Monthly Archives: August 2011

Lockouts Can Be Fun

Despite the look on Commander Stern’s face, the NBA lockout so far has been great.   I’m sorry to those “long-term-thinking” people out there.  I’m dealing with the present – right here, right now.  And right now I’m having more fun than any off-season I’ve had so far.

With fewer restrictions, fans have been entertained with this free-for-all that we’ve had for the last few weeks that wouldn’t be possible sans-lockout.  Obviously this is the slight spike before a very, very steep decline, but I am going to enjoy it while it lasts.

Unlike the NFL – who timed the lockout so perfectly that we skipped all the boring parts of the off-season, crammed all free-agent moves and signings into two weeks, and are in such football-withdrawal that the ratings this year are going to be (and already have been) through the roof – the NBA lockout has no end in sight. Most say there will not be basketball this year.

I’m okay with this…as long as we can get creative.

Instead of playing overseas, going on a summer league tour, working at home depot, or playing professional beach volleyball, why not play the sport you love in the country you already play it in?

I give you the “2011 Professional Streetball League presented by Sprite (or Redbull).”

Here’s the hook: groups of current NBA players can enter the league based on their alma-maters.  Whoever can suit up five guys from the same school can get into the league. Teams can only have five players, only one team per alma-mater.  The guys are playing for pride – who has the best NBA alumni – and a $5 million dollar purse for the league champions provided by our sponsor, Sprite. Or Red Bull.  There’s really no one else who would be able to sponsor this.  “The 2011 Professional Streetball League presented by Dove Soap” just doesn’t sound right.

The PSL will go a little something like this:

GAME RULES – Each game will have two (2) twenty (20) minute halves with a running clock at all times except the last two (2) minutes of each half.  There will be no referees for calling fouls and no foul shots.  Referees will throw jump ball, run the clock, and keep score.  All fouls and out-of-bounds will be played as if games were pick-up games.  If defensive player calls a shooting foul, “And-1” rules will apply and basket can count.  If offensive player calls a foul, the play is dead and a basket cannot be scored. Ball to be checked by players at top of the key to bring the ball back in play after a called foul.  Regulation-size street courts with 3-point line.  Each net must be a chain net.  Game balls have to be pinwheel colored red-white-and-blue.

COACHES – Each team will be allowed to have one “Hype Man” who can be on the sidelines with a microphone but will not be allowed to have any coaches.  Each team’s respective Hype Man can only speak when his team has possession of the ball or his team has a big block or steal on defense.

UNIFORMS – Teams can wear whatever they want, but all must be wearing the matching uniforms. Accessories are encouraged.

GAMBLING AND DRUGS (performance-enhancing or recreational) – Both are highly encouraged before, during, and after games. Players can bet on or against themselves and with other players.

DISPUTES – Any and all disputes (in-game and out-of-game) will be settled by PSL Commissioner William “World Wide Wes” Wesley.

LOCATION OF GAMES – Teams on the west coast will play at Venice Beach Courts in Los Angeles, California (courts made famous by the movie “White Men Can’t Jump”).  Teams on the east coast will play at the Barry Farms courts in Washington, DC.  The playoffs and championship will be played in Rucker Park in New York City.

You can put a cat in an oven, but that don't make it a biscuit.

At this point I hope you’ve already been racking your head as to which schools would have teams and who would be the best.  Well, I’m ten steps ahead of you.  I’ve used a highly scientific method to select the best streetball starting fives for each eligible school.  Combining John Hollinger’s PER ratings with Stephen A. Smith’s totally biased rants and opinions on each player we have created SPER (Street Player Efficiency Rating).  SPER shows how good a player would be in a pick-up game (i.e. who you would pick first if you were the captain of a team for a pick-up game), and the teams have been chosen accordingly.

As a short addendum to our criteria of teams based on alma-maters, we will also allow four non-college teams to participate.  Two teams of players coming straight from high school (High School North and High School South with the Mason Dixon Line being the separating factor – where the players attended high school not where they were from orginially).  And two teams of international players (a European International Team and a Non-European International Team).

We put all these teams together and will give you how it would shake out in a top 25:

 (Receiving Votes) Cal

  1. Jason Kidd (Mavericks)
  2. Ryan Anderson (Magic)
  3. Leon Powe (Grizzlies)
  4. Sean Marks (Bobcats)
  5. Francisco Elson (Jazz)

Cal’s team has a 38-year old point guard, a white shooting guard, the only player in NBA history from New Zealand, and a seven-foot dutch black guy named Francisco.  The team sets up well positionally from one to five, and they would be a lot of fun to see on the court together, but they may lose every game they play by 40.

