Thursday, February 05, 2009

The Knee Jerks -- Pistons Suck Edition (Plus We Riff On Bobby Knight, Matthew Stafford, and The Weekly Staples)

Welcome to Thursday and another webisode of "The Knee Jerks: WTF? With Eno and Al." For the newbies, this is a weekly gabfest on sports that I have with the MVP of the MVN, Big Al of The Wayne Fontes Experience.

This week, we try (yet again) to figure out the Pistons; muse about Bobby Knight's possible return to coaching; debate the benefits of the Lions snagging a QB with their no. 1 overall pick; and, as they say, much, much more! Oh, and the regulars -- Word Association and Jerk of the Week -- are in the house.

Read at your own risk.....


Eno: Thursdays used to be safe for web browsing – until “The Knee Jerks” arrived! Welcome back to another webisode. I'm Eno, aka The Journalist, and he's Big Al, aka Mr. Big Shot. How goes it, oh Alness of Blogging?

Big Al: Last week I went through a patch of "writers block" or as I like to call it, "being totally uninspired", but I'm back in the game. I think I was feeling low over the saddest day of the year, the day football season ends. (I'm not counting the waste of time known as the Pro Bowl) With no more football, what's there to live for? But I digress, what's on your mind this Thursday, Eno-sabi?

Eno: Well, I blathered on OOB about the Pistons' home record – an unsightly 13-11. They've lost four straight and six of seven at home (going into Wednesday's tilt with Miami). This heinous home record – is it simply symptomatic of a bad basketball team? Or is it just a rough patch? Or both?

Big Al: It may be a combination of the two, but I'm leaning toward the Pistons just being a bad basketball team. The combination of their lacking a true floor leader, head coach Michael Curry's steep learning curve and Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess and Allen Iverson literally aging before our eyes, created a perfect storm of mediocrity. Hey, no team can stay elite in the NBA forever, right?

Eno: I suppose. I hate to keep bitching about them every week at TKJ, but darn it, it's hard to ignore. Some national scribes are murmuring that the players have lost confidence in rookie coach Curry. Supposedly, some players are convinced that President Joe Dumars is telling Curry who to play. Other media folks hint at trades looming. And the Denver Nuggets are sailing along with their new point guard, Chauncey Billups. How much of this is Curry's fault, how much is it the players', and how much is it Dumars' ?

Big Al: Can I say it's everyone's fault? I’m not going to be too hard on Curry, as he was thrown headfirst into a sink or swim situation after the Chauncey Billups trade. A veteran team running on damn near cruise control was thrust into turmoil. Turmoil they still haven't recovered from. The Pistons' core, long known to be a handful in good times, has not moved on, leaving Curry and Iverson hanging out to dry. Good Lord, from the reaction of Rip Hamilton after the trade, you'd think someone had died. I don't think Joe Dumars expected his team to react over the changes. I've talked myself into it, I'm putting most of the blame on the players themselves, something that doesn't happen enough in today's sports landscape. What's your take, oh wise one?

Eno: Well, I don’t know how wise I am, but I think this just proves that Dumars ought to tear the thing apart and start anew. There are a ton of great free agents available in summer 2010. I say just patch a team together until then. Throw the bums out, except for Rodney Stuckey, Tayshaun Prince, Arran Afflalo, and Jason Maxiell. I'm tired of these guys!

Big Al: You just echoed the thoughts of most every Pistons fan. This group had a very good-to-great run for most of this decade, but the magic is gone. The players you named isn't a bad core to build around, but it's also lacking one thing: a true big man. I'd be already targeting Toronto's Chris Bosh as my go-to free agent signing. But there's no guarantees the Pistons will be able to sign anyone in the best free agent class ever. Joe Dumars has his work cut out for him. I hope he's taking classes in salesmanship.

Eno: I think the Pistons still are a fairly easy sell to FAs. They have a winning tradition, mostly, and Dumars's reputation is still pretty solid. But you're right; a big man is a MUST. I tell you what: if Jack McCloskey was the GM, there'd be no worries; Trader Jack was infatuated with big men, sometimes to a fault (read: William Bedford). I like Bosh, of course; who wouldn't? Meanwhile, do you see a shakeup later this month at the deadline?

