Saturday, January 13, 2007

Conrats to Yutaka Fukufuji

The first Japanese born and trained player in NHL history got into his first NHL game today, making a brilliant save on Eric Brewer, before allowing a power play goal later in the period.

The Kings lost again, 6-5 to Andy Murray's St. Louis Blues. Anze Freaking Kopitar added a couple more assists, and congrats to him for his anti-climactic naming to the NHL young stars game (which actually may field a better group of players than the all-star game). Lubo Visnovsky will be the Kings sole representative in Dallas at the All-Star game.

Honestly, this might be the best we can hope for from the Kings this season. An exciting, entertaining game that puts them one step closer to the number one overall pick, or something pretty darn close. Also, it makes it more obvious that they'll be sellers at the trade deadline. The future is bright.

UCLA 65; U$C 64

Nailbiter, eh? I've gotta say, I thought this was a strange game. Usually, when a team erases a nine point deficit late in the game, they do it with a good sized run, or at least a stretch of five minutes or so where they are clearly and unequivocally the better team. I never got the feeling that UCLA put together that kind of run, but the scoreboard disagrees. I'll be honest, when Darren Collison hit his two consecutive threes, cutting a 10 point lead to 4, I thought the Bruins were back in it. When U$C ran the lead back out to 10 shortly thereafter, I thought the game was over.

But somehow, the Bruins found a way to claw back, slowly cutting into the lead, getting another three from Collison, a layup from Al Aboya, a three from Russell Westbrook, a Lo Mata layup, then a bunch of free throws. Next thing I knew, the game was tied, and Aaron Afflalo was knocking a three to give the Bruins a three point lead. A couple of Mata layups later, and the lead was up to six before U$C hit a couple three of their own, and got a gift from the Pac 10 refs in the form or a four point play for Nick Young. That set the stage for Afflalo's heroics, as he moved the free thrown line, and knocked down the game winning jumper.

Big win on the heels of the Oregon loss. And with the week off, and Josh Shipp's absence, this gives Shipp over a week and a half to heal for the homestand against Arizona. Some observations coming out of this game:
  • Courtesy of my dad: Tim Floyd arguably spends more time on the floor and out of the coaching box than he spends in it. And lord knows, he spends more time on the floor than half his team. Speaking of which;
  • U$C could have problems in the second half of the Pac 10 season if they continue to give most of their minutes to only six players. Especially on the road. That's a lot to ask from your starters this early in the season.
  • I'm going to repeat what I wrote after the Illinois-Squawk game: Next year, I'd like to see college basketball make it a point of emphasis to stop calling defensive fouls, and start calling offensive fouls, on players who kick their defenders while shooting three pointers. Nick Young got a four point opportunity, giving U$C a last minute lead, basically because he kicked Darren Collison. I'd still like someone to tell me why in the hell that's a defensive foul.
  • U$C whines more than any team I've ever seen about calls that don't go their way. It was unreal. They got 95% of the marginal calls, and they whined about every single one that went against them. Must be the thug mentality around which U$C has built its athletic programs.
  • I'm not going to tell Ben Howland how to coach, but he typically uses his time outs after made baskets starting around the nine minute mark. Until Lo Mata learns to make free throws, he may want to start saving those until the end of the game so that he can switch Mata on for defense and off for offense. College refs aren't going to start enforcing the intentional foul rule anytime soon, so either deal with the hack-a-Mata, or sub more wisely.
  • Galen Center? Meh. Didn't seem like a big home court advantage to me.
I hesitate to call this a big win, but the fact is that they avoided what would have been a huge loss. Nice gutcheck considering the deficit they faced in the second half while in foul trouble and without one of their top scorers. Time to get ready for their real rival when Arizona comes to town. The good news is that they won't have to worry about facing a team that plays defense (and to give U$C credit, they are a good defensive team). I'm still not sure Arizona has figured out that there are two rims on a basketball court.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Iowa 70; Illinois 74

