Tuesday, March 31, 2009

NBA heads south looking for a stimulus package

SANTIAGO de CUBA -- One of the Cold War anecdotes was that President Kennedy only signed the Cuban embargo after having press secretary Pierre Salinger procure over a thousand H. Upmann Petit Corona Cuban cigars from Washington D.C. smoke shops. The rumor is once Kennedy needed to restock his favorite brand of cigars the embargo would end.

Kennedy didn’t survive his stock of Upmanns and we will never know if the embargo would have ended before 1969. But another case of Presidential desire for a Cuban product could result in the end of the almost half-century Cuban embargo.

The product: Abril Tontos

Tontos is one of the best-kept secrets in the Western Hemisphere.

The shining star of Cuban basketball, he is virtually unknown in the United States.

I’ve had a life-long dream to travel to Cuba. Through finagling with a California Congressperson, and more than a few campaign contributions, I received the required journalist visa to travel to Cuba.

While in Santiago, I had a reunion with a Granma sports journalist who I had met many years ago while covering golf in Georgia. He was there to enjoy and cover a capitalist golf tournament. We had a great time on a rainy night in Georgia sharing Cold War stories and drinking decadent Scotch whisky.

We shared Cuba Libras and Bolivar Legendarios on this trip, and after half dozen or so cocktails my fellow journalist took me to a local gym to watch Tontos play basketball.

My friend claimed Tontos stands 7 feet 4 inches, but I’m guessing he is closer to 7 feet. What is truly freakish about him is an amazing wingspan. He looks like he was put on the rack as a niño. Pictures of him look like they have been stretched in Photoshop. While he has much longer than normal legs, he still looks like he might just be able to touch his toes with minimal bending at the waist.

Standing flat-footed below the rim, Tontos can reach up a couple feet beyond the 10-foot rim, giving him extraordinary shot-blocking ability.

But it isn’t just Tontos freakish height or wingspan that makes him such an outstanding basketball player. As fans of Manute Bol can testify, it takes more than height to succeed at basketball. Tontos is much more than height, he has been known to rack-up double-pentuples in Latin American league play.

He doesn’t just camp out at the basket. He can drive the court, and pull up and hit the three with total abandon. He dishes off assists like a modern-day Big-O, can command a court like Magic Johnson and has a nose for the hoop like Michael Jordan.

Tontos does have his kryptonite: standing still at the line.

He has tried just about every free throw technique, but never gotten beyond a 20 percent average. It’s amazing to watch a player who can hit a three from downtown but looks so clumsy from the line.

What he has done in the Latin American league play is make other players pay for fouling him. He has been known to end careers of opposing players who force him to the line too many times.

If Tontos could resolve his free throw problems and play in the NBA it would be a game changer. It’s no secret David Stern has been to Santiago de Cuba to watch Tontos play and the NBA has coveted the Latin American market since Larry O’Brian was in the commission chair.

Readers are probably wondering what this has to do with Kennedy’s cigars.

Tontos can be Barack Obama’s H. Upmann Petit Corona.

The rights to Tontos belong to the Chicago Bulls. My journalist amigo tells me numerous Bull scouts have been down to watch his team, Barbudos, play in Latin American play.

Tontos is a national figure in Cuba. A direct descendent of José Martí and a grandson of Camilo Cienfuegos, Tontos is often a dinner guest of the Castros and is treated as a VIP in Cuba.

Tontos is not going to defect. The only way the Bulls can get Tontos is if the embargo ends.

With the Bulls new No.1 fan sitting in the White House, Obama has the power to end the embargo by executive order, and guarantee the Bulls the next championship.

Obama also has better political cover than any of his predecessors since JFK. The Miami Cuban community has always been the sticky wicket of normalizing relationships with the Castros.

But the old Batistas have died off and their grandkids don’t have the anti-Castro fervor of the old guard. The modern south Florida Cuban community has more love for the Miami Heat than hatred for the Castro brothers.

The current rumor circulating around Old Havana is Tontos younger brother, Augustos Tontos also has mad hoop skills and Stern has granted his NBA rights to the Miami Heat.