Big Al: Only if Joe D can get more expiring contracts in return in a trade. Or get a player the quality of Phoenix's Amare Stoudemire, Utah's Carlos Boozer, or Bosh in return for unloading the most prized kind of player in the NBA, a star with a HUGE expiring contract. The Pistons have two, in Wallace and Iverson, so they'd have to get a big time player Dumars knows he can sign long term, or is already under contract for several years. As that's the only scenario I could see Dumars trading anyone, and it's a pretty far fetched one at that, I doubt anything major happens at the trade deadline.

Eno: It's kinda sad that NBA trades are predicated so much on contract status. It's not like trading bubble gum cards anymore! I think you'll either see nothing at the deadline or something shocking. Just a hunch. Enough about these Pistons; I'm getting a headache. Sorry I brought them up. What do you got?

Big Al: I know exactly what you mean. Watching the Pistons, let alone writing about them, gives me indigestion. Moving on... The national MSM is making a big to-do/hoo-ha over WDIV's running a crawl during the Super Bowl pregame asking fans to comment on Matt Millen, while mentioning the Lions had the worst eight-year stretch in the history of the NFL as part of the crawl. The national blowhards have gotten their panties in a bunch over this tempest in teapot. I honestly believe the ESPN types underestimated the outright HATRED for Millen in Detroit.

Eno: Well, I hate to disagree with you, Al, but I think while the MSM certainly overblew it (what's new, eh?), I REALLY think we all need to get over the Millen thing and move on. What does everyone want? Apologies? Roses? Boxes of chocolate? The guy was a moron as a GM, even he admits he would have fired himself, and he's fired. End of story. The sooner we look forward than look back, the better. It will always go down as a black mark in an already pock-marked franchise history, but what can you do? It happened. Move on!

Big Al: Hey, I agree with you! I actually wrote on TWFE that even though I DESPISE him as a GM, I like, yes like, Millen as a broadcaster. I just never want him to step foot in the great state of Michigan ever again. But many Lions fans took the hiring of Millen by NBC as an "expert" as a slap in the face, while believing Millen has no credibility left as an "expert". I'm with you, let's all move on. The quicker we put the past eight years behind us, the better off we'll all be. This is just the national MSM, and unfortunately, much of the blogosphere looking for something to cover on a slow news day, creating controversy where there is none.

Eno: Yeah, no football fan in San Diego or Buffalo or St. Louis really cares. It's like looking at Elgin Baylor and the L.A. Clippers, from afar: yeah, it's bad, but we got our own problems! That said, I thought it was kinda unprofessional for channel 4 to run the crawl. It kind of smacks of juvenility. But, what the hell do I know? Hey, I want to talk about Bobby Knight. You think this talk of him wanting the Georgia job is true? And what would you think of a return of Knight to college hoops, as a coach?

Big Al: I think Knight announcing his interest in the gig is a desperate grab by a disgraced coach looking for a final shot at the spotlight. A school would have to be insane to take on Bobby Knight as coach. The man doesn't come with just baggage, he comes with a steamer trunk full of controversy. The college game may not have passed him by, but his abusive style of coaching isn't a good fit in today's game. Plus, he's an ass of the highest proportion.

Eno: Ahh, but he wins and his players graduate and you never read of them getting into trouble. Don't those things matter, too? In some instances, I think you'd be insane NOT to hire him! Maybe the man has mellowed slightly. If being an ass excluded you from being a coach, then there'd be a hundred vacancies tomorrow! That's my counterpoint, anyway.

Big Al: Well, you can also win and graduate students without pissing off entire countries and territories of the USA in general. I'm glad Knight has never coached a team I've rooted for, as I'd hate myself... But winning is everything, so I wouldn't be surprised to find out Knight was hired by a desperate-to-win school. They'll live to regret it. Moving on, what's your take on what direction the Lions should go in the draft? There's been a ton of discussion on TWFE over my stating the Lions need to FIND A QUARTERBACK, and if that means taking one in the first round (if Matt Stafford or Matt Sanchez are found deserving), so be it. What are your thoughts on the Lions' being on the clock?!

