How Dillard can dictate the Salukis season

Photo Credit: Stephen Rickerl

When SIU men's basketball head coach Chris Lowery said freshman guard Kevin Dillard had moved into the starting rotation, the wheels in my head started moving like the players in the motion offense.

Having two freshmen in the starting lineup isn't necessarily something any hoops head coach wants, but Lowery has officially made the first step to improving the Salukis' postseason chances by moving Dillard into the starting five.

Why?

Because the motion offense will run better because of it. Well, it should at least.

When SIU was giving opposing teams fits en route to all those Missouri Valley Conference championships and NCAA Tournament bids, the Saluki offense excelled because it had multiple ball handlers on the court at the same time. And I'm not knocking the ball-handling skills of Wesley Clemmons or Torres Roundtree, but Dillard causes matchup problems because of he can put on a ball-handling clinic on one possession, slash on another and pop a 3-point jumper on the third.

Bryan Mullins, Tony Young and Jamaal Tatum each shared the ball handling responsibilities in 2007 and 2006. Tatum and Young did it in 2005. Tatum, Young and Darren Brooks did it in 2004. Watch Purdue's three-guard offense and you'll see how the motion is properly run. And why is it run properly? Because the personnel employed by Matt Painter's bunch calls for at least two ball handlers.

The added ball movement should benefit forwards Carlton Fay and Tony Boyle who should excel with Dillard's court vision and ability to provide crisp entry passes into the post. And it gives defenses a third name to focus on in scouting reports. Team's can't zero in on only C-Fay or B-Mull when Illinois' Mr. Basketball also lurks on the perimeter.

We'll see how the team responds tonight in its first home game on its MVC schedule against Northern Iowa.

Jim Hendry is New Year's Eve drunk, deals before imaginary midnight 2008 deadline

Someone needs to send a memo to Sam Zell immediately because it is time to get a head start on printing those World Series tickets.

Or at least a Home Game #3 ticket for the NLDS.

The Chicago Cubs finally made a move in the free agent market, signing former St. Louis Cardinals infielder Aaron Miles to a two-year deal. But they didn't stop right there. No sir. Jim Hendry then jettisoned one of the team's most popular and productive players, Mark DeRosa to the Cleveland Indians in exchange for some young arms.

Don't expect the Cubs to stop there as they are attempting to move Jason Marquis to the Colorado Rockies, who apparently are overlooking Marquis' inability to keep the ball in the park. Maybe they're moving back the fences ... or just won't start him in home games.

Moving Marquis and DeRosa's contracts means the Cubs can move forward with the signing of switch-hitting outfielder Milton Bradley and possibly renew the Jake Peavy trade talks with the San Diego Padres.

In fact, I'm throwing out the ultimatum to Hendry and the Cubs front office right now. In honor of American patriots not named Tom Brady or Randy Moss ...

"Bring me Peavy, or bring me death."

2008: The Year In Which Sports And Politics Mixed

One of the biggest sports storylines of this past year took place outside of the field of play, locker room and cheap seats.

There was one topic that transcended media this year and it was when sports and politics were brought together to make headlines. Both are topics that families try to stay away from at the dinner table, but it was hard to do so when the two combined to make for interesting media fodder.

Such as Barack Obama's interview with Stuart Scott of ESPN. To localize it even more, TBDS focused on Obama's allegiance to the Chicago White Sox and some pretty strong words about their North Side rivals.

ESPN came under a lot of scrutiny for doing something like this, despite Obama's deep ties to basketball which include security staff member Reggie Love (former Duke star) and brother-in-law who coaches Oregon State's men's basketball team, because it seemed as if the World Wide Leader was taking a stance when it was supposed to be neutral.

In an act of fairness, ESPN provided equal interview time for John McCain, who is a baseball purist whose sports goal would be to rid the baseball world of steroids. Finally, something McCain and I can agree on.

Heck, both made an appearance on Monday Night Football the night before the election. It was almost as if you could not separate sports from politics at times.

And now that he is the leader of the free world, maybe President-Elect Obama will throw his weight around and bring a playoff system to the Football Bowl Subdivision.

Oh, and there was that whole Brandon Marshall glove tribute to Obama, which was also on MNF. Again, where sports and politics meet again.

And as a finale, video interviews with SIU athletes Kevin Dillard, Brandin Jordan and Chauncey Mixon, and Torres Roundtree and Anthony Booker taken by yours truly with the help of Stile Smith.

Enjoy.



SIU PG Kevin Dillard talks about how cool it would be if he were in Chicago witnessing Barack Obama making history.





SIU b-ball freshmen Torres Roundtree and Anthony Booker provide insight on a historic day for the history books.



SIU LBs Brandin Jordan and Chauncey Mixon talk about the significance of a black president.

2008: A Year Of Redemption In Sports

One of the themes that dominated the sports world was redemption. Teams, players, coaches and management figures that were once reviled as whipping boys came out on top in 2008.

MLB

The Philadelphia Phillies were a redemption story all on their own. They took advantage of a Cub-like collapse by the New York Mets last season to win the NL East before falling to the Colorado Rockies in a three-game sweep.

Then in 2008, the Phighting Phills came back again and took advantage of another Mets collapse to secure their second straight NL East title. But the team had to overcome more problems than what comes after earting a few too many of those Philly Cheesesteaks.

Brett Myers struggled in his return as a starting pitcher, Jimmy Rollins was booed by the Philly phaithphul and everything that was spelled with an 'F' turned into a 'PH' when Philly depheated the Tampa Bay Rays.

Redemption '09: Look out for the New York Yankees, who missed the playoffs for the first time since in Danny Almonte's lifetime, to strike gold after buying Major League Baseball from Bud Selig.

NBA

Despite being the best player in the NBA, Kobe Bryant had never won a Most Valuable Player award. That is until last year, of course. Bryant shedded the label that he needed Shaq Daddy and dominated the league from start to finish. And that came of course after being booed by the home team on opening night after a summer in which he seemed destined to be traded to the Chicago Bulls.

John Paxson got his redemption, however, when the Bulls lucked out and got the No. 1 overall pick in the draft and took Derrick Rose.

But the year's biggest redemption went to the Boston Celtics, who added Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen to give Paul Pierce thek ind of supporting staff he deserved. But Garnett always choked in the playoffs and never was willing to take the last shot. Allen was a nice player, but not the kind of player you win a championship because of. And Pierce wasn't a prime time player.

Yet, when it was all said and done, the Boston Three Party won an NBA title tossing those old criticisms away.

Redemption '09: LeBron James made himself a whole hell of a lot better in the offseason thanks in part to his work with Team USA. My bet is that he will win the league's MVP honors and lead the Cleveland Cavaliers to an upset of the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals.

He will then be bought by best friend CC Sabathia and then sold to the New York Yankees in exchange for the rights to a Broadway musical to be named 'Yes, Yes Nannette.'


NFL

Revenge is a dish best served in Arizona ... at least that's what the New York Giants felt.

Their coach was on the hot seat. Their quarterback looked like he was going to be run out of town. And their star defensive end was seeing a light at the end of the tunnel of his career. They couldn't win at home and the media was falling on them like a ton of bricks.

On top of that, the New England Patriots came into the Meadowlands on the final night of the regular season and put a whoopin' on the Giants in a game that was close for a while, but saw Tom Brady and Randy Moss shatter passing and catching records, respectively.

Nearly a month later, the Giants pulled off the shocker of all shockers -- defeating the previously unbeaten Patriots. Sending the 1972 Miami Dolphins into a happy moment only a double dosage of Viagra could provide.

Redemption '09: According to Chicago Bears head coach Lovie Smith, his team is close to something. What? A mutiny? Close to finding a cure to cancer? Or is it a cure to lower gas prices and less dependancy on foreign oil. Needless to say, Da Bears have a lot of work to do to make this list next year.

College Hoops

Kansas couldn't win the big game. Not under Roy Williams. Not under Bill Self. And with a minute to play in the national title game against Memphis, Self and the Jayhawks were about to take another one on the chin.

