Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Captain Jackass

I figure since just about everyone is writing about the same thing after the Stephen Jackson trade came down, I could at least separate myself by using a slightly more crass title!

Two days ago, the Golden State Warriors agreed to a trade with the Charlotte Bobcats that sent disgruntled team captain Stephen Jackson and Acie Law to the offensively inept Bobcats for Raja Bell and Vladimir Radmanovic. Here, I'll pause and let the madness sink in. First, the Warriors were so bent on unloading one of the most selfish team destroyers in the NBA that they were willing to take on VladRad and an injured Raja Bell. Second, the Bobcats somehow felt that getting rid of one of their grittiest defensive players (Bell) would make sense, if in return they got a guy whose track record is littered with aggression, money-grubbing, and turnovers. Right now, everyone remembers Jackson for his work in Golden State -- that is, signing a multi-million dollar contract with a bad team, then being upset the team was bad (see Allen Iverson). But Jackson is way more idiotic than just his most recent transgression.

I lived in Northern California when the Warriors acquired "Jack," when the team tried to get tougher by unloading the soft bellies of Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy. Even at the time it seemed like a dangerous move: Jackson had been involved in the ugliest fight in NBA history, and an ill-fated night out with teammates, and he endeared himself to Warriors fans (albeit a little bit later) by getting an offseason tattoo of praying hands holding a revolver. Oh, and let's not forget Jackson arguing over money with the San Antonio Spurs after playing a nice role for them in a Championship run.

What's the Over/Under on how long Jackson makes it under Larry Brown? The Bobcats may be bad right now, but at least they're quietly bad. Please give a date in the comments section, and I'm sure if you're close, I can probably convince Pregame.com President RJ Bell to toss you a couple credits! Of course, we're not giving prizes out for nothing around here, so your guess better be spot on.

Sports Wagering

Cavaliers/Warriors - Cavs by 15.5 at home with a total of 215. These monster spreads are generally a recipe for disaster no matter which side you pick. The Warriors defense is beyond disastrous, though it'll be interesting to see if this team steps it up with Stephen Jackson polluting the locker room. I really wish the Warriors first game without Jack was against a better matched opponent, since I think they'd blow them out, but against a team as good as the Cavs, I'm just not sure Golden State has the firepower to keep this thing close. As far as totals go, Cleveland has actually played three straight to the Over, even hitting 215 in their supposed defensive battle with the Heat. The results of this game, though, depend almost entirely on how the Warriors shoot the ball. Cleveland will get theirs, and Golden State has no problem with that, but the Warriors need to hit shots in the mid-to-high 40% range to get up over 100 against a good defensive team.

Nets/Pacers - The Pacers are favored by 3.5 on the road with a total of 188.5. This line doesn't respect the Pacers enough, in my opinion. Either oddsmakers feel this is a letdown spot for Indiana, or they're not getting the credit they deserve. This is the front end of a back-to-back, but tomorrow's game is in New York, so it's not as though Indy has a huge game to look forward to, and they're just starting to hit their stride. Granger is healing well from his nagging foot issues, and sliding Earl Watson into the starting lineup has gone just according to plan in terms of his distribution abilities. The Nets, meanwhile, are still trying to adapt to playing without Devin Harris, and lost a nailbiter to Miami in their last game. My philosophy on those types of contests is that the losing team in particular generally has a bit of a letdown after dropping one they should have won, and a young team like the Nets might be a bit flat. I think the Pacers win this one going away. The total feels a little low, but the Nets inability to score can pull any total down. Early lean to Indy, no early lean on the total.

Heat/Thunder - Oklahoma City is getting 5 points on the road with a total of 179.5. I really like the total, and I think if it keeps climbing, we might be able to find some value with the Under. At 179.5, though, it's a wait-it-out spot. Oklahoma had a big road win before coming home to fall to the Clippers, and now turns right around for another road contest, this time against the surprising Heat. Miami, as we mentioned above, escaped the Nets in their last game, and our dilemma hear is deciding whether that game was a sign that the Heat are due for a slump, or rather that Miami got away with laying an egg in one game and can go back to their normal prowess in this one. I'm actually inclined to believe that Miami is due for a slump. Oklahoma is a solid team this year, and just failed to grab defensive rebounds in a sloppy conclusion to that Clippers game. If they can go back to getting boards, they not only win their last game, but win this game outright, as well. Early lean to the Thunder, and early consideration given to the Under.

