Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NBA Finals Preview

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It has slowly dawned on me that I am about to hate everything associated with the Miami Heat. That's what happens with your team's opponent in a series with these implications on the line. It's very easy to hate a team in the NBA. Everybody whines. Everybody flops. If there's a team that you want to hate, you will hate them. And I want to hate the Miami Heat. I've been on the fence with them throughout most of the season because I loved the intrigue they brought to the NBA's regular season. But the regular season is no longer. My hatred has slowly grown throughout the playoffs, with what I perceive as unearned knob-slobbing. But my hatred is nowhere near where it's about to be. I already cannot stand watching these little videos about them on ESPN, hearing them complain about how nobody likes them, sounding like a bunch of school boy bitches. I look forward to my hatred though. Cheering for the Heat was fun for a little while, but I doubt I'll ever be able to go back to rooting for them after this series. I find myself glad that fate intervened and forced my hatred for Miami Heat.

If you haven't kept up with me this week be sure to read my previous write ups before tonight's Game 1:

The Key to the Dallas Mavericks' Success
Top 10 Reasons to be Excited for NBA Finals
Why you should Root for Dirk and the Mavs

On to the series....

Lebron v. Dirk - Let me start by saying that Lebron will have to outplay Dirk for the Heat to win the NBA Championship. Dirk has more help around him and the Mavs could survive an off game from him more easily than the Heat could 'Bron. If the Heat decide to double Dirk, he won't put up big numbers because he'll simply look to pass out of it every time. The Heat will throw a number of bodies at him including Chris Bosh (who plays defense Like a Bosh), Udonis Randy Mosslem (had success in 2006), and yes, even Lebronius. I'm a tiny bit afraid that 'Bron will find success in defending Dirk. He's got the perfect body frame to do so. However, he can't guard him the whole game (he'd wear out), but if he finds success, you might see Lebron on Dirk at the ends of games (oh, what a sight). The Mavs will put Shawn Marion on 'Bron for starters, but they will throw a number of different looks at him. The Mavs play more zone than anybody in the NBA (expect a lot of it), and at the end of the Thunder series actually had Kidd (who leads the NBA Playoffs in steals) guarding Durant, while Marion took Westbrook (never would've guessed that to begin with). The two stars very well could decide this series, but I think it's 'Bron who is the bigger deciding factor for his team (see how I just took all the pressure off Dirk there?).

Mavs' biggest problem - If the Miami Heat go small. If 'Bron finds success covering Dirk on the defensive end, the Heat will have the option to play him at the 4 spot, which creates mega matchup problems for the Mavs (Dirk ain't covering Lebron - side note - have we ever established if the B in Lebron is supposed to be capitalized?). They'd be forced to take Tyson Chandler out of the game, and when that happened against the Thunder, they scored on a number of easy shots. Dirk would be forced to cover Bosh (a mismatch in itself), and the Mavs would be without their defensive intimidator (Dirk cannot protect the rim or rebound well enough). Hopefully, Eric Spoelstra isn't smart enough to see this, or I'm wrong in my prediction, but keep an eye out for the Heat going small in this series.

Heat's biggest problem - JJ Barea. I'm 97% convinced that it's nearly impossible to shut down Barea on his offensive end. The way you take him out of the game is by capitalizing on his defensive short-comings (pun alert). If a guard has any sort of a post game, he will simply abuse The Streakin' Rican. However, the Heat's options at point guard don't pose much of a threat. Neither Mario Chalmers or Mike Bibby have any kind a post game. I'm expecting to see a lot of Barea in this series (also a lot of DeShawn Stevenson, who held DWade to 2 points in 30 minutes in the regular season. Although, I don't think this is a good series for Peja Stojanky Nuts, who cannot keep up with Wade or Bron). I do believe Barea has an outside shot at Finals MVP (rare enough, that I can't even get betting odds on it).

Heat strategery - Run Lola, run. The Heat have a decided advantage in team speed and overall athleticism. If the game turns into an up and down game, that strongly favors the younger Heat, considering they have two of the best transition players to ever play the game (Chalmers and Mike Miller, of course). Although, the Mavs have played a pretty up tempo game so far in these playoffs, so it'll be interesting to see if they purposely try and slow the game down.

Mavs strategery - Offensive efficiency. There has been a lot of talk about the defense of the Miami Heat, but they have yet to face an offense as versatile and effective as the Dirks. The Mavs pride themselves on always getting good shots, which begins and ends with Jason Kidd (literally because he's become such a good jump shooter out of nowhere). If they decide to double Dirk, he will look to pass out of it every time, most likely leading to a 3 point bomb from one of their many snipers - and the list is long - Terry, Barea, Kidd, Stojanky, hopefully not DeShawn.

Dwyane Wade - DWizzly looked very pedestrian in the Eastern Conference finals. If he puts up anything like that in these NBA Finals, the Heat will be toast. The Mavs will put up much more on the offensive end than the Bulls, and the Heat will need to counter that with 2 of their 3 studs putting up big numbers every game. If only 1 of them goes off, the Mavs will win. And if D-Wade doesn't put up big numbers, that puts all the pressure on Chris Bosh's shoulders, exactly where the Dirkness wants it.

Rebounding - The most telling stat in Basketball for me. If you control the boards, most of the time you'll control the game. You'd think the Heat would struggle in this category (or atleast I did) without a true center, but they actually rank better than the Mavs in these playoffs. Most likely, it is because they rebound well from the guard positions. The tide turned for the Heat after Game 1 against the Bulls, when they were able to even the rebounding, and thus, dominate the series. The Mavs have actually been out-rebounded so far in these playoffs. I literally just said this, but it bears repeating, whoever controls the boards will control these games.

PreDirktion - Gee, who ya think I'm going with here? I'm gonna believe what I've seen throughout these playoffs though - that nobody has looked better than the Dallas Mavericks. While watching both conference finals seriesi, I constantly remarked to anybody that would listen (thank you, Twitter) that the Mavs looked far superior to both the Heat and the Bulls. Barring a complete and utter dominating performance out of Lebron (which is about 25% possible), I'm taking the Mavs in a breeze. I think Dirk is on an absolute mission, and everybody on his team would literally go to war with him right now (good thing we're not in the 1940's). I believe the Heat are a bit full of themselves after marching through the weaker Eastern Conference, and won't be prepared for what they're about to run into. Unlike 2006, I believe this Mavs team has the necessary killer instinct to drive the stake into the heart. And they will.



Dallas Mavericks over Miami Heat in 5

His Dirkness

Monday, May 30, 2011

Only One Team, One Man To Root For

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I understand that there are some true Miami Heat fans out there. There has to be. It's illogical to think otherwise. However, the number of people who have told me they're a lifelong Heat fan lately is getting a bit ridiculous. And I live in Kansas City for Dirk's sake! And this is one example where being from the city doesn't necessarily qualify you as a diehard fan of that team. Not when the city is the home of the worst fan base in the country. So this means that as a Miami Heat fan, you're most likely a frontrunner, bandwagon type of fan that cheers only for the team that stands the best chance of winning (literally, the weakest thing you can do as a fan, I mean, these people should be shipped off somewhere allowed only to watch women's basketball). This means, if you're out there supporting the Heat in these NBA Finals, you're indirectly supporting this type of fan (mis)behavior. How dare you! Don't worry though, it's not too late, there's still a way to turn things around for yourself, however...

