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Archive December 2007

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Trade Dwight Howard?

Posted by: Andre’ Snellings

The NBA regular season is extremely long, spanning six months and 82 games. Thus, the values of most players tend to fluctuate over the course of the season as they go through hot and cold periods. Even among the star players, there are generally periods of other-wordly play that contrast with periods of "just" great play. Only the mega superstars (just made that term up) can put up entire seasons of insane numbers with so few lesser games that they aren't even noticeable.

That leads me to this question: is Dwight Howard a mega superstar in the fantasy community? He played like one for the first six weeks of the season, and I definitely think that this won't even be a question by as soon as next season. But is he there yet?

I fully expect him to lead the NBA in rebounding this season, and he looks like a nightly threat to score 25 points with three blocks every night. But while he has shown that he can maintain this rebounding pace for entire seasons before, this is the first year he has put up scoring and defensive numbers like this. In real life, the Magic have built their whole team around him and are trying to ride him into championship contention...that is a lot of pressure. He showed that he could carry the load for that first six weeks, but over the last few the team and Howard have both slowed down a bit.

I put out there as food for thought that, if you can get someone to give you top-5 player in the league value for him, it might not be a bad time to deal Howard. I think he will be very good all season, but I don't know if he will be able to maintain the points and blocks at his current pace consistently for the next four months. Or, put another way, I don't believe that his value will ever be higher than it is now. It is risky to trade the best fantasy center in the league off of your roster, but if you get the right package back for him and he slows down it could be a chance worth taking.

So, I've just made an argument for trading arguably the most dominant force in the NBA. Do you agree? Disagree? Let me hear your thoughts...

The views expressed by RotoWire.com represent only the views of the writers; they do not represent the views of the NBA or any NBA team.

NFL Notes

Watching last Thursday’s game, it became clear that Santonio Holmes is more important to the Steelers’ offense than Willie Parker is…Marc Bulger was one of the five biggest busts in fantasy football this year…Steven Jackson seems to break off a big run every single week. He’s going to be an excellent value pick in fantasy leagues next year.

It seems so long ago, but do you realize Steve Smith had 15 catches for 271 yards and three touchdowns through two weeks this season? It rarely happens, but when both he and Jake Delhomme are healthy at the same time, he’s fantasy football’s best wide receiver…Terrell Owens had a big 2007, but fantasy owners should remember he faded down the stretch, is injury-prone and will turn 35 years old next season; he’ll probably go too high for my taste.

Over the last five games, Eli Manning has completed 79 of his 175 pass attempts, good for a 45 percent clip. His 6.2 YPA and 19:26 TD:turnover ratio are truly atrocious…There isn’t a bigger risk/reward player to draft in fantasy leagues next year than Brandon Jacobs…Tom Coughlin has officially passed Mike Shanahan as the league’s rushing guru, as he continuously produces huge numbers on the ground no matter who is toting the ball. Ahmad Bradshaw, anyone?

I’d argue that the Packers turned in one of the worst performances any team has all season long last Sunday…Who cares what Chicago’s record is with Kyle Orton starting at quarterback? That’s like saying what a good year the starting pitcher with a 4.65 ERA and 15-7 record had…It’s bad for the league that both Green Bay and Dallas appear to be limping into the postseason…If no competition is brought in, how high does Ryan Grant go in fantasy leagues next year?...Greg Jennings can’t make it past the early third round, either…How about Green Bay punter Jon Ryan’s day last week? He had two punts blocked, also dropped a snap and booted a 9-yarder, finishing with a 15.0 net.

I would be shocked if Rudi Johnson is back in a Bengals’ uniform next season…Derek Anderson has not been very good over the second half of the season, and the Browns would be wise to enter next year with both Anderson and Brady Quinn on the roster…I’m not sure what to make of Carson Palmer’s season, but he’s had one of the most disappointing campaigns in the league this year.

While not exactly Rocco Baldelli territory – after all, he’s set the bar at an almost unreachable height – Kevin Jones has become extremely injury-prone. He simply can’t be trusted…Playing for a bad team, Tony Gonzalez has quietly put together one of the best seasons of his career at age 31…Larry Johnson was someone to avoid in fantasy leagues this year coming off the record-setting 416 carry 2006 season, but this year’s injury may mean fresh legs for next year. The 3.5 YPC is a concern, but he’s still just 28 years old and a beast, so he may be a pretty good value pick in 2008.

If Andre Johnson isn’t selected within the first 15 picks during next year’s fantasy drafts, I’d be shocked…Peyton Manning is the best player in the NFL, but he simply can’t be drafted in the first three rounds of fantasy leagues. There are five QBs within five TD passes of his 31 scores and four other signal callers with more yardage. That position simply has to be waited on.

JaMarcus Russell has looked nothing short of terrible during his brief work in the NFL, and I hate to say I told you so, but that team would be sitting much prettier if they went Calvin Johnson over him instead…Maurice Jones-Drew didn’t live up to my high expectations this year, but I love him as a value pick next season with Fred Taylor’s strong finish in everyone’s mind. Taylor is about to turn 32 years old, which is ancient for a running back.