(Receiving Votes) Maryland

  1. Steve Blake (Lakers)
  2. Steve Francis (Beijing Ducks)
  3. Greivas Vazquez (Grizzlies)
  4. Chris Wilcox (*Pistons)
  5. Joe Smith (*Lakers)

So Steve Francis last played in China and Wilcox and Smith are basically out of the league.  The Terps will not be denied.  Juan Dixon actually tried out and did not make the team.  Nick Caner-Medley had the same fate.  Either way a backcourt of Blake, the original Franchise, and General Greivas would be entertaining as hell.  How many people do you think would punch Grevias in the face in this league?  With no refs and unruly, possibly intoxicated, probably armed fans right on top of the court, Greivas may be the first casualty of the PSL.

#25. UNLV

  1. Marcus Banks (Hornets)
  2. Isiah Rider (No One)
  3. Lou Amundson (Suns)
  4. Shawn Marion (Mavericks)
  5. Joel Anthony (Heat)

Anyone who has ever been featured on or produced their own rap album gets automatic entrance into the league if they want.  This qualifies Isiah aka J.R. who provided the track “Funk in the Trunk” on the 1994 Album  “B-Ball’s Best Kept Secret” which featured songs performed by NBA players including Gary Payton, Brian Shaw, and Jason Kidd.  As far as the UNLV PSL team goes, you put Rider with big Lou Amundson, Marion, and Joel “The Forehead” Anthony and you don’t have a terrible squad.  They won’t be scaring anyone, but for UNLV, that’s not bad.

It's time to tell the world again...

#24. Georgetown

  1. Dajuan Summers (Montepaschi Siena)
  2. Patrick Ewing Jr. (Hornets)
  3. Jeff Green (Celtics)
  4. Greg Monroe (Pistons)
  5. Roy Hibbert (Pacers)

Dajuan comes back from Italy to fill out the Hoyas team, which surprisingly is headlined by Greg Monroe, arguably the most effective rookie last year not named Griffin (Griffin aside: the one player you would want to see in this league is Griffin, unfortunately his Sooners are only represented by himself, Eduardo Najera, and Willie Warren, so they were ineligible to compete).  G-Town has some height, but they lack the fireworks that are required for this type of game.

#23. Stanford

  1. Landry Fields (Knicks)
  2. Josh Childress (Suns)
  3. Jarron Collins (Blazers)
  4. Robin Lopez (Suns)
  5. Brook Lopez (Nets)

Landry is forced to play point here, as Stanford has a lot of height.  Even though this is the most renowned institution in the league, The Cardinal team has the potential for a PSL-high three afros.  On the streets this is a huge advantage, and very ironic coming from the far and away leader in “Least-Ghetto” of all the schools who are eligible.  This Stanford team could be a sleeper.

#22. Kansas

  1. Kirk Hinrich (Hawks)
  2. Brandon Rush (Pacers)
  3. Paul Pierce (Celtics)
  4. Darrell Arthur (Grizzlies)
  5. Drew Gooden (Bucks)

This is where things start to get interesting.  There is a Michael Strahan-sized gap in between #23 and #22.  Of these top 22 teams, every one of them could make a run.  The Jayhawks comes in surprisingly low here.  For a school with such traditional success, a recent National Championship, and 12 players currently playing in the NBA, one would think they would come in a little higher.  However, there best piece is an aging Paul Pierce, and few other Kansas grads are much more than role players.  Harry Potter gets the nod over Mario Chalmers, which some could argue, but the possibility of seeing Kirk Hinrich play at Rucker Park is too good to pass up.

#21. Ohio State

  1. Mike Conley (Grizzlies)
  2. Evan Turner (76ers)
  3. Michael Redd (Bucks)
  4. Daequan Cook (Thunder)
  5. Greg Oden (Blazers)

Conley and Oden get reunited here along with disappointing rook Evan Turner and the mid-comeback Michael Redd.  With Conley and Oden rekindling their flame and the other three Buckeyes having skills that translate well to a pick-up game, this team could be better than expected.   Oden’s knees on pavement and potential suspensions from the NCAA or Roger Goodell would be the only worries for OSU supporters – and that they have to play Daequan Cook as a power-forward.