But some missed free throws down the stretch by the Tigers (what else is new?) and a key 3-point field goal by Mario Chalmers pushed the game into overtime where Kansas and Self would win the national championship.

Redemption '09: The North Carolina Tar Heels and SIU Salukis will have some redemption bragging rights in '09. UNC will win the national title as Tyler Hansbrough will justify his hard work by leading Roy Williams to his second national title.

As for SIU, Chris Lowery's youngsters will be a year older, a year more experienced and a year better as long as they continue to work hard this season. If history has taught me anything, it is that the Salukis are due for a deep run in the tournament and the 2009-10 season might be one of those magical seasons for Southern. Too bad I can't fail a year or two and continue to cover the team
.

The Ultimate Redemption Award goes to ...
the aptly named Redeem Team.

After finishing the 2004 Olympics with a bronze medal, Team USA smashed its competition early and often in the '08 games in China. Kobe Bryant proved not only to be the world's most popular player, but to be the best in the world as he traded in his score-first mentality to play lockdown defense on the opposition's best offensive threat.

And when USA needed Bryant's offensive heroics, he changed in a telephone booth, put on his Superman cape and delivered a gold medal.

Year In Review: Disappointment sparks SIU rebuilding program under Lowery

College GameDay's trip to SIU highlighted the 2008 basketball season.

[Ed. Note: This is the final blog in a series of stories that I found intriguing in 2008. This series will cover a storyline from the year that was from the perspective of the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and SIU football and men's basketball. This post details the rebuilding efforts of the SIU men's basketball team.]

The SIU men's basketball team has been carried to new heights by its senior leaders in recent years.

Darren Brooks and Stetson Hairston advanced Southern into the NCAA Tournament's second round. Jamaal Tatum and Tony Young took the team a step further two years later with a spot in the Sweet 16.

However, forwards Randal Falker and Matt Shaw, who looked to etch their names in the history of great senior leaders that would advance the Salukis came up short in their efforts to do so. Despite being a pre-season top-25 team, Falker and Shaw led Southern to what some would call a disappointing season as the team went 18-15 and missed the NCAA Tourney for the first time since 2001.

The season was not a complete failure as ESPN came to Carbondale and gave the University some much needed positive pub as the World Wide Leader hosted its College GameDay show at the SIU Arena with its crew that included Reece Davis, Digger Phelps and his matching tie-and-highlighter set and Erin Andrews(!!!!!!) for a matchup between the Missouri Valley Conference's two premier teams: SIU and Creighton.

The program's recent success helped head coach Chris Lowery secure arguably the most decorated recruiting class in school history. SIU brought in guards such as Kevin Dillard (Illinois Mr. Basketball), Ryan Hare (Chicago Sun-Times Player of the Year) and Torres Roundtree (Missouri Mr. B-Ball finalist) to help bring depth to what is usually one of the Salukis' strong points.

They added size with 6-foot-11 redshirt freshman center Nick Evans and 6-foot-8 forward Anthony Booker, who was ranked as the No. 29 senior last season and was a teammate of Roundtree's in high school.

Add sophomore guard Justin Bocot, who sat out last season because of academics and paid his way through school on his own last season, and SIU has the makings of a bright future...

2009 Outlook: ...but that future has yet to pan out this season, at least.

After starting the season 2-0, the Salukis stumbled out of the gate losing seven of its last 10 contests. SIU currently stands at 5-7 (0-1 in MVC) but has the talent to make hay in the Valley. However, it is up to Coach Lowery to harness the talent and find a rotation he can trust. It might take a while, heck, I would suggest that C-Lo might not find the right mesh of guys until March.

Expectations were high for this team, and that's a good thing. Saluki Nation is a passionate fanbase that expects its teams to perform to the best of its capabilities despite a lack of funding compared to the power conference counterparts it has knocked off in recent years.

It will be a complete disappointment if SIU does not make a postseason tournament, but unless it runs off a hot streak in Valley play, the Salukis have to settle for a second straight trip to the National Invitation Tournament.

Cris Carter wants to Plaxico Burress T.O.



Transcription (for those of you who are hearing impaired):

"If it was me, I'd get rid of T.O. T.O. got to go from the beginning. Right from the giddy up. I take one bullet and put it right in him. Bam!"

Sure, Dallas Cowboys wide receiver is no saint I'm not sure if those are the best words to use in this day of the NFL.

Year In Review: Saluki football strikes again

This trio covered SIU football like a jimmy hat!

[Ed. Note: This is the second in a series of stories that I found intriguing in 2008. This series will cover a storyline from the year that was from the perspective of the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and SIU football and men's basketball. This post details how the SIU football team didn't skip a beat despite numerous losses and changes. And why this picture, because these three gentlemen covered SIU football like a blanket. Not pictured Sean or Edyta and the many others who also helped cover Saluki football.]

There were more questions than answers coming into this season for the SIU football team.

How would first-year head coach Dale Lennon adapt from Division II to the Football Championship Subdivision, formerly Div. I-AA? How would the team react to a new coaching staff implementing new schemes, systems and terminology? Would the team be able to be competitive in the newly named Missouri Valley Football Conference with the addition North Dakota State and South Dakota State? Would they be able to replace the offensive production lost with the graduations of quarterback Nick Hill, running back John Randle and offensive lineman Darren Marquez?

The answer to each of those questions was a resounding yes!

And they did it with a first-year head coach and a first-year starting quarterback.

Saluki football didn't skip a beat despite losing a majority of its offensive weaponry and the head coach that brought the team from near extinction to a powerhouse in the FCS. When Jerry Kill left, no one expected the kind of season SIU had.

The Salukis posted a 9-3 record in 2008, culminating with a Missouri Valley Football Conference title and sixth straight playoff berth. SIU went 7-1 in the MVFC
, as its only blemish was a 35-27 loss at North Dakota State in which the Bison came back from a 20-point deficit to pick up the win.

And while many teams would have packed it in after a devestating road loss such as that one, the Salukis didn't. Senior running back Larry Warner spoke to the
team after the game and said his words to his teammates after the loss helped spring the successful squad that played thereafter.

SIU rattled off seven straight wins en route to the conference crown. There were blowouts, shutouts, "shootouts," nailbiters, walk-off winners and overtime thrillers. If anything, this might have been the most entertaining Saluki team since (dare I say?) Brandon Jacobs donned the maroon and white.

Offensive coordinator Phil Longo brought in a modified spread offense which took advantage of Warner's speed, Chris Dieker's arm strength and various receiving threats on the outside.

Dieker threw 16 touchdowns, ran three in and even caught one. Warner rushed for over 1,200 yards, scored 10 touchdowns via the ground and returned three(!) kickoffs for touchdowns. He was an all-purpose threat and a nice guy, on top of that.

Lennon put defensive coordinator Bubba Schweigart in charge of the 3-4 defense each has run their entire careers. And James Cloud, Ryan Patton, Brandin Jordan and Chauncey Mixon made the lives of opposing quarterbacks and running backs a living nightmare.


Even though SIU found success in its first year under a new regime, there were still isues. Like its pass defense and team struggles during the dreaded third quarter.

In the end, the Salukis fell to New Hampshire, 29-20, in the first-round of the playoffs.

2009 Outlook: It looks as if the arrow is pointing up for SIU as it returns many key members of the team including Dieker, wide receivers Marc Cheatham, Joe Allaria, Bryce Morris, tight end Ryan Kernes and running back Richard White.

The defense returns Mixon, Jordan and Patton from the linebacking crew, not to mention defensive backs Korey Lindsey, Brandon Williams and Mike McElroy.

There is no reason for SIU not to be competitive in the MVFC next year with the returning talent and another year of familiarity under Lennon's system. Replacing Warner, Cloud and stud offensive lineman Aaron Lockwood might prove to be difficult, but the Salukis have gone down that path before.

And have still found a way to succeed.

Heckle Chris Paul at your own risk

Photo Credit: Getty Images

New Orleans Hornets star point guard Chris Paul is one of those rare NBA talents that can take the game into his own hands at any time in the game. And apparently, heckling isn't going to help stop him. Paul was heckled by a few fans at Conseco Fieldhouse in a recent game against the Indiana Pacers.

