Another AtD postseason is upon us. The top nine contestants from this year’s competitions will face off to see who will earn this semester’s first-place honor. The contestants have been seeded by average number of points per round. In round one, No. 2 Michael O’Donnell, No. 5 Brandon Lee and No. 8 Bobby Olivier fight for ref Justin Jez’s favor and a chance to make it to the championship round.
1) Do you think Kobe Bryant will be a Laker at the end of this season? If not, where will he end up?
BL: I think Kobe will still be a Laker. He’s been clashing with management since before Shaq went to the Heat in 2004. Bryant is the A-Rod of basketball. There are so many trade rumors swirling around him that it’s impossible to pinpoint where he’ll go. I doubt the baby Bulls will trade its core of youngsters, including captain Kirk Hinrich, Ben Gordon, Tyrus Thomas and superstar-in-the-making Luol Deng. Any team that makes a trade for Bryant will put all its eggs in one basket, leaving Bryant with the same situation he has with the Lakers – he’ll veto that trade. The only reason the Celtics were able to get Kevin Garnett was because Kevin McHale is a worse general manager than Isiah Thomas.
BO: Bryant, the only player in the NBA with a no-trade clause, will be a Laker at the end of the season. A deal in the works would send him to Chicago for Bulls stars Gordon, Thomas and rookie Joakim Noah, but the deal hinges on Chicago’s refusing to add Deng. Bryant vetoed the deal because he does not want to be on a Deng-less Bulls team. Lakers executive Magic Johnson has said that a trade which would bring Jermaine O’ Neal to the Lakers is now on the front burner, meaning Bryant is not leaving anytime soon. Either way, the Lakers need Bryant to contend. In the opener against Houston, he dropped 45 and they still lost. Unless a deal can be made that is satisfactory to Bryant and the other team, it will be another typical year for the Lakers. For the remainder of the year, Kobe will be miserable but make his 10th all-star appearance, center Andrew Bynum will continue to underachieve and the rest of the average players will make the team exactly that: average.
MO: Bryant will be a Laker at the end of the season. The soap opera that is Kobe Bryant has been riding along for several months now, but it finally has come to a halt. After many trade talks with several teams over the summer, most notably and recently the Bulls, talks have seriously broken down. No team the Lakers have talked to wants to give up the level of talent they are asking for. Asking for most of the Bulls’ starting five was too much for general manager John Paxson to deal with. Paxson, among others, has been frustrated with the Lakers’ asking price and has said that “there’s not going to be a deal done.” With the frontrunner out of the hunt for Bryant, the Lakers all but officially have the 2007 NBA-scoring champ with them for the long haul.
JJ: Mike gets 3. The Lakers are shopping Bryant at a high price, and no team has enough talent to trade and still be better than the Lakers. Bobby earns 2 for predicting another average season for the Lakers. Brandon, I don’t think he will go to the Bulls but management has always sided with Bryant until recently – 1 point.
2) Which was more surprising: the Boston Red Sox sweeping a Colorado Rockies team that was on fire coming into the World Series, or A-Rod’s announcement during game four that he will opt out of his Yankees contract?
BL: I thought Colorado would get at least one win after “rocking” the National League during the playoffs (no pun intended). I wasn’t surprised that A-Rod made his opt-out announcement during game four because he isn’t classy and neither is agent Scott Boras. Boras said he decided to make the announcement and that A-Rod had no part in it. The Rockies seemed to have everything going for them during the playoffs, but the once-stellar pitching unraveled against the Sox. Maybe it was the six-day break before the World Series that messed them up, but after sweeping the Phillies and the D-backs you would think they could steal a game from the Sox.
