Saturday, February 27, 2010

With Drew II Considering Transfer, Wolfpack Recruit Ryan Harrow Considering Changing his Committment

UPDATE: Drew II has denied this rumor, specifying that he isn't even dating Eddie Murphy's daughter and proving that Brinson and Buster sports have no credibility whatsoever. Still I think this post is funny and I'm keeping it up.

Recently, reports have emerged from sports website Buster Sports that UNC point guard Larry Drew II is considering transferring after the season. You know Buster Sports is a credible source on the matter as its main writer, Will Brinson, is a diehard Wolfpack fan who hates the Tar Heels. Brinson's bio also claims that he "plays basketball with LeBron James and races with Dale Earnhardt" so you know he is in deep in the sporting world.

Unfortunately for Brinson just hours after he "broke" the story about Drew II transferring, 2010 NC State point guard recruit Ryan Harrow heard the news. Reliable sources in a relative proximity to the situation tell VFSS that Harrow now is seriously considering transferring away from NC State and committing to UNC. Harrow is claimed to have stated "I had always wanted to go to a school where I could compete for a national championship, I actually committed to NC State under the false assumption it was UNC. I quickly realized my mistake after UNC swept the season series this spring."

Until the Drew situation emerged there was not going to be much room on the roster for Harrow, who is a quick point guard who seems fitted to UNC's fast paced offense. While the decision to decommit may seem strange, there certainly is a precedent. Fellow member of the incoming freshman class C.J. Leslie decommitted from state this summer and is likely to end up at Kentucky or even UNC next year. Harrow seems excited about the opportunity to play for a contender. "I can't thank Brinson enough for bringing to light the situation, I really feel in his debt and will make sure to thank him when UNC plays State next year. He really gave me hope with regards to my college career."

Note: This piece is meant to be satirical and in no way has any truth to it whatsoever. The quotes as well as the situation are made up. It is intended as a humorous response to the "serious" report from a sports website (run by an NC State fan) which claimed "reliable sources close to the situation" (aka this one guy he read on a message board) were reporting Drew II was considering transferring. Frankly VFSS is most disappointed with the DTH which found fit to report this unsubstantiated rumor without evidence from any more reliable sources. I think this whole thing is a load of BS, so Larry please don't make me look stupid.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Life and Times (So Far) of the Charlotte Bobcats

While college basketball talk has run rampant on this blog for the past several months, I haven't touched on the NBA in quite some time. Other than my favoritism to college ball, part of the reason is that I am still becoming reacquainted with the NBA after pretty much abandoning it throughout most of the past decade (though honestly the era between the Jordan's second retirement from the Bulls up to the past couple years is one of the more forgettable eras in NBA history) As such I'm not familiar enough with all of the players to give insightful input on all the trades that went down around the deadline. Instead I figured now would be a good time to share my thoughts on the Charlotte Bobcats, who are fighting to make the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

Like many Charlotteans I was a big fan of the Hornets in the 90's and felt like the franchise was stolen from the city and moved to New Orleans. I think much of Charlotte viewed the Bobcats the same way a kid whose parent's had divorced would view his mother's new fiancee. It didn't help that the city decided to build a new arena despite the fact that its construction had been voted against by the citizens of Charlotte. The Bobcats seemed like impostors, trading a team named after a cool part of the city's history (see my post from this summer for more on stupid team names) for a team arguably named after the CEO of BET. In comparison to the Hornets, who in the 90's were among the best teams in the NBA in fan attendance, the Bobcats had a harder time selling tickets than Miley Cyrus at Ozzfest. However, there were certainly some redeeming qualities to the team. The ownership made a point to avoid the character issues that marred the Hornets late in their Charlotte existence as several players and more notably owner George Shinn ran into off the court issues. Additionally, Time Warner Cable Arena turned out to be one of the nicest venues in the NBA, even if it is never sold out.

The team itself got off to a semi-promising start despite a bad record in the inaugural season, as draft pick Emeka Okafor won the Rookie of the Year award and expansion draft pick Gerald Wallace emerged as one of the better players on an understandably weak roster. The next three years however were marred by a lack of significant improvement, poor decisions in the NBA draft. Michael Jordan, who became an partial owner (and now is bidding to buy the team from Bob Johnson) was accused of making team decisions on the golf course, the worst of which was drafting Adam Morrison over Brandon Roy in the 2006 draft. By the end of the 2007-2008 season, my apathy toward the franchise was at an all-time high.

