Sunday, May 10, 2009

How the NBA Rules on Fouls

Just two rounds into the playoffs, there have been plenty of fouls and confrontations for the NBA to review. Just yesterday, they announced that Kendrick Perkins would not be suspended for elbowing Mikael Pietrus in the throat, despite previously saying elbows were an automatic suspension.

So, I must ask, how does the NBA come to their conflicting decisions?

Though some in the Tinfoil Hat Brigade think there are more sinister motivations behind the NBA's inconsistent rulings (MONEY!), I have only one explanation.

Somewhere, deep within the NBA's headquarters, there is a room. In that room, Stern and Jackson gather around a circle, which is broken into sections. The sections have labels: Suspension, $25,000 Fine, Flagrant-1, Flagrant-2, and No Action. Commissioner Stern grabs a chicken and bites off its head. He places the chicken in the center of the circle. The chicken walks, the chicken falls, and the NBA's ruling is made.

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Monday, May 4, 2009

Cheering for the Enemy?

Each playoff series brings a playoff loser. On Saturday, my Bulls joined the ranks of the defeated. Now, I am now faced with a difficult question: For the remainder of the playoffs, should I throw my support behind the former enemy, the Celtics, or their opponent, the Magic?

After a heated series, my natural response was to side with Dwight and the Magic. Like most homers, I detested everything that I felt Boston represented, from lousy fans and dirty players, like Rajon Rondo, to cocky scrubs. I grew to hate almost all of the Celtics, with the exception being Brian Scalabrine. (I challenge you to hate on a daywalker with a headband.) Though those feelings have begun to lessen, I don't think I'll be able to cheer for Garnett or Rondo.

Still, I have found myself hoping for a win. A quick playoff exit wouldn't look good for the Celtics and, therefor, the Bulls. A loss would damage the legend of a great series while each series win builds upon it. Plus, I guess it's better to lose to the champions than to be cut down by an also-ran.

Needless to say, I'm torn. So I ask, random Internet friends, which side would you take?

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Linton Johnson Disses, Accurately Describes KG

Kevin Garnett is an emotional guy. It physically pains him, we're told, to sit on the bench, unable to play in the Bulls-Celtics series. Still, he gets plenty of camera time. Just look at this picture:

But don't let all those shots of KG on the Celtics' bench fool you. According to Chicago Bulls forward Linton Johnson, the Battle of the Benches clearly favors the Bulls. In fact, he broke down the depth of Chicago's cheer squad bench, throwing in a jab at Kevin Mothafuckin' Garnett.
"Lindsey, like the Vanguard. So we follow Lindsey," Johnson said. "We've got the muscle with Aaron. We've got a heck of a bench. If they ever turn that camera down on our end, they've got something really good. KG's by himself, but we've got the whole clan down there."

Do the Bulls' reserves ever hear what Garnett is yelling?

"We can read his lips," Johnson said. "With him, it's easy. He only says about five words."
Linton Johnson, you are my new favorite player.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Can I Get a Baseball Card Guide?

Like most Americans, fresh off of Thanksgiving, I hit the shopping mall on Black Friday. It wasn't by choice. (I was dragged there against my will, I swear). Toy stores and the like aren't my definition of fun, to be honest.

Fortunately, I was able to escape into the friendly confines of a baseball card store. In my younger years, like many of you I'm sure, I was an avid card collector. I recall spending much of my time negotiating trades with my friends, making the deal, and watching as they ran to the baseball card guide to see how much their new cards were worth (and often times to discover I had ripped them off). It was fun then, but that was ages ago.

However, walking through the aisles of the store, examining the cases of cards, I was reminded of the joy those cards brought me. The sets of 1989 baseball cards and 1990 baseball cards reminded me of my glory days as a card dealer and, really, as a fan.

So I guess my Black Friday wasn't so bad after all. Plus, now I have a few decks of cards and a baseball card guide wrapped, waiting for me under the tree.

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Sunday, November 9, 2008

Dear LeBron James...

