Let’s talk sports again, folks. In this round of AtD, we’re focusing on the basketball trading frenzy, the College’s women’s sports teams and some shocking events in the sports world. Staff writer and reigning AtD champion Justin Jez is back in the game, this time taking on staff writers Steve Cohen and Bobby Olivier. Arts & entertainment editor James Queally will dole out the points and name the winner.
1) The trade deadline shuffle has begun. Several blockbuster deals were made in the past two weeks, but which team made out best between the Lakers, Grizzlies, Nets, Suns and Heat?
SC: The Lakers easily made out the best. When Andrew Bynum is healthy, the Lakers will have the best rebounding team in the league between him, Lamar Odom and Pau Gasol. Gasol will really help solidify their starting five, giving them another strong piece for Phil Jackson’s triangle offense with one of the all-time best, Kobe Bryant, leading the Lakers. All the Grizzlies did was create cap space for next year by acquiring Kwame Brown’s expiring contract. The Suns added the most dominant player in the league from two years ago. Shaq is just a shadow of his former self and will certainly slow down the Sun’s fast-paced offense. Stromile Swift has potential for the Nets, but only if Jason Kidd was the same player he was when he turned K-Mart into an All-Star, not to mention that Kidd and Carter could each be on the way out. The Heat added a top-tier player in Shawn Marion, but now they are missing that key big man necessary to dominate in the NBA.
JJ: By far the Lakers are the team that made out best. With the acquisition of Gasol they have become championship contenders, a far cry from the bleak preseason they had where Kobe seemed to be heading to Chicago. By giving up two low picks, a decent young point guard and Phil Jackson’s biggest headache (Kwame Brown), they get the best frontcourt in basketball. There is no other team that can handle Odom, Gasol and Bynum on the floor at the same time. There is so much size, talent and versatility there, it’s scary. In fact, the only reason the Suns acquired an aged, rusty Shaq was because that lineup scared new GM Steve Kerr right out of his pants. Despite what Shaq says, he can no longer run or jump. He didn’t even play the last six Suns games because of his injured knee. The Suns are just grasping at straws to keep up with the Lakers. I also don’t know how much Marion can help Miami, a team that has serious frontcourt issues now with Shaq gone.
BO: As the trade deadline approaches in the NBA, there has been some movement due to trading but none nearly as massive as the Suns-Heat deal sending Shaq to Phoenix for Marion and Marcus Banks. The Lakers, Grizzlies and Nets have not made any blockbuster deals near this proportion. Shaq, who is bringing a mere fraction of his former dominance to the Suns, should help them in the frontcourt, but the winner of the league so far is clearly the Heat, who needed another consistent scorer to platoon with the ever-rehabilitating Dwayne Wade. Marion is averaging 15.8 a game with 9.9 rebounds a night and Banks has potential to improve since he is only 26 years old. The Heat needed to begin rebuilding as they have been dismal since their championship win two seasons ago, and this is a start. Look for the Heat to begin “heating” up soon.
JQ: Jez and Cohen provided similar breakdowns of what Gasol adds to the Lakers, but Jez grabs the 3 for also pointing out the knee-jerk reaction factor that added to the Suns-Heat deal. Cohen, you’re stuck with 2. Bobby gets 1 because while the Heat argument was brazen, dismissing the Lakers-Grizzlies deal as anything short of “blockbuster” is just foolish.
2) With the women’s basketball, swimming and track and field teams all coming off successful weeks, which team has the best shot to succeed beyond the regular season this Spring?
SC: All three teams are looking very promising, but I think it’s the basketball team that will go the furthest. They’re off to a great start with a 7-1 record at home and a winning record on the road. Defenses are having a lot of trouble figuring out a way to stop junior center Hillary Klimowicz’s 16.4 points and 11 rebounds per game. Their 7-2 conference record also is very promising and I do believe the Lions will be able to ride their star centers back all the way beyond the NJAC.