After the heckling Paul proceeded to score 11 of his 19 points in the game's final three-and-a-half minutes as the Hornets pulled out the victory. The events as described in Pacers beat writer Mike Wells' blog (see, he believes in blogging!):

"The fans started heckling Paul as he waited at the table. The guys didn't say anything vulgar, but Paul leaned against the table shaking his head as he listened to every word. Paul scored 11 of his 19 points in the final 3:36 of the game. Afterwards, he ran by the scorer's table, looked up in the stands on told the guys, "That was all your fault." Great job, go ahead and get one of the league's best players worked up. The things they said weren't even funny."
Well played, gentlemen. Not!

Go out and learn the art of heckling. Before I put my homer-tastic qualities aside, I was known as one of the best hecklers as I learned from the Harvard and Yale of heckling schools ... Wrigley Field and the SIU Arena, respectively.

Never anything personal. Never anything crass. Think witty and think cleverly. Besides, half of these athletes don't have a brain and the other half (I'm looking at you Raul Mondesi) don't speak proper English, therefore, their responses would make no sense to you even if they tried.

And the most important key to heckling: Do your research. Hit up Google and your opposition's online media guide and you'll find dirt in a snowstorm.
B-Diddy to G-State again?: Former teammate Steven Jackson thinks a Baron Davis reunion tour could happen. "That's all we talked about," Jackson said. "I went to his house, spent some time with his mom and his grandmother. He wants to come back. And if he wants to come back, I want him back. ... I think that would be great for us," Jackson said. "Coach (Don Nelson) loves him. Him and (guard) Monta (Ellis) have good chemistry. If they could work that out, that would be great for the organization."

This seems to go against what like The Baron told us 11 days ago after the Clippers beat the Pacers in double overtime on Dec. 19.

By the way, just my opinion: Baron, Camby, Randolph, Gordon > S-Jax, Uh-Oh Maggette-Oh and injured Monta Ellis even though the records would indicate otherwise.

Year in Review: What's hockey?

[Ed. Note: This is the fifth in a series of stories that I found intriguing in 2008. This series will cover a storyline from the year that was from the perspective of the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and SIU football and men's basketball. This post begs for you to teach me what you know about Chicago Blackhawks hockey.]

What? Did you think I was going to do all these Year In Review segment without featuring a picture of a beautiful woman.

I might be on vacation, but I still want people to read this blog.

That's why it is fitting that on the day I discuss the revitalization of the Chicago Blackhawks, I bless you the reader with the beautiful, blonde and talented Elisha Cuthbert. Also known as The Girl Next Door (great movie by the way) and better known as Sean Avery's "sloppy seconds."

Is he off his suspension yet? Just wondering.

Anyway, I will preface this blog by saying once upon a time, I truly cared about hockey. The Blackhawks broadcasted their games on 670 AM The Score and play-by-play man Pat Foley made the casual fan like myself appreciate hockey. Notice I had to listen to the games on the radio. Not because the games weren't on cable. They were. Not because my family didn't have a TV. They did.

The home games weren't on TV and those are the games that were most accessible to me and since I couldn't afford a ticket to a game at the United Center, radio was my only hockey outlet.

My, how things have changed since those days.

Pat Foley was fired, but now is back doing the radio play-by-play with WGN 720 AM. Blackhawks games are not only on TV, but are on WGN Channel 9. Yes, the Superstation carries Hard Hawk Hockey! And who is the man responsible for this?

Well, partial responsibility goes to someone TBDS holds dear to its heart. John McDonough.

He started as the Chicago Cubs marketing guru. He invented fan fests (the Cubs Convention started it all don't ya know) and Beanie Baby day before becoming the man responsible for finally opening up the Tribune Co.'s vaults for the Cubs to spend on free agents as he was the team's president. But when the Cubs went up for sale and McDonough's job looked like it was in jeopardy, Rocky Wirtz (who took over the Blackhawks after his frugal father passed away) hired him to be the force behind the re-birth of hockey in Chicago.

All McDonough has done has turned the United Center into the place to be for hockey. They are more marketable than ever with the combination of youth acquired through smart draft picks (Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane) and free agency (Cristobal Huet, Brian Campbell). Oh and then there's the Winter Classic taking place on Jan. 1 at Wrigley Field.

So in the end, it all comes full circle for Mr. McDonough.

2009 Outlook: The Blackhawks represent Chicago's best hope for a title in 2009. They have 47 points (which puts them among the top four teams in the conference) and have gone 9-0-1 in their last 10 games. After firing head coach Dennis Savard early in the season, Joel Quinnville has done a magnificent job with the young Hawks.

The Western Conference is tough with the defending champion Detroit Red Wings and other talented squads such as the Calgary Flames and San Jose Sharks lurking out west. But the Hawks are talented, and to be honest, I'm looking forward to the idea of playoff hockey in Chicago.

Year In Review: Bulls hit lottery jackpot

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

[Ed. Note: This is the fourth in a series of stories that I found intriguing in 2008. This series will cover a storyline from the year that was from the perspective of the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and SIU football and men's basketball. This post takes a look at the Bulls since drafting Derrick Rose.]

If the Chicago Bulls made news between Jan. 1 and June 1, it was probably pushed off the back page of sports and somewhere between the transactions page and hunting, fishing and outdoor games.

When the hope for a better day in Bulls basketball seemed bleak, a lucky bounce of a ping pong ball sent the once proud hoops hotbed back into the national spotlight. With a 1.7 percent chance of landing the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, Chicago defied its odds and bested the Miami Heat for the top spot.

And instead of addressing what still stands as the team's biggest need, a low-post scorer, the Bulls selected point guard Derrick Rose out of Memphis. Chicago's hope settled on the shoulders of one of the city's very own.

From 1991-1998, the Bulls owned the sports pages in the winter months through the early part of the summer as Michael Jordan and his gang of misfits brought 6(!) NBA championships to the West Side of Chicago. Since Jordan's departure, the Bulls have lacked a go-to presence.

Fans battled through the days of Ron Mercer and Eddie Robinson getting max contracts while Tracy McGrady and Grant Hill shunned Chicago. They battled through Tim Floyd coached ballclubs featuring Jerry Krause's failed draft picks. They endured the flop that was Tyson Chandler (before Chris Paul turned him into a star) and the fat of Eddie Curry (before he ate himself to the end of the New York Knicks bench).

And when a slow start to the 2007 season came after two playoff appearances, only a player of Rose's magnitude could save the team. And so far he has.

The star rookie is doing everything in his power to lead the Bulls (14-17) back to respectability while at the same time prove critics like myself (who wanted Michael Beasley) wrong. Rose is averaging 17.5 points and 6.1 assists per game and is one of the early favorites to earn The Association's Rookie of the Year award.

Don't be surprised if Jerry Reinsdorf's team of marketing geniuses find a way to get D-Rose into the All-Star game. Heck, if they can turn A.J. Pierzynski and Scott Podsednik into All-Stars, it would only be a matter of time before D-Rose is starting aside LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Dwight Howard on the Eastern Conference squad.

2009 Outlook: This might be the year Chicago makes a return to the playoffs, but the team will only go as far as Rose carries it. First-year head coach Vinny Del Negro's system has come with mixed reviews as it shown moments of brilliance as he has brought a Phoenix Suns type offense to the Windy City, but Mike D'Antoni's style of defense has not come full circle quite yet.

Maybe it's why the Bulls should have hired D'Antoni in the first place. Or Doug Collins. Or Avery Johnson. Just saying.

Ben Gordon fits the system well, but might be used as trade bait as his contract expires at the end of the season. Luol Deng, who looked like a budding star three years ago, has faded only months after signing an extension that made him very rich for a very long time. Tyrus Thomas looks as if he is starting to get it, giving Bulls fans (and front office members alike) hope that he can be Tyson Chandler to Rose's Chris Paul. Joakim Noah is a joke and I wish the Bulls could find value in him and ship him in exchange for a Michael Jordan No. 45 jeresey.