You must root for the Dallas Mavericks in the NBA Finals.

There's really no option here. I understand that there are a lot of Lebron supporters out there who are anxious to see his reign as Basketball Gesus commence, but this is one of what will be many opportunities for 'Bron to reach his self-proclaimed "Chosen One" status. In all likelihood, this is the final run for The Dirkster. While the Mavs grow long in the tooth, the Bulls, Heat, Thunder, and eventually Knicks are all on the rise surrounding them. By cheering for 'Bron, and the Heat, to capitalize on their first of what will be many runs, I shall label you an elitist. You only want the rich to get richer. You might find yourself supporting the Yankees (or maybe the Red Sox these days), the Cowboys or the Steelers or the Patriots, or USC football (wait, they died), and you're most likely a Duke or North Carolina basketball fan. Hell, you probably even support the owners in the current NFL lockout (ask Nick Wright why you shouldn't, he'd be glad to tell you). Or maybe, just maybe, you're even racist. Against Germans. Achtung!

Obviously, I'm being a bit hyperbolicious, and you should root for whoever you want. That's the great thing about sports. So if you weren't buying that smear campaign, let me smack you in the face with a more logical approach. Hard.

The biggest ongoing secret in the NBA is that while 'Bron is heralded as the most exciting player in the NBA (or in any sport?), ironically he's kinda boring. I feel put off because he was supposed to be different, when in actuality, he's very much the same. He's pretty close to an exact cross-breed between Michael Jordan and Magic Johnson, two of the greatest to ever play the game. But we've seen both of them before. He was supposed to be the best passer of all time, but I never come away thinking he sees the game like a point guard. Off the court, I feel like he's afraid to take any chances. Afraid to be himself. He's very mainstream. He passed up a chance to win a Championship with his tortured hometown team, as well as tangle with the beast that is New York basketball, all to play with his best friend in a nice weathered city, which is totally understandable, but at the same time is very...safe. His aspirations are to reach as many people as possible (an icon), which means being as politically correct as possible, and to make as much money as he can (a jizillionaire), which is what you chase when you don't know what else to do with yourself. Do we really know anything about 'Bron, other than the fact that he might be the greatest athlete we've ever seen? Am I the only person that's simply not satisfied by only that?

This is why I need a man with style. I choose a man who is uniquely talented, as well as uniquely spirited (who finishes most of his tweets with "gotta stay humble and hungry"). Note, humble first. A man who is more into self-depracation, as opposed to what the NBA fuels itself on, self-promotion. A man who gives interviews slumped in his chair, holding the microphone himself. I choose a man who is breaking the mold of what it takes to find success in the NBA, perhaps the hardest "soft" player the sport has ever seen. A man who's skill set is so far from duplication that they just compare him to the last great white player (Bird). A man who handled the Thunder cheaply spilling water on their bench (a dirty tactic that I am all for) while he was shooting two free throws to tie the game, and complete a 15 point 4th quarter comeback like this...



"That's ze old trick, ooh, I spilled the watah..."

A man on such a mission that he bypassed celebrating the Western Conference Championship with his teammates because he's after something bigger, and felt embarrassed by all attention his teammates were giving him (my favorite sports moment of 2011 so far). I choose the man who has persevered through mountains of adversity, and now finds himself at the summit of that mountain, ready to knock down the last obstacle that stands between what he is and what he's perceived as. Is there any greater accomplishment than a man setting out to do what nobody believed he could do? Isn't this why the human race was created? It's too inspiring for me to even fathom how anybody out there could not be rooting for the man.

The man that I choose.

Dirk.

So cheer for the Heat if you wish. Let the reign begin. But know what you're supporting in the process - Elitism. White-outs. Bandwagoning. Bill O'Reilly. Individualism. Like A Bosh. Cowardice. Dan LeBatard. Anti-retribution (did I forget to mention how the Heat won the Championship the Mavs got cheated out of?).. Neckbeards (damn, I like that one).. Genericism. "Not 2, Not 3, Not 4, Not 5, Not 6, Not 7." The end of Basketball as we know it.

In short, if you're cheering for 'Bron and the Heat over Dirk n' the Mavs I do not like or respect you.

His Dirkness

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Top 10 Reasons To Be Excited For NBA Finals

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Could we have asked for a better NBA Finals? I say no. I can't remember the last time I was this gosh darn excited about a Championship game/series in any sport, let alone the NBA Finals. I do feel comfortable saying that I've never been this excited for an NBA Finals before, which makes sense because my team is in it, and the last time they were in it they got cheated out of it, ya dig? But it's not only because The Man has made his presence known. In fact, Dirk's complete and total awesomeness isn't even one of the 10 reasons (although it plays a big role for #7). But enough about the Ghostface Drillah for now, lets get down to this list...

1. These two teams don't like each other - Or at the least, the Mavs do not like the Heat. I mean, they hate the Heat. Hell, I hate the Heat. This one is personal, especially for Jason Terry and the one they call Dirk. The Dallas crowd remembers every foul call from that 2006 series - for better or worse - and they can't wait to boo every single call from this 2011 series (we'll see how annoying that gets). But the history of these two teams make this series infinitely more interesting.

2. These two teams are evenly matched - Don't let the public opinion of the masses fool you. These two teams were separated by 1 game in the regular season and share the same playoff record to this point (12-3). I wouldn't be surprised to see this series swing either way in any amount of games. A sweep would leave me filibustered, but either team winning in 5 wouldn't shock me. You might think that's indicative of a dominant team, but I expect each game to be played closely, and if we've learned anything from these playoffs so far, it's that one team can gain a strong psychological advantage in a series by pulling out close games.

3. These are the best two teams in the NBA - There's absolutely no doubt that these should be the two teams playing for the NBA Championship. Only the Mavs have gone as far as a Game 6 in these playoffs, which was only forced because of a ridiculous, Brandon-Roy induced comeback. The Heat took out the team with the best record. The Mavs took out the 2-time former champs. They've been streaking towards each other. A Championship matchup is always better knowing that it's between the best two teams, which is something of a rarity in the NBA Finals.

4. These two teams have dominated 4th quarters - There weren't huge differences between the four teams in the conference championship games. The winning teams were separated by how they closed out in the 4th quarters of games, severely evidenced by both teams' series clinching wins. However, they no longer have that youth to prey on. Both of these teams expect to pull out games in the 4th quarter if it's close (exactly what the conference finals were missing), which should make for some epic clashes, especially when considering the two studs who are leading their respective teams...

5. Dirk vs. Lebron - These are the two men playing the best basketball in the world right now. Lebron gets it done on both sides of the floor with athleticism that we have never seen before, and an attitude/mental game that's quickly evolving (if he gets there, we're all done for). Dirk is a man on a mission right now, that is playing the game as efficiently as any player in NBA history. He's seen and been through it all, and has adjusted his game (both mentally and physically) to handle any situation that's been thrown his way (so far). It's tough to say Dirk is superior to Lebron because of their defensive abilities, but Dirk is certainly more unstoppable on the offensive end. It's very likely that whoever plays better night in and night out will come away with their first NBA Championship.

