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If You’re Reading This, It’s Already Too Late

If anyone objects to this union, speak now or forever hold your peace.

Yeah, I didn’t exactly give anyone the chance to do that.  It was one of two requests I asked of the Justice of the Peace that officiated our nuptials.  The other, I stole from Spaceballs.  We required the short, short version for our outdoor mid-summer Phoenix wedding.  While I’m on the subject, allow me to tip my proverbial cap to Jen, my bride of eight years.  Without her blessing to do this, we wouldn’t be here right now.  As an act of gratitude, I may even unload the dishwasher or take out the trash.

For some reason, I’ve been trusted with the master key to all of More Than A Fan, and I have to tell you, this is all so surreal.  I keep expecting to wake up and I’m actually waiting for someone to yell at me, to tell me what I can’t do.  Don’t get me wrong, the ‘ghost’ of Josh Flagner will linger in my head, and it will haunt me if get out of line, but that isn’t my intention.  In fact, my intentions are not a priority these days; my obligations are.  Let me break those down.

First, it is paramount that we keep the lights on.  I laughed about it in BASEketball, when Squeak went to turn off Doug and Coop’s gas, but it wasn’t very funny when the natural gas ceased to flow in my own residence.  You’d think you could live with it, especially on nice spring days, but a week of ice-cold showers and painful shaves had me changing my tune.  It’s a good excuse to grow a beard, but my mind hadn’t gone there.

I learned from a friend, who had little money and no power, how to rough it with easily bought neighbors, an extension cord, and a power strip. Unplugging the TV, to open an outlet, to plug in the coffee maker, to heat up the water to shave, well, that’s no way to live.  It’s obviously not how you run a website.  Keeping the lights on, in this figurative sense, it requires money, so you’re going to see advertisements and we might even do some things we’re not proud to do (but, hopefully not).

Next, I have an obligation to these fantastic writers, as well as our loyal readers.  A glance around More Than A Fan reveals that Matthew Kline always sees something that could use tweaking or fixing in sport, Jared Andrews knows the peaks (present-day Blackhawks) and valleys (historically, the Cubs) of being a Chicago sports fan, and what a time for Britt Zank to be waxing poetic about his beloved Kansas City Royals!

Our resident Canadian, John Poulter is writing about and talking about his hometown Toronto Blue Jays at the right time.  Let’s see how all of that plays out.  When we get to football season, Jared may be slightly less elated to speak on the tragedy that the Chicago Bears have become, compared to the suddenly-inspired, Joe Maddon-led Cubbies.  Outside of Arizona, there can’t be too many folks longing for the cold days of winter, but maniacal hockey fans probably have their countdowns down to the hour by now.  Though his Maple Leafs are so cursed, they might as well be Cleveland’s fourth team, John still makes his way to the Air Canada Centre more than a few times a year, come win, lose, or shootout.

They do play their fair share of hockey south of Ontario, and our hockey staff has you covered with opinions from Anaheim to Boston, and everywhere between.  As for me, my biggest NHL interests reside in the desert, specifically in a small-time city that generally seems not to care about at least one of its major professional sports franchises.  Never a dull moment with the drama surrounding the Coyotes, my favorite hometown team.

It’s weird to say it and a little awkward to see it typed out, but Phoenix absolutely is my hometown.  I’ve been here 14 years, later this month.  However, if you know me at all, you know my birthplace and long-time home is a seldom-respected city of yesteryear in Northeast Ohio, known as Cleveland.  As More Than A Fan and I are brought together once again, I remember our common bond, we were both born in Cleveland, as was the site’s founder.  Deny it, as anyone might, that’s our home base.  It’s where our original readers come from, and in February 2013, Daniel Zaleski and the rest of management decided those readers had earned their own page.

The voices at MTAF: Cleveland are different from what they were in the beginning, but the tone is the same.  We’d be speaking out of turn to evaluate fan bases, but I personally understand the dedication of those fans, near the shores of Lake Erie.  In some cities, the night ends when the games end.  The 2-1-6 is different; they’re talking Browns on the 4th of July and the discussion about a 7:05 Indians game could well into the AM hours of the next day, both online and on the airwaves.  We cannot understate how the Cavaliers are overwhelmingly the best team in town at the moment, but they aren’t the only basketball team in downtown Cleveland.

A few blocks from the Quicken Loans Arena stands the once state-of-the-art Wolstein Center, and while crowds are a far cry from what they used to be for Vikings basketball, the entire Cleveland State Athletic Department remains near and dear to the heart of the many alumni that reside in and around the city.  I cut my teeth on underdogs and upsets when the ’86 hoops team knocked off Bobby Knight’s 2-seeded Indiana as a 15, and rooted hard for this mid-major that’s never lost an Opening Round game in the NCAA tournament, as they went toe-to-toe with Butler in the Horizon League, before Butler bolted for greener pastures a few years back.  For everything else on Cleveland’s only Division I athletic program, I defer to our own Bob McDonald.  He is the decided authority for all-things-Cleveland-State.

