Tuesday, November 30, 2010

NFL Week 12 Predictions / Results

Patriots at Lions - The Belicheats' win last Sunday reignited my hatred for them.
Saints at Cowboys - No way Kitna throws for 150 yards and 3 TDs vs the Saints.
Bengals at Jets - NY keeps winning close games vs ordinary opponents.  Is that good?
Packers at Falcons - NFC contenders showdown.  I'm going with the new look Pack offense.  X
Titans at Texans - I'm taking Schaub over Rusty Smith.
Vikings at Redskins - Favre and Rice find their chemistry again.
Jaguars at Giants - NY needs a win to keep pace with GB/ATL.
Steelers at Bills - Mendenhall has been quiet lately - big game coming.
Panthers at Browns - Cleveland is no longer a punchline.
Chiefs at Seahawks - In addition to run game, KC has located Dwayne Bowe.
Dolphins at Raiders - Miami looked inane vs Chicago on Thursday, didn't they?  X
Eagles at Bears - I'm not picking against Vick, especially against INT happy Cutler.  X
Buccaneers at Ravens - Statement game for Bucs: we're not that good yet.
Rams at Broncos - Orton gets back on track.  X
Chargers at Colts - Return of Vincent Jackson not enough to beat motivated Peyton.  X
49ers at Cardinals - SF must win to have any chance this season.

Week 12 record: 11-5

Overall record: 106-72

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

NFL Week 11 Predictions / Results

Bears at Dolphins - Coin flip. Cutler's better than Dolphins 3rd string QB.
Ravens at Panthers - Flacco gets back on track.
Texans at Jets - Not sure what's going on with Schaub.
Bills at Bengals - Upset, Bills win 2nd straight.
Browns at Jaguars - Its Peyton's world.  X
Packers at Vikings - Vikes make it a game, but GB defense is better.
Cardinals at Chiefs - KC takes out frustrations on AZ.
Lions at Cowboys - Should've fired Wade years ago.
Raiders at Steelers - Pittsburgh don't look right, but I'm not picking against them.
Seahawks at Saints - I need Brees to go crazy for my fantasy team.
Buccaneers at 49ers - SF resurgence continues.  X
Falcons at Rams - Atlanta makes case as best NFC team.
Colts at Patriots - Peyton scores the upset.  X
Giants at Eagles - Vick played the most dominant game I've ever seen outside of the 49ers glory days.
Broncos at Chargers - Could be the highest scoring game of the week.  Tebow scores winner.  X
Edit 11/30/10: I forgot this game - Redskins at Titans - I would have picked CJ and the Titans at home.  I would have been wrong.  X

Week 11 Record: 11-5

Overall Record: 95-67

Monday, November 22, 2010

Jeremy Lin - Better than Wat

Jeremy scored a career high 13 points on 4 for 9 shooting in 18 minutes of play.  It is very interesting that he scored five of his points on free throws (out of 5 taken - the 2nd most taken by a Warriors player) which is usually a sign of aggressive and attacking play.  Also interesting is that though the Warriors lost 117-89, they were +6 when Jeremy was on the court, which was the highest differential of any Warrior (only Charlie Bell finished in the positive at +3).  Though he might not have been playing vs the Laker's A team, he contributed positively on the court, including 3 boards, 2 assists and 2 steals.

Jeremy's career high previously was 3, so this was a breakout night for him.  Also significant last night was that the first full Asian American in the NBA, Wataru Misaka, scored 7 points total in 3 games in 1947-1948.  Jeremy has now surpassed him as the most successful Asian American in NBA history with 20 total points.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

US Soccer's Young Guns

I expected Bob Bradley to start bringing in new faces starting in January Camp, which is basically MLS based players plus players in Norway, since their league is off then as well.  I didn't really think he would call up a roster of backups and first timers for a trip to South Africa.  After all, it was a FIFA date where Europeans were playing Euro qualifiers, so the best players were all with their national teams.  Plus, we called up everyone, including our European regulars for the past 3 meaningless friendlies vs Brazil, Poland and Colombia on home soil in the last few months.  Why wouldn't we call them up for a goodwill return trip to SA where we wouldn't want to embarrass ourselves or disrespect our hosts?  Heck, it was the Nelson Mandela Challenge after all.  (I believe the players even got to meet Mandela himself today.)  So it was shocking that Bradley brought in only 5 players from the WC squad - none of which are regular starters on the A team.

It was a shocking, but also exciting because US fans got to see a glimpse of several players that could play a large role for our 2014 team and beyond.  Put it this way.  This was the equivalent of the NFL draft in international soccer.

Lets group the team into 4: WCers, B team, C Team, Young guns.

WCers- I was still half expecting Landon to show up anyway, heh.
Brad Guzan, Jonathan Spector, Jonathan Bornstein, Clarence Goodson, Robbie Findley - Guzan played like the captain today.  Goodson was solid and looks to be a regular contributor for the next few years.  Spector and Bornstein took turns looking suspect at LB.  Findley didn't deserve a place to begin with and should never be called up again.