For those of you still playing fantasy football during Week 17, join a different league. That said, Pierre Thomas is my sneaky play of the week…New Orleans is my “bet of the week” Sunday for these reasons: 1)New Orleans was badly beaten last week while Chicago dominated 2)New Orleans actually does have something to play for 3)Chicago ended New Orleans’ season last year and 4)Kyle Orton is starting at quarterback for the Bears.

Anquan Boldin was flat-out dominant last week…Anyone who drafts Jerious Norwood in next year is going to hate Jason Snelling with a passion…If you prorate Kurt Warner’s stats from his 10 starts this season over a full 16-game slate, here are the results: 32 touchdowns and 30 turnovers.

With a decent defense, offensive line and running game, the 49ers would be solid with a competent quarterback. Shaun Hill may very well qualify…Patrick Willis had one of the most dominating games of the season Sunday, racking up 20 tackles, recording two sacks, defending one pass and forcing another fumble. It helps to play on a defense always on the field, but this kid is the real deal. He’s recorded 29 more tackles than anyone else in the NFL this season.

Ironic that Laurence Maroney was one of the best fantasy running backs during the two most crucial weeks of the season. Too bad most of his owners were likely already knocked out thanks in no small part to him…Tom Brady is going to go in the top-5 of an awful lot of fantasy drafts next year, but I’d advise against it. After a magical first half of the season (9.1 YPA, 30 TDs), he’s been only “great” since then (7.5 YPA, 18 TDs). A 35-touchdown season from a quarterback simply isn’t as valuable as a stud running back. Plus, this was hardly an anomaly how the inclement weather during Weeks 14-16 hurt his stats when it mattered most.

Is there a more overrated coach in sports than Brian Billick?...I hope D.J. Hackett ends up on a bunch of my fantasy teams next year…Do we really have to be subjected to the Todd Collins led Redskins in the playoffs? What’s that point spread going to be? Seattle minus 14?

I haven’t heard this talked about much, but the Madden cover jinx most certainly struck again this year…The Titans/Browns playoff scenario is one of the most bizarre things I’ve ever seen. The Browns could start me at quarterback and have essentially the same odds of making the playoffs (a tie isn’t going to happen).

Is there really even a debate regarding whom Washington should start during the playoffs? Jason Campbell got 6.5 YPA this season, while Todd Collins has gotten 8.7 with a 4:0 TD:INT ratio. If they are in the postseason, it also means the team went 4-0 with Collins starting. Campbell is going to be coming off a pretty serious knee injury. This one’s a no-brainer…Tarvaris Jackson is no friend of Adrian Peterson’s fantasy owners. He’s got to be able to pick apart defenses absolutely loading the box to stop the run.

With the secondary showing vast improvement and the running game working, it’s too bad Philip Rivers is quarterback for the Chargers. They’d be a very interesting team with someone else at the helm. As is, look for San Diego to get blown out Round 2 against the Colts…Brandon Marshall will enter 2008 as a top-30 fantasy player.

Picking in-season sleeper candidates

Back in October I wrote a blog about methods to use to pick sleeper candidates before your fantasy draft. The main methods were to look for either 1) young players with upside, 2) former stars that could bounce back from down years, or 3) players that have moved to new teams and could have new opportunities. Looking back on it now, I actually didn’t do too bad with my list of players that I generated as examples.

Fast-forward two months, and now everyone wants to pick up the next hot free agent before their league-mates beat them to it. So, I figured I’d adapt my preseason sleeper methods and see if I can apply it in-season. Here are a few names that I came up with:

1)Louis Williams, G, PHI (Young talent). Williams was drafted out of high school in 2005, and is starting to grow into his potential. He has had a few stretches of positive play already this season, but he hasn’t yet been given the keys to the team completely. But the 76ers seem extremely high on him, and once they are out of playoff contention he should get his chance to really see what he can do. I expect good things from him in the second half of the season.

2)Chucky Atkins, G, DEN (Former productive player). Atkins was never a star so he doesn’t fit exactly into my second category, but he has been a roto starter at times in his career and apparently my fellow bloggers like him as well this season. The Nuggets have struggled at point guard this season, and they have needed more outside shooting. Atkins could fill both of those needs when he gets healthy, and should take advantage of the open treys created by the opposing defense paying so much attention to Allen Iverson and Carmelo Anthony.

3)Nazr Mohammed, C, CHA (Follow the trade). I’m not fully convinced that Mohammed will be a roto starter in Charlotte, but he is a veteran player that has been productive in the past and he performed well in his first start with the Bobcats Wednesday night. Sometimes, with players that you thought were done as a fantasy producer, all it takes is a new situation to give their career a jump-start. We’ll see if that’s the case with Mohammed.

NFL Notes

I’m done with Denver Broncos running backs. The system isn’t even worth the headache anymore…Mario Williams was an absolute beast Thursday night…While an upgrade over Bryant Gumbel, Tom Hammond was being a little silly anointing Sage Rosenfels as Houston’s quarterback of the future. Matt Schaub is three years younger and got 7.8 YPA this season – truly elite territory…While it’s true quarterbacks make receivers and not vice versa, truly elite wideouts can be difference makers in the NFL, and Brandon Marshall is one of them – he’s a top-25 commodity in the National Football League.