I’m the one who decided that, so take that for what you will.  The bottom line is, for our readers from Cleveland to parts unknown, we know you have options.  We owe you good content for following our crazy views on the wide world of sports, and we need to deliver it on a consistent basis.  If that does not happen, I have failed in my role.

On that note, my last obligation, or really, my moral imperative is to take care of (MTAF Founder) Josh Flagner’s baby the best way I know how, by treating it like my own.  He has an actual baby to take care of now, so he should appreciate that.  Josh, I promise not to drop this thing on its head, feed it paint chips, or let it be a Brian Hoyer fan.  All kidding aside, if there’s a better way for “my” More Than A Fan to pay homage to Josh Flagner (and co-founder Lisa Pitz) than to recognize their charitable efforts, I don’t know what it is.

Off the webpage and in the community, philanthropy is a big part of our mission statement.  I want More Than A Fan to be more than a place that simply houses brilliant, unfiltered sports opinion, but good-standing members of society.  This team should demand that of me, as well as of themselves.

We aren’t just more than fans in these parts.  We hope to be more than readers, writers, editors and publishers, but a community that takes care of one another and looks out for our own.  Together, we make More Than a Fan a place that we can all be proud of, for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, ’til link-rot do us part.

Sam's Take: MTAF Wheels IndyCar Q&A – September 26th, 2014

This weekend will mark one month into the off season for the Verizon IndyCar Series. How is everyone coping with this long offseason? Watching other racing series? Watching football? Watching old races on YouTube? I’ve pretty much done all of the above.

Several IndyCar drivers took part in the Dan Wheldon Pro-Am Karting Challenge at New Castle Motorsports Park. The driver who led the field for the pace laps was none other than five year old Sebastian Wheldon, the son of the late Dan Wheldon. Sebastian is getting an early start to his racing career in go-karts and has impressed many so far. NBC Nightly News had a story on the young driver. It was well done and a feel good story. Expect to hear his name in the world of racing in the future.

Curt Cavin’s Q & A for September 23rd

Question: How accurate is the JR Hildebrand rumors about him going to CFH Racing? (Adam, Fort Wayne, Ind.)”

If Mike Conway heads to the FIA World Endurance Challenge full time, I think Hildebrand has a chance at a full time ride for CFH Racing. If Conway continues with the road and street circuits like he did this season, I think we’ll see JR at the Indy 500.

Question: Sad that ARCA/Nationwide got this gorgeous weekend to race in Kentucky. It should be ARCA/IndyCar, with Houston in two weeks and Fontana in four weeks. Make them all on Saturdays so no NFL conflict. (Matt, Decatur, Ind.)”

I don’t understand standalone Nationwide events at Cup venues. I agree with you. My proposal for Houston is run Friday night and then a Saturday race which would avoid any NFL games.

Question: Is there any chance we see Marcos Ambrose run a one-off at Indy this year? Also, any news/rumors of any sports car teams maybe looking to add/join Indy Car in the near future? There are several that would seem to be a good fit. (Dave, Johnson City, Tenn.)”

I was asking the same question on Ambrose, but Twitter follower @dannycatsteve told me the V8 SuperCar schedule would not allow Ambrose to compete in Indy. A shame really. Nothing lately on sports car programs looking to IndyCar. I don’t expect any for 2015.

Question: I have some crazy schedule ideas that will never happen. First, have the Fontana the first weekend in March or in February because if it can’t be October or September have it be the first race in March. Next, race with Formula E in Miami and push St. Petersburg back. Lastly, they should race at Circuit of The Americas the last weekend in March. Would this work and what are the odds of anything like this ever happening? (Adam, Wisconsin)”

NASCAR races in Fontana in March so it won’t work. I don’t see IndyCar returning to Miami at all. If Texas or Houston is off the schedule for good in the future, COTA I believe will have its chance with IndyCar in the future.

Question: The other day I wrote and said I would only go to the season finale in IndyCar if it was held on an oval. I mispoke, I don’t think I’d go to Milwaukee. I think IndyCar should end its season on a super speedway so the last thing people remember about the season is high speed. Looks like that may never happen again since Texas, Las Vegas and now Fontana have failed. (Jeff, Coto De Caza, Calif.)”

Texas didn’t fail as the season finale, Texas Motor Speedway decided it was better for them to add a second NASCAR date in the fall even though those races (1998-2004) were well attended. I don’t know who will be the season finale. If they stick to ending on Labor Day weekend for the forseeable future, don’t be surprised to see the Grand Prix of Indy on Labor Day weekend before the end of the decade.

Robin Miller’s Mailbag for September 24th

Q: I have a question about next year’s Milwaukee race. IndyCar should be at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 2. The next weekend IMSA will be at Road America. This year’s race weekend will be during the Wisconsin State Fair. The 23rd they should be at Sonoma according to the Pirelli World Challenge schedule. The last weekend in August the NASCAR Nationwide Series is at Road America. If IndyCar wants the season to be over by Labor Day, I don’t see how an August date works for Milwaukee. So where would the race go?
Freddie Fredrick”

I would like to see Milwaukee back to the week after Indy, but you’ll have to convince Roger Penske to move Belle Isle somewhere else on the schedule. Looks like the IndyFest will be on a different weekend for 2015.