B Team
Robbie Rogers, Alejandro Bedoya - Rogers and Bedoya just missed out on the WC.  They still have a chance to play in the Gold Cup and more - Bedoya probably has a better outlook right now.
C Team
Brian Carroll, Logan Pause, Eddie Gaven, Nat Borchers - Carroll, Pause and Gaven were chosen to be fill-ins for the central midfield.  None were inspired choices and only Gaven should hope for another look.  I wish we had tried out younger options at CM instead of Carroll and Pause, but with the depth we have there already, it doesn't really matter.  Borchers is a wildcard - I suppose Bob may give him another chance going forward.

Young Guns

Eric Lichaj - I learned that his name is pronounced "Lee-High".  Hard nosed defender just turned 22 yesterday.  I saw no reason to continue to believe that he can't be our RB in 2014.  While Dolo is still around, I think Bob needs to consider playing him at LB if Boca can't go.

Tim Ream - Already a standout rookie in the MLS at age 23, I think he's got great potential to be Boca's replacement by 2014.  He looks composed and poised on the ball and just needs some international experience.  Our defense will experience the most change this cycle and he should fit right in.

Gale Agboussamonde - Shares a bday with Lichaj, although he just turned 19 on gameday.  Bradley capped him with a couple late minutes just to get his feet wet.  A few months ago I had him slated as a 2014 starter.  He still could be, but he's got the U-20s to get through first.  I'm just glad Bob brought in so many young defenders into the fold.

Mikkel Diskerud - This 20 year old has been hyped up among US fans for years.  He certainly didn't disappoint, showing solid technical skill on the ball, including the beautiful control and assist inside the SA box for the win.  I thought that Mikkel's work on that play was more impressive even than the goal itself.  It will be interesting to see how Bob uses him in our stacked midfield but I think he's got a chance to be the only newcomer, besides perhaps Jermaine Jones, to the midfield corp in 2014. 

Teal Bunbury - Regardless of the 20 year old from Canada's motivations, he's made his international choice.  Why not considering the paucity of striker options?  He was better than Findley.  Deserves another look.

Juan Agudelo - A few hours before, Messi scored a stoppage time game winner vs Brazil.  Then this 17 year old scores the game winner with minutes left.  See the correlation?  He's the next big thing.  He's better than Adu and Altidore combined!  He's the ANSWER TO ALL OUR PROBLEMS!  or not.  (Everyone needs to calm down.)  But at least he'll get another look.  Agudelo did become the youngest player to ever score for the US senior national team in history.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

UCLA v UOP - Reeves and Tyler show

The alumni fans might've been in preseason form - half empty stadium - but at least the student section was as excited as I was for our team to erase the memories of last November, where we only had 2 regular season wins.  We ended up starting the season 3-7.  This year, we were hoping to get to 3 wins without any in the loss column.  But, I guess the 8:30pm start time was too late for the alumni.  Or maybe they were all allocating their Bruin support weekly quota for the ESPN game vs UW on Thursday night.  Either way, they missed out on what Howland calls the best half of basketball so far this year, as well as what I'd call the worst half of basketball in 3 games.


- A great first half where we shot 54.8% (40 points) was followed by a 35% horror show where we only scored 17 to UOP's 20.  Howland was ecstatic about our first half play and the best overall defensive effort we've had so far.  So I guess I should be too.  That 2nd half though, was the most frustrating game I've ever seen when we've had a double-digit lead.

- Looking back, Drew Gordon's expulsion a year ago was the best thing to happen to the UCLA frontcourt.  Though he was the most athletic option we had this time last year, it turns out that getting Reeves Nelson significant playing time all last year will be the key to this season.  Reeves may not have played vs a legitimate division 1 power forward yet, but he is posting astronomical numbers.  21 points, 14 rebounds vs UOP after a 20-11 performance the night before.  No wonder he looked exhausted in the 2nd half.

- That said, why didn't Anthony Stover play in the 2nd half?  He only logged 6 minutes in the first.  Smith was in foul trouble and Nelson was tired.  I didn't see anything from his time on the court that would lead to him being in the doghouse.

- Tyler Honeycutt is leaving UCLA after this year.  No, I don't have inside info.  He just is.  I'm guessing he'll go somewhere in the draft between 14-24 first round.  As disappointing as that is, at least he didn't pull a Jrue Holiday and jump ship after 1 underwhelming year.  At least, it looks like he'll give us a full year of performances that should be up to his potential.  15 points (including 3-5 on 3s) and 15 rebounds on the night.  Not bad.  He's got to cut down on turnovers though - 4 TOs to only 3 assists.

- Zeke Jones is so much better than Jerime.  So much better.  4 or 5 times he was able to find a crease and drive to the hole for much needed layups.  It is slowly erasing memories of Jerime bricking layups last year.

- Tyler Lamb is impressing Howland with his defense.  If that doesn't make you like this guy, I don't know what will.

