This week in Around the Dorm, our panel of so-called experts argue over the rising stars and forseeable flops among the NBA’s rookie class, which winter sports team is most likely to claim gold and which World Series team had the better story: the revived Rays or the fightin’ Phils? Staff writers Justin Jez, Steve Cohen and Ray Lodato fight it out, while Sports Editor James Queally presides as Ref Extraordinaire.
1. Greg Oden is hurt already. Kevin Love looked solid against the Kings. Michael Beasley may or may not wind up D-Wade’s sidekick on a potentially resurgent Heat squad. The Lopez twins are out there, among a host of other rookies launched into the NBA by an extremely deep 2008 Draft. Tell us which freshman will be a standout and who, if anyone, you think will flop.
JJ: In a nutshell, Derrick Rose and Beasley will be the most productive rooks this year. Rose will show flashes of greatness as he learns how to lead a team under a first-year coach. Beasley benefits greatly from the undersized Heat team, allowing him to grab more rebounds than he would otherwise, while getting out and running with Wade and Marion. These things will inflate his numbers and probably make him Rookie of the Year. Kevin Love was surprisingly solid in his first game, but he will never amount to anything more than a role player. As for the Lopez twins, they are marginally better than the last pair of twins to come out of Stanford, and that’s not saying much. They’re both backup centers at best in this league. Now, the real intriguing player is Oden, and what a depressing opener he had. Before he went down with an injury, he looked sluggish, offensively anemic and scared – no good. Even if he does get healthy, he has absolutely no offensive game besides dunking. He can block shots, but not five to nine a night like in college and high school. For him to not be a huge flop of a first pick, he needs to work on his offensive game and stay healthy, or his career will be a disaster.
SC: I think it’s pretty early to pick either, but as far as the flop goes, I am going to have to pick Oden. Short and to the point, he’s got to be on the court to prove me wrong, and that’s something he has been unable to do. It is not easy to come back from the surgery he had and be a productive player, especially anywhere near the level the Blazers had hoped he would be at. Add his latest injury, and he’s another step back. As far as the standout, I’m going to go with Beasley because he is on a team that only had one option before he was drafted (Dwayne Wade). Beasley has no choice but to be productive, because there’s no one else on the team to give the ball to. He’s already averaging 17 points and 5.3 rebounds a game, and those numbers can’t go anywhere but up on that squad.
RL: Poor Oden. I almost wish the guy was a complete jerk, say … maybe a Larry Johnson, so I could revel in his bad luck. He is, technically, a sophomore, though, Queally. What kind of ship are you running here? I know I’m not going out on much of a limb here, but I’d rather be right than bold: Chicago’s own Derrick Rose is a slam-dunk perennial All-Star. The Bulls are a team that desperately needed a skipper. With Kirk Hinrich’s skills and numbers coming back down to earth after this past year, Rose will make an immediate impact. It’s the perfect storm for him. Rose is going to be good for at least another five or seven wins this year. As far as the best of the rest? I can’t wait to see O.J. Mayo paired up with Rudy Gay in Memphis, the two of whom I think will play well together. Mayo is the stereotypical alpha-dog scorer. Rudy Gay, supremely talented as he is, has a laid-back, almost lethargic personality that makes him more suited as second banana. With Mike Conley running the point and Gasol the younger patrolling the paint, the Grizzlies may have a great core to build around for the future.
JQ: Got to give the 3 to Jez here. He breaks down the rookie class expertly and I agree the dynamics of the Heat offense work to Beasley’s advantage. Nice job pointing out Oden doing his best Zach Randolph impression against the Lakers. Cohen grabs the 2 for pointing out the severity of Oden’s injuries, but Wade isn’t the only option there. Haslem led the team with 23 points on opening night and you think Shawn Marion is going to get reduced touches in favor of a rookie? Ray, Oden didn’t play last year, so I’m running the kind of ship where he’s technically a rookie, not a sophomore. One.
2. Winter sports are on the way here at the College. The men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and track and field teams and the men’s wrestling team will try to bring championships home for the Lions when the weather turns cold. Who has the best shot to take their conference or more?
JJ: I like the wrestling team for having the best shot at winning a championship this winter. The team heads into the season ranked 14th nationally, according to the National Wrestling Coaches Association poll. The Lions also boast four athletes ranked in the top 10 within their respective weight classes. Maybe the wrestler with the most expectations is senior Greg Osgoodby, who is ranked third among the 174-pound division. Osgoodby has proved dominant for the Lions wrestling program, made evident by his All-American honors last year. He will also be helped by junior Tyler Branham, who is also ranked third in his 141-pound weight class. Branham’s impressive sophomore campaign of 15-1 was cut short due to injury. Look for these two, along with a solid Lions team, to have a good chance to win it all this year.
