Friday, April 29, 2011

Texans 2011 Draft Recap Rounds 1-3

             If you're looking for a letter grade on the Texans 2011 draft, look elsewhere, I know from working in school that a letter grade is a lazy way to say nothing at all. What I will say is this: Wade Phillips has come to town on his black horse and hell has followed with him. Obviously Wade was heavily involved in the Texans draft room. I was iffy on the first pick, JJ Watt out of Wisconsin, but here are a few things Bum's son had to say. "He plays 100 miles an hour every play." “I think it gives us a lot of versatility with Mario now.”  “(Watt) can play the left end for you, and that gives us some versatility at what you want to do with Mario. I think that’s a big key point for us also.” Predictably, the Texans fan base was less than enthused by the selection. Fans ALWAYS want a sexy pick in the first round. If you aren't drafting Eva Longoria or a guy who runs a 3.5 in the 40 chances are the fans are going to be upset. That's fine, because if you're like me I would much rather Wade Phillips make the drafting decisions than fans who show up at Reliant in #10 Titans jerseys.
            If that wasn't enough to get you excited about the front 7, the Texans then used their second pick to take Brooks Reed OLB from Arizona. I would have loved Akeem Ayers falling to us here, but let me throw this tidbit of info at you: He ran the first 10 yards in 1.54 seconds, which Herring(LB coach) pointed out was faster than Von Miller. Ladies and gentlemen, your new strong side LB. I think you see where Wade is going here. He has stockpiled front 7 guys to be able to throw multiple looks at opposing QB's. Mario, Watt, Reed, Cushing, Barwin who knows on any given play who will be rushing and who will be dropping into coverage? BRING THE HEAT WADE!
          Now I know what you are saying, "Yeah, but the secondary still sucks." Have no fear, because in the boldest move of the first three rounds the Texans actually traded up to pick Miami CB Brandon Harris. I know, I know the Texans thinking outside of the box is alarming, next we'll be hearing that Gary Kubiak is starring in Hard Knocks next season. Or Bob McNair dished out big bucks to sign Namdi Asomugh (Dear God, please let that one be true). Normally I don't put a lot into a draft pick's quotes, but check out what Harris said, “I’m going to bring a lot to the organization,” he said. “I’m going to be a shutdown corner. I’m going to bring the University of Miami swagger to the team, be a very disciplined player, very coachable and just have a good time enjoying it.” A lot of football guys who know way more about these college kids than me thought Harris could be one of the best CB in this draft. With the run on CB that started after this pick, it began to look smarter and smarter as the night went on.
         So in summary, the Texans got three defensive players, at three different levels of the field, who should immediately play and give Wade multiple scheming options. You know what? Just for the sake of not smart fans and Jerome Solomon: I give the Texans an A for the first three rounds. Four more picks to go and hopefully free agency and already this defense is looking drastically better.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 4/23/2011

I'm back with a special Easter edition of suggestions for you. So if you're like me, here are some things to fill your time with while munching on your kids' left over candies.

SPORTS:  NFL DRAFT! NFL DRAFT! NFL DRAFT! Thursday 7pm ESPN. In case you haven't heard football is now the national past time, and no event has benefited more from this than the NFL draft. The annual celebration of bad suits, over the top hyperbole, and lottery bound family members can now be enjoyed in prime time. Unlike the Super Bowl, the outcome of this event will directly affect the future of every team.  Titles could very well be won and lost on the basis of how well your team drafts this week (No pressure Texans brass).

NBA PLAYOFFS: So far these playoffs have been nearly as good as advertised. My predictions are looking pretty good, (of course the first rd. is the easiest) and the games have been delightfully chippy. The three things I have enjoyed most:
3. The Carmelo Anthony debacle in New York. Predictable and pathetic. His reality tv star wife is going to be looking for someone with better exposure soon.
2. The beginning of the end for the San Antonio Spurs. At this point I think we are just waiting for Ginobili's bald spot to reach his forehead, Tony Parker to start dating Amy Winehouse, and Tim Duncan's knees to explode. Is it bad that I am rooting for all 3?
1. My growing man crush on Derrick Rose. What a joy this guy is to watch. Love that he didn't WANT Lebron. Love how he attacks the basket like a power forward. Love how he developed into a respected shooter. Love his patented spin move and lightning quickness...........better stop now. Is my wife reading this?