Will the young Cubans in Florida continue to hold the grudge of their grandfathers when the alternative could be sure NBA finals?
Continue Reading>>

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Drew-bob’s 2009 Mock NFL Draft - March 25, 2009

Now that the 2009 College Scouting Combine is over and the key players in this year’s free agency class have been signed, it is time to see what changes have been made to Drew-Bob's mock draft. The NFL draft order is based on each team’s win-loss record. The team with the worst record gets the first pick in each round of the seven-round draft, and the team that wins the super bowl gets the last pick of each round of the draft (pending trades). This year the Detroit Lions finished with the worst record in NFL history at 0-16. The 2009 NFL draft will be on April 25 through the 26 in New York City. The Lions are now on the clock…

1. Detroit Lions – Mathew Stafford (QB-Georgia) – The Lions need everything. They may as well begin its new chapter by drafting a franchise quarterback.

2. ST. Louis Rams – Jason Smith (OT-Baylor) – Smith has emerged as the best offensive tackle in this year’s class. The Rams need to somehow replace the departed soon-to-be Hall of Fame offensive tackle, Orlando Pace. Eugene Monroe (OT-Virginia)  

3. Kansas City Chiefs – B.J. Raji (DT-Boston College) – Raji would be a great piece of the puzzle to break apart double teams off of Tamba Hali and Glenn Dorsey.

4. Seattle Seahawks – Eugene Monroe (OT-Virginia) – Now that the Seahawks have beefed-up its receiving corps with the signing of T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Seattle can go in another direction with this pick.

5. Cleveland Browns – Aaron Curry (LB-Wake Forest) – Curry is the most talented athlete in the draft. Cleveland fans hope he falls into their lap.  

6. Cincinnati Bengals – Vontae Davis (CB-Illinois) – Davis is the best cornerback in the draft. The Bengals need someone to sure up a dismal defense.

7. Oakland Raiders – Michael Crabtree (WR-Texas Tech) – Owner Al Davis would love to have somebody like Crabtree at his team’s disposal.   

8. Jacksonville Jaguars – Jeremy Macklin (WR-Missouri) – With the loss of wide receivers Matt Jones and Jerry Porter the Jaguars need another offensive threat to compliment running back Maurice Jones-Drew. 

9. Green Bay Packers – Tyson Jackson (DE-LSU) – Jackson would be a great replacement for the released Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila.

10. San Francisco 49ers – Aaron Maybin (DE-Penn State) - The addition of Maybin paired with linebacker Patrick Willis would give San Francisco one of the scariest defenses in the league.  

11. Buffalo Bills – Everette Brown (DE-Florida State) – Brown is the perfect tweener for Buffalo’s defensive system.

12. Denver Broncos – Rey Maualuga (LB-USC) – It does not really matter whom it is, Denver just needs to get younger and more athletic on defense.

13. Washington Redskins – Michael Oher (OT-Ole Miss) - The Redskins offensive tackles have proved to be injury-prone. Oher would be the leader of an already good offensive line for years to come.

14. New Orleans Saints – Chris Wells (RB-Ohio State) – Reggie Bush is not an every-down running back. The Saints need someone like Wells to lighten the load.

15. Houston Texans – Brian Orakpo (DE-Texas) – Houston needs to draft the hometown-boy to pair up with Mario Williams.  

16. San Diego Chargers – Malcolm Jenkins (CB-Ohio State) – Jenkins’ poor performance at the combine has really hurt his draft stock.

17. Chicago Bears – Andre Smith (OT-Alabama) – Although Smith’s character has been questioned he is still a top-10 talent. 

18. New York Jets – Josh Freeman (QB-Kansas State) – Freeman is the most NFL-ready quarterback in this year’s class.   

19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Mark Sanchez (QB-USC) – New head coach Raheem Morris wants to chose the man to lead his new regime.  

20. Detroit Lions – Brian Cushing (LB-USC) – The Lions hope to draft a leader on offense and defense in the first round. 

21. Philadelphia Eagles – Knowshown Moreno (RB-Georgia) – With the loss of Correll Buckhalter to free agency and Brian Westbrook aging everyday, Moreno would be a great addition to Philadelphia’s backfield.

22. Minnesota Vikings – Darius Heyward-Bey (WR-Maryland) – Bey is the diamond in the rough of the 2009 NFL draft.

23. New England Patriots – Alphonso Smith (CB-Wake Forest) – Smith is a shutdown cornerback.

24. Atlanta Falcons – Brandon Pettigrew (TE-Oklahoma State) – Although Pettigrew’s draft stock was hurt after the combine, he could be a big weapon for Matt Ryan.

25. Miami Dolphins – Hakeem Nicks (WR-North Carolina) – The Dolphins need a go-to receiver.

26. Baltimore Ravens – Clay Matthews (LB-USC) – Baltimore needs to get someone who can replace Bart Scott.

27. Indianapolis Colts – Jerry Peria (DT-Ole Miss) – There is no doubt that Peria is the best defensive tackle in this year’s draft.  

