Sunday, June 28, 2009
This story fills in some of the basics of the “power” Jackson and Meadows have referred to in the first two issues, while also covered how Jackson got mixed up in all this in the first place. The story jumps back six years in time, still leaving plenty of stories to be told from Jackson’s early adventures (and we’ll get to one of those pretty soon, and another big one around Issue #20 or so).
For those that are new to “The Covington Curse”, be sure to start with Issue #1, “Friends and Foes” and Issue #2, “Misdirected” before reading this one.
Download the third issue and let me know what you think.
The Covington Curse - When We Were Normal
Former Oregon quarterback Justin Roper (who came to Eugene from a Georgia high school) has chosen to transfer to Montana, an FCS powerhouse where he’ll have the chance to play right away.
Roper had been considering Towson, and the Tigers were in his final three, but I have to think the difference in the success levels of the programs was a deciding factor.
Towson has had just two winning seasons since joining the Atlantic-10/CAA in 2004, and has never had even a nine-win season as an FCS program (dating to 1987). Meanwhile, Montana is coming off an appearance in the FCS national championship game, and has won double-digit games seven times this decade.
Still, the fact that Towson was in the running for Roper speaks well to the recruiting ability of new head coach Rob Ambrose. The former Towson offensive coordinator has major college football recruiting experience, having spent the last four years as the offensive coordinator at UConn - a BCS program that made bowl appearances each of the last two years.
Friday, June 26, 2009
Yesterday, I wondered in my Shaq post what number he would wear in Cleveland. Briefly, a photoshopped image of Shaq in a No. 32 jersey appeared on Cavs.com, but it was quickly replaced by the same image, with the jersey number blanked out.
Then, today, O’Neal appeared on the roster on the Cavs web site for the first time, but sharing the same No. 32 as forward Joe Smith. That is still the case online, but the Cavaliers confirmed today that O’Neal will wear No. 33 -- the number he wore at LSU and in high school.
Why didn’t O’Neal choose No. 33 when he came into the NBA? Well, the Magic already had a No. 33, journeyman forward Terry Catledge, and he didn’t want to give up the number. Shaq settled for No. 32 and Catledge kept the number Shaq had been most associated with. This led to a very funny “controversy” surrounding Catledge’s Upper Deck basketball card that year, which used a rare picture of him with a shaved head. People claimed the card actually showed Shaq from a preseason game, as a way of getting around Shaq’s exclusivity deal with Classic Cards (Upper Deck famously released a redemption card for Shaq that season). Eventually the “mystery” behind the card was solved (contextual clues pointed to the picture being about 2 years old), the card’s value plummeted, and plenty of Shaq cards with him wearing No. 32 came out.
Shaq then had to give up No. 32 when he went to the Lakers, who’d retired No. 32 (for Magic Johnson) AND No. 33 (for Kareem Abdul-Jabbar), leading Shaq to end up as No. 34 for the most successful period of his career.
When he got to Miami, all three numbers were “available”, but No. 33 was essentially off-limits, having been worn by Alonzo Mourning (who ended up re-joining the team that season anyway), so Shaq chose 32 over 34. He was stuck with 32 when he went to Phoenix, with Grant Hill wearing No. 33, and No. 34 retired for Charles Barkley.
Thursday, June 25, 2009
As I continue to bask in the glory that is the Shaquille O’Neal-to-Cleveland trade, I decided to take a look back at some of the greatest moments in Shaq’s career, via the glory that is YouTube.
First up (aside from the What’s Up Doc highlight reel up top) is this highlight reel from back in 2005. Obviously, that’s not the Shaq the Cavs are getting, but he’s still pretty damn good.
And, whenever the topic of Shaq comes up, inevitably talk turns to this dunk, from his rookie season, where he destroyed an entire basket.
As for the Shaq the Cavs ARE getting, check out his Top 10 moments from 2008-09, compiled by NBA TV.
Shaq has been a teammate of LeBron’s before, in All-Star Games, most notably in 2007, when he, LeBron and Dwight Howard staged a dance-off during a practice. I love this video.
