Sunday, August 31, 2008

Chris Perry is the New Bengals Starter




According to ESPN.com, the Cincinnati Bengals released running back Rudi Johnson before the roster deadline.  This is indeed unfortunate for Johnson, who reportedly came into camp in great shape but had trouble with injuries, but it is very good news for former Michigan standout and Heisman Trophy finalist Chris Perry, who now moves into the starting role.
Perry, who graduated in 2003, was a Lloyd Carr dream back, someone who could carry the ball 40 times in a game and who was talented enough to be able to break at least a few of those carries into a home run play.  He was a workhorse, especially his senior year, when he rushed for 1,674 yards and was the Big Ten MVP.  Perry is 3rd all-time at Michigan in career rushing attempts, 6th in yards, and 4th in touchdowns.   

The Bengals obviously have some faith in him, and it's about time he got a legitimate shot at being a pro starter.  Good for him, and hopefully he takes advantage.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Three Days Until Kickoff...

...and I can barely sit still long enough to write this sentence. Instead of a normal, thought out post, I give you some classic highlights from Michigan opening games, courtesy of the unparalleled WolverineHistorian.

1995: Michigan 18 - Virginia 17



1984: Michigan 22 - Miami (Fla.) 14



1985: Michigan 20 - Notre Dame 12



2002: Michigan 31 - Washington 29



If you want to find me, I'll be walking around downtown Ann Arbor breathing into a paper bag for the next 74 hours or so.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Detroit Athlete of the Decade Tournament: The Finals

POLLS CLOSED: Lidstrom wins 73% to 28%

In what should come as a surprise to no one, Chauncey Billups and Nicklas Lidstrom have advanced to the finals of the Detroit Athlete of the Decade Tournament. Billups advanced to the finals with a resounding 82%-18% victory over Lions kicker Jason Hanson, while Lidstrom took down Tigers outfielder Magglio Ordonez, 84%-16%. Who will be crowned the king of the D? That's up to you. Polls will stay open through the rest of the week, with final results posted on Sunday.

Final Round: Billups vs. Lidstrom

Chauncey Billups (Sam Weiss, The Ace of Sports)

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If Ben was the heart, Rip was the legs, Tay was the arms, Sheed was the soul and Darko was the appendix, then Chauncey Billups was the head of the 2003-2004 World Champion Detroit Pistons. David Thorpe, Executive Director of the Pro Training Center at IMG Academies, called Chauncey arguably the smartest player in basketball and most Pistons fans would probably agree. In addition to Basketball IQ, Chauncey brought good defense, unselfish play and a cool head to the world champions. One can use descriptions ranging from the vague terms of amateur sportscasters to numbers that only a stat-geek could appreciate. (Examples: unlike most players given the label from nimrod Sportscenter analysts, Chauncey is ‘clutch’. Also, a stat-geek might point out that his Free Throws Attempted per Turnover Committed is outrageously high, tops in the NBA year after year, demonstrating the ability to operate in traffic without losing the ball).

For the last 30 years, the team with the best individual player has always won the NBA finals. Except for the 2003-2004 Pistons. Because of their unique accomplishment, it is difficult to pick any one of them as most responsible. Any one of the starting five could have won the Finals MVP. Were someone to argue that Tayshaun, Rasheed or Ben was more deserving of this honor, his or her argument would certainly have merit, so I’ll keep mine very simple:

A. No sports accomplishment of the last decade meant more to the people of Detroit than the 2003-2004 NBA Championship.
B. By almost any statistical measure, Chauncey was the best player on that team and has been the best player on the Pistons ever since.
C. As a fanatic who has watched the team play (and who loved/loves all Stones equally, even Carlos Delfino and Ronald Dupree), I agree. Chauncey was the most valuable player.

Chauncey doesn’t need to become a symbol of the entire Piston’s team or the city of Detroit itself; he’s got a ring and a Finals MVP Trophy.

(Of course, he could go out and win another championship next year just to make my argument a little bit better. Just a thought.)

Nicklas Lidstrom (Dave, Gorilla Crouch)

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Nick Lidstrom is widely considered to be one of the top 2 or 3 defensemen to ever play the game. He has been awarded the Norris trophy as the league's best defenseman six of the last seven seasons. He trails only Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey for most Norris trophies awarded to an NHL defenseman. This would be comparable to a pitcher winning 6 out of 7 Cy Young awards or an NBA player winning Defensive Player of the year award that often. It's an incredible feat that has been accomplished by a remarkable and rare talent.

While awards help to make the point, statistics show what a player actually did on the playing surface against his competition. Over the past 10 regular seasons, Nick Lidstrom has averaged playing in 80 of his team's 82 games, and averaged 14 goals and 49 assists per year. That comes out to 63 points per season with an average plus/minus rating of +24. Night in and night out he's faced the absolute best talent in the league and the Red Wings have outscored the opposition by 24 even-strength goals on average every year for the past 10 years.

Regular Season:

Lidstrom's 142 goals is the 3rd most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's 489 assists are the most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's +237 rating is the best by a defenseman over the past 10 seaons.
Won 6 of the last 7 Norris trophy awards.

Playoffs:
Lidstrom's 26 goals is the most by a defensemen over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's 76 assists is the most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's +20 rating is the 4th best by a defensemen over the past 10 seaons.
3-time Stanley Cup champion over the past 10 seasons.
He was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in the 2002 playoffs.

Olympics:

Lidstrom has averaged just under a point a game in Olympic competition over the past three winter competitions and scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden in the 2006 winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Nick Lidstrom is the best athlete in Detroit over the past ten seasons. He's been acknowledged as one of the best defensemen in the history of hockey and his regular season and playoff stats bear that out. He's also a three-time world champion over the past 10 seasons, once winning the playoff MVP award in addition to an Olympic gold medal.

Bullet Points Are Handy: Kenny on the Move?

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Today's batch of links include Tigers trade rumors, a look ahead to Michigan's 2010 recruiting class, and more.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Michigan Releases Depth Chart: Gives Lesson in the Prodigious Use of "OR"

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Will we see another #20 starting at running back? (photo from Rivals)

Sorry about the lack of posting. I haven't mentioned this on the blog yet, but I got an internship with The Wolverine magazine, and today was my first day. As a result, posting may become lighter on Mondays and Thursdays. Bear with me.

Speaking of The Wolverine (great segue, Ace!), they released the official depth chart for Michigan football this morning, which you can find here. Points of outstanding interest:
  • I've never seen the word 'OR' so many times on one page. It appears at seven of the eleven positions on offense. Either there is still a lot of uncertainty about the starters OR we will be playing so many players that the starting designation matters little. My guess is a little of both.
  • Quarterback, unsurprisingly, is one of those positions still up in the air. Nick Sheridan is listed first, for those of you who want to read into things.
  • Running back is crazy. It's listed as Sam McGuffie or Michael Shaw or Brandon Minor or Carlos Brown, in that order. I'm pleasantly surprised to see the freshmen listed as starters.
  • At wide receiver, Greg Mathews and LaTerryal Savoy get the nod outside (with Darryl Stonum close behind both) and Martavious Odoms will start in the slot over Toney Clemons.
  • The offensive line, from left to right: Ortmann, McAvoy, Molk, Moosmann, Schilling. No idea what to expect out of this group, but I'm sure the label "inexperienced" will be thrown around more than enough times to make me want to throw up.
  • Surprises at the linebacker spots: Austin Panter will start at the strong side, with Obi Ezeh in the middle, and Marell Evans beats out Jonas Mouton on the weak side.
  • Other than the linebackers, the defense is exactly as expected.
  • Your kick returners, who are all listed together: Donovan Warren and Martavious Odoms on punts; Brandon Harrison, Morgan Trent, Odoms, and Michael Shaw on kickoffs.
Should make for an interesting Saturday. Not that it wasn't going to be already.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

USA vs. Spain Live Blog: Gold Medal Edition


What's up guys, it is late as hell, but your faithful blogger Joe and my faithful assistant Jon are ready to live blog for you.  If you're out there.  At 2:30am.

