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Zombie Sonics taken down by the Dallas Mavericks

May 25th, 2011 by nwsportsguy

Dirk Nowitzki and the Dallas Mavericks have just beaten the team which shall not be named aka the Zombie Sonics in game 5 of the NBA Western Conference Finals and will now meet either the Bulls or the Heat in the Championship (the Heat being a 3 point underdog on Thursday according to BetUS.com). This comes after a game 4 meltdown by the Zombies in which they blew a 15 point lead in the last five minutes, effectively losing all of their momentum. The veteran Mavericks capitalized on youth and inexperience in their victory.

For Seattle fans, this is a collective sigh of relief. It kills many of us to see our team doing so well in another city, especially after the way in which they were taken at the hands of Clay Bennet. I think we all like the players – Seattle’s own Nasty Nate Robinson, Kevin Durant and Nick Collison – they’re all good guys – however we feel cheated. We feel like they should be here in Seattle and we should be rooting them on to a championship.  It just doesn’t seem right. There’s no justice in this world.

The bad news is the Zombie Sonics are for real. They’ve got a young team and they’re going to learn from this experience. They’re going to be better and will be the main competitors for the NBA Championship in the next five to seven years or so – along with the Bulls, Heat and perhaps the Lakers. Even worse, I think they’ll win it.


Analyzing the Seahawks Draft: James Carpenter vs. Gabe Carimi and Derek Sherrod

April 29th, 2011 by nwsportsguy

With the #25 pick in the first round of the NFL draft, the Seahawks selected James Carpenter, an Offensive Guard from Alabama. This was somewhat of a surprise pick, as Carpenter was projected to go some time in the mid second round. Word ’round the camp fire is that the Hawks were trying until the last few seconds to trade that pick and move down, where they would get an extra pick and would still be able to draft Carpenter.

In picking JC at #25, they passed on a bigger and seemingly more physical player in Gabe Carimi, Offensive Tackle from Wisconsin. They also passed on Derek Sherrod, Offensive Tackle from Mississippi State. Here is a look at all of their NFL Combine profiles (information courtesy of NFL.com):

James Carpenter

  • Height: 6’4″
  • Weight: 321 lbs.
  • Arm Length: 34 in.
  • Hand Size: 9 3/4 in.
  • College: Alabama
  • Conference: SEC
  • Position: OL

Strengths:

Carpenter is a highly-durable player who has been able to stay on the field during his career. Has the height and build you look for at the offensive tackle position. Does a good job in pass protection against the speed and bull rush. Possesses the athletic ability to get to the second level when run blocking.

Weaknesses:

Can be beat by good counter moves in pass protection. Will occasionally struggle against defensive line stunts and elaborate blitz packages. Does not consistently drive defenders off the line of scrimmage in the downhill running game. Would benefit from playing with a little more fire.

Gabe Carimi:

  • Height: 6’7″
  • Weight: 314 lbs.
  • Arm Length: 35 in.
  • Hand Size: 10 3/8 in.
  • College: Wisconsin
  • Conference: Big 10
  • Position: OL

Strengths:

Carimi is a massive tackle that plays mean and looks to dominate opponents. Heady player that recognizes blitzes and adjusts quickly. Delivers a powerful punch and effectively locks out his arms to push rushers past the pocket in pass protection. Moves well for a big man and smothers defenders in the running game.

Weaknesses:

Does not sink his hips well and struggles to maintain leverage which makes him vulnerable to shorter defensive ends. Footwork is a bit sloppy at times in pass protection which allows defenders to get to the edge. Not fluid enough to consistently make blocks in space.

The point of this post is to come back and analyze the success of each player at a later date. It will be interesting to see how accurate the Hawks’ crystal ball is. This way, we can go back in hind sight and critique. The Seahawks obviously saw something they really liked in Carpenter, who is shorter but heavier than Carimi.