San Francisco (+8.5) was the bet of the century last Saturday – in fact, I was a big advocate of taking the moneyline. Since Cincy has no running game and the league’s worst defense, that’s a truly awful team with Carson Palmer playing poorly…Will someone please explain to me why Shaun Hill was riding the pine in favor of Trent Dilfer? Mike Nolan simply has to go…If you’re still alive in your fantasy league, pick up Kenny Watson and start him this week at home against the Browns if Rudi Johnson (hamstring) sits.

Thankfully I wasn’t subjected to the Panthers/Seahawks game Sunday, when the two teams entered the fourth quarter tied 0-0. Seattle is still not a good road team…Will someone please explain to me why Matt Moore was riding the pine in favor of David Carr and Vinny Testaverde?

Phil Dawson is the man…I don’t care if the over/under is 70 – I’m taking the over on this week’s Bengals/Browns tilt…Marshawn Lynch is having a fine rookie season, but I’d like to see that 3.9 YPC move higher before aggressively recommending him next year.

I’m beginning to think this Chiefs team just isn’t very good…Vince Young has been a massive disappointment this season, but coming off Sunday’s impressive performance, he’s not a terrible start next week against the Jets…You can’t stop Rob Bironas, you can only hope to contain him.

It’s been beaten to death by now, but let me reiterate – Brian Billick should have been fired on the spot for kicking that field goal at the end of the fourth quarter Sunday. Is there a worse team in the NFL than the Ravens right now?...I will never draft a receiver named M. Clayton ever again, you have my word…I’m pretty upset Miami won’t be finishing 0-16 this year.

To call the Patriots’ underwhelming performance Sunday a letdown would be an understatement…How bad is Donte’ Stallworth? Playing on a team with a quarterback who’s thrown for 45 touchdowns, Stallworth has three scores on the year while staying healthy. The immortal Jabar Gaffney is currently getting more snaps than him.

I legitimately think the Saints are a better team the fewer carries Reggie Bush receives…Kurt Warner is having a fun season – over the past six games, he’s thrown for 15 touchdowns. He also has 14 picks over the last eight games…Do yourself a favor and don’t even think about selecting Edgerrin James in fantasy leagues next year – go after someone with upside instead.

The Jaguars proved they are one of the five best teams in football with a resounding win over the Steelers Sunday; they will be sending zero players to Hawaii for the Pro Bowl…How about David Garrard and Ben Roethlisberger combining for an ironic 5.2 YPA with six touchdown tosses.

I’m going to save my breath for the most part and only argue a few Pro Bowl selections, but did I really see Donald Driver made the team? Teammate Greg Jennings has 10 more touchdowns in two fewer games! No Charles Woodson either? What a travesty…Marc Bulger’s nightmare of a season cannot be understated – he’s been brutal this year.

Way to stick it to Bobby Petrino Falcons. I’m sure he’s really regretting moving on after that performance Sunday…Laurent Robinson led all Atlanta wide receivers with one catch for 18 yards…It’s safe to say Arthur Blank isn’t having the best year, with the Bill Parcells fiasco a cherry on top…There needs to be an inquest if Jerious Norwood doesn’t dominate the carries over the final two games of the season.

Amazing how every baseball player named in the Mitchell Report tried steroids just once.

Nnamdi Asomugha is the most dominating (and best) defensive player in the NFL and an unquestionably top-10 player in the league. The 32 tackles and one interception hardly tell the story, because it’s difficult to rack up stats when teams never throw your way. Entering last weekend, he had allowed a total of nine receptions through 14 games on the year. He guards the opposing teams No. 1 WR each week! Since I was at the Raiders/Colts game this past Sunday, I could watch what TV won’t allow, and let me tell you, this guy is no joke – he’s both physical (extremely hard to separate from at the line of scrimmage) and fast. The fact he didn’t make the Pro Bowl is a crime against humanity.

Did you guys hear that Jessica Simpson was at the Cowboys game Sunday?...One week after I was slurping Dallas as one of the greatest teams ever, they lay a goose egg against the Eagles, making me look bad in the process…Nice of Terrell Owens to choose two of the most important weeks in fantasy football to have his two worst weeks of the season…Back in high school, I used to frequently play basketball and flag football with Michael Gasperson, who was recently signed off the Eagles’ practice squad. That’s pretty cool.

Thanks for showing up, Antonio Gates…I still can’t figure out this Chargers team. They do a terrific job of blowing bad teams out while at home, but I don’t trust Philip Rivers as far as I can throw him. Still, they do have talent on both sides of the ball. My guess? Jacksonville goes to San Diego and kills them in round one of the playoffs.

Eli Manning had 34 incompletions Sunday. 34! No team in the league relies more on its line – both offensive and defensive – to win games than the Giants do…Jeremy Shockey hasn’t even come close to my expectations after his rookie season.

Monday night marked the second time this year that the Bears lost a game in which they were plus-four on the turnover ratio. That’s not very good…Words can’t describe how bad the quarterback play was with Kyle Orton and Tarvaris Jackson under center. Chicago’s offense could not have been more scaled back, and Orton flat-out missed an open Bernard Berrian streaking for what would have been the tying score late in the game…Right now, I’ll make the argument that the San Francisco 49ers have the better quarterback, running game, defensive line and secondary than the Chicago Bears do.