There are two very different and distinct ways to go about predicting the outcome of this gold medal game.  Here they are:

1) You could take the stance that the game against Argentina highlighted the United States' weaknesses, and Spain has seen them and is ready to exploit them.  If Spain takes care of the ball and slows the game down, as Argentina did, they will have a chance to win.   
2)The second way to go think about the game is this: The U.S. saw it's weaknesses exposed as well.  And they have worked on them and have overcome them.  Also, the game could be looked at as a much-needed wake-up call.  The team had been playing in essentially exhibition games the entire Olympics, until last game.  That game woke them up, and they will come into this one ready for another one, which means it really won't be one at all.

I am, against what I've said all year, going with option number one.  Spain has good enough players to control the ball when they need to, and they will make it a close game, but the U.S. will eventually prevail.  Jon thinks the game will be a blowout.  He says they're too fired up to lose.

Ok, moment of truth.  Let's get it.

Opening U.S. possession: 3 by LeBron.

Opening Spanish possession: and 1 by Pau.  Oh boy.

8:58-Ricky Rubio is starting for Spain.  He is someone we have to take advantage of if we want to get fast break points.  He's inexperienced.

7:03-10-9, Spain.  They aren't letting us get on the break, and forcing us to take bad shots.

6:06-Great play by Rubio, slicing his way through J-Kidd and then Deron Williams for a layup.  Very nice.  Spain up by 4.

3:36-Good defensive position for the U.S. forcing Spain into bad shots and leading to a shot clock violation.  

2:12-Great fake pass to Bosh by Tay to a nice lefty floater.  Perhaps his best play of the Olympics.

1:26-Rubio gets called for the foul when he tries to draw a charge on D-Wade.  This reffing is terrible.  However, I do like the refs calling fouls on Spain when they try to flop.  They freaking deserve it.  Have I told you I hate flopping?

0:09-Big 3 by D-Wade to end the quarter.  We're up 7, and that's without Kobe or LeBron.  Before last game, I would have been very disappointed.  Now, I'm relatively content.  Spain's going to give us a game.

Alright, second quarter starting.  let's go.

9:46-Absolutely bush league elbow by Marc Gasol.  Looked like he was trying to take Melo's head off.  Ridiculous.  He should be scared.  He may be forgetting we have Dwight Howard on our team.

8:53-Mike Breen refers to one of the refs as a "Sting look-alike." 
Jon: "That's why they pay him the big bucks."
Classic.

6:09-Little Flying Warrior update: great finish by Kobe on a fast break pass by Chris Paul.  The man can fly.  7-point game.  Ugh. 

5:26-LeBron James on a fast break: he just said "I'm bigger than you. I must break you." Related topic: Career-Ending Layup?  Possible?  

4:02-Huge 3 by LeBron to put us up by 14.  The U.S. is playing better

2:46-Amazing tip-in by Tay over Marc "The Bitch" Gasol.  Eat shit, Marc.  Quit trying to injure our players.  Just because you'll never be any good and you used to be a fatass doesn't mean you have to ruin somebody's career, somebody who actually has a future in basketball.

2:10-Dwayne Wade absolutely refuses to let this team lose.  Huge 3.  God.

1:50-Wow, huge answer 3 by Rudy Fernandez.  This guy is playing out of his mind.  He truly is a great shooter, and you can tell.  

0:31-The guy for Spain with "Berni" on his back is talking shit to Chris Paul.  He's just a joke.  What an idiot.

Halftime-Instead of blogging about various commercials this time, I'm real tired so I'm going to refuel.  We're up by 8.  I was right, at least so far.  If the U.S. doesn't play better D second half, the game will come down to the wire.  I hope not.

Ok, so I took a break during the third quarter.  The game was so close I couldn't bring myself to blog.  In fact, I told myself I would quit.  But then I said, would Team USA quit?  No.  So here I am, I'm back.  The fourth quarter is starting.  Let's go.

9:08-We have been just missing opportunities.  Deron Williams just missed a layup that would have put us up by 11.  Pathetic.

8:38-2-point game.  We are jacking up ill-advised 3's and we are paying for it.  Gotta regroup.

7:55-Amazing runner by Kobe.  

7:44-LeBron needs to play smart now.  He's got 4 fouls and we need him now more than ever.

7:18-Great fast-break pass by Kobe to Deron Williams, which he hits.  Big shot

6:38-After much bobbling, near-Career-Ender dunk-wise by Dwight.

5:46-Huge 3 by Kobe.  We're starting to get out on the fast break, playing a lot better. 

5:08-Career-Ending Dunk by Rudy Fernandez on Dwight Howard.  Have fun playing golf, Dwight.  Maybe you'll have better touch on the green than you do around the basket.  Shame on you.  By the way, Rudy is officially my favorite international player in the Olympics.  The dude just plays.  he doesn't flop, doesn't talk, he just flat-out balls.  Great player.  I mean, it takes major cajones to go for the dunk in that situation.  Very impressive.

3:42-HUGE 3 with the foul by Kobe.  Rudy fouls out and Kobe puts his finger to his lips.  I guess you don't win 3 titles by not hitting clutch shots.

2:35-Another huge 3 by Dwayne Wade after a 3 by Spain.  Regardless of what happens, this is one of the best basketball games I have ever seen.  We're up by 7.  Luckily.

1:52-Confusing foul call on Kobe.  The refs have been letting anything go for the past quarter, and all of a sudden a ticky-tack call.  Very weird.

1:28-Miss by Jiminez on a wide-open 3.  That may be the difference of the game.

0:47-Spain has started fouling.  We're up 8, in good position.  Plus, they fouled Chris Paul.  Out of anyone on our squad, not him.

0:26-Oh my God, Ricky Rubio just got a technical foul.  Pretty stupid.  Sigh...teenagers.  The lead is 10.  Looks like we're going to wrap this up.

End of the Game-The Redeem Team ends the game to chants of "U-S-A!  U-S-A!"  The team immediately goes over and hugs Doug Collins.  Coach K is drenched from water from Kobe's water bottle.  This was one of the greatest basketball-related experiences I have ever had.  The smiles these NBA millionaires are flashing are so gratifying.  This is why I love sports.  You don't get this anywhere else.  It is pure good.  

Spain put up an amazing fight, and more power to them.  They gave us a great game.  However, we were always the better team.  Notes: Kobe Bryant took over the game at the end, and he is the reason we won.  Wade, with 27, played amazing as well.  Anybody who still thinks the NBA has an image problem is crazy.  New respect for Doug Collins.  Great guy.  Touching sign-off by him.  

The Gold Medal is ours.  Great job, you guys.  We love you, and you represented the United States like champions and statesman, and you all should be proud.  Amazing.   

Friday, August 22, 2008

Lions Sign Drew Henson

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From the Detroit Free Press, via MVictors, comes the news that the Lions have signed former Michigan quarterback Drew Henson. The signing is a result of the thumb injury to Drew Stanton, which will keep him out a month. Henson is not expected to make the final roster, but will provide depth to get the Lions through the preseason.

If you had told a Michigan and Lions fan in 2000 that the Lions would have Drew Henson at quarterback in 2008, the fan would probably have expected Henson to be a top-10 NFL Draft Pick and a solid pro QB. Instead, he took a slightly more circuitous route to the NFL. I don't think any fan ten years ago would have guessed Henson would not be expected to make the Lions roster and would likely be out of the league. Strange how things work sometimes.

Oh, and screw you, George Steinbrenner.

Dumars: Expects Pistons to "Go to War" with the Current Roster

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After Detroit was ousted by the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals last season, everyone, including Joe Dumars, expected big changes this offseason. The closest the Pistons have come to a big move was signing Kwame Brown, and those holding out hope for a big trade late in the offseason should probably give it up.

True Blue Pistons interviewed Joe D on Thursday afternoon. The money quote:
“I would be very surprised if anyone called at this point to offer the type of deal I was open to and had been open to doing,” Dumars said. “I don’t expect that call. I expect us to go to war, if you will, with the guys we have on this roster we have right now, with the 14 guys we have now.”
While I'm sure many Pistons fans are disappointed that Detroit land a player like Corey Maggette, Josh Smith, Josh Childress, or even James Posey, Dumars' unwillingness to make a trade for the sake of moving players is a good thing. This team has made the Eastern Conference Finals six straight seasons, the starting lineup is among the best in basketball, and the young bench will only get better. Maybe new coach Michael Curry is the guy to lead Detroit to its second title of the last six seasons. No matter what, this team still has the players to be a championship contender, and the lack of a panic move on Dumars' part will keep this team competitive in the East.