While the regular season is the most important thing as of now, the Bulls' offseason will be much more important to the future of the franchise. Will they try to clear some cap room for 2010? Will they try to surround Rose with an outside shooting specialist and a low-post scoring option. How will Del Negro (and Rose for that matter) hold up over an 82-game schedule.

Only time will tell.

Year In Review: Bears blow playoff chances

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

[Ed. Note: This is the third in a series of stories that I found intriguing in 2008. This series will cover a storyline from the year that was from the perspective of the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and SIU football and men's basketball. This post takes a look at the Bears season full of teases and disappointment.]

The Chicago Bears were destined for failure after winning only one of its four preseason games.

With no offensive tools, a rookie running back and a patch-work offensive line the Monsters of the Midway had weren't expected to compete.

And while the football world expected the worst out of the Bears, they defied odds and posted a 9-7 record in 2008. However, it wasn't enough to secure a division title or playoff berth. Because while a 9-7 record indicates the team won more games than it lost, the season was not a success.

The Bears have no one to blame but themselves for falling short of their playoff goals as they had ample opportunity to win games that were winnable. Instead, Chicago snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

The Monsters dropped three of four games to NFC South opponents, hampering their playoff chances early. In the Week 2 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the Bears blew an early lead before losing 20-17. In the Week 3 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Charles Tillman's lack of discipline and the defense's inability to stop Brian Griese soured the Bears home opener in a 23-20 overtime loss. Quarterback Kyle Orton connected with Rashied Davis (yes, he caught a ball for once) with a touchdown pass with 11 seconds left against the Atlanta Falcons and looked to get over the team's slump against teams from the south. Instead, a squib kick, a Matt Ryan deep pass to Michael Jennkins and a Jason Elam field goal as time expired cost the Bears another game in a 22-20 defeat.

When it came down to it, the Bears failed because of three things:
  1. The inability to stop the other team's playmakers.
  2. The inability to take advantage of another team's weakness.
  3. The inability to make adjustments.
Since head coach Lovie Smith came to town, his Cover-2 defense has not been able to gameplan or stop another team's star. Steve Smith burned the Bears in a home playoff game. Remember that? Reggie Wayne torched Chicago in the Super Bowl. Remember that? Roddy White, Bernard Berrian and Andre Johnson torched the Bears this season. Everyone with any football intelligence knew where the ball was going, except the Bears.

The scheme's the thing that might be holding the Bears back.

The Packers defense struggled against the run, pass or any offensive motion. And the Bears scored only 23 points in two games against the Pack. They were unable to take advantage of Charles Woodson playing safety. The Texans played without their best pass rusher the entire second half. You might have not known that as the broadcasting crew gave more updates about the Patriots conquering the winds in Buffalo than why Mario Williams wasn't playing. With that said, the Bears offense still couldn't get out of its own way for most of the game.

If you see the defense's best player off the field, you attack that side, right? Not the Bears.

2009 Outlook: Maybe missing the playoffs will benefit the Bears in the long run. Maybe it will serve as a slap in the face to Jerry Angelo and the front office who might now notice the clear holes this team has. The team could possibly come back with more fire and motivation than ever before.

The Bears have a shopping list even Santa Claus things is long. A real quarterback. A running back that can give Matt Forte a breather once in a while. Not one, not two but at least three wide receivers with the ability to stay healthy, run good routes, get separation and catch the ball. An offensive scheme that takes advantage of athletic ball players and a defensive scheme that doesn't limit a talented defense that was once considered among the league's best.

With the potential for a lot of turnover this offseason, one thing seems certain: "Kyle is our quarterback."

Year In Review: South Siders slug their way into playoffs

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

[Ed. Note: This is the second in a series of stories that I found inriguing in 2008. This series will cover a storyline from the year that was from the perspective of the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and SIU football and men's basketball. This post takes a look at the White Sox's play for the postseason.]

The Chicago White Sox had no business being in the 2008 American League playoff hunt, let alone win a single postseason game.

Yes, the only Chicago baseball team to win a playoff game this season was the White Sox who used a breakout season from outfielder Carlos Quentin to spark their efforts. But coming into the season, they had no chance.

One year after finishing 72-90 (3 games ahead of last place Kansas City) the South Siders were expected to finish near the bottom of the AL Central, again. The Detroit Tigers were expected to score 1,000 runs with the addition of third baseman Miguel Cabrera. CC Sabathia and Fausto Carmona were supposed to lead the Cleveland Indians back to the ALCS, at least. And the Minnesota Twins were going to ride the young bounty they received from the New York Mets in exchange for starting pitcher Johan Santana.

And yet, the White Sox (89-74) were the ones popping champagne when it was all said and done thanks to the pop that came from their bats.

Quentin missed the final month of the season with a wrist injury and finished at the top of all the very important offensive categories for the Sox. He finished with a team-best 36 home runs, 100 runs batted in, 96 runs scored and a .965 OPS. Right fielder Jemaine Dye finished with the team's best batting average (.296) as he chipped in 34 homers and 96 ribbies.

After struggling in April, rookie Alexei Ramirez smacked AL pitchers like they owed him money. The Cuban Missle struck with 22 home runs and 77 RBIs and a .290 batting average to go along with four(!) grand slams.

Jim Thome and Paul Konerko also overcame slow starts to combine for 56 dingers and 152 driven in.

2009 Outlook: Don't expect Kenny Williams and the White Sox to throw money around like a drunken sailor this offseason. Instead, look for minor re-tooling efforts as the White Sox will look to land some rotation help after dealing Javier Vazques to the Atlanta Braves, and a second baseman as Ramirez moves to shortstop. The Sox should be better (on paper) next year with the subtraction of Vazquez, and since the only other major move done by an AL Central team (Clevaland) was sign former Cubs closer Kerry Wood, the division might be up for grabs again.

However, the team has to fill the vacancy in center field (and in the Chicago bar scene) left by Nick Swisher.

The Sox are good for making some notorious moves as spring training gets closer to opening its gates. So stay tuned.

Bears fall flat in season finale

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

The lead in the AP story said it all:

HOUSTON (AP)—Faced with one last chance to make the playoffs, the Chicago Bears blew it.

The Bears (9-7) received every kind bounce possible for the past two weeks, starting with the Atlanta Falcons' victory against the Minnesota Vikings, carrying over to the team's overtime win against the Green Bay Packers which featured several strange bounces of balls and coin flips. The table was set for another exciting weekend of football as the Bears took on the Houston Texans with their playoff hopes on the line.

And they choked.

What has to bother Bears fans is that even though the Vikings beat the New York Giants 20-19 to secure the NFC North title, the other teams the Bears needed to lose, lost. The Oakland Raiders beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, extracting revenge for their Super Bowl loss from a few years back. Then, the Philadelphia Eagles absolutely shellacked the Dallas Cowboys.

Yet, the Bears' playoff hopes were dashed by a team posting its first .500 record in franchise history.

And how did the upstart Texans do it? By taking advantage of mistakes the Bears have been making since the season opener.

The offense started strong and looked poised to pick up its 10th win of the season as it opened the game on a 10-0 run. But that ended as the Bears' drives stalled and the Texans rattled off 21 unanswered points.

The Cover-2 defense failed to cover Pro Bowl wide receiver Andre Johnson, who racked up 148 receiving yards and two touchdowns on 10 catches, including a 43-yard TD catch in which he burned Charles "Peanut" Tillman, the Bears best cover corner.

Chicago's defense allowed Matt Schaub, Steve Slaton and the rest of Houston's offense to gain a whopping 455 total yards. Schaub went 27-for-36 through the air for 328 passing yards and two touchdowns and went untouched for most of the game as the Texans' O-Line didn't allow one sack. Slaton scored a rushing touchdown and tallied 92 yards on 20 carries.

As for the much maligned Bears offense, it wasn't terrible. But it wasn't great either.

Quarterback Kyle Orton completed 22 of his 37 pass attempts for 244 yards and two passing touchdowns. He also added a rushing TD on a QB sneak. Wide receiver Devin Hester made some major strides, especially late in the season. The former star return-specialist caught six balls for 85 yards, including a 37-yard reception that should have been called a touchdown as he was called down despite not being touched before entering the end zone.

