recognize him. Still it is hard not to be excited. The unbelievable potential is there that Evans is going to a really good player. I know it is preseason, but have you seen his preseason stats? There is a good wages of wins article about rookies which predicts his WS/48 (.211) to be twice as good as the average NBA player. Or what my fellow Salt City Hoops writer wrote about him when he wrote "Jeremy Evans will be the steal of the draft?" Or the fact that the Jazz have drafted Mo Williams, Paul Millsap and CJ Miles in the 2nd round, so obviously they know what they are doing with 2nd round picks. I am very excited to see Evans play to see if he is even 1/10 as good as the hype.

3. LeBron James and the rest of the Miami Heat - Come on it is hard not to be excited about watching this team play basketball. I know I am supposed to not like them, but it isn't like they are in the Western Conference. Also, last I checked I didn't grow up in Cleveland. In my mind there is nothing to dislike about the Heat until the Jazz face them in the NBA Finals. In the meantime I am excited about watching to see whether or not this season will be a success.

4. The downfall of the Denver Nuggets - Just the possibility of this happening with all of the off-season turmoil is enough for this Jazz fan to get excited.

5. Deron Williams winning his first of many assist titles. -Over the past four years he has finished in the top three in assists per game (APG) the past four years, so it isn't too much of a stretch to think that he might finish with the most APG this year. In Vegas his odds of winning the assists per game title is 2/1, which is tied with Steve Nash and just behind Chris Paul.

6. Paul Millsap winning the rebound title. A lot of people might think Big Al is the pick here of any Jazz player who stands a chance of winning the rebound title, but my best guess is Millsap. He won three of them in college and I think the possibility is there thanks to the next point on my list.

7. No more Boozer - Boozer was a great player for the Jazz and someone who provided Jazz fans with some memorable moments. I am a Boozer fan and while it was a good signing at the time it was time for Boozer to go. There should be no more trade rumors or speculation on what is going to happen with Boozer. I don't know how much it matters, but even the most ardent Boozer fan has to concede that he might have been a slight distraction the past couple years. The Jazz can now move on with Okur, Jefferson, Millsap and no more distractions.

8. The emergence of Gordan Hayward. Since the Jazz normally make the playoffs they don't normally get lottery picks. The last one they did they used (with the help of Portland) on Deron Williams. That worked out well.
9. Coach Sloan winning the coach of the year. I still don't know how he has never won the award, but this should be the year. I guess I shouldn't be complaining that much since six of the past seven COY winners (all but last year's winner Scott Brooks) are no longer coaching the team they won the award with. That might be the most crazy fact I have come across in awhile. Seriously check out the list.

10. The best home court advantage in the league. I don't know how to make this objective besides pointing out that the Jazz had the 6th highest attendance and 6th best home record. I guess that might point to them having the 6th best home court advantage, but like Raheem Morris of the Bucs said "stats are for losers" so I am going to go write they are the best.

11. Watching Wes Matthews make $5.7M for the Blazers as their backup. - It was fun watching him play last year, but I have no idea why the Blazers signed him for so much. I am on the record for thinking that he isn't worth the contract he signed.

12. Kosta Koufus as a Minnesota Timberwolves player. Some things just go well together.

13. The new uniforms look great - I can't wait for M to comment on their "outfits"

14. Andrei Kirilenko in a contract year. There seems to be nothing wrong with this situation as the Jazz finally are off the hook from paying Kirilenko $10M+ ($17.8M this year). The Jazz hopefully will get a productive player, who might be good trade bait as an expiring contract.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Post My Brother In Law Is Afraid To Write

Anybody remember my Sports Pinnacle blog post? I wondered if this was the best it was ever going to get for all of my sports teams. Since that moment Nebraska lost to Texas, the Dolphins have gone 1-2 with two division losses, and the Minnesota Twins were swept (again) in the playoffs. That kind of reinforces the fact that at the time of writing that post it really was the pinnacle since it has all be down hill from there.

Now the question has to come up; Is this the pinnacle for my brother-in-law's teams? Let's run through the list:

New York Knicks - The Knicks no longer employing Isiah Thomas should be reason enough for things to be looking better. Other than that though they just signed Amare Stoudamire and former UNC star Raymond Felton. Also, the Knicks "have made significant progress in recent days to aquire Carmelo Anthony" according to this espn report by Chris Sheridan. I am not saying they are going to be good, but haven't all of these moves at least made them relevant?

Washington Redskings - This would have been a lot better if the Redskins would have had one more drive in them on Sunday night against the Colts. Still they are only one game out of first place (in the division and the NFC) and three wins is only one less than they had all of last year. This is another improving team.