I'm not going to do a long post about this one. I've pretty much given up hope on Illinois making the tournament, and I really couldn't care less about the NIT, but I have some observations on the parts of the game for which I stayed awake:
  • College basketball is virtually unwatchable when one or both teams are playing a zone defense. Every possession is 30 seconds of throwing it around the perimeter until someone finally jacks one up. And it's not just bad teams that react that way. What's funny is that in the second half, even with a zone, Iowa still got torched on the inside.
  • Next year, I'd like to see college basketball make it a point of emphasis to stop calling defensive fouls, and start calling offensive fouls, on players who kick their defenders while shooting three pointers. Adam Haluska basically kicked Warren Carter, who was standing still, on his way down from shooting a three pointer, and was rewarded with three free throws. Haluska is a flopper, and was repeatedly either bailed out by officials, or allowed to take four or five steps at a time, and that was in Champaign. I don't think he'll even have to dribble the ball in Iowa City.
  • Brian Randle was particularly active and effective in the second half run that built up Illinois' biggest lead, be it on defense, or while dishing (a team high six assists) and dunking on the offensive end. He has to be that good every night for the Illini to be competitive.
  • As good a win as this was, the Illini were a couple or Warren Carter misses away from a loss. Jamar Smith was non-existent, going 0-7 from the field. Trent Meacham was just as bad at 0-5. Fortunately, Rich McBride picked up the slack, going 5-11 from the field for 15 points. They got 48 points from their starting front line, which is kind of a surprise against a zone team, but they're going to need to be better from the perimeter if they want to compete.
  • Apparently trash talking is now grounds for a technical.
In roughly a five minute stretch in the second half, Illinois scored seventeen points. They showed how good they can possibly be. The question is whether they keep it up over more than five minutes at a time. That might be enough to beat Iowa at home, but it won't be enough to finish in the top half of the Big Ten, and it won't be enough to make the NCAA tournament.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Moonlighting update

Not the TV show. A couple of posts from yours truly are up over Song of the Day.

Also, while you're over in Bullsieville, check out all of the "Tucker Carlson is Batshit Crazy" stuff over there. Long story short, Tuckwad goes to video store. Store clerk (Chuckles) says "hey, TC came into my store, he's a crazy wingnut" on his blog. Tuckwad goes nuts and gets guy fired for no apparent reason. Oh, the power of being a minor celebrity. All of the relevant links compiled by Plover.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

A Digression

First things first, Maury Brown brings up the DirecTV issue on his own non-subscription required blog with a few more excerpts over here. Primer discussion here.

JenJen (sorry about those Buckeyes), was incredulous yesterday over the possibility that I could tire of baseball if I can't get the Angels on television routinely. I was going to respond with another comment, but it led me into a larger post, so I figure I'd respond with a new post.

First, in response to Jen's comment, I'll probably never stop enjoying going to baseball games and whatnot, but if I can't get the Angels on TV regularly, I'm going to lose a fair amount of interest. It's inevitable, which brings me to my larger point. I don't know if any of the rest of you feel the same way, but as I've gotten older, I've found that I've gotten more interested in the teams that I root for, and less interested in the specific sport in which that team plays. For example, I read a ton of news stories about the Angels, and I visit most of the Angels blogs regularly. I watch every game I can, and listen to those that aren't on TV (assuming I'm not playing golf on a weekend). But I can't sit through a baseball game on TV if the Angels aren't one of the teams playing. I can't sit through a hockey game on TV if the Kings aren't playing. I used to be up to date on the scoring leaders and standings in the NHL. Now, I have no idea what divisions most of the Eastern Conference teams play in, and I'm still a little unclear on some of the Western Conference teams. And I say this as someone who watches pretty much every Kings game.

There are reasons for this, of course. In hockey, the unbalanced schedule means the Eastern teams rarely play the Kings anymore. The proliferation of the net has made a hell of a lot more information available about specific teams and players. A lot of the effort that went into following leagues and other teams has gone into following prospects in pro sports, and recruiting in college sports. I'm less interested in other teams because I know less about them because I don't follow them as much because I follow my own teams more.

Like I said, maybe I'm the only one experiencing this, but it seems I like sports less, but my sports teams more, than I did 15 years ago. Of course, that could change if I can't watch those teams play regularly anymore.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Angels Blogging Could Become Pretty Much Nonexistent

According to Maury Brown, the business of baseball guy over at Baseball Prospectus, I could be seeing a lot fewer Angels games this year. MLB is in...well, I'll let him tell it:
John Orerand and Eric Fisher of the Sports Business Journal have reported that MLB is in advanced talks with DirecTV to make the satellite television company the exclusive provider of MLB Extra Innings. While Extra Innings was initially only offered on DirecTV in 1996, the package has been available on cable since 2001, and on Dish Network since 2004.
In other words, yours truly could become one of those shut out of the Extra Innings package, and I'm not switching to DirecTV just to get the baseball or hockey (also in negotiation) packages. Apparently regional telecasts on Saturday afternoons which screw out of market fans weren't enough for MLB. They'd rather grab the quick buck and sell-out to DirecTV, thereby alienating me and probably a bunch of other fans.

Of course, I could go back to getting MLBTV, or getting the radio package, but having tasted the Extra Innings package, I'm more likely to just scrap the whole thing and stick to reading news reports in the Times until I tire of baseball completely.

So if you stop by in April looking for my take on Angels news, and you don't see anything, that's probably why. Or, it could just be laziness.