- Josh Smith looked slow, unsure and undisciplined.  Yeah, it was the 2nd night of a back to back, but how can he finish with 4 fouls and ZERO rebounds?  We'll chalk it up to freshman inexperience.

I'm ecstatic that we'll be playing #6 Villanova next week at MSG on national TV.  It'll be an early test - as long as Malcolm gets back.  We could use the exposure.  Plus, we'll always need these early season wins over ranked teams when it comes to March.  Things are looking up.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

NFL Week 10 Predictions / Results

Ravens at Falcons - Two 6-2 teams.  Draftmates Flacco vs Ryan.  White v Boldin. X
Lions at Bills - Stafford can't stay healthy.  Bills win high scoring affair.
Vikings at Bears - Chicago won't allow Favre comeback.
Jets at Browns - Jets D stop Peyton Hillis.
Bengals at Colts - Bengals D can't stop Peyton Manning.
Titans at Dolphins - Randy Moss scores in debut.  X
Panthers at Buccaneers - How did the 49ers lose to the worst team in the L?
Texans at Jaguars - Another high scoring affair.  Houston eeks one out.  X
Chiefs at Broncos - Denver scores upset vs division rival.
Cowboys at Giants - Giants.  X
Seahawks at Cardinals - Seattle has been outscored 74-10 in the last 2 weeks.  X
Rams at 49ers - The legend of Troy Smith grows.
Patriots at Steelers - Steelers make case for best team in the L.  X
Eagles at Redskins - Philly loves Vick.  Nobody loves McNabb.

Week 10 record: 10-6

Overall record: 84-62

Friday, November 12, 2010

Kevin Love's 31 and 31

Kevin Love had 31 rebounds! and 31 points in a single game tonight.  This comes a few days after a 24 board and 23 point performance vs the Lakers, of all teams.  According to ESPN, the last 3 players to do this are Moses Malone, Robert Parish and Kareem.  I honestly never thought he was capable of this in the NBA.  I thought that college would be his chance for stardom.  But he has shown that basketball IQ can go a long way.  I think he was the leading rebounder per minutes played last season.  This year he's currently ranked 2nd in rebounds per game (12.8) and he only plays 28 min/game.  The leader, who shall remain nameless, averages only 1.1 rebound more (13.9) in 39 minutes/game.  Amazing.  This is the first time in 28 years that someone has had a 30-30 game.  Nice work Klove.

UCLA Season Opener

Just need to mention UCLA's first game as well.  After last season's embarrassing double OT loss to Cal State Fullerton to start the year, this year's squad dropped the hammer on Cal State Northridge 83-50.  At one point, the Bruins had a 41 point lead.  The standout performer has to be Zeke Jones, who shot 6 for 7, including 2-2 on 3s, to finish with 15 points, 4 assists in 23 minutes.  Jerime Anderson played 16 minutes but only had 1 point and 1 assist.  I think we have a starter.

Nelson led the team with 17 points and Honeycutt dropped in 16.  Amazingly, we shot 72% in the first half and 57% in the game.  Howland is probably ecstatic that we held CSUN to 29% shooting.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

UCLA bball exhibtion vs CSULA

This game was a monumental moment in our family.  It was my younger son's first UCLA bball game.  Can't tell if he enjoyed it or not.

My older son definitely did.  Joe Bruin was dancing around, the tubas were shiny and 8 claps were nonstop.  He's also got the finger-in-the-air-during-free-throws thing down.  Since he attended more games than any alumni I know last year (and we've got a hoop in the backyard and a little tykes hoop in the living room), he's really been into basketball.  Also, he recognizes and likes the letters and logos of UCLA now, so we've got him brainwashed pretty good.  All that to say, it was a pretty big thrill for him, and therefore for us.

Quick Thoughts:

Reeves Nelson was out with a hip flexor, but since this was just a preseason match, I was more interested to see our newcomers for the first time.  Joshua Smith was who I thought he'd be - a wide presence in the paint on defense and a post option on offense who has great hands.  In the last decade, Kevin Love has been the only other player who I recall being a viable option in the post.  Being able to dump the ball inside now will make a huge difference in our offense.  There have been times in the last few years where we are completely confused on offense and were unable to get off a good shot.  Not that this won't happen to us this year, but now, at the very least, we can send it inside to Joshua for post move and he can kick it out for an open shot if double teamed.  Simple.  What I didn't expect to see was our big man diving on the floor for a loose ball.  I think the crowd collectively winced.  With a sprained and wrapped up thumb, Joshua wasn't able to score or rebound normally in this game, but I at least got to see him on the court with my own eyes.  He is definitely not 6-10.  He still needs conditioning work.  He probably needs to develop a few go-to post moves.  And he is definitely a huge piece of our success this year.