Keon Clark - Slamming While Slammed

This is one of the craziest sports stories I've read in a while.

I mean Eddie Van Halen claimed he was basically drunk for 10 straight years, but playing in a band isn't exactly the same thing as running up and down the floor.

When do you cut an injured player loose?

I am the commissioner of a league in which I allow owners to substitute players from the bench if they have a starter that misses at least half of their games in a given week. This week I got bombarded with sub requests, with most of the teams in the league asking me to do an injury substitution. Getting all of those requests really brought home something that I knew but hadn’t really paid attention to: there are a lot of big names missing time these days. Some of them are huge, long-term injuries (i.e. Elton Brand, Gilbert Arenas, Mike Bibby) while some are/have-been more of a day-to-day/week-to-week thing (i.e. LeBron James, Tim Duncan). But either way, having an impact player out hurt (obviously) puts a big damper on fantasy teams. And it’s worse now than it was a few years ago, since the NBA got rid of the injured list and now most fantasy owners can’t even pick up an injury replacement without dropping their injured star.

That raises a question: when should you drop a player? For instance, I am not in any league where Elton Brand, Mike Bibby, or Gilbert Arenas are available despite the fact that they are expected to be out until at least February (and could potentially miss the season). On the other hand, I picked up Randy Foye (out at least another month, knee) from the free agent wire in a league today and myself dropped Antonio Daniels (out 2 – 4 weeks, knee) in a different league despite the fact that they in theory should be back sooner. So who should get dropped, and why?

For me, it all comes down to risk/reward and whether your team can afford to let them sit on the bench. Daniels was an adequate starter as an injury replacement, but even when healthy he isn’t going to win many leagues for you. And that particular team of mine is struggling, so I couldn’t afford to wait. That is why I let him go, despite the fact that he could be back in just a couple weeks. Foye, on the other hand, is more of an unknown, and I believe he’s more worth taking a chance on as his upside is to be an impact player. Makes the risk worthwhile.

If you’ve got one of the big boys like Brand or Arenas you likely can’t cut them. Let me rephrase, because I’ve actually seen it done…you probably SHOULDN’T cut them. They are just too good, and if/when they come back they most certainly can win a league for you. Of course, if your team is struggling and you just need some production…still don’t cut them. Instead, find someone in your league to trade you 75 cents on the dollar for them. 75% of Gilbert Arenas is still likely better than anyone that you can get on the FA wire, and the person that you’re dealing with could be getting a first-round pick in just a couple of months in exchange for someone they may- or may-not have been starting.

In closing: injuries can really put a hurt on a team. But the difference between a good playoff fantasy team and a lottery one is an owner that can roll with the punches, do the most that they can with their bad luck and still come out on their feet. And honestly…overcoming these stumbling blocks is what makes the game fun!

Moneyball or Steroid-Ball?

Interesting article on the relationship between the two. Specifically, whether the A's emphasis of on-base guys at the expense of scout-recognized power was in part due to the possibility of adding power later through roids.

NFL Notes

I keep hearing how Jason Campbell looks so good, but the guy hasn’t gotten more than 6.4 YPA in a game since Week 5, and Todd Collins was an immediate upgrade when he came into Thursday’s game…The Bears need a running back…Kyle Orton is overrated. So he drinks Jack Daniel’s – big deal. All that makes him any different is that he’s dumb enough to be photographed. Oh, and as a player, he’s simply beyond horrific (51.6 completion percentage, 5.1 YPA for his career).

I have no idea why I keep picking the Dolphins ATS. This team is historically bad. Last week they allowed a rookie QB who entered with a 1:5 TD:INT ratio throw four scores without a pick and two Buffalo RBs to eclipse 100 rushing yards…John Beck may very well not be the long-term answer at quarterback; in fact, odds are he’s not. However, we don’t know for sure after only four starts, so Miami’s decision to start Cleo Lemon Sunday is egregious. Why let a silly thing like going in the history books as the first 0-16 team take precedence over the future of a $900 million franchise?

Carson Palmer has been absolutely awful the last two weeks and is in the midst of his worst season as a pro. The Bengals as an 8.5-point road favorite this week is a joke…This week in Triple-D 2.0 – DeDe Dorsey is averaging a whopping 9.1 YPC this season…If you take away one third quarter run, Steven Jackson gained 37 yards on 17 carries against the soft Bengals’ defense last week.

While I’m not even close to giving up on him, Shaun McDonald is currently a better wide receiver than Calvin Johnson…While probably the third best team in the NFL right now, this Dallas squad would have almost certainly won the last three Super Bowls…As sure as Drew Peterson is guilty, Marion Barber is the superior running back to Julius Jones.

With last week’s matchup with Oakland in the books and upcoming tilts against St. Louis and Chicago, you get the feeling Ryan Grant is going to be on a lot of winning fantasy teams this year…With tickets to this week’s Colts/Raiders game, I’m going to have to do some serious tailgating to make it watchable. I’ll put the over/under on Joe Addai TDs at 2.5.