TV: THE OFFICE: This Thursday is Michael Scott's final episode on The Office. Really, who cares about some British Royal's wedding? AMERICA is more interested in seeing the final episode of television's all-time greatest boss. It's an hour long episode that will hopefully send Michael and Holly off properly, and set up Deangelo Vickers (Will Ferrell) brief stay as intern. As Bart Scott would say, "CAN'T WAIT!"

PARKS AND REC: Michael Scott may be the funniest boss on television, but for my money the funniest character has to be Ron Swanson. Not an episode has gone by this season where Ron hasn't done or said something to make me laugh to the point of physical pain. Whether he is extolling the virtues of 100% beef hamburgers, bringing back typewriters, or pulling out his own teeth during meetings, Ron Swanson is one dude I would love to have at my place of work. Funniest show on television right now.

EASTER: Head to church. I'll be there tomorrow to celebrate a day that means everything to Christians around the world. Without getting on my soapbox, let me just throw one thing out there. If we want others to realize that Jesus conquered death, let's live like we are not already dead. Tomorrow is a celebration, and really every day we have life should be spent celebrating all of God's creation. Make others jealous of how you live life, don't make them thankful they don't feel obligated to follow man made rules and obligations.

Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Send Leach to...........South Beach???


      I find it unbelievable, and unfortunately also very typical that the Texans are rumored to be losing Vonta Leach once the lockout ends. When Owen Daniels signed after the season and the team was strangely silent about Vonta, I was afraid that this would be the result. Don't get me wrong, I think Daniels is a great player. He's also had injury issues, and in my opinion we have two good to very good backups at tight end already on our roster. Of course we all know that Gary Kubiak loves tight ends like a fat kid loves cake so we signed O.D., and who knows, we will probably be taking a tight end at #11 next week too. Meanwhile, one of the biggest reasons our ground game was vastly improved in 2010 is walking out the door. If there ends up being a run on defensive players in the top 10, Julio Jones may very well be the best player available at #11. I would love to see the Texans take Julio there and give Andre a sidekick on the other side, and IF that happens Daniels could end up being the third option in the passing game next year. Then I am fairly sure Vonta would be a much more valued piece than Owen Daniels. Vonta is an above average lead blocker, and the pride he takes in leveling defensive players is one of the best parts of every Texan game. Heck, If McNair feels our FB is undeserving of that much money I wouldn't even be opposed to sticking him at a LB spot every now and then, God knows we could use a few guys on that side of the ball who enjoy stopping people in their tracks. If we have seen the last of Leach in a Texans jersey, then I'm glad we helped vote him into the Pro Bowl. I will certainly miss watching him level guys in the running game, and as Texans fans we wish him the best. We may have just taken a large step back, but don't worry Texans fans as we all like to say here in Houston........."We're on the right track!"

Thursday, April 14, 2011

2011 NBA Playoff Predictions

This should be one of the more exciting NBA playoffs in a long time. There are tons of story lines, heroes, villains, and rising stars. I promise to give my playoff winners at the end of this blog, but I want to start with 5 things I think will happen over the course of the next 8 months, roughly the time it will take to crown the next NBA champion.

1. Kevin Garnett will get teed up multiple times. EASY. What kind of odds could you even get on this one? That dude is strung up tighter than a size 4 dress on Kirstie Alley. I don't know if you saw it this week, but Kobe Bryant got fined $100,000 for dropping a "homophobic" slur during a game. Are you serious David Stern? Will you be fining every player who drops offensive language on the court? Kevin Garnett would be on welfare if he was fined $100,000 for every insensitive statement he screamed on the court.