Tyler Lamb was the newcomer standout on the night.  For a freshman, he clearly showed way more than Mike Moser did in limited minutes last year - I guess that's why we let Moser walk.  There was one play where Lamb cut baseline, absorbed contact before altering his release, which went in.  On the night, he shot well: 6-9 (including a 3) for 17 points in just 21 minutes of play.  He also seems to be committed to defense, though he could still use some Howland training.  In addition to scoring, he also finished with 3 offensive boards and 3 assists.  He won't produce like this against Pac 10 opponents, but he will be part of the core rotation (unlike Moser).

I didn't see anything extremely special from Zeke Jones on the night but there were moments that were encouraging.  He made a 3 off the dribble with the clock winding down.  He dove into the lane and made an off balance floater while absorbing contact.  These were the kind of gutty PG plays that I don't really remember from Anderson last year.  However, I didn't see tremendous playmaking ability or outrageous court vision from him either.  He finished with 7 points, 4 assists, 3 turnovers.

Anthony Stover has claimed that he once blocked 19 shots in a HS game.  Though he only had 2 here, his length alone will be hugely important to our defense.  I think we're all going to love this kid.  He seems to run pretty hard up and down the court.  Which brings me to the Wear twins for next season.  We've got Smith, Nelson, Lane and now Stover.  I don't expect any to leave next year.  How will the Wears fit in?  6 big men for 2 spots?

As for the sophomores, Brendan Lane had a terrific game in Nelson's absence.  He looked noticeably thicker - he said he added 20 pounds of muscle - and was very confident on his shot.  14 points, 7 boards, 4 assists.  Honeycutt was obviously our most talented player.  15 points, 15 rebounds!  However, I'm starting to not really like his off the court demeanor.  In interviews he comes across as a little smug and affected.  Its as if he knows his ability and that he's headed to the NBA this year.  Hopefully I'm wrong.

Malcolm Lee is rather underwhelming so far.  Our most veteran player, especially at SG, should be our top scorer and most influential presence on the court.  Instead of jumpers, I want to see him attacking the basket too.  That said, his shooting form seems to have improved a lot.  Before, he never straightened his shooting elbow all the way.  Still, he'll never be mistaken for a 3 point specialist.  The one bright spot was the fact that he hasn't turned the ball over in 53 minutes of preseason play.

We were 3 for 21 on 3s in the first exhibition.  Tuesday, we were 8 for 19 - 42%, not bad.  Which is more indicative of our team?

Jury's also out on our new uptempo offense.  I can honestly say that it was difficult to tell the difference except that there were not as many extremely stagnant possessions.  Its hard to say if this was a result of playing an inferior team or not.  Of course, last year we struggled in our Concordia exhibition so perhaps this change is good.

Last year, we also embarrassingly lost the season opener to Cal State Fullerton, which essentially set the tone for the rest of the season.  Friday, we have a chance to start anew vs CSUN.  As my son would say, go buuuins!

New Recruit

Norman Powell signed his LOI.  This 6-3 senior will be the most athletic player we've had since Westbrook (who would be a senior this year).  Powell will likely spend most of his time at the 2 and should fit right in with the Howland defensive mentality.  This signing is significant simply because he could very well be our only recruit next year, besides the Wear transfers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

NFL Week 9 Predictions / Results

Buccaneers at Falcons - Ryan slows down the pro-Freeman sentiment.
Bears at Bills - Buffalo's gotta win one of these weeks, right?  Not this week.
Patriots at Browns - Is anyone else shocked that NE only has 1 loss?  X
Jets at Lions - Jets secondary will slow Stafford down.
Cardinals at Vikings - I would've fired Childress a long time ago.  AD wins this one.
Saints at Panthers - Rumors of Brees' left knee tear is frightening for Saints fans.
Dolphins at Ravens - Dolphins are undefeated away.  Ravens haven't lost at home.
Chargers at Texans - Gates not healthy just won't do.  X
Giants at Seahawks - NY could be class of NFC now.
Chiefs at Raiders - Winner has advantage in AFC west, shockingly.  X
Colts at Eagles - Vick's return ruined by Peyton.  X
Cowboys at Packers - Dallas has given up.
Steelers at Bengals - Pitt offense takes it out on division rival.

Week 9 Record: 9-4

Overall Record: 74-56

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Death, Taxes and Kai Forbath

Kai Forbath hit a 51 yard game winning FG with time expiring to secure UCLA's 4th win of the season.  There isn't a lot to celebrate about UCLA football these days so I figured this would be a good time to honor the 2009 Lou Groza Collegiate Place-Kicker Award winner, which is given to the top placekicker in college football.  He is the first Bruin to win the award.  Forbath could have declared for the NFL draft last year since he also won 1st Team All-American honors, but opted to return for his senior season.  He is still likely to be the first PK drafted in the 2011 NFL draft.

My greatest hope for UCLA football, besides winning a national championship, is for a true star QB to emerge and succeed in the NFL.  Its been about 20 years since we last had a Hall of Famer QB (Aikman).  McNown raised then crushed our hopes.  It doesn't look to be likely anytime soon.

Anyway, we're pretty much Kicker U nowadays.  If Kai sticks in the NFL, he would become the most successful UCLA kicker ever.