6. Neither star has won a Championship - Another rarity in the NBA. Championships tend to be monopolized by a small fraction of teams in NBA. It's always cooler to see how a player reacts to winning a first 'ship than seeing Kobe fake-hug his kids for the umpteenth time. A few players remain from the Heat's *Championship* team, most notably Dwizzly and Udonis Randy Mosslem. We're either going to see the beginning of Lebron's reign atop the NBA or Dirk do what nobody thought was possible. Either should be special to even the common viewer.

7. More Dirk practice routine videos - The most entertaining 30 seconds of the NBA Playoffs to me. The montage they used to show his spinorama shots and one-legged turduckens was riveting television. I could've watched all 2 hours of it, or however long it lasted. But it really gives you a peek at the mastermind of The Dirk, The Godfather himself, Holger Geschwindner (who's name I almost got down). And I don't mean Godfather like the movies, I mean it like the old WWF wrestler with all his ho's. I will admit that I tried many of the same ridic shots in the driveway to mild success (and I wasn't the only one to admit that the past few days).

8. The Miami Heat white out lives on! - One of the finest traditions in sports. Nothing screams playoff basketball better than a half full arena of chonchos representing one of the truly awful fan bases in all of sports. It's like everything I love about Arrowhead Stadium, only the exact opposite. Even when I was stuck in limbo about cheering for the Heat, one sight of that plastic-infested, feminine Sammy Sosa wanna-bes would've set me straight. In actuality, the dullness of both of these crowds is probably the worst aspect of this series.

9. Potential trophy moment between Mark Cuban and David Stern - It's no secret that Cuban is high on Stern's list of people to destroy (although I hear he's steadily declining). Many people thought their relationship may have interfered with the officiating of the '06 Finals. We were shorted the sight of Dan Beebe handing over the final Big 12 Championship Trophy to Tom Osborne and Nebraska, but I'll settle for taking this one in. It would be a moment that goes down in history. And with Cuban involved, anything is possible.

10. The most interesting team vs. the most entertaining team - The Mavs are a super fun team to watch. They get up and down the floor, play a wide open European style, and are the best passing team in the NBA. By far. Their two offensive creators are a 7 foot German and a 5'7 Puerto Rican. They're old, slow, and nobody can quite figure out how they got here. The Heat are surrounded by drama, scrutinized every step of the way, and provided us with the most intriguing NBA regular season of all time. Nobody could wait to announce the demise of them, while everybody was afraid of what might happen if they figured it out. Think of it as the Dos Equis guy vs. the Red Stripe guy. Which side are you on?

3 days!
His Dirkness

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Key to the Dallas Mavericks' Success

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The Dallas Mavericks have been the best team in the NBA Playoffs up to this point. The Miami Heat have received infinitely more publicity for their run, but it's been the Mavs who have disposed of the Champions of yesterday (Lakers) as well as the Champions of tomorrow (Thunder). I can't understand how eeking out victories against a Rondo-less Celtics team and an overmatched Bulls team is wowing everybody so much. And yet, most people's sentiments are that the Miami Heat are on cruise control right now and an NBA Title is a foregone conclusion. I don't want to get ahead of myself too much, so I'll save most of this rant until after the Mavs bury the Thunder.

But just how are these Dallas Mavericks doing it? I tiptoed around their team dynamic about two weeks ago, having this to say in the middle of the Lakers series....

Beyond that, they have just been slowly acquiring other people's garbage and molding it into something of a masterpiece. And I believe this collection of misfits have grown very tired of the world speaking out against them with the unified belief that this team is soft and can't get it done. That can be a gigantic motivator.

"A Collection of Misfits"

Well, mis-fits that is. As in, these players didn't seem to fit in with whatever team they played on before (some of them with the Mavs). They have now come together , unified and singularly focused, with one goal, and one goal only, in mind - to do what none of them have been able to do before - win a ring. It's unbelievable, really, when you examine all of their backgrounds to see how many of them have been dragged down, counted out, cast off, or been so close to a Championship they could smell it. I believe this has been a major bonding factor as far as team chemistry goes, as well as a root for how tough the team is in persevering through adversity.

Lets take a look at what each player has encountered throughout his career and why he fits in so very well with this current Dallas Mavericks squadron...

Dirk Nowitzki - It's truly amazing how much scrutiny one of the NBA's all time greats has faced throughout his career. Even now, immersed in the greatest run of his career, most of the discussion of him remains on the negative side (speaking out against Rick Carlisle's Top 10 of all time claim, and scoffing at Larry Bird comparisons - ironic given how quickly the league is to anoint the next Jordan). Needless to say, he took the majority of blame from the Finals meltdown against the Heat (time for revenge?) and Golden State upset (didn't hear much aimed at Duncan or Ginobili this year). I challenge you to come up with another all time great, in any sport, that has faced more disrespect throughout his career. And I don't think anybody wants to win a Championship more than him right now. He's on a mission.

Jason Kidd - Qualifies under the so close he could smell it category. He took a mediocre New Jersey Nets team through the weak Eastern Conference twice to reach the NBA Finals, but was ultimately bested (rather easily) by the Lakers and Spurs in back to back years. Has since been dismissed due to fossilization, but has reinvented his game by improving his jump shot. He's a big reason the Mavs are doing what they are doing.

Tyson Chandler - Fought through the adversity of being labeled a bust after being drafted #2 overall by the Chicago Bulls. The high school draftee from straight outta Compton never flourished with the Bulls in 5 years, and was shipped off to the Hornets where he enjoyed his most success. Has since been traded by the Hornets and Bobcats, winding up in Dallas, where he has been the biggest single difference maker from the Mavs teams of the past to this current team.

Shawn Marion - A former all star at the tail end of his career (the running theme of this Mavs team) who thrived playing with the run-n-gun Suns, a team who's downfall coincided with the decision to get rid of The Keanu Reeves. After 2 forgettable seasons in Miami and Toronto (didn't know they happened), he too has reinvented his game as less of a scorer and more of a defender for the Mavs, evidenced by swatting Kevin Durant's sausage to end regulation in Game 4.

DeShawn Stevenson - Bounced around from team to team because he's halfway crazy. This is evidenced by his Wikipedia page, which I encourage all of you to read. Here are some of the highlights - In 1993, when Stevenson was 12, his father Darryl murdered his own mother, Clara, by strangling her. He originally committed to the University of Kansas until he was red-flagged for improving his SAT score from 450 as a sophomore to 1,150 as a senior. In 2001, Stevenson finished second in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest. Later that year, Stevenson pleaded no contest to having sex with a 14 year old girl. He is the first player in NBA history to wear the number 92 on his jersey. Oddly, how I remember him (no Wiki mention) is losing to Gilbert Arenas in a 3 point shooting contest that Hibachi shot one-handed. Not much doubt where this man gets his toughness from.

Jason Terry - The other remaining Mav throughout the years, along with Dirka. This means that he, too, has faced much of the same criticism as Dirkness, but to a much lesser degree. However, every Mav remains scarred from what happened in the 2006 and 2007 Playoffs. The Mavs' emotional leader is just as motivated by the team's past and determined to prove the NBA worlds wrong as El Dirkarino.