2. Carmelo and LeBron will each choke in a big spot. Maybe I'm just rooting for this one, but let's be honest here, neither of these guys have ever been particularly clutch in the playoffs. I personally think Carmelo's image has taken a harder hit this year than LeBron post "Decision". At least LeBron is still a top tier player, Carmelo's team has actually been WORSE this year when he is on the court. First Denver had a mini revival when Carmelo finally left, and now the Knicks seem less enthusiastic than before they traded for their "superstar".

3. You will see the end of the Spurs era. Chicago took the #1 overall seed from San Antonio on the last day, and I think that was a prelude to what ultimately is going down for the Spurs. They are limping into the playoffs, and I think this will be their last stand. Look for them to go down swinging........literally. I predict at least one brawl as the Spurs grasp at their slipping greatness. Remember what they did to Steve Nash the year Phoenix got hosed and had the Spurs on the ropes? Popovich is Polish for Sloan.

4. The Thunder will bring the noise. This is the team I will be almost as excited to root for, as I will be excited to root against the Heat. These guys genuinely seem to like playing together. I think their selflessness stems from their extremely likable star.....Kevin Durant. He may not be in Kobe/LeBron territory yet, but you can't find ANYBODY who doesn't like this guy. Always pointing the spotlight at his teammates, yet constantly ready to be "the man" when they need him to be. Kevin Durant has instilled these young Thunder with confidence, and I predict big things from this team.

5. Lakers/Celtics will be beneficiaries of at least one gift from the refs. It happens way too often in the playoffs: young team scares veteran squad only to be screwed by NBA refs in the end. You can bet this year won't be any different. David Stern will press that red button on his desk and Kobe or Pierce will inexplicably get a horrendous foul call that helps them seal a close game. I hope I'm wrong here, but I have watched too many NBA playoffs to not see this coming.

1st Round

Spurs over Grizzlies                              Mavericks over Blazers
Thunder over Nuggets                          Lakers over Hornets
Bulls over Pacers                                 Celtics over Knicks
Magic over Hawks                              Heat over Sixers

2nd Round

Thunder over Spurs                             Lakers over Mavericks
Bulls over Magic                                 Heat over Celtics

Conf. Finals

Lakers over Thunder                          Heat over Bulls


Lakers over Heat  : Kobe drops several choice words on LeBron and Co. as he walks off with his 6th ring.

Editor's note:
(Possibly these choices are severely influenced by what I would LIKE to happen)

Friday, April 8, 2011

Stephen's Suggestions 4/9/11

          Here's the first of what I hope will be a regular blog entry where I give you a few things I'm currently digging on. Whether it's television, movies, sports, or events going on, I'll give you some suggestions to fill all that free time that we're all looking to fill up.

TV: If you didn't watch The Killing on AMC last week, don't worry they're replaying it 900 times before episode 2 airs on Sunday. Seriously, if you love good drama you should check this show out. AMC has figured out a way to do a crime drama without inserting dopey puns, or employing any has been actors like David Caruso or Forrest Whittaker. The show contains some great cinematography. It has characters that you care about only one episode in, and most importantly it creates a mood and atmosphere that envelops the viewer. AMC brought us my favorite show of last year, The Walking Dead, and now it looks like they may have created another can't miss drama.
      Another TV show I am looking forward to this week is The Office. In the interest of full disclosure, I admit to being a HUGE fan of this show. It is the only television show I own every season of on dvd. As most fans know Steve Carell is leaving the show this season, and this week's episode brings in a new character played by Will Ferrell. I am reserving my judgement until after Thursday's episode, but let me just say that as a big fan I have been pleasantly surprised this season. After a few less than stellar seasons, I feel like this season has been the best in several years (probably due to a cutback on the whole Jim/Pam married thing). I hope the transition away from Michael Scott will be successful, but lets just say I am cautiously pessimistic.