Q: Now that Roger Penske has business interests in Australia, an IndyCar race somewhere there is more likely, right?‬

Regarding Formula E: It’s just one race. Give them a chance. Sure the cars are slower than we’re used to (at least it could be said that they succeeded in slowing the cars down like a lot of series are trying to do), but I think the series has lots of potential and a lot of room for growth. In time the technology should improve and that should improve the racing. And some of that technology will someday be available to the general public. Isn’t one reason why we race cars is to improve them? I will continue to watch because I am an auto racing fan.
Tim Davis, Detroit, MI”

I’m surprised there hasn’t been a return to Australia especially with drivers like Power, Briscoe, and Dixon that hail from the area. I think Miles is interested in IndyCar to return to the Land Down Under, but does a venue want them?

And yes, I’m willing to give Formula E another try after just one race, as well.

Q: Curious why you include Calgary in that list of potential Canadian race sites for IndyCar. Why is that? Do you not think Edmonton could host the race once again? What is so special about Calgary?
Mike”

There are plans to build a new track near Calgary. I think anywhere in Canada would be well attended because Canadians love their racing especially open wheel.

Q: Remember when Senna was undecided whether to drive for McLaren in 1992 and he tested one of Penske’s Indy cars at Firebird? Just speculating, how do you think Senna would have done at Indy?
Late Apex”

I think Senna would have done quite well at Indy and in a IndyCar. It would have been interesting to see if he would have joined Nigel Mansell in the switch from F1 to IndyCar in 1993.

Thank you to Curt Cavin of the Indianapolis Star, Robin Miller of Racer.com, and to the readers for their questions from their respective Q & A’s.

Make sure to follow Sam on Twitter @sklein31 for his thoughts on IndyCar and other random stuff from the sports world. MTAF Wheels can be found on Twitter, Facebook, and Google Plus.

Featured image by Chris Jones

Are New Fuel Regulations Making F1 More Exciting?

Before the season started, it was thought that in the race, the cars would not be able to complete the entire distance at a competitive pace because of the reduced limit on the amount of fuel that can be used. The capacity of the fuel cell was reduced to 100 kilograms for 2014 whilst before it was unlimited (but teams would use around 160kgs) and this was expected to produce some extremely variable strategies as the cars would need to ‘lift and coast’ dramatically for several laps.

‘Lift and coast’ is the term given to where the driver lifts off the accelerator pedal on a straight before the braking zone. The speed of the car slows down because of aero drag and other frictions, but the driver can brake later into the corner which recovers some lap time lost whilst coasting. The concept was first used as a trick to save fuel in endurance racing.

Drivers throughout F1’s history have used ‘lift and coast’ to some extent to save fuel though not in the extremity expected in 2014.

We are more than halfway through the season and the actual racing hasn’t been half as dictated by fuel as some feared. In fact, it has hardly interfered with the racing at all. Some cars are starting the race with less than 100kg because they find it a liability to carry the entire load – which is why FOM (Formula One Management) scrapped the TV graphics which showed driver fuel use.  The one major result affected by fuel regulations was the first race of the season in Australia where Daniel Ricciardo was disqualified for consuming fuel at over 100 kilograms per hour – the limit set by the FIA. Drivers still ‘lift and coast’ this season but it doesn’t affect the pace much. Lewis Hamilton once said he could lift and coast laps and still maintain the speed as if he was pushing the car in qualifying.

Fuel limits have been enforced in formula one to promote eco-friendliness in motor sport and the automotive industry.

Should we be grateful that new fuel regulations aren’t interfering with the racing as much as we thought, or should the fuel cells’ capacity be reduced further to force drivers to slow down more?

I’ll tell you where I stand; I think limiting fuel is a good thing. It makes the sport more interesting but I can understand why people don’t like it. In one race, a total of ~1320 kilograms of fuel is saved from combustion, which sounds a lot, but is a drop in the ocean when you consider the transport to carry a team of engineers, cars and car parts, new developed parts, tyres and journalists around the world to each circuit… I really like the new V6 turbo engines, their performance is extremely impressive – cars are quicker on the straights than last year’s V8’s (helped by the reduced downforce) and the Mercedes engine produces a unconfirmed 700bhp, only 50 down on last year, and still it only consumes two thirds of the fuel. F1 has moved with the times, and the racing in my opinion is better than ever.

F1 2014 already has more overtakes than the whole of 2013.
F1 2014 already has more overtakes than the whole of 2013.

A survey on F1Fanatic (an F1 fan forum) asks its readers to rate the race out of 10 after its finished. Hardly ever does a race achieve an average of 9/10 but there have already been 3 so far in 2014: Bahrain, Canada and Hungary. There is no doubt to the average F1 fan that the racing is better now than the last era of Red Bull dominance.