JJ Barea - The captain of the counted out aspect of the Mavs. It's no secret why he's always been counted out, but it is a secret how tall he actually stands. The roster lists him as 6'0, but those are just lies, ALL LIES! Barea is the rare breed of player who can dominate a game with his repertoire of offensive moves, but can also cost your team the game because of his defensive shortcomings (pun intended). At least he still has his patented defensive move, keeping his face down by the opponent's elbow, waiting for them to strike at any moment, with an assured offensive foul soon to follow.

Peja Stojakovic - Stojanky Nutz was a key member of the Sacramento Kings team that fell short time and time again to the Los Lonely Lakers in the early 00's. Not only that, but he's the culprit of the worst clutch shot I have ever seen in the NBA, when he uncorked a wide open 3 from the corner against the Lakers that hit the side of the backboard! Perfect fit for the previously-perceived-as-soft Mavs.

Brendan Haywood - Always been a decent player, never experienced much playoff success, doesn't really fit the mold. Love watching him shoot free throws though.

Rick Carlisle - Last, but not least, lets not forget the coach of these Mavs. Jim Carrey with cancer won the Coach of the Year award with the Detroit Pistons in 2002 and was fired the next year (replaced by Larry Brown who won a Title and subsequently destroyed the team). Then he took the Indiana Pacers to the best record in the East before ultimately being defeated by Brown's Pistons in the playoffs. The next year, the Pacers were on their way once again until Ron Artest ran into the crowd or something, I can't really remember. It sounded bad though.

So if you're watching the Mavs, wondering how they have seemingly became tough overnight, this list might enlighten you. Every one of these players has a reason to be carrying an extra chip on their shoulder for this team in these playoffs. And sometimes, the will of a team can overmatch the talent of a team, which, in short, I believe is the reason the Mavs have proved everybody wrong throughout these NBA Playoffs.

His Dirkness

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

NBA Western Conference Finals Preview

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Dallas Mavericks vs. Oklahoma City Thunder

I couldn't imagine a funner pairing. Two of my three favorite teams battling it out for the Western Conference Finals (reminds me a lot of the Mavs-Suns series in 2006). Dirk and Durant are two of my very favorite playas in the NBA (interestingly enough, the last time I cheered against Durant, I applauded him throughout the game - against KU in Allen Fieldhouse). However, there is little doubt in my mind that my allegiances align with the Mavs (and with The Man). I am unbelievably excited for this to begin (only the premier of Franklin & Bash could compare), and will be glued to my TV for every single minute of this series.

*Dirk's Last Run? With Dirk's body wearing down more and more (although, he seemingly reinvents his game a little bit every year as the process proceeds) you have to wonder if this is his last chance at a ring. The Mavs are the type of team that can only truly make runs in transition years in the NBA (their last run coming before the Laker years). The Spurs were around before that, but they do the same thing, just better (however, even they are done now). The NBA is easier to forecast than the other professional sports, and we are entering a time that will be dominated by the Heat, Thunder, Bulls, and maybe Knicks. Once the Thunder evolve into what they are destined to be, the Mavs will have a much tougher time upstaging them. So even though I only project one dominant team in the Western Conference over the next handful of years, I expect them to be so superior to the Mavs, and that this will indeed be Dirka Dirka's last run at an NBA Championship.

*Rusty Mavs - My biggest concern (or atleast 1 of 2) is the time off in between games for the Mavs. They last played two Sundays ago. That's 8 days in between. The time off may be good for the legs of fogies like J-Kidd and Peja and Marion and Terry and Dirk (damn, this team is old), but you never encounter anything like that throughout the entire season. Basketball is a rhythm sport (and they were coming off the best rhythm I may have ever seen), and it's impossible to tell whether they still have the touch or not. This has me very worried about Game 1 for the Mavs, where it'll take atleast a quarter for them to get back into rhythm with each other. In fact, I fully expect the Thunder to come in and steal home court advantage tonight because of the Mavs' reliance on jumpshots.

*Mavs as favorites? I was all excited about how the Mavs were sitting pretty following their clubbing of the Lake show, because of how little they were being talked about nationally. Their performance in Game 4 was the best game a team has played in these NBA Playoffs (not as big a case of the Lakers quitting as everybody, including me, wanted to think). The barrage of 3 pointers was really like nothing I had seen before (Jason Terry and Peja StojankyNuts combining to go 15-16. Seriously. 15 of 16.). The Lakers may have been well on their way to quitting, but we'll never really know because the Mavs buried them alive. Not to mention, how everybody had foolishly fallen head over heels for the Heat after squeaking out victories against a team who's 2nd best player had 1 elbow. The Mavs were flying perfectly under the radar, just how they like it, or so I had thought...

But the past two days I've been watching ESPN and I literally haven't heard a single expert pick the oKC Thunder. Not a single one. I think I saw a fan poll on the series winner that came out to about 50-50, but I was in some kind of haze at the time. Needless to say, the Mavs do not thrive in the role as favorites (although this team has been turning many of their perceptions into misconceptions). I think if it were up to them, they'd fly under the radar the whole way, not necessarily as the underdogs, but just not talked about. They don't want the spotlight shone on them (hence the meltdown in the Finals, where the lights are the brightest). However, if they are able to handle the spotlight, and their new roles as favorites, I believe it's finally time to put everything we once thought about the Mavs to bed.

*Series Breakdown/The Wire - My biggest worry is who will guard Russell Westbrook (Stringer Bell), who scares the bejesus outta me. He seemed to have finally found the correct balance in Game 7 as a scoring point guard and a distributor to Kevin Durant (Avon Barksdale). Kidd is definitely not fast enough. DeShawn probably isn't either. Terry is, but he gives up a lot in size to RWB (I will say that I like Marion covering Durant though). I think we might see a lot of Corey Brewer in this series, the most athletic perimeter player the Mavs have (and somebody I believe in). It might take a few games to figure that out though (however, coaching advantage goes to the Mavs). I'm also very excited for the rebounding wars (corner wars) between Kendrick Perkins (Slim Charles) and Tyson Chandler (Chris Partlow). Meanwhile, Jason Whitlock (Prop Joe) thinks Serge Iblocka (hopefully not Kenard) could provide the best cover on Dirk (Omar) in the NBA. All these matchups got me feeling a little bit like Clay Davis...."Sheeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeit."

*PreDirktion - This series boils down to who's on a bigger mission - Dirk or Durant. While I think Durant showed great prowess in a Game 7 victory, I think he knows he's got many years ahead of him. Meanwhile, I think Dirk has been meditating somewhere in the Himalayas for the past 8 days, and is ready to fully seize the opportunity in front of him. He can't say "there's always next year" as easily as The Durantula can. So, even though I began writing this preview with the belief that I was picking the Thunder, I have settled back on to the Mavs, because I truly believe that Dirk is on a mission.