Argentina-Team USA Live Blog

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Chris Paul (r) defends a punk-ass mark, or a mark-ass punk, aka Luis Scola (l)

What's up everybody, I am up early and ready to go. Some preliminary stuff: unfortunately, Jon will not be joining me this morning, something about him not having a car or leaky tires or something. Best of luck to Jon with that, but what that really means is that I won't have anyone to alert me when something sweet and/or funny happens while I am typing (yeah, I have to look at the keyboard when I type. Shut up). So we'll see what happens.
Second point: Argentina and I have some serious animosity. Not the whole country, of course, just the basketball team. As many of you already know, Manu Ginobili is probably the most hate-able player in the NBA, and if it's not him it's Andres Nocioni. That, and I guess it may have something to do with what happened in Athens in 2004. I will try not to let my bias get too much in the way, but I'm not making any promises. In my opinion, this should be a blowout, but we'll see. Alright tip-off's coming up. Let's go.

9:36-Great tip-in by Kobe off a Dwight miss. Ladies and gentlemen, Dwight Howard's legendary touch around the basket!

7:38-Career-Ending block by Dwight Howard on Luis Scola. Scola thought he could go straight at him. Bad idea.

6:30-Jason Kidd with a long 2! Maybe his second shot of the tournament? Oh, well. Nobody else can shoot, so whatever we can get.

During a timeout-They're showing the game in 2004. I want to throw up.

4:10-Shameless, shameless, shameless flop by Ginobili. Well, if that's what you have to resort to in order to have a chance, then so be it. Seriously, how do you sleep at night?

2:09-After Ginobili goes down with a foot injury, the U.S. has blown the game wide open. Argentina is truly lost without him. He'd better get back in the game; I want there to be no doubt about how much better we are than them. Also, if they want to have a chance to lose by less than 30, he needs to be in the game. Turns out the real one-man team is Argentina.

0:59-Luis Scola is being obnoxious. He's just being ridiculously rough inside. It's like he's the dopey tall skinny white guy playing at a really good court trying to prove to the dudes he's playing with that he's tough and he can hold his own. It's ok, Luis, you don't have to prove your manhood to us.

End of the first quarter-30-9, U.S. Things are going well for us, especially as far as shooting 3's. Turns out we can shoot, too.

7:55-Carmelo for 3. I don't understand why these international teams want to just let us shoot. Maybe 3's aren't our strong point, but we're NBA players. Our weak point is stronger than your strong point.

7:04-Near career-ending block for Nocioni on Kobe. Very impressive.

4:58-Argentina has gotten right back into the game thanks to...their bench? They've just played very well. They've slowed the game down by drawing fouls. It's a good strategy. We'll see if it lasts.

4:06-Pretty savage block on Delfino by Carmelo. Anyone who watches the Pistons recognizes the bricks and ill-advised turnovers from Carlos.

Halftime-We are only up 9. I hate it. I can't stand it. I am sorry I haven't been keeping up with the blog. The truth is, Argentina is playing very well, and the U.S. needs to take them very seriously. Every game for them has been an exhibition so far, and now they're playing in a real game. If they treat it that way, they'll win. If not, we're stupid.

7:09-Jon and I are trying desperately to avert our attention from us being only up 17. Quote from Jon:
"Moldy Bananas. That's a funny phrase."
See?

6:10-The technical situation right now is in complete disarray. Carmelo Anthony just shot four free throws in a row. Nobody is completely sure why. Gotta love international refs.

3:36-There is a guy on Argentina who I swear is related to Todd Jones. Both his face and his gut. We're only up by 18. Kill me now.

2:43-Amazing spin move by Chris Paul. Possibility: Career-Ending Move?

End of the third quarter-14. Crap.

Start of the fourth-Put Tay in the game! They're playing the Final Countdown! I think even if Coach K doesn't put him in, Tay will hypnotically walk onto the court and block someone from behind on a breakaway.

7:17-Lots of moving picks. The refs don't know what those are.

4:42-I hate Luis Scola more than any human on the face of the earth. He is such a bitch I can't stand it. He is showing flashes of skill, but what he's really skilled at is flailing his arms and crying like a girl. Something tells me he's had a lot of practice.

1:31-Dwayne Wade just made Luis Scola very confused. Where's the ball, Luis? Where is it? By the way, 101-81. We aren't going to win by nearly enough.

End of the Game-Well, we only won by 20. Thanks you for putting up with my inconsistent posts. But let me say this: if this is international basketball, not only is it sloppy and slow, but it's not very fun to watch. Give Argentina credit: they were able to slow the game down to their pace. Adapting to international play hasn't been an issue for the U.S. because we've run on everybody. Not today. We had to slow it down and play down to their level. It didn't look very fun, and it wasn't very fun to watch. In the end, I think we have reached Dream Team status if I am saddened by only winning by 20. Next stop: gold medal. Let's get it

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Michigan Offense Breakdown

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Michigan's next starter? The only question is if he can fit the spread.

This is Sam Weiss, reporting live from Michigan’s Fall Camp where, once again, the offense looks to be shaping up as one of the best in the nation. A few observations:

Perhaps the fiercest battles have been in the interior of the line. We’ve all heard about the strength Will Johnson and Terrance Taylor have added this off-season, but even they are having trouble getting push against the interior offensive line. Justin Boren anchors the interior at center, but the guards may be even more talented. It’s obvious to all observers that Marques Slocum and Alex Mitchell have put all motivation and conditioning problems behind them, as they’ve looked slim, quick and aggressive in practice. Despite the loss of Jake Long, look for a big improvement in the line this year.

Most of the media’s attention of course, is shining away from the offensive line and onto the quarterback battle. Coach Rodriguez is remaining noncommittal on who will start, calling both Ryan Mallett and Jason Forcier, “players we can win with.” The media has been pushing Forcier, calling him a better fit for the spread, but Rodriguez assures that with wideouts like Mario Manningham, Adrian Arrington and Greg Mathews, Michigan’s spread need not resemble Pat White’s West Virginia team. With Mallett’s world-class arm and arguably the best set of wide receivers in the nation, Michigan’s offense could resemble Texas Tech’s more than West Virginia’s. Don’t be surprised to see ample time for both in next week’s tune-up against Utah. Michigan fans are also excited over reports that Coach Rod is inserting several formations that will feature last year’s Heisman finalist, Antonio Bass, lining up at quarterback. We’ve all seen that he can throw, probably as well as Pat White can, and ranks with Percy Harvin as among the most dangerous open field players in the country. Everyone is buzzing over the different ways that Coaches Rodriguez and Magee are finding to get him the ball in open space.

Heisman finalist Antonio Bass doing what he does best: making plays (photo from Mike Desimone).

Several freshmen seem ready to contribute as well, although barring injury the only true opportunities will come via special teams. Michael Shaw, Sam McGuffie and Martavious Odoms are all pushing to be Michigan’s number two in the slot. Behind, of course, last year’s freshman sensation Ronald Johnson.

The only question on everyone’s mind: who is going to stop these guys?

(thank you, Sam, for utterly depressing me on what was a beautiful Thursday afternoon - ed)

Bullet Points Are Handy: New Michigan Hockey Jerseys

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Today's links include the revealing of the new Michigan hockey jerseys (above), several injuries for Michigan football, and more:
  • I'm way late on this, but Hoover Street Rag found the new Michigan replica hockey jerseys in the MDen catalog. Everyone agrees: those whites are awesome. Check out HSR for a pic of Red Berenson wearing a very similar uniform in his playing days.
  • Varsity Blue breaks down Michigan's injury situation. Guard Corey Zirbel is probably out for the season with a serious knee injury, Terrence Robinson is out at least few weeks with a knee injury, and several others are dinged up as well.
  • Tom Kowalski dispels any rumors that Roy Williams is jealous of Calvin Johnson's new role as the Lions' go-to guy. The money quote: "I wasn't mad when Mac (Shaun McDonald) was catching more balls than me last year and I wasn't mad when Mike Furrey caught more balls than me the first year Mike Martz was here,'' Williams said. "As long as we win, I swear to God, that's all I care about, is winning. If I don't get the ball, then that's fine. If we lose and I don't get the ball, then that's a problem.''
  • Need4Sheed relives some great moments in Piston basketball, YouTube style.

