Thursday, February 08, 2007

Jamar Smith Watch - 2/7/07

For reasons I can't get into, I missed the Illinois game last night (that's a nice way of saying I forgot it was on). The Illini won at Northwestern, another "must" win if they're going to make the tournament. Their schedule really is easy down the stretch, and assuming they don't royally fuck things up, they should finish 9-7 in conference. I'm still not convinced that it will be enough.

Sean Pruitt had the big numbers with 13 points and 15 boards. Warren Carter added 17 and 8, and Rich McBride poured in 15 points on 5-11 shooting, all from beyond the arc, to go along with 6 assists.

As for Jamar, well, it appears that last week was an aberration. He's back to being Jamar ver.2.007. Last night's numbers:
1-6 from the field;
0-3 from three point land.

That gives us Conference numbers of:
17-76 (22.3%) from the field;
8-59 (13.6%) from three.

That's a drop of only .6% from the field, which means basically two things: 1) We're far enough along in conference play, and he's taken enough shots, that one game doesn't affect the numbers a ton; and 2) He's missed a whole bunch of shots, such that missing a bunch more doesn't change things much.

Keep shooting, Jamar. They've got to go in sooner or later.

U$C 65; UCLA 70

We've seen this all season. UCLA's opponent starts fast, but the methodical Bruins cut into the lead, keep the game close, survive a couple of spurts and win the game, which was kept close by a flurry of three pointers from the women of troy. South Central actually played a very a good game, and both Gabe Pruitt and Nick Young are terrific players, but at Pauley, a short bench just isn't going to be enough to beat UCLA.

I'm usually fairly quick to call out the officials when UCLA or Illinois loses a close game, but the fact is that home cooking is as much a part of college basketball as zone defense and undershirts. It's always been that way, and it's something that the road team has to deal with. That said, there was a large discrepancy from the free throw line, and UCLA took advantage of it, shooting over 77% at the charity stripe. If I were a trojans fan, I'd be upset about two calls in particular:
  1. The technical foul on Lodrick Stewart: I think the refereee misinterpreted the outburst. I don't think Stewart was upset with the foul called on Shipp's layup (which wasn't called on him). But the fact is that it's virtually an automatic call when you slam the ball into the floor and don't catch it on the bounce. It wasn't a smart play, and I think if he had it do again, he'd clearly contain himself. It turned into a five point play and was probably the difference in the game.
  2. The intentional foul call in the final minute: They may be upset about that call, but for once, the officials got it exactly right. I rewound and watched that play a few times, and Alfred Aboya spends about 20 seconds covering about 150 yards in the front court, running in circles away from defenders until he finally had his jersey yanked. I kind of hoped he'd run into the back court just to see if one of the $C would have chased after him.
Late in the game, there was an inbounds play where $C was going to foul right away. Tim Floyd was about 10 feet out onto the floor in the corner where UCLA was inbounding the ball. He seems to spend a lot of time on the court. I was kind of hoping that the player inbounding the ball would throw it at him, not to inflict pain or anything, but just because I want to see what would be called. It would have to be a technical, right?

Anyway, the player of the game for the Bruins was pretty clearly Darren Collison, who poured in a career high 17 points. The numbers don't tell the entire story, particularly the two assists against six turnovers, which admittedly looks pretty bad. But he was the only Bruin who was able to penetrate, and he did so for a couple of layups. On the defensive end, I thought LRMAM played an excellent game, in addition to collecting another double-double (11 points and 10 boards). Alfred Aboya had a nice 20 minutes as well, going 4-4 from the floor. And finally, Russel Westbrook gave the Bruins a nice lift early in the game when they were struggling against the zone. He was able to penetrate once for a short jumper, and again on a play that led to an easy Aboya layup.

The Bruins aren't going to win many games in which they make only two of seventeen three pointers, but the good thing is that there aren't going to be too many games where they shoot threes that poorly. This was not a textbook performance. They essentially partly because of their defense, and partly because of their ability to get to the line and make their free throws. But the mark of a good team is the ability to win games when they aren't at their best, and the Bruins proved last night that they have that ability.

Tough road trip on tap for next week coming off Saturday's game at West Virginia (which I may not get on TV). They had to McKale to play Arizona, who is looking for a big win coming off a series of losses. And they can't overlook Arizona State, who isn't very good, but gave Washington State all they could handle last week. A sweep in the desert should solidify their position at the top of the standings.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Avery Trade

I know I'm a day or so late on this. I liked Sean Avery, and I enjoyed watching him play. It was nice to have a guy on the team that everyone else hated. But I'd say I was pretty much in the middle of the road on Avery. I didn't hate him after he did stupid things, and I'm not heartbroken that he's gone. I think he has a chance to be a fairly skilled player. He's a great skater, and he's shown some skill at times, but I thought that over the last 25 games or so, he looked very average to me.

My problem with Avery wasn't that he couldn't cut it on the ice. My problem with Avery was that he was a dick. Any time I saw him interviewed, he wasn't just serious, he was completely humorless. I'm not sure how you can play that style and not have sense of humor off the ice. He seemed like a guy who really disliked the media, which is stupid, because he played in the one market where there was very little media scrutiny of his antics. The last time I heard him interviewed was the morning show on KLAC when he was interviewed by Fred Roggin, and TJ and Tracy Simers. Roggin's a season ticket holder, and TJ is a known hockey curmudgeon, but he's also a known joker, and the way to react to his slights is to make fun of him right back. But Avery seemed to generally get upset. And quite frankly, he sounded like an ass. In contrast, Chris Pronger was much more laid back and much funnier when he was on the program.

