Mike Lantry, 1972
4/22/06 - Detroit 79-61 Cleveland - Lebron gone fishin'
Certain circles I run in have a strictly anthropological interest in sports. Confronted by a person who is seemingly insane about an objectively meaningless enterprise, they regard it a mystery to be solved. You do not seem like a mindless bread and circus type, Brian, so why are you dragging us into tres un-chic NYC bars to stare at televisions every other day? Etc.
At some point when the outlook was grim indeed -- or at least as grim as a 3-2 deficit can be when the Pistons regard it as a 3-0 lead -- I stood on a New York rooftop and attempted to satisfy the above anthropological query.
brian% ask "why do you like pistons?"
retval "in spite of it all, they persevere."
If you leave aside the obvious millionaires-in-Auburn-Hills bit, it would be hard to put together a basketball team that was more emblematic of the things about Detroit that are admirable, things that are more akin to bloody-minded survival than elegantly presented cuisine. Everyone from Ben on down to Antonio "I'm on my sixth set of knees" McDyess has taken lemons, punched them in the face, and demanded money. Detroit's a team that leads with its jaw and stays standing. They have all the pretention of an abandoned building. They make you feel like you're from Detroit even if you're not really, as my anthropologically-inclined friend reminded me, and they make that feel noble. So it's not much of a surprise that in my bi-daily sojourns to the various television-bearing bars of Manhattan, Detroit fans out-repped Cleveland 10 to 1.
And it's not much of a surprise that when it was finally apparent that the 2006 Flip Pistons were going home, Detroit showed the savior a fistful of nails.
- In retrospect, Cleveland made a fatal mistake by taking that 3-2 lead, but it didn't feel like that at all during the game, especially because Lebron fouled out with 6:38 left to go... at least in my personal universe. When the only part of Lebron that makes contact with Lindsey Hunter is his off-arm currently clearing out space for a shot, that is not a blocking foul. You cannot block someone's arm. Then the Chauncey thing severely dangered blood vessels all over the metro area and in certain New York bars.
- I continue to insist that Tayshaun Prince is one of the most underrated players in the league. He was probably the best player the Pistons had over the course of the series; in game seven he was killing the Cavs everywhere he went. Flip Murray couldn't check toast and got abused; Lebron ate a few layups, and whatever Prince missed he rebounded. Carmelo? Whatever.
- As pledged during game seven, Lindsey Hunter will be on the receiving end of 50% less shit in this space until he retires. Especially because of this:
The Pistons also got a big boost in Games 6 and 7 from 13-year veteran Lindsey Hunter, whose 5-year-old son, Caleb, was imitating one of Kobe Bryant's moves in the locker room after the game as his dad finished getting dressed.
"Kobe's not playing anymore, Caleb. He's watching," Hunter said. "But your favorite player is still playing, D-Wade, and we're going to beat him."
...but not like Suck, I promise. I will be in New York until Monday. I may post something if there is some downtime and something urgent appears, but I wouldn't count on it if I were you.
5/16/2006 - Pistons 72-74 Cavaliers - Series tied 2-2
...it's almost enough to make you feel sorry for the Cavs who aren't fools who antagonize Rasheed Wallace (Anderson Varejo, Zydrunas Ilgauskas), Nike's anointed (LeBron), or Damon Jones (Damon Jones). Can these really be playoff games? Second-round playoff games?
Note to self: shut the hell up, all right? No doubt overhearing your hubris-laden assertions about the first two games of the series, the Cavs not only showed up but won the second two in Cleveland, leaving us with a competitive series. Here's a brooch. You know what to do.
That taken care of, what the hell is happening? Some assertions:
- Defense does not seem to be the problem. There are times when not enough attention is paid to Lebron and he swoops in for one of those triple-clutch HYYYAARRRR layups; there are others when too much is and one of the Cavs I-stand-in-the-corner-and-shoot guys stands in the corner and shoots. But in their two victories Cleveland has acquired 84 and 77 points. Even though the game has slowed down to a crawl reminiscent of Larry Brown, that's should still be translating into double-digit wins for the Pistons.
- ... so it's the offense, then, and the problems there are multifaceted. One is just bad luck: having used up all their three-pointers in game one, the bitch goddess Independent Trials has returned with a vengance. Yes, the Cavalier defense has improved, but not enough to force the Pistons into shooting 33% from the floor and 27% from three. I blame Lindsey Hunter using up all mojo in a five-state radius with his four straight threes in game one. That grabbed the attention of powers greater than ourselves, and lo, they are wroth.
- Usually the Pistons attack whatever matchup seems to be yielding the best results, but that was not the case in Cleveland, particularly in game four, as they repeatedly posted Tayshawn Prince up against Lebron James with limited success. Generally Prince in the post is a money play as most small forwards in the league are too small to bother Prince's shot. But... uh... Lebron James is not most small forwards, being both bigger and stronger than Prince. The only mismatch there is if Lebron is having a superstar moment or six, but as noted above, apparently these are playoff games. The same thing applies to dumping the ball down to an obviously injured Rasheed Wallace in the post against somone like Ilgauskas who has the length to bother 'Sheed. Hampered by his ankle, a Rasheed post up was generally a contested fallaway.