Eno: Geez....maybe because we've been burned so many times by QBs in this town, but I HATE to see them go that route. I'm longing for a difference maker on defense. You really can find QBs in later rounds, believe it or not. I really hope they don't do the QB thing with the #1 overall. It scares me. Almost seems like a waste of a pick, in a twisted way.

Big Al: I felt as you, till I saw what a difference a franchise quality QB can make in the Super Bowl. Both Kurt Warner and Ben Roethlisberger made play after play after play. Without Warner, the Cardinals aren't even in the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl. What I'm trying to say is, take a QB if, and only if, he is the best player on the board at that time. If Stafford is the best player, period, then draft him. If not, take a player at another position. Same goes for the no. 20 slot in the first round. Remember, The Schwartz said as much during his introductory presser with his "it's time we replace Bobby Layne" crack. Let's stop living in the Joey Blue Skies colored past. Call me crazy, but just because the Lions blew it with him (and Andre Ware and Chuck Long) doesn't mean they'll blow it again. Right? Right?

Eno: I don't know, man. Still scares me. Those guys you mentioned (Warner and Roethlisberger), they were hardly #1 overall guys. Warner was packing groceries, wasn't he, before hitting it big with the Rams? Look at Tom Brady, for goodness sakes. I don't know; QBs take longer to develop, too. I'm squeamish about it.

Big Al: Yes, but also look at the Mannings. Roethlisberger was a first round pick. So it goes both ways. We can both find several examples for and against. drafting a QB in the first round. But can we all agree the Lions need a legitimate NFL signal caller? As I said on TWFE, I'm sick and tired of being sick and tired of the Lions' trotting out game managers and career journeymen under center. The QB is the most important player on the field, and the Lions need more than the likes of Jon Kitna and Dan Orlovsky running the team.

Eno: Well, there's that, for sure. I'm just saying you don’t NECESSARILY have to use the #1 overall to find such a guy. I would submit the 2000 Baltimore Ravens to you, with Trent Dilfer at QB. The Pittsburgh Steelers’ MVP of the 1970s was the defense, as a whole. Terry Bradshaw was OK, not great. But he had a running game and outstanding receivers. This is a great debate, I know. What's your gut tell you, after all this? Who they picking, soothsayer?

Big Al: Soothsayer? More like goofsayer. But since you asked... If the draft was held today, I think the Lions take: Matthew Stafford, QB, University of Georgia. Why? There's no one else really deserving of the top pick. That could change after the combine, of course. But Stafford is the top dog; someone is going to have to really stand out in the weeks before the draft to knock him from the top of the war room draft board. What's your best guess, Eno-sabi?

Eno: Well, as much as I hate to admit it, I tend to agree. One thing I DO like, though: Stafford's "damn the torpedoes" attitude when it comes to being drafted by an 0-16 team. I know it's the right thing to say, but I'll invoke your Eli Manning reference; remember how bummed he was to be drafted by San Diego? If you're going to draft a QB #1 to an 0-16 team, he may as well have the right attitude. Stafford's comments suggest that he would genuinely be amped to be part of a turnaround in Detroit. Again, the right thing to say, but he didn't have to say it, either.

Big Al: Good point. I'd prefer my QB to show some cockiness, something the Lions have lacked for quite some time. If anything though, it's a smart negotiating ploy, letting the Lions know he's ready and willing to talk, instead of pulling an Eli Manning or John Elway, trying to dictate who drafts them.

Eno: Right. Wait...that rumbling....that tumbling....oh my goodness, it's WordAss!!

Big Al: I'm happy to hear it! I thought that grumbling was my indigestion from talking Pistons. I can put the Pepto Bismol away! Whenever you're ready, Eno-ssan.


Eno: Okey dokey...first up, Niklas Kronwall.

Big Al: Disappointing. He needs to step it the rest of the Red Wings.

Eno: Next...the Red Wings starting goalie in the playoffs is.....