Then in 2008, the Bobcats made what may have been their first step toward NBA relevance by hiring Larry Brown. Brown took no time in living up to his reputation as one of the most trigger happy coaches in NBA history when it comes to trades and quickly acquired Boris Diaw and Raja Bell in exchange for Jason Richardson and Jared Dudley. The team still lacked overall talent but finished the season strong and ended up with a franchise high 35 wins. My own interest in the team was trending upwards for the first time as the playoffs seemed like a legitimate possibility. Heck the team even altered the uniforms (2005 vs. 2009) which ditched a lot of the orange and now resemble the original Hornets Uniforms even more than the current New Orleans Hornets uniforms.

With an early trade that shipped away Raja Bell and Vlad Radmanovic for Stephen Jackson, the Bobcats finally added another legitimate scoring threat to pair with Wallace, who became the first player in the franchise's short history to make the NBA All Star Game. Sure, Jackson has a bit of a shady past and occasional attitude problems but Larry Brown is experienced enough to deal with Captain Jack. The Bobcats came on strong in December and January and are now making their first serious push at not only a spot in the playoffs but also a winning record. Before the trade deadline the team acquired Tyrus Thomas in exchange for Acie Law and Flip Murray. Regardless of whether you agreed with the deal the team has gotten undeniably more talented since Brown arrived. Just compare these two depth charts:

PG: Felton/McInnis
SG: Richardson/Carroll
SF: Wallace/ Dudley
PF: Hollins/Davidson
C: Okafor/Mohammed

2009 (as of Feb 23)
PG: Felton/Augustin
SG: Jackson/Augustin/Henderson
SF: Wallace/Graham
PF: Diaw/Thomas
C: Chandler/Mohammed/Ratliff

The team has upgraded at every position with the exception of center, where Chandler has been injured (though everyone knew the real value of the trade was avoiding Okafor's huge cap number for next season). The PF spot has been severely upgraded with the additions of Diaw and Thomas. Thomas has All-Star talent who can really make an impact on the defensive end and take some of the rebounding load off Wallace. Diaw has been a solid player who played better last season but over the past few games has stepped his play up, perhaps due to the acquisition of Thomas. Charlotte now has the potential to go small by putting Thomas at center and Diaw at power forward, which could cause matchup problems for a lot of teams. The loss of Flip Murray hurts, since he provided scoring and depth at guard. Going forward the Bobcats need D.J. Augustin who has been somewhat of a disappointment this season to step up his play. They also can't afford many bad nights from Stephen Jackson who had his worst game as a Bobcat in last night's loss to the Clippers.

A playoffs appearance would go a long way in getting the people of Charlotte invested in the team but as of today the team sits in 9th place (Milwaukee currently holding the tiebreaker against them). The Bobcats are in a four way race with the Bulls, Bucks, and Heat for the final three playoff spots in the east. The team will need to get tougher mentally and start winning more on the road if they hope to make the playoffs. Last Friday's win over the Cavs (which made the Bobcats the only team in the east to win the season series against LeBron and Co.) shows that finally the team has the talent to be a playoff contender. If they can sneak into the playoffs there will be a lot of teams hoping they don't have to match up with the Bobcats. And even more importantly it will be the first time in a long time the city of Charlotte can get legitimately excited about professional basketball.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Mini Post II: UNC Basketball

Note: This Mini Post is dealing primarily with Carolina Basketball. I will address the national title picture and all the good teams this year in an updated VFSS Elite Eight sometime next week.

In most aspects of life I consider myself to be pretty pragmatic but when it comes to my sports teams I'm perhaps the world's biggest optimist. In the last couple weeks of the NFL season I was still holding out hope that the Steelers would win out (which they did) and have a million things fall their way (which they did not) and sneak into the playoffs. Going into last Tuesday's GT game I was holding out hope the Heels could somehow go on a run and finish the season 8-8, which may just be good enough to sneak into the NCAA tournament if they could muster up a win or two in the ACC tournament. Thirty minutes into the game my hope for the season was finally destroyed. At 3-8 the Heels would have to win out in the remainder of the ACC schedule, and folks that just ain't going to happen. There is no way this team is winning at Duke or at Wake. Even if everything else goes right, that leaves UNC at 6-10 in the ACC. At that point the only way the team could get a NCAA tournament bid would be to win the ACC tournament. UNC has the same chance of winning the ACC tournament as any snowboarder not named Shaun White had of winning the gold medal in Wednesday night's halfpipe event. In other words, none.