Detroit Athlete of the Decade Tournament: Round Two

POLLS ARE CLOSED: Chauncey Billups and Nicklas Lidstrom advance to the finals.

Round One is complete, with your winners from each team being Jason Hanson, Chauncey Billups, Nicklas Lidstrom, and Magglio Ordonez. Let the festivities continue!

Semifinal #1: Jason Hanson vs. Chauncey Billups

Jason Hanson (Big Al, SideLion Report)

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When [Ace] asked me to pick the Detroit Lions player of the decade as part of his "Detroit Athlete of the Decade" project, I knew it would be a tough assignment. Pro football is a meat grinder, where short careers are the norm. The Lions grind up players like cheap hamburger. The Lions are in the midst of their worst decade ever, with players and coaches coming and going through Matt Millen's fast spinning revolving door. Players come and players go, most of whom make little impression.

But there's one player who's been a Lion seemingly forever, and is likely to retire with the same team who drafted him, an exception to the NFL rule. Even today, after 16 NFL seasons, he is still at the top of his game. This Lion has survived several regime changes, playing for 7 coaches, and has had countless teammates. Despite the constant adversity, he's persevered to become one of the franchise's All-Time greats.

I'm sure you've figured out by now who is my nominee for Detroit Lions player of the decade. Kicker Jason Hanson. Yes, a placekicker. But one of the best placekickers ever.

The stats speak for themselves. Hanson is in elite NFL company: 10th overall in scoring NFL history, 6th overall in field goals made, 16th overall in field goal percentage, along with playing in a pair of Pro Bowls (1997, 1999). Hanson has missed only 12 kicks inside the 40 in those 16 seasons. 12!

In many ways, the Lions' elder statesman is the face of the franchise. Hanson is one of the few players fans can point to with pride. In what's been a decade of disappointment, and full of more ugliness than we care to remember, Hanson has never wavered. The man is money, a big time player on what's been a penny ante franchise.

I've often jokingly called Hanson the Detroit Lions' Most Valuable Player. Thinking about it, it's no joke. As bad as the Lions have been over the past 10 years, it would have been much, much worse without Jason Hanson wearing the Honolulu blue and silver.

Chauncey Billups (Sam Weiss, The Ace of Sports)

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If Ben was the heart, Rip was the legs, Tay was the arms, Sheed was the soul and Darko was the appendix, then Chauncey Billups was the head of the 2003-2004 World Champion Detroit Pistons. David Thorpe, Executive Director of the Pro Training Center at IMG Academies, called Chauncey arguably the smartest player in basketball and most Pistons fans would probably agree. In addition to Basketball IQ, Chauncey brought good defense, unselfish play and a cool head to the world champions. One can use descriptions ranging from the vague terms of amateur sportscasters to numbers that only a stat-geek could appreciate. (Examples: unlike most players given the label from nimrod Sportscenter analysts, Chauncey is ‘clutch’. Also, a stat-geek might point out that his Free Throws Attempted per Turnover Committed is outrageously high, tops in the NBA year after year, demonstrating the ability to operate in traffic without losing the ball).

For the last 30 years, the team with the best individual player has always won the NBA finals. Except for the 2003-2004 Pistons. Because of their unique accomplishment, it is difficult to pick any one of them as most responsible. Any one of the starting five could have won the Finals MVP. Were someone to argue that Tayshaun, Rasheed or Ben was more deserving of this honor, his or her argument would certainly have merit, so I’ll keep mine very simple:

A. No sports accomplishment of the last decade meant more to the people of Detroit than the 2003-2004 NBA Championship.
B. By almost any statistical measure, Chauncey was the best player on that team and has been the best player on the Pistons ever since.
C. As a fanatic who has watched the team play (and who loved/loves all Stones equally, even Carlos Delfino and Ronald Dupree), I agree. Chauncey was the most valuable player.

Chauncey doesn’t need to become a symbol of the entire Piston’s team or the city of Detroit itself; he’s got a ring and a Finals MVP Trophy.

(Of course, he could go out and win another championship next year just to make my argument a ittle bit better. Just a thought.)

POLLS ARE CLOSED

Semifinal #2: Nicklas Lidstrom vs. Magglio Ordonez

Nicklas Listrom (Dave, Gorilla Crouch)

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Nick Lidstrom is widely considered to be one of the top 2 or 3 defensemen to ever play the game. He has been awarded the Norris trophy as the league's best defenseman six of the last seven seasons. He trails only Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey for most Norris trophies awarded to an NHL defenseman. This would be comparable to a pitcher winning 6 out of 7 Cy Young awards or an NBA player winning Defensive Player of the year award that often. It's an incredible feat that has been accomplished by a remarkable and rare talent.

While awards help to make the point, statistics show what a player actually did on the playing surface against his competition. Over the past 10 regular seasons, Nick Lidstrom has averaged playing in 80 of his team's 82 games, and averaged 14 goals and 49 assists per year. That comes out to 63 points per season with an average plus/minus rating of +24. Night in and night out he's faced the absolute best talent in the league and the Red Wings have outscored the opposition by 24 even-strength goals on average every year for the past 10 years.

Regular Season:

Lidstrom's 142 goals is the 3rd most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's 489 assists are the most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's +237 rating is the best by a defenseman over the past 10 seaons.
Won 6 of the last 7 Norris trophy awards.

Playoffs:
Lidstrom's 26 goals is the most by a defensemen over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's 76 assists is the most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's +20 rating is the 4th best by a defensemen over the past 10 seaons.
3-time Stanley Cup champion over the past 10 seasons.
He was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in the 2002 playoffs.

Olympics:

Lidstrom has averaged just under a point a game in Olympic competition over the past three winter competitions and scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden in the 2006 winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Nick Lidstrom is the best athlete in Detroit over the past ten seasons. He's been acknowledged as one of the best defensemen in the history of hockey and his regular season and playoff stats bear that out. He's also a three-time world champion over the past 10 seasons, once winning the playoff MVP award in addition to an Olympic gold medal.

Magglio Ordonez (Blake, Spot Starters)

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I've heard the argument that the Pudge Rodriguez signing back in February on 2004 was the turning point for the Tigers over the past decade. I think there's some truth to that, but I think there was an even bigger signing and turning point than Pudge's arrival.

The Tigers were hardly contenders in Rodriguez's first season with the team, they went 72-90. They were way better than the year before when they lost 119 games, but still a long ways off. In February of 2005 the Tigers made another free agent splash with the signing of Magglio Ordonez. Ordonez was a four time All Star with the White Sox. While Magglio was coming off of some injuries, he still could have signed with most teams as a free agent. He decided (with some help from a huge contract offer) to sign with the Tigers.

Since joining the Tigers, Magglio has been an absolute beast. He hit the biggest home run by a Tiger since Gibby went yard back in 1984 in the World Series. Magglio's home run off of Huston Street in the 2006 ALCS still gives me goose bumps when I see it. I have a beer cozy (I got it as a wedding gift) that plays the audio of Dan Dickerson's call of the home run, it's seriously chilling stuff.

On top of the big home run, Magglio has a chance to become the first Tiger to win back-to-back batting titles since Ty Cobb won three straight from 1917-1919, not bad company. His .363 mark from 2007 is the best average by a Tiger since Charlie Gehringer hit .371 in 1937. Again, pretty impressive company.

Above all, Magglio helped bring respectability to Detroit Tigers baseball again. The Tigers picked Pudge up at the tail end of his career, they nabbed Magglio in his prime. Just watching him take a change up to the opposite field makes a guy feel lucky to have him on his team.

