Posted on: June 30, 2009 12:47 pm
 

Some recent NASCAR rumors are off the wall

I thought I'd address some of the interesting rumors that have made their way across the NASCAR wires in recent weeks.

The biggest name in the NASCAR rumor mill has been ... Danica Patrick?

That's right. Patrick is in the final year of her contract with Andretti-Green Racing in the IndyCar Series, so of course stories pop up that she's interested in making the jump to NASCAR.

That part of the rumor you can believe. Even with the toll the economy has taken on NASCAR in recent seasons, it's still the top racing circuit in America. It would be a mistake for her not to test the waters.

Even if she stinks, the curiosity factor would be a boon to NASCAR. So I do think it's a legit consideration for her from a money making standpoint (for one season at least).

Now for the second half of the most recent rumor about Patrick -- that Hendrick Motorsports would replace Dale Earnhardt Jr. with Patrick in its driver lineup. Earnhardt Jr. would move over to his JR Motorsports operation, which would move up from the Nationwide Series to Cup and, like Stewart Haas, receives engines and technical support from Hendrick.

Don't buy it for a second. It just doesn't make a lick of sense to drop the series' most popular driver, who does have the ability to succeed despite the growing cries of his critics, for an untested stock-car driver. Hendrick may not lose much on the popularity/souvenier sales scale with that switch, but to think she'd have more success behind the wheel than Earnhardt is ridiculous.

The rumor that makes the most sense with Patrick is Ganassi ... in the IRL. That also gives her an in into NASCAR if she's truly interested in trying it out. All in all, I'd be stunned if she's driving a Sprint Cup car next season.

The other big rumor making the rounds involves Michael Waltrip Racing. A MWR press conference has been scheduled for July 7 as which time Waltrip is expected to announce that Martin Truex Jr. will drive the NAPA car.

That's not so surprising because that rumor has been going around for months. The twist in this rumor is that Truex would come aboard immediately.

While I won't argue that Truex won't be joining MWR, I just don't see it happening this year. Maybe for the last few races of the season if Earnhardt-Ganassi, Truex's current employer, is feeling generous.

I'm not saying it's not possible that Truex makes the switch now, but based on the history of how these things happen, I have my doubts.

Keep up with the latest Silly Season rumblings on CBSSports.com:
http://www.cbssports.com/autoracing
/story/10817811

Posted on: June 14, 2009 11:22 pm
 

It was fun while it lasted

It was great to see the Magic back in the Finals this year ...

But if there was any doubt who the better team was, the Lakers dispelled all doubts in Game 5, stepping on the Magic's throats with some excellent defensive play in the second quarter and never looking back.

I could go on and on about the Magic failures in the series, but what's the point. It's over. Time to to move forward.

Plain and simple, the Lakers were the smarter, more disciplined team.

I was hoping for so much more, but from the coach on down, the Magic made too many mistakes and dumb decisions vs. the Lakers.

Which stinks because even with a great player like Dwight Howard manning the middle, you never really know when/if they'll be back. You need to take advantage of your chances while you got them. The Eastern Conference has some formidable teams to deal with such as the Celtics, who probably have a couple of years left in the tank with Garnett, Allen and Pierce. And, of course, there's the LeBrons, who will certainly fill the holes they discovered after their loss to the Magic in Eastern Conference Finals.

Without a doubt, Dwight Howard needs to hone his offensive game. The Lakers took advantage a great hitch of Howard's as he continually brought the ball down to his waist, allowing smaller players to swipe at the ball. This led to a boatload of turnovers for the big man during the series. He could do worse than to watch how the Lakers' Pau Gasol manages his offense.

Anyhow, that's enough Magic talk for awhile. Looks like I'll have to wait a little longer to end my championship winless streak.

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 12, 2009 11:37 am
Edited on: June 12, 2009 11:43 am
 

Inept Magic deserved to lose Game 4

I don't know what's worse, failing to show up like the Magic did in Game 1, or playing downright dumb like they did last night in Game 4.

I vote Game 4. I was disappointed after Game 1, but Game 4 left me angry. From the coach on down, everybody is to blame. A total team loss if there ever was one.

The Magic probably should have won that game easily, but with turnovers, missed free throws, bad defense and horrible coaching they threw the game away, and probably the series.

I think one of the big keys to the game being overlooked was that the Lakers trailed only by 12 at the half. With Odom, Gasol and Bynum all in foul trouble and out of the game, the Magic should have dominated a Lakers lineup featuring the likes of Mbenga, Powell and some other scrubs.

