This Week in Betting, A to Z
by Trevor Whenham - 03/02/2009
A - Ankle. Oklahoma City isn't particularly a team that needs any bad news, but they sure got some this week. Kevin Durant wound up on crutches on Friday night after badly spraining his ankle, and he could miss as much as two weeks of action. That would seem to be disastrous for the team, and it ultimately probably will be, but early results have been surprisingly positive. After failing to cover three straight games with Durant healthy, they have covered two in a row on the road without their star.
B - Boston Celtics. Stephon Marbury? Really? I can understand the argument that the Celtics would want to add another piece to their team to be sure they are ready to face their long list of strong opponents in the playoffs. But "Starbury"? The guy hasn't played in a long time, he showed nothing when he was playing to make us think that he was even remotely close to his prime, and he is a disastrously selfish player with a knack for wrecking any dressing room he steps into. Needless to say, I am not optimistic about this deal.
C - Cassel, Matt. Cassel is now a Kansas City Chief, and the circumstances are some of the most bizarre we have seen in the league in a while. Cassel was one of the hottest commodities in the league, yet the Pats traded him for just a second round pick, and they threw in Mike Vrabel as well. Matt Schaub went for two second rounders and he was far less experienced than Cassel at the time, so this is well below market value. Even stranger, New England reportedly had at least one better offer on the table that they didn't take. There aren't many good explanations for New England's actions. Maybe Scott Pioli has pictures of Bill Belichick in a compromising situation. Whatever the reason, it's a good time to be a Chiefs' fan.
D - Dominic James. Marquette has had a surprisingly good year, but they had a tough break (literally) this week that significantly reduces their chances of a deep March run. Senior guard Dominic James broke his foot against UConn on Wednesday and will miss the rest of the year. James led the team in assists and steals, and averaged more than 11 points a game, so he will obviously be missed. The impact hasn't been positive so far - Marquette lost to UConn and again to Louisville on Sunday. James' absence isn't the team's only problem - they have lost four of their last seven.
E - Elbow. Johan Santana hasn't had the start to the season that he or the Mets were likely hoping for. His first spring training appearance has twice been delayed with soreness in the elbow, and that has potentially put his opening day start in jeopardy. There is some promising news, though - after a strong bullpen workout over the weekend, the team has cancelled a planned MRI for now to see if the problem goes away by itself.
F - Finally. For the first time this year, the fastest car actually won a NASCAR race. Kyle Busch won the pole at his home track in Las Vegas, but had to start at the back of the field after Toyota engine troubles forced him to change his engine after qualifications were over. Busch worked his way through the entire field, avoided any serious troubles, took the lead with about 20 laps to go, and pulled away for a dominating win. The Sprint Cup was the last of three major NASCAR series on which Busch earned a win this year.
G - Georgetown. The Hoyas don't have a pretty record, and they have had some truly ugly losses, but they keep finding ways to make it hard for the selection committee to overlook them. They have the toughest strength of schedule in the country, and they added to their credentials this weekend with an upset win at Villanova. They're still only 6-10 in the Big East, so they probably need to win their last two against St. John's and DePaul and two Big East tournament games to make Selection Sunday stress-free.
H - Headache. We were shown something this week that any idiot already knew - Oklahoma isn't nearly the same team without Blake Griffin. The concussion he suffered last Saturday kept him out of action on Monday against Kansas, and the Jayhawks were able to win easily on the road. Luckily for the Sooners, the effects didn't linger - Griffin returned to action on Saturday at Texas Tech, and had had 20 points and 19 rebounds.
I - Insanity. The Redskins, it seems, choose not to learn from history. Time after time they have spent ridiculous amounts of money on free agents only to fall well short of the ultimate goal. Instead of looking at how more successful franchises operate, the Redskins have again opened their wallet and spent a fortune. They opened free agency by giving Albert Haynesworth $100 million over seven years, including a record amount of guaranteed cash. They also gave DeAngelo Hall a fat contract with a pile of guaranteed money despite the fact that Hall underperformed dramatically under a similar contract last year and was cut by Oakland after just eight games.
J - Juan Manuel Marquez. Marquez is perhaps the most underappreciated fighter in boxing, but that could change with a truly impressive win over Juan Diaz in Diaz' hometown of Houston to retain his featherweight world titles. The 35 year old Marquez was facing a fighter 10 years younger, but you would never have guessed it. The two fighters pounded on each other for nine rounds, drawing lots of blood and gasps from the crowd. In the ninth, Marquez floored Diaz with a shot to the temple. Most fighters would have been out for the count, but Diaz found a way to stand up again. It didn't last, though - Marquez landed another booming shot, and Diaz was out.
K - Kitna, John. The Cowboys finally have a backup quarterback who may not cost the team games if forced to play. They picked up John Kitna from the Lions. He didn't come cheap, though - the Lions got fully functional cornerback Anthony Henry in return. Besides competence, Kitna has something else to offer - he's the only NFL QB who has made Roy Williams look like a star, and Romo could use that knowledge if the team keeps Williams around.
L - LeBron James. This is a stat I find truly amazing - LeBron James played 447 career games before recording a single one without an assist. It happened for the first time on Thursday night when Cleveland traveled to San Antonio. James generally had a rough night - he shot just 7-for-21, had just one rebound, and uncharacteristically turned the ball over three times. Not surprisingly, the Cavs lost when their star struggled. He bounced back with two much better games, and the team won both.