UNC basketball - This is tough to write and I am not just talking about trying to write this without making any jokes about being a runner-up NIT champion. If you were to look at UNC basketball objectively then you would be happy with two titles in the past 6 years, a #1 recruit (Harrison Barnes) this year, and a #3 ranked overall recruting class for 2011 led by James McAdoo.

San Francisco Giants - The Giants are making this whole postseason baseball thing look easy with five of their six wins being by only one run. First they beat the Braves in the NLDS and now they are up 3-1 against the Phillies. From all accounts they seem to be a fun team to watch. Also, in their corner is the fact that they will home field advantage in the World Series and it looks like they get to match up against the Rangers and not the Yankees.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

The 2010 Minnesota Twins

The flight into Vegas is a long, strange experience. You can't help but tell there is a little bit of a different energy then say a flight to Memphis. The guys in front of me started off as strangers and after a few (too many?) cocktails were best friends discussing NFL lines by the end of the flight. Unfortunately the airlines had switched my seat and I wasn't sitting next to the two friends from Minneapolis that I was going with to Vegas. That gave me time to think about my expectations of Vegas since despite all of the media portrayals I had been exposed to I really didn't have many pre-conceived ideas on Sin City.

Vegas is a place of excess. There is really no other way of describing it. The lights are brighter, the food is better and the amount of money gambled can make sleeping at night a difficult experience. For me it was a relatively successful weekend. I won 8 out of 11 of my sports bets with the only losses being NC State (against VA Tech), the Colts (against the Jags) and the Seahawks (against the Rams). Those sports bets netted me a decent amount of money that I then conveniently lost playing blackjack, roulette and craps. Unfortunately I didn't win enough money to quit my job or even win enough money to come out head. I did have a great time and didn't lose very much money, which is better than a lot of people who visit Vegas can say.

Blackjack was the main game we played in Vegas. For those of you that don't know basic strategy in blackjack results in the house having a 52% advantage to the player's 48%. In the short term playing a hand of blackjack is close to a coin flip. In the long term that house advantage can add up, so that the casinos build bigger and bigger hotels.

There are two blackjack stories that I would like to pass along as I look back on the 2010 Minnesota Twins. The first one is my first time playing blackjack in Vegas. I lost my first 8 hands in a row with the first five being only one off (I had a 19 when the dealer had a 20 for example). Before I even had a chance to walk around I was down a decent amount of money. At that pace I would have hit my gambling limit before the Saturday morning college football games. It was not a good start that I was able to recover from later that night.

The other story is from watching my friend Brian at the blackjack table on Sunday night. He sat down and promptly lost 10 straight blackjack hands to this friendly dealer. The odds of that happening are less than 1%. Losing 8 to 10 straight hands in blackjack should not happen.

The Twins are now 0-9 in the playoffs since I moved up to Minnesota. There was the 2006 Twins with the Cy Young winner (Santana), batting champ (Mauer) and MVP (Morneau). They had home field advantage and promptly lost three straight to the Oakland A's. The Twins was 0-16 with runners in scoring position before a Rondell White single in Game 3 that resulted in Torii Hunter getting thrown out at home. The 2009 Twins led all three games against the Yankees and lost all three.

This Twins team was supposed to be different. They had moved into a new stadium that had provided the team with enough revenue to sign Mauer, Hudson Pavano and Thome.

They were a well rounded team that could absolutely crush right handed pitching. The regular season went about as well as expected as the Twins won 94 games and clinched the division with two weeks left in the season. They were able to rest key players and get their pitching staff in line. This year was going to be different.

This year wasn't different. The lost three straight to the Yankees. They lost from ahead and they lost from behind. The lost with another questionable call in another Game 2.
They lost because they couldn't pitch and because they couldn't hit. The lost to left handed pitchers and right handed pitchers. The same team that looked like they couldn't lose during the regular season suddenly became the Kansas City Royals.

This was not a successful year for the Twins. They sold out every game and Gardy might win the coach of the year award, but the time for just having success in the regular season is over. I would like to see a World Series game and the Twins are good enough to make it to the Series. I don't know if it bad luck or what, but I am starting to feel like MLB is like Las Vegas. Everyone knows the odds are stacked in favor of the house (Yankees), but that doesn't mean that in a small sample size (5 game series) that the underdog (Twins) can't win. As of now it feels like the string of blackjack hands where the dealer keeps getting a blackjack whenever you are holding two face cards. Maybe next year? Right?