#20. Washington

  1. Nate Robinson (Thunder)
  2. Brandon Roy (Blazers)
  3. Jonathan Brockman (Bucks)
  4. Quincy Pondexter (Hornets)
  5. Spencer Hawes (76ers)

If Brandon Roy’s health was better, this team would be dangerous.  Most of these guys were in school at the same time and they have a lineup that fits together better than maybe anyone else in the league.  Nate, Brandon, and Quincy all have games that translate well to the blacktop and the other two guys are white.  A nice mix if you ask me.  If Roy’s legs are underneath him, these guys could be ranked well below their actual result.

#19. Georgia Tech

  1. Jarrett Jack (Hornets)
  2. Anthony Morrow (Nets)
  3. Thad Young (76ers)
  4. Derrick Favors (Jazz)
  5. Chris Bosh (Heat)

The Yellow Jackets are solid from top to bottom, but their lack of toughness will kill them in the octagon.  Bosh is forced to play the 5 here, which is a position that is tough to play while shooting 15-foot jumpers all day.  Favors’ lack of ability to understand the NBA game should suit him well in the PSL, so look for a jump in production from him.

#18. Non-European International Team

  1. Manu Ginobili (Argentina)
  2. Andrei Kirilenko (Russia)
  3. Luis Scola (Argentina)
  4. Serge Ibaka (Congo)
  5. Nene (Brazil)

The Non-Euros will be an interesting mix and almost impossible to predict.  Manu runs the point for lack of a better option (most of the elite foreign point-guards are European).  Manu is really the only guard, and between Kirilenko, Ibaka, and Nene, this team may block every shot.  Scoring is going to be a problem and quick guards will be a tough matchup for the Non-Euros.  This team also would win the award for “Looks Most Like 90’s Culturally-Diverse Psuedo-Boyband Color Me Badd.”

They wanna sex you up.

#17. USC

  1. Nick Young (Wizards)
  2. OJ Mayo (Grizzlies)
  3. Brian Scalabrine (Bulls)
  4. Taj Gibson (Bulls)
  5. Demar DeRozan (Raptors)

Which one doesn’t belong?  If you chose the 6’9’’ 240-pound red-haired white guy in the mix of freakishly athletic black guys you would be correct.  If you take one thing away from this article, I hope its imagining Scalabrine playing streetball with this lineup.  Say what you will about the original human victory cigar (suck it Darko), but with this team – he could do some real damage.  These guys were all born to play on the playgrounds – a little touch of ginger and this team will do just fine.

#16. UNC

  1. Ty Lawson (Nuggets)
  2. Raymond Felton (Knicks)
  3. Vince Carter (Suns)
  4. Antawn Jamison (Cavaliers)
  5. Tyler Hansbrough (Pacers)

Some arguments to put The Stack on the team were made, but his SPER had declined to a point that just couldn’t cut it.  The team starts with defensive-specialist and unselfish star Vince Carter, who definitely wouldn’t take the no-rules style play and actually transform into a real black hole, sucking the entire league into his vortex.  Lawson and Felton make up one of the better back-courts in the entire league, but age and Hansbrough’s blinding paleness hurt the Tarheels when it comes to this type of play.

#15. Marquette

  1. Travis Deiner (Dinamo Sissari)
  2. Dwayne Wade (Heat)
  3. Wesley Matthews (Blazers)
  4. Lazar Hayward (Timberwolves)
  5. Steve Novak (Spurs)

This team is in the #15 spot for one reason.  It may be a little high, but considering who we are talking about here it should be merited. It’s pretty obvious I’m sure; the combination of Steve Novak and Travis Deiner is deadly enough to put the Golden Eagles in the top 15.  Deiner took his vanilla talents to Italy and his assassin-like game has only improved.  Novak is deadly when he gets to play his natural position – center.  The type of center he likes to play is traditional: roaming mainly outside the 3-point line, rarely crashing the boards, and lacking any kind of athletic prowess.

#14. Duke

  1. Corey Maggette (Bobcats)
  2. Luol Deng (Bulls)
  3. Grant Hill (Suns)
  4. Carlos Boozer (Bulls)
  5. Elton Brand (76ers)

With the second most current NBA players and the second most “fans of a school’s team who never actually went to that school,” the Blue Devils are going to be disappointed with their #14 ranking here.  They have a few below-average point guards available, but on the streets, this is the best squad.  Reddick doesn’t make the team because he writes poetry and can’t handle Maryland fans; Maggette makes the team because he would be the only guy who ever went to Duke that Jalen Rose would kick it with.  Deng would be a monster out there, but with no ball-handlers and an old and under-sized front court, the Dukies can’t crack the top 10.