Derek Sherrod

  • Height: 6’5″
  • Weight: 321 lbs.
  • Arm Length: 35 3/8 in.
  • Hand Size: 11 in.
  • Conference: SEC
  • Position: OL

Strengths

Sherrod possesses a nice combination of height and mobility. Gets set quickly and can push rushers past the pocket using his length and reach. Uses good positioning to wall-off defenders when run blocking. Has enough athleticism to get out and block in space. Effective when combo blocking.

Weaknesses

Needs to add bulk to his frame. Susceptible to the bull rush and violent moves. Also struggles at times against stunts and twists and can be baited out of position. Not a road-graded. Won’t get too much movement off the line. Doesn’t play with a lot of nastiness.

Here’s what I think the Seahawks were thinking: JC played in the SEC, which has been unquestionably the best conference in NCAA D1 over the last few years. He has therefore experienced some of the most ferocious D Linemen in college football. Also, his lower center of gravity allows him to play center in addition to right tackle or guard. By the way, all of this means Sean Locklear is gone as an unrestricted free agent.

If you read the last sentence under ‘weaknesses’ for Sherrod, you’ll see why the Hawks didn’t select him. “Doesn’t play with a lot of nastiness” is a deal breaker and a good reflection of the team’s philosophy.

I’m torn on this issue, but I think I’ll put my trust in the Coach Carroll and the Seahawks management. They’ve obviously got a plan, which seems to be right in line with my ideal Seahawks draft: building a foundation in the offensive line. In rounds 4-5, I’d expect to see us get some D linemen and cornerbacks (nothing undersized, thank you).


Becoming a Canucks Fan…Join me.

April 27th, 2011 by nwsportsguy

In the absence of a Championship caliber Seattle sports franchise (save maybe the Sounders) and do to the fact that Seattle has no NHL team, I’ve turned to root for the Vancouver Canucks. The Canucks are arguably the best in the NHL this year and beat the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks in a game seven overtime thriller on Tuesday night (see winning goal below). After going up three games to none, the Hawks came back and nearly beat out the Canucks in game seven, when they sent the game into OT on a last minute goal (while shorthanded).

Highlight: Alexandre Burrows scores the winning goal against the Blackhawks. The fan reaction reminds me of the Marshawn Lynch Beast Mode TD run against the Saints.

My admiration of them started last year, when I spent a month in B.C. volunteering at the 2010 Winter Olympics. In the weeks leading up to the Games, Canucks matches were still going in Vancouver. I’ll say this about that: if it weren’t for the Olympic Torch in downtown Vancouver, you wouldn’t have even known the Olympics were about to start. All people cared about were the Canucks.

In every bar and on every street, on car bumpers and outside of houses you Canucks memorabilia from jerseys to stickers to flags. I asked a few people about getting tickets to a game, which was met with near astonishment. They kindly let me know that unless I wanted to pay three times face value for a ticket, I wasn’t going to get in.

From there I settled on a local pub to watch a match and arrived just as the game started. I got the last seat and watched by myself. There wasn’t a whole lot of socializing, as everyone was focused on the TV screens. Only during intermissions did people scramble to refill their glasses. Even the waitresses were watching the game. It reminded me of the way Seattle fans watch and react to a playoff game, only this was regular season.

The point: Canucks fans are hardcore. I like that. They show passion and dedication the way I wish Seattle sports fans would.

This is not to say I’m going to drop everything and go all out. I’m saying that the Canucks are the team I’ve chosen to root for from afar. Here are some reasons why:

  • Seattle has no NHL team. If something happens where Seattle does get one, I leave the option to reconsider. I’m in the same situation with the Portland TrailBlazers. If the Sonics come back to town, I’m back to my roots.
  • Proximity. Though expensive, I could potentially drive to Vancouver and watch a game.
  • Promise. As mentioned above, they’ve got talent. If this makes me a bandwagon fan, so be it. Just note than when I get on, I don’t jump off.
  • Overall experience. Great fans + a passion to win = great fan/team experience
  • Canadians are awesome. Though everyone tends to make fun of them, they’re great people.
  • My buddy Sammy T. is a fan. He wouldn’t steer me wrong.