Whenever you doubt how much this guy has meant to the Tigers, try to remember exactly how you felt when you saw him rounding the bases with his fist raised high as he sent the Tigers to their first World Series in 22 years. Feel those goose bumps?

POLLS ARE CLOSED

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Bullet Points Are Handy: Tatum Bell, STFU

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Today's batch of links features Tatum Bell being a crybaby, the impact of Kevin Newsome's decommitment, what's wrong with Justin Verlander, and more:

Sorry No USA Live Blog


What's up readers.  I am so sorry for missing the Team USA game this morning.  For some reason, I was sure it was at 10:15, but I can't even remember where I saw that.  Conclusion: I am retarded.

Another apology, this one to Doug Collins: this one comes in two parts.  First, apology to you readers about messing up the nickname "Little Flying Warrior."  The name actually refers to Kobe Bryant, not Dwayne Wade.  Also, when Doug said it, I thought he had come up with it himself when really, it was what the Chinese people call Kobe.  In my defense, Kobe is in no way little.

Ok, I'm glad that's over with.  Now, in an attempt to make these blunders up to you, I am going to live blog during the Argentina-Greece game, the winner of whom will play the U.S.  It should be a bit of an adventure since I know almost no names and will be hypnotized by the hugeness that is Baby Greek  Shaq, but it should be entertaining, so stick around.  The game starts in about 15 minutes, and Jon will be joining me, although he will be none too happy to realize instead of watching Team USA we're watching two teams who aren't nearly as good.  

Speaking of Team USA, I especially regret not watching this game because everyone was really, really worried about Australia because we only beat them by 11 in exhibition play.  Turns out, that wasn't an issue.  Team USA is for real.  I love how there is all this doubt swirling around this year because of Athens.  People seem to forget that we have still won a gold medal every time other than 2004.  Is it possible to have a down year?  

Anyway, Argentina and greece are about to get started.  Let's do it.

10:00-Officially the lamest tip-off ever.  The timing for both teams was absolutely horrendous.  Good start all around.  Argentina ended up getting it, but to quote that kid from the movie Waiting, winning that tip is like "being the smartest kid with down syndrome."

6:44-Extremely excessive celebration by Andres "The Goon" Nocioni after...a layup.  Congrats, buddy.  Now go pointlessly clothesline someone in the third quarter of a meaningless regular-season game.

5:43-Greece by 1.  The basketball I am watching just is not very good.

3:28-Following a wild spin move by Greece's point guard and an outlet pass at his teammate's feet that goes out of bounds, Doug Collins points out: "That's just Greek basketball right there."  I think he meant it as a compliment.  Didn't work.

0:33-Bogus foul call on Manu Ginobili.  I'm actually rooting for him because I want a crack at him next game.

0:02-Nice pull-up 3 by Carlos Delfino.  Where was that for the Pistons?  All I remember is him missing wide open jumpers and sitting on the bench.

End of the first quarter-23-22, Greece.  No comment.  The basketball ain't that good.

During a commercial break-Just saw a preview of a great movie.  The premise: Samuel L. Jackson is an asshole cop who makes life rough for his neighbors.  Oscar, anyone?

5:22-Greece's point guard goes up for a layup and gets fouled.  To make sure the ref knows this, he flails his arms, yells, and shakes his head wildly from side to side.  It looked like he was being chased by a flock of hornets.  

2:38-There's the Delfino we know and love.  He drives recklessly to the basket and gets blocked cleanly.  Also, it looks like Nocioni has hurt his knee.  He's on his way to the locker room.  That would SUCK for Argentina.

1:26-They're showing shots of Coach K and Kobe in the stands.  Kobe: "Do people seriously think either one of these teams can even come close to beating us?  Really?"  Well, he didn't say that, but his body language says it all.

End of the half-40-39, Greece.  My parents are having work done on the house right now, and the construction is extremely loud.  But I think it's the game that's giving me a headache.  

During halftime-Have you ever seen that commercial for the Education Connection online college with that girl in her underwear?  They throw in a really fishy stat: online college graduates earn 1 million dollars more on average.  More than who?  Real college graduates?  I want to know!

Later in halftime-Hilarious commercial featuring Eli and Peyton Manning playing Jenga.  I love that they're both amazing quarterbacks, but take off the pads, helmets, and take them off the field, they're just two goofy-ass white boys.  Example:
Eli: "You're on fire today, bro!"
Peyton: "I just got the touch today, man."
Priceless.

Later in halftime-One of the most unfunny commercials for Arby's.  I can't stand that.  Don't they have a marketing team?  How can paid professionals make commercials so bad?

Alright halftime's over.  Back on tha grind.

8:38-Jon just got here and immediately makes this observation:
"I turned the game on at my house for a second and the first ting I heard was, '...and Ginobili is on the floor, looks like e wanted a foul.'  So I left."
Figures.

3:48-Baby Shaq's in the game!  Yes!  It's all worth it now.

3:06-Lower the Boom!!!  BS unleashes a killer drop step on the great Luis Scola and makes him look like a fool.  From now on, whenever he scores I will post "Lower the Boom"

1:55-Baby lays out Scola on a pick.  Scola immediately gets up and cries.  It's got to be like running into a brick wall.

46.6-As a sort of  retaliation, Nocioni throws his whole body straight at Baby on a loose ball.  Not smart.

End of the third quarter-56-55, Argentina.  Jon: "I think Tractor II has lost weight."  Really.

9:20-Missed dunk by number 8 for Greece to tie the game.  Seriously, if your playing international ball, I guess even a simple dunk is showboating.  Guys, when it comes to trying to dunk, just say no.

8:16-According to Doug, Nocioni is now afflicted with every basketball-related injury known to man.  Are we supposed to feel sorry for him?

7:25-Huge 3 by Greece.  They just won't go away.  Oop, another one.  Only down by 1.

6:39-Greece point guard touches Argentina's.  Argentina's PG flails around and looks at the ref, and gets the foul.  It's such bullshit.  It ain't soccer, fellas.  

5:43-Another 3 by Greece ties the game!  

4:47-Really guys, it's not that fun watching you jack up 3's all game.  I get it, you're behind a short line and the ball goes in.  Good job, I can do that, too.

3:41-Tremendous block on a fast break by Ginobili.  Great block from behind.

1:36-Big 3 by greece.  This has become quite a game.

0:46-Looks like we're going to be playing Argentina next game.  I'm glad.  Here's the thing:  If Argentina comes out and is hitting all their 3's, they have a chance...to be within 20.  In all seriousness, they could make it close in the second quarter if they hit everything.  But if they hit less than 60 percent from 3, the game's over.  We'll just run all over them.  Plus, I mean, look at the score of this game.  Argentina won by 2 against a tea we beat by almost 30.  Argentina is so happy.  They're jumping around, screaming.  Jesus.  You'd think they've never won a basketball game before.  Enjoy it while you can, guys.  We're coming for you.    

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Interview with Alex Delvecchio (audio)

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For those of you who missed the earlier post, I interviewed Red Wings Hall-of-Famer Alex Delvecchio at his Birmingham-based business on Monday. I must first say that he was one of the nicest, most accommodating people I have ever met, and it was an amazing experience getting to interview him.

Between work, interviewing for an internship, getting ready for school, preparing to move in to a new apartment, and trying to find some time to relax, I haven't had the chance to transcribe the audio from my interview. However, I figured I'd put up the mp3 file for anyone that is interested in hearing the interview in its entirety. He said some very interesting things, from how he thinks the teams of the 50's compare to today's teams to what he thought of the nickname 'Fats'. Delvecchio is a legend and a true gentleman, and still is an avid Wings fan, so if you can get over my bumbling interview style, I highly recommend listening to what he has to say.

UPDATE: Now with streaming audio. Hooray.





Download the file at:
http://www.zshare.net/audio/173103565e3b0735/ or
http://www.mediafire.com/?oltnarcdmrc

Kevin Newsome Decommits from Michigan

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Shit.

