Correspondent Dan Neyman has concocted a series of questions that will test our contestants’ sports knowledge and creativity. Correspondents Mike McLoughlin, Andrew Amadeo and Chris Rotolo will make their early picks for the NBA championship, argue whether Braylon Edwards or Michael Crabtree will help his team more and decide which sports family has the richest history.
1. With the 2009-2010 NBA season about to get underway, who do you see coming out of the Eastern and Western Conferences? Who will win the NBA Championship?
MM: The Los Angeles Lakers are still the favorites in the West. Teams like the Spurs are facing health concerns with Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, and a court that includes Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol, Lamar Odom, Andrew Bynum and Ron Artest is truly frightening. In the East, I see the Cavaliers being the favorites this year. Yes they added Shaquille O’Neal, but they also added Danny Green and Leon Powe — not flashy players but definitely useful. Cleveland also knows they may lose LeBron James after this year, and I imagine they will do whatever it takes to win, even if it involves a blockbuster trade at the deadline. Regarding the Celtics, until we see how Kevin Garnett’s legs hold up I am hesitant to pick them as the favorites. The Orlando Magic are also in the mix, however the loss of Hedo Turkoglu could hurt. In the finals, I see James and the Cavs winning, adding further drama to the 2010 offseason regarding where he ends up.
AA: It looks like the Nuggets, whom I love with a passion, will break my heart again. The obvious choice in the West is the Lakers with Artest joining the champs. However, I rarely take the obvious choice and I will go with the Spurs, with one of the all-time greats leading them in Tim Duncan. They now have a healthy big three with Duncan, Ginobili, and Tony Parker and added a scoring threat in Richard Jefferson (19.6 points per game last season) which is what they were lacking the past couple of years. In the East, I’ll take the Cavs, only because after you double or possibly triple team James and double Shaquille O’Neal then you have one guy to play three others, and no matter how bad they are, three on one is almost never hard to beat. Look for the Spurs to win it all though, with a better bench, and the best coach in Greg Popovich.
CR: David Stern’s James vs. Bryant championship wet dream will finally become a reality when James and his Cavaliers come out of the East. Yes, Nike’s creepy puppet campaign will be back again, and this time it will be justified. Cleveland added Shaquille O’Neal who, only a few seasons ago, was considered the most dominant force in the game, and last year, when he was supposed to be washed up, the Diesel still managed almost 18 points and eight assists per game. Put him along side James, who is currently the NBA’s most dominant player, and you have an Eastern Conference Championship team. In seven games Cleveland will overcome Los Angeles but not before game four’s half time show where O’Neal and Bryant will partake in a bare knuckles brawl.
DN: I’m surprised that no one went with any potential sleepers here, but everyone’s answer was pretty much the same. Three points for Mike because while him and Chris had similar answers, Mike also mentioned key additions to the Cavs, the Cavaliers’ willingness to win at all costs, as well as reasons why other teams won’t come out of their respective conferences. Two points for Chris who made the same argument as Mike, but didn’t back it up as much. One point for Andrew because no one will know how healthy the Spurs are until they actually play, and no one is going to double team LeBron and Shaq simultaneously and leave one other guy on the floor to defend three.
2. In the NFL this week, Michael Crabtree ended his holdout with the 49ers and Braylon Edwards was traded to the NY Jets. Which player will have the greatest impact both in the short-run and long-run?
MM: In the short run, Braylon Edwards will have a bigger impact on the Jets than Michael Crabtree on the 49ers. Even though Edwards is not the receiver he once was, the change of scenery to a contending team could be the spark he needs. Also, he will command a double team at times, and another weapon like Edwards will help the rookie Mark Sanchez get his feet wet. On the other hand, Crabtree has not played football in almost a year, and is coming off a broken foot. There is no way of knowing how he will perform this year, if he plays much at all. In the long term, however, Crabtree will have the greater impact. He is a crisp route runner, and in college lined up in the flank and slot positions, finding success at both. This skillset should translate well to the NFL given he has time to learn the speed of the game. Edwards has had problems with his hands, and is not getting any younger, and will not have the same level of long term success Crabtree will.