Does the fuel help make races entertaining without it becoming another bad gimmick like DRS? The current fuel allowance of 100kg is well judged to ensure a smooth race. In Austria, the two Mercedes drivers were in the lead. Rosberg led Hamilton who couldn’t get within 0.8s of Rosberg. On the final lap the team told Lewis over radio that he could use the maximum fuel mix, and he started to gain on Rosberg quickly with the gap down to 0.3 seconds at one point. The new fuel regulations gave Hamilton the opportunity to save some fuel to get back later as a boost to try and overtake Nico. This means the driver has the opportunity to be rewarded for good tactical decisions, feedback for the team and most importantly… pure driving speed.

So in conclusion, yes the new fuel regulations are well judged in my opinion and it opens up a load of options for drivers and teams to get the result they want. It’s entertaining without being a bad gimmick and it suits this era of F1.

Cavaliers Draft Prospect Profile: Andrew Wiggins

With the Cleveland Cavaliers wrapping up important workouts later this week with top prospects, they should be close to determining who they will take with the number one pick (if they don’t trade it).

Last week I talked about center Joel Embiid and a week prior to that I focused on forward Jabari Parker. This week, I’ll end the look at the Cavs’ potential pick with Kansas freshman wing Andrew Wiggins.

 

There's no doubt about it. Andrew Wiggins is a high flyer.
There’s no doubt about it. Andrew Wiggins is a high flyer.

2013-14 stat line: 32.8 Min., 45% FG, 34% 3PT, 17.1 PPG, 5.9 RPG, 1.5 APG, 1.0 BPG, 1.2 SPG, 2.7 PFPG, 2.3 TOPG

 

Andrew Wiggins was the top prospect coming out of high school last year. Native of Ontario, he has a chance to become the third Canadian-born player to be drafted by the Cavs in the last four years (Tristan Thompson in 2011 and Anthony Bennett in 2013). Wiggins garnered a lot of hype coming out of high school, as any number one prospect in the nation would, and ended his season with mixed results. He became the top scoring freshman in Jayhawk history (597 points), surpassing Ben McLemore’s mark of 589 set the year prior.

However, Kansas’s season ended on a bitter note, being upset by #10 Stanford and their zone defense in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, denying head coach Bill Self’s team a Sweet 16 bid. Wiggins was highly criticized after this game, finishing with just four points, four rebounds, an assist, and four turnovers.

Overall, Wiggins gets lauded for his extremely rare athleticism, defense, and dunks. But some question his passiveness, ball handling, and shooting ability. Let’s take a look at which critiques are real and which are perhaps a bit exaggerated. (Games evaluated: v. #4 Duke, @ #19 Florida, v. #24 Baylor, @ West Virginia)

 

Offense:

If you’ve heard anything about Andrew Wiggins, then you’ve heard about his out-of-this-world athleticism. Some will try to downplay this, stating that in the NBA, everyone is athletic which will compromise Wiggins’ abilities. While the former is true, Wiggins has athleticism that perhaps only a select few in the NBA will be able to match. This athleticism enables him to be a great player in transition and be a guy that plays above the rim.

 

(1:27:40-1:27:48) Wiggins’s teammate #34 Perry Ellis gets the steal and the former immediately starts to run the floor from the post. By the time he gets to the ball he’s in front of everyone and is able to dunk it home while taking a hit from Jabari Parker.

 

(34:28-34:36) #31 Jamari Traylor gets the rebound and gives a quick outlet pass to Wiggins. He turns on the burners past half court and then picks up his dribble as two Gators meet him. For most players, this would be enough to force them to just go into their half court set, but Wiggins takes the ball over the defenders and in just two steps is able to lay it up and in.

 

Wiggins’s athleticism also helps him be a heavy contributor on the boards, even on the offensive side (2.2 per game).

 

(44:29-44:35) Wiggins crashes the boards as soon as the shot goes up. He then tracks the ball off the rim and uses much of his 44-inch vertical to out jump everyone and grab the rebound.

 

(50:19-50:25) A few minutes later in the game, Wiggins gets another offensive rebound. This time, he shows that along with the ability to go up and get the ball, effort is critical in grabbing offensive rebounds. He taps it up to his right hand (probably by accident, but still) and taps it in with his right hand between two Baylor Bears.

 

Right away, Wiggins should be able to contribute on offense as a cutter/slasher, being able to get to the basket, especially off the ball. With the ball, he’s had some serious problems that he will need to fix to fulfill the potential he has on offense.

 

(22:23-22:29) This is a great overall play for Kansas. #21 Joel Embiid dribbles out of the post and Wiggins recognizes the gaping hole he leaves in the middle of the paint. He quickly cuts through the lane and Embiid gives him a nice pass for an efficient bucket.

 

(44:47-44:54) This is one of my favorite offensive plays I’ve seen from Wiggins. He gets momentum at the top of the arc on a pass by #1 Wayne Seldon Jr, who then sets a pick forcing Duke defender #2 Quinn Cook from Seldon to Wiggins. Wiggins is able to get initial penetration, but when Cook meets him, he’s able to perform a right-to-left spin move – a move he loves to use – to split him and his initial man, #5 Rodney Hood. From there, Wiggins is able to shoot it over Parker, through contact, and is able to bank it off the glass into the rim.

 

Wiggins isn’t just a supreme athlete that happens to play basketball. He has translatable skills going into the NBA on offense. He isn’t the most polished and has some serious work to do, but he has a pretty good foundation to start from, especially with his jump shot.

