This Week in Betting, A-Z
by Trevor Whenham - 2/1/2010
A - All-stars. The NBA all-star reserves - the guys who really matter because they are picked by people who know what they are talking about and not the public - were announced this week. There are seven frst timers among the group, including Derrick Rose and Kevin Durant - two guys who are making their first appearance of many. You can't really argue about any of the guys who are on the team (though I think that they picked the wrong Gasol brother), but there are a few guys who really deserve to be there - notably Chris Kaman and David Lee.
B - Bryant McKinnie. It seems as if McKinnie likes the Pro Bowl about as much as the rest of us. The monstrous Vikings' tackle, named to his first Pro Bowl this year, was kicked off the squad before the game. He had only been to one practice and one meeting during the week, and had instead spent his time in a far more productive way - partying and generally having a good time. The NFC lost the game and the AFC got three sacks, so you could probably blame McKinnie for a bit of the outcome. I'm sure he's really broken up about it.
C - Comeback. This is the first of what is going to be a theme this week - the Celtics losing a game they needed to win in dramatic fashion. First up is Orlando. The Magic were down by 16 in the second half to the Celtics, but Boston fell asleep at the wheel, and Orlando took the lead for good with a Rashard Lewis layup with just over a second remaining. The Magic played two centers for the second half, and it paid off - they tightened up defensively and took control of the game.
D - Dion Phaneuf. The Calgary Flames shook up their brutally underachieving team on Sunday by trading away Dion Phaneuf in a seven-player deal with Toronto. There are two types of opinions surrounding Phaneuf - those who don't watch the Flames play much see him as one of the top young defenseman in the league and a future superstar. Those who have watched him play during his five-year career, though, see him as a bone-headed player who is a defensive liability and who doesn't add enough offense to make up for that. As a Flames fan I have just one thing to say about this trade - good luck with that, Toronto. This is truly addition by subtraction for Calgary.
E - Egypt. The African Cup of Nations should be renamed the Egyptian Cup of Nations because no one else has a chance. Egypt won Africa's biggest soccer tournament for the third straight time, and the seventh overall. They did it in style, too, as they had to beat World Cup squads Nigeria, Cameroon, Algeria and Ghana along the way. The strange part of it all is that Egypt isn't headed to the World Cup, and hasn't qualified since 1990. For some reason they are significantly better in a short tournament than over the long qualification process.
F - Freeney, Dwight. The Colts have been telling us since the AFC Championship that Freeney, their ferocious pass-rusher, is going to be just fine when the Super Bowl rolls around. It seems now, though, that they haven't been entirely honest. The reports now are that Freeney has a torn ligament in his right ankle and will be, at the very least, limited against New Orleans. This obviously isn't good news for Indianapolis, but the impact could easily be overestimated - the Saints aren't nearly as vulnerable to the pass rush as a lot of teams.
G - Graham, Brandon. All those people who haven't been paying attention the last couple of years are suddenly discovering Michigan's defensive end. Graham was named the MVP of the Senior Bowl on Saturday, and he is rocketing up draft boards - perhaps even into the Top 10. Graham was hurt up to this point by playing for a lousy team, but if you watched my Wolverines play at all you saw that he was an incredible beast on the field despite being perpetually double-teamed because he was the only defensive threat on the team.
H - Herschel Walker. MMA organization Strikeforce put together a surprisingly interesting card on Saturday night. Walker, the 47-year-old former NFL star and 1982 Heisman winner, got a third-round win in his MMA debut. He was much better than the gimmick he seemed like he should be. Former WWE star Bobby Lashley won his fight against a terribly outmatched opponent in a first round stoppage. Cristiane 'Cyborg' Santos defended her women's championship. Nick Diaz won the vacant Welterweight title in the main event by demolishing Marius Zaromskis. All in all, it was a far more entertaining card than we have seen from the UFC recently.
I - Insurance. The PGA carried on without Tiger - this time with the Farmers Insurance Open. For a while it looked like Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els were going to make it an all-star fest, but neither could keep it together in the end. Mickelson was especially disappointing with a disastrous Sunday. The winner was Ben Crane. He won with some clutch putting on the 18th. Strangely, though, he was unaware that he had won until a playing partner congratulated him.
J - John Daly. Daly just can't stand to be out of the news, so he borrowed a page from the Brett Favre playbook. Daly has announced that he is retiring from golf. Again. He missed the cut yet again this weekend, and proceeded to say that he can no longer afford to play on the tour and embarrass himself, so he's done. Of course, this isn't the first time that we have heard this from him, and it doesn't seem as if anyone actually believes him.
K - Kurt Warner. So long Kurt, it's been fun. Despite playing as well as a player can possibly play in his second to last playoff game, Warner called it a career on Friday. Warner has a rare distinction in football - he'll be remembered as a deserving legend in two different cities. There is absolutely no question in my mind that Warner deserves to be a hall-of-famer. I also think we'll get a better sense of how big his impact was when as we watch Matt Leinart struggle next year.
L - Lakers. Here's chapter two of the Celtics' struggles. The Lakers trailed the Celtics by seven heading into the final quarter in Boston on Sunday. That should have been enough for Boston, but they couldn't hold on. The Lakers stormed back, and Kobe Bryant sunk the winning basket in the closing seconds. Boston has now not beaten the Lakers in a stretch of three games.