28. Philadelphia Eagles – William Moore (S-Missouri) – It is nearly impossible but the Eagles somehow need to find a replacement for Brian Dawkins.

29. New York Giants – Percy Harvin (WR-Florida) – The Giants learned last season that they cannot rely only on its running game to win ball games. Harvin will help.

30. Tennessee Titans – James Laurinaitis (LB-Ohio State) – Tennessee is pretty solid on defense but you take someone as talented as Laurinaitis you take him.  

31. Arizona Cardinals – LeSean McCoy (RB-Pittsburgh) – McCoy will either be a great replacement for Edgerrin James or a nice compliment to Edge.  

32 Pittsburgh Steelers – Eben Britton (OT-Arizona) – The Steelers need to protect Big Ben much better in 2009.



Continue Reading>>

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Forgotten

In a month that featured one of the best finishes in Super Bowl history, Roger Federer handed the title of best tennis player in the world over to Rafael Nadal during the Australian Open, Kobe Bryant set a record for points scored in the hallowed grounds of Madison Square Garden, and now March Madness is in full-swing. One sports story however, was put on the back-burner.

The 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame class was announced. Five players and one owner are now members of this 253-man fraternity.

There is no doubt that this year’s class is worthy of enshrinement, but the 44-person committee who votes on who gets in and who does not is forgetting about a humongous chunk of football history.

As the Pittsburgh Steelers were winning its league-leading sixth championship on Super Sunday, there was one man who was vital to the victory, who does not get the credit he deserves. Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau has been involved in football either as a coach or player for 50 years.

LeBeau was a defensive back with the Detroit Lions for 14 seasons. During his tenure in Detroit LeBeau had to share the spotlight on defense with Hall of Famers “Night Train” Lane and Yale Lary.
When his career was all said and done LeBeau was a 3-time Pro Bowler, held the record for consecutive games played by a cornerback (171) and was tied for seventh on the all-time interceptions list with 62.
The players ahead of LeBeau on the list are Paul Krause, Emlen Tunnell, Rod Woodson, Lane and Ronnie Lott. All are Hall of Famers.
After retiring the 71-year old has spent the last 36 years coaching. During this time LeBeau has mastered the 3-4 defense and has won two Super Bowls as a defensive coordinator.

LeBeau is not the only person to feel like they are being left out of the hall. Former Cincinnati Bengal Ken Riley is fifth on the all-time interceptions list with 65.

Riley still holds numerous team records in Cincinnati, but because he was never voted to play in the Pro Bowl the committee seems to have forgotten his contribution to the league.
Former coaches Marty Schottenheimer and Dan Reeves are fifth (200) and seventh (190) on the all-time wins list respectfully.

Some people say that Schottenheimer’s teams underachieved. His teams won eight division titles and went to four AFC championship games, but Schottenheimer has never made it to the Super Bowl.
Reeves on the other hand took two teams to the Super Bowl (three times with the Broncos and once with the Falcons).

Others say poor showings by his teams in those games are what are keeping him out of the Hall of Fame. The committee seems to not even acknowledge his teams’ six division titles.
Wide receiver Henry Ellard is seventh all-time in receiving yards (13,777) and is in the top 20 in career receptions with 814. Due to the fact Ellard’s teams were not always that good, and he was in the league during the same period as wide receiver-great Jerry Rice; Ellard seems to be a forgotten diamond in the rough.

Kevin Greene is third all-time in career sacks with 160, but nobody mentions him for consideration into the Hall of Fame.
Greene was a five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and was named the Defensive Player of the Year in 1996.

All of these people deserve to be enshrined in Canton, Ohio. With each passing year the chances of that happening dwindles.

The 2010 class will most certainly include Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith and Tim Brown; thus decreasing the chances of the people mentioned that much more.

In a society that thrives on the question what have you done for me lately? These six players and coaches may not ever get his moment in the sun.

The selection committee is doing a disservice to the NFL by not giving these six people the most honored award in their profession.

It is injustice that these men are not enshrined in Canton because they are Hall of Famers in every sense of the word.

Continue Reading>>

Monday, March 2, 2009

World Baseball Classic Preview

With Japan looking to repeat, Venezuela looking strong as always and the powerhouse that is the Dominican Republic, there is no shortage of capable teams in this year's classic. China, Australia and Italy should all get bounced before the first pitch is thrown.