#13. Syracuse

  1. Johnny Flynn (Rockets)
  2. Donte Greene (Kings)
  3. Carmelo Anthony (Knicks)
  4. Wes Johnson (Timberwolves)
  5. Hakim Warrick (Suns)

Melo might be the first overall pick on the playground.  Scoring, toughness, attitude, and a desire to show up everyone and anyone he plays against will make whatever team he is on dangerous.  However, he doesn’t have much backing him up.  Flynn and Johnson are young and were both high picks, but have not reached the potential they hope to so far.  Unfortunately for these guys, there is no 2-3 zone and no coach Boeheim in the PSL.

#12. Wake Forest

  1. Chris Paul (Hornets)
  2. Al-Farouq Aminu (Clippers)
  3. Josh Howard (Wizards)
  4. James Johnson (Raptors)
  5. Tim Duncan (Spurs)

Some great athletes book-ended by the best power-forward of his generation and perhaps the best point guard of his.  Chris Paul is the elite point guard playing in the league and his creativity will only be rewarded outdoors.  Duncan’s game doesn’t rally translate, but you never count out the big fella, especially with his first chance to team up with CP3.  If Howard can throw it back a few years and produce, this team looks very solid.

#11. Florida

  1. Jason Williams (Grizzlies)
  2. Mike Miller (Heat)
  3. Al Horford (Hawks)
  4. David Lee (Warriors)
  5. Joakim Noah (Bulls)

White Chocolate.  The OG.  That’s all you need to know here.  He’s up there in age, he may have even retired, but when the chain nets call, J-Will is there to answer.  Apologies to Matt Bonner, but there just wasn’t a place on the Gators throwback team for him.  These guys have sleeper written all over them.  They have a unique combination of hustle, skill, and white guys with tattoos, and they can match up with any other team the PSL will throw at them.  The Gators fall just outside the top 10, but they are definitely good enough to scare some people.

This is an actual picture.

#10. Arizona

  1. Gilbert Arenas (Magic)
  2. Jason Terry (Mavericks)
  3. Chase Budinger  (Rockets)
  4. Andre Iguodala (76ers)
  5. Channing Frye (Suns)

Lute Olson had his Wildcats running an open, athletic style for quite some time now.  It will pay off in the PSL , especially with Agent Zero,  who is a legend on the Barry Farms courts in DC. This team has a good mix of youth and experience, but lacks size down low.  Iggy can D up anyone, and he’ll be one of the most athletic guys on the court, but Channing at the 5 won’t really work against anyone not named Steve Novak.  Barely missing the cut for the Wildcat team: Richard Jefferson, Luke Walton, and Mike Bibby.  Missing the cut by a lot: Miles Simon.

#9. Michigan State

  1. Shannon Brown (Lakers)
  2. Maurice Ager (Timberwolves)
  3. Charlie Bell (Warriors)
  4. Jason Richardson (Magic)
  5. Zach Randolph (Grizzlies)

Tom Izzo doesn’t just make Final Fours, he produces some sneaky-good professional players as well. Shannon Brown can’t play point guard in the NBA and relies mainly on his athleticism – perfect in this particular situation.  The Spartans have to go small here with four guards, but when your big guy is Z-Bo, and there are no rules, you should do just fine.

#8. Memphis

  1. Derrick Rose (Bulls)
  2. Tyreke Evans (Kings)
  3. Rodney Carney (Grizzlies)
  4. Chris Douglas-Roberts (Bucks)
  5. Shawne Williams (Knicks)

Luckily taking the SATs isn’t a requirement to be in the league.  Rose and Reke make the Memphis team as dangerous as anyone.  Seeing those two guys on the same team is mouth-watering.  Reke gets to move to the 2, a much better position for him, and Rose can have someone help take off the scoring burden.  CDR, Carney, and big Shawne are simply there to play D and stay out of the way on offense, but that’s enough for Memphis to be all the way at #8.

#7. UConn

  1. Ben Gordon (Bulls)
  2. Ray Allen (Celtics)
  3. Rudy Gay (Grizzlies)
  4. Charlie Villanueva (Pistons)
  5. Emeka Okafor (Hornets)

A traditional powerhouse with putting guys in the league, the Huskies have plenty to choose from for their streetball starting five.  You’d love for Gordon to be a little bit more of a natural point, but in a pick-up style, he should do just fine.  They have scoring, shooting, toughness, and size.  No superstars, but maybe the most solid and consistent team in the entire PSL.