Mavs over Thunder in 7

his dirkness

Saturday, May 14, 2011

NBA Eastern Conference Finals Preview

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Miami Heat vs. Chicago Bulls

Miami Heat - Am I the only one suffering from a bit of Heat exhaustion lately? I get that the Miami Heat are the biggest story of these NBA Playoffs. What I don't get is why everybody was so skeptical of them before the playoffs started, but are now convinced they are invincible. What exactly have they done to impress everybody so much? They took care of the 76ers (who nobody would mistake as a good team), but not in overly impressive fashion (only dominating one game of the series - Game 2). But the real overreaction came after defeating the Celtics in the first two games in the next round. But why? Both games were at home. They did nothing but hold serve. Then they got slaughtered in Game 3 at Boston. Then Rajon Rondo got hurt. I'm not completely convinced that the Heat were winning that series if Rondo hadn't got hurt. Even without Rondo, the Celtics led throughout most of Games 4 & 5. Now you might say I'm being nitpicky at this point, but I'm not arguing that the Heat aren't playing well. I'm arguing against the popular belief that they are the overwhelming favorite to win the NBA Title right now.

Chicago Bulls - The least impressive team of the NBA Playoffs up until their Game 6 beatdown of the ATLiens. But seriously, The Pacers? The Hawks? The Bulls may just be a grind it out type of team, but they've had to work way too hard to beat these two chumps. But not only have they failed to impress, they're also a pretty boring team to watch because of their reliance on D-Rose getting to the foul line time and time again (and if he ain't gettin calls, they ain't winning). It'll be interesting to note the progress of Carlos Boozer, who was the Bulls choice for a max contract last offseason, and has been sucking it up this postseason. For fun, imagine who else that money could've been spent on, and what the Bulls might look like right now. Yes, they very easily could've won the Lebronathon and would be waltzing towards an NBA Title right now (this is why it's tough to take LeBron's claim seriously that he wanted to win as many championships as possible).

LeBron James - He finally closed out a game, giving most of the NBA world a gi-massive LeBoner. However, look at how he did it. With jumpshots. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: LeBron's downfall will continue to be his jumpshot. He's not good at them, and he can't say no to them. I don't think he'll be able to win an NBA Title until he's fully committed to driving to the basket. I see little reason why he should ever shoot a 3 pointer. He's too unstoppable on the move. In fact, if I were guarding him (always loved bangin' with bigger bodies), I would play off of him ala Rajon Rondo. Let him shoot all the jumpers he wants. However, given that this was one of his first closeouts of the season, and that he has been unsuccessfully driving to the basket on most of his opportunities this season, I have almost zero tangible evidence to back up this claim. That doesn't make me believe it any less.

Bulls sweep Heat - No this isn't a prediction. It was the fact of the matter from the regular season this year (although LeBron was LeLong Duck Dong for 1 of the 3). Normally, this would hold very little significance with me. Howeverrrrrrrrrr, the Miami Heat treated this NBA regular season like no team has since the Jordan days. So maybe there is something there. A matchup, a nuance, a hatred. Something. So is it a factor? More than it normally would be, but definitely not the decider.

PreDirktion: We have yet to see a truly great series in these NBA Playoffs. The Grizzlies over the Spurs was one of the better upsets of all time, but not impactful enough to define these 'offs. The Thunder and Grizz are going to 7 (which might elevate its' status), but hasn't been well played thus far. I think this series is it. The Bulls will win games by dominating the boards and wearing D-Wade out on the defensive end by guarding D-Rose (already phoning my nickname squad). The Heat will win games when both LeBron and Wade go off in the same game or when D-Rose isn't getting to the foul line. I think this one's going the distance. Maybe, even, going for speed?





Heat over Bulls in 7

See ya in the Finals, chumps,
His Dirkness

Monday, May 9, 2011

Lakers Suck, Dirk Rules

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Alright Lakers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

You can always tell a lot more about a man following a loss than you can after a win.

Congratulations Andrew Bynum, ya big dumb animal, you have now been reduced to a punchline for the rest of your existence (people may forget - I will remind them). In your effort to prove you're a tough guy, you took out the smallest guy on the court. Maybe you didn't see the elderly woman sitting courtside? Hopefully, there were some children in the locker room for him beat on to continue his hissy fit. Although, to be fair, I guess they didn't just get done abusing your backside to the point where the police had to be called (we've got a bleeder!). I am impressed that you were able to steal the goat label away from both L'Odom (who went after The Man) and Kobe Bryant (do your scowl Kobe!). I could attach any number of characterizations to your embarrassment, however I think the most obvious might be the most fitting - Bitch.

The best part about the Lakers meltdown was that it was such a glorious sight to take in that it effectively countered watching them win the past two NBA Championships. I feel like it's almost been negated in my mind now. Dejustified. Imagine how you'd feel if you were a true, die-hard Lakers fan (are there any?) right now. Not only did your team just take a beatdown of epic proportions, but they showed their true colors in the process. And you sit back and think to yourself, "This is the team I've been supporting this whole time...?!" I can't imagine how their true fans (there's gotta be some, right?) could go on supporting this current group of players. I guess it's a long offseason though.

The weirdest part of the whole thing was how surprised everybody was. I expected everything I saw in Game 4. Magic Johnson and Mike Wilbon were shocked that the Lakers came out with a weak effort in the first half, but I fully expected a Lakers lay down. This ain't Kobe's first time either. In fact, when he loses he usually goes down with a whimper in the Playoffs (2008 Finals anybody?). So maybe they just believed in Phil Jackson? Although, he had never been in a 3-0 hole before, and anybody that heard his pre-game taped interview could easily tell that he had moved on past this series. So once the game was in hand (around mid 2nd quarter), my thoughts immediately turned to what kind of Laker meltdown we were about to see. To my surprise, people weren't expecting this either. Why did people think the Lakers exude class? Because there were no qualms during their times of success? The best part of this series is how it verified everything I had previously thought about the Lakers.

Now on to the man...

Dirk Nowitzki - How ya like me now? Can this man finally get a break when being discussed as a current superstar and/or all time great? Does publicly undressing Kobe and spanking him in front of the entire fraternity of the NBA enough? I mean he had a few bad seriesi (although it was more his team than himself) and yet he gets brushed aside when compared to rest of the league's elite. Hell, Kobe has quit on his team 2-3 times throughout his career now, yet that barely gets a mention. It's as if quitting on your team carries more street cred than going all out but falling short. That's a sad, sad state of affairs, man.

But since this is the first time they've ever met in the NBA Playoffs, I have no problem now saying that Dirk Nowitzki owns Kobe. Whatcha'll say about that?

"Yea, but Kobe is on the tail end of his career, thus lessening Dirk's accomplishment." I almost bought into this argument myself, until one quick look at Wikipedia told me that DIRK IS OLDER than Kobe!

"Yea, but Kobe has 5 rings, while Dirk has none." Well, 3 of those rings belong to Shaq. Kobe played a big part in obtaining them, but now you're walking the slippery slope of putting the likes of Rick Fox ahead of Dirk (which wouldn't shock me to hear NBA folks do). 2 of the rings are rightly Kobe's, but he needed a star in Pau Gasol to get back to that level. Remember, he doesn't even have a single series victory without Shaq or Pau. So Laker fans (crickets) might wanna reconsider that whole blaming Pau thing.

"Yea, but this series wasn't about Kobe vs. Dirk. The Mavs are just better than the Lakers. Not Kobe's fault." Tell that to Dirk's reputation of the last 10 years. But, you are right, because Kobe's Lakers have the far superior team to the Mavs. As Sports Guy tweeted last night...