There will be 16 teams broken up into four pools of four. The four brackets are:
Pool A - Japan, China, Chinese Taipei, Japan and Korea.
Pool B - Australia, Cuba, Mexico and South Africa.
Pool C - Canada, Italy, Venezuela and our country.
Pool D - The Netherlands, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Panama.

Two years ago, Daisuke Matsuzaka was named MVP of the Classic and inked a lucrative contract afterwards.

Time will tell who becomes the can't-miss prospect this time around. My money is on Kwang-Hyum Kim catching the eye of spectators and scouts alike. The 20-year-old southpaw has plenty of talent and should make some hitters look foolish. Although he won't get Matsuzaka money, he should find his way to the majors. He has an incredibly long stride, but he hides the ball well and has no wasted motion.

Japan faces China on Thursday morning. I believe the first pitch is around 1 A.M. our time. So pick your team and enjoy yourself.
Continue Reading>>

Friday, February 27, 2009

Barack’s bracket bonanza

Barack Obama’s stimulus package has all sorts of problems. It costs too much, it’s money we don’t have and nobody trusts Congress to pass out the money. But the biggest problem with the plan is it’s boring.

Is there anybody whose eyes don’t glaze over when hearing about the details of the stimulus plan? Roads and bridges? Welcome to Yawnville.

We need to combine the stimulus plan with American’s loves. Not so much mom, apple pie and Chevrolet, but more gambling, capitalism and March Madness®.

Rather than letting Congress decide how to dole out the money, why not a lottery? We can ensure it is fair by using a tool people already are confidant is fair.

Give every taxpayer a ticket to pick one of the teams in a nationwide March Madness pool. Everyone who picks the winner divvies up the trillion bucks. Pick a favorite, the prize pool is going to be divided thinner, pick an underdog, and unknown riches can be yours.

Pick UCon and they win, maybe you win $20,000. Pick Gonzaga and they go all the way perhaps you end up with a billion. Even assume every taxpayer (138 million) picks the winner, which would still be $7,246.38 from a trillion dollar pool.

March Madness also passes the fairness test. Even anti-gambling fanatics have been known to drop a Ulysses S. Grant on an NCAA March Madness pool.

The best part of the March Madness stimulus plan in it gets money back into the economy quickly.

This reporter can verify: Money won will burn a hole right through your pocket if you don’t spend it fast enough. It doesn’t take a genius to realize why they put $100,000 watches and mink capes in the casino shops in Las Vegas.

The stimulus money trickles up to Rolex, Porsche and drug dealers, beginning the process of getting the cash into the economy. States tax the winning and therefore get their own stimulus.

There are problems with this stimulus plan, but try to come up with a fair system of handing out a trillion bucks that doesn’t have a few problems. At least the March Madness plan has problems that can be overcome.

You’re probably wondering how we could possibly keep the games fair? Right now we can dig kids playing basketball for the love of the game and NBA scouts. But if every American takes a keen financial interest in the games, perhaps these college kids could be brought to the dark side.

We’ll just have to wait to announce the plan until the 64-team field is set. Then we need to sequester the players and coaches. It’s going to be expensive, but even should we take a billion bucks we will still have lower overhead than the Obama plan.

Another potential problem is people buying and selling their tickets. But rather than seeing this as a problem, let’s embrace the idea. If your team makes it to the Sweet 16 do you try and sell your ticket to the highest bidder on eBay or do you hold onto it and see it jump in value if they make it further into the brackets?

If you picked UCLA and they make it into the Sweet 16 will you be willing to part with your ticket for $10 grand, or hold onto it hoping it will go up in value, knowing if they lose in the next round the value of your ticket drops to zero? Beautiful capitalism.

If the March Madness plans works, the concept can be used for other national issues.

We can’t afford universal health care, but we can afford health care for everyone who picks the winning car at the Indy 500.

When the government needs to give tax breaks we all know Congress picks those that donate to their campaigns as the recipient. Why not a tax holiday to everyone with the winning horse at the Kentucky Derby?

