Monday, March 24, 2008

Viva Las Vegas

I'm back from my vacation to Las Vegas and ready to blog. Whatever happens in reflected on your bank and credit card statements.

Also, I said vacation, but let me tell you, betting on losing college basketball teams and yelling at the screen is a lot of work.

By the way did you know that in 14 seasons as a head coach prior to this year, Kevin O'Neill has compiled a 190-197 record (.491).

Is that someone u want leading Arizona in the future, the present, or in a charity game? Is that someone you want to bet on when your team needs a win in a first round NCAA tournament game when you still have three days left in Vegas and you hope to have enough money to at least buy food?

In addition to losing money, I'm sure I at some point lost my dignity. It could have been when I was so hammered, I danced my way off the bed and onto my ass at Tao, got kicked out as I was already leaving (still not sure why) and then stumbled to a roulette table at Balleys and put my remaining $31 on red. And I actually won, leaving me some money to bet with the next day.

On the bright side, I watched almost every game, and bet on almost every game. I took a little time off to chill by the pool, but the lifeguard refused to let me drown myself. She, like everyone else who works in Vegas was one size bigger in the chest region. So that was fun to look at.

So what's next for Arizona basketball you might be asking?

Chase Budinger has embarrassed himself to the point where he might have to come back? Needless to say Joe Alexander has replaced Budinger as the best white athletic player in the country, and this means that Arizona may once again make the tournament next year, of course as an 8 or 9 seed.

I would be absolutely shocked if Jerryd Bayless comes back and even more shocked and devastated in O'Neill came back. The KO experiment bombed like Pearl Harbor.

Next year's lineup should look like this:

PG: Brandon Jennings
SG: Nic Wise
SF: Chase Budinger
PF: Jamelle Horne/Jordan Hill
C: Jordan Hill/Jeff Withey

I've heard some good things about Withey, a 7-footer from San Diego lately, but as with all tall, frail white guys you have to be cautious. Having Hill go back to his natural position of power forward would be integral to keeping him out of foul trouble. It doesn't appear the Wildcats will be that much deeper next year, but Horne and Zane Johnson will be a little more ready to play in the Pac-10 and Emmanuel Negedu could see some minutes as a freshman.

Brandon Jennings will replace Bayless, but don't expect him to have a much larger impact. Jennings will have a harder time finishing around the basket than Bayless because of his 170 pound body. He's a much better ball handler, however, and will involve his teammates more. Bayless, a natural scorer who would have fit in well alongside Jennings. The days of Bayless curling off screens off the ball all day long are over because Jennings' game is with the ball in his hands.

The Lake show
Without Pau Gasol, the Lakers have been inconsistent. No post presence inside means Kobe has to work a lot harder to get his points and that causes him to be less effective on the defensive end. The 72 points the Lakers gave up in the first half to the Warriors is alarming for a team whose early exit in the first round the last two seasons was mainly due to poor defense.

Andrew Bynum is out for at least another 2-3 weeks, and the longer he sits, the longer it will take for him to get back in shape and back in rhythm. I wouldn't expect him to be his first half self immediately, especially considering the type of work he put in this summer to prepare him for his breakout season. It's a lot more difficult to get back into playing shape when you're 7-feet and 270 pounds than it is for a guard.

Trevor Ariza isn't even running on the Lakers new $75, 000 treadmill yet so he'll be lucky to be back for the playoffs.

In even worse news, Chris Mihm looks like he may be the first one of the four injured Lakers to come back. Let's hope Phil Jackson pretends that Mihm is still injured when it comes to playing time.

Dodger Blues

I never got a chance to go to Dodgertown and that makes me sad. I had a preliminary plan for a trip, even had a free Southwest ticket. But it didn't work out and I feel like I missed out.

There's been a lot written in the past few days about the memories, the Dodger legends, the fan interaction, and the tradition. And even though I never got to experience if first hand, reading about a place that was so special to so many has been a treat.

Tommy Lasorda and others reflected on Spring Training in Vero Beach after the Dodgers last game there.

Perhaps the place meant more to Lasorda than anyone else, wrote TJ Simers of the LA Times.

And the Dodger players gave him a fitting tribute, letting him walk off the field last as they stood side by side and raised their bats like swords, allowing a king to exit his castle.

The Dodgers will hold spring training in Glendale, Arizona next year, in a new multi million dollar complex they will share with the White Sox.

It will be closer to Los Angeles, about a five hour drive from Dodger Stadium. I understand why they're moving. I'll probably get to watch them in person even. But I can't help but feel like this is similar to when they took the legends off the outfield walls in favor of advertisements. The Dodgers have so much history. They're a walking baseball museum. But with every business decision, they lose some of that history.

Other Tidbits:

Trent Johnson almost cost his Stanford team the game against Marquette in the second round,
and saved his team in that game at the same time. You see, his two technical fouls and the seven point play Marquette got because of it put the Cardinal in a hole. Not having Trent Johnson on the sidelines for the rest of the game gave Stanford an advantage. The Cardinal went to Brook Lopez on every possession including the last one when Lopez made a 10 foot turnaround shot to win the game. Johnson should stay in the locker room at the beginning of the game next time. He's a better coach from there anyway.

Stephen Curry is fun to watch. The kid is averaging 35 points a game in the first two rounds and single handedly dismantled Georgetown and Gonzaga, two solid defensive teams. He runs all over the court like Reggie Miller, has a good handle, and ice in his veins. Here's to Davidson being the next George Mason.

Are you for some reason not excited about the NCAA tournament? Watch this clip and you will be.

Gus Johnson is the man!

As always, an updated Lakers +/- (through 65 games) Lakers: 48-22 2nd in West

Fisher +312
Kobe +526
Turiaf +91
Odom +381
Gasol +227
Mihm -16
Walton +166
Bynum +236
Farmar +199
Radmanovic +308
Brown -44
Vujacic +72
Crittenton -40
Karl +8
Ariza +5
Mbenga +23

Up next: at Golden State Monday 7:30 p.m. PST KCAL

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