Earnest Graham is an unstoppable force…As crazy as it sounds, I’m starting Sage Rosenfels during a Week 15 fantasy playoff game this week…I can’t believe how frequently quarterbacks get killed when sliding feet first. It’s almost as if defenders don’t realize he’s down without being touched. The rule actually ends up typically leaving QBs in the most vulnerable position possible. Flags rarely get thrown when it happens, too.

Reggie Williams is averaging an astounding 11.5 yards per target this season. To put that into perspective, Reggie Wayne led the NFL with 9.5 YPA last season…I can’t believe how good Fred Taylor has been over the past three weeks. I refused to ever touch him again in a fantasy league after his groin fell off the bone the year I took him early, but he’s proven to be extremely durable as he’s gotten older.

While never practicing, Plaxico Burress often has poor first quarters, but his step appeared to be sprier last week – just in time for the fantasy playoffs…Donovan McNabb only throwing multiple touchdowns in two games this season looks especially bad when you consider he has quite possibly the most difficult running back to game plan against at his disposal…The Giants are 9-4 and haven’t beaten a single team with a winning record this season.

In a battle of attrition, Vince Young vs. Philip Rivers was one of the uglier quarterback duals of the season…Kerry Collins finished with -0.7 YPA Sunday…Antonio Cromartie is having a rather odd season – his nine interceptions lead the NFL, but his 27 tackles rank 171st among defensive backs.

Adrian Peterson’s box score last week was the most surprising of the year…In the history of the NFL, no team had ever had two different defensive tackles have interceptions in the same game. Minnesota had three different DTs pick off the 49ers Sunday…If I’m an NFC team, I do not want to see the Vikings in January…Your guess is as good as mine as to why Shaun Hill wasn’t playing over Trent Dilfer to begin with.

Gutsy performance from Larry Fitzgerald last week…Bryant Johnson was held to just one catch, but he was targeted nine times and has scored in consecutive games, making him a fine fantasy start this week if Anquan Boldin (toe) remains sidelined. New Orleans’ secondary is very inviting…Kurt Warner has thrown 12 touchdowns over the past five games. He’s also been picked off eight times over the last three contests. His fantasy value relies heavily on your league’s scoring system.

The Steelers aren’t even in the same stratosphere as this Patriots team…How is the spread not in the 30 range against the Jets? New England’s average margin of victory at home this season is 23.5 points, the Jets are one of the worst teams in the league, and the whole spygate factor is a legitimate thing. New England should just go for two after every touchdown…Tom Brady is officially the most unlikable player in sports.

Nothing’s more frustrating than having a fantasy season end at the hands of Mike Shanahan, but so was the case for me when I started Travis Henry over Selvin Young last week. Then again, I fully admit I was asking for it in the first place…That said, giving Young the heavier workload was the right move, and he should continue to do so. But why must Shanahan insist on being so secretive? Would the Chiefs have really game planned differently knowing Young was starting over Henry?...Brandon Marshall is ill…Jay Cutler will unquestionably enter 2008 as a top-10 fantasy quarterback.

I don’t have much to say regarding the Browns/Jets game, but these Levitra commercials drive me crazy. Listen, erectile dysfunction is nothing to joke about, and if I had it, I highly doubt I’d refer to it by a cute pet name such as “E.D.” It just seems a bit miscast as an abbreviation.

Very frustrated I took Baltimore and the points last week – that game had letdown written all over it after the Ravens nearly beat the Pats the week before. At least my boy Anthony Gonzalez came through…How about Peyton Manning’s line? He threw for 249 yards and four scores – all on just 13 completions…Is it just me, or are there an inordinate amount of terrible quarterbacks in the league right now?

The Saints are a better team with Aaron Stecker at running back than they were with Reggie Bush…Forget the Tuesday resignation, Bobby Petrino should have been fired on the spot after punting on 4th and 10 down by 20 points with 2:15 left on the clock. You are trying to tell me that decision gave Atlanta the best chance of winning that game? Good riddance…It’s safe to say Arthur Blank’s MNF interview didn’t go over so well…Believe it or not, Drew Brees has thrown just three fewer TD passes this season compared to last with three more games still to play.

Bobby Petrino Really Made Arthur Blank Look Like a Jackass

It's hilarious that less than 24 hours after Blank was on Monday Night Football saying that he was even happier with Petrino than when he hired him (because of how well he's dealt with adversity), Petrino quit on him. You'd have to think that Blank had no idea that that was coming - otherwise, why say that on MNF?

The biggest joke is that somehow Petrino was entitled to be unhappy because of the Michael Vick situation, but Vick was not going to lead the Falcons to their next deep advance into the playoffs anyway, so the team's long-term outlook was better without him given their higher draft picks and chance to build around a QB with more upside.

Confessions of a Boston Fan

I’m going public. I’m a Boston sports fan. I know everyone hates the Pats and the Sox. And that hatred is spread to the Celtics. Who knows, maybe there are some Revolution bashers out there. Hey, I can understand the hatred. I hated the Cowboys and the America’s Team thing. I get it. If it means anything to you, I hate the Red Sox Nation crap. I like Jerry Remy, the game analyst; I hate Jerry Remy, the shameless huckster of products on his crappy Web site. And dynasties are boring. As I got sick of San Francisco winning Super Bowls, I grew to hate their success. I enjoyed their demise. The Germans have a word for it.