UCLA All American Kickers

2009 Kai Forbath
2007 Justin Medlock
1993 Bjorn Merten
1985 John Lee

UCLA Kickers drafted

2007 Justin Medlock
1986 John Lee
1978 Frank Corral
1974 Efren Herren

Thursday, November 4, 2010

UCLA BBall Preview 2010-2011

I'm brimming with anticipation over the 2010-2011 UCLA Basketball season, which starts tonight with the team's first exhibition, so here's my quick preview.

Last season's 5th place finish in the Pac-10 (8-10), 14-18 overall was Ben Howland's 2nd worst season as the UCLA coach.  His worst was also his first season - 2003-04, when he finished 11-17.  It should be noted that following season, UCLA went 18-11 and made the NCAA tournament with 3 freshmen in the starting lineup - Jordan Farmar, Josh Shipp and Arron Afflalo.  They were Howland's first recruiting class.

In many ways, we may be living through that transition again.  This year, our team will be heavily reliant on newcomers to fill out the core rotation.  And just as the 2004 team experienced addition by subtraction (goodbye bad attitudes in TJ Cummings and Trevor Ariza), we are now finally rid of my least favorite player of any UCLA squad since I became a Bruin.  I hope to never mention his name ever again.  And no, its not Michael Roll, whom we will miss more than we know this year.  Read here for my 2009-10 season review if you're really stumped.

So before we go into this year's squad, here are those who have left us from the start of last year's squad:

Drew Gordon - Team cancer was kicked off team and transferred.
Bobo Morgan - Big plodding center was not conditioned and lacked defense.  Transferred.
Mike Moser - Still not exactly sure why he wasn't the right fit, but he transferred too.
James Keefe - Another injury marred, under-achieving season for the senior.
My least favorite ucla baller ever - This euro senior makes my blood boil.
Michael Roll - So of all the players who left our team last year, Roll is the only loss that hurts us.

Besides Roll and perhaps Moser (whom we didn't see enough to know much about and didn't impress the little time he was on the court), the rest are addition by subtraction, one way or another.

Another big difference between last season and this is a better balance of players at each position.  Again, because of Jrue Holiday's early defection, we were left shorthanded with only 3 players (Lee, Anderson, Roll) at the 2 guard spots last year.  This year, we have 4, maybe 5 who may be in our guard rotation.

Also we were bitten badly by the injury bug in the 2009 preseason.  This year, our team has been fairly healthy throughout the summer and preseason camp.  This has allowed our team to focus on conditioning, strength training and skill building, instead of wasted recovery time.  Thirdly, team spirit and team chemistry is far superior to last season by all accounts.  No one on the team is saying it, but its obvious that the absence of Drew Gordon and you-know-who this year has dramatically improved the environment in which Howland can prepare this team.

This year's major contributors:


Joshua Smith, Fr, 6-10 - Possibly the best HS center from the west, Joshua (he prefers Joshua to Josh) worked hard this summer to shed his baby fat - some have said he's lost 40-50 pounds.  Apparently Howland forbade him from touching a ball until September.  I bumped into Matt Carlino on campus in August and he seemed impressed with Joshua's conditioning.  Anyway, our new big man seems to have good hands and will be slotted in immediately as our starter.  With the Pac-10 down this year again, a big interior presence can make all the difference.  By the way, I don't think he's 6-10.  Maybe more like 6-8 1/2.  Maybe that will keep him in school more than a year or two.  Not that this worked for Kevin Love.

Anthony Stover, R Fr, 6-9 - This thin but long redshirt freshman should be Joshua's backup.  Though he is extremely raw offensively, I'm hoping he'll be a Lorenzo Mata type - block shots and rebound.


Reeves Nelson, So, 6-7 - He played as an undersized center last year after the forced departure of Gordon and he was instantly effective with his physical and workmanlike play.  I thought that he had even outplayed Kansas' Aldrich last December.  Reeves was definitely my favorite player to watch night in, night out.  Over the summer, he says he worked hard daily on his jump shot and seems to be eager to show that he's more than a brute in the paint.  That's sounds great but I hope his game doesn't change at the expense of his production inside.  The move over to PF should instantly provide us with a stronger frontline.  Be sure to check out his new tats.  Does anyone else think that he has a perpetual black eye?

Brendon Lane, So, 6-9 - Word is he put on 20 pounds this offseason.  He also seems to deal with injuries quite often so hopefully this helps.  As Nelson's backup, Lane will contribute with his jumpshot and work rate.  The jury is out on his effectiveness inside.


Tyler Honeycutt, So, 6-8 - The most gifted of all Bruins, Honeycutt may very well be the most important player to the success of our squad this year.  First of all, he's really the only player who can play SF.  When he's subbed out, we'll essentially be playing 3 guards.  But overall, he's the best passer on the team, has the best court vision, seems to have the best basketball IQ, and might be the most athletic.  If he can add a consistent jumper to his already versatile game, he'll be a star.  Honestly, I think this is his last season here and I hope he doesn't let it all go to his head.