#6. UCLA

  1. Jrue Holliday (76ers)
  2. Russel Westbrook (Thunder)
  3. Baron Davis (Cavs)
  4. Matt Barnes (Lakers)
  5. Kevin Love (Timberwolves)

With the most current NBA players (14), the Bruins could legitimately field two competitive teams (there second team would be Farmar, Collison, Afflalo, Ariza, Mbah a Moute).  This team would just be flat out fun to watch.  Baron playing without a sub may be slightly troubling (by sub I mean literally a substitute but also a hoagie) and they are small, but Barnes is a foxhole guy and Westbrook and Love back together again is a beautiful thing. This team could beat anyone in the league and no one would be surprised.

#5. Kentucky

  1. Rajon Rondo (Celtics)
  2. John Wall (Wizards)
  3. Jodie Meeks (76ers)
  4. Tayshaun Prince (Pistons)
  5. DeMarcus Cousins (Kings)

They’ve got 13 guys to choose from, and arguably two of the top five point guards in the league.  Fortunately, on the street, they can play together in harmony and wreak havoc on everyone else.  The best back-court hands down, plus Meek’s range, Prince’s experience, and Cousins’ raw skills, attitude, and size makes Kentucky frightening on paper.  They’d be even more frightening running the pavement.

#4. European International Team

  1. Ricky Rubio (Spain)
  2. Hedo Turkoglu (Turkey)
  3. Andrea Bargnani (Italy)
  4. Dirk Nowitzki (Germany)
  5. Pau Gasol (Spain)

This team is straight up stupid.  Rubio gets the nod here over Tony Parker for the entertainment value alone.  I hate kicking a man when he’s down, especially when you lose out on Eva Longoria, but Parker is French and should be used to losing and pain.  This team is big and skilled.  Some may point out a lack of toughness, and with no refs that is a legitimate concern.  That’s the reason these guys come in at #4, when they easily could be at the top of this list.

#3. Texas

  1. D.J. Augustin (Bobcats)
  2. Daniel Gibson (Cavaliers)
  3. Kevin Durant (Thunder)
  4. Maurice Evans (Wizards)
  5. LaMarcus Aldridge (Blazers)

Speed and passing at the point.  Perimeter shooting and experience at the 2.  The Travelling Durantula Circus Summer Tour continues at the 3.  Nothing at the 4 and an absolute beast at the 5. This is almost a perfectly constructed team.  You may want more size at the power forward spot, but you’ve got enough scoring, a good inside-out game, and Evans can be hidden against most teams in the league.  You may not think the Longhorns should be above a few of the teams we’ve already mentioned, but you should go ahead and watch some of the Durant videos on YouTube, where he is dropping forty-foot bombs without breaking a sweat.  It looks like the real-life version of that LeBron Powerade Commercial.

#2. High School South

  1. Brandon Jennings (Oak Hill, VA)
  2. Monta Ellis (Lanier High, MS)
  3. Stephen Jackson (Oak Hill, VA)
  4. Amar’e Stoudemire (Cypress Creek, FL)
  5. Dwight Howard (Atlanta Christian, GA)

Clearly this scientific experiment has led us in the opposite direction of supporting the now intact “one year in college” rule.  Your top two teams are the two teams made up of those men who skipped college and went straight to the big time.  One team of high school guys wasn’t enough (and honestly wasn’t fair), and more than two teams would have watered down the league, so we came to a happy medium with two (North and South) and they still have to top the list.

This team is silly.  I don’t even have to break it down; just keep looking at the starting five.  Stephen Jackson is the perfect complement to the scorers above him and the giants below.  How is this team not number one you ask?  Here’s how:

#1. High School North

  1. JR Smith (Lakewood Prep, NJ)
  2. Kobe Bryant (Lower Merion, PA)
  3. LeBron James (St. Vincent St. Mary’s, OH)
  4. Kevin Garnett (Farragut Academy, IL)
  5. Andrew Bynum (St. Joseph’s, NJ)

They don’t have a legitimate point guard.  Garnett is old.  Bynum is made of glass.  Lots of good points.  However, Kobe and LeBron could play with the Jonas Brothers and still be one of the five best teams in this league.  Give them JR Smith – who has the deepest range in the league, Garnett – the heart and soul of any team he’s on, and Bynum – who’s size and rebounding stands with anyone’s when healthy – and this is the best five-man streetball team you can come up with given the parameters.

Your 2011 PSL Champions.

In a hypothetical championship game, Jackson has to check LeBron, Kobe gets a mismatch with Ellis or Jennings, the remaining guard on the South cancels out with JR Smith, Garnett annoys the hell out of Amar’e, and Bynum does his best against Howard.  Howard will be a problem, but Kobe and LeBron will score at will and shut down Jennings and Ellis on the defensive end.  The North wins again.