Newsome was the higher-rated of the two four-star running quarterbacks Michigan was set to bring in next season (Shavodrick Beaver being the other). Now he has reopened his recruitment. The door is certainly not closed on him coming to Michigan, but this is a definite setback. Luckily, Michigan has two solid fallback plans in California QB Tate Forcier and Florida QB Eugene Smith, both of whom have listed Michigan throughout their recruitment.

Regardless of fallback plans, Newsome is probably the most talented mobile quarterback available in this year's class. Potentially losing him is a blow to Michigan's recruiting class and my general sanity.

Shit.

Where You At?: "MidKnight" Marcus Knight Edition

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The Where You At? series continues with a profile of former Michigan wide receiver Marcus Knight.

Michigan churns out a lot of professional players at every position, but arguably the strongest position for the Wolverines in recent memory is wide receiver. Michigan has produced top-10 picks in Desmond Howard, David Terrell, and Braylon Edwards, as well as a cast of tremendous collegiate wideouts, from Amani Toomer through Mario Manningham. Michigan may not be known as Wideout U, but it might as well be.

With all of those high profile receiving alumni, Marcus Knight's name gets lost in the discussion of best Michigan wideouts. Although he only really had an impact during his junior and senior seasons, Knight was a tremendous deep threat who averaged more than 17 yards per catch over his career. Although he was overshadowed during his career by Tai Streets and the aforementioned Terrell, Knight put up solid numbers and was a more-than-capable second option in 1998 and 1999.

Knight grew up in the small Alabama town of Sylacauga, where there was tremendous pressure on him to play for either Alabama or Auburn. He even had an older brother, Damien Jeffries, who had played for 'Bama. However, he bucked the trend of most southern high schoolers and went north to Michigan, choosing the Wolverines over the Crimson Tide on signing day. According to Knight, it all came down to a gut feeling:
"On signing day I had both of the scholarships in front of me,'' Knight said. "I had them in my hand, both FedExed to me. Me and a friend took them in the bathroom. And I just had the feeling Michigan was the scholarship I needed to sign. It came down to signing day.''
However, stuck behind Streets, Russell Shaw, and even cornerback Charles Woodson on the receiving depth chart, Knight had little impact in the 1996 and 1997 seasons, tallying only seven total catches during his first two campaigns. After his sophomore season, Knight seriously considered transferring back to Alabama, with the hopes of getting more playing time in his home state. Michigan had just signed two blue chip recruits, Terrell and Marquise Walker, at receiver, and Knight would have to earn his spot on every snap despite being an upperclassman.
"After my sophomore year I was thinking about transferring just because of the fact that I wasn't having the success I should have in college football,'' Knight said. "I was pretty close. That was my plan, to go and try to get with Alabama, see if I could get back to the state of Alabama.''
Instead of transferring, Knight stuck it out. His decision would be rewarded on week one of the 1998 season, when Knight hauled in five catches for 126 yards against Notre Dame, solidifying his spot as the starting receiver opposite Streets. Knight would finish the season with 42 catches for 603 yards and a touchdown, including a seven catch, 116 yard performance in the Wolverines' game against Ohio State. Knight's breakout season gave him confidence, and a bit of swagger that was missing his first two years:
"Believe it or not, Marcus Knight has been waiting to do this for a long time," Marcus Knight says in the third-person, a telltale sign of an athlete who knows how to throw clich├ęs to the press while still sounding cool at the same time. "It's just that things weren't working out the way I'd have liked."
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Marcus Knight probably liked the way Marcus Knight caught this ball (photo from michiganfansite.com).

Knight improved upon his solid 1998 performance with a great 1999 season. Despite once again being the second option, with Terrell stepping in for Streets, Knight came up big time and again for the Wolverines in his senior year. He put together three straight 100-yard games (Purdue, @ Michigan State, Illinois) and finished the season with 794 yards and six touchdowns, while posting a stellar 20.4 yards per catch average. Fittingly, Knight ended his Michigan career playing against Alabama. He tallied three catches for 28 yards against his hometown team as the Wolverines won a classic Orange Bowl matchup against the #5 team in the country. Knight earned second-team All-Big Ten honors, as well as the Bob Ufer Award, given to the senior who shows the most love and enthusiasm for the Michigan program, which is a pretty big turnaround for a guy who almost transferred halfway through his career.

After going undrafted by the NFL, Knight spent the 2000 season on the Oakland Raiders' practice squad. In 2001, he made the team in training camp, and appeared in five games without registering any statistics. In 2002, he earned his place on the Raiders, returning 29 kickoffs for 705 yards, a solid 24.3 yard average. Knight also recorded the only three receptions of his career. The highlight of his NFL career came in the Super Bowl, when he got to return eight kickoffs for 143 yards. Unfortunately, that was because the Raiders got absolutely shellacked by the Buccaneers, but at least he got the ball a lot.

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Knight (83) returns a kickoff in Super Bowl XXXVII

In 2003, Knight was allocated by the Raiders to their NFL Europe team, the Amsterdam Admirals. He earned All-NFL Europe honors, catching 40 passes for 546 yards and five touchdowns. However, this was not enough for the Raiders to take him back, and in 2004, he was back on an NFL practice squad, this time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Knight would not earn a callup to the NFL again, and decided in 2005 to take his game to the Arena Football League. He joined the Philadelphia Soul, where he was third on the team in receiving with 65 catches, 886 yards and 23 touchdown (remember, this is the Arena League). In 2006, after spending half the season with the Soul, he was moved to the Columbus Destroyers, where he went from being an offensive specialist to a wide receiver/linebacker (Arena League is weird, etc.). Knight spent the next season and a half with the Destroyers, before disappearing from the league after the 2007 season, presumably to do something that does not involve playing football in a padded box. Sometime in his Arena League career, Knight earned the moniker "MidKnight". I'm sure whoever thought of that thinks he/she is really, really clever.

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Bullet Points Are Handy: Lions Optimism Abound!

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Today's batch of links looks at the high expectations (!) for the Lions, the emergence of Drew Stanton (!!), Michigan football news, and more:

Monday, August 18, 2008

Detroit Athlete of the Decade Tournament: Round One

UPDATE: Polls are closed on round one

The results:
LIONS: Jason Hanson wins 79% to 21%
PISTONS: Billups wins 67% to 33%
RED WINGS: Lidstrom wins 60% to 40%
TIGERS: Ordonez wins 67% to 33%

Round Two can be found here.

For some reason, blogger is flipping out, so some of the post below may not display correctly. I hate blogger sometimes.

Detroit has become known as one of the best sports cities in the country, supporting four major franchises (three of which have been very successful recently). In the past decade, the city has brought home two Stanley Cups, and NBA Title, an out-of-nowhere AL Pennant, and, well, a lot of top-10 NFL Draft picks.

My question is, who is the best Detroit athlete from this prosperous decade? Several Detroit sports bloggers have graced the site with their answers, and now it is up to you to decide who you think is worthy of the title of Detroit Athlete of the Decade. In the first round, each team will be given two nominees, who will face off for the title of their franchise's athlete of the decade:

Lions: Hanson vs. Williams

Jason Hanson (Big Al, SideLion Report)

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When [Ace] asked me to pick the Detroit Lions player of the decade as part of his "Detroit Athlete of the Decade" project, I knew it would be a tough assignment. Pro football is a meat grinder, where short careers are the norm. The Lions grind up players like cheap hamburger. The Lions are in the midst of their worst decade ever, with players and coaches coming and going through Matt Millen's fast spinning revolving door. Players come and players go, most of whom make little impression.

But there's one player who's been a Lion seemingly forever, and is likely to retire with the same team who drafted him, an exception to the NFL rule. Even today, after 16 NFL seasons, he is still at the top of his game. This Lion has survived several regime changes, playing for 7 coaches, and has had countless teammates. Despite the constant adversity, he's persevered to become one of the franchise's All-Time greats.

I'm sure you've figured out by now who is my nominee for Detroit Lions player of the decade. Kicker Jason Hanson. Yes, a placekicker. But one of the best placekickers ever.

The stats speak for themselves. Hanson is in elite NFL company: 10th overall in scoring NFL history, 6th overall in field goals made, 16th overall in field goal percentage, along with playing in a pair of Pro Bowls (1997, 1999). Hanson has missed only 12 kicks inside the 40 in those 16 seasons. 12!

