Sunday, November 22, 2009

Jeff Van Gundy: Prognosticator Extraordinaire

Early in Friday night's Boston Celtics-Orlando Magic contest, Jeff Van Gundy dropped this nugget on us:
"The Magic are gonna struggle to play above .500 while Jameer Nelson is out."
Come again? The only reason I didn't immediately make a twitter/blogspot/facebook post about it was because I was watching the game on rerun and didn't want to risk seeing the final score (I've got Boston fans as facebook friends and blog followers, and a Magic feed on my twitter). I can't imagine why none of his co-commentators didn't question this particular prediction, especially Mark Jackson, who usually loves to pounce on any of Jeff's comments he deems questionable.

.500 Jeff? Seriously? Are you confusing this team with the roster from last year? There is a major difference between the Magic's point guard rotation this year and the one they fielded last year: Jason Williams >> Tyronn Lue. Last year, when Jameer went down, the Magic made a move to pry Lue (tongue-in-cheek) from the Bucks to shore up the position. At the time, it seemed like a good move, and I actually thought he would help out; Lue was shooting a hefty 47% from 3-pt range, just the type of outside shooting Jameer brought to the team.

However, for Lue, it simply In his first 3 games playing meaningful minutes, he shot at paltry 5-16 -- 2 of 8 from downtown -- and the Magic continued trading wins and losses. It became apparent that both he and Anthony Johnson were best suited as backups, and the Magic went out, nabbed Rafer Alston, and the rest is NBA-Finals-appearance history.

Fast forward back to the present. By Friday night, we'd already gotten some small glimpses into what Jason Williams would look like given a heavier workload. He's played well -- almost surprisingly so -- and had actually played more minutes than Nelson in 2 or 3 games this year. He's been posting an NBA-best assist-to-turnover ratio, and his play had essentially relegated Anthony Johnson to 12th-man status.

This doesn't even touch upon the other upgrades the Magic have made in their roster this past offseason, with guys like Vince Carter who can share some of the playmaking duties. But it's fairly safe to say that a Jason Williams/Anthony Johnson rotation is significantly better than AJ/Tyronn Lue. It's starting to look even better than Rafer Alston/AJ combo that the Magic settled on for the rest of the 2008-09 campaign.

Perhaps I'm being a bit hard on ole Jeff, but it just seems rather silly to think this Magic team will struggle to hold their head above water in Jameer's absence, as important a player as he is. In any case, I can't help but keep a while-Nelson-is-out counter for the old ex-Knick coach turned announcer, so for those of us counting at home: that's 3 wins against 0 loses in the J-Will/AJ era.

With games against the Bucks, Warriors, Clippers, and a home-and-home versus the Knicks in the near horizon, that prediction is starting to look a bit shaky. Call me cynical.


* Another Vince Carter visit, another quality game, another win:
Hey Toronto Raptor fans, they say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting to receive different results. D'ya think maybe the booing and the taunting is, I dunno, not working?

* Celtics needed overtime and a buzzer beater to take down the Knicks today. Would it be safe to say they're going through a bit of a rough patch (4-4 after a 6-0 start)? From the sounds of it though (I can't watch, blackout rules apply), the Knicks are playing a little bit better ball lately. (When they're shooting at their own bucket that is).

* Those poor Nets. Four games from tying an ignominious record, and an upcoming 4-game road trip where none of the matchups look particularly favourable. The Kings have been playing better, so at best you can hope that they stub their toe (quite possible with a young team: see: Thunder, Oklahoma), or that Denver continues their recent swoon (any loss to the Clips at this point for them is a swoon). Or you can just hope that the return of Devin Harris will continue to pay dividends (remember, he didn't start against the Knicks). Either way, injuries and all aside, they're not looking very attractive to LeBron, Bosh or anyone in Brooklyn at the moment.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Dumbest Coaching Decision...Ever?

Bill Belichick may have just had the biggest brain fart in the history of coaching. I mean, ever. On any level, professional or otherwise. In fact, I'm removing the doubt: we just witnessed history.

Seriously, let's think about this for a second. I mean, really and truly, sit, and think about this clearly. You're up by 6 points. There's 2 minutes and 8 seconds left in the game. You're looking at a 4th and 2 on your own 28 yard line, not to mention you just got stuffed attempting to convert the same 2 yards on 3rd down. Lemme say it again: it's 4th and 2 on your own 28-yard line.

Is there really anything worth deliberating over? Do we really need to consider the fact that your offense, which was happily marching up and down the field all day long, is finally being manhandled by a now fired-up defense? That the opposing offense, after struggling to find its way for 58 minutes, has of late been moving the ball with a sense of purpose? Did I point out the two -- count 'em: 1, 2 -- two timeouts they took to make this decision?

Wasn't there anyone -- a player, an assistant, a cheerleader, the shoeshine boy, the gatorade-dispenser -- that had the mind and wherewithal to say "umm, yo coach, ummm...that's a really stupid idea."?

Everyone north of the Long Island Sound must be in gut-wrenching pain as we speak. Which, as a New Yorker, is quite a rosy image to mull over. (Did I mention the Yankees won the World Series? Oh, sorry, bad digression).

But seriously, has there ever been a more inexplicable decision made by a coach -- any coach, in, say, the history of sports? Ever? Perhaps I need a night's sleep -- or maybe a few days -- to think of a few examples. Or even one. At present, I'm coming up empty.

Someone help me here.