The Euro team may cause these guys more problems, as Hedo could check LeBron and no one would be able to cover Dirk, but Rubio is a massive defensive hemorrhage and Bargnani would get smoked by Kobe.

So there you have it. The 2011 Professional Streetball League. To say it would be epic is an understatement.  To say you wouldn’t watch every game is a lie.  To say the championship game wouldn’t be one of the five greatest sporting events ever would be a travesty.  Let’s let Red Bull and Sprite start the bidding war for this thing and make it happen.  This could be the best lockout ever.

Simplifying Chris Johnson’s Beef: He’s Right

If the Titan's don't give up some money, you may not see this for quite some time.

Chris Johnson is holding out.  You all know this.  Like many things in the NFL, though, situations aren’t properly understood by the fans or explained by the media.  I was curious as to the particulars of the situation, so I dug a little bit and wanted to explain to all of you why Johnson is holding out and why he is absolutely correct.

Unbiased disclaimer: I don’t like players holding out.  You signed a deal, you play out the contract.  So I come into this with a negative perspective towards CJ and his current situation.  A few things in this particular case swing me the other way though:

1. Leverage

Chris Johnson has it.  A lot of it.  Right now Vegas has the Titans 2011 win total over/under at 6.5.  If CJ is in camp right now and ready to go week 1, that number is 7.5.  If Vegas knew he wasn’t playing a game all season, and you have a Matt Hasselbeck – Javon Ringer backfield, that number could easily be 4.5.  You could make a very nice argument that Johnson is more important to his team than any other running back in the league.  The Titans will be undoubtedly worse without him on the field.

2. Performance

Johnson has played three years.  He has played in 47 of 48 games over those three years.  His average numbers per season look like this: 300 carries, 1,533 yards, 11 TDs, 2 fumbles lost.  These numbers are very similar to Adrian Peterson, who would be the only other RB over the last three years you could argue was as good or better than CJ.  His numbers over his four years in the league look like this: 296 carries, 1,446 yards, 13 TDs, 3.25 fumbles lost.  Looks about even to me.  Well here are their respective contracts:

Very similar contracts for the first three years, as per the difference in draft position and the SOP for 1st-round rookie RBs.  Chris Johnson considers himself the best running back in the league – and most people can’t really disagree.  He is 1 or 2 on everyone’s list.  He has produced the last three years – better than everyone except maybe AP.  He deserves the money, and he is young enough to warrant the investment as all signs point to this continuing.

3. Liability

If Johnson gets badly hurt or hits a wall at any point in the next two years – not uncommon for running backs in this league – and he gets cut, he only gets the remainder of that guaranteed 7 million.  Which would mean over 3 or 4 years, he only gets 7 million dollars and his career could possibly be over.  NFL contracts are not guaranteed – we all know this.  Johnson realized this last year and held out for a short amount of time.  He was appeased by the team with an extra $2.5 million.  He produced again, and again was not given more money.

The average length of an NFL player’s career is 3.3 years.  Running Backs have the shortest average career length at 2.57 years.  Considering Johnson in an elite running back, his liability is extreme every time he touches the field. With 300 carries a year, the propensity for injury is massive.  Johnson isn’t Natrone Means either, he is a smaller back, he is the focus of every defense the Titans play, and he has been relatively injury-free so far in his career.

His contract still has two years left, so even if he shut his mouth and played out his current deal, performed on this same level without injury, the Titans could simply franchise him in 2013, and he wouldn’t be able to go out and get his big deal (he would still get the average of the top 5 RBs in the league, so not terrible).  He would be stuck for three years.

4. Relative Compensation

We’ve been comparing AP and CJ and come up with basically the same production.  AP is the highest paid RB in the league and makes 10.72 million this year while CJ makes 800K.  If AP is number 1, where is CJ you ask?  How about 31st.  He is the 31st highest paid RB in the league.  This puts him behind franchise-caliber All-Pro backs like Atlanta’s Ovie Mughelli (3 mil), Detroit’s Maurice Morris (1.625 mil), San Fran’s Moran Norris (1.5 mil), and Buffalo’s Corey McIntyre (950K).  I’m not sure who those last two guys are either.

He is the 241st highest paid player in the NFL.  On NFL Network’s player-voted rankings of the Top 100 players in the league that was recently done, CJ came in at 13th.  He isn’t even in the top 13 paid players on his own team – he is 19th.  Cortland Finnegan walked out of Titans’ camp this year and he makes 3.29 mil this year.  If you want to see the 18 players ahead of CJ on the Titans’ roster, check this out. The highest paid Titan is Safety Chris Hope who makes around 6 million a year.