In many ways, the Lions' elder statesman is the face of the franchise. Hanson is one of the few players fans can point to with pride. In what's been a decade of disappointment, and full of more ugliness than we care to remember, Hanson has never wavered. The man is money, a big time player on what's been a penny ante franchise.

I've often jokingly called Hanson the Detroit Lions' Most Valuable Player. Thinking about it, it's no joke. As bad as the Lions have been over the past 10 years, it would have been much, much worse without Jason Hanson wearing the Honolulu blue and silver.

Roy Williams (Ace)

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Will someone please give this man a decent quarterback? The Lions grabbed Roy Williams with the 7th pick in the 2004 draft, and all the man has done since then is catch 245 passes, find the end zone 28 times, and become the first Lions wideout to make the Pro Bowl since Herman Moore in 1998.

On a team with few spectaular (or even half-decent) players, Roy Williams has been a standout since joining the Lions four seasons ago, and has been a consistent weapon on a team that goes through running backs and wideouts like Matt Millen goes through coloring books. He has a knack for making the ridiculous catch, gets open more than any other Lion (though Calvin Johnson will certainly rival his skill in the near future), and even finds time to
deliver a pizza or two.

Besides the ageless Jason Hanson, Roy has been Detroit's only reliable source of offense these past four years, and in a decade this miserable, that earns him my nomination for Lions Athlete of the Decade.

POLLS ARE CLOSED: Jason Hanson wins 79% to 21%



Pistons: Wallace vs. Billups

Ben Wallace (Natalie Sitto,
Need4Sheed)

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Talk about making a team relevant, Ben Wallace brought his hard nosed work ethic and attitude to a Pistons team that at the time was simply dreadful.

The undersized, un-drafted, center from Alabama landed in Detroit in 2000 via a sign and trade for the then face of the franchise Grant Hill. While plenty of Pistons fans scoffed at the deal Big Ben proved his worth and importance.

Ben racked up NBA Defensive Player of the Year Awards in 02, 03, 05, and 06 the seasons, and was selected to six All-Defensive teams. In the 02 and 03 seasons, he led the league in both rebounds and blocked shots. And don't forget about the All Star appearances. Starting in 03, Ben was voted by fans to the first of his four NBA All-Star Game appearances as the starting center for the Eastern Conference.

If that's not enough to convince you that Ben is The Pistons player of the decade let's talk about how he helped add another NBA Championship to Detroit's trophy case in 2004.


Chauncey Billups (Sam Weiss)

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If Ben was the heart, Rip was the legs, Tay was the arms, Sheed was the soul and Darko was the appendix, then Chauncey Billups was the head of the 2003-2004 World Champion Detroit Pistons. David Thorpe, Executive Director of the Pro Training Center at IMG Academies, called Chauncey arguably the smartest player in basketball and most Pistons fans would probably agree. In addition to Basketball IQ, Chauncey brought good defense, unselfish play and a cool head to the world champions. One can use descriptions ranging from the vague terms of amateur sportscasters to numbers that only a stat-geek could appreciate. (Examples: unlike most players given the label from nimrod Sportscenter analysts, Chauncey is ‘clutch’. Also, a stat-geek might point out that his Free Throws Attempted per Turnover Committed is outrageously high, tops in the NBA year after year, demonstrating the ability to operate in traffic without losing the ball).

For the last 30 years, the team with the best individual player has always won the NBA finals. Except for the 2003-2004 Pistons. Because of their unique accomplishment, it is difficult to pick any one of them as most responsible. Any one of the starting five could have won the Finals MVP. Were someone to argue that Tayshaun, Rasheed or Ben was more deserving of this honor, his or her argument would certainly have merit, so I’ll keep mine very simple:

A. No sports accomplishment of the last decade meant more to the people of Detroit than the 2003-2004 NBA Championship.
B. By almost any statistical measure, Chauncey was the best player on that team and has been the best player on the Pistons ever since.
C. As a fanatic who has watched the team play (and who loved/loves all Stones equally, even Carlos Delfino and Ronald Dupree), I agree. Chauncey was the most valuable player.

Chauncey doesn’t need to become a symbol of the entire Piston’s team or the city of Detroit itself; he’s got a ring and a Finals MVP Trophy.

(Of course, he could go out and win another championship next year just to make my argument a little bit better. Just a thought.)

POLLS ARE CLOSED: Billups wins 67% to 33%


Red Wings: Lidstrom vs. Yzerman

Nicklas Lidstrom
(Dave, Gorilla Crouch)

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Nick Lidstrom is widely considered to be one of the top 2 or 3 defensemen to ever play the game. He has been awarded the Norris trophy as the league's best defenseman six of the last seven seasons. He trails only Bobby Orr and Doug Harvey for most Norris trophies awarded to an NHL defenseman. This would be comparable to a pitcher winning 6 out of 7 Cy Young awards or an NBA player winning Defensive Player of the year award that often. It's an incredible feat that has been accomplished by a remarkable and rare talent.

While awards help to make the point, statistics show what a player actually did on the playing surface against his competition. Over the past 10 regular seasons, Nick Lidstrom has averaged playing in 80 of his team's 82 games, and averaged 14 goals and 49 assists per year. That comes out to 63 points per season with an average plus/minus rating of +24. Night in and night out he's faced the absolute best talent in the league and the Red Wings have outscored the opposition by 24 even-strength goals on average every year for the past 10 years.

Regular Season:

Lidstrom's 142 goals is the 3rd most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's 489 assists are the most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's +237 rating is the best by a defenseman over the past 10 seaons.
Won 6 of the last 7 Norris trophy awards.

Playoffs:

Lidstrom's 26 goals is the most by a defensemen over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstroms's 76 assists is the most by a defenseman over the past 10 seasons.
Lidstrom's +20 rating is the 4th best by a defensemen over the past 10 seaons.
3-time Stanley Cup champion over the past 10 seasons.
He was awarded the Conn Smythe trophy as playoff MVP in the 2002 playoffs.

Olympics:

Lidstrom has averaged just under a point a game in Olympic competition over the past three winter competitions and scored the gold-medal winning goal for Sweden in the 2006 winter Olympics in Torino, Italy.

I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that Nick Lidstrom is the best athlete in Detroit over the past ten seasons. He's been acknowledged as one of the best defensemen in the history of hockey and his regular season and playoff stats bear that out. He's also a three-time world champion over the past 10 seasons, once winning the playoff MVP award in addition to an Olympic gold medal.

Steve Yzerman (Christy Hammond, Behind the Jersey)

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After 22 seasons in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings, Steve Yzerman epitomizes the definition of a world class athlete. Not only does he have impressive statistics like 692 career goals or the most playoff points in the franchise history (185), but he was also the heart and soul of Hockeytown leading the team to three Stanley Cup titles in five seasons. If you were going to pick the Detroit Athlete of the Decade based purely on statistics, Yzerman might not be your guy. If you were to base your decision on the player's leadership, character, skill, and what they did for their city, Yzerman should be the easy winner. He became captain shortly into his career and eventually became simply known as The Captain. Under the eye of Scotty Bowman, Yzerman transformed into one of the best two-way forwards to play the game. By sacrificing the big numbers, Yzerman demonstrated that he bought into the system and that helped transform the team from being known as the Dead Wings into a dynasty. His willingness to not only sacrifice statistically speaking, but in terms of his knee was incredible as well. Yzerman played during the 2001-2002 postseason essentially on one leg. His courage and perseverance was inspiring to his teammates. What amazed fans even more was that they saw him struggling to get up after being checked to the ice, yet he led the team in offensive points (23) that postseason and averaged over 21 minutes of ice time each game. The glory that he brought to the city of Detroit without demanding much in return combined with his sparkling statistics and incredible leadership and perseverance should make Yzerman the Detroit Athlete of the Decade.

POLLS ARE CLOSED: Lidstrom wins 60% to 40%

Tigers: Ordonez vs. Guillen

Magglio Ordonez (Blake, Spot Starters)


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I've heard the argument that the Pudge Rodriguez signing back in February on 2004 was the turning point for the Tigers over the past decade. I think there's some truth to that, but I think there was an even bigger signing and turning point than Pudge's arrival.