Big Al: Dominik Hasek! I'm sorry. It'll be Greg Stefan! I kid, I kid... It'll be The Conk-block, Ty Conklin. As the Wings are right up against the cap, so I don't see a trade happening.

Eno: Wow...OK. Next, Allen Iverson

Big Al: Wrong team, wrong time, wrong place, wrong everything. The Answer isn't. Not in Detroit, anyway. Now if it were the year 2000...

Eno: I hear ya. OK, one more: Super Bowl XLIII

Big Al: It's early, Super Bowl fourth quarter ever. Best game overall? Maybe... It's my turn, my turn!!!

Eno: OK, OK!!

Big Al: First off, let’s go with the Tigers' final off season signing (avoiding arbitration in the process), Justin Verlander.

Eno: He'll bounce back like a super ball. Mark my words. The kid just had a bad year.

Big Al: My fingers are crossed. His having a return-to-form could be the difference between flirting with .500, and truly contending. Next, the noted free spirit, and possibly the best hitter in all of baseball who just turned down a one-year, $25 million contract, the ManRam, Manny Ramirez.

Eno: Oh my God...this guy...let's about, delusional?

Big Al: I'd give that term to his agent, Scott Boras, who turned down the Dodgers' offer. But it works for Man Ram too. Next, the newest voice of the MLB Network, someone I'm thrilled to hear will be doing baseball play by play again, Bob Costas.

Eno: You can take Bob Costas out of baseball, but you can't take baseball out of Bob Costas. BTW, is this guy today's Dick Clark or what? He never ages! It's almost spooky.

Big Al: No kidding! He still looked like a kid during the Super Bowl pre-game. Last one, Eno-sabi. Your Super Bowl MVP is...

Eno: Oh, Santonio Holmes, for sure. That supplants The Catch by Dwight Clark, easily. Not as acrobatic as David Tyree's last year, but no less important and no less an example of marvelous body control. Don't forget the unsung hero on the play: the field judge. Give that guy his props for making a great (and correct) call!

Big Al: You could have also said Larry Fitzgerald, and I wouldn't have argued. But I'm with you – Holmes’s catch was one for the ages. Nice comparison to Clark's catch – another play where I thought the pass was going to be over the receiver's head, but somehow came down with the ball. As for the refs, isn't it said the best called games are the ones where you never notice the referees? You couldn't say that about the penalty-happy Super Bowl.

Eno: Anything else before we do Jerks of the Week?

Big Al: Actually, I think we've run the gamut today. Save for bringing up the Red Wings’ annual mid-winter swoon. Even the win over the Blues, breaking their five-game losing streak, was as ugly as they come. Should we be concerned, or is it a slump that will run its course?

Eno: They do this every year, and usually around this time. No worries, but that's why I brought up Kronwall. We gotta get this guy back to the presence he was in last year's playoffs. Can't blame injuries this time. OK, so who's your JOTW?


Big Al: My Jerk is the moron, or more likely, morons, in Hollywood who announced they are remaking...”Slapshot”! What in the HELL are they drinking on the left coast? If there is the perfect sports film, it's “Slapshot”! No actor in their right mind could believe they could take on the Reg Dunlop role. Paul Newman IS Reg Dunlop. This is just another sign of the oncoming apocalypse, Eno. OK, who is your JOTW?

Eno: I agree!! Say it ain't so!! Sheesh!! Why don't they just try to remake Don Larsen's perfect game in the 1956 World Series while they're at it? This "Slapshot" project will be just as successful. OK, mine is – if this is true, that he said it – Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers. Seems Doc went on record last week, about the Celts' upcoming game in Detroit, "We want to take Detroit. Just like the American taxpayers have." What a low, cheap shot to a struggling city with hurting people!

Big Al: Doc Rivers is only riding Kevin Garnett's coattails. It never ends, does it? Detroit has become the nation's punching bag. Which sounds like a subject for our next meeting of the Knee Jerks!

Eno: Indeed! Nice segue to the end. Looking forward to next week, Mr. Big Shot!

Big Al: See you at the same Jerk time, same Jerk place, Mr. Journalist! See you next Thursday, Eno-sabi!

Eno: Peace out.

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