I don’t see there being anything wrong with Washingtonians rooting for the Canucks, as long as they stay on board until Seattle gets a team. It gives you a chance to be part of an amazing sport experience, so come on and join me. The ‘Nucks next series is against the Nashville Predators. They should be a pushover.


Blazers and Brandon Roy – Don’t call it a comeback!

April 24th, 2011 by nwsportsguy

B Roy – Don’t call it a comeback!

In case you missed it last night, Brandon Roy came back from the dead to lead the Portland Trailblazers on a 23 point comeback in the 4th quarter against the Dallas Mavericks. The performance is deservedly being hailed as one of the greatest comebacks in NBA history. After game 2 of the series, Roy drew criticism after voicing his frustration over lack of playing time. Looks like he had a good point. For highlights, click here.

I envy anyone who was there to witness this game. Roy, the former Washington Husky, has resurrected himself to be a contributor on the Blazers team after knee problems have put his basketball career in question. To lead a comeback like this under those circumstances is therefore something extremely special.

The series is now tied at 2-2 as it heads back to Dallas. According to Betus.com, the Blazers are now a +135 underdog to win the series. I’ll be rooting for B Roy and the Blazers to go up 3-2 and bring home the series victory in the Rose Garden. Rose Garden


Steve Zakuani’s leg broken

April 22nd, 2011 by nwsportsguy

For those of you watching or listening to the Seattle Sounders vs. Colorado Rapids, Steve Zakuani has just broken his leg after a NASTY challenge from Brian Mullan. Mullan was shown a straight red card for his two footed tackle, who retaliated after not getting a call.

Here is a link to the video. Unless Zakuani’s leg is made of some kind of extremely flexible reinforced carbon fiber and there was some kind of optical illusion in the video, his leg is busted.

Arlo White, the Sounders’ announcer, was fuming in the booth, calling the tackle “appalling,” “horrendous” and “outrageous.”

The severity of the break is not known yet, but this is a huge set back for the Sounders, who will have to do without his attacking presence for a while – perhaps the rest of the season. Get better soon Zak.


2011 Seahawks Schedule

April 19th, 2011 by nwsportsguy

Just posted today:

The Seahawks have two prime time games during 2011! The first is a Thursday night affair against the Eagles on December 1st and a Monday Night Party on December 12 against the Rams. That is, IF this lockout situation comes to an end before the season. I’m bearish on the season happening at all. Luckily, most of my predictions are way off.

2011 Seattle Seahawks Schedule

Sept. 11: at San Francisco 49ers 1:15 p.m. FOX

Sept. 18: at Pittsburgh Steelers 10:00 a.m. FOX

Sept. 25: Arizona Cardinals 1:15 p.m. FOX

Oct. 2: Atlanta Falcons 1:05 p.m. FOX

Oct. 9: at N.Y. Giants 10:00 a.m. FOX

Oct. 16: Bye Week

Oct. 23: at Cleveland Browns 10:00 a.m. FOX

Oct. 30: Cincinnati Bengals 1:15 p.m. CBS

Nov. 6: at Dallas Cowboys 10:00 a.m. FOX

Nov. 13: Baltimore Ravens 1:05 p.m. CBS

Nov. 20: at St. Louis Rams 1:05 p.m. FOX

Nov. 27: Washington Redskins 1:05 p.m. FOX

Dec. 1: Philadelphia Eagles (Thurs.) 5:20 p.m. NFL

Dec. 12: St. Louis Rams (MNF) 5:30 p.m. ESPN

Dec. 18: at Chicago Bears 10:00 a.m. FOX

Dec. 24: San Francisco 49ers (Sat.) 1:15 p.m. FOX

Jan. 1: at Arizona Cardinals 1:15 p.m. FOX


Update on Jake Locker, Seahawks Draft Day

April 15th, 2011 by nwsportsguy

For those of you who want Jake Locker to be the successor to Matt Hasselbeck, you will be sorely disappointed in this post. A few months back, Locker was looking to be a late first round pick at best, which gave the Seahawks an opportunity to get him at #25. He has impressed, however, at the NFL combine and work outs with several pro teams of late.

