By Justin Cherot
With PnP’s stock at an all-time low and shareholders panicking, I decided to come out of the woodwork and reassure you that I’m alive and well. Sports has gone from “a vital part of my life” to “my entire life” as a copywriter. I used to watch games for fun and was on more than one occasion accused of taking things too seriously. Now it’s somewhat excused because, well, making sure I’m on top of things is now my livelihood.
We’ve got a lot to catch up and a limited amount of time to do it, since for the most part I’m spending my day off planning for my first practice as a head coach for my daughter’s basketball team. So, without further ado, here’s what I’ve been keeping tabs on lately:
* The asinine activities of New York Knicks’ guard J.R. Smith. For years, I’ve loved his game and always viewed him as one of the ten or so most gifted offensive players in basketball, peaking last year when he was named the NBA’s top 6th Man. But he’s always taken a lot off the table… from inappropriate twit pics , to pipes , to Fredo-like “bretrayal”… and now the $50K shoelace extravaganza. The difference between this year and year’s past? Those crazy shots he takes aren’t going in, and when you combine his on/off-court antics with a lack of production, Mike Woodson’s hands are tied. Even if he wasn’t acting like an ass off the court, Iman Shumpert and Tim Hardaway, Jr. have just been better.
He’ll find a home. I actually hope my Mavs kick a few tires and see if they can turn him around (then again, as an irrational fan I want them to get everybody, and I’m okay admitting this… #freebynum).
*It was fun while it lasted in Phoenix. By the time breakout athletic freak-of-a-point guard Eric Bledsoe gets back from his torn meniscus (notice I’m trying to be fair with my links… you’re welcome, Yahoo! Singapore), the Suns will be out of the 8th spot, looking up at Denver, Memphis, Minnesota, and possibly even the New Orleans if they get hot (although without Jrue Holiday dealing with his own injury, that proposition becomes dicey at best). Phoenix has been fast and fun this season (not to mention a Vegas darling with an unbelievable 25-11-1 record), and they might still make the playoffs, but man… they were a legit six seed before losing Bledsoe. Here’s hoping Goran Dragic –who in my opinion owns the pound-for-pound best euro-step in basketball– can keep them afloat.
*Portland is for real. I tried to tell you back in October that they would beat market expectations, but even I didn’t expect them to be sitting here on Jan. 15 28-9, a mere game and a half out of the top seed in the West and comfortably leading the league in scoring at 109.2 per contest. There’s very little evidence to suggest that this is a fluke. They’ve beaten just about every top ten team in the NBA, are damn near unbeatable at home (their four home losses include last possession losses against Miami, Dallas and Philadelphia in a slight letdown spot following a 30-point win against Charlotte), and are led by a Top 5 point guard Damian Lillard (No. 1 in the clutch, though) and Top 3 four-man in LaMarcus Aldridge. They’re not going anywhere anytime soon… wait… what’s that… IS THAT THE JUSTIN CHEROT KISS OF DEATH THEME MUSIC? GOOD GOD, WHAT HAVE I DONE!?
*Switching to college hoops, Michigan St. is the best team I’ve seen so far this season. I’ve slowly gravitated more towards the NBA in recent years, but college baskets has re-captured my attention. Even if there have been some early season hiccups from some of the talented freshman (one of our writers KILLS Andrew Wiggins in every Kansas article posted), the crop of teams I can legitimately see winning it all is larger than I remember in years past. Duke, Kansas, Louisville, and Kentucky were four teams that were in EVERYBODY’S Top 5… and while they’ve struggled, are you telling me with 100% certainty that those teams can’t win it? Here are the teams where if you jacked Marty McFly’s Delorean, watched the Final Four and came back and told me, “Just, I’m giving you a gift. Bet all you want on _____ to win the chip because I saw it”, I wouldn’t be shocked (as a cop out, in no particular order):
UCLA (since they’re severely under-ranked at press time)
Creighton (since you can ride one guy to a title)
I guess the buried lead here is that the Spartans are the best I’ve seen, with Wisconsin being honorable mention. Why? Because both teams can win in a variety of different ways and can adjust on the fly. The Spartans get the edge though because they have more dynamic playmakers in Keith Appling, Gary Harris, and Adreian Payne. They’ll be a tough out in March.
Good to be back… and by the way: Broncos (-5), 49ers (+3) this weekend.