Friday, June 28, 2013

6 and 76ers?

The Philadelphia 76ers as you knew them are gone.  You probably didn't even know them, so it's not really a big deal.  In the first of seemingly many moves, the hapless, hopeless, coachless 76ers traded away their only marketable star in Jrue Holiday for first round pick Nerlens Noel and a first round pick next year.  On paper this trade would seem very risky; a proven star for an injured rookie and a future pick.  However, it is a very good trade for the Sixers in my opinion because they were on the road to nowhere and were traveling at the speed of light.

The 76ers have been a team with no direction for years.  Your classic last team in the playoffs with a cast of above average players.  In today's NBA that won't get you far.  You have to pay top dollar to keep that cast of players together, you don't have a chance to draft elite talent, and there is no chance of winning a championship with the "Big 3s" of the world out there looming.  That is why new Sixers GM Sam Hinkie did what he did last night.  He recognized that this Sixers team had no chance to do anything more than what they have done in the recent past, and blew it up.  Jrue Holiday was turned around for two first-round draft picks, and apparently Evan Turner and Thad Young are also on the block.

People are lambasting the Sixers for taking such a risk after the Bynum trade blew up in their face so bad last year, but this was the only way to go.  Going forward, the Sixers are in great shape.  They have two building blocks from this year's draft, and are still going to be terrible enough to get a top pick in 2014.  That draft is considered to have some high-level talent at the top.  That is the game-changer right there.  Moreover, by next year the Sixers will have about $40 million in cap space with which to sign an elite player.  That is how you compete in the NBA, high draft picks and big money free agents.  Look at the teams in the finals this year; Miami had high draft picks (Wade) and elite free agents (James, Bosh) and San Antonio has built their franchise around a #1 pick in Tim Duncan.  The Sixers finally got the memo.  Nobody wins the championship with a team of #15 picks.

Next year for the Sixers is going to be absolutely brutal.  I don't see one person on their team who can put the ball in the basket with any sort of regularity.  Most Sixers fans have seen those types of teams hit the court before though, and have seen that terrible play lead to the drafting of one Allen Iverson; the last player to lead the Sixers to any significant success.  With Noel out for half of the season, and Michael Carter-Williams not having anybody to pass to, and no coach as of yet, this team will be BAD.  However, it will lead to the acquisition of better talent in the future.   It is better to be really bad and have the chance to be really good than to be consistently mediocre.  I applaud the moves that the 76ers made last night.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

U.S. Open Preview

The U.S. Open returns to one of its most historic venues this week as the PGA Tour's best flock to Merion Golf Club in Ardmore, PA.  One of golf's ultimate proving grounds, the likes of Bobby Jones, Ben Hogan and Lee Trevino have all triumphed at this little course just outside of Philadelphia.  There has been much discussion over the length of the East Course at Merion; at just under 7,000 yards it is one of the shortest U.S. Open courses in recent memory, as well as one of, if not the shortest PGA Tour course that will be played all year.  But what Merion lacks in yardage, it makes up for in character.  Jack Nicklaus himself once remarked of Merion; "Acre for acre, it may be the best test of golf in the world."  No doubt Merion will be a true test this week, even if the rain has softened the course considerably.

The East Course at Merion measure 6,996 yards.  Compare that with the Ritz Carlton Dove Mountain Resort in Arizona where the pros play the Accenture Match Play Championship, which is over 7,800 yards long, and you can see why some people are concerned that record low scores may be had this week.  In my opinion though, Merion will hold its own.  When players see a short course, their eyes widen and they often make mistakes being too aggressive (think 10th hole at Riviera).  Merion will no doubt punish anyone trying to steal a low score on a hole with its narrow fairways, wicker basket pins that don't show which way the wind is blowing, numerous bunkers and nasty rough.  Not to mention its devilish putting surfaces.  Couple those with the fact that hardly anyone in the field has even played this course before, and I think that any score under par in a round will be a good one.  The players that will contend won't necessarily be the longest hitters as in other tournaments, they will be the players that can hit it in the fairway, putt for dough, and limit their mistakes.  However, there are three extremely long par 3s (all well over 200 yards) that might hold an advantage for the longer hitters.  Those three holes could make or break this tournament.  With that said, lets take a look at this weeks contenders.

Eldrick Tont Woods - Some think Tiger will struggle here because he is not accurate off the tee with his driver.  WRONG.  Tiger will not even need to use his driver at Merion.  He will most likely hit his stinging 5-wood on every hole, which he is very precise with.  He did the same thing at TPC Sawgrass for the Players Championship and won there.  I like his chances here a lot with the way he is putting.

Graeme McDowell - G-Mac is one of the best U.S. Open golfers I have seen in a long time.  He thrives in adverse conditions.  He hits the ball in the fairway better than anyone on tour off the tee, and always seemingly makes big putts when he needs to.  If Tiger is the favorite, Graeme isn't far behind him.

Rickie Fowler - There is always a guy at the U.S. Open who hasn't been playing well all year, but is a contender on Sunday.  I think Rickie will be that guy this year.  He has played this course before, a dramatic Walker Cup match that he helped USA win in 2009, and he is a good clutch putter.  Webb Simpson won it last year after a so-so start to the season, Rickie is my Webb Simpson for 2013.  

Fat Phil - The Revolting Blob is coming off of a second-place finish last week in Memphis, and has figured out his putting pretty well.  I think his driver could be his undoing this week, but he is playing well enough to win.

Rory McIlroy - Rory has struggled this year, and could be the other guy to pull a Webb Simpson from 2013.  He could also miss the cut altogether.  Very tough guy to forecast this year.


Tim Clark - Dude can throw a crazy low score up one round, and the short course will help him.

Kevin Chappell - Grinder on open style courses, finished in the top-10 quietly last year.

Angel Cabrera - The Duck only brings his A-game in majors.

Ryan Moore - Very accurate off the tee.  And a good man.

This sports blog is obviously very Philly biased, but I think this next statement will hold true with most of what I have said about golf in the past; I love what the USGA is doing here by bringing the U.S. Open back to Merion.  This course has had some of the most iconic moments in golf history, and it is important to respect and celebrate that.  Moreover, I don't think that the length of the course will be a negative.  Shorter courses make players think (often times to their detriment), reward accuracy and shot-making, and often provide some of the most exciting golf you will see (e.g. tenth at Riviera, seven at Pebble Beach).  Players will have to use every club in their bag, similar to a British Open course, and the older guys will definitely have a shot to win.  If you like seeing players go driver then 7-iron this course won't be for you.  If you like to see players really think over every shot, you will enjoy this U.S. Open.  That is a TPLIYP guarantee.  Now where can I get a damn ticket?