Malcolm Lee, Jr , 6-4 - Malcolm will essentially be the veteran presence on this team this year.  With no seniors, he's the most accomplished junior we have (and the only member of the famed fab five that made an overall positive impact last year) and he will be relied upon to score a major bulk of our points.  Without having to play point (hopefully) this year, he can concentrate solely on playing off guard.  He may also slide over to SF at times (as will Lamb possibly).  We will see tonight if Malcolm has revamped the form of his jump shot but we will definitely see the same commitment to defense that he always plays with.

Tyler Lamb, Fr, 6-4 - Another impact freshman in Howland's newest class, he is slated to play significant minutes off the bench.  He seems to be in the same vein as Afflalo - hard-working kid, good attitude, loves defense.  I have high hopes for him.

Matt Carlino, Fr, 6-1 - This former Indiana commit is technically supposed to be in his senior year in HS (though I believe he's 18) but Howland brought him in early to see if he could fill the 3 pointer void that Michael Roll is leaving behind.  This looks to be our greatest need.  That said, he probably needs to get stronger and a little more seasoned before he plays major minutes for us.  Like I said, I got a chance to chat with him briefly this summer and he just seems to be a solid kid.  I'll be rooting for him.


Lazeric Jones, Jr, 6-0 - With the poor play of Jerime Anderson last season, Howland combed the ranks of junior college transfers and found a hard-nosed and tough PG to compete for the job.  We all know that PG is probably the most important position for a Howland team and it will be difficult for Lazeric to live up to those before him.  But any improvement from last year will be much needed.

Jerime Anderson, Jr, 6-2 - After such a disappointing season, we were not surprised to find out that he had not put in the work last summer.  This preseason, they say that he has re-dedicated himself.  However, I don't have high hopes for someone who doesn't seem to love the game and seems to lack the natural court instincts that good players possess.  His lapses of concentration on the court and even missed layups were just infuriating to see.  We shall see how the battle for the only available starting spot turns out.  It appears that already Laz is the early leader.

The above 10 players will make up the regular playing rotation and its very possible that Carlino won't get that much PT, bringing the rotation back to 9 strong.  Last year after defections and injuries, we were still only at 8, and I'm including Abdul-Hamid.

Should Joshua live up to his expectations, our frontline with Smith, Nelson and Honeycutt could be the best in the Pac-10.  While we weren't so sure who would emerge last year, this year's big men each have roles that are already clearly defined.

In the backcourt, Jones and Lamb (and maybe Carlino) will join an improved Lee and Anderson.  Again, with only one clear SF, Malcolm and Tyler Lamb may also log some minutes backing up Honeycutt there.

But ultimately, the core is Malcolm, Reeves and Honeycutt.  If they're better, we'll be better.

The starters appear to be what I predicted back in April:

Lazeric Jones, Malcolm Lee, Tyler Honeycutt, Nelson Reeves, Joshua Smith

Bench: Brendan Lane, Jerime Anderson, Tyler Lamb, Anthony Stover, Matt Carlino

Much has been made recently of a transition to a more uptempo game.  It appears that we'll be pushing the ball on offensive possessions even when there's a made basket.  This is extremely interesting to Bruin basketball fans.  The knock on Howland, if that's possible for a coach that's made 3 straight Final Fours in a 7 year stretch, is that he doesn't adapt very well to different styles of play.  If our teams are unable to impose our will defensively and keep the number of offensive possessions low, we struggle to win.  Also, at times, our offense seems to consist of our pg dribbling out the clock while looking for a play on his own.  It will be fascinating to see if we do adapt a different philosophy on offense based on our personnel.

After all of Howland's success, we should allow him that one rebuilding year.  This year, we must contend for the Pac-10.  As with last year, many experts predict that we finish 3rd in the conference, this time behind Washington (who only lost Pondexter) and Arizona.  With a healthier and more balanced squad, with an infusion of new talent a 2nd straight year, with the core of our team one year better, I think the conference can be won.  I think we can make a run in the tournament.  I hope.

By the way, Wooden's Den in the UCLA Athletic Center Hall of Fame is one of the coolest things I've ever seen.  For any Bruin fan, this is a must see.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Redeeming '89, '02

I know the Giants haven't won since moving to San Francisco in 1958, their last championship being the Willie Mays-led 1954 NY team.  And I know they lost the 1962 World Series in a 7 game series to the Yankees.  And I know that the Dodgers had won 3 championships from '59-'65 and another 2 in the 80s while the Giants sat idly by.  But for me, my baseball consciousness started in the mid '80s.


The Bay Area Series in 1989 was the watershed moment for me when it came to baseball allegiances.  After all the success of the 49ers in the 80s, I was not really feeling deprived of sports championships.  So the A's loss to the Dodgers in '88 was memorably upsetting, but for whatever reason didn't lead me to automatically root for the feel good story of the A's in '89 Series.  In fact, highlights of that Gibson HR probably irks me more now in my 13 years of living in LA than it did at the time, mostly because I hate seeing Dodgers do well.