SC: The Lions wrestling team is the must-watch team in the winter. On the backs of returning All-Americans Greg Osgoodby and sophomore Justin Bonitatis, the Lions look good to repeat the success they saw last year on the mats. It doesn’t hurt to have junior Dan Dicolo and Tyler Branham returning this year, both of whom did exceptionally well in their weight classes last season and have career records of 33-14 and 56-14, respectively. I see nothing but good things in 2009 for these boys. Don’t take my word for it. Listen to the National Wrestling Coaches Association, which ranks them 14th in the nation among Division III teams.
Editor’s Note: Ray Lodato’s answer was far too asinine to waste ink printing in The Signal. Therefore I have disqualified him from this question.
JQ: I hate all of you. Jez and Cohen look over each other’s shoulders and say basically the same stuff, but you know what? The wrestling team is pretty good and they could all kick my ass if I pick against them. 2.5 for both of you. Ray, your comments actually managed to earn you the first DQ in Around the Dorm history. I sentence you to 40 lashes and an hour of watching Zach Randolph play basketball naked.
3. The World Series saw two teams finally escape their dismal histories to make themselves a success, but who took more away from it? The Phillies, for saving a city from a 25-year title drought, or the Rays for ending a streak of nine sub-.500 seasons and winning the AL Pennant on a meager payroll?
JJ: Reaching the World Series was a monumental achievement for the Rays, but this World Series meant much more to the Phillies and their fans. It is almost shocking that a city and market as big as Philly could not nab a championship in any of the four major sports for more than a quarter decade. Perhaps that’s why most of Philadelphia’s fans have been quick to jump all over their players. But all of that is finally over, and Philly fans don’t know what to do with themselves (did anyone see the city’s streets after the game?) The monkey is finally off the city’s back, and perhaps those once cynical and jaded fans can settle in and actually enjoy a sporting event without getting plastered or uttering strings of obscenities for fear of another titleless year. This World Series has allowed a city of passionate sports fans to finally breathe easy again – it’s the sweetest thing in all of sports. For the Rays, it is questionable whether anyone will attend their games next year, and that’s why the Phils have taken much more away from this series.
SC: Both teams impressed all by making it to the World Series, and not to take anything away from the Phillies’ title win, but the Rays’ AL championship is the feel-good story of the MLB this year. This is a team with the second-lowest payroll in baseball, playing on the backs of unknown, unproven players. At the beginning of this year, most of the nation would have asked who the hell is Evan Longoria or Andy Sonnanstine. This is a homegrown team that was one of the least-watched, least-talked about teams in baseball since they became a franchise. The Phillies may have lost the most games in sports history, but they made it to the playoffs last year while most of the Rays’ roster was at home watching it on TV. Without a shadow of doubt, the Rays had more to prove this season.
RL: Dismal histories? What a cheap shot. You New York fans can be as bitter as you want. It won’t ever take away that Matt Stairs home run. Or Cole Hamels’ pristine postseason pitching performances. Or Chase Utley’s parade utterance heard ’round the world. Look, it clearly meant more to Philadelphia – what with its reputation as a “City of Losers” and all – but I hate the baseball fans who bemoaned the Rays’ appearance in the World Series because “their fans didn’t deserve it.” What a load of crap. Go ahead, fault them for not having the intensely proud history that comes with having a local baseball team for a century. That young, exciting squad in Tampa is going to breed a whole new generation of Rays fans. New York had Mantle. Philly had Schmidt. The Dodgers had Jackie. Who did the Rays have? José Canseco? Welcome to loving baseball, Tampa Bay. You’ve got a lot of catching up to do.
JQ: Jez and Cohen with different but equally great responses, but I have to give Jez the 3. Philly fans, while Cro-Magnon-esque, are passionate and got to celebrate a well-deserved and desperately needed major sports championship. Cohen gets 2.5 for reminding us this Rays season not only brought a sports team out of obscurity, but it also let us meet Evan Longoria. Despite the bevy of insults aimed at me, Ray earns 2 for attacking baseball enthusiasts for attacking Rays fans and talking about the revival of Philadelphia as a sports city. And just for consistency, I hate Zach Randolph.
Jez with a lights-out performance, 8.5-7-3