BO: A-Rod’s announcement that he was opting out of his contract was much more surprising than the Sox sweeping the Rockies. Given the Rockies were on fire and won 21-of-22 games coming into the World Series, they had over a week off while the Sox were gaining momentum. History shows that teams with long layoffs do not perform as well as teams with shorter breaks. History has also taught us that Red Sox teams of recent years that get hot in the playoffs tend to stay hot. The Sox were hitting and pitching like champions coming into the Series, so it’s not a surprise they mopped the floor with Rockies. On the contrary, A-Rod’s opting out of his enormous contract was a big surprise. First off, he had an amazing year. It’s not like the fans were booing him – they were chanting “MVP.” Another thing is he was making $25.2 million! Breaking that down, if he played every inning of every game, he made $5,761 for every out that the Yankees made. How much more money do you need?
MO: A-Rod’s announcing his opting out during the most important game of the 2007 MLB season was shocking and classless. He is the most recognizable face in baseball, and he will always look to draw attention to himself. If you have all the time in the world to announce your intentions for the offseason, why would you do it during the World Series, especially when you’re not even involved? His actions enraged baseball officials. Bob Dupuy, MLB’s chief operating officer, said MLB was angry with agent Scott Boras for “upstag(ing) our premier baseball event of the season with his announcement.” Boras issued an apology to MLB, the Red Sox, the Rockies and the fans. Some people predicted the Red Sox would dominate the Rockies in the World Series, but I’m sure not one person predicted that A-Rod would be the focus of game four. It’s shocking enough he opted out of his contract with the Yankees, but it makes it unbelievably shocking that he did it during baseball’s Fall Classic.
JJ: It was close, but I am awarding Bobby the 3. I like the history about playoff teams and your reasons why A-Rod should have stayed. Mike, it was a good point that MLB officials were openly criticizing A-Rod – 2 points. Brandon receives 1 point. I wasn’t aware Boras was responsible for the timing of the announcement, but the other answers gave me more support.
3) With the NBA season getting started and the NFL season at the halfway point, two conferences seem to be superior in each sport. Which one conference, the AFC or the West, is more dominant in its respective sport?
BL: The AFC has the Colts and the Patriots but no other teams stand out. In the Western Conference of the NBA, several teams simply dominate the competition. Those teams include the San Antonio Spurs, Phoenix Suns, Dallas Mavericks, Houston Rockets, Utah Jazz and maybe even the Denver Nuggets. Few Eastern Conference teams can stand up to that type of competition, hence why the Cavaliers were able to make it to the Finals but got owned by the Spurs last year. The Western Conference will continue its domination with Kevin Durant and Greg Oden, the two top picks in the draft.
BO: The AFC has won eight of the last 10 Super Bowls, but the Western Conference of the NBA is the more dominant conference. The top three teams in the NBA reside in the West. Even though the Eastern Conference has won two of the last four championships, the West has won seven of the last nine and dominated when the Spurs made quick work of the Cavaliers in a four-game sweep. The East is the B-league of the NBA with the “best” team in the league changing all the time. The East’s inferiority to the West was proven when Kevin Garnett went to Boston and the Celtics automatically leapfrogged to the top of the Power Rankings. When one player shifts an entire league, the league is clearly not strong to begin with. The AFC does have an edge over the NFC with more complete, well-rounded teams like the Colts and Patriots, but the NFC has sufficient teams this year as well and inter-league games have been closer than in past years.
MO: The AFC is definitely the dominant conference. The Patriots are said by some to be the greatest team ever seen, and in a sports world where perfection is rare, that definitely counts for something. The Colts are the reigning Super Bowl champions and are the eighth team in the last 10 years to hoist the Lombardi Trophy out of the AFC: talk about domination. Over half the teams in the league are over .500, and they have quite the record against their NFC counterparts. The Western Conference in the NBA is dominant, but it is not as forceful as it once was compared to its opposing conference. The East is vastly improved, and with teams like New Jersey, Chicago and Boston now joining the elite of the East and the NBA, it will be much more difficult for teams like San Antonio, Phoenix and Dallas to claim the crown this year.
JJ: Bobby edges out the 3 points this round. Mike, while I respect your opinion that the AFC is better because that is where the best two teams reside, I like Bobby’s case for the whole conference better – 2 points. Brandon gets 1 point. Oden is out for the season and Durant is on a less-talented team, so neither will have a major impact.