Here are the teams Locker has visited or is scheduled to visit:

All of the above teams have picks before the Seahawks. Another team that is interested is the Redskins at pick #10. If no one trades picks, my prediction is that Jake will go no later than the Patriots at #17; the earliest would be the Redskins. I don’t see the Eagles drafting him in the first round, even if they have the chance.

That said, the Hawks’ first priority should not be Jake Locker or any other QB. I’ve said this for years now: the Hawks need to focus on filling the swiss cheese like holes at CB, OL and DL. These are the fundamentals of your team: you need to effectively rush the opposing quarterback, protect against the pass and protect your QB to be successful.

This is much like a game of chess in that you can’t always come blazing out with your queen in attack, because you’ll be ineffective against a skilled opponent. You need to strategically build structure that aids in both offense and defense (think cornerbacks, defensive and offensive linemen) and then strike with your key weapons.

Without structure or protection, a stud QB like Jake Locker would be ineffective. Our first three picks should go to these areas (not sure which order): CB, Ol and DL. I’m tired of seeing Kelly Jennings get burned in every aspect of his position. Sure he’s probably a nice guy, but he shouldn’t be a starting CB in the NFL. Truth.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Montlake Jake. His contributions and sacrifice to the UW are practically unprecedented in Seattle sports history, in that he gave up sure money and the possibility of a #1 pick in the NFL to come back and lead the Huskies to a bowl game win. ARod would never do this. I just don’t think he fits in with the team’s current needs.


Solid win for the Sounders; Shameful display by the Chicago Fire

April 11th, 2011 by nwsportsguy

Sounders Win 2-1

Well done fellas. Another sold out crowd at Qwest saw the Sounders dominate the Chicago Fire in a 2-1 victory. Opposite of the first four matches, our passing was superb. Our touches were spot on, as exemplified by our one touch give and goes through the midfield. We controlled the space well, made great runs and created countless opportunities in attack. Props to White and Zakuani for quality finishes.

If there was a down side to the match, it would be our defense. There were some silly give aways and shoddy marking, one of which resulted in a goal. We were quite fortunate to only concede one, however. The back line needs to tighten up in order to secure our maximum amount of points going forward.

In particular, I don’t think Hurtado is back in full form after his ACL tear. Speaking from personal experience, coming back from ACL surgery is not easy. Even a year after the injury, you still don’t fully trust it. You are tentative because you think that one misstep and you’re right back in the operating room and out for the season. Additionally, it takes time to regain your full muscle strength and muscle memory. Parke is also looking shaky in marking and overall toughness.

Man of the match: Kasey Keller

Kasey saved the game for us. The defensive lapses I spoke of gave Chicago a number of chances on goal and any team with an average or worse keeper easily would have had three goals scored on them.

Chicago Fire: A Disgraceful Display.

The Chicago Fire play soccer like they’re on Mexican television. At every opportunity, injuries are overacted and outright fabricated to slow down play and convince the referee to show a yellow card. If a Fire player goes in for a 50/50 ball, you can guarantee he’ll be on the ground clutching an ankle and asking for a stretcher and magic spray. Conversely, they have no problem crying about referee decisions that go against them.

How did this come to be? You need to look no further than the Chicago Fire head coach, Carlos de los Cobos (Which means Carlos of the conch or Carlos of the snails, depending on which translation engine you use). Snails is a former Mexican International and former El Salvador national team head coach. Over the offseason, Mr. Snails gutted the team and brought in several Central and South American players, including a Uruguayan pair in Diego Chavez and Gaston Puerari.