On paper, LA has 4 of the best 5 players in the series. Their 4th best player (Odom) would be #2 for Dallas.
So that would mean that Dirk would have to severely outplay Kobe to give his Mavs a chance at this shocking upset right? A quick look at point totals doesn't give you that impression. However, a deeper look at games 1 & 3 reveal that Dirk made the plays down the stretch, while Kobe came up empty (or was the 2nd choice behind L'Odom). Best closer in the league? Nein.

"Yea, but Kobe can just buy the Playoffs a 4 million dollar ring and it'll all go away." Now that one I cannot counter. Sometimes you just gotta tip your hat to a man that has it all figured out.

Enough about Kobe though. Like his teammates, I'm gonna give up on him. However, I remain very intrigued by what drives this perception of Dirk. As my buddy Cheebah Sheebah and I discussed the issue, we wondered if he will always remain perpetually underrated because he isn't flashy on or off the court. He rarely dunks the ball (although when he does it sounds something like this). He hardly even likes to shoot 3's anymore (even though he shot 70% for the series from deep). He DOES like to always make the right play (almost never see the Mavs take a bad shot, and that starts with Him), get all of his teammates involved (the most unselfish non-point guard in the NBA), and play smart. He's very comparable to Tim Duncan in these regards, but with one big difference: He's not boring as shit.

I'm just really glad to see Dirk rise up and make atleast one more (hopefully not last) run in the NBA Playoffs. I didn't (and never will) think that the NBA didn't intervene in the 2006 Finals, giving the Heat a hockey assist to the Championship (although I've never contended the Mavs are innocent in this injustice - I just think that title should be nullified altogether). I feel like if Dirk and I can keep feeding off the same seismic energy (huge bowling victory this week for Ze Dirkness), then he might just get his second chance.

Go Dirk, go Mavs.

His Dirkness

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Mavericks/Lakers Thoughts - Series Over?

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Wow! Not in my wildest dreams did I expect the Mavs to take the first two games from the Lakers in Los Angeles. I really didn't think they had much of a chance in this series, given the recent history of these two teams. The Lakers have always been the team that comes up big, while the Mavs are always the team that shrinks down in the moment. That's to my extreme disliking, but that is the case. However, two people, who's opinions I hold in high regards, believed in the Mavs - Charles Barkley and Jason Whitlock - both of whom predicted the Dirks to take the series in 6 games. The fact that they're willing to go with what they truly believe, despite what popular belief tells them and how easy it would've been to pick the Lakers, is the reason I respect them so highly. 90% of analysts would've been afraid to make that pick, even if they had believed it would happen, because they're afraid of looking stupid on national TV.

So just how have the Mavs taken this 2-0 lead over the two time defending Champions? Well, one thing is for sure, this ain't your grandpa's Mavericks team. Perception doesn't always meet reality, and never is that more the case than with the Dallas Mavericks. And that starts with Dirk Nowitzki, who has the reputation of being soft and a bit of a choker, yet ranks 2nd in 4th quarter scoring thus far in the NBA Playoffs. It hasn't just been the small sample size of the Playoffs though, remember Sports Guy had this to say on Dirk's case for MVP this year (speaking for Dirk)...

According to 82games.com, I'm the league's best clutch scorer: in crunch-time, I make 49.5 percent of my field goals, get to the line more than anyone else and make 89 percent of my free throws. I have chunks of Kobe's crunch-time prowess in my stool.
But how about the Mavericks as a whole, who probably have a worse reputation than Dirk himself? They lead the NBA in comeback wins when trailing/tied after the 3rd quarter (Dallas - 16, Portland - 14). They were tied with the Miami Heat for most road wins in the NBA throughout the regular season. Los Mavs went into Game 6 of the first round against Portland losing 18 of their past 20 playoff road games, yet all they've done since then is when 3 in a row on the road. All of these statistics contradict what the past 3 seasons of Mavs basketball have led you to believe.

But nobody took any of those numbers seriously going into this Lakers series. After all, it's the Lakers. And these are the Mavs. Well, Game 1 might've turned a few heads, when it was supposed to be the Lakers dominating down the stretch, yet the Mavs stole the game with a 10-2 run to close the game on a night where Kobe was on his A game. Can that be right? Or how bout this? It was the "soft" Mavericks battling back from a 16 point deficit in the 3rd quarter. And surely it wasn't the Mavericks getting T'd up for swinging an elbow right before the end of a first half, was it? After all, it was the Lakers' Matt Barnes, who played for that infamous Golden State team that upset the Mavs in 2007, that said that Golden State team figured out how to defend Dirk: "You have to punk him." Well, "Who's the wildman now?" asks Jon Favreau. But all of this is exactly what happened in Game 1, with the Mavs stealing a game they had no business winning, in what I would call the best game of the NBA playoffs so far.

This is all to drive home the point that these are not the same Mavericks of yesteryear. That team would've folded so fast after Game 4's meltdown against Portland (blew a 23 point lead) that not even Spike Lee in a cape could've saved them. Instead, they have now reeled off 4 straight victories, 3 on the road, 2 against the defending champs, and 1 close out game.

So what has made the difference for them? I would say it begins with Tyson Chandler (straight outta Compton). He has a brought a new attitude to this team, a toughness that has been lacking for them since the departure of DeSagana Diop (haha, I kid....kind of). He forms a perfect duo with Dirk, because while Dirk floats around the perimeter, all Chandler does is protect the paint and throw down alley oops like an O-rim-atang. Beyond that, they have just been slowly acquiring other people's garbage and molding it into something of a masterpiece. And I believe this collection of misfits have grown very tired of the world speaking out against them with the unified belief that this team is soft and can't get it done. That can be a gigantic motivator.

The Lakers on the other hand are experiencing some serious issues that go beyond whatever it is that Steve Blake does on the court (seriously, one of the worst games I've ever seen from an NBA player in Game 2). There were 3 key stats I was keeping my eye on going into this series, 2 of which I thought the Lakers would have a huge advantage. The first was points in the paint since the Mavericks get a lot of their points via jump shots, and I thought the Lakers would have an easier time getting their points. Well, they have dominated this statistic so far outscoring the Mavs 102-74 through two games. The second was rebounding, where I thought the length of Bynum, Pau, and L'Odom would dominate the shorter Mavs frontline. However, since getting manhandled in the first half of Game 1, the Mavs have hung tough in this statistic, with the Lakers holding only a slight edge at 88-79 (this is where I think the Mavs have been able to swing the series in their favor). The last was bench points, where I expected the Mavs to dominate, but not like they have been. Terry, Stojakovic, Haywood, and JJ Barea have absolutely mauled the Lakers second team unit (despite L'Odom playing fairly well so far). The Mavs employ a strategy that I'm a big proponent of by not starting their best 5 players. The 2nd team unit needs a leader on the floor, and Jason Terry is the very best at that (ironically, losing the 6th man of the year award to L'Odom). It's not about who starts, but who finishes.