The Tigers were hardly contenders in Rodriguez's first season with the team, they went 72-90. They were way better than the year before when they lost 119 games, but still a long ways off. In February of 2005 the Tigers made another free agent splash with the signing of Magglio Ordonez. Ordonez was a four time All Star with the White Sox. While Magglio was coming off of some injuries, he still could have signed with most teams as a free agent. He decided (with some help from a huge contract offer) to sign with the Tigers.

Since joining the Tigers, Magglio has been an absolute beast. He hit the biggest home run by a Tiger since Gibby went yard back in 1984 in the World Series. Magglio's home run off of Huston Street in the 2006 ALCS still gives me goose bumps when I see it. I have a beer cozy (I got it as a wedding gift) that plays the audio of Dan Dickerson's call of the home run, it's seriously chilling stuff.

On top of the big home run, Magglio has a chance to become the first Tiger to win back-to-back batting titles since Ty Cobb won three straight from 1917-1919, not bad company. His .363 mark from 2007 is the best average by a Tiger since Charlie Gehringer hit .371 in 1937. Again, pretty impressive company.

Above all, Magglio helped bring respectability to Detroit Tigers baseball again. The Tigers picked Pudge up at the tail end of his career, they nabbed Magglio in his prime. Just watching him take a change up to the opposite field makes a guy feel lucky to have him on his team.

Whenever you doubt how much this guy has meant to the Tigers, try to remember exactly how you felt when you saw him rounding the bases with his fist raised high as he sent the Tigers to their first World Series in 22 years. Feel those goose bumps?

Carlos Guillen (Ace)

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Guillen is the forgotten Tiger. He goes out there every year, hits .300, cranks 20 homers, and still gets overshadowed by the bigger name hitters on the team.

When the Tigers acquired Guillen from Seattle before the 2004 season (in exchange for Ramon Santiago and Juan Gonzalez...pretty good deal if you ask me), Detroit was a moribund franchise coming off a 119-loss season. We all know about the Tigers' meteoric rise to the AL Pennant in 2006, but few give Carlos Guillen the credit he deserves for that rise. Yes, Pudge Rodiguez was a huge pickup, but he was on the downslope of his career when we signed him. Guillen, on the other hand, was 28, just entering his prime, when Detroit traded for him in 2004. In that magical 2006 season, Guillen was the Tigers' best player, finishing 10th in MVP voting and batting .320 with a .400 OBP and 19 homers. He led all major league shortstops that season with a .919 OPS. Nobody remembers this, including me (thank you baseball-reference.com).

Even this year, in a down year for the Tigers, Guillen is hitting .284 with 9 homers while playing a new defensive position (third base). He was the Tigers lone All-Star this year, and deserved the honor (especially after being robbed of that distinction in 2006).

Why is Carlos Guillen the Detroit Player of the Decade? Because he just does his job, with no fanfare, and does it extremely well. In a blue-collar city like Detroit, there is no player more blue-collar than Guillen.

POLLS ARE CLOSED: Ordonez wins 67% to 33%

German Live Blog


What's up everybody, I slept in once again, just not as much as usual.  There's a problem, though.  I thought we were playing Germany, but instead we're playing some team called "Deutschland?"  And apparently, they're really bad.  
Ok, just kidding.  Seriously, I was kidding.  Not about them being bad, but about the Deutschland thing.  Anyhoooo...

I got up just a little late, but all I know is, at the 6:48 mark, Germany hasn't scored yet.

3:31-Near-Career-Ender by LeBron, but the real play was made by Kobe.  He missed a layup in traffic, Dirk got the rebound, and Kobe just grabbed it out of his hands from behind, got the ball to LeBron streaking through the lane.  Result: savage dunk.  Big surprise.

1:48-Interesting observation by Breeny: "Kaman looks more comfortable playing against these NBA players than international players."  He's right.  Kaman has played very well thus far, and it's because he is used to the United State's style of defense.

End of first quarter-31-12, Team USA.  Lovin it.

Start of second quarter-USA (the network) breaks out footage of Vince Carter dunking over that french guy.  I'm sure you've seen the poster.  As my buddy Jon characterized it: "It was cruel."  Anyway, the frenchman he dunked on was actually a draft pick of the New York Knicks.  That dunk is the Career-Ending dunk against which all Career-Ending Dunks are measured.

7:15-Tay is in.  Honestly, this game is the worst one to live blog about.  It just ain't that interesting.   

5:55-LeBron James is feeling it from 3.  He just nailed his second from the nether regions.

4:32-Dwight Howard makes a very nice move on Chris Kaman, but can't finish.  Again.  He really has me wondering about his touch around the basket.  It just isn't there.

4:02-Oop finish by Dwight.  Maybe he doesn't need touch.

2:49-49-19.  Jon: "Is there a mercy rule?"

1:29-Tay is the only one who makes these new Team USA jerseys look loose.  However, maybe it's just a trick of the light, but he looks a little bigger to me.  Maybe he's actually-dare I say it- weight training?  Good for him.

Halftime-53-29.  Not really a contest, but nobody expected it to be.  Ho hum.

Later in halftime-This has nothing to do with basketball, but Jon said something that took me aback.  You know Usain Bolt?  Jon's nickname for him: Insane Bolt.  Wow.  Great nickname.  It works because he's insanely fast, but also a little insane because he pulled up at the end.  However, the catch is that it's useless because his name is so perfect anyway.

Later in halftime-A commercial for one of my favorite shows comes on: Psych.  God, I love that show so much.  It's hilarious!  Oh, Sean and Gus, what sort of hijinks will you pull next?

Halftime is over.  Let's do this.

9:34-Ooooooh, Kobe got hung on a CED dunk attempt on a fast break.  Ouch.  been there, man.  Been there.

8:38-Kobe has hit two 3's since his unfortunate, ahem, incident.  Kobe is the only player I know who gets hung and is motivated by it.

6:37-Make that 3.

6:03 Savage CED by LeBron on-guess who-Chris Kaman!  I think his dad wasn't the only one Chris offended when he decided to play for the Germans even though he is about as much german as I am Irish.

4:46-The Little Flying Warrior strikes again!  CED by D Wade on whoever number 9 is for Germany.  And 1.  The whole nine.

4:21-Can there be a Career-Ending Rebound?  If there can be, Dwight just got his first one.       

3:01-Turnover by D Wade.  I'm glad he's deciding to have his worst game while we're up by 41.

1:56-Chris Bosh sighting.  He hasn't played much at all this game, most likely to rest him a little bit, he's been playing the majority of most games.  Also, Chris Paul just did that thing where you let the ball roll for a while on the inbound when you're trying to conserve clock.  Why?  Kind of weird.

End of the third quarter-We're up by 37.  No signs of this turning into a game in sight.   

8:11-Man, Tay sure looks bigger.  I'm sure of it now.  He has been lifting.  Hittin the weights!  Running out of things to talk about!  Yeah!

7:35-Doug Collins has spent the past 5 minutes talking about the Pistons.  I would be happier if it was a little sunnier subject.  Although, Michael Curry has my vote of confidence.  And Flip Saunders has my vote for the title of "most blank looks ever worn on an NBA sideline."  What a terrible coach.  Don't get me started.

6:03-Michael Phelps is shown on the screen for about 3 minutes straight.  He's wearing a Lacoste hat and his boy is decked out in Lacoste.  Endorsements, anyone?  Oh by the way, we're up by 45.

1:54-Chris Bosh-to-Deron Williams alley-oop.  Damn, that was sick.  

0:46-Doug Collins: "I think the motto for Team USA is '3 years, 3 wins away.'"  Boy, he didn't have that written down before the game, did he?  He couldn't have made it more obvious.  Then again, that's why he was so successful as a head coach: catchy slogans.

End of the game-Overall, meh.  We ended up beating them by 49, but it wasn't much of a challenge.  It was fun to watch, and probably fun to play (if you were playing for the U.S.).  Bring on the Aussies.  Of course, I will be blogging for that one as well.  See you then.