Again, I really liked Avery on the ice, but the fact is the guy got a lot of ink, and for a guy who is a press magnet, I don't think he was a very good ambassador for the Kings organization.

As for the return, I don't see Jason Ward being on the next good Kings team, although he is fairly young. Marc Andre Cliche is the big return. He's a 19 year old currently playing in Lewiston of the QMJHL along with Kings goaltending prospect Jonathan Bernier. He's got a decent scoring touch, but his real value is as a defensive center who excels on the penalty kill. He's supposedly a great character guy as well, which is one of the reasons he was selected to play on Canada's junior national team. Jan Marek is the final piece, a 27 year old skilled Czech forward who's putting up about a point per game in the Russian League. Sounds kind of like a Kai Nurminnen or Jaroslav Bednar type guy, both of whom were semi-productive during their brief stints in Los Angeles. See the video below. The guy's got some skill, and if Lombardi can get him over to North America, the Kings could really have two pretty good scoring lines next season.

So the rebuild continues. We'll just have to wait and see who's next.

Monday, February 05, 2007

What a Glorious Morning

It's about five degrees below zero right now. I thought that temperatures that cold didn't really exist in nature, like it was always some sort of joke that I didn't get when people talked about the temperature being below zero. But nope, they exist alright. My eyeballs, the only part of my body not covered up during my walk to the train, froze briefly, I'm pretty sure. But don't worry, tomorrow it's supposed to get all the way up to nine.

But none of that matters, because it's a beautiful day. The Super Bowl is over, meaning I don't have to hear about football for about a week, at which point ESPN and other "news" sources will start dissecting the draft, and better yet, the Bears lost, which means I don't have to deal with insufferable Bears fans for the next God knows how long. Believe me, I hate the Colts, too, but I'm not surrounded by Colts fans.

Of course, I feel bad for some Bears fans, the ones I consider friends (at least until they read this post, I guess), but most of them are also White Sox fans, so it's not as if they haven't had a championship in 90 years. I don't think I have any friends who are both Cubs fans and Bears fans, so those people can eat it.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Saturday in Review


This game was a lot closer than it should have been for about 25 minutes until the Illini pulled away in the second half. Minnesota is awful, and Illinois only resembles awful on occasion. The usual suspects did the damage for the Illini, with Pruitt, Carter, and McBride all in double figures. Chester Frazier did not play due to injuries.

But the story of the game, by far, was the fact that Jamar Smith didn't totally suck for the first time in a month. After Wednesday's game, his numbers in Big 10 play were:
11/60, 18.3% from the field;
5/49, 10.2% from three point country, and that's only because he was just bad in their first conference game, instead of brutal.

After the Minnesota game, his numbers are now:
16/70 (22.9%) from the field;
8/56 (14.3%) from beyond the arc.

It was actually nice to see a few shots fall for him. Maybe he'll gain some confidence for the stretch. He'll need it, and so will the Illini.


This game was over before I even saw any of it. Fox College Sports didn't click over until the U$C-Oregon game ended, and by that point, UCLA already led 15-5, and they didn't look back en route to an 82-35 win. They got 76 minutes and 32 points from their bench, primarily because all of their starters were done by the ten minute mark of the second half. You generally don't see too many all out slaughters like this in conference play, but it provided a nice rest for their starters, and some much needed experience for their bench, especially Nikola Dragovic, who got a later start to the season, and could become a key cog in a game or two when they really need an extra shooter or a few fouls.

Speaking of size for the Bruins, Kevin Love dominated Mater Dei last night down in Santa Ana, scoring 36 points and grabbing 15 rebounds. And this wasn't just a top recruit against another high school. Mater Dei starts about four guys over 6' 7", and brings a seven footer off the bench. Taylor King, who decommitted from UCLA before choosing Duke, did not look good, held without a field goal in the second half. Kevin Love is going to be a very good player at UCLA


Finally they were on the right side of an ass-kicking. It's useless to speculate on where they could have been with good goaltending all year, but it's fun to watch them play with a decent guy in net.

UC Riverside

Holy crap! They beat Cal State Fullerton! I have no idea how that could have happened, but damn, that's two straight for the Highlanders. And CSUF is no slouch. They were in first place in the Big West, and beat UCR by 40 at Fullerton. Larry Freaking Cunningham scored 34 points in the second half!

According to the article, Bobby Brown, Fullerton's point guard, Cousy award finalist, and arguably the best player in the conference, threw down an alley-oop which tied the game, and got T-ed up for taunting. UCR scored the next six points and never looked back. Word of advice, Bobby. I know you're very good. But dude, you're in the Big West. And you had just dunked a shot that tied Riverside in the second half. That, son, is nothing to get excited about. Let that be a lesson to ya. No one comes into UCR's house and shows the Highlanders up...except pretty much every other team that's been there this year.

First conference win for the Highlanders in 13 months. Then again, they did play UCLA tougher than Oregon State did.