Thursday, May 31, 2012

National Friday League: Jerome Simpson, ladies and gentlemen

Jerome Simpson (1)
Bill Musgrave is excited about Jerome Simpson (PFT, Star Tribune). As I always say, offseason stories like this mean very little (a offensive coordinator telling a reporter the team's new offensive player is going to be good? Really?). But Jerome Simpson's record does suggest he can be a productive receiver. If Simpson can average 14.5 yards per catch for the Vikings, and catch 3-4 passes a game, he really will provide an element they didn't have last year. The Vikes only had two players average better than that last season, and they had 26 and 2 receptions. Of course part of that may be the system, time with inexperienced quarterback, etc. But unless those Arkansas rookies are ready immediately, the Vikes will really be relying on Simpson to be the one to do anything in the mid-range and downfield passing game.

Jerome Simpson (2)
Christian Ponder is excited by Jerome Simpson (PFT). But let's remember something about practice: Simpson is going against the Viking secondary. He's going against a pass defense that was really bad last season, and might be really bad this season. I'll need a little more than great practice performances against his own teammates to get too thrilled about Simpson. Stories framed as "Offensive Player A looks really great in practice against his teammates" could just as easily mean "Defensive Player B..and C...and D... look really awful."

Jerome Simpson (3)
Screw it!  After the '09 NFC Championship game, 6-10, and 3-13, we can have enough with the jaded cynicism. We need hope! I buy it: Jerome Simpson adds the speed, creates fear of a deep threat, and has the athleticism to transform the Viking passing game. What do we lose by setting aside our skepticism here? We're just fans: we can't do anything about it. Jerome Simpson! We're going to love what he does to the Vikings' offense: I can just feel it!

My Least Favorite Moment of a Basketball Broadcast
My least favorite moment of a basketball broadcast is when a sideline reporter interviews a coach, mid-game, coming back from a break. They show this interview while the game is being played (voice over isn't enough), so they shrink the screen the game is being played on so they can show the coach looking irritated and unhappy as he says absolutely nothing of worthwhile substance (if it is substantive, it is the same obvious thing the announcers have been able to point out during the game).  It is pointless.

This has been my least favorite moment of a basketball broadcast.

Rajon Rondo
I couldn't have hated Rondo's Game One more than I did: turnovers that were almost flamboyantly bad, erratic drives to the basket, the unwillingness/inability to shoot the ball when left wide open (I'm irritated when a big man doesn't develop a shot to at least require a defender to come out and guard him; I'm completely vexed when somebody who developed the ball skills to play point guard didn't also, at some point, develop a shot).

Then came Game Two (53 minutes, 44 points, 10 assists, 8 rebounds, 3 steals). It is something to see when a player gets 44 points without ever really even looking for his own shot (at times even avoiding it). He took and made his jumpers, drove to the lane to pick up fouls (and hit his free throws), made a lot of really great, tight passes, and intercepted several cross court passes. He could not have been better.

But the Celtics lost, so the effort was wasted. And I don't think the Celtics can repeatedly expect games like that from Rondo, so they have to win them when they happen. The Heat don't really  have a point guard, so Rondo can be a game-turning performer -- but if the Celtics lose even when Rondo has such a performance, it's trouble. It's like when Adrian Peterson has one of those 150 yard, I-will-not-be-dragged-down-no-matter-how-many-defenders-you-put-in-the-box games where he gets big runs again and again and the Vikings lose.

Narcissism and me: why is this Vikings and Timberwolves fan talking about the Celtics?
It's not just that I was raised on Larry Legend, that Celtic shirts have always kept accumulating in my wardrobe, that I swallowed up NBA history with voracious hunger and that's a lot about the Celtics, or that the Celtics would have been my favorite team if the Timberwolves didn't start playing when I was already nine years old, or that I never stopped liking Kevin Garnett. You don't care about that. My rooting for the Celtics should clearly be seen as a defense mechanism, a psychological compensation as a Viking fan.