Rookie running back Matt Forte, who reinjured his toe in the loss, closed his first season with a whimper as he rushed the ball 13 times and only gained 50 yards.

So what's next for the Bears? If you read between the lines, more of the same.

Lovie Smith believes the team is close (to what, no one is sure) and that an overhaul was not needed. Rick Morrisey of the Chicago Tribune politely disagrees with Smith's statement. As do I (which will be detailed in a blog tomorrow).

So instead of preparing for a playoff game next week, the Bears head off into the sunset with a "successful" 9-7 season under their belts.
Quick Hitter: Now that he is at Northern Illinois, former SIU football head coach Jerry Kill no longer supports the playoff system. "I'm all for the bowl system, I really am," Kill said. "I don't think we should ever get away from the bowl system in college football." Funny how things change with a raise, a few extra scholarships and an influx of modern facilities. I'll take my Football Championship Subdivision playoff system that doesn't allow biased pollsters and computers determine the national championship.

Perfection, thy name is ... Illinois State?

Last season, the Illinois State men's basketball team was snubbed from the NCAA Tournament after finishing in second place to Drake in the Missouri Valley Conference regular season standings and in the Valley tourney in St. Louis.

This season, a few Redbirds seem to have found a way to get around a selection committee snub.

Perfection.

The all-knowing John Mullin of the Chicago Tribune has the scoop:

"I would be lying if I said we weren't thinking about an undefeated season," said [Champ] Oguchi, a redshirt senior guard-forward leading ISU with averages of 16.2 points and 6.8 rebounds after sitting out last season because he transferred from Oregon. "Every team wants to go undefeated. We're starting to think undefeated, but you never know what's going to happen. Teams are going to play their best games against us. We are now the hunted."


Back in October, ISU (Red) was predicted to finish third behind Creighton and Southern Illinois. And by virtue of their 11-0 start against a pretty weak out-of-conference schedule (ranked 323 of 341 D-I schools), the Bloomington Ballers are already thinking about getting on Mercury Morris' block.

Led by superstar junior guard Osiris Eldridge, who is averaging 15.2 points and 6.6 rebounds per game, who's to say the Birds are bonkers? Besides, having the Valley's pre-season player of the year isn't going to hurt.

But what will hurt is counting out the rest of the MVC.

  • Creighton is deep and is coached by Dana Altman, the conference's longest standing coach (as long as you don't count that weekend trip to Arkansas).
  • Defending Valley champ Drake is a quiet 9-3, but recently put a whoopin' on Iowa.
  • Evansville is 8-2 and in search of the glass slipper Drake wore last season.
  • Missouri State (7-4), Northern Iowa (6-5), Bradley (6-5) and Wichita State (6-5) are all above .500 and could put up a fight against any Valley team.
  • Indiana State is 2-9 and is looking into its record books to see if Larry Bird has any eligibility left.
Oh yeah, and don't count out SIU. I know the Salukis' 5-6 record isn't good (trust me, I've seen a few of the losses live and in living color) but if you want to count out the Egyptian Hunting Dawgs, you can do it at your own risk.

Casting away head coach Chris Lowery's talented mixture of youth (Ryan Hare, Nick Evans and Kevin Dillard included) and senior star guard Bryan Mullins would be foolish, to say the least.

So, a word to the wise for Illinois State: before you start popping champagne like you won a championship game, you probably should take care of business in the Valley before you start talking about your peaks.
Quick Hitter: The coddling Cubbies are at it again, according to Chicago Tribune beat reporter Paul Sullivan. Via MLBTR: "...the Cubs are eyeing Japanese pitchers Ken Kadokura (righty) and Shigeki Noguchi (lefty) for bullpen roles. Sullivan says both were released by the Yomiuri Giants, and part of the Cubs' motivation may be to make Kosuke Fukudome feel more comfortable." First Soriano, now this? I don't get it. They're major league ball players. Let me guess, Jim Hendry's next move is to recruit more black people onto the Cubs to help Derrek Lee feel more comfortable after grounding into another 6-4-3 double play.

Giants sign Johnson, will field NL's oldest team and take advantage of Medicare

Randy Johnson is the newest member of baseball's most elderly team.

In an attempt to field the oldest team in modern baseball history, the San Francisco Giants have signed free-agent starting pitcher Randy Johnson to a one-year deal.

The aging Johnson (45) comes to the Giants with a laundry list of Hall of Fame credentials. He's a five-time Cy Young Award winner, a 10-time All-Star and has notched 4,789 punchouts. Johnson, who posted an 11-10 record with the Arizona Diamondbacks last season, has aspirations of possibly being the final modern-era starting pitcher to win his 300th game. He currently has 295.

With all that said, chalk up another questionable signing for both parties involved. Johnson joins shortstop Edgar Renteria as the second senior citizen to sign with the Giants this offseason, an offseason in which the Bay Area Bums were expected to dump payroll and go young. On top of that, I'm not sure if San Fran is the place where the Big Unit can pick up his 300th win.

Again, he only needs five 'W's' to do so, but Matt Cain (who is half of Johnson's age) notched only eight wins last season and he has more in the tank than Johnson does. Only Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum and Barry Zito notched double-digit victories ... and I'm not sure how Zito and his 5.15 ERA were able to manage that.

If Johnson is looking for run support, he would be hard pressed to find it even if he had bifocals and a microscope. Even Giant hitters are wondering where the offense is going to come from. The days of Kenny Lofton being driven home by Jeff Kent and Barry Bonds are over. Now it's Aaron Rowand and Randy Winn to the rescue.

Best bet is that Sabean turns Johnson into prospects at the trading deadline ... if Johnson's body can hold up that long.
Quick Hitter: The Chicago Bears dodged a bullet this afternoon as they placed Mark Brown on injured reserve this afternoon. That is good news for the Bears, who need a win and some help to get into the playoffs and probably wouldn't be able to do so without injured safety Mike Brown. ... This just in, Mike Brown was actually put on injured reserve. Oh. Ouch.

Year In Review: Cubs collapse again

Photo Credit: Chicago Tribune

[Ed. Note: This is the first in a series of stories that I found intriguing in 2008. This series will cover a storyline from the year that was from the perspective of the Cubs, White Sox, Bears, Bulls, Blackhawks and SIU football and men's basketball. Today, I take note of another classic Cubbie choke job.]

Without a doubt, the Chicago Cubs provided the biggest tease of the 2008 season.

After being swept out of the 2007 playoffs by the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Cubs looked poised to end their 100 year titleless drought. They signed Kosuke Fukudome, a highly touted outfielder from Japan to fill the void in right field left vacated by Sammy Sosa since 2004. They cut all ties with oft-injured former star Mark Prior and inserted Kerry Wood into the bullpen to be the team's closer. Heck, they even added a former Cardinal to patrol center field and sent out some its top prospects in order to land an ace pitcher almost a month before the trade deadline.

And it still wasn't enough to win one friggin' playoff game.

The Cubs were the National League's best team over the 162 game season. The North Side Nine posted a 97-win season, which led the league, and outscored its opponents by 184 runs, better than every team in baseball.

But when the calendar turned to October, the Cubs bats went cold and their collective arms flamed out as Ryan Dempster, Carlos Zambrano and Rich Harden struggled against Manny Ramirez and the rest of the Los Angeles Dodgers en route to being swept in the playoffs again.

2009 Outlook: New Year's Day is around the corner, yet the future is still blurry. The Cubs haven't done much of anything in the offseason. They let closer and clubhouse leader Kerry Wood walk away without getting any compensation. They failed to acquire 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy via trade, a deal rumored to have been close to a done deal. And they still have yet to address the vacancy in right field.

They could win their third straight division title, which is an accomplishment in its own right. But it won't mean a thing without the ring.

The good news for the Cubs is that the rest of the NL Central seems to be asleep at the wheel. And to follow an old adage about those lovable losers: "the Cubs don't have to get better, the other teams just have to get worse."

Daily Dosage: Ho! Ho! Ho!