Though technically gifted, these two seemed better fit for a Mexican Soap Opera than an MLS pitch. Other players fitting this description that played Saturday: Marco Pappa (Guatemala), Gonzalo Segares (Costa Rica) and Orr Barouch (played for Tigres in Mexico).

If you have ever watched a Mexican League game or any of the Central American national teams, you know they are a perfect example of the embellishing I speak of. This behavior is thought of as ‘how’ to play soccer, whereas the MLS/American usually takes a more honest, blue collar approach.

My theory: this culture of overacting and outright cheating is brought in and encouraged by the head coach. Also, bringing in players who have experience in a similar culture of soccer only helps to reinforce this behavior.

There is no place in the MLS for this type of soccer. This style of play discredits the game, rendering it illegitimate to many fans and potential viewers. The MLS officials would do well to fine these players or at least condemn the actions and promise punishment in the future.


The State of the Sounders – April 5

April 5th, 2011 by nwsportsguy

The Sounders have two points from four matches so far. This is not acceptable.

I’ve played soccer since I was five years old. Growing up in Port Orchard, I started with SK youth soccer and then moved on to FC Kitsap (now WestSound FC) and High School soccer at SKHS. Now that the Sounders are in town, I’ve become an avid supporter as well. Hell, I even work at Olympic Soccer & Sports Center in Bremerton as a Marketing and Events Manager and play three times a week. As a player and spectator I can tell you there are two distinct styles to the game: one characterized by crappy teams and one of good teams.

The organized approach – When good teams are on the field, it is noticeable: they play together. Passes are quick and accurate. Teammates make runs off the ball to get open and create space. In attack, good teams build up from the defense, through the midfield using the tactics I just described.

While attacking, teams are not always moving the ball toward the opponent’s goal. Frequently, they will pass the ball backwards to the midfielders or defenders in an effort to create space elsewhere. Think of this in terms of the path of least resistance: If a team is stacked heavily on one side of the field, it only makes sense to pass back and move the ball to the opposite side, where the greater opportunity lies.

Think of it like this: you’re a quarterback in the NFL and your goal is to score a touchdown. You step back to pass, and you see your wide receiver Billy McMullen being covered by Nnamdi Asomugha. As a qb, you know you’ve got a snowball’s chance in hell of completing that pass. So you pump fake, roll out and find your home boy Miles Austin who is being ‘covered’ by Kelly Jennings, who fell down just in time for you to complete the pass for an easy six points. Gravy.

Side note: Hey Seahawks! You know what is overrated? Undersized cornerbacks! Good Christ!

The key here is possession. By making accurate passes, controlling the ball and making runs, good teams have the ball for longer and create more opportunities to score.

The rec league approach – Bad, crappy and/or unorganized teams, however, use a different method. Instead of building the play up, they rely on one or two good players up front to lie in wait for the ball. When defenders and midfielders have the ball, they are panicked, impatient and/or or solely focused on getting the ball to the strikers. Instead of building the play up, the ball is kicked up and over the top to the forwards, who dash to the ball, trying in vain to beat three defenders to score.

I notice this approach a lot in youth leagues and Hispanic pickup games. This approach results in less accurate passes and thus a lack of possession. Though the intentions are good, it ironically decreases a team’s chances of winning. Sometimes you have to take two steps back in order to go three steps forward.

Please note that these descriptions are high level; there are countless styles or methods by which teams play. These are two very general styles that I have observed.

The Sounders – Our boys in Rave Green have sadly only picked up two points from four MLS matches against the Galaxy, Red Bulls, Dynamo and Earthquakes. This is not up to par by anyone’s standards and I have a few observations as to why.

First, I will say that all teams at the MLS level have skilled players. The question is whether these athletes can play together and create opportunities to win games. The Sounders, I believe are not doing this. They seem to have more in common with the afore mentioned Hispanic pickup game than a Championship caliber MLS squad.

