Thursday, December 22, 2011

NBA Preview FAQ: 2011-12 Season

It’s baaaaccckkkkkkk. No, I’m not talking about the NBA, which just went through a completely pointless lockout and threatened the beautiful game coming off one of the greatest seasons in history.

No, I’m talking about The People Say Booyah, which has been on a ridiculous hiatus thanks to Philly Sports World, which I don’t believe exists anymore and Pro Football Weekly, which definitely exists and was awesome with great experiences and even better people.

This is the point of the column where I promise you that the blog will be back in full throat, but that would pretty much be a lie. However, given my ridiculously awesome class schedule next quarter at NU (no class on Friday, no class before 3 p.m. two days away and 12:30 p.m. the other two days), I’ll try to bring at least one column a week after the holidays. But, no promises.

But the reason you’re here is to get the essential knowledge on the NBA for the upcoming season. The hellacious schedule that they are forced to play (back-to-back-to-backs, five games in six nights, etc.) will make for some really ugly, college basketball-quality games (and if you are going to try to argue that college basketball is better, just stop. Let me know when the other 99 percent of college players learn to dribble, or when a majority of college coaches, and I’m looking right at you Rick Barnes, get a clue and then we MIGHT talk. “Atmosphere” and “they care so much” and “look at them hustle” can only take you so far). Regardless, I am pumped for basketball. The Eagles stink, Northwestern is primed to lose another bowl game, Bill Carmody still coaches our basketball team, I’m not ready to watch regular season hockey on a consistent basis, and Arsenal (my soccer club team) usually plays way to early in the morning for me to watch. All I have is Sixers, talking smack to Bulls and Lakers fans and the rest of the NBA. It’s time for the Frequently Asked Questions, 2011-12 NBA Preview edition.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Frequently Asked Questions: Sixers Playoff Preview

That definitely didn't end well. From what seemed like it would be a season that could end with 45+ wins as recently as three weeks ago, the Sixers limped to the finish and ended with the definition of mediocrity, 41-41. Part of that had to do with the mounting injuries (Andre Iguodala’s knee and Lou Williams’ hamstring) and part if it had to do with bad basketball, especially on the defensive end (in the first quarter against Orlando Monday night, the defense was so bad the Magic could have intentionally attempted to get contested shots and ended up with a wide-open three).

But a shaky finish does nothing to diminish what was a fantastic rebirth. The Sixers got back to playing basketball, not the horrid permutation they displayed when Eddie Jordan was coaching. It was the true epitome of team play, with no single player averaging more than 15.1 ppg. They raised their play on defense, centered around Iguodala’s growth into a top-3 perimeter defender, to become a top-10 defensive team. The team recovered from a dreadful 2009-10 to become a fun and enjoyable team to watch this season.

But the warm and fuzzy feelings go out the door when the playoffs roll around, especially when the most overhyped 58 win team in history (they had a whole website, with three quality writers, following their every move. And they don’t even have fans who care about the team! The injustices of the world) waiting for you in the second round. And, of course, there’s nothing better for looking back on a good season and prepare you for the intensity of the playoffs than my favorite gimmick, the Frequently Asked Questions.

Was it a mistake for the Sixers to make the playoffs?
Thaddeus Young is the most important Sixers player in
the series against Miami.
Conventional NBA wisdom states that a team like the Sixers, without an established star and in a bad cap situation, can’t get stuck in the cycle of mediocrity: continuing to make the playoffs as a lower seed, taking a beating in the first round, getting a middling draft pick that only helps to maintain the current mediocrity instead of improve it, leaving you to repeat the same cycle all over again. What you need to do, convention holds, is completely bottom out, hope for a top-3 draft pick, and hope that the draft has the franchise savior in it (the Howard, Rose, Durant type). Otherwise, you’ll never make it to a level where you can compete for championships, because you’ll never have a superstar and without a superstar, you don’t stand a chance in the NBA’s star-driven system.

That ‘wisdom’ is directed at teams exactly like the Sixers: they have no star, they have no cap space and they have no chance of winning the championship this year. By that standard, making the playoffs really isn’t going to help the team in the long run, right?

But what that wisdom doesn’t account for is the experience that being in the playoffs brings. Do you think Derrick Rose benefited from battling Boston and LeBron’s Cavs in two consecutive first rounds? Locking heads with great teams is the best way to get the players you have playing better. They experience real NBA basketball, contrary to what you believe happens in the regular season. In the playoffs, the intensity rises, the pressure grows and players fight and claw for everything. Nothing is easy.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

NFL Playoffs FAQ

The second best time of year is upon us, with Christmas easily being the best (thanks Mom and Dad!) and March Madness a solid third (would be first if so many of the games didn’t just become a three-point shooting contest). Or, as Eagles fans call it, the most agonizing, frustrating time of the year.

The NFL playoffs have finally arrived, which means we get to look back and forward at a pretty crazy season. And since the owners and players are arguing about how to split billions of dollars, we’re going to have to enjoy this one extra special. The only way to do that is with the Frequently Asked Questions.

How did those preseason picks turn out?

To quote Charles Barkley, tuurrrible.

I had three NFC East teams in the playoffs, and none of them named the Eagles (though to be fair, my Eagles pick had serious merit. Redskins? Not so much). I had the Cowboys and the Redskins both being good. Yikes.

I had the Bears 5-11, though to be fair, they kind of play like a 5-11 teams. That should be half points. If the Packers weren’t so decimated by injuries, they definitely could have gone 13-3.

I underrated the Falcons; I overrated the NFC West, big deal. I had the AFC North right and the AFC South almost right. I, like everyone else, believed in the frauds that are the San Diego Chargers. And I thought the Patriots were going to suck.

(Wait, you caught that last part? How could I think the Patriots were going to suck? Well, um, let’s just move on and pretend it didn’t happen. Alright, so I got it mostly wrong but their defense is bad.)