But turnovers and silly fouls by the Magic kept the Lakers firmly entrenched in the game and had me a little worried heading into the second half.

And sure enough, in the second half, the Lakers began to hit shots. And missed free throws by the Magic began to add up. It was sickening.

But the ineptitude didn't end there. Coach Stan Van Gundy curiously decided that Jameer Nelson would be the closer at point guard during this game.

Alston wasn't having nearly the game he did in Game 3, but he wasn't awful. Nelson, on the other hand, aside from a couple of nice assists to Howard, really did nothing of note. In fact, I thought the Magic got back into the game in spite of him.

After Game 1, I said I was fine if Nelson took backup Anthony Johnson's minutes in this series. But twice in this series, Van Gundy has given Nelson starters minutes and he hasn't been worthy of those minutes. Our Gregg Doyel wrote a column after Game 3 that said Nelson should shut to it down for the good of the Magic. I'm in agreement that I probably don't want to see Nelson on the floor anymore in this series, but I don't put it on Nelson, I put it on Van Gundy to make that call.

And for the love of ____ Dwight, quit bringing the ball down to your waist when you catch the ball! Keep it up high so Kobe and Fisher, et al, can't get in there and swipe at the ball. How many times does he need to turn the ball over before he realizes that! Why haven't the coaches been working with him on this?

[Sigh]

It stinks (to put it mildly) that there are two games before Game 5 because this one will stick in my craw until then.

So is the series over?

As perturbed as I am right now, the reality of the situation is that Games 2, 3 and 4 could have swung either way. So it's not as if the Lakers are dominating this thing. I don't think it's totally off-base to think the Magic could win three in a row.

Is it likely? Probably not, but as a Magic fan, until the Lakers have a 4 in the series win column, I'm going to believe the title is still winnable.

But they've got to play smarter.

 

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 10, 2009 2:26 pm
 

A Magical breakthrough at last

What a relief. The Magic aren't destined to go 0 for the Finals again.

But they sure like to make me sweat it out.

Much will be made of the fact they had to eke out a win despited shooting an NBA Finals records 62.5% percent from the field, but all that really matters is that they got the win.

Sure it's unlikely they shoot as well as they did Tuesday night in future games of the series, but nothing is ever the same from game to game. The Lakers aren't going to do everything they did Tuesday night either. Every game is different.

So how did the Lakers manage to keep it so close? Offensive boards. The Magic allowed the Lakers 18 second-chance points. Prior to Game 3, it hadn't been a significant problem, but I think Orlando's extra focus on Kobe opened up room for his teammates to track down loose balls. You stop one thing and something else opens up, that's just the way it works in basketball. You have to pick your poison.

Obviously, other players other than Howard, Lewis and Turkoglu finally stepped up in this series. Borth Rafer Alson and Mickael Pietrus came up huge.

I loved how the Magic were attacking the basket. Nothing is more frustrating than to watch them dribbling around the perimeter running down the shot clock to throw up a haphazard 3-pointer. Rafer actually keyed a nice offensive flow for much of the game.

I do think he got a little sloppy and erratic in the fourth quarter,  but the Magic hung on, so I'll let it slide.

All in all, couldn't be much happier and looking forward to Game 4 where, hopefully, the Magic can tie it up.

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 8, 2009 11:06 am
Edited on: June 8, 2009 11:27 am
 

Closer, but yet another Magic loss in the Finals

I don't know if anybody is reading about my Magic thoughts or not, but makes me feel good to get it out, so here I go again with my thoughts on Game 2.

Well, the best thing you can say about the Magic is that they gave it a much better effort than they did in Game 1.

I wouldn't say the lost Sunday night because they were outplayed, rather the guard play was absolutely atrocious.

Anybody care to step up and help Dwight, Hedo and Rashard?

But that's the Magic in a nutshell. Perimeter-oriented teams run hot and cold, and unfortunately they've hit a cold spell. Rafer Alston is stinking up the joint. Jameer Nelson is showing the rust. Courtney Lee has Kobe to deal with. And J.J. Redick is J.J. Redick. He manages at good game every 20 games or so.

Mickael Pietrus, a quasi guard/forward, also isn't stroking it nearly as well as he did during the first three rounds of the playoffs.

Still, the Magic had a shot to win, which is at least a glimmer of hope as the series shifts to Orlando.

