Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Battle for MLS Legitimacy: It Will Take More Than Beckham

David Beckham has arrived in LA-LA land, his wife already had a show on TV and Becks is scheduled to make his LA Galaxy and MLS debut this Saturday in an exhibition match against English Premier League giant Chelsea. This is a big deal, no matter what anybody says. People are talking about it, sportswriters are writing about it (good or bad) and it has increased, at least momentarily, interest in the MLS. This was the intended result of Beckham’s signing. Another reason, and in my mind perhaps the most important one, for his signing was to legitimize the league in the eyes and minds of Americans, Europeans and players around the world. I have always been skeptical about the attainability of this goal and believe David Beckham and league are in a no-win situation regardless of Beckham and the Galaxy’s performance.

At the time of the signing, most people saw it as the typical former superstar player going out to pasture in America, which is indicative of attitudes towards the American soccer league. Beckham had been relegated to the Real Madrid’s bench, which was having a poor season like Becks. On top of it all, Beckham lost his position as England’s captain was dropped from the squad. No big European clubs were interested in signing him and it looked like the pundits were right. Insert LA Galaxy.

This is when LA and MLS got very lucky. Beckham and Real Madrid both had resurgence in form. Beckham started playing well for Real Madrid, scoring goals and making a difference in games; he was recalled to the national team; and, Madrid ended up winning its first La Liga title since his arrival four seasons ago. Everything was turning up roses and Real Madrid even wanted to keep Beckham after saying good riddance only a few months earlier. Beckham, however, was determined to honor his contract and attempt to do something no other soccer player had done—popularize the sport in the U.S. beyond the youth level.

So this is good news right? Well, it doesn’t really matter in the terms of legitimizing the league. Beckham and the MLS can’t win this battle alone. If Beckham and the Galaxy do well, the skeptics, which I think most people are, will say it’s because the competition was inferior. If they do poorly, the skeptics will say Beckham’s resurgence was just a brief irregularity on the downhill side of his career. The MLS can’t win here. The people that have already made up their minds about the MLS won’t be convinced by bringing in Beckham. It will take much more than Beckham.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

New Addition To The Blogroll

I've just added a new blog to the blogroll over yonder on the right. His name....The Blowtorch. Go check him out and the caricatures he's drawing of the first round NBA draft picks. Excellent work. My favorite is Spoonie Love...I mean Al Horford.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Awesome Oden Video!

Here's a great video interview of Greg Oden by Miss Gossip of AOLFanhouse. Oden talks about the infamous picture of Oden and a young lady bumpin' and grindin' at a house party on what some people affectionately call the hoochie dais. There is also talk about Oden's nickname. He doesn't really have one yet, but I'm lobbying for "The Super" or "Super," as in, "I called the Super to fix my leaky faucet." Chris Paul even makes a guest appearance.

Also, Miss Gossip is awesome.

It's unbelievable how cool and down to earth Oden seems.

Hat tip to The Big Lead for the video.

Lebron James, Straight Ballin' ... With High Schoolers

A neat little story in the local paper about a Portland high school basketball player at Lebron James' basketball camp. Brad Tinsley was a late invitee to the Lebron James Skills Academy but ended up with a great story and a recruiting boost.
Tinsley's team was sleepwalking through its final game of the day at the LeBron James Skills Academy in Akron, Ohio, last weekend. Sluggish and uninspired, the team trailed 20-8 when the coach called a timeout. The team desperately needed a spark.

Enter LeBron James. That's right, LeBron James.

"LeBron was on the sidelines lacing up his shoes, and he ran across the gym, took off his shirt and threw on a practice jersey, and said, 'Hey, I'm in,' " Tinsley said.

Not surprisingly, Lebron's team ended up winning the game and James threw down some wicked dunks and NBA level passing.

Tinsley increased his profile on the recruiting scene with a solid performance at the camp as well. Not a bad week, if you ask me.

Monday, July 02, 2007

Who Was Offered For The Blazers #1 Pick?

In Sunday's Oregonian, Blazer beat writer had an interesting story about Portland's #1 draft pick and how Greg Oden wasn't the slam dunk number one option. It's not surprising there was some debate between Oden and Kevin Durant. Quick, however, does throw some intriguing rumors out there about what other teams offered Portland for the pick and a little tidbit about the Zach Randolph trade. Unfortunately for me, I had a busy day and wasn't able to write this post until tonight, so the story has been thoroughly picked over, but not all in one place.