I bet you this young lady got everything she wanted for Christmas.

And really, the point of this Daily Dosage is just to post this picture from the New Jersey Star Ledger from a recent Nets game. It's pics like the one above that make me wish I had the power to give every pretty girl whatever they wanted for Christmas in exchange for them sitting on my lap.

I might as well drop a sports nugget while I'm at it, so here goes nothing.

Tonight marks the first time Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley will share the floor in a meaningful game. The No. 1 and No. 2 overall picks in the June draft, respectively, will square off tonight in Miami as Rose's Chicago Bulls face Beasley's Miami Heat.

Rose is playing out of his mind as he continues to make people like me who were clamoring for the Bulls to take the former Kansas State star over the local boy done good. Beasley, meanwhile, is averaging only 13 points per game and has yet to be the force fans and hoops experts expected him to be.

Prediction: Heat 107 Bulls 103 ... it won't be D-Rose's fault or Beastley's doing ... Chicago just can't win on the road and Dwyane Wade (Rose's future teammate?) has been scoring the ball like his childhood idol.

Quality Linkage:
  • Talk about a hung jury. It might lead to a new trial for this Missouri man. [Metro.co.uk]
  • Red River recruiting battle [NY Times]
  • The blogosphere v. Shaun King [Mitchell Blatt]

Year in Review, Site News & Reese!

Reese Witherspoon!

It's the holiday season and the stunningly beautiful Reese Witherspoon comes to mind. Maybe it's because she's in the holiday hit Four Christmases with Vince Vaughn. Granted, I have yet to see the movie so I should probably hold off on calling it a hit. But my undying crush for a woman with three first names (Laura Jeanne Reese) and my man crush for Chicago's own Vince Vaughn could probably overcome a shotty script and crummy acting if it came down to it.

Anyway...

I'd like to use this picture of a very attractive woman to make an announcement.

In the coming days, you will see several year-end/year-in-review blogs from the staff here at The Big Dead Sidebar among other things. So bear with us if we're not posting pics of hot chicks, ridiculing team management, awful announcers, dumb fans or busting someone's balls for something stupid they've said or done on a daily basis

It's the holiday season, ya know. Besides, there's no need to worry. There's another 365 days of that coming just around the corner.

Hey yo Devin, where you at?

Photo Credit: Getty Images

I remember when there was a saying around the Chicagoland area that warned Bears fans not to give a gift to Devin Hester because all he would do is return it.

As I chill out in my parents basement, I can't help but wonder where Hester's ability to return anything and everything has gone. A year ago, he was a sure-fire Hall of Famer as a kick returner, which was simply unheard of. In a mere two years, he was the greatest return specialist in the history of the NFL. 11 return touchdowns, not including the longest return of a missed field goal in the game's history.

There was a time where Devin Hester was the Chicago Bears offense. It now looks as if that time as passed.

Save for the New Orleans game where it seemed as if Ron Turner had a page of his playbook dedicated to Hester drawing pass interference penalties, Hester has been seen more on milk cartons than he has on SportsCenter's Top 10. And so far, that is the extent of Hester's production since he has moved to become a full-time wide receiver.

This season he has tallied 40 catches for 580 yards and three touchdowns. Decent numbers for a middle of the road receiver, but those numbers ain't gonna cut it when you were pegged as the most exciting person in Chicago football since Gayle Sayers. Football experts (a.k.a. talk-show callers) blame Hester's struggles on his inability to learn complex routes on the fly.

And even though it seems like the easy route to take, I blame the coaching staff. Everyone with an ounce of football knowledge has heard the rumors of Hester's extremely ridiculous allergic reaction when he comes close to a complex playbook. And there isn't a skill position more difficult to pick up than being a wide out.

Deep routes. Short routes. Intermediate routes. Slant routes. Go routes. Out routes. In routes. Hitch routes. Hitch and go routes. Post routes. Post corner routes. Slant-and-go routes.

Those are routes I know only because of my extensive knowledge of the Madden NFL playbook.

I always thought The Windy City Flyer would be best served as a scat back. Run him on a sweep. Throw him the ball in the flats. Screen him left. Screen him right. Run him on a draw. Being a running back could have allowed Hester to get the ball with more open space without making take what would be the equivalent to the Harvard Law exam.

I'm not doubting Hester's talent. His speed, agility and athletic ability alone should make him a productive NFL receiver sooner rather than later. But he needs to refine his game.

Some thoughts on the year that was

I just wonder what makes Stephen Curry different from J.J. Redick. I see Curry in a similar role to Redick because I just don't think he's anything more than a great jump shooter.

It must really suck to be a Seattle sports fan. The Seahawks sucked this year and future Hall of Fame head coach Mike Holmgren is retiring and it doesn't appear that a quick turnaround is in the cards either given the talent there. Obviously, it also sucks that the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City to become the Thunder and play terrible basketball. The Mariners are a total train-wreck as well with no legit shot of competing in 2009 either.

I don't see what a salary cap does for Major League Baseball as so many people have been discussing given the New York Yankees spending spree that is nearing half-a-billion dollars. A.J. Burnett had a career year last season and hasn't come close to the 18 wins he accumulated in 2008 before. He also deals with a laundry list of injuries every other year. Think J.D. Drew as a pitcher. Speaking of names with periods or lack thereof now, the Yanks also signed CC Sabathia which doesn't mean the end of the world for the baseball either. Sabathia struggled for the second straight year in the playoffs and hasn't played in a major market in his career yet. I'm sure this will end well. As for the newest member Mark Teixeira.. well.. I'm just glad he signed so the rest of the dominoes can start falling soon free agent wise. Obviously the Yankees are legit title contenders with these moves but it doesn't promise anything because chemistry is a big part of baseball.

The NFL really sucked this year. When 85-year-old Kurt Warner is a legit MVP candidate for the Arizona Cardinals, something has gone horribly wrong. Outside of the Titans, Steelers and Giants, the talent level has been blah this year.

The Chicago Bulls are a mess. They don't have a ton of cap room for the 2010 shopping season and they'll probably lose Ben Gordon after this season. Derrick Rose is a stud but he doesn't have much to work with and I feel another lottery trip ahead which doesn't help. It has been a couple years now and I still don't know what to make of Tyrus Thomas, Joakim Noah and Thabo Sefalosha. I'd like to see more playing time for them so I can decide if the Bulls should just move on from these guys or not.

Chicago baseball should be good again next year. The Cubs didn't lose much this offseason outside of Kerry Wood. Wood's spot will be taken by Carlos Marmol so there shouldn't be much of a drop off. All the Cubs really needed is some good karma and lefty power. Sorry, but you don't want Adam Dunn's .200-ish average. Shell out the money like you always do and get Bobby Abreu. Platoon the Japanese disaster with Reed Johnson in center and everything is fine. The White Sox have taken the addition by subtraction route and while they won't contend for a title untill 2010, they should be fun to watch again. They lost Nick Swisher, Javy Vazquez and Orlando Cabrera from the 2008 regulars. Sure, Joe Crede and Ken Griffey Jr. are gone as well but they weren't key cogs of the operation. Come to think of it, neither was Swisher. That's why they should be in decent shape for 2009. They'll slide Alexei Ramirez over to short and offset the Cabrera loss with either Jayson Nix, Chris Getz or Brent Lillebridge. Will either of those three light the world on fire? I would guess not but they don't have to for the White Sox to contend. It really comes down to who mans third base and center field on top of the final spots in the rotation.

'Twas the blog before Christmas (Part Three) All I Want For Christmas Is...

OK, I've taken off my Santa cap and have put on my pajamas and have officially put together a Christmas list of 10 things I want under my tree.

  1. A strong left-handed hitter that averages 40 homers, 96 RBIs and a .381 on-base percentage.
  2. A quarterback that can throw it, a wide receiver that can catch it and a coordinator that can coach it.
  3. USC Song Girls + Mistletoe.
  4. A big man that Derrick Rose can feed in the post.
  5. Leryn Franco.
  6. The 2007 NL Cy Young Award winner in Cubbie blue pinstripes.
  7. A win for Da Bears against Houston on Sunday.
  8. A win for Da Hawks against Detroit on Jan. 1.
  9. All the hot girls on this site here.
  10. More hits, comments, posts and a sponsor (???) for this blog.
Thank you for your continued support of The Big Dead Sidebar.