BOOKS: Working at a junior high school I hear about all kinds of young adult books. Occasionally, I will read a young adult book and mildly enjoy it, but almost always feel it would be more enjoyable if I were 13 years old and had no common sense. Our librarian recently asked me to check out The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I am on the second book right now and completely hooked. I would have never known it was a young adult book.  It's the story of a young girl who lives in a government controlled country where most citizens live in poverty. She is chosen to participate in a fight to the death survivor-style television show, an entertainment outlet for the rich, and the books follow her journey through the contest and the fallout afterward. Think 1984 mixed with some V for Vendetta. Trust me these books are good.

MOBILE: Many of us now have smart phones with 1000's of apps to entertain us while waiting at the DMV. Most of these apps are puzzles,games, or juvenile pranks that can waste hours of your time. My favorite app is the You Version Bible app. We get our inspirational words from so many places now a days (email, facebook, twitter, tv pastors, calendars, etc.) but why not have the ultimate inspirational message always at hand. Instead of playing 20 more minutes of angry birds, you could spend some time reading in proverbs how those birds could become slightly less perturbed. The best basically get every version of the Bible known to man for free.
         Those are my suggestions for the week. Take 'em or leave 'em.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

2011 Rockets Recap


          The loss to the Kings last night effectively ended the Rockets 2010-11 season, but not before they put up a valiant Kubiak-esque "battle fight" on the rest of the NBA. For yet another year, the Rockets were Houston's most respectable sports franchise. Yes, I know that is like saying they were the best Nicholas Cage movie, but seriously we can be proud of how the Rockets played, and I think, where they are headed. Let's look at the highlights of this season, and then a few options for the future.
        First, I will remember this season for the emergence of Kyle Lowry. Short of Rebecca Black, nobody increased their profile more this year. Kyle became the heart and soul of this Rockets team. His hustle, desire, and toughness are contagious on the court. He truly worked on his game, and became a deadly outside shooter (a knock on him previously). The turning point came when Daryl Morey traded sulking pg Aaron Brooks to the Suns for backup Goran Dragic (a promising young player in his own right), and once the team was turned over to Lowry it seemed that everyone benefited. The Rockets have posted a 15-6 record since the break, and nearly climbed into the playoffs with an amazing end of season effort.
        When you look up hustle in the dictionary, you see a picture of the Chuckwagon. Chuck Hayes, the oft criticized and undersized center for the Rockets was superb this season. Like Lowry, Hayes has clearly improved his offensive game. Long criticized for being an offensive liability, Hayes now has an uncanny knack for being at the right spot around the basket. Sure, Chuck has probably benefited most from Lowry's excellent pg play, but make no mistake, the Chuckwagon has worked hard to become a force on the offensive end. The Chuckwagon even provided my #1 highlight of the year when he recorded a triple double vs. the Warriors, and rightfully received some much deserved attention for his game (Chuck Hayes was a trending topic on Twitter that night!).
        One player who took a while to grow on me this season was Kevin Martin. The problem was myself and others viewed him as the needed superstar to lift the Rockets to the next level. He is not that. But what he is, is quite possibly the greatest role player in the NBA. Like Harvey Keitel, he doesn't often carry the movie, but he quite often is the best part of it. Once Kyle Lowry took the leadership role and became the guy who controlled the ball when the game is on the line, Martin was freed up to do what he does best. Quite possibly the best player in the NBA at drawing fouls, K-Mart lives at the free throw line and rarely misses. Inexplicably, he can draw fouls on great NBA defenders, on shots that he has 0% chance of actually making. Two free throws later, Martin has given the Rockets two easy points and left his defender shaking his head, only to make the same mistake later. K-Mart can score the quietest 30 points I have ever seen, and after watching him for the whole season I can now appreciate his greatness on the offensive end.
       So with all those great season developments, what was the biggest disappointment? Defense. The Rockets are going to have to get better on the defensive end. My first suggestion, play Courtney Lee over Budinger. Chase is a streaky player, and when he isn't scoring his defense is killing the already less than average Rockets D. Lee might not have as high an offensive ceiling on any given night, but he is much more consistent and far superior on the defensive end. Also, I would love to see more Patrick Patterson. He is looking like a great pick, and his effort on the defensive end is stellar. At this point, I wouldn't even be opposed to trading Luis Scola for a legitimate center, and handing more minutes to the young sparkplug. Speaking of center, another need that all Rocket's fans are clamoring for is a solid 7-footer to protect the paint. Hasheem the Dream doesn't appear ready to take that role, so Morey will need to address this through the draft or an off season acquisition. Given the Rockets climb up the standings, I believe the best way to do this will be through free agency. My number one option: Samuel Dalembert. We know one thing, unlike Rick Smith, Morey will be working his tail off to make moves that will be designed to get the Rockets back into the playoffs next year.
       The last question for next season should probably be, who will coach this team? I think Adelman has done a tremendous job. Aside from letting Terrence Williams rot on the bench (I would love to see what he could bring to the table), Adelman has taken an injury riddled team without their superstar to a winning record. Remember, Adelman was brought here to lead Yao and T-Mac to a championship. We all know how that scenario has played out. Probably the bigger question is, does Rick Adelman WANT to coach the Rockets next season? If he does, I fully support him. He is one of the great NBA coaches of all-time. If not I understand, he has nothing left to prove, and the Rockets might be well served to have an infusion of young energy at the coach's position. I for one would like to see a Mario Elie type hire, although that could just be a yearning for the days of Clutch City. Either way I think whoever coaches this team next year will be excited about the prospects.
       To sum up, let's enjoy these last few games of the season and recognize our team for a job well done. Several players have taken huge steps this year, and we know Daryl Morey still has a great vision for where this franchise is headed. Now if only Rick Smith and the Texans could get pointers from the Rockets front office.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Final Four Antithesis