The transference of that hatred to the Celtics is interesting. I think ESPN went overboard with one of their stupid polls, asking people if they want to see Kevin Garnett blow out his knee, but I can see where people would resent Boston’s sudden status. It might be a desire to hate everything Boston, but I wonder if any of it has to do with Danny Ainge stumbling into a contending team? While I was happy when the C’s acquired Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, something inside me felt cheated. It was artificial. I’ve seen the ultimate organization, the Patriots, build a team and create a formula for being competitive in a salary-capped era. Red Sox 2004 was sweet for obvious reasons, but the 2007 team had key contributions from players who came through the farm system. And there’s more prospects coming up. Another example of a good organization. I’ve grown accustomed to this in a sports franchise. Ainge was saying all that stuff about building an organization when he was hired, then he proceeded to bollocks up draft picks, while Doc Rivers couldn’t develop the kids. Then one summer, Ainge creates a contending team overnight. Yeah, he gets points for realizing things weren’t working as is, and blowing up the rebuild to get KG. But it lacked something.

Those were my thoughts during the summer. After watching them streak to a league-best 17-2 record, I don’t care how the team was built. I’m enjoying the success. I had some concerns initially about Paul Pierce relinquishing shots. But as the new Big Three have played for a quarter of the season, Pierce isn’t yakking up those stupid shots any more. And he actually looks happy. Pierce often plays with a scowl, but who wouldn’t after playing with the ne’er-do-wells he’s been saddled with the last few seasons. The national narrative said they were top-heavy with a thin frontcourt and bench, a poor-shooting point guard who had never led a team this talented. I was on board with Rajon Rondo’s shooting and the frontcourt, but Eddie House and James Posey are good, veteran role players. And when Tony Allen gets fully healthy, there are plenty of players on the second unit.

After last night’s game against Chicago, all those worries should be exorcised. The Bulls were coming off a nice win against Detroit and were looking to make an early statement at home. It was a tight affair that Boston eventually turned into a double-digit lead before the Bulls closed late with an 11-0 run. But Garnett shimmied and shaked, before nailing a money fadeaway to end Chicago’s hopes. Rondo was 9-of-13 on the night and is shooting 55 percent from the floor this season. There are some experienced ballhandlers (Ray Allen, Pierce) on the roster, so Rondo may never average eight assists per game, but his 5.1:1.8 A/TO ratio is fine by me. Pierce, on a night when he was 1-of-8, once again led the team in assists with seven and is the team’s overall leader in that category with 5.4 per game. His shots and scoring are down, but he willingly gives up the ball these days. When Kendrick Perkins got into early foul trouble, there was Big Baby stepping in with eight points and 12 boards. He’s earning himself a spot in the rotation. Conditioning is a factor, but they can run him for 20 minutes a night. And his bulk makes him impossible to move near the basket. Posey added 11 points as Boston’s bench outscored the Bulls despite 18 from Andres Nocioni. They get 17.5 points per game from Posey and House in 20 minutes. Throw in the league’s best defense in terms of points allowed, and I’m a happy guy. They may not be built in the Belichick way, but I’m having fun.

Elsewhere

Bobcats coach Sam Vincent is pleading with his team to give Emeka Okafor the ball more and for Okafor to shoot more. In Charlotte’s first game since Vincent’s outburst, Okafor took 13 shots and got the line 14 times while the team overall took 17 less 3-pointers. And the ‘cats snapped a seven game losing streak. It looks like feeding Okafor, and not taking heaving it from long distance, is the first offensive strategy... It’s getting’ downright dysfunctional in Miami, but keep an eye on Daequan Cook and Dorell Wright. The small forward du jour is Wright, who scored 19 points and grabbed 17 rebounds in Friday’s loss to Golden State. Pat Riley’s rotations can swing wildly, but he seems to have hit on a small lineup featuring Udonis Haslem at center along with D-Wade, Cook, Wright and Ricky Davis. The same unit had some success in turning around a deficit against Portland a night earlier. Wright began the season as a starter and it wasn’t long before he was out of the rotation. However, now he gets to start with Wade on the floor and that makes a difference. Wright’s a good rebounder, but needs to develop consistency as a shooter. Cook is a scorer and is getting regular minutes in the rotation. Riley said he deserves to keep playing and the rookie has four double-digit scoring games since emerging in the rotation six games ago. He bricked a 1-for-8 night against the Warriors on Friday, but he’s a scoring threat on a team ranked 28th in the league in points scored... In New Orleans, coach Byron Scott is not enamored of his bench and will give Julian Wright an opportunity. And with injuries to Peja Stojakovic (groin) and Morris Peterson (back), the rookie may need to do more than just hold is own. He’s not the shooter that Peja is, so temper your expectations, but he’s a skilled player who can move the ball, finish and drive by bigger 3s. His playing time will come at the expense of Rasual Butler. Peterson’s back injury gives more playing time to Butler and Jannero Pargo. Butler may start against the taller shooting guards, but he’s been struggling from the field... Fred Jones has moved ahead of Mardy Collins and Nate Robinson on the depth chart and is the primary back up to both Jamal Crawford and Stephon Marbury. He's not a great shooter, but can create points off drives, dunks and finishes. He's averaged 35.7 minutes and 12.3 points in the last three games.