 

(1:20:49-1:20:54) In this game at West Virginia, Wiggins scored 41 points. He was able to show the promising range he can have in the NBA, coupled with his ability to get to the rim.

 

(50:23-50:29) Wiggins, above the arc, gets a pass from Embiid. He’s wide open for the shot, but jumps forward, causing him to miss long. I didn’t notice Wiggins make this mistake often, and his shooting mechanics are pretty solid. While he didn’t shoot at a high clip from 3, there’s no reason he shouldn’t (double negative!) be able to improve on that in the NBA.

 

Though Wiggins can get to the rim with the best of them, he has mixed results throughout the process, from beginning, to middle, to the end. What I mean by that, is that sometimes he is passive, which has been the narrative – one that I buy into right now. His ball handling and finishing have also been criticized, and rightfully so. These three aspects of his game aren’t atrocious, but will more than likely take some time to fix – especially his dribbling.

 

(1:05:11-1:05:17) Kansas struggled against zone defenses last year, which is what Florida runs. It was very hard for their wings to penetrate off the dribble. Wiggins has a great chance to do that here – he has a one-on-one matchup and at the very least could’ve drove middle to suck defenders in and then kick it out. He also could have, and probably should have, done a ball fake to the left and dribble right. I think sometimes he underestimates the athletic prowess he has over his opponents. Most of the time he’d have the upper hand athletically, giving him a good chance to drive. But sometimes, like he did here, he would just pass it up.

 

(31:58-32:03) Wiggins has two good options here, none involving turning the ball over like he did up top. It would’ve been reasonable had he taken that somewhat long 3. Also, his defender was closing so hard, he probably could’ve given a hard pump fake – something he should try more often – and drive to the hoop.

 

(37:16-37:22) Wiggins is an inconsistent ball handler, and just flat out struggles driving with his left. That’s exactly what happens here, as he tries to get into the paint but loses the handle as he tries to pick up is dribble. Losing the dribble is one thing, but this is also an example of Wiggins picking up his dribble too soon, which he does too much. As I said before, sometimes it seems as if he underestimates his ability when he can just blow past guys.

 

(40:37-40:43) Even though he drew the foul here, this is a shot I’d like to see him finish more often. He’s not a bad finisher through contact, just a bit inconsistent. He does a good job of using his body to shield the defender and then his long arms prevent the defender from blocking his shot. As Wiggins’s body fills out, he should be able to finish more shots in the paint through contact.

 

There are other parts of Wiggins’s game to be optimistic about. He’s made some good passes, none spectacular. He’s shown sparse post ability, though that would just be icing on top and not something he should grasp right away.

 

Also, like I touched on with Embiid, Kansas didn’t have great distributors that would set up teammates. Their point guard, #10 Naadir Tharpe, made some good plays for them, but sometimes was more interested in making a spectacular play than making the smart one.

 

(41:37-41:42) Tharpe gets doubled up top and has Wiggins wide open in the corner, but never sees him. Instead, he passes to Seldon, who drives and gets swatted down low.

 

If you’ve read this far, enjoy this picture of Dion Waiters’s buzzer beating game winning shot to make the Cavs go bonkers and steal a win in Detroit.

The night Dion Waiters became a Cavaliers legend, probably.
The night Dion Waiters became a Cavaliers legend, probably.

 

Defense:

 

This is the part of Wiggins’s overall game that has the highest floor, due to his athleticism. He still has things to clean up, as every prospect does, but it shouldn’t be long until he’s someone’s lock down defender.

 

(16:12-16:17) I know it sounds like I’m beating a dead horse, but Wiggins once again shows off his athleticism. He’s able to cheat inside the paint as #14 Rasheed Sulaimon drives. He kicks it outside to the corner where #12 Alex Murphy thinks he’s about to get off a 3 pointer. Nope. Wiggins closes in on him in a hurry and is able to block Murphy’s shot right out of his hand.

 

Wiggins played a great defensive game against Baylor, and this play was no different. If my memory serves me correct, he was only driven on twice during this game and eventually Baylor’s sharpshooter (and fellow Canadian), #5 Brady Heslip, was getting hot from deep. Wiggins was then put on Heslip and was basically shut down whenever guarded by Wiggins. Here are two of those plays:

 

(53:53-54:00) Wiggins shows off his transition versatility, closing in on Heslip and makes him think twice about shooting that 3, making him look like a deer in the headlights.

 

(57:57-58:08) Here, Wiggins does a nice job of getting around the weakside screen and chasing Heslip, who gets the ball on the opposite side of the court. He knows Wiggins is behind him and gives a pump fake, which Wiggins does a nice job of not completely falling for. After Wiggins gets through a pick, with the help of Ellis’s hedge, he’s able to recover on Heslip and force him to shoot a deep, contested 3.

 

(25:27-25:35) Wiggins’s athleticism is nice, but that’s not the only thing that helps in transition, and he displays that here. He gets good positioning to deny the rim and is able to poke the ball out. After West Virginia regains possession and puts a shot up, Wiggins rejects it into the eighth row (not really, but it was pretty far).