Your Highness,

Let me preface my comments by saying this: You're a great player. Nobody, absolutely nobody, has your combination of speed, strength, intelligence, and skill. You will be a legend of the game, which is why I'm writing you.

We both know you're great. You don't have to work the cameras like you do. Just look at yourself in these pictures.


After each dunk, each highlight, you face the crowd, the scrub trying to guard you, or your teammates. More often, you face the the cameras. You pose. You scream. You do everything, except run back down the court.

Why? So we take notice of your greatness? Sorry, but we already have.

Last Wednesday,you took to dancing midplay. You shook your leg, your body, and Drew Gooden. You freed up Delonte West for an open three. But what made the nightly highlights? This: "OmGZ! Luk at Leebrone!"

Again, I ask you to stop. Enough is enough.

Sincerely,

Mr. Crimson

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Sunday, August 31, 2008

Linebackers: An Assembly Guide

The linebacker was created with a single purpose: play a support role for the defensive line, much like a safety provides protect for a cornerback. Of course, as with anything, the position developed into much more than that.

Didja know Ray Lewis was pretty good?

The most important thing to remember when thinking linebacker is assignment, assignment, assignment. Much like a safety, they need to be quite versatile. Even in schemes that ask just specific tasks from their linebackers, versatility is a linebacker's best friend.

Historically, linebacker has been a position where, based on scheme, they can be vital stars of the defense or simple role players. Because their assignments can be so diverse in most defensive schemes, you will often find offensive lines adjusting their protection schemes based on what they percieve from the linebackers. A good LB corps can conceal their true intentions by masking it with something that percieves an entirely different assignment. While it sounds simple, it's no easy task, and requires some smart play from all three (or four) backers.

Defensive fronts also play a big part in how linebackers are used and what assignments are given to each one. The basic two base fronts, the 4-3 and 3-4, are more deeply explained in the Football Schemes guide.
Skill sets

Linebackers have a wide variety of skills that all types of linebackers have to varying degrees. While they can get by being really good at only 1 or 2 of these, the best linebackers are athletic enough to do it all with success.
  • Speed. Not entirely vital, but a speedy linebacker -- or at least a linebacker with some burst to their initial movements -- can be great for nullifying off-tackle runs and or blitzing.
  • Tackling. Linebackers need to be able to solo tackle, preventing larger gains.
  • Covering. This goes for both zone and man assignments, though zone assignments at this position are more likely. They need to be able to locate the ball and contain their man or zone with authority. A linebacker good in coverage will be able to eliminate a majority of the easier over-the-middle catches with a good separating hit or simply by blocking the throwing lane.
  • Jamming. Particularly the outside backers and especially the weak-side backer, a linebacker needs to be able to (occasionally) move into the slot and jam the receiver long enough to disrupt the timing or force the receiver into the corners zone.
  • Recognition. As with most of the defensive positions, recognition can be vital. It can be the difference between -5 yards and a gain of 20 yards. A linebacker with good field awareness and recognition skills can put an end to a play before it even begins.
  • Block-shedding. They need to be able to shed the occasional blocker to make plays,which is hard when you are usually outweighed by a good amount. However, playing with smart leverage and hand movement/placement can shed any tight end or make it possible to shed a guard off you who has made it to the second level. This can become vital in run stopping situations against tough offensive lines.
  • Pass-rushing. Being able to shed a blocker sometimes isn't enough. Sometimes you need a linebacker to bring the heat and get behind the offensive line. This requires not only good leverage, strength and hand movement, but the genuine athleticism required to spin, swim, club and bull past offensive linemen.
While most linebackers only shine in one or two of these areas, they will still sometimes become stars. It depends on the scheme and what they will be asked to do; if a scheme requires the middle linebacker either to play a mid-field zone or to blitz in most of the plays, a speedy linebacker with some pass rush ability could become a star in that role. In a different scheme, if that middle linebacker is required to play a man up role on the running back and stuff the run, a speedy guy with good tackling skills and recognition will become the star.

4-3 Outside Linebackers

Outside linebackers in a 4-3 front are referred to as Will (for the weak, or non-tight end side) and Sam (for the strong, or tight end side).