Whether Shaq brings a championship to Cleveland or not, he’ll definitely bring his quotable self. No idea what nickname he’s going to give himself yet (it was “The Big Cactus” upon his arrival in Phoenix) so until then, enjoy this Top 10 of Shaq Quotes.
And last, but definitely not least, if the Cavs and Lakers meet in the Finals in 2010, expect this video to come up, oh, once or twice...
Before we get further into this Shaq thing, let’s remind everyone of this: the Cleveland Cavaliers won 66 games last year, posting the best record in the NBA.
So how often does a team that good add a player this good before heading into the next season? Well, that depends on how you define “this good”. Shaq is one of the 10 greatest players in NBA history, but he’s not at that level anymore. Still, last season he averaged 17.8 PPG and was named to the All-Star team. So, going by those definitions (at least 17.8 PPG or an All-Star appearance), here are some other teams that made Shaq-like acquisitions after already having the best record in the league.
Indiana had gone 61-21 the previous season, but lost to the Detroit Pistons in the conference finals. In the summer of 2004, the Pacers traded for Stephen Jackson, who’d averaged 18.1 PPG with Atlanta in 2003-04.
Aftermath: The Pacers looked like a championship contender early in the season, but, um, there was this “incident” in Detroit that kind of derailed all that. After the Malice at the Palace, Indiana lacked the manpower to do anything serious, finished 44-38 and lost in the conference semis (again to the Pistons).
The Mavs were coming off a season in which they’d finished 60-22, tied with the Spurs for the best record in the NBA. But they lost to the Spurs in the conference finals, and had to watch as San Antonio went on to win the title, with an offensive-minded sixth man in Manu Ginobili. Well, Dallas brought in a high-scoring sixth man of its own, Antawn Jamison, who’d averaged 22.2 PPG with the Warriors the previous season.
Aftermath: Jamison ended up winning Sixth Man of the Year, but he never quite meshed with the Mavs, who slumped to 52-30 and lost in the first round. After the season, Jamison was shipped off to Washington, and the Mavs are still looking for that elusive title.
The Lakers were the defending champs, having gone 67-15 in 1999-00. However, they weren’t going to rest on their one championship, so they signed Isaiah Rider to a minimum-salary deal, after he’d averaged 19.3 PPG in 1999-00.
Aftermath: Rider played a very limited role for the Lakers in 2000-01. They actually took off after he was suspended by the league for a violation of the drug policy. Rider didn’t play a game for the Lakers in the postseason, and they ended up repeating as NBA champs.
So, obviously there’s not much historical precedent for what the Cavaliers are trying to do. Still, I think this is the right move for them. Let’s take a look at some more numbers:
- Last year, Shaq averaged 17.8 PPG on 60.9% shooting (which led the league, the 10th time Shaq’s led the NBA in FG pct). No player has ever done that for a single season in Cavaliers history.
- The only teammate of LeBron James who has ever averaged at least 17.8 PPG for a single season is Mo Williams, who did it last season.
- Shaq’s career FG pct is 58.2%. The only Cavaliers player to shoot that for an entire season was Tyrone Hill in 1996-97.
Speaking of numbers, which number will Shaq wear with the Cavs? During his NBA career, Shaq has worn No. 32 (with the Magic, Heat and Suns) and No. 34 (with the Lakers). He also wore No. 33 in college. Currently, Joe Smith has No. 32 for the Cavs, but he’s a free agent, and would probably give up 32 for Shaq even if he sticks around (Smith has also worn No. 9, No. 8 and No. 7 in his career). The number 34 is retired for Austin Carr. Shaq also wore No. 33 in college, which is available in Cleveland. The last player to wear No. 33 for the Cavs was Devin Brown, and no one notable has ever worn the number for the Cavs. It’d be surprising to see Shaq go back to his college number -- especially since 32 would give him nice symmetry with LeBron’s 23.