 

(2:24-2:31) Gator #24 Casey Prather gets the ball on the arc and quickly drives to the paint. However, Wiggins gets great first and second steps to beat him to a spot, forcing Prather to pick up his dribble. He tries a shot from there, but Wiggins is able to block his shot. It’s just a well-read, executed play by Wiggins.

 

For all the good that comes with Wiggins on the defensive side, there are still some fixable things that he can get rid of.

 

(1:09:15-1:09:22) Wiggins is guarding Sulaimon one-on-one at the top where #21 Amile Jefferson sets a screen on him. Wiggins has enough space to go over top of the pick, but instead makes full contact with Jefferson, forcing Embiid to come out on Sulaimon. As Wiggins recovers, he and Embiid get tangled with each other, allowing Sulaimon to get initial penetration. At times, Wiggins doesn’t read the screen correctly, and also isn’t able to power through some screens. This is something that can be learned through repetition and improved by getting stronger.

 

(1:25:36-1:25:42) Wiggins gets a good first step as his man starts to drive. But as they get closer to the paint, Wiggins starts to pull away, perhaps trying to avoid a foul (he did have four at this point in the game, when Kansas was trying to make a comeback). Nonetheless, this is something that I’ve seen him do on multiple occasions. Instead of trying to beat his man to a spot – which I showed he has done – it’s as if he’s just following the movements of the ball handler and following him.

 

Bottom Line: Wiggins is an easy player to fall in love with watching. The level of athleticism (the “athleticism” count is up to 9, in case you’re wondering) he has will be beyond most that of the players already in the NBA. At the very worst, he’ll be a reliable defender, a good off-the-ball slasher and a versatile transitional player on both ends of the court. As I said earlier, he’s not as polished as, say, Jabari Parker is offensively. He will have to work long and hard to get his dribble to become a reliable/elaborate weapon – he’s already shown he can have an effective spin move. Luckily for him, he already has a respectable shot. That and his defensive ability should be able to keep him on the court a good amount of time as a rookie.

Looking at all three top prospects – Wiggins, Embiid, and Parker – they’re all great options for the Cavs. These guys would arguably be the top prospects in other drafts as well, so GM David Griffin has a tough decision to make between the three. The draft is less than two weeks away and I have finally come to a decision of who I want the most out of three…

I’ll have that for you next week.

JV is Back

I was scrolling through my Twitter timeline as I usually do a few times a day and I came across a tweet from the Indianapolis Business Journal that read:

 

I thought to myself….”Ok, championship winning driver. I wonder who.” First two that came to my mind were Conor Daly and Sage Karam. Daly won the Star Mazda championship in 2010 while Karam is the defending Indy Lights champ. Another driver that came to mind is 2009 Indy Lights champion J.R. Hildebrand. About three hours after that tweet, Robin Miller posted a story on Racer.com that the driver is none other than 1995 Indianapolis 500 champion Jacques Villenueve.

Wait a minute….Jacques Villenueve? The former IndyCar and Formula One World Champion Jacques Villenueve? Really? Seriously? I honestly could not believe what I read.

Jacques Villenueve is the son of the late Formula One driver Gilles Villenueve. Villeneves career highlights include five IndyCar wins, including the 1995 Indianapolis 500 in which he came down from two laps from a penalty assessed early in the race and became the first (and so far only) Canadian to win the Indianapolis 500. Villenueve would win the 1995 PPG IndyCar World Series title for Forsythe-Green Racing and would move on the following year to Formula One with the Williams team. Villenueve won eleven Formula One races and the 1997 Formula One World Title. Villenueve would also race in Formula One with BAR Honda, Renualt, and the Sauber teams and would stay in the series until 2006. Since then, Villenueve has made appearances in NASCAR, Le Mans, SpeedCar, and RallyCross.

Villenueve in one of his most masterful drives in his career. (Photo by George Tidemann)
Villenueve in one of his most masterful drives of his career. (Photo by George Tidemann)

In Wednesday’s press conference for the official announcement of the deal, Villenueve just recently got back to paying attention to IndyCar full time about a couple of years ago when the DW12 became the series car. During the open wheel spilt era, Villenueve stopped watching IndyCar racing nearly entirely and would only watch the Indianapolis 500. Villenueve was openly critical of the Indy Racing League and its all oval format, but as the series introducted the new chasis and the mix of road, street, and oval circuits, Villenueve was impressed of how close the racing was and wanted to be a part of it.

What played a role in Villenueves return to Indy? “It’s the biggest race in the world, it’s exciting and I’ve got a good car that will be well prepared and have a chance to do something good,” he said. “I’m a racer at heart and that’s what keeps me going.”

Can Villenueve fare well in this one off? I think he can have a respectable run. A top fifteen run would not be out of the question. A big concern however is that Villenueve has not driven an IndyCar since 1995 and has not driven any open wheel car since 2006. With the refresher test and adequate practice time, I think Jacques will be just fine. After all, he is a former winner.

