1. The last time an issue of The Signal came out, Jeremy Lin was a Knick, Andre Iguodala was a 76er, Andrew Bynum was a Laker and Dwight Howard was almost everyone’s least favorite basketball player. Only one of these things is still true, as it’s been an extremely eventful few months in basketball. Which NBA team comes out on top as the biggest winner of the offseason?
CM: I know it’s the cliché answer, but I’d have to say the Los Angeles Lakers made out the best this offseason. They picked up what will probably be the NBA’s most potent pick and roll combination in Steve Nash and Dwight Howard. While Nash is old, he’s still an amazing point guard. If he could bring the Suns to the brink of the playoffs, imagine what he could do with the Lakers. Howard is an upgrade at center and the best in the league, and will be the kind of compliment to Kobe that Shaq was. By playing next to Pau Gasol, they will clean up all of the boards. The best part about all of this is that the Lakers were able to bring in star players without compromising the fact that this is Kobe’s team. He’s still the best player and primary scorer. Nash will run the point and Howard will play down low, but these guys can do a lot without scoring. By adding them and keeping Kobe happy, the Lakers were huge winners.
BG: There have been a bunch of moves this offseason in the NBA, but I think the biggest winners coming out of the summer are the Miami Heat. The Lakers made some power moves, no question about it. But when the best team in the league adds one of the best shooters of all time, that’s a winning formula. Allen has dealt with injuries and his age has shown, but he’s just a piece of the puzzle in Miami. The Heat also added Rashard Lewis, which will only help make things easier by giving the team a deeper bench. The Lakers can add all the Dwight Howards and Steve Nashs that they want, but in the end, they’re still chasing the Heat.
BM: The Lakers are, hands down, the biggest winner. They will risk losing him at the end of this season, sure, but they need to win now. The team is ancient. Kobe is 34, Gasol is 32 and Nash is 38. Adding Howard makes them (sorry LeBron), the favorite to win the title next year. If the key players stay healthy, there will only be two teams that even stand a chance of beating them, Oklahoma City and Miami, and even they will have to get very lucky. Plus, after this season, L.A. will be in a great position to re-sign him. With Brooklyn’s payroll tied up and the long-term Dallas situation looking bleaker than what’s happening in L.A., there’s a good chance Howard will sign with L.A. despite the aging team that will be surrounding him.
PF:Brandon gets 3 points for going on the road less traveled and reminding everyone the best team in basketball last year added Ray Allen, Brendan gets 2 for pointing out the odds are good the Lakers will be able to re-sign Howard to a long-term deal and Chris gets 1 for saying Howard and Nash will complement each other as well as Kobe.
2. It’s been (another) season to forget for the injury-riddled Red Sox, who have failed to contend for a playoff wild card berth, let alone the AL East title. It’s being reported that many Red Sox players have no faith in manager Bobby Valentine, and Valentine himself has publicly taken the blame for Boston’s record. Should the Red Sox fire Valentine or give him more time to get his clubhouse in order?
CM: It’s unfortunate that head coaches are always the scapegoats for failure, and this is the case here. While injuries aren’t an excuse, the Red Sox have had a grand total of 32 (!) injuries to players on their roster this season. Asking Valentine to make success with nothing is ridiculous. Their play on the field should not be completely blamed on him. The other issue is the fact that he hasn’t gotten along with many players or coaches. The problem is, during the Terry Francona regime, Boston players were essentially allowed to do whatever they wanted. It’s hard to expect these same players to transition so quickly into Valentine’s no nonsense style of managing. In fact, I think that eventually, that style will work. The Red Sox front office has to make some moves and get rid of players who think they have free reign to do anything. However, the move they should not make is to fire Valentine. He’s shown in the past he can manage (2000 Mets), and he certainly deserves at the very least one more year.
BG: Bobby Valentine and the Red Sox never really seemed like a good couple to me. It’s like watching a hot chick walk down the street on the arm of someone like Kevin Smith — it just doesn’t make sense. The Red Sox had a pretty good team last year before their collapse, but that team is being imploded. Kevin Youkilis was traded for basically nothing and now Adrian Gonzalez has been shipped out in order to get rid of Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett. I’ve heard that things may get worse before they get better, but it’s hard to see big picture here with so much negativity surrounding this team. With all these trades in the bag though, I say it’s only fair to let the man who started this mess try and clean it up.