Merry Christmas to all.

Christmas Eve Testimonials: 'Twas the blog before Christmas (Part Two)

"All I want for Christmas is the charges dropped." - Plaxico Burress

"You think that mistletoe is hung low? You must not know 'bout me." - Vinsanthe Schiancoe, Santonio Holmes, Chris Cooley

"I'm dreaming of a white ... wife and a black head coach in the SEC." - Turner Gill

"Ho, ho, ho. Watch the dough hit the flo'." - Adam "Pac Man" Jones

You get the gist of it, let's see if you, my beloved reader, can add some more.

'Twas the blog before Christmas (Part One)


Allow me to put on my Santa hat and provide the following gifts for the following people.

For Nick Swisher: Derek Jeter's black book

You're going to need some new friends once you step foot in New York City and no one has more friends than the Yankee captain. If Swisher follows Jeters advice, I'm sure he'll be batting 1.000 in no time.

For Chris Lowery: An offense that scores more than 63 points per game

Last season, SIU was an outstanding 17-1 in games in which it scored at least 63 points. I know C-Lo visited the Denver Nuggets this offseason and taught them the meaning of the word "defense" but maybe New York Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni could have left him a copy of his offensive playbook on his desk when the Salukis visited the Garden in November. Remember kids, you can't win if you don't score. And you can't win if the other team scores more than you do.

For Mario Moccia: A blank check from Hal Steinbrenner

Since I'm already in a New York state of mind, I figure I hop a cab (or maybe a train, it's probably cheaper) and head to the new Yankee Stadium, pick Steinbrenner's pocket and allow SIU Director of Athletics Mario Moccia to sign off on a blank check that would pay for Saluki way. And he can't tell me the economy won't allow him to do it, seeing that he has spent an estimated $423.5 million dollars on free agents this winter.

For Dale Lennon: A dollar for...

...every time he said his team needed to "sure things up."

For John Paxson: A time machine

Use it how you may, Pax. Wanna go back in time and trade Luol Deng for Pau Gasol? Or Kevin Garnett? Or maybe you would like to pull the trigger on that Gordon/Thomas/Noah for Kobe package? Or instead of drafting Thomas, you draft LaMarcus Aldridge or Brandon Roy. Maybe even Ronnie Brewer over that Swiss guard. I doubt you get anything for Christmas, seeing that you got your gift which came in June.

For Derrick Rose: A teammate he can trust

Ben Gordon's a nice shooter, but he's a chucker. Larry Hughes is a nice asset, but if he makes a few shots then he thinks he can make them all. Unfortunately, he can't. Luol Deng has regressed tremendously, but he's being paid like a future All-Star. I would get D-Rose some help. Amare Stoudemire anyone?

For LeBron James: Stephen Curry

As usual, Jeff makes perfect sense. He's not our hoops expert for nothing.

For Greg Olson: A record deal

And some time in the studio with Lil' Wayne for the remix, baby.

For the Bears: A 3-for-1 deal

1. A spot in the 2008-09 NFL playoffs.
2. A quarterback whose expertise is throwing "da bomb" and not downing Jaeger Bombs.
3. A receiver that can catch the ball as well as he catches his paycheck.

For the Cubs: A 2-for-1 deal

A 2007 NL Cy Young Winner and a left-handed bat who would likely hit 40 home runs at Wrigley Field alone.

For the White Sox: The fight of a lifetime

Don King. Jay Mariotti. Ozzie Guillen. Pay. Per. View. Need I say more?

For the Blackhawks: A true 'Winter Classic'

Temperatures that are cold, but livable. A hat trick apiece from Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane. And a 6-0 win over the hated Detroit Red Wings to cap the Winter of Frost.

Ortman!

Photo Credit: AP

If not for his beard, I would not have been able to tell you that Kyle Orton was the starting quarterback for the Chicago Bears on Monday night for their 20-17 overtime win against the Green Bay Packers.

Orton completed 14 of 27 passes for 142 yards with 1 touchdown and 2 interceptions and a 48.7 rating against the Packers, whose defense has as many holes as the swiss cheese many of the Packer fans hold to be holy. This is only where my problem with Bears fans begins.

There is a clear double standard here when it comes to signal caller for the Monsters of the Midway. If Grossman throws those two picks last night, Bears fans would have started an effigy with a fire that would have thawed Lake Michigan. Orton's mechanics are shotty, he stares down his receivers and he can't throw the deep ball.

Devin Hester is without a doubt the fastest player on the Bears, so there should be no reason to under throw him. Unless, of course, you're not talented enough to throw the deep ball.

Yet, Orton is embraced by many as the Jack Daniels-swigging, neckbeard owning quarterback savior.

When Rex fumbles the snap, it's his fault. When Orton does it, something is wrong with center Olin Kreutz. When Grossman can't hit his receivers, he's the worst quarterback in the world. When Kyle can't hit the same receivers, the Bears need better receivers.

Oh, and Rex kicks puppies and hates America.

To me, they're the same player. And the stats would back me on this one.

Orton (career):
  • 12-6-0 (record as a starter)
  • 55.2 completion percentage
  • 4933 passing yards
  • 27 touchdowns, 25 interceptions
  • 70.7 QB rating
Grossman (career):
  • 19-11-0 (record as a starter)
  • 54.2 completion percentage
  • 6164 passing yards
  • 33 touchdowns, 35 interceptions
  • 70.2 QB rating
So, I have a question for Bears fans. Where is the proof that Kyle Orton is a substantial improvement over Rex Grossman?

Don't worry. I'll wait.

Placing Prospects: Why LeBron should stay

Before the news broke today that LeBron James would consider signing an extension, I had the Cleveland Cavaliers on my mind. Not because I was thinking about where the King would be in two years, but because I was about to go watch Davidson vs. Purdue at the Conseco Fieldhouse for the John Wooden Tradition.

I was excited to see America's sweetheart Stephen Curry light up the Boilermakers for a ridiculous amount of points and hopefully confirm a destiny I have had in mind for the young scorer since I first saw his brilliance last March.

Curry did not light up Purdue though. In fact, he only scored 13 points and went 5-for-26 from the field. But even the best have off nights and I still believe Curry is the one who has the power to sway James' decision for what jersey he will wear in 2010.
The Davidson junior is the exact player James needs in his offense. James has needed a "pure" scorer to play alongside for years and has yet to find a perfect match.
With Larry Hughes, he had to fight for his shots since Hughes would put up ill-advised shots or he just was never healthy. After Hughes left James had no options except for the occasional good game from Donyell Marshall or Daniel Gibson.

Now James has Mo Williams and Delonte West which is a better situation but still not perfect. Williams is a good scorer but I saw plenty of him in Milwaukee and I know he just doesn't click with other elite scorers like a Michael Redd.

Williams will score his and then let someone score theirs and then score his and so on. It's never a real fluid relationship like the Michael Jordan/Scottie Pippen relationship James desperately wants. While West has been solid this year, he is more of a utility man that will do whatever the team needs him to do and cannot be James' personal wingman when he has rebounds, defense and assists to worry about.

Enter Stephen Curry.

Curry can shoot lights out. He shoots off the pass and at 6'3 he is tall enough to score off the dribble and drive the lane. The most important aspect of Curry is his lack of ego yet complete confidence in his game. Curry doesn't need to score 30 points a game, but when his number is called he knows he can perform.

When James needs the help Curry could become the person that is virtually impossible to stop. When he starts hitting on all cylinders you need to double team him and when you double him then James makes you pay.

Curry is expected to be picked around the 20th slot, and the Cavs will be picking in the upper 20's come draft time. The Cavs should do everything they can to land Curry, even if they have to trade someone like Williams, West or even Anderson Verajo.

Watching Curry throw up shots with confidence despite struggling all game was further proof he is ready to be James' go-to man. He won't be selfish like Hughes, but he will be more dangerous than Williams and West and give James the perfect outlet pass every time down the floor.