Their roles will vary from defense to defense, but the genuine premise behind it is covering the area between the hash and the cornerback with run and coverage support based on their assignment for that play call.

While many defenses nowadays ask the same things of their outside linebackers (though not always the same assignments on the same playcall), there is a consensus view of the accepted strengths/weaknesses/roles of each. Some teams still use this formula, but as with everything else in the modern NFL, it's become much more diverse.

Sam linebackers are generally the bigger, stronger backers, better able to shed the block of a tight end. They line up over the tight end most of the time, and often times they are asked to jam and cover the end in passing situations. They usually get help from the strong safety in those cases

Will linebackers are generally the faster, more athletic linebackers. They are often called into zone coverage assignments and asked to cover or jam slot receivers in certain situations. They often cover the running back that attacks his side of the field first in man coverage, while covering the weak flat or hook/curl areas in zone coverage assignments.

4-3 Middle Linebackers

Middle linebackers in a 4-3 front are referred to as the Mike linebacker. They are usually responsible for receiving the defensive signals and relaying them to the rest of the unit. You could say they are the "quarterback of the defense."

Again, the roles they play vary from defense to defense. Generally, the Mike backer is assigned to protect the area between the hash marks and shut down the running back.

Depending on the scheme, they may simply be assigned to a particular gap, as would the outside linebackers. But the more popular use of a Mike linebacker is in pure run support from sideline to sideline, supporting both the defensive line and outside linebackers. Mid-field zones are also quite popular in passing situations. For all this, they are usually the most well-rounded and versatile linebacker on the field with the best ability to bring down a ball carrier 1 on 1.

Dealing with interior linemen from the offensive getting to the second level becomes a big problem with some middle linebacker, and it's become more and more of a neccessity for the Mike to be able to shed even the best blockers at times. A guy like Ray Lewis, as talented as he is, struggles at this aspect of the game and requires a large defensive front to ensure his freedom of movement.

3-4 Outside backers

Since the 3-4 is a scheme designed to conceal the fourth rusher, the outside linebackers in a 3-4 are often very pass-rush capable linebackers who possess the athleticism to be effective in zone and run coverages. This is quite a demanding position; not many pure linebackers are capable of being both a pass rusher and a run stuffer.

The weakside 3-4 backer is the one with the better pass rush ability. Playing opposite the tight end, they rely on the weakside defensive end to hinder the offensive tackle's ability to block them on the rush. They need to be quite athletic, speedy and capable of beating tackles to the edge to disrupt the quarterback. Outside of a pass rush assignment, they are generally responsible for covering the running back coming out of the backfield.

DeMarcus Ware is among the NFL's best, combining pass-rushing skills with run-stopping abilities.

The strongside 3-4 backer is the one with the more well rounded skill set. They must be able to rush the passer successfully, but will also be required to play coverage against the tight end and support the run coverage. They will usually pass the coverage of a running back coming out of the backfield to the strongside inside linebacker.

Because 3-4 outside linebacker requires such pass rush talents while remaining strong against the run, college defensive ends in 4-3 schemes are often drafted in an attempt to convert them to a 3-4 outside linebacker. They usually have pass rush ability, and -- having played on a defensive line -- they are already instinctively concerned about stopping the run. In the case of pure speed rushers like Dwight Freeney, these guys do not project to this position because they are usually not as stout against the run as a bigger pass rusher with a blend of power and speed rushing skills.

3-4 Inside Linebackers

Responsible for playing the role of Mike, Will and Sam, the inside linebackers must be strong in shedding blockers, playing the run, and covering the middle of the field in zone. Occasionally, depending on play call, the weakside inside linebackers will be required to play the role of Mike while the strongside backer plays in pass coverage, and vice versa. They need to be pretty versatile for those reasons.

The strongside inside backer is responsible for the tight endl, sharing many of the duties of a 4-3 Sam backer while splitting the duties of the Mike backer with the weakside linebacker.

The weakside inside linebacker will occasionally be responsible for maintaining a strong mid-field zone and has many of the duties that Will in a 4-3 would. He, too, splits the duties of the Mike backer with the other inside linebacker.