M - Mike Danton. One of the strangest stories in NHL history took another strange twist this week. Danton, who was born Mike Jefferson but changed his name after becoming estranged from his family, just finished serving a 63-month sentence for hiring a hitman to kill someone - either his agent or his father depending upon the version of his story you believe. Danton is now out on parole, and this week he made his return to hockey. In his first game since playing for St. Louis and New Jersey, Danton scored a goal for St. Mary's University in Halifax. Needless to say, St. Mary's decision to let Danton play was controversial.
N - Nets. Look out world, here come the Nets. New Jersey beat up on the Clippers at home on Wednesday night to earn a 16-point win. Kris Humphries led the way with a career high 25 points. That's the good news. The bad news is that this was just the fourth win on the year for New Jersey, and their only win in the month of January. As bad as their record it, it is incredibly not the worst ever. By winning this game they avoided beating Dallas' record for the worst 44-game record ever.
O - One. Kentucky must not have enjoyed their time at the top of the polls because they sure didn't stay there long. In their first game on the court after being elevated to the top spot Kentucky was victimized by South Carolina. Gamecocks guard Devan Downey showed just how good he is as he dismantled the Wildcats and piled up 30 points. The irony of the surprising loss is that it came just hours after Kentucky had spoken to President Obama and had been reminded that they needed to keep their focus.
P - Pistons. You can't win in the NBA if you can't score, so it's no wonder that the Pistons have the second worst record in Eastern Conference. On Friday, the Pistons continued their offensive ineptness as they managed just 65 points at home in a loss to the Heat. The most pathetic part of it all, though, is that this isn't even their lowest total of the year - they managed just 64 points against Toronto before Christmas.
Q - Quite ugly. 'How can you go any lower?' That's the question that Roy Williams is asking this week after his Tar Heels continued to sink to new lows of patheticness. The defending champs are truly struggling. By losing to Virginia this week they moved to 1-3 in their last four, and 2-5 in their last seven. Even more surprising, the last three losses have all come at home. It wasn't long ago - like just last year - that Chapel Hill was a place no team wanted to play.
R - Roger Federer. There are people out there who seem determined to suggest that Federer's best days are in the past. He sure gave no sign of that in Australia. Federer won his 16th Grand Slam tournament by rolling through a strong group of challengers in dominating fashion. More impressive than Federer's win was this stat - this was the 23rd consecutive Grand Slam tournament in which he made at least the semifinals. That is inconceivable consistency and dominance.
S - Sweep. The Atlanta Hawks continue to prove that they are the furthest thing from a fluke. Their latest accomplishment was to sweep the four-game series against the Celtics with a win this week. It's the first time in 11 years that the Hawks have done that, and a clear sign that they won't be a pushover when the playoffs roll around. The Celtics were let down by a stunning lack of depth in the game. Only two players made it into the double digits for points - Pierce with 35, and Garnett with 15.
T - Tebow. It's hard to remember a college player that has been more scrutinized and criticized heading into the NFL Draft than Tebow has been this year. He had a chance to silence some of his critics who are sure he won't be an NFL QB in the Senior Bowl this weekend, but he wasn't able to make the most of it. Tebow fumbled twice in his first real attempt at a pro-style offense, and he averaged just 4.2 yards per attempt over 12 attempts.
U - Unbeatable. Two teams in the NHL's Eastern Conference seem to have forgotten how to lose. Washington now has a commanding lead in the conference thanks in large part to a 10-game winning streak. Seven of those wins have been by multiple goals. Only three of the wins have been on the road, so we will get a good sense of the team now that they play six of their next seven away from home. Ottawa is almost as hot right now. They had struggled with injuries for months, but they are reasonably healthy now, and they've won nine straight.
V - Vanderbilt. The Commodores have been red hot, and they showed just how good they can be when they went onto Tennessee's home court and emerged with a very impressive nine-point win - their first over a ranked team all year. Unfortunately, they couldn't carry the momentum into the weekend. They ran into a Kentucky team looking to erase the memory of their previous loss, and Vandy was no match. Kentucky won by 13 in a game that was over by the half.
W - Williams, Serena. The younger Williams' sister lived up to her No. 1 seeding by capturing the Australian Open to tie her with Billie Jean King with 12 career Slams. Williams had to beat a couple of players that would have been very unlikely just a year ago - both Kim Clijsters and Justine Henin showed that their decisions to come back from retirement were good ones as they made deep runs through the tough field.
X - Xavier. It wasn't a particularly challenging week for the mascots of our column - they played two outmatched opponents in Duquesne and Fordham. The important thing when you play a bad team s that you beat them with real style, and Xavier certainly did that. They trounced Duquesne by 36 on Thursday, and then they trumped that by beating Fordham by 48 on Sunday. If they can keep that dominating play up then they could be heading to the tournament even if they don't win the A-10.
Y - Yikes. The current NBA collective bargaining agreement gives the players 57 percent of basketball-related revenue. For the next deal, which needs to be in place by the middle of next year, the league wants that to shrink to 45 percent. The players don't want it to change. My eyes glaze over with labor talk, but the key point here is this - get ready for a lockout. The sides are far apart, and neither side seems willing to move, so this one could get nasty.
Z - Zzzz. The Pro Bowl happened on Sunday - the first time in several years that it has occurred before the Super Bowl. Maybe the change in timing and location helped get some people excited, but to me it was still the same boring, pointless contest that it always is. Whenever a game has more than 30 players that get picked but can't be bothered to play you just know that the players aren't going to be fully invested in putting on a good game. And they didn't.