BM: This isn’t Valentine’s fault. There is a cancer going around that clubhouse. Valentine has been successful at managing players’ attitudes in the past, but he was brought into a situation that is beyond control. Don’t forget that Terry Francona, whatever ever opinion you may have of him, won two World Series with the Sox and by last season seemed to have lost all control of the team. The Red Sox were right to hire Valentine, and if they’re serious about trying to fix this thing they need to take a step that is rarely seen in this era of high salaries — “fire” some players. The team knows better than anyone on the outside, but there are surely some players in the clubhouse who are not allowing for a cooperative atmosphere. Find the top perpetrators and get the best deal you can to send them away. Then make the rest fall in line. Players went to ownership regarding Valentine. Are you kidding me? Tell them to do their job. If Valentine’s authority is being undermined by those above him, he shouldn’t get shafted as a result.
PF: Chris gets 3 points for noting the Red Sox have suffered through 32 (32!) injuries this season, Brendan gets 2 points for saying the players and general manager are more at fault than Valentine for the disorderly atmosphere around Fenway and Brandon gets 1 point for saying the Red Sox should give “the man who started this mess” some more time to mend the situation.
3. What to make of the Philadelphia Eagles? They are a perennial hype machine, but haven’t won a playoff game since 2008. In 2011 the “Dream Team” failed to keep five fourth-quarter leads, could not keep fragile QB Michael Vick on the field, and ultimately missed the playoffs after a 4-8 start. The NFC East title is there for the taking, but can the Eagles take advantage?
CM: This is a tough prediction to make because there are two other very talented teams in the NFC East (New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys). Being a Cowboys fan, I find it hard to expect them to come out on top with the way the team has been in recent years. They certainly have the talent, but I’m not buying that pick until I see results. The Giants will certainly be a threat because they are the defending champs, but I expect the Eagles to take home the title. Philly won its last four games of the season and started looking like a dream team. If Michael Vick can stay healthy, he’s the most dynamic quarterback in the league and has lightning fast options to bomb it to in DeSean Jackson and Jeremy Maclin. They have one of the best running backs in the NFL in LeSean McCoy. Their defense is filled with playmakers like Jason Babin and Nnamdi Asomugha. But the biggest factor is their offseason. As if the steal of DeMeco Ryans for essentially nothing wasn’t enough, they drafted perfectly by adding Fletcher Cox, Mychal Kendricks and Vinny Curry to their defense. Now with a nice blend of coverage and pass rushing to go with their explosive offense, the Eagles look to be the real deal. Again. Although this time, I have a feeling they’ll live up to the hype.
BG: Vince Young doomed the Eagles last year when he called them the “Dream Team” and that is why backup quarterbacks should just keep their mouths shut. This year, the Eagles have been able to fly somewhat under the radar with the New York Giants returning as defending Super Bowl Champions. The Eagles came on strong at the end of last season and that should be able to carry over to this year. With a healthy Michael — fingers crossed — Shaddy McCoy doing his thing and DeSean Jackson focused, the offense should be able to deliver. The defense looks to be improved, especially after the Eagles addressed their linebacker situation in the offseason (DeMeco Ryans, Mychal Kendircks), and they’ll still be able to get after the QB. If the things click, the Eagles could be starring an 11-5 season in the face.
BM: The Eagles have a fair shot — that is if Vick remains healthy for at least 12-14 games. Being that the Redskins only really have a shot if RGIII tears apart the league (I love him, but I don’t see this happening yet), let’s call this a three-team race. Now as much as I would like to see everyone on the Giant’s fall flat (except Cruz, who is on my fantasy team), I think you should expect a 10 or 11 win season out of them. At least. The Cowboys on the other hand are a wild card. Maybe they’ll be able to get their act together and make a push for the division, but they just seem so good at not ever getting their act together. So, the Eagles have a shot. If Vick stays healthy and their defense stops making penalties in critical situations, then I could see them living up to the “dream team” expectations, or at least come much closer to those expectations then they were able to last year.
PF: Chris gets 3 points for noting an already-explosive offense will be getting more help from a previously shaky defense, Brendan gets 2 points for saying “(the Cowboys are) so good at not ever getting their act together” and Brandon gets 1 point for predicting an 11-5 season from the Eagles.