JJ: I will have to go with women’s basketball. First of all, they have the College’s best woman athlete, in my opinion, at their disposal: junior center Hillary Klimowicz. She is averaging over 16 points and 11 rebounds in her best season as a Lion. She is a Division I-caliber player who has the ability to carry a team to success beyond the NJAC. She has over 80 blocks this season, anchoring a talented Lions defense which has kept its opponents to just 32 percent shooting this year. In order to do well against national competition you need to play solidly on both ends of the court, and that is why the Lions are a threat to compete on the national stage. Senior guard Sara Best and freshman guard Kelsey Kutch have been stellar for the Lions. Best continues to provide the solid veteran leadership and play we have come to expect from her while Kutch has been a nice addition to the Lions this year, averaging double-digit points while shooting over 50 percent from the field.
BO: Because I have been following them all year, I am confident that the women’s swimming and diving team will persevere despite its sub-.500 record and finish the season in sparkling fashion. The team has performed well of late, winning three out of its last four meets heading into the end of the season. The team has been led by senior Ava Kiss and stellar rookie Margaret Molloy who has had a record-setting season. The team has the Metropolitan Conference Championships at Rutgers University in two weeks and NCAA Division III Championships at Wooster College in a month. I expect to see several winning performances out of the swimming team in the next few weeks.
JQ: Jez wins easily as he dissects the women’s basketball team and gives Klimowicz the praise she deserves. For providing equally craptastic answers, Cohen and Bobby get 1 each. Cohen, your answer pales in comparison to Jez’s. Bobby, you basically told me what you hope will happen without backing it up with any facts.
3) Which event had the bigger shock factor, the legendary Bob Knight’s out-of-nowhere retirement or Roger Clemens’ ex-trainer Brian MacNamee supposedly producing physical evidence linking the Rocket to doping?
SC: Hands down, the big news is MacNamee’s announcement. Yes, Knight’s retirement was a shocker as he is the winningest coach in NCAA men’s basketball history, but he is old. That’s what old people do: Retire. Clemens, who has outright denied shooting himself with human growth horomone and or steroids, will have his illustrious career tainted. Some consider him the god of baseball after his last two seasons with the Astros where he had ERAs of 1.87 and 2.30 in the respective seasons. He was over 40! What do those stats say if he was doping during those years? How much credibility does he lose if this evidence pans out?
JJ: Considering the fact that Clemens took steroids is of no surprise to me, I am going with Knight being the bigger shocker by default. Once the Mitchell Report mentioned Clemens I assumed he was guilty. Then I also found out that MacNamee is a paranoid ex-law enforcement official, so it comes as no surprise to me that he saved physical evidence in case it one day came down to this kind of circus. Not that I follow Knight’s career very closely, but you could guess the guy was burnt out. Perhaps if he had a better team he would still be on the bench, but mediocrity is not something coaches like Knight can tolerate for long. It was surprising that weeks after his grand 900th win he stepped down, but after listening to him talk about his son taking over as head coach I understand why. It was just time for him to move on. It is a different sports world for me now that Knight is gone. Not so much for Clemens though.
BO: Although the supposed evidence linking Clemens to steroids by his trainer was surprising, it was nowhere near as shocking as the all-time leading coach in wins walking away from the game he has been a part of for upwards of four decades. With the pressure of win number 900 being surpassed, we thought Knight would be able to at least finish out the season screaming at his Texas Tech team into March. It seemed this would be the start of the golden years for Knight, but instead we all woke up to see his resignation scrolling across the bottom of our screens. Knight has always been looked at as the pinnacle of determination and hard work, which he reflects into his players, but I guess this is a new side of the old coach who we all remember throwing a chair across the floor instead of the towel.
JQ: Just when we thought Jez had earned the kill shot, Cohen and Bobby punch him in the mouth! Cohen gets 3 for pointing out the impact Clemens’ guilt will have on the sports world and that Knight’s right to go out on his own terms. Bobby gets 2, because even though I don’t think Knight gave up on his team, it is fair to speculate he didn’t want to deal with steering a bubble team through another early March exit. Jez gets 1 in a tough round. Good answer, but you gave me too much Clemens-bashing and not enough on Knight.
Despite a late surge by the competition, Jez takes the title 7-6-4.