So how do you deal with a year like this? From a fan's perspective I could go into detail about moving from how watching this team has gone from very exciting to borderline masochism, but fellow sports blog EJSIC has already posted a great piece on the UNC fan experience this season. From the players' perspective the main thing I want is for one of the underclassmen (ideally Larry Drew) to step up and get across the message to the rest of the team that he intends to keep fighting through the rest of the ACC schedule even though this season has been a disappointment and then win the NIT (sorry I just threw up in my mouth a little bit at the idea of UNC in the NIT) and end the season on a winning note. The most dangerous thing for next year's team will not be talent (the team will have 9-10 McDonald's All Americans depending on whether Davis leaves) but will be a lack of confidence carrying over from this season. In my opinion that is why it is so important for UNC to keep fighting and try to win the NIT (assuming they don't pull off a huge miracle and win the ACC tournament). For now UNC fans should just keep cheering for the team for the rest of the season and feel free to look at last year's trophy (pictured above) to make you feel better.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Mini Post I: Winter Olympics

Lets do a quick throwback the old school SAT verbal section with an analogy: The Winter Olympics is to the Summer Olympics as __________ is the the United States.

If you said Canada you answered correctly. No offense to Canada, I've been there on multiple occasions (mainly the western portion) and its a beautiful nation with some of the kindest most polite people in the world. That said, it also is constantly in the shadow of the United States and just lacks the overall attention and sense of importance the USA tends to carry (which in the past decade has not been a bad thing at all). So where better to have the Winter Olympics than the home of Hockey, Maple Syrup, and the Mounted Police.

Despite their residence in the shadow of the summer games, I actually like the Winter Olympics just as much. While they don't quite have the powerhouse sports such as basketball, tennis, track and field, swimming, and soccer (aka football to my non-American readers), there are also fewer sports I find mind-numbingly boring (table tennis I'm looking at you). Outside of the biathalon*, curling (see below clip), figure skating, and any segment featuring Chris Collinsworth (I've heard more than enough of him for a lifetime due to Madden 2010) I can turn on the TV during the Winter Olympics and pretty much enjoy any sport I'm watching. Hell I even may watch the figure skating now that Evgeni Plushenko from Russia has suddenly decided to channel his fictional countryman and Rocky IV villain Ivan Drago (can we please get a "If he falls...he falls" quote from Plushenko).
Skate Expectations - Curling Team Tryouts
The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorSkate Expectations

This year's winter games have certainly captured my interest. As I have done my fair share of ski on occasion I appreciate watching the difficulty of all the skiing and snowboarding events. Stephen Colbert managed to singlehandedly get me interested in speed skating with his successful fundraising campaign to sponsor the team. Plus Apollo Ono is probably the first athlete named Apollo since Apollo Creed (that's two Rocky references so far if you're keeping score at home). The luge and bobsled are cool because they are basically hardcore extensions of the winter sport we all have done, sledding.

However there are two events to me that are absolutely can't miss. The first is tonight's men's snowboarding halfpipe final featuring Shaun White. The man is the Michael Jordan of his sport, and I fully expect his run to be absolutely mind blowing. The second is men's hockey, where while I will be cheering for the USA, I can't deny the fact that the most fascinating potential matchup is Canada versus Russia. The two powerhouses of hockey pitting the two best hockey players in the world: Crosby and Ovechkin. The two players currently have the best individual rivalry in all of sports. And with Eric Stall and Evgeni Malkin as sidekicks, there is plenty of starpower outside of the pair. If Canada and Russia do meet make sure to watch. Its going to be like if Kobe and Howard decided to play on team Spain and faced LeBron, Wade and team USA in the Summer Olympics.

*Quick rant on the biathalon. If you are like me when you first hear of an event that combines guns and skiing, you immediately jump to every awesome Bond skiing scene. Instead you have a bunch of guys skiing in a circle around a relatively flat surface, coming to a stop and shooting at a target. Its the most un-epic combination of skiing and shooting possible. Can't we give them paintball guns instead, have them go down a slope, and shoot at each other a la Bond? THAT I would watch.