Rumor #1

As [Pritchard] drove to Eugene to watch a play with his daughter on May 23, less than 24 hours after winning the lottery, Pritchard took a call from an Eastern Conference general manager, with whom he had past dealings.

The executive made an offer that was moderate in shock value: A five-time All-Star and this year's lottery pick in exchange for the No. 1 pick and the Blazers' 2008 first-round pick.

After some quick research, it is obvious, if the rumor is to be believed, that this offer had to be Paul Pierce plus the number 5 pick in the lottery. Boston is the only Eastern Conference lottery team with a 5-time all-star. Moreover, Pritchard traded with Boston last season to acquire future Rookie of the Year Brandon Roy. I think Kevin Pritchard had to laugh when Danny Ainge proposed that one. What was Ainge thinking, since we didn't get one of the top two picks we'll see if Portland is stupid enough to give it away for very little. The deal roughly turns into Paul Pierce for Greg Oden, since Portland would have given up next year's pick and gotten Boston's pick this year. Preposterous if you ask me. The commenters on The Big Lead were all over this one.

Rumor #2
A team within the Blazers division proposed a trade involving a future Hall of Famer and a standout rookie for the Blazers' No. 1 pick.

Later in the article it says that this future HOFer was a first-ballot one. The only surefire first ballot HOFers in the Northwest division are Allen Iverson and Kevin Garnett, in my opinion. I don't think Ray Allen has earned that honor (and he should be considered since he was in the division at the time of the offer). The Nuggets didn't have any standout rookies. The T-wolves had Randy Foye (First Team All-Rookie) and Craig Smith.

An intriguing offer, but I'm not sure Garnett would have wanted to come to Portland. He wants to win now. Plus, would you rather have the potential of a Greg Oden for 10-15 years or what would probably amount to 4 years of Garnett on the downside of his career. Sure KG is still playing well now, but in 4 years he'll have been in the league for 15 or so years. That's a lot of wear and tear.

Rumor #3

Sitting high in the stands at the Milk House arena where the marginal prospects scrimmaged -- far from the courtside seats Pritchard so preferred -- Pritchard that morning was approached by a general manager of a Western Conference power.

With bright lights illuminating the court below, Pritchard sat in a darkened corner with the general manager. The general manager wanted the Blazers' No. 1 pick. And he was willing to offer a player that will be a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

This one is easy to narrow down. First-ballot HOFers in the West? Let's see: KG, Duncan, Kobe and AI for sure. Other possibilities, although I'm not positive they're really first-ballot inductees: Nash, McGrady, Carmelo, Nowitzki. Of those 8 possibilities only Duncan, Nowitzki, Nash and Kobe are on Western powerhouse teams (Lakers in a traditional powerhouse sense, thanks TrueHoop commenters for that view). Henry Abbott over at TrueHoop was all over this and I generally agree with his reasoning.

I don't think its Kobe because LA isn't a power right now. Although, LA may have made teh swap to get Durant, who might sell tickets like Kobe. Nash would never get traded because as Nash goes so go the Suns. I discount Nowitzki because I'm not sure he's first ballot. That leaves Duncan, which is a bit stunning, but I don't think beyond the realm of possibility with R.C. Buford.

Oden is in the mold of Duncan and Robinson...the stoic leader type. Solid defensively. And, San Antonio has had incredible success with big men. Duncan only has a few years of top-notch play left, while Oden would have a lot of time left, and Tony Parker still has 5-8 years of solid play left in him. That would make for quite the pair and I can see San Antonio trying to make this play if they thought Oden was the next coming of Duncan or Robinson.

The big thing to figure out is if these were ever really offered or if Pritchard just put it out there to push up the price on the pick. These NBA GMs are tricky like that. I have to imagine there is some grain of truth to the rumors.

Randolph Tidbit
Pritchard had known he eventually would trade Randolph since a prominent player on the team requested at the end of the season that the high-scoring but troubled forward be dealt.

Again, not a tough one. The Blazers don't have many prominent players outside of Randolph. I can only think of one and another potential one...Roy and Lamarcus Aldridge. The latter being not that prominent.

As one commenter on The Big Lead noted, I wonder how Roy feels about being sold out by Pritchard. I guess with the Hoop Family out of Portland, Roy wouldn't have to worry about any repercussions from Randolph's cronies.