 

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 5, 2009 10:22 am
 

Magic get an F for NBA Finals Game 1

Well that was awful.

I was so looking forward to Game 1, but had to turn away when they began to fall apart in the second half. I tried to distract myself with some Men in Black II and Daily Show, hoping upon hope that they'd make a run while I was away, but every time I turned back the Lakers' lead kept growing and growing.

I don't disagree that the Lakers should be the favorite in this series, but they're not that much better than the Magic, though I'm sure much will be written and said that "Game 2 is a must-win game."

Um, no. It's not. Until the Lakers have three wins in hand, there are no "must-win games" for the Magic. It's obviously a game the Magic want to win, but no more than Game 1.

I any case, from a Magic fan perspective, I will admit it was a bit discouraging to see the lack of energy put forth by Orlando.

Are you kidding me?

It's the Finals for !@#!$ sake!

If you look back at the two regular season games, while the Magic won both games, they did it because of their offense. Defensively they were just as inept trying to guard Kobe as they were in Game 1.

So when the offense went on the fritz Thursday night, they basically toast. They actually started off well enough, but after a timeout by the Lakers early in the second quarter --  "poof" -- the Magic suddenly looked discombobulated.

I'm really not too concerned about the offense. Yeah, the Lakers have a bit more size than the Magic saw vs. the Cavs, but I don't think it's anything they can't overcome. The Magic had some open shots, they just weren't hitting them at the same rate they normally do. They probably left 10 to 15 points on the floor, which would have put them at around 90 points. But those things happen sometimes and their lack of hustle didn't help matters.

More concerning to me was the Magic defense and I'm not really sure what the answer is. Apparently neither do the Magic since it didn't appear as if they tried to make any type of in-game adjustment.

There are two areas in which the Lakers have a distinct skill and/or size advantage on the offensive end: Kobe vs. anybody (but especially Courtney Lee) and Gasol vs. Lewis.

I love Lee and think he has been a great find for the Magic. But there was no matchup the Lakers exploited more than when Lee was trying to guard Kobe. He has neither the size nor strength. If Van Gundy is going to continue to put Lee on Kobe, he's going to have to bring more help.

Gasol has a significant size advantage over Lewis. And if Lewis is going to work extra hard on defense trying to defend/box out the bigger, stronger Gasol, it going to tire him and hurt his offense. He needs to turn the tables and make Gasol chase him on offense.

As for the return of Jameer Nelson, I don't think it had much of an impact positively or negatively in this game.

At first, he looked like the old Jameer, igniting a little run that forced the Lakers to call that early second quater timeout. But after that, he looked like the rest of the Magic zombies, doing little of note. I'm surprised how many minutes he got right off the box. I'm fine with Nelson taking the minutes of Anthony Johnson. The bigger question is how do you split the minutes with Rafter Alson?

Even though Game 1 was disappointing, it is just one game. This series if far from over. The Magic have a couple of days to look at the film at make some adjustments. Hopefully they'll come back strong in Game 2.

Category: NBA
Posted on: June 3, 2009 4:24 pm
Edited on: June 4, 2009 10:33 am
 

Disagree if you must, but don't call it bias

So this week's Feud has an interesting thread about a perceived bias I have for Dale Earnhardt Jr.

The first post from mikeyfan1599 reads:

Sorry Brian, when it comes to Dale Earnhardt Junior, you have absolutly no objectivity. Just like a lot of those in "Junior Nation", you can show no fault with Junior.  Even in you remarks to who can make the chase you picked a driver who is in 18th position 212 points out of 12th a better chance to make the chase then the three drivers 92 points or closer. 

Your credibility when it comes to Junior is losing face.  Just telling it like it is.  Sorry.


Oy vey. I just don't get this line of thinking.

Why is that when I say something positive or negative about a driver it's because I'm biased? Why can't it just be what it is, an opinion?

Things like this come up in the Power Rankings too. I rank somebody ahead of somebody else and it has to be because I love so-and-so and hate such-and-such. As if the fact that the one driver has three wins and the other none isn't a factor in some way.

If you can't at least see the reason -- even when I provide details -- for me holding the opinion that I do, then you're probably the one that is biased. You may not like all my opinions, and that's fine. But somebody doesn't have to be biased just because you don't hold the same opinion.

Especially in the case with this week's Feud, the response in question was predictive in nature. Sometimes I'm going to be wrong. Most of the time I'll be right. At least let's wait and see how it plays out.