So LeBron, don't sign anything yet. But if Curry becomes a Cav, take the extension because I think he would bring a ring with him.

Google Scouting Saint Mary's (minus the Google) and a Purdue/Davidson update

Coming into the first game of the John R. Wooden Tradition, Davidson guard Stephen Curry looked primed to break the tournament's scoring record if he matched his game average.

However, the Purdue Boilermakers asserted themselves as the physically dominant team as they outhustled the Wildcats en route to a 47-24 halftime lead.

Curry is an ice cold 3-for-17 from the floor and 1-for-8 from the 3-point line and still leads the team with 7 first-half points. If the Wildcats want to make a run in this game, they would be wise to move Curry off the point guard position and let him run wild off screens. But for that to work, Davidson is going to have to set more solid screens as they ahve looked lifeless on both ends of the court.

Purdue's E'Twaun Moore leads all scorers with 10 points as seven different Boilermakers tallied points in the first half in what has turned out to be a home game in the team fittingly wearing the white jerseys. Kyle Orton and Drew Brees must be proud.

Google Scouting Presents: Saint Mary's (without the Google)

The combination of a terrible internet connection and access to a Saint Mary's media guide has given me the opportunity to do Google scouting without opening an additional web browser. Here's what I've got for you today.

Location: Moraga, California. According to the SMC media guide, its campus is 13.5 miles away from Oakland (yuck!), 21 miles from San Francisco and 46 miles from Great America. So that's cool.

Mascot: Gaels. It is some sort of horse. I'm assuming it is fast. Who would want a slow horse to be a team mascot?

Conference: West Coast Conference. Better known as the WCC. Also known as the conference Gonzaga dominates. Hey, wasn't SIU supposed to be the next Gonzaga? Just wondering.

Record: 8-1 with wins over powerhouses such as Seattle Pacific and Vanguard. OK, let's give 'em some credit here. They have beaten Providence (81-75), Kent State (75-69) and Oregon (78-73).

Who to watch for: Patrick "Patty" Mills. The 6-foot guard was an Olympic star for the Australian national team. He is averaging 20 points per game and will be a handful for Saluki defenders to guard this evening. I'd also watch out for 6-foot-7 forward Diamon Simpson, who is averaging 12.6 points and 11.6 rebounds per contest and 6-foot-11 center Omar Samhan who averages 15.4 points and 9.6 boards per game.

Don't worry about... Daniel Kickert. The former Gael star graduated in 2006 finishing as the school's leading scorer with 1,863 points.

The 'X' Factor: It's a homecoming for senior guard Wesley Clemmons, who is an Indianapolis native.

Notable: SIU will be playing its third game on a neutral court this season.

Quotable: "I'm looking forward to Stephen Curry dropping 40 on Purdue tonight." - Me, prior to the Purdue-Davidson game.

Prediction: Someone's gotta pull an upset in this tourney, right? I think SIU wins a squeaker in the house that Danny Granger dominates, but no one cares or knows about. Southern Illinois 67 Saint Mary's College 64

Mark Teixeira is ruining everything.


The winter meetings were supposed to bring big signings and trades galore but it's been over a week now and nothing has happened outside of the obvious. (see A.J. Burnett and CC Sabathia going to the New York Yankees)

Part of the reason is the economy which I mentioned weeks ago. The other part is Teixeira taking forever to figure out if he wants $120-140 million from the Boston Red Sox, Baltimore Orioles or the Washington Nationals.

More than likely he ends up with the Red Sox because they are peeved at not winning their third World Series of the decade and have money to spend. I figure they move Kevin "You Kill us" to third base and try to move the rusty, old, overpaid Mike Lowell.

But untill then...

It's boring and quiet. Hell, even the Jake Peavy rumors have died down for the last few days. Nothing will change till Tex makes up his mind and sets the market for everyone else.

Daily Dosage: Saturday Special

It's not often I do a Saturday edition of the Daily Dosage, but today it was necessary.

I'm spending the weekend in Indianapolis with my primary responsibility being to cover the SIU men's basketball team take on Saint Mary's College in the night cap of the Wooden Classic. And while covering Stephen Curry and Davidson go up against Purdue should be the highlight of the show, last night took the cake, no matter what happens today.

We were blessed with the opportunity to cover an NBA game Friday night as the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Indiana Pacers 119-107 in double-overtime.

So why Christina Applegate as today's Daily Dosage choice? Edyta, one of the wonderful photographers of the DE staff, approves.

The NBA punchline takes 2 OTs to defeat the shorthanded, Reggie Miller-less home team. [Daily Egyptian, Luis C. Medina]

Big guys played big as Zach Randolph and Roy Hibbert stole the show in Indy. [Daily Egyptian, Jeff Engelhardt]

Alabama defensive lineman learns why it's a bad idea to leave your Facebook open. [SportsByBrooks]

Turning Wrigley in to an ice rink. [Mouthpiece Sports]

Matt Vasgersian and the city of St. Louis. [Awful Announcing]

Skip Bayless has some QB crushes. [Deadspin]

Sports blogger of the Year and we're not in the running. What gives? [Busted Coverage]

Hungry, Hungry Hibbert

Photo Credit: Edyta Blaszczyk

So I just had the thrill of covering my first ever NBA game, a longtime dream of mine, and it couldn't have gone better.

The Los Angeles Clippers and Indiana Pacers battled in a double overtime game that resulted in the Clippers winning 117-109 at the Conseco Fieldhouse. I was treated to an awesome media room, locker room interviews with Baron Davis and Zach Randolph and a surprise appearance by Indiana University coach Tom Crean.

While the night went perfect for me, it could have gone much better for Indiana coach Jim O'Brien.

The game was going great for O'Brien and his Pacers as they were able to take a slight lead in to halftime despite playing without superstar Danny Granger. Roy Hibbert had 10 points and had not missed a shot going into the locker room. He was setting great screens for Jarrett Jack who ended the night with 27 points.

So with Hibbert playing great basketball and the Pacers finding their confidence without Granger O'Brien does the logical thing and lets Hibbert play some more.

WRONG

Maybe O'Brien was just so accustomed to the Pacers' frontcourt struggling that he got scared of Hibbert's success, but Hibbert only played the first half of the third quarter and did not see the floor for the fourth quarter or the 10 minutes of overtime.

O'Brien being scared of success would be a better reason for not playing Hibbert than the one he offered at the post-game press conference. O'Brien said he did not play Hibbert because he had two rookies in Josh McRoberts and Brandon Rush out on the floor and he wanted to keep Rasho Nesterovic out on the floor for experience.

Sure, experience is important to have on the floor, but there was an easy solution I am confident any coach at any level could have seen. Take out McRoberts and put in Hibbert.

The philosophy with big men in the NBA really isn't all that hard. In fact, you learn it at a very young age. When I was a child I would play the game Hungry, Hungry Hippos. The point of the game was to get your hippo to "eat" the most marbles.

Well when O'Brien has a big guy dominating, he needs to feed him the ball. With Christmas right around the corner I think I will give O'Brien Hungry, Hungry Hippos so he can start with the basics.

Taking Hibbert out did not only hurt the frontcourt, but it hurt the backcourt as well. Jarrett was no longer rolling off the screens and hitting mid-range jump shots. Instead, he was rolling off psuedo screens from McRoberts and Nesterovic and then passing back to them where they would ultimately miss an 18-foot jump shot.

It's a frustrating coaching blunder because the Pacers could have won the game had they made the right personnel decisions. I too was critical of Hibbert when he first came out of college. I thought he would be too slow or not conditioned to play a full NBA game. But when he came out and tore up defensive ace Marcus Camby with his baby hook shots from both hands, he had me believing in a bright future.

The Pacers are not going anywhere quick. O'Brien needs to see the potential in his young center just like he has seen it in rookie Brandon Rush. Rush played 54 minutes compared to Hibbert's 22.

If O'Brien goes with players like McRoberts and Nesterovic over Hibbert, he could become just another number in the NBA coaching guillotine.