Hornets/Clippers - This line opened at Hornets by 3.5 and quickly dropped to Hornets by 2 with a total of 192. New Orleans tried desperately to function without Chris Paul, but got blown out late by Atlanta, and now they come home, still trying to figure out how to play under their new coach and without the only consistent gamer on the team. Considering New Orleans still got waxed despite Peja Stojakovic's best shooting game of the year, that does not bode well for this team going forward. Early lean to the Clippers, coming off a solid road performance in Oklahoma, to pick up one more win. I know, it hurt just to type it. The total of 192 is pretty sharp, in my opinion, though I think the Hornets will try to push the ball with Paul out of the lineup, as getting some easy buckets is really their only way of staying in the game. Very slight lean to the Over.

Rockets/Suns - This game is now at Rockets by 2 with a total of 220.5, and I must say, the sharps bet early on this one. Last night, I recommended buying Phoenix as a dog because I felt public money would push this line towards a pick throughout the day, and that could still happen, but the sharps moved the darn thing to Rockets by 2 before the public could even begin screwing with the line. Oh well, just an extra half-point to deal with. I will be posting updates about this game throughout the day. If it stays this strong in favor of the Rockets, I will likely recommend buying 2 units back on the Rockets for a 1-unit play on Houston. My thoughts on the actual game are similar to the sharps. This should be a close one, but Houston should prevail with Phoenix due to take a few games off after a spectacular early-season road trip last week. Houston is coming home off a nice win over a tired Lakers team (with Kobe at partial strength because of a sore groin). Of course, Phoenix has surprised some folks already this year, myself included, by playing as well as they did in all those road games. The total is going to be in the 220 range, and I'm just not comfortable trying to predict if it's going to end at 219 or 222.

Nuggets/Raptors - Denver is favored by 8.5 with a total of 219. This total has come down a couple points with the early money, and traveling to play in Denver is one of the toughest spots in the League. Toronto had a good game in Phoenix, a relatively lower-scoring game, in fact, and now has to take on another fast-paced team, but a slightly more chippy one. I think Denver wins this game straight up, but I'm not sure about that 8.5. Both of these teams are coming off decent games, which makes it tough to pick a side. The total was definitely too high at 221. At 219 we've lost some value, but I still think the Under has some promise. The Nuggets played to the Under in their last game, and Toronto is coming off 3 straight Unders, and I don't think the books have adjusted their numbers yet.

Kings/Bulls - This line has moved a full point off the opening line of a PICK, and Sacramento is now favored by a point with a total of 198. The Kings are steamrolling right now, and I'm inclined to believe they continue. Chicago beat a floundering Philadelphia team in their last game to snap a short 2-game losing streak, and aside from a clutch win in Cleveland, Chicago has not been terribly impressive on the road. Sacramento, meanwhile, has rattled off 4 straight wins since Kevin Martin went down, including a big road win in Utah and another big home win over the Rockets. I honestly thought the Rockets would be the well-coached veteran team that would snap Sacramento out of their euphoria, but I wisely laid off betting that game to see if the glow would hold, and it did. The Kings passed that test, and I think they pass another today with an easy 7 point win over the Bulls. This game has 2-star potential. The total of 198 feels just about right, with the Bulls playing a slower game and the Kings pushing the pace, this one should end somewhere in the middle, though I lean about 2-3 points to the Over.

Lakers/Pistons - This line is OFF as we wait and see about a handful of injuries. Kobe Bryant is playing with a sore groin, Andrew Bynum has been hammerdunking, but he's admitted his elbow still hurts a bit. The Pistons are still without Tayshaun Prince and Rip Hamilton, though I don't believe either is expected back. Oh, and the Lakers have no idea when Pau Gasol is going to play, so there's ample reason for this line to be OFF until the morning. I think most of it is about Kobe's groin, though (hah, hasn't THAT been the story before...). The Lakers are a great team, but without BOTH superstars, they just don't have the firepower to keep up with the better teams, and the Pistons, despite their rather one-dimensional offense right now (give it to Ben Gordon or Charlie Villanueva), they play great team defense, and should make scoring pretty tough on the Lakers. I think the Under has some value and they haven't even released the line yet. I also think Detroit has a great shot to cover, though with Kobe's injury such a huge factor, we can't do much until we hear more about him and see more from the oddsmakers.

Fantasy Advice

Rudy Fernandez - With Travis Outlaw shelved for a while, Fernandez is going to be the big-time bench player, and this guy can flat-out shoot. Expect 2-3 threes on a nightly basis, and 4 if the game goes to OT. I would recommend deploying Fernandez as a specialist; he's well-worth a spot on your team if you're hanging onto someone like Randy Foye.

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