UNDEFEATED

Tonight, I have Mayweather over Hatton in a unanimous decision. Something like 116-112. I’d like to see Hatton win, and his style (body puncher) is actually a perfect fit against Pretty Boy. However, Mayweather is just so much faster and possibly the best defensive boxer ever. Hatton is going to have to knock him out – he doesn’t stand a chance if it gets to the cards, which it almost certainly will. Mayweather in yet another, mostly boring, decision. Thoughts?

Offensive Line and Team Defense Grids

I hope people are aware of these two features:

Offensive Line Grid

and

Team Defense Grid

Both are so important in both real and fantasy football analysis, and this is as thorough and comprehensive as you'll find.

Just want to make sure readers are taking full advantage of this content as it's hard to properly promote everything we have sometimes.

Also worth a look are the updated red-zone and target stats.

Celtics Settling Into Their Roles

About a month into the season the new-look Celtics seem to be settling into their team roles. Whereas Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen all took turns posting big games over the first few weeks of the season, in recent weeks they have settled into a more common pecking order. They each average about 20 ppg, but now they are all likely to be within a few points of that if the game is close whereas if it is a blowout one or more of them may score single digits. They each take turns in the offense, so there don’t appear to be many 40-point explosions on the horizon for any of them.

Pierce has become the primary offense initiator. He seems to expend the most effort among the three on offense, handling the ball the most and doing the most dribbling in the half-court set. This leads to him getting the most assists opportunities of the crew. Garnett, on the other hand, seems to be embracing a role as more of a traditional score or swing the ball big man. His assists numbers have really fallen in the past weeks, though if they gave a stat for “most-screens-set-that-led-to-open-shots-for-teammates” he’d be among the league leaders.

Garnett has taken ownership of the defense. He seems to spend most of his energy at this end of the floor, and he leads the team in boards, blocks, and steals. But unlike in seasons past with the Timberwolves, Garnett is getting plenty of help in all three areas so he isn’t posting as dominant of numbers as he seemingly could. Pierce also chimes in with good steals numbers.

Allen seems to have become the security blanket for Celtics Coach Doc Rivers. While he doesn’t own one end of the court the way Garnett and Pierce do, he is the one getting the most minutes. He is asked to be the back-up point guard when Rondo is on the bench, he is often guarding the best offensive wing on the opposing team, and he is the bail-out option on offense when everything breaks down (i.e. when in doubt, kick it out to Ray for a 3-pointer).

So what is the end result? In recent weeks all three are playing slightly fewer minutes, but Garnett is playing a lot fewer minutes (34 per night over the last 9 games). Also, all are ceding some of the things that they are good at to the other two to make the team run smoother and perhaps stay fresher. This might help them in their post-season aspirations, but for fantasy purposes this could lead to small downgrades in the roto rankings for all three of them moving forward.

NFL Notes

Chris Redman, Tyler Thigpen, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Vinny Testaverde, Gus Frerotte, Josh McCown and Sage Rosenfels all saw significant snaps from the quarterback position Sunday, as more and more teams struggle with the most important spot on the field. Speaking of which, how was Luke McCown behind Bruce Gradkowski on the depth chart to begin with? Is the QB position really THAT hard to evaluate during practice? Considering Cleveland started Charlie Frye over Derek Anderson to begin the year, and Tom Brady and Tony Romo may still be backups if not for injuries/ineptitude, apparently it is.

Words can’t describe how truly awful Trent Dilfer was Sunday…With a more innovative approach installed in making sure he touches the ball, Steve Smith is going to be a fantasy factor from here on out…Frank Gore managing 111 yards while playing behind such a despicable offense is a testament to how truly special of a back he is.

While the timing was suspect, the Jaguars clearly made the right choice in picking David Garrard over Byron Leftwich. Jacksonville is still no better than the fourth team in the AFC, but Garrard’s emergence (7.9 YPA) really makes this team interesting moving forward…As leader of the MJD bandwagon, I’ll be the first to admit Fred Taylor has exceeded my expectations this year…Hopefully, Reggie Wayne’s big season can officially end the silly debate regarding whether it’s good or bad to have a strong WR on the opposite side. More targets = more production…Anthony Gonzalez was held to just one catch Sunday, but he was stopped just short of the end zone once and had another TD called back by penalty. I’d be surprised if Marvin Harrison returns during the regular season, so treat Gonzalez as a sneaky flex play right now.

Call me crazy, but not only is Kolby Smith a big upgrade over Priest Holmes, but I actually think he’s looked better than the 2007 version of Larry Johnson…Rare does a player record two sacks and score an offensive touchdown in the same game but so was the case with Jared Allen Sunday…LaDainian Tomlinson is having a fine fantasy season, but consistency hasn’t been a theme. He’s gotten 48 percent of his total rushing yards and 64 percent of his total rushing TDs for the year during three games this season.