Monday, June 22, 2009
This issue, the second in the series, was one of my least favorites when I originally wrote it, but I tweaked it upon editing it, so it flows a little better and fits in with a story that is coming in about eight issues or so. Also, Carolyn Nicols, the “new” character introduced in the first issue, gets to do a little more this time around.
I put “new” in quotes, because technically everyone is “new” in the first issue, but Carolyn was new to the story arc. There are about 3-5 years worth of stories for Jackson and Meadows that took place before the first issue, some of which will get told at some point, but they don’t involve Carolyn.
Download the second issue and let me know what you think.
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
As a Towson alum, this news makes me happy, for a couple of reasons.
First off, Roper was once a pretty coveted recruit. Scout.com ranked him No. 33 in the class of 2006, and he was a consensus 3-star recruit. Now, that’s not a superstar, but definitely the kind of player who is normally well outside of Towson’s reach.
More importantly, with Coach Rob Ambrose returning to Towson, he’s going to need a quarterback to run his system. I’ll be honest, my Towson dedication has fallen off in recent years, so I can’t comment on the quarterbacks that are on campus. But I do know about Roper, who started the first three games of the season for Oregon in 2008, leading the Ducks to a 3-0 record and a Top-20 ranking. He’s a spread quarterback, and while Oregon runs a spread, it’s a spread that involves lots of QB running -- remember Dennis Dixon? -- while Roper is more suited for a shotgun, quick-read spread.
For those that don’t remember, a shotgun, quick-read spread was exactly the kind of offense Rob Ambrose ran during his most successful years as Towson’s offensive coordinator. I was at the school for the famous Joe Lee season of ’99, when Lee set all kinds of passing records. In one game that season, Lee threw the ball 77 times, most of which didn’t travel more than 7 or 8 yards downfield. The offense was built on quick slants, outs and flares, the kind that turned Jamal White into an All-American and running back Jason Corle into the school’s all-time leading receiver. Roper would fit that offense perfectly.
If you need more convincing that this is a move Towson should make, well, how about this comparison: Roper is a tall (6-foot-6) quarterback from a major, but not elite, program who saw limited action after redshirting, and lost a QB battle to a player who fit the system better. Sound like anyone we know? How about Joe Flacco, who transferred to that school up I-95 and led them to an appearance in the FCS Championship Game before becoming a first-round draft pick.
Now, I’m not saying Roper is Flacco, or that Towson should be making playoff plans, but if it happens, it’d be a nice move for a program that hasn’t had much success lately.
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Monday, June 08, 2009
I still hate the Magic (go Cavs!) but I’m willing to set aside my bitterness to root for Orlando to win at least 2 games here and send the series back to Los Angeles. However, they missed a big opportunity to steal one last night. The end-of-regulation play drawn up for Courtney Lee was amazing, but Lee got too deep to get a good look at the basket.
I’ve got a friend coming down from Connecticut for Game 3 tomorrow, so we’ll enjoy the action before hanging out on Wednesday. If the Magic do win either Game 3 or Game 4, I’ll have two days between Games 4 and 5, so send along your Orlando suggestions and I’ll take them into consideration.
Thursday, June 04, 2009
Well, I’m here at STAPLES Center for the 2009 NBA Finals, and I’d still rather be in Cleveland.
Not that L.A. is bad -- I really like this city and almost moved here earlier this year -- but I’m still bitter about the 2009 Eastern Conference Finals.
Also, as a LeBron fan, all this talk about his non-handshake at the end of the series has been absurd. Look, he was pissed. Get over it. There’s nothing more to it.
As for L.A., I’ve gotten lots of great suggestions on places to go from a bunch of people, but I’m pretty much here for work, and I know what I want to do when I’m not working. That said, thanks to recommendations from a couple people, I will check out The Pantry, near the STAPLES Center. I meant to go when I was out here for the Finals last year, but the lines were always so long. This year, I’ll make the time to get there.
Oh, and eventually I’ll have plenty of pictures for you, but I’m probably not going to post them until the series is over.