So is this series over then? Nope, not yet by a long shot. As a Mavs fan you learn to not celebrate something until it is beyond certain. I won't even feel fully confident if the Mavs take a 3-0 lead in this series. My biggest fear right now is that the Ron Artest suspension gives the Lakers some life because A. He's been awful in this series and B. Probably means more minutes for L'Odom (who is the one player the Mavs cannot guard). Dirk isn't comfortable right now though. Trust me, I know how this man thinks. We don't like big leads. And while he took my advice on growing out the beard, he knows that no lead is ever safe when you look this good.

His Dirkness

Monday, May 2, 2011

Top 10 2011 NFL Draft Classes

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So I've spoken ad nauseum by now about the Kansas City Chiefs' 2011 Draft class, but now I'd like to address the NFL as a whole a little bit. I'll start out by grading the analysts at the NFL Draft: Chris Berman C+ (not drunk enough), Mel Kiper Jr. D (he annoys me now), Todd McShay B (shows great upside), Mike Mayock B- (didn't see enough Mayockisms), Jon Gruden A- (still applauding Jamarcus Russel pick), Trent Dilfer A+ (becoming the unofficial voice of the NFL). On to the next one....

Top 10 2011 NFL Draft Classes:

1. New York Giants - First round pick: Prince Amukamara, CB, Nebraska - Was a top 10 prospect once upon a time, but fell all the way to pick 21. I'm telling you, a player's ranking immediately following the season is much more prognosticative (!) than their ranking going into the Draft. You'd think I have a great idea on Prince will do since I watch every Nebraska game, but he really never got thrown at, like at all. I think that's a good thing though.

What else did I like? Marvin "The Manchild" Austin - 2nd round, Greg Jones and Tyler Sash (2 of my sleepers) - 6th round, Da'Rel Scott - 7th round.

What didn't I like? Nothin.

2. Arizona Cardinals - First round pick: Patrick Peterson, CB, LSU - My top player in the NFL Draft. Need I say more? Why yes, yes I do. They passed on Blaine Gabbert, who would have failed tremendously in Arizona (but has a much better chance of succeeding in Jacksonville).

What else did I like? Ryan Williams - 2nd round, Sam Acho - 4th round, Quan Sturdivant (name of the Draft) - 6th round.

What didn't I like? Robert Housler - 3rd round.

3. Kansas City Chiefs - First round pick: Johnny Baldwin, WR, Pitt - Already discussed him at length, but heard today on Nick Wright that he has already talked with Cassel, and they set up plans for Baldwin to come to KC, stay with Cassel, work on some things, maybe go to Bed Bath & Beyond, he didn't know if they'd have enough time. Love hearing that!

What else did I like? Rodney Hudson - 2nd round, Justin Houston - 3rd round, Ricky Stanzi - 5th round, Jerrell Powe - 6th round.

What didn't I like? Well, Shane Bannon is from Yale, and I'm more of a Princeton guy because of my Scoregazm quarterback, my teammate.

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - First round pick: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa - I don't love this pick, but I like it. Clayborn was a monster in 2009, but his numbers trailed off in 2010 due to more attention. Unfortunately, he doesn't have a greasy QB to blame like our boy, Johnny Baldwin.

What else did I like? Da'Qwan Bowers (could be the absolute steal of the Draft) - 2nd round, Mason Foster - 3rd round, Ahmad Black - 5th round.

What didn't I like? Notta.

5. Cincinnati Bengals - First round pick: AJ Green, WR, Georgia - Made my top 5 list of best players in the 2011 NFL Draft (was #5). Might he be enough to convince Carson Palmer to stick around in Cincinnati (debatable if that would even be a good thing)?

What else did I like? Andy Dalton (my 2nd favorite QB) - 2nd round, Clint Boling (best player available going into Saturday) - 4th round.

What didn't I like? Squadoosh.

6. New Orleans Saints - First round pick: Cameron Jordan, DE, Cal - Don't know much about him other than he was supposed to go a lot higher than he did - Mark Ingram, RB, Alabama - Perfect fit for the Saints, who were in desperate need for a workhorse. Ingram seems like the kind of dude that will feed off the motivation of sliding to pick 28.

What else did I like? Martez Wilson - 3rd round, Greg Romeus - 7th round.

What didn't I like? Traded away next year's first round pick, so this had better be a good class for them.

7. Detroit Lions - First round pick: Nick Fairley, DT, Auburn - My #4 overall player of this Draft. Falls into the best position of any other player in this Draft, landing next to The Ndominant One. The Lions now have 2 of the 3 best D-tackles to roll through College Football since Warren Sapp. Also, see Amukamara, Prince up above.

What else did I like? Titus Young - 2nd round, Mikel Leshoure - 2nd round

What didn't I like? Only 5 picks.

8. St. Louis Rams - First round pick: Robert Quinn, DE, North Carolina - No doubt about how Steve Spagnulo believes a team should be built. He orchestrated the best defensive line I've ever seen with the NY Giants when they won their Super Bowl. Now he pairs the promising Chris Long with Quinn in his effort to recreate the magic.

What else did I like? Getting young Samuel some much needed help in Lance Kendricks - 2nd round, Austin Pettis - 3rd round, Greg Salas - 4th round

What didn't I like? Should have gotten a scat back to compliment S-Jax.

9. Houston Texans - First round pick: JJ Watt, DE, Wisconsin - Who I would describe as the most under the radar player in this Draft. Honestly, I can't even remember why I liked him so much, I just remember watching him dominate and believing he'd make a great 3-4 end. I stand by it.

What else did I like? Brooks Reed - 2nd round, TJ Yates - 5th round

What didn't I like? Both their first two picks project very well into their new 3-4 defense under Wade Phillips. However, what are their plans with Mario Williams? He's too much of a playmaker to play DE in the 3-4. They might have to make a Jared Allen like move with him now.

10. Washington Redskins - First round pick: Ryan Kerrigan, DE/OLB, Purdue - Was my top choice as a pass rushing linebacker, however I must admit I was somewhat surprised to find out he was white on Draft day.

What else did I like? Leonard Hankerson - 3rd round, Roy Helu (Goodbye!) - 4th round, Dejon Gomes -  5th round, Niles Paul - 5th round (launching MTV's next season of Real World: Huskerz in D.C.)

What didn't I like? Jarvis Jenkins - 2nd round.

His Dirkness

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Kansas City Chiefs 2011 NFL Draft Analysis

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Wow! Before the NFL Draft, I like to line up names that match up with the Chiefs' needs and selection spots, and then squawk about how they're a perfect fit. Then the Draft starts, and they choose people I've mostly never heard of at positions they hardly need, all while ignoring my phone calls, emails, and sky message flyovers. So I regather myself, try to put myself in their shoes and assess just what they were thinking. This year was different though. I mentioned 5 of the Chiefs' 9 draft picks in my pre-Draft writeup. Everything seemed to come together for them at the right time. The pieces fit perfectly into place. It felt similar to when I wrap up one of my world famous Draft classes on Madden where every pick makes sense (leading to one of my many Super Bowls). The Chiefs addressed each of my top 4 needs, and 6 of my overall 9 positions of need (honestly, the other 3 were just filler). Compare that to last year, when 6 of my top 8 needs were not directly addressed in the Draft.