Over the Weekend


Umm, these guys aren't really going to be very interesting to write about this season. They're pretty bad so far. I still think they have the talent to turn it around, but as Mark Tupper has pointed out, they have yet to find someone who want to be a leader, and it doesn't help that their senior backcourt senior isn't very good. I'll admit, I thought Weber was going to turn McBride into a very good player, but he's been a disappointment for most of his career at Illinois, at least in my opinion. So who will it be? Well, my guess is no one, but if anyone can do it, it's Brian Randle. He has the ability, but so far he just doesn't have the fire.

As for Saturday's debacle, I didn't really see it. It was on at the same time as the UCLA - Oregon game, and once I saw what the score was after about 10 minutes, I decided it would be a waste of time. Sorry.


Had to happen sometime. Give credit to Oregon. They played extremely well, especially without Malik Hairston (speaking of that, maybe I just changed the channel every time it came up, but I didn't hear his injury mentioned once by the broadcasters - more on them later). Aaron Brooks played the game of his life, while the Bruins played without a doubt their worst game of the season (only including games against actually decent teams), and still had a chance to win or tie at the end. I've only seen one team in the last 20 years or so that I really thought could go undefeated, and this team wasn't it. Better to get this one out of the way on the road.

And while I'm on the subject, it should be interesting to see what kind of record U$C ends up with in the conference season. So far, thanks to the way the Pac 10 schedule works, it looks like they're either going to get teams that are looking ahead to UCLA (like Oregon and Washington), or teams that are drained from having just played UCLA (like Washington) (like Oregon State - see update at bottom). Of course, if they keep winning, that might change. And they'll get to test themselves against UCLA this weekend.

As for Barry Tompkins and Dan Belluomini, interesting exchange in the second half when LRMAM picked up his third foul. Howland sat him down, and brought him back on shortly thereafter, prompting Barry and Dan to comment that Howland was taking a chance bringing him back in with three fouls. A minute or two later, UCLA brought the ball down the floor, and a cross-court pass was knocked out of bounds by Oregon. Howland took LRMAM back out of the game. Somehow, Tompkins or Belluomini got convinced that there was a foul, and it was on LRMAM (his fourth). One proceeded to convince the other, and as a result, they were very shocked when Howland brought LRMAM back out a minute or two later with, in their view, four fouls. Finally, after figuring it out, they blamed it on a scoring mistake. Sure, guys. Whatever you say.


Nothing, really.


Nice 3-2 win over Detroit on Saturday after a dreadful first period. Before the season started, I said that the Kings would need more goal scoring from the blue line. Last year they had about 40 goals from defensemen, and about a third of those were from Joe Corvo, who's obviously gone. I said they'd need closer to 55 this year to be competitive. About halfway through the season, they've got 26, so they're ahead of last year's pace, but behind the pace I said they'd need to be at. Of course, a few more goals from the defense wouldn't make this team much better considering they have a hard time keeping it our of their own net.

Regardless, the Kings used two goals from defensemen to come back from a two goal deficit to tie the game before Michael Cammalleri got a good bounce on a power play for the decisive margin late in the third period. Lubo Visnovsky got his 13th of the season on a rush up the right wing, and Rob Blake tied the game on a fortuitous bounce from a Brian Willsie pass through the crease (though it still required a nice finish from Blake).

As for that power play goal that won the game, the man advantage was created by another jaw-dropping move from Anze Freaking Kopitar. He beat a man coming out of the Kings zone, pulled an incredibly timed pull and drag move at the blue line, smartly getting the puck into the zone before dragging it around a poke-check and splitting the defensemen for a great chance that probably should have been a penalty shot (he was a step behind the defense with a clear scoring chance - nothing in the rules says it has to be a clear break from the blue line). The kid is 19, folks. He's worth the price of admission.

*UPDATE - Nestor links to a Trojan Times article where Oregon State coach Jay John agrees.


Jack Motherf***ing Johnson. Is it any wonder Kings fans already freaking love this kid before he's ever played a game for the franchise?
But Johnson, a sophomore at Michigan, came through big-time for the U.S. in the 2-1 shootout loss in the semi-final on Wednesday when, twice facing elimination in the tie-breaker, the big defenceman beat Canadian goaltender Carey Price both times.

In fact, when U.S. coach Ron Rolston was selecting his three shooters for the shootout, he said, "OK, we'll have Pat Kane, Peter Mueller, and . . ."

Johnson interrupted and said, "Me," startling his teammates.

That is freaking awesome. Can't wait to get this kid in a Kings uni. And the fact that he's American is just icing on the cake. I'm not exactly Mr. Rah-Rah America or anything, but I'll root for just about any player on any team (except the Ducks) if they're American.