(By the way, I think Dodger Stadium is a dump.  The park holds no appeal to me at all.  It doesn't have the classic history of a 20s or 30s park but is too old to be interesting now.  I dislike that the outfield pavilion is completely separate from the rest of the park, but its definitely a welcome feature since its filled nightly with degenerate and violent Dodger fans.  Most baseball parks have family friendly outfield sections, Dodger stadium uses its as a penitentiary to keep away from the general public.  Oh, and Dodger dogs suck too.  Try the food at AT&T park and talk to me then.)

Anyway, I can only think of 3 reasons why I was a Giants fan instead of and A's fan back then:

1) I hate green.  To me it just looked ugly, probably because my childhood soccer club teams always wore green and yellow.  Come to think of it, my high school colors were green and gold too.  Comparatively, the classic black/white/gray with a dash of orange was infinitely cooler.

2) I was born in SF.  Since I grew up in Sacramento, this fact was a deep source of pride for me.  Plus, I was already a huge 49ers fan.

3)  Will Clark.
 Yeah, McGwire, Canseco, Steinbach, Henderson and Dave Stewart were huge heroes back then - especially Dave Stewart - but there was just something about the way Will Clark quietly and confidently went about his business.  He had the sweetest swing too.
Kevin Williams, Brett Butler, and Matt Williams were other key players that I remember.  Interestingly, I don't recall any of the pitchers that well.

So, all that to say, losing the Bay Bridge Series to the A's was a shock to the system.  SF teams weren't SUPPOSED to lose.


In the 90s, Matt Williams took over as my favorite Giant after Will Clark left.  Of course the Barry Bonds era which began in '93 really took over the national limelight during the 2001 HR season.  But it seemed like just about every time I went to Dodger Stadium for a Giants game from 98-04, Barry would hit a bomb.  He was the most reliable performer I had ever seen.  Maybe not the nicest, but definitely the most reliable.  I'm pretty sure I saw at least 2 or 3 of his 73 HRs in 2001.

Anyway, when the Giants finally got past the NLCS again to advance to the Series vs the Angels, I dreamed of going to see my team at the World Series.  Imagine my surprise when I didn't even have to go through a broker or scalp for tix.  Nope.  Got them from Ticketmaster at face value.  Only clicked away on the site for an hour or so before scoring paper gold.

Center field, just left of the waterfall/rock design at Angel Stadium, near the top of the section - that's where I saw my first (and maybe only) World Series game.  Having been to Dodger stadium and barely escaped with my life every time, my wife (then gf) and I were expecting a hostile reception.  Angel fans couldn't be nicer.  I think I got tapped with a thunder stick a couple times, thats about it.  Bonds hit a towering HR to right field that game and my Giants were off to a great start.  At least I saw a win.  Remember how that Series ended?  A 5-0 lead in the 7th inning of the clinching 6th game was not enough.  We choked away that game, we lost the next game, we lost the freakin World Series.

Still, my favorite player from that Giants era also provided the best moment - JT Snow alertly grabbing Dusty Baker's toddler out of the way of a home plate collision in Game 5 of the Series.


Its fitting that this is the team that won instead of the Bonds/Kent squad.  This team is devoid of big hitters and the big egos that accompany them.  The offense on this team are a collection of "misfits and cast-offs" - guys like Cody Ross, Aubrey Huff, Edgar Renteria and Andrew Torres, who don't light the league on fire with their bats (aside from Games 1 and 2) but took turns getting clutch hits and scoring just enough to win.  Our cleanup hitter, Buster Posey, is a rookie catcher with exuberance and earnestness to spare.  The team spirit in this crew made them so likable and easy to root for.

But the true stars in this Series are obviously the pitchers led by 2 time CY Young winner Tim Lincecum, another ace in Matt Cain, youngster Madison Bumgarner, and the intense black-bearded closer, Brian Wilson.  The most amazing thing about this staff is that they are home-grown (drafted and developed by the Giants farm system), not purchased or rented off the market.

Basically, we won it the right way and for me, erased the bitterness of '89 and '02.  Giants fans may never have such a perfect championship team again in our lifetime.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

World Series Game 5: Lincecum finishes it

Giants 3 - Rangers 1

Just unbelievable.  I'll get to the game first.  How fitting is it that after Cain's and Bumgarner's dominant performances, Giants ace Tim Lincecum is the one who finishes it off.  Pitted against Cliff Lee again, most experts were predicting that the series would be won back in SF.  After all, is it possible that the best offense in baseball gets shut down again at home?  Is it possible that Cliff Lee loses two World Series games in a row?  Is it possible that the Giants can dominate this series 4 games to 1?  Smart money was on a Game 6.