- For god's sake, when Cleveland is switching every screen please attempt to take advantage of it.
What now? Well, Detroit played well for two games and Cleveland played poorly: giant hubris-causing blowouts. Detroit played like poo for two games and Cleveland played well: narrow Cleveland victories. The equilibrium in this series appears to be about Pistons +8. Switching on all screens is a bit of a gimmick that had the Pistons confused, but -- much like the Lebron semi-zone -- will be less effective the longer it is employed. Two games of three are at home. The chances that Cleveland actually wins this series are still remote, but they are extant now. I accept the blame.
Now go unto them, Pistons, and unleash your righteousness upon the infidels.
I keep calling him "Epke" in my mind, but Michigan's latest basketball recruit is named "Ekpe" and don't you forget it. The Free Press chips in an article on Udoh, who is listed at 6'10, 240++:
"I think he's still growing," said Guy Hardaker, who coached Udoh at Edmond (Okla.) Santa Fe. "He has two 7-foot grandfathers in Nigeria."
Also, "His upside is great." Great!
Meanwhile, Tommy Amaker says that Michigan is close to reaching the "ultimate level that we want to achieve": an NCAA tournament berth. Aim high.
When in doubt, say 6-5: the mantra of those unfortunate souls tasked with predicting the fate of Michigan State in any year. Unfortunate? The difficulty always comes in not in the prediction, but the attempted justification. It's "yes, but they won't be 8-3/3-8... trust me," and no one trusts you and then they do.
Last year's kickers, John Goss and Matt Haughey, combined to make a whopping 5 of 16 field goals, and only 2 of 10 beyond 30 yards (the long was 32). Worst of all, the pair had an amazing four kicks blocked, the worst of which, of course, followed the rush job at the end of the first half against Ohio State, a disastrous ten-point swing that wound up setting flame not only to a comfortable Spartan lead in that critical game but that also triggered MSU's persistent schizophrenia for the rest of a henceforth dismal season in which the most noticeable positive was the entertainment of John L. Smith's straining forehead veins. Goss and Haughey, for the record, were still listed 1-2 on the Spring depth chart.
Doug Gillett is a 23-time loser.
Doug, for his part, is fine with this.
We have a winnah. There were several strong entries into the Second Ever MGoBlog Caption Contest. For reference, the picture in question:
Commenters were asked to speculate on what Laimbeer was saying to Kid Rock.
Official Suck Up To MGoBlog Winner: After some discussion about the guy to Kid's right being UM Regent Larry Deitch, CrimeNotes chipped in with this...
Laimbeer: "Hey, Kid Rock, that's Larry Deitch to your right."
Rock: "Let's encourage him to install luxury boxes in Michigan Stadium."
...which is hilarious to me but too close to my heart to render fair and impartial judgement upon.
First Runner-Up: The simply named "dave" with "Hey Kid, which do you think is bigger, Pam's chest or Mahorn's ass?"
And the Winnah is: Other Andrew with "Give it one more album and they'll hate you everywhere but in Detroit, too." Congratulations, Andrew! You win the traditional bag of nothing.
(My personal contribution: "Ma'am, have you ever thought about playing in the WNBA? The beard would fit right in.")
On that Finch thing: Er, he did indeed "commit," but his idea of a verbal commitment is somewhat less robust than that of the world at large. Finch intends to take official visits in the fall according to both Scout and Rivals (both $), so there's some chance that he ends up elsewhere. However, that seems like a small chance what with Warren Central's affection for the Maize and Blue, Chris Graham's influence, and our impending 2007 national championship. Cough cough.
The Finch commit-like substance also served as a high-pitched signal to Michigan bloggers to bust out the recruiting coverage. Johnny's done some googlestalking of his own, complete with hilarious picture of Max Emfinger about 300 pounds lighter than my mental picture of the man; Vijay busts out a board of his own; Stadium And Main has a comprehensive recap of all commits to date.
The only thing I have to add to the collected goodness is that FB commit Vince Helmuth was evaluated by ESPN and came out fairly shiny with a 78, the same score probable Scout/Rivals four stars Artis Chambers and Ryan VanBergen got. The take-home lesson: "a bulldozer of a fullback to say the least ... excellent at attacking defensive players, has great leg drive and can create enough movement to allow his running back to have some space through the hole." Hopefully that will silence the occasional griper -- dude sounds like Dudley.
Combine a no go? On August 1st, independent combines are going to take a major hit. The NCAA is going to ban college coaches from attending them and prevent them from being held on college campuses. Pitt Sports Blather has both sides of the story.
Random Bitching: why no NBA playoff games yesterday? Does that make any sense to anyone? The are four days between games in the Cleveland-Detroit series when the Thursday designated by nature to be the date of game three is totally devoid of any and all games... I'm befuddled. Did the WB call up and tell David Stern not to eff with Smallville or something?