          Uconn vs Kentucky. The de facto championship game. The game to determine who can spend the most money on prized amateur recruits. In one corner you had the snake like Calipari. A man who has already left two programs in shambles. He excels at attracting young, self indulged athletes who are interested in completing their mandatory one year of college ball before fleeing for NBA millions. Lebron James even tweeted that he was pulling for this guy. Really King James? The last thing I need is your take on college basketball, but it is surprising you would go for the favorite, NBA-laden Wildcats. Did you make that pick with your Yankees cap and Cowboys jersey on? Look I can respect Coach Cal's innovative dribble drive motion X's and O's, but I think there is more to coaching young men than that. Luckily Kentucky was ousted by UConn. But don't get too excited, apparently the other Coach Cal has ways of attracting young NBA talent as well. UConn is under investigation now for NCAA infractions including paying for recruits surgeries and providing them with weekly allowances. Awesome. What is this, SEC football? So now UConn will play on Monday night for a national championship that would likely be stripped from their rafters faster than you can say Fab 5 or Uncle Toms.
                 But wait, there is another polar opposite option for you to cheer for. Butler is comprised of upperclassmen who play basketball AND go to class. They are a team who lost an NBA talent and instead of paying another kid to take his place, they banded together and fought their way back to a second championship game. Last year they were a Hoosiers-esque miracle shot away from beating the kings of college basketball. Butler is headed by Brad Stevens, a family man who just happens to be a heck of a basketball coach too. Usually when you see him he is surrounded by his kids, or speaking for a charity. Stevens may not have the respect in basketball circles that the two Cals have, but NOBODY gets more effort out of their players than he does. Calipari and Calhoun represent the establishment in college basketball, but Stevens is the coach of the people. A guy who could win with skill and effort, as opposed to sneakiness and cheating.
               So unless your name is Ashley Judd, you graduated from Connecticut or Kentucky, or you just plain hate the game of basketball, I am going to assume you will be rooting for Butler Monday night. Hopefully, everybody inside Reliant stadium will be hopping on that bandwagon with the speed of Charles Barkley at a Golden Corral. After Butler wins, maybe Kemba Walker will make a documentary calling Mack and Van Zant "Uncle Toms". Good luck Butler........the masses are behind you.