Lincecum proceeded to pitch 8 dominant innings and finished with 3 hits and 10 strikeouts.  He could've pitched a complete game but it wouldn't have felt complete without a Brian Wilson showing.  His only mistake was to give up the Cruz HR.  Cliff Lee, on the other hand, gave up 6 hits and only struck out 6.  So while the story of the Series is about how the Giant's pitching was superior to the Rangers' #1 offense, it must be remembered that Lincecum beat Lee twice, including the Series clincher.

We should also not overlook the surprising Giants' offense - in these 5 games, they outscored Texas 29-10.  Unbelievable.  11 runs in Game 1, 9 runs in Game 2, 2 runs in Game 3, 4 runs in Game 4, and 3 runs in Game 5.  After the Rangers' 7 runs in the first game, which I thought was a omen of things to come, they then got shutout twice (again after being shutout only 5 times in 162 regular season games), scored 4 in winning Game 3, and scored 1 run in the elimination match.  Think about it.  In 2 games in a pitcher's park, the Giants scored 20 runs.  At home in a hitter's park, the Rangers scored 5 total in 3 GAMES.

In Game 5, Edgar Renteria emerged the hero, his 3 run HR was all the Giants needed on the night.  The 7th inning lead-up to it was equally memorable - Ross slapped a base hit up the middle, Uribe powered a line drive into center, and Aubrey Huff, who had never laid down a sacrifice bunt in his entire 5,505 career at bats, put down a perfect sacrifice bunt up the first baseline on his first try.  Though Burrell struck out again, Renteria redeemed him with a HR more meaningful to SF fans than any of Barry Bond's 586 blasts as a Giant.

Monday, November 1, 2010


NFL Week 8 Predictions / Results

Dolphins at Bengals - Cincy takes it in a low scoring slugfest.  X
Jaguars at Cowboys - Kitna plays decently in first start.  X
Redskins at Lions - Stafford takes advantage of CJ and Best in his return.
Bills at Chiefs - Shocker special, Bills' prolific offense gets first win at very unlikely place.  X
Panthers at Rams - Panthers won't get another win for awhile.
Packers at Jets - Rodgers' offense is not hitting on all cylinders.  X
Broncos vs 49ers - Broncos are mad.  49ers are starting Troy Smith for a reason I don't get.  X
Titans at Chargers - SD is #1 in offense and defense.  They finally win a big game.
Seahawks at Raiders - Error filled game swings Oakland's way.
Vikings at Patriots - Favre will play, Peterson will win it.  X
Buccaneers at Cardinals - Bucs win an unwatchable game.
Steelers at Saints - Who knows which Saints team will show up?  Going with the Steelers.  X
Texans at Colts - Peyton, minus Collie and Clark, gets revenge for 1st game beatdown anyway.

Week 8 record: 6-7

Season record: 65-52

Jeremy Lin - A second night of firsts

Jeremy Lin played non-garbage minutes last night, entering in the 3rd quarter to applause from the Lakers crowd.  He logged 16:10 minutes of game time in total.  My favorite Jeremy moment was when he dove on the ground to steal the ball from under Odom's legs and from there, fed a teammate for a layup.

While he didn't shoot particularly well (1-5), he scored his first 2 NBA points on a breakaway layup.  He also snagged 4 more steals, dished his first 3 NBA assists and even grabbed his first rebound.  And though the Warriors got blown out by 24 points, they were plus 3 when Jeremy was on the court.  He was a big part of the 12-1 3rd quarter run and hopefully he gets more meaningful minutes while Curry's out.

Honestly, other than this Lin story and whether the Kings can make the playoffs with their young squad, the NBA has very few interesting story lines for me this year.  We all know that the Lakers will win the Western Conference with little to no resistance.  In the finals, they'll play either the Celtics or the Heat.  Wake me up then.

World Series Game 4: Bumgarner shutout - 3 down, 1 to go

Lose this 4th game, and the Giants would have surrendered a 2-0 lead and all the momentum they had built up to this point.  It would have been a whole new best of 3 series.  Game 3's loss was not devastating as they only lost in a 4-2 match that merely represented the resistance that you'd expect in a World Series.  But losing Game 4 would have meant having to beat an angry Cliff Lee in order to avoid playing 2 elimination games.

But win this game and the Giants put a 3-1 stranglehold on the Rangers, forcing them to win 3 games in a row, including two in SF, to win it all.  This was the key game.  And the key player in this game would be Madison Bumgarner.  This 21 year old threw 8 shutout innings giving up only 3 hits and 2 walks.  How did he do this?  According to ESPN research, Bumgarner threw 21 first pitch strikes to the total 27 batters he faced.  He was ahead 0-1 to 20 of those hitters.  Awesome.  Its a whole lot easier to get outs when you're not pitching from behind the count.

Though SF didn't win this time with an overwhelming offense, they manufactured runs through both long balls (HRs from Huff and Posey) and consistent bats (Torres and Renteria had 3 hits each).

Amazingly, the Rangers were only shut out FIVE TIMES in the 162 game regular season.  The Giants have shut them out TWICE in 3 games.  Amazing.

One win away, holding my breath.