Summarizing it all

Linebackers are the safeties of the front 7. Depending on the scheme, they will have many different roles in a defense, but it all revolves around supporting the efforts of the down linemen and, occasionally, reinforcing the actions of the secondary. They need to be pure football players, capable of doing whatever is asked of them while maintaining a strong skill set, one that reflects what their team's scheme requires from the position.

While some defenses will require their linebackers to take a passive "wait and see" role and hold their ground, breaking big plays before they happen and giving up ground in small bits, others will ask their backers to be aggressive and attack plays with blitzes and proactive run coverage. Each of those schemes and every one in between require different forms of effort from each linebacker. You always need the right backer for the job.

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Thursday, August 14, 2008

8.14.08: Bringin' Home the Blogs

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I dig through the Sportopia to find the best posts to share with you, my loyal readers, like a father bringing home the bacon (or something like that). Now, I'm Bringin' Home the Blogs...

Racism in Spanish sports began long before the "slant-eyed" pictures. RUMORS AND RANTS has a rundown of the incidents, ranging from one-liners to organized chants. I find it amazing that people like Spanish columnist Jamie Martin justify this crap.

Spaniards want you to know this is, in now way, racist. Yep.

Since we're on the topic, CUZOOGLE has Jose Calderon's response to the outcry over the photo. Apparently, it was just a wink.

Steven Jackson, who continues to holdout, is really screwing with fantasy footballers. Will he be be the same? How far should his stock drop? Why did he have to do this?!?!!? The DEUCE OF DAVENPORT is certain on one thing: he's pissed!

After noting Xavier Lee's failed career, Rick Gosselin of WFAA examined how other 2004 Parade All-Americans have faired. Which ones transferred to D-II? Who's in the NFL? Gosh, I'm a sucker for this type of thing.

Jeremy Schaap won't stop staring at DAVE LOZO. I can only imagine the horror.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

8.12.08: Bringin' Home the Blogs

Every Tuesday and Thursday, I dig through the Sports Blogtopia to find the best posts to share with you, my loyal readers, like a father bringing home the bacon (or something like that). Now, I'm Bringin' Home the Blogs...

In a great piece of (realistic) Olympic fiction, evil Yao and the Chinese commies scheme to snatch America's lone chance at redemption, trapping the "Redeem Team." Who, if anyone, is brave enough save them and the freedom they represent? Go to BLACK HEAR GOLD PANTS and join the fun!

Will this man be able to thwart China's sinister plot?

Are youth basketball coaches so focused on winning that player development takes a backseat? Yes, according to former NBA coach turned blogger ERIC MUSSELMAN.

THE LEGEND OF CECILIO GUANTE takes a look at the Yankees' failed youth movement. Talk about bringing smiles to the faces of Yankee haters everywhere!

Louis Williams, Sixers guard and future stud, signed a five-year, $25 million contract extension last week. In due time, he will be a bargain, writes EMPTY THE BENCH.

Now for some breaking news, courtesy of the WALKOFF WALK. The Reds pitchers are struggling, but fortunately for them, manager Dusty Baker knows the cure: running. That Dusty Baker sure knows how to handle young pitchers.[1]

1. Friedell, Nick. "Did Dusty Baker learn nothing from Mark Prior and Kerry Wood?", Big League Stew.

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Older Posts

About the Undrafted Free Agent

Ron Crimson was the only player on the high school roster to not get in a game. He couldn't argue with the decision, because he sucked. Needless to say, yet stated anyway, when he entered the NBA draft following his sophomore season in college, he went undrafted. Now, Ron Crimson is the Undrafted Free Agent.

Contact the Undrafted Free Agent

Interested in informing the Undrafted Free Agent of his mistakes, advertisement opportunities, or a scoop on the latest sports scandal? (You can guess which is more likely.) Well, email him at undraftedfreeagent [at] gmail.com.

Look at This!

There's nothing here; I just needed to fill some space. Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! Space eater! I also needed to balance it out a bit.

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