The Dolphins are really risking becoming the first 0-16 team in league history by starting John Beck the rest of the season. That said, it’s the right thing to do. It gives him valuable experience and the team a better chance at the No. 1 pick in the draft…If you go to Yahoo’s boxscore for the Jets/Dolphins game, listed under Miami’s “top performer,” you’ll find this: Lorenzo Booker – 1 rush, 6 yds…In hindsight, maybe an 0-11 team shouldn’t have been favored last week…When asked if he minded someone else joining his 1972 undefeated club, former Dolphin Mercury Morris responded: “A husband always needs a wife.” Bravo, Morris, bravo.

The Vikings outrushed the Lions last week 216 to 23…If I were in a keeper-league, I’d trade my entire roster for Adrian Peterson…I hate to jump on everyone’s new favorite bandwagon team, but Minnesota does become interesting with the way Tarvaris Jackson has played of late.

As someone who watches way too much television, this writers strike is killing me, as I can’t take another week without “The Office,” which has become the best non-cable sitcom since “Seinfeld.” Although the British version is better, however.

Despite Donovan McNabb’s mediocrity, there will be no QB controversy in Philly after A.J. Feeley’s brutal performance Sunday. How can someone look so good the week before, yet so awful seven days later?...I’ve heard more than a few people talk about how much better Shaun Alexander ran Sunday, but those pesky stats certainly reveal otherwise. So did my own two eyes.

I don’t care if Jerious Norwood blocks as poorly as I would, he simply has to see the majority of carries from here on out. When carrying the football this season on a per play basis, he’s gotten literally twice as many yards as Warrick Dunn…Roddy White is currently one of the best wide receivers in the league. Now, if only Atlanta can find someone to throw to him.

For some reason, I find Chris Brown as one of the more exciting guys to watch run the football. He must have been told to watch his posture quite a bit as a kid, as the guy could not run more upright. Very awkward looking…Matt Schaub’s laundry list of injuries this season has become a long-term concern…That’s three straight impressive games passing by Vince Young…Mario Williams is officially the more valuable commodity than Reggie Bush.

“Detlef Schrempf” by Band of Horses has to be one of my favorites songs of the year.

The Redskins have allowed an NFL-best two runs of 20 yards or more this year. One came when the team opened with just 10 men on the field to honor Sean Taylor last week…What more can be said about Joe Gibbs calling back-to-back timeouts at this point? It’s safe to say his legacy has been tarnished.

I was dead wrong regarding Jamal Lewis’ fantasy value this season…Regarding the game-ending Kellen Winslow play – why in the world is the shoved out of bounds rule not able to be reviewed? That seems like one that an extra look would be especially useful, and it’s not quite the same judgment call like pass interference either.

If a fantasy draft were held today, Justin Fargas would be a first round pick…I understand why they don’t, but it sure would be interesting to see Denver select a RB high in the draft.

Why are referees always so reluctant to call safeties? Luke McCown was tackled about three yards in the end zone Sunday, and they huddled for five minutes before making the right call…Is there anyone more annoying than Mike Greenberg?...If previews for the upcoming final season of “The Wire,” with the teaser “McNulty is drinking again,” don’t get your heartbeat racing with excitement, I suggest you take a long look in the mirror and re-evaluate your life.

Chicago leads the NFL in drops this year, and none was more excruciating than Devin Hester’s Sunday…Speaking of, never has a special teams player affected games as much as Hester currently does. Joe Buck said the Giants won in part thanks to “controlling Devin Hester.” Well, it’s easy to control him when half of your second half kickoffs go out of bounds…The Bears scored a touchdown in the first quarter for the first time all season last week.

If there’s a more disappointing player in the NFL this year than Willie Parker, I can’t think of him…Chad Johnson running a 14-yard out and then stepping out of bounds voluntarily on a fourth and 17 play was a microcosm of this horrific, no-good, terrible Bengals team. The clueless look on his face at least gave dumbfounded Cincy fans some solace.

This Patriots defense is definitely vulnerable…Why choose the game versus Baltimore, who entered leading the league in YPC against, to run Laurence Maroney so much? I try not to make a habit of questioning Bill Belichick, however, as maybe Tom Brady’s health was of more concern Monday…Speaking of Monday Night Football and ESPN, Emmitt Smith has gone from butt of the joke to utterly unwatchable. I seriously cringe watching him butcher the English language. By all accounts and purposes, he’s a nice guy. But please, someone put him (and me) out of our misery.

Johan Santana is the best pitcher in baseball, but whoever comes away with Erik Bedard will be the big winners of the Hot Stove League. He’s younger, cheaper and a left-hander who was leading the league in strikeouts while pitching in the AL East before going down to injury last year, which ended up limiting his innings. He also won't cost nearly as much in return to get him, especially after he essentially said he's done pitching in Baltimore after his contract expires. If Bedard gets dealt to the NL, I will be drafting him in the first round of fantasy leagues this year.

I’m a big fan of Alex Rios’ potential, but if Brian Sabean trades Tim Lincecum for him, I’m officially finished rooting for the Giants. I’m standing on the ledge as is. I’m 95 percent certain I could be a better GM, and I’m not kidding or suffering from delusions of grandeur.

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