It's almost scary how much I like this Chiefs draft class (as you'll soon find out with my grade-nasties). Combined with an excellent finish to the first round of the NBA Playoffs, the sports world now has me in fear of The Bundy Curse. But I think this could be one of the great classes, and not just when looking around the NFL this year, but when looking at the Chiefs' all time history. Combine that with the great classes of 2008 and 2010, and the Chiefs' future is looking brighter than Jon Gruden's preteen Swedish haircut. If Matt Cassel continues to progress, these classes have the makings for the foundation of an NFL powerhouse. However, I'm just glad to finally get my hands back into some football. And if you weren't excited about the 2011 NFL season (which will happen) because of the lack of Free Agency, the time to do so is now. So lets get to the picks and see why this class has me excited in more ways than one....

1st Round: Jonathan Baldwin, WR, Pittsburgh
I dismissed Johnny Baldwin (can I call you Johnny Baldwin?) at first because of his perceived similarities to Dwayne Bowe. What I meant by that is that neither Baldwin or Bowe have tremendous speed, and I was concerned that defenses would be able to stack the box, bogging down what the Chiefs want to do on offense (run the ball, intermediate passing). However, after taking a closer look at Baldwin, he gives the Chiefs exactly what they need, which is a downfield threat. Built with a 6'4 frame and terrific go-up-n-gets-it skills, Baldwin should prevent the defense from stacking too many in the box. There are some character concerns, but I trust that Pioli (In Pioli we trust!) checked into every potential concern with him. Combine that with the fact that Haley knows how to develop receivers, and Baldwin could be exactly what the Chiefs need opposite D-Pro-Bowe.

Fun Fact: Baldwin attended the same high school as former Pitt Panthas Mike Ditka and Darrelle Revis.

Grade (combined with the extra pick gained from the trade down): A-

2nd Round: Rodney Hudson, C, Florida St.
Hudson should be the Chiefs Center for the next 12-15 years. While Casey Wiegmann provided a good stop-gap solution at Center last year, reports say he's 50/50 about returning for the 2011 season. Rudy Niswanger has starting experience at Center, but is really better as a Guard (and as a backup). Hudson started 47 career games at Guard at Florida St, but does have experience at Center before and was projected as one by almost Draft expert. He was a 3-time member of 1st team All-ACC, the 2-time ACC Offensive Lineman of the Year, a unanimous All-American in 2010, and was considered the top center of the 2011 NFL Draft (despite the Raiders defying that conventional wisdom - whodathunk?). Hudson was whistled for 4 penalties throughout his entire career, and only allowed 1 sack in his last 2 years at Florida St.

Fun Fact: Hudson took part in one of the best things in sports when a defensive player jumps offsides and the entire Florida St. offensive line won't move to showcase the defensive infraction. Seen here...



Grade: B+

3rd Round (#1): Justin Houston, OLB, Georgia
Houston showed up on my list of potential first rounders for the Chiefs, so you know they got good value here (or I'm just a dumbass). Houston could start for the Chiefs from day one (Andy Studebaker as his main competition) because of his familiarity with the position (Georgia ran the 3-4 last year). The 1st team All-SEC performer posted 11 sacks last year (9 coming against SEC teams) on his way to becoming a finalist for the Nagurski and Butkus Awards. Juiceton could give the Chiefs the pass rushing threat they sorely need opposite Tambahawk.

Fun Fact: Houston failed his drug test at the NFL Combine (how can you fail the test at the Combine? You know the exact date, and you know you're going to get tested. Does this guy even have an agent?)

Grade: A

3rd Round (#2): Allen Bailey, DE, Miami
A new part of the Chiefs rotation at Defensive Line. Bailey sits at 280 pounds right now, which is a little undersized for a 3-4 Defensive End, but stands similar in stature to my favorite current Chief, Wallace Gilberry. He was a 1st team All-ACC performer in 2009 and a 2nd teamer in 2010, while putting up 7 sacks both years. While Defensive End wasn't a huge need for the Chiefs, you can never have enough good Defensive Linemen.

Fun Fact: Bailey grew up in a town, Hog Hammock, of roughly 80 people on isolated Sapelo Island approximately 15 miles off the coast of Georgia (Oh, maybe he knows Justin!).

Grade: B

4th Round: Jalil Brown, CB, Colorado
The third day (4th round) is when you start to throw positions of need aside and draft whoever is high on your board. Brown stands tall (at 6'1) and tested (opposite Jimmy Smith at Colorado - drafted in the 1st round), which sounds like Brandon Carr's description here with the Chiefs. Like defensive linemen, you can never have enough good Cornerbacks given today's NFL. Brown was honorable mention All-Big 12 the past two seasons, but perhaps more importantly for the Chiefs, starred on Special Teams his first two years with the Buffs, leading the team in "special teams points" both years. He's also very durable, having only missed 20 total defensive plays the last two seasons.

Fun Fact: Brown ran for 412 yards and 5 TD's in a high school game, breaking Terrell Suggs' (yup) previously held Arizona state record. And they lost the game.

Grade: B-

5th Round (#1): Ricky Stanzi, QB, Iowa
90% of the mock drafts I read were right. Not sure if it was Scott Pioli's relationship with Kirk Ferentz, or the disintegration of Crodie Broyle's tenure in Kansas City, but they all had KC snagging Stanzi sooner or later. I love this pick. Stanzi draws a lot of comparisons to Tom Brady with his pocket awareness and mobility. He went 26-9 as a starter at Iowa and led them to an Orange Bowl victory in 2009 before losing a bevy of close games in 2010. However, his stats in 2010 (25/6 TD/INT) dwarf his '09 numbers (17/15). Hopefully, this ends whatever was left of Crodie, guaranteeing atleast one area of improvement for the Chiefs from 2010 to 2011.

Fun Fact: The Arizona Cardinals phoned Stanzi with the intention of making him the 136th pick in the NFL Draft. Unfortunately for them, the Chiefs owned the pick before and gobbled him up.

Grade: A

5th Round (#2): Gabe Miller, OLB, Oregon St.
Was the biggest reach of the Draft according to most Draft boards scattered throughout the information superhighway. Miller is most likely a project having only played 2 years of defense with the Beavs, beginning as a Tight End. Plenty of reasons to dislike this pick, however there's one really good reason to like it....

Fun Fact: Gabe started "No Shave November" for OL, TE, and QB's at Oregon St. eventually leading to an ESPN Gameday feature. Seen here....



Grade: C-

6th Round: Jerrell Powe, NT, Ole Miss
The Chiefs finally have somebody phat enough to play Nose Tackle! Ron Edwards was masquerading as one the past two years (and doing a pretty good job of it), but the time has come for the real thing. The Chiefs got great value on this pick, with one CBS analyst mocking the Chiefs to pick Powe in the 2nd round. I have no idea how he lasted until the 6th round with so many teams needing a Nose Tackle in today's NFL, although this might play a bit of a factor...

Fun Fact: Powe literally cannot read according to his Mom. I find this endearing and think it makes him a very sympathetic dude that I will be rooting for extra hard.

Grade: A+

7th Round: Shane Bannon, FB, Yale
I got almost no information on this dude except....

Fun Fact: Check out this head of hair...



Grade: B

Overall GPA: 3.3 (B+) However, not everybody does so well in this NFL Draft, therefore I'm grading the Chiefs on a curve, which rounds this Draft class up to a rock solid A.

His dirkness
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