For now, let's take a closer look at the Dale Jr. and the five drivers just in front of him in the standings ...

David Reutimann -- Sure he's only one spot out of the Chase, but there is no evidence to suggest that he and his Michael Waltrip Racing team will maintain enough consistency to move into the top 12. I need to see more, this year's sample size is just too small. While I think MWR has definitely improved this year, my feeling is that they're not quite strong enough.

Kasey Kahne -- I said I think he has a chance to make it ... the caveat being that RPM's new engine package is the real deal.

Juan Pablo Montoya -- I put him in the same boat at Reutimann. He has had his moments this season, but lacks consistency. It's hard to predict that he and his team will suddenly find that consistency when it has yet to happen during his Cup career

Clint Bowyer -- Well, I pointed out that I think his RCR teammate Jeff Burton is in danger of falling out of the top 12, so why would I think Bowyer is capable of moving up in the same equipment?

Brian Vickers -- Same deal as Reutimann and Montoya and history shows he falls off toward the end of the season..

Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- He has 13 races to make up 212 points. That's not at all insurmountable if he runs his equipment to its full capabalities.I don't know how anyone can argue that Hendrick Motorsports has had the best equipment up to this point in the season. As for Jr.'s skills as a driver, he has more victories than the five drivers 13th through 17th in the current standings combined.


In any case, those are my more thorough thoughts on the situation. Fact of the matter is that Earnhardt is the most succesful, experienced Cup driver outside the top 12 within shouting distance of a spot in the Chase.

Posted on: June 2, 2009 10:14 am
 

Woohoo! Magic going to Finals

I know it has been a few days, but other duties have kept me from blogging in celebration that my Orlando Magic have taken down the mighty LeBrons (and won me a free lunch in the process) to reach the NBA Finals.

Cheering for my teams in championships has been few and far between, so I'm trying to enjoy this as much as I can.

The point at which I remember becoming a true fan of sports was 1984-85. I was 10.

Since this time, I've witnessed the Dolphins play in but one Super Bowl -- a loss to the 49ers. At that ripe young age, I was certain there'd be another Super Bowl or two or three in Marino's future, but the Dolphins running game was non-existent during most of his tenure, and the defense was porous most of the time as well.

I think everyone is fully aware of the Cubs' ineptitude over the years.

Prior to Orlando landing an NBA team, I was a 76ers fan (I liked Dr. J) but I missed the boat on their championship season. Instead most of my youth was spent watching Charles Barkley, like Marino, come up short year after year.

Growing up in the 'burbs of O-town, as soon as Orlando landed an NBA team there was no question I would switch my allegiance. I actually atteneded the first Orlando Magic summer league game.

Those early years were rough for the expansion team, so I acutely remember how excited (and stunned) I was when a score scrolled by showing Orlando had beaten the Lakers one day.

And then came their lottery win, the franchise changer that allowed them to select Shaquille O'Neal with the No. 1 pick.

A few years later, I was at the O-rena win the Magic clinched the Eastern Conference title with a win over the Pacers. The town was electric that night.

Unfortunately, the Magic would blow a late lead in Game 1 of the Finals against the Rockets when Nick Anderson bricked a couple of free throws. It was all downhill from there as the Magic were swept in their first and – until now – only trip to the Finals.

Michael Jordan would return to the league to once again dominate and then O'Neal decided to leave for the glitz and glamour of Hollywood. With Shaq gone, the load fell to Anfernee Hardaway, and while he had his moments it appears he just wasn't meant for superstardom. (Do you think my talking Little Penny will ever be worth anything?)

A few years after that, I thought the Magic were onto something when they signed Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill. Even though Hill was coming off an ankle/foot injury, I never imagined what a disaster his tenure in Orlando would be. In six seasons in Orlando, he played more than 30 games just twice. McGrady was a stellar talent in his own right, but the burden of carrying the Magic on his back proved too much.

The lasting memory I have of McGrady in a Magic uniform was when Orlando went up 3-1 in a seven-game first round series vs. the Pistons and McGrady declared he was happy to be in the second round knowing full well they still had to win one more game. The Magic proceeded to lose the next three games.

Ugh. So that’s just a snapshot of my professional sports fandom. As you can see, not a lot to cheer for over the years.

So definitely looking forward to the Finals and hoping the Magic can pull it out (or at least win a game this time around).

Category: NBA
 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com