The numbers I could find using rotoworld.com and musiccitymiracles.com put the Titans with about 9 million in cap room this year.  Clearly plenty of room to give CJ some more money.

IPSO FACTO…

Chris Johnson is 100% correct in holding out.  He is vastly under-appreciated, vastly under-paid, and seemingly stuck without a big pay-day for three more years. That would make him a 28-year-old running back with six years on his odometer.  (I would bring up Shaun Alexander getting his big contract at that point in his career and then somehow having a negative total of broken tackles for the remainder of the deal but it gives me Nam-like flashbacks).  His career could easily be over at that point, even if he was not significantly injured during that time.

He needs to get paid now, and he is too valuable to the Titans for them to be playing these shenanigans with him for the second year in a row.  So as this situation continues – if the Titans don’t give him what he deserves – remember that CJ is right and they are wrong.

The defense rests.

(For future reference: There are a few running backs who, with another productive year, will be in a similar situation next year.  Matt Forte is already grumbling this year – he is only scheduled to make 555K this season.  Other young, top-tier backs who are going to be vastly underpaid as per their expected production this year: Rashard Mendenhall (612.5K), Ray Rice (555K), Arian Foster (525K), and Shady McCoy (480K).  It will be interesting how each of these teams and players handle these situations as they become more tense.)

Major Parity and The 2011 PGA’s Best Bets

Quick, name the last 12 PGA major winners.

Okay.  That wasn’t fair.  This is no easy task.  You need a little more time.  Go ahead and pull out a pen and paper or a Word Doc or your iPad or Twitter or whatever.  You have five minutes to see how many you can get…go.

………

So here is your answer in reverse chronological order:

Darren Clarke (2011 Open Championship), Rory McIlroy (2011 US Open), Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters), Martin Kaymer (2010 PGA), Louis Oosthuizen (2010 Open Championship), Graeme McDowell (2010 US Open), Phil Mickelson (2010 Masters), Y.E. Yang (2009 PGA), Stewart Cink (2009 Open Championship), Lucas Glover (2009 US Open), Angel Cabrera (2009 Masters), Padraig Harrington (2008 PGA).

If you notice, not one of those names is repeated at any point in that list.  The last 12 major winners have all been different.  In the scoring spirit of oft-used Cosmo/Better Homes and Gardens/Tiger Beat/Cat Fancy  “How Well Do You Know Your Man” Quiz.  Here is how you can measure yourself as a golf fan in 2011:

Yeah, I took it. So what.

10-12 Correct: You either work for the PGA, are on the PGA Tour, or you actually made the Wikipedia page that lists the PGA major champions.

6-9: Congratulations you are a about as good as it gets for a golf fan.  This is the only realistic range that someone who is not professionally involved in golf or sports media in some way can hope for.

2-5: You are the average golf fan.  To be honest, you probably didn’t even waste your time trying this little exercise, but this is most likely where you would’ve wound up anyway.  Your answers were probably Clarke (because it happened ten minutes ago), McIlroy, Mickelson, and then maybe one or two you remembered for some ransom reason.

1: You are Y.E. Yang.

Golf has fallen into a grey abyss that it has not seen in some time.  It’s not just the loss of Tiger, but the lack of a semblance of dominance from anyone.  McIlroy did his best to spike the pulse, but his performance is starting to look now more like an anomaly than something to expect (for now).

Going into the final major of the year, tomorrow’s PGA Championship, golf is in a very interesting place. And while every other major has something distinguishing about it, the PGA lacks a little bit of that sizzle. The Masters – the “tradition unlike any other” – has Amen’s Corner and the green jacket and that subtle hint of chauvinism that every traditional golf club should have. The Open Championship – which used to be The British Open – but apparently has changed at some point without anyone in America’s approval – has the linx courses and the pot bunkers and the birthplace of golf.  The US Open has the amateurs and the club pros and the great stories of qualifying.

The PGA is consistently the least-exciting of the four, with the only real saving grace is that it’s the last meaningful tournament of the year.

Oh wait, I forgot about The Fed Ex Cup! I’ve been keeping track of the points all year!  It’s a dogfight for seventh place right now: Mark Wilson is 15 points ahead of Gary Woodland who is 43 points ahead of Webb Simpson. I can’t wait to see how it shakes out.  American golf without Tiger!