It is just good to see former winners like Juan Pablo Montoya and Jacques Villenueve race in the Indianapolis 500 again. Just shows how important the Indianapolis 500 is to a drivers career.

Villenueve and Schmidt-Peterson Racing. How will they fare in the 98th Indianapolis 500? (Photo by Chris Jones)
Villenueve and Schmidt-Peterson Racing. How will they fare in the 98th Indianapolis 500? (Photo by Chris Jones)

Session Delays for Rain are Correct

Qualifying for the top 10 shootout in Brazil was delayed for 40 minutes because the rain had soaked the track to the extent the race officials decided it was unsafe.  Once the session restarted, the track wasn’t wet enough for Pirelli’s wet weather tyres and most drivers pitted for Intermediates after just one timed lap. Twitter was full of impatient fans (including myself) who say “the track is fine, let’s go!” I mean – they’re the best drivers in the world, they have the best job in the world and have some of the world’s best salaries… So why wait for the track to be easier to drive on?

Some of Formula 1’s most memorable races have been it the wet, such as Monaco 1984 when politics prevented Ayrton Senna his first win when he was driving a Toleman. Then there’s 1976 at Nurburgring for Lauda’s accident, which is reproduced brilliantly in RUSH. My favourite that has occurred in my lifetime of watching F1 is Silverstone 2008 when my favourite driver Lewis Hamilton won by a whole minute in the pouring rain, lapping 6 seconds faster than anyone else at one point! If you ever get see the highlights of this race, you’ll hear Fernando Alonso and other drivers were screaming for a safety car because of the amount of water on the track, there were drivers spinning off everywhere – every lap. But the safety car never came.

A race like Silverstone or Monaco in 2008 will never be allowed to happen again in the future because the safety car is always deployed if the track becomes dangerous, and in 2008, it was dangerous. China 2009, Korea 2010, Canada 2011 are the recent races that spring to mind all had treacherous rain which deployed the safety car,  abandoned the race or  delayed the start – but when there was some racing going on, it was great to watch.

I suppose the race officials implement these delays because of safety reasons, I’m sure there are some people who fully support the race officials’ decision to delay proceedings. One person that springs to mind is Niki Lauda. The TV cameras spotted the three-time world champion sat in the Mercedes garage looking ominously outside. Then I immediately sympathised with Charlie Whiting and the other race officials. I remembered Lauda’s accident and how the film demonstrated that no matter how good a driver is, external factors can cause catastrophe as the Film Rush showed us when Lauda’s suspension broke, and more recently in 2009 when a 1 kilogram spring from Barichello’s Williams car hit Felipe Massa’s helmet at 120 miles per hour. It shows that a driver doesn’t need to die to have lasting impact on the sport. No driver has sustained fatal injuries in a formula 1 crash since Ayrton Senna in 1994 and the stricter tolerance for wet races could be a factor that has ensured there have been no driver deaths.

No driver fatalities… It’s not just drivers that are in danger. let’s take ourselves back to Montreal earlier this year when a track marshal was killed whilst recovering a retired Sauber car, such an undeserved thing to happen to a volunteer, or in 2001 when a Graham Beveridge was hit by a car which exceeded the catch fence, or Paolo Gislimberti at Monza six months earlier who was hit by a detached tyre. The marshals are exposed, vulnerable to the carbon fibre projectiles, the flying wheels. The races simply wouldn’t happen without these volunteers who put themselves at risk just to recover a detached winglet in the middle of the track. With no driver fatality in nearly twenty years, with all the talk of closed canopies and wider side-pods, should Formula 1 really be heading in a direction to increase protection for drivers? A marshal’s life should be of equal worth as any driver to the race officials, and after the tragic accident that happened to Mark Robinson in Canada, Charlie Whiting and the team took no risks. Yes, the delays lasted for too long on this occasion but it is better safe than sorry. Formula 1 isn’t the sport it used to be, the drivers don’t need a few pints before the race. Now I look back, the tweets I saw from people must’ve also heard the sad news from Canada, but clearly they’d forgotten and jumped on the bandwagon with the majority of the complainers, including myself at that point. I hope in the future that myself and others remember the marshals next time there’s a rain delay.

So next time there’s a delay in a rain session, remember it’s not just for the drivers safety.

A cameraman is hit by a Tyre in the pit lane. Don't worry he's alright now, his name is Paul Allen.
A cameraman is hit by a Tyre in the pit lane. Don’t worry he’s alright now, his name is Paul Allen.
Marshal falls over twice in front of Kobayashi trying to recover debris. Slightly foolish but dedicated and trying to do a good job!
Marshal falls over twice in front of Kobayashi trying to recover debris. Slightly foolish but dedicated and trying to do a good job!

It's Election Day! Vote @hinchtown!

Every November, we come together as communities, states and a nation as a whole to vote on issues that directly affect us in our everyday lives. Whether it is a vote cast for the mayor of our city to continue moving our community onward and upward, a levy passed for our schools to give children busing or a music program, or a levy continued so that our Metroparks stay protected and well-utilized… every single vote matters and counts. You are entitled to your opinion, of course, on the voting system in our country and you can voice strongly on whether you believe it is skewed or legitimate, but what it always comes down to is that if you don’t take a proactive stance in local government and politics (regardless of whether you are for or against the structure of it all) then you have no platform on which to speak and no right to complain when things don’t go the way you wanted. Being apathetic is the most dangerous thing that we as citizens of a democracy can be.