In 2008 and 2009, the Sounders style of play reminded me a lot of Arsenal in the English Premier League. Arsenal are known as an attack minded club that make quick passes and are surprisingly fast on counter attacks. They build up possession through the midfield and create many opportunities to score. The Sounders even had a former Arsenal star Freddie Llungberg and former Arsenal youth Steve Zakuani. For any other Arsenal fans out there, this is an admittedly inadequate description of the team, I know.

Freddie Llungberg, formerly of Arsenal and Sounders FC

This year is a different story, however. After observing both home and away games, it is obvious something isn’t quite right. With some new faces on the squad, the chemistry doesn’t seem to be there. Here are some things I have observed:

  • Bad passing/poor choices

Two things here:

o   The Rec League approach – I lost count of how many times during the Dynamo game the Sounders attempted this. Watching from the Budweiser booth (Thanks Bdon) after several Bud Lights, our frustration grew and grew as our only method of attack was to clear the ball up to O’Brian White or Montero, in a feeble effort to win the game.

I challenge you; during the next Sounders game against the Chicago Fire, watch how many times this happens. Long balls over the top are nothing but a hope and a prayer. They are not the way to win games.

Former South Kitsap HS players/friends Double D, myself, Sir Charles and Bdon at the Sounders v. Dynamo game. Thanks to Bdon for hooking it up with sweet suite tickets.

o   Our normal passes used to build up an attack are just awful. They are frequently directly to the opposing team or they are difficult for our players to control.

  • Poor touches

o   Is this a result of the bad passes? Or does our lackluster touch force them? Either way, our first touch on the ball is frequently too far out in front, which results in more turnovers.

These deficiencies in the Sounders game result in less possession, fewer opportunities to score and more counter attacks from our opponents. In order to right the ship, the Sounders need to develop chemistry with each other. They need to be patient, and not simply clear the ball up to the forward like a god damn youth soccer team. Also, the passes need to be accurate.

Fortunately, there are some good things I have observed as well:

Kasey Keller’s play has been great overall. The shots that beat him have generally been phenomenal strikes on goal or opportunities created by the opposing team that were nearly unstoppable.

Steve Zakuani has stepped up his game and is a serious threat in attack.

Though off to a slow start in terms of finishing, O’Brian White got his first goal against San Jose and is creating chances up front.

Hurtado is back and thought there have been some defensive miscues, he does look solid.

Go get ‘em boys. Prove me wrong.


Isaiah Thomas entering the NBA Draft

March 31st, 2011 by nwsportsguy

Breaking news out of the UW as Isaiah Thomas will be entering the NBA Draft, forgoing his senior season, according to this from the UW. He’s been great for us; I wish him nothing but the best. Yes, it would’ve been great to see him take a crack as his senior season, given how we underachieved this year. It’s ultimately his decision and he has to do what’s best for him.


The 360 Sports Blog

An insider's take on Seattle sports and other miscellaneous happenings, written by Northwest sports fan Chadrick Ashby.

Contact me here.

Seattle Sports Icons

This list is dedicated to those who have dedicated themselves to and sacrificed for their respective Seattle sports organizations.

1. Dave Niehaus
2. Edgar Martinez
3. Jay Buhner
4. Steve Largent
5. Cortez Kennedy
6. Paul Allen
7. Ken Griffey, Jr.
8. Jake Locker
9. Randy Johnson aka The Big Unit
10. Lou Piniella

The Suck List

This list is dedicated to those who have disgraced or dishonored Northwest sports, or people/organizations who suck in general.

1. Clay Bennet
2. Greg Nickels
3. Howard Schultz/Starbucks
4. David Stern - NBA Commissioner
5. Geoff Baker - Seattle Times
6. Alex Rodriguez
7. Red Sox Fans from Kent
8. The New York Yankees
9. SuperBowl 40 Referees