M - Montreal Canadiens. After losing 12 of 15 games, the Canadiens are finally showing the signs of life they need to ensure they stay in a playoff spot. The Habs have won four straight, including a Saturday night game against league-leading San Jose. The difference has been goaltending. They have had no help in net for more than a month, but backup Jaroslav Halak has finally found some form and has won all four games.
N - New look. The Bulls turned their roster over more significantly than any other potential playoff team at the trade deadline. The results have been mixed so far - they beat Orlando and Houston at home, but had underwhelming road losses at Washington and New Jersey. The bright light so far has been John Salmons. The small forward previously from Sacramento is averaging 16 points per game coming off the bench, and he had 25 in 31 minutes playing in front of the President in Washington.
O - One. The Pitt Panthers just can't handle success. The first time they ascended to No. 1 in the polls they just stayed there for just two weeks before losing to Louisville. They made it back to the top again last week, but didn't even make it through their first game before losing this time. Pitt had an inexplicable loss at Providence. The Friars were highly motivated to strengthen their chances of an at-large bid, but Pitt should have been able to handle this one easily. This is yet more drama and mystery from the very tough Big East.
P - Pittsburgh. The Penguins need secondary scoring and a winger for Sidney Crosby, and this week they made a move to find one. They sent defenseman Ryan Whitney to Anaheim for forward Chris Kunitz and a prospect. Kunitz is a selfless offensive threat that has a good chance of meshing well with Crosby. When Crosby returns to action, that is. In one of those strange quirks that only sports can provide, the inconsistent Penguins have won three in a row since their captain went down with a knee injury.
Q - Quality Road. The Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream is the major prep race for the Florida Derby, but instead of clarifying the picture for that major Kentucky Derby prep it muddied it badly this year. Quality Road wasn't among the most highly regarded horses in the field, but he won convincingly. He settled just off the pace, made his move on the final corner, and pulled away solidly. The result was impressive, but likely meaningless - the winner carried six to eight pounds less than the field, and he got a perfect trip. It's hard to believe he will be a factor in May.
R - Return. Martin Brodeur seemed likely to miss the rest of the season after an arm injury in November required surgery. He came back much quicker than expected, though, and he looked like he had never left. In fact, he looks better than ever. Brodeur jumped right into the fire, playing three games in his first four days back. He had two shutouts, and he only allowed two goals in the third win. So much for rust. Brodeur's strong return secures New Jersey as a legitimate contender in the East.
S - Shaq. It turns out that the old man isn't washed up just yet. Shaq Fu had 45 points against the Raptors on Friday night. That was his highest point total in six years. To prove it was no fluke, he added 33 more points to the tally on Sunday night as the Suns shocked the Lakers. With Amare Stoudemire out for the long term and Steve Nash on the bench with a sprained ankle, Shaq's team-leading performances are particularly impressive.
T - The Pamplemousse. At first glance, it appeared as if the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday produced a superstar. The Pamplemousse went off at 1-2, and he more than lived up to it. He took the lead on the final turn, and pulled away to an incredibly effortless six-length win. There are problems that bring the horse crashing back to earth, though - he beat absolutely no horses of note in the race, and he still hasn't proven he can run on dirt.
U - Ugly. Missouri had been turning heads and gaining respect as they won games and looked more and more like the second best team in the Big 12. But then Sunday happened. The Tigers faced a border skirmish with Kansas, and it was ugly. The Jayhawks cruised to a 26-point lead by halftime while holding the Tigers to just 19 points, and cruised to an easy 25-point win. It will be interesting to see how the Tigers rebound from the humiliation when they face Oklahoma on Wednesday.
V - Vikings. It's no secret that the Vikings needed to do something to strengthen their quarterback situation. After all, you could easily argue that their QB woes are what kept them from enjoying playoff success last year. They have decided that Sage Rosenfels is the answer. They picked him up from Houston for a fourth-round pick, and then signed him to a two-year contract extension. It's no guarantee that Rosenfels will be a success, but he showed flashes of brilliance last year, and at the very least he can provide good competition for Tarvaris Jackson.
W - Winslow, Kellen. The Browns have had enough of their talented-but-troubled tight end and his baggage. Cleveland sent Winslow to Tampa Bay in exchange for a second round pick this year and a fifth rounder in 2010. Winslow has been great at times, but he has lacked the consistency needed to be a star, so the Browns won't really miss him. Of more interest is the clear sign that Eric Mangini is determined to make his own statement on this team.
X - Xavier. It was an uneventful week for the mascots of our column. Their lone contest was at lowly Saint Joseph's, and they won as easily as they should have. Their next game, Thursday against Dayton, should prove to be both more interesting and more educational. Dayton needs the win much more than Xavier for tournament chances, but it will be a good test of tournament preparedness for the Musketeers.
Y - Yikes. Tiger's back, but not quite like many hoped or the PGA needed. He looked healthy and competent in his first round at the Match Play this week, but the No. 1 seed was far less effective in round two and he went home early. In retrospect, you could probably start to see the seeds of Tiger's troubles being planted late in the first round. After opening up a wide lead it took him longer than it should have to close it out. There were no major problems, but the combination of rust and lack of comfort with the newly repaired knee in tournament conditions probably led to the downfall.
Z - Zzzzz. Free agency is supposed to bring excitement and drama to the NFL season. For the most part so far, though, this year hasn't lived up to the hype. For every big deal there have been dull and illogical ones like the big money paid for Dan Orlovsky in Houston. Too many big names are sitting unclaimed, and the market has been, with the exception of Washington and the Jets, slow and cheap. Here's hoping things getting faster paced and more interesting this week.