Let’s open up this can of worms and discuss the importance of voting in all fields… and at all levels. You can vote for President, you can vote for your Senator and you can even vote for your Mayor. Did you vote for the Mayor of your city today? If so, great job! You have performed your civic duty for the day. But what about voting for the Mayor of Hinchtown? Have you thought about that, on this auspicious Election Day 2013? I certainly hope so!

James Hinchcliffe, the esteemed and self-proclaimed Mayor of Hinchtown is also in the midst of an election today. He is one of the nominees for SportsNet Canadian Athlete of the Year!

With three victories under his neon green belt in 2013 and finishing the most recent IndyCar season in 8th place overall, not to mention his unwavering humor in the face of stress & constant love for his fans, it’s no surprise to this writer that he made the cut. And of course, in his classy Hinch fashion, he commented on this prestigious nomination,

“It’s an honor to receive a nomination and I’m simply proud to be on the list in amongst so many outstanding Canadians… We can all be super proud of our accomplishments as athletes this year and it shows the strength and determination of Canadians to succeed in competitive environments.  Even better, it’s a fan vote and in my opinion that’s all that matters as they’re the people who matter.”

Let’s make Hinch proud and show him the overwhelming support that we as his #indyfamily can provide!

Now, while the election polls in your local community have limited hours and only give you today to cast your votes, the SportsNet Canadian Athlete of the Year voting is open now thru Nov 15th! Another big difference is that your local election polls can only legally allow you one vote per person per issue… however, when voting for the Mayor of Hinchtown, we support the old adage of: “The more, the merrier!”

So make sure you fulfill your IndyCar-racing-fan-responsibilities today by voting early & voting often!

GO HINCH!

hinchcliffe3-940

The Greatest Threat to Hockey: No One Cares

As the NHL lockout extends to day 94, it is becoming more and more clear that the greatest threat to the future of the NHL has nothing to do with hockey related revenues, back diving contracts, length of the CBA, make-whole payments or any of the other hot button issues that have divided the owners and players over the last few months.  Indeed, the greatest threat to the future of the NHL is apathy.

I have watched on twitter and Facebook as interest in the lockout has dwindled.  In the beginning there were strong feelings about the lockout, lots of really ticked off fans that wanted a deal done and wanted it done pronto.  But as the days stretched into weeks and weeks into months, the anger about the lockout on social media has subsided and been replaced by something much, much more dangerous to the future of the NHL:  apathy.

I have wondered whether this growing sense of apathy was just my experience.  If maybe it was just a product of whom I interact with on social media.  Then I started to notice that even Canadian news outlets started talking less about the lockout.  I routinely tune into TSN Toronto, TSN Montreal or TSN Winnipeg to get the latest on the lockout.  In the last couple of weeks almost all the hockey talk on the TSN stations has been about the World Juniors and almost nothing about the lockout.

Now comes word this morning that Canadians – the base of the NHL – are increasingly less interested in hockey.  According to a study by Level5, reported on in the Globe and Mail:

The first surprise researchers found was passion for the national winter sport has slipped. One-third of Canadians polled consider themselves “passionate” about hockey, one-third is neutral on the topic and one-third has no interest at all.

“It surprised us,” Kincaid says. “If we had done this study 10 years ago, 20 years ago, we would have seen half of Canadians or more say they were passionate about the game.”

And the news gets worse:

They found a lot of males have slipped into “neutrality” about the game – are now bored with hockey talk and feel they no longer relate to the game. Football – both CFL and NFL – is on the rise among those fans, who continue to be interested in sports.

“It’s not a sacred relationship with hockey,” says Behzad Ghotb, who led the analysis for Level5.

The study concluded that, “If anyone thinks that the lockout can end and everyone will come back to Happy Valley, it ain’t going to happen.”

Forget the future of hockey in non-traditional markets like Phoenix or Florida or Nashville – we are talking about a threat to the very foundation of hockey.

The assumption has always been that die-hard hockey fans would come back to the NHL whenever this lockout ends.  It’s been the foundational assumption of both the players and the owners.  It is the assumption that has dictated both sides strategy of dragging this out until the 11th hour.  And now we learn that this assumption may be faulty.

I wrote recently that I strongly believe that a deal will get done and we will get NHL hockey this season.  I still believe that today.  What I am no longer sure of, is what long term damage has been done to the sport as a result of this work stoppage.

Hockey has struggled to break out of being a niche and regional sport for decades.  The NHL has tried desperately to grow the sport and expand its fan base.  Now in the span of just 94 days Gary Bettman and Donald Fehr may not have just jeopardized the gains the sport has made in the last decade, they may have done long-term damage to its most loyal fans.

If the NHL and NHLPA don’t get a deal done soon, get back on the ice and find ways to repair damaged relationships with their fan base, their may be a time when the NHL will be lucky to be considered a niche or regional sport.