As discussed earlier today, Jerimy Finch said Michigan was his leader; now Michigan is his school of choice. Finch is likely to be ranked the #1 player in the state of Indiana and is generally regarded a shoo-in for the top 100. Informative update coming.
Apparently he does this thing with the ball in the hands thing a lot.
Er... this is probably the weirdest find in a while when it comes to the good-old-googlestalking:
A CONCURRENT RESOLUTION honoring Warren Central High School, Indianapolis, Indiana, on the occasion of its third consecutive victory in the Indiana High School Athletic Association's Class 5A state football championship.
Whereas, The Warren Central Warriors marched to a 55-20 victory over Hamilton Southeastern for their third consecutive Class 5A state championship on Saturday, November 26, in the RCA Dome in Indianapolis capping off a 14-1 season;
Whereas, The Warriors were led by senior quarterback Dexter Taylor, who ran for 158 yards and three touchdowns; an imposing offensive line; and junior safety Jerimy Finch, who set up the third score with a 41-yard interception return and added the sixth touchdown with a 55-yard punt return;
Whereas, At halftime, Warren Central was ahead of Hamilton Southeastern 41-7, had outgained its opponent by nearly 200 yards (266-67), and scored on all five of its possessions with the other offensive touchdowns coming on seven-yard runs by juniors Darren Evans and Brad Ellington;
Whereas, The team dedicated this victory to teammate Andre Nicholson, who was injured in the semistate win over Avon;
Whereas, With this victory, Coach Kevin Wright joined his father, Sheridan coach Larry "Bud" Wright, as the first father-son coaching duo to have title wins in the same season;
Whereas, Excellence at this level requires teamwork and cooperation, and it is fitting that this effort be recognized: Therefore,
Be it resolved by the House of Representatives of the General Assembly of the State of Indiana, the Senate concurring:
SECTION 1. That the Indiana General Assembly congratulates the Warren Central Warriors on their third consecutive Class 5A state football championship and wishes them well in their future endeavors.
SECTION 2. That the Principal Clerk of the House of Representatives transmit copies of this resolution to team members, coaches, managers, Warren Central's school principal, and the school's superintendent.
This is the first time I've found a government citation that can be construed as a positive for a recruit. Warren Central has been demolishing the competition in Indiana for the last three years, as mentioned in the Senate resolution. Finch picked off two passes in the first half of their latest state championship throttle-job, returning one for a touchdown and the other to the three yardline. They were two of his ten on the year.
During a game against #2 ranked Ben Davis (Warren Central was #1), Finch showed up on the boxscore in an unexpected way, being credited with a 75 yard touchdown pass. Say what?
But just when Ben Davis looked to use that emotion to force a punt, Warren Central punter Jerimy Finch turned potential disaster into a go-ahead score.
On paper, it was a 75-yard touchdown pass to Jason Stewart. In reality, the play covered 102 yards as Finch had to retreat into his end zone to pick up a high snap. Then, after running 20 yards to his right and still in the end zone, he heaved the ball to Stewart, who outjumped two defenders at his 40. Stewart then turned and ran 60 yards for a 28-21 lead.
"That's a situation where you practice a 'fire' call and you don't want to get tackled in the end zone for a safety," Wright said. "In this case, Jerimy is an ex-quarterback and probably has the best arm on our team. He made a heads-up play, but we also got lucky."
Yes, Finch is also the punter, and apparently a pretty good one. I couldn't find junior-year stats, but as a sophomore he averaged 40.1 yards a kick. Not the 55-70 Zoltan The Inconceivable will average, but in case the Romanian Sensation kicks his leg into orbit or something he can be a tenuous backup plan.
If you missed it earlier, Sunshine Preps posted video of Finch a while ago.
Given all that, it's unsurprising the praise for Finch is widespread and fawning. Around August Scout put out a "Ask the Scouts" article and asked "September 1 is the first day colleges can officially offer players in the class of 2007. Who is the one player you would offer?" Chris Pool responded thusly:
Chris Pool: Jeremy Finch, a 6-foot-3, 205-pound, safety from Indianapolis (Ind.) Warren Central, is the young man that I would offer right away. Finch is a freak of nature. He has the size of a linebacker and hits like one as well but he has the speed and instincts of a defensive back. Finch is versatile and he could develop into a linebacker at the next level. Warren Central head coach Kevin Wright says Jeremy Finch is a "Oh and Ah" type of guy that just brings people to their feet.
Peegs.com said "the hard-hitting, physically impressive junior could end up being one of the top three safeties in the country by the end of the summer"; ESPN gives him an 80 and says
Finch is a ballhawk with an impressive motor ... He has all the physical tools you look for in a safety and the upside to develop into an outstanding playmaker.
...And finally, Pool returns and compares Finch to Purdue headhunter Bernard Pollard.
So: excellent pickup at a position of need, be it safety or WLB. With four-ish safeties in the last two classes, expect Ronald Johnson and Eugene Clifford to be recruited at corner. Michigan is looking for defensive backs in vast quantity this year, so a third safety is a possibility, though perhaps a distant one.