After the Packers won that Super Bowl in the '10 season, I was something of a wreck. '09 put me into despair as a Viking fan (I compensated in weird ways), and '10 put me into despair as a football fan. This was it: I was destined to root for a perennial disappointment whose biggest rival won more titles than anybody else, and was going to keep on winning them.

Let's say, in my moments of despair, I went to my dresser to pick out clothes for the day. Let's say I looked around and saw all sorts of shirts featuring the team that had won 17 NBA championships. Let's say putting on these shirts and thinking about Larry Bird made me feel happy. Let's say thinking about a football team that played for 50 years without winning the biggest title was putting a strain on me, and thinking about a team (that I had some natural connections to) that won more of it's league's titles than anybody else relieved that strain a bit. Is that so weird? Is that so bad? So I'm sort of a Celtics fan. What of it?

That doesn't mean I invest even a quarter of sports-emotion into the Celtics that I do into the Wolves (if the Wolves were in the playoffs--next year, baby!--it would be all I'd think about every day. Ricky Rubio is my favorite current player and it isn't even close), or even 5% of the sports-emotion I invest in the Vikings. It's just something that happened.

Kick Ass Links
Jarius Wright (Vikings.com).

In their look at the NFC North, Football Outsiders focuses on the Vikings' Middle Linebacker need.

Watching Adrian Peterson run and work out (Star Tribune).

I hope Kevin Williams can finish his career a Viking (Pioneer Press).


Steve Aschburner takes us back to Larry Bird's famous steal (NBA.com).

This is the future of Minnesota basketball sitting there, people (Pro Basketball Talk).

It's hard to overestimate how much Zach Lowe's analysis of the pick-and-roll explains the Spurs-Thunder series (via Pro Basketball Talk). After reading about this, it was amazing to watch how often the Spurs' offense starts with a very basic screen for the ball handler, and how often the Spurs' points came off of that basic screen (sometimes not immediately off the screen, but it was the initial screen -- and how it was defended--that disrupted the defense and allowed the Spurs to do what they do). The Thunder have some athletic players that can deflect passes and block shots, but they have to play better team defense against against that disruptive screen to beat the Spurs.

The Spurs, "The Most Ignored Dynasty in Sports" (Slate).

Weekend
Have a good one, suckers.

5 comments:

  1. I hope K.Williams can stay a Viking too, but he's getting expensive. maybe he would be willing to restructure, or maybe he'll just be nice and productive to keep himself worthy of his contract.

    I choose to believe Simpson will help the offense. perhaps the team will.start well and gain momentum as Simpson returns and AP gets stronger ... Then the team will be the trap game for a couple.decent teams down the stretch. I'm choosing to hope.for 7 wins, although I do feel their ceiling isn't much higher this year.

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    1. PP:

      I see eight games on the sched as winnable: Jacksonville, Indy, Tennessee, Washington, Arizona, Tampa Bay, Seattle and St. Louis. There's a pretty good chance they go 0-6 in the division again, although in the Metrodome, Da' Bears and Da' Lions could put up a stinker. It's hard to see how even the Vikings revamped secondary will be able to keep up with those two passing attacks.

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    2. We basically agree. I think the team will likely lose to 1 or 2 to TEN, TB, STL. But they'll steal one against a better opponent later in the year. Not sure who.

      That's how I'm getting to 7 wins. Drop 2 innables, steal one from a superior team.

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  2. The only thing I'd say is that in the NFL, almost no team has a ceiling lower than 8-9 wins (and few teams have a floor higher than 4). We've seen quick turnarounds (and declines) quite often: in a league with only 16 games, an oblong ball where the randomness of turnovers often turns a game, large rosters, and a high injury rate, nearly anything can happen.

    That doesn't mean every team is likely to hit its ceiling, of course, but I don't deem 8-10 wins impossible (even if unlikely).

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    1. PV:

      Eight to 10 wins is certainly not impossible for the Vikings in 2012. They have two very winnable games to start - right now they should be favored in both - and that could increase confidence in the club that might carry over into other games. But right now I'm seeing them winning five, maybe six, games. And then we'll see a coaching change, because I don't think Frazier sticks with a 5-11 or 6-10 record. That is progress compare to 2011, but not enough to save his ass.

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