AA: In the short and long run, Braylon Edwards will have a bigger impact for his respective team. Crabtree is the better wide receiver, but Shaun Hill cannot help out Crabtree like Mark Sanchez can Edwards. The Jets are a better team than the 49ers, better defense, better offense, and better special teams. Edwards is not too far removed from a 16-touchdown and nearly 1,300-yard season, and he can get back to that in New York. Crabtree has great hands and is fast, but there’s only so much you can do when you have no help around you. Just ask Terrell Owens in Buffalo.
CR: Braylon Edwards will have the greatest impact because he is the missing piece for the Jets. The defense is solid and Rex Ryan has it flying all over the field smacking opposing offenses in the teeth. Thomas Jones and Leon Washington compliment each other nicely in New York’s two-back system. Mark Sanchez is transitioning smoothly from the college game and the one thing he needs is a security blanket under pressure, a big time wide out he can dump the ball off to when he feels the heat, and Braylon Edwards is that guy. At 26-years-old he has the talent, experience, and youth to be more of a factor than Michael Crabtree in the short and long term.
DN: Interesting that some of you are so big on Edwards, even though he has been in the league for four years with only one impressive season under his belt. Three points for Mike here for realizing that Edwards has a case of the butterfingers (led the league with 16 drops last years), and that his better years are behind him, whereas Crabtree has a long career ahead of him. Chris and Andrew made the same argument, but two points for Andrew here for acknowledging that Crabtree is the better wide receiver, but doesn’t have the quarterback. One point for Chris because Edwards needs more than 2007 to be “a security blanket” on the field.
3. Many professional athletes come from families with an extensive sports pedigree i.e. Eli, Peyton, and Archie Manning or Serena and Venus Williams. Which sports family do you think is the most impressive and why?
MM: While everyone knows the high profile families like the Mannings and Williams, the most impressive sports family of all time is clearly the Espositos from the NHL. Phil Esposito won the Art Ross Trophy five times and the Hart Trophy twice. He was a 10-time all-star and when he retired was the second highest goal and point scorer and ranked third in assists. His brother Tony, pioneered the butterfly goalie style that is so commonly used today. He also won three Vezina Trophies and the Calder Memorial Trophy. The Williams sisters may eventually pass these hockey brothers if they can sustain their success for years to come, but no family can match the way the Espositos revolutionized hockey, or the stellar numbers this Hall of Fame duo put up.
AA: Archie, Peyton, Eli and Cooper. Best sports family ever. Peyton is the greatest quarterback of all time. He has a Super Bowl MVP, three season MVP’s, a Pro-Bowl MVP, a nine-time Pro Bowl Selection, and four-time first-team NFL. Archie threw for over 23,000 yards, had 125 touchdowns and played 14 seasons in the NFL for a bad team in the Saints. Eli has a Super Bowl ring, a Super Bowl MVP, and led the Giants to the playoffs four straight years. Not to mention, Peyton and Eli have an older brother Cooper, who they say was a great wide receiver until he had a medical condition that forced him to quit the game. Serena and Venus are nice, but I’ll take four over two any day. Griffey was great, dad was ok. Manning’s are the greatest of all-time.
CR: The Boones are the most impressive sports family. The family’s lineage dates back to 1948 when Ray Boone broke into the majors with the Cleveland Indians. The infielder was a two-time all-star and was considered for the league MVP three times. Ray’s son Bob grew up to have a very decorated catching career from the early ’70s until 1990 for the Philadelphia Phillies and the California Angels in which he was a four-time all-star and seven-time gold glover. Bob’s sons Aaron and Brett are the pair of Boone’s we know the best. Aaron, although he does not have as flashy of a resume as his brother, forever cemented his name in the history books of the the New York Yankees, with his 2003 ALCS performance. His brother Brett was quietly one of the most prolific offensive second basemen in the game from 1992 to 2005. The three-time all star finished his career with 252 homeruns and 1,021 runs batted in, as well as three all-star game appearances, three gold gloves and two silver slugger awards.
DN: Pretty impressive arguments here. I like the fact that some of you thought outside the box. Mike completes the sweep here with three points. The Espositos? Talk about a ballsy pick, but Mike had the stats to back it up. Collectively, Phil and Tony did more for their sport than any other family in the history of sports.Two points for Chris for going with the Boone family. Yes, they have a longer lineage, but it’s full of good, nowhere near great ballplayers. One point for Andrew, not for lack of stats or rationale, but simply for lack of creativity.
Mike earns the sweep and the win, 9 – 5 – 4