Speaking of the striped one, the PGA does have a nice convergence of storylines at the moment – probably the best it could have possibly hoped for.  It won’t sniff Jersey Shore ratings (the premiere episode this season got an 8.8 to the Stanley Cup Final Game 7’s 8.7), but it should do better than expected.

Adam Scott is interesting because he has a new long putter and is finally playing well.  I think he has a new caddie as well.  Tiger has sat out the last two majors and is claiming he is finally “back in shape,” and in an unrelated circumstance also has someone new on the bag. This alone should keep people interested, and if the golf gods choose to give us a gift, Tiger and Adam will be in contention on the weekend and maybe even – I don’t even want to jinx the possibility because I’m so excited.  (If you know what I’m talking about by the context clues you are probably as potentially torqued about the idea as I am.)

Unfortunately, Tiger’s game is nowhere near Atlantic Athletic Club-level and Adam Scott usually does his best Anne Frank impression on the weekends of majors.

Tiger played the Bridgestone Invitational last week and finished in 37th at +1.  This is a tournament he has won seven of the thirteen times he has been in, once by 11 strokes.  His game is not there.  Tiger Woods will not win the 2011 PGA Championship.  Sorry to everyone out there who is rooting for him (you guys do remember the whole scumbag sex-crazed adulterer thing right?)

So the question now is who will hoist the Wannamaker Trophy on Sunday evening? Well, as the last 12 majors have taught us, the field is about as wide open as you can get.

The favorite is McIlroy, anointed as the next big thing after his US Open tour-de-force this year.  He has been playing well lately, especially in the states, but Atlantic Athletic Club’s main defense this week will be its tight fairways, and sitting at 140th in Driving Accuracy, I don’t think Rory has another US Open-like driving performance up his sleeve.

The rest of the bunch shakes down like this:

We start, naturally, with the number one player in the world – Luke Donald.  He finished second last week and is statistically dominant in all the right places: 1st in Scoring Average, 1st in Top Tens, 4th in Putting, 38th in Driving Accuracy.

Right behind him is fellow countrymen Lee Westwood, who has finished in the top three in five of his last eight major championships. I’ll be honest, I think the winner comes from one of these two chaps, and my money is going to be on Donald to get his first. However, there are 154 others in the tournament, so we continue.

Phil, Bubba, and Dustin Johnson are too shaky off the tee.  Nick Watney can’t be trusted after last year’s final-round 81 at Whistling Straits in this same tournament.  Jason Day is probably still a year away.  David Toms won it last time at AAC, but he’s too old (that was ten years ago). Martin Kaymer won it last year, but he has been a ghost after that. Rickie Fowler is too bright (not talking about intelligence).  We previously mentioned Adam Scott’s affinity for hiding, and you can put Sergio right next to him in that attic.

The only other guy who I can see taking this thing convincingly that would not surprise or shock anyone is Steve Stricker.  This may be the 44-year-old’s last shot; but his game and his putting are good enough for him to win.

With the field this wide open and no one being under 10-1, this is an excellent opportunity to take a few fliers on some long-shots and potentially have a big payday.  If you are into betting favorites, here are the three I suggest you choose from in making a larger, more confident bet:

Donald (12-1)

Westwood (12-1)

Stricker (22-1) – these are still great odds by the way and he is the 9th favorite.

With the way this course is setting up, it’s going to come down to two things: fairways in regulation and putting.  This is one reason why Luke Donald’s statistics set up so well.  If you simplify it down to Driving Accuracy and Putting, you get my mid-range sleeper with fantastic odds:

Zach Johnson (45-1) – 8th in Driving Accuracy and 8th in Putting

He has the best combination of the two of anyone on tour, he has won a big tournament before, and he is just enough under the radar to make himself – and you – some nice coin.

After that, because this is really a tough tournament to handicap, there are some guys that are getting fantastic odds for the caliber of player they are, regardless of whether they are playing well or how the course sets up for them.  Here are your long-range fliers to have some fun with:

KJ Choi (60-1)

YE Yang (80-1)

Fredrik Jacobson (80-1)

Brandt Snedeker (90-1)

Angel Cabrera (110-1)

Brian Gay (200-1)  – who is 3rd in Driving Accuracy and 25th in Putting.

Now hopefully Adam and Tiger cross paths at some point so this thing stays interesting.  Just in case that doesn’t happen, I will be making a few wagers so my interest can be piqued from Thursday to Sunday in the tour’s final big tournament. Either way, don’t be surprised to see a 13th straight different major winner on Sunday.

One of these men is a sneaky choice to win the 2011 PGA Championship and the other one is Zach Johnson.