Save social security. Only give it to anyone who can pick the winner of the Super Bowl..
Continue Reading>>

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Drew-bob’s 2009 Mock NFL Draft - February 22, 2009

The 2009 NFL Scouting Combine is going on through Tuesday in Indianapolis, Ind. College standouts from around the country will be poked, prodded and analyzed by NFL scouts over the seven-day period to see where the stand in the upcoming draft. The NFL draft order is based on each team’s win-loss record. The team with the worst record gets the first pick in each round of the seven-round draft, and the team that wins the super bowl gets the last pick of each round of the draft (pending trades). This year the Detroit Lions finished with the worst record in NFL history at 0-16. The 2009 NFL draft will be on April 25 through the 26 in New York City. The Lions are now on the clock…

1. Detroit Lions - Matthew Stafford (QB-Georgia)
2. St. Louis Rams - Eugene Monroe (OT-Virginia)
3. Kansas City Chiefs - B.J. Raji (DT-Boston College)
4. Seattle Seahawks - Malcolm Jenkins (CB-Ohio State)
5. Cleveland Browns - Aaron Curry (LB-Ohio State)
6. Cincinnati Bengals - Jason Smith (OT-Baylor)
7. Oakland Raiders - Michael Crabtree (WR-Texas Tech)
8. Jacksonville Jaguars - Vontae Davis (CB-Illinois) 
9. Green Bay Packers - Jeremy Maclin (WR-Missouri)
10. San Francisco 49ers - Aaron Maybin (DE-Penn State)
11. Buffalo Bills - Brandon Pettigrew (TE-Oklahoma State)
12. Denver Broncos - Rey Maualuga (LB-USC)
13. Washington Redskins - Everette Brown (DE-Florida State) 
14. New Orleans Saints - Chris Wells (RB-Ohio State)
15. Houston Texans - Brian Orakpo (DE-Texas)
16. San Diego Chargers - D.J. Moore (CB-Vanderbilt)
17. Chicago Bears - Andre Smith (OT-Alabama)
18. New York Jets - Josh Freeman (QB-Kansas State)
19. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Mark Sanchez (QB-USC)
20. Detroit Lions - Brian Cushing (LB-USC)
21. Philadelphia Eagles - Michael Oher (OT-Ole Miss)
22. Minnesota Vikings - Darius Heyward-Bey (WR-Maryland)
23. New England Patriots - Alphonso Smith (CB-Wake Forest)
24. Atlanta Falcons - Tyson Jackson (DE-LSU)
25. Miami Dolphins - Knowshon Moreno (RB-Georgia)
26. Baltimore Ravens - Clay Matthews (LB-USC)
27. Indianapolis Colts - Jerry Peria (DT-Ole Miss)
28. Philadelphia Eagles - William Moore (S-Missouri)
29. New York Giants - Percy Harvin (WR-Florida)
30. Tennessee Titans - James Laurinaitis (LB-Ohio State)
31. Arizona Cardinals - LeSean McCoy (RB-Pittsburgh)
32. Pittsburgh Steelers - Eben Britton (OT-Arizona)

Continue Reading>>

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Boston Celtics - The Real Deal

The defending NBA champion Boston Celtics are off to another brilliant start this season, at 24-2. They are only two wins away from tying the 1969-70 New York Knicks and the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers for the best start in NBA history, at 26-2, according to ESPN.

What makes this team so good?

They are arguably the best defensive team in the league. They hold opponents to 41 percent field goal shooting, best in the NBA. They allow 90.3 points per game, second only to the Cleveland Cavaliers, according to ESPN.

They are one of the most efficient offensive teams in the league. The Celtics average over 100 points a game, 10th in the NBA, and also 4th in field goal percentage, at 47.5 percent.

Those statistics are impressive, but the thing that separates them from other teams in the league is their swagger. They intimidate teams. They have a swagger that other teams don’t, because they know they can back it up.

In a game earlier this season vs. the New York Knicks, members of the Knicks complained that Boston was "being classless with their trash-talking and taunting," according to the New York Post.

Last year, the Celtics acquired veteran all-stars Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett in the offseason. These two guys brought leadership and talent to a team that had gone only 24-58 the year before.

Besides the "Big Three," Allen, Garnett and Paul Pierce, the Celtics have nice up-and-coming talent such as point guard Rajon Rondo, who is quickly establishing himself as one of the league’s best young point guards.

They also have a solid bench, with players like Tony Allen, Eddie House, Leon Powe and Glen "Big Baby" Davis. They’re strong defensively and can put the ball in the basket. House is virtually instant offense off the bench, one of the game’s best pure shooters.

There is talk that they can challenge the 1996 Chicago Bulls’ record of most wins in a season. That year, the Bulls won 72 games. Can this Celtics team break the record?

Chances are very slim. Last season the Celtics started out 20-2, and won 66 games. To maintain their current pace for 82 games is a tall order. Injuries can happen, as can end-of-the-year slumps.

With that said, they do look poised to repeat as NBA champs.

Continue Reading>>