If you get past the fact that George Hill grew up in Indianapolis, starred at both Broad Ripple High School and IUPUI, you may notice that he's a pretty good basketball player. The three-year veteran was considered to be the heir apparent to Tony Parker as the franchise point guard for the Spurs, and carved out an important role with a San Antonio team that annually contends for NBA Championships.
I don't view the Hill-to-Pacers trade based on who George Hill is, or where he's from. It's solely based on the player he is: a pretty good one. It's nice to see an Indy kid play for the hometown Pacers, but even if Hill was from Topeka and starred at UMKC, I'd still think this was a good trade for the Blue and Gold.
This year's mediocre Draft was beyond a crap shoot. With a pick in the middle of the First Round, the Pacers likely weren't going to be able to get a starter-caliber prospect. But, they turned that 15th overall pick (and the 42nd selection plus Erazen Lorbek) into a guy that's going to come in immediately and push Darren Collison at the point, and potentially end up as the starting two-guard. The worst-case scenario for George Hill is that the Pacers will have a terrific sixth man. The worst-case scenario for Kawhi Leonard, Marshon Brooks, Chris Singleton or any of the other players the Pacers could've had at #15? Much, much worse. That's not to say those players don't have the potential to become good NBA players - they do - but you can only collect so many young players with potential.
After the Bruins' 4-0 Game 7 win over Vancouver to clinch the Stanley Cup the other night, I've been wrestling with the realization that Boston is the new Best Sports City in America. In fact, it's barely an argument even worth having. All four of Boston's major pro sports teams have won championships since 2004. They have seven total titles in the span of the last decade. Compare that success to the other cities nationwide that have 3-4 pro sports teams.
New York - Yankees have won 27 World Series championships, with five coming in the last fifteen years - Giants are near the top of the list with three all-time Super Bowl wins, and the Islanders dynasty netted them four Cup Titles - Long droughts – the Rangers have one Stanley Cup in the last 70 years (1994), the Jets have one Super Bowl in 43 years (1968), the Mets have just one World Series in the past 40 years (1986), and the Knicks haven’t won an NBA Title in almost 40 years (1973)
Chicago - the Bulls won six titles in the 90s, but those are the only NBA Championships of their 45-year history - the Cubs and White Sox have combined to win one World Series Championship in the last 91 years - the Bears have only won one Super Bowl (1985), and the Blackhawks have one Stanley Cup in the last 50 years (2010)
Dallas - after the Mavericks won their first title in their existence, and the Rangers went to the World Series, they’re in the conversation - Cowboys have the second most Super Bowl titles (5), and are tied for the most appearances in the big game (8) - the Stars have only been in Dallas since 1993, but they do have a Stanley Cup title (1999), and have won seven Division Championships
Other cities with 3-4 major sports teams that don’t qualify: Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, Miami, Oakland, Denver, Washington, Tampa Bay, St. Louis
Other cities with 3-4 major sports teams that REALLY don't qualify: Cleveland, Seattle
In the last 48 hours, there has been some debate over whether JR Hildebrand's last-lap crash was a choke or not. Here are the two sides to the argument.
WHY IT ISN'T A CHOKE JR Hildebrand did what rookies rarely do at Indy: have a chance to win. He ran up front all day, and put himself in a terrific position to chug the milk. With just one turn, and five more clean seconds necessary to claim the checkered flag, Hildebrand messed up.
He's handled it extremely well, refusing to throw his team (read: spotters) or Charlie Kimball (who he was attempting to pass) under the bus.
WHY IT'S A CHOKE Plenty of great athletes have "choked" before. Bill Buckner had over 2,700 hits in his career. Hall-of-Famer Patrick Ewing missed a finger roll that would've won New York's Eastern Conference Semifinals series with the Pacers in 1995. 14-time Major champion Tiger Woods lost a Sunday lead in the 2009 PGA Championship to someone called Y.E. Yang. Alex Rodriguez, LeBron James, and Peyton Manning have all at one time or another been labeled as a "choker". If an inexplicable mistake comes at a crucial time, it's a choke regardless of who makes the error.
In order to complete the Indianapolis 500, you have to make 800 correct turns. JR Hildebrand was perfect for the first 799, and then crashed after Turn 800 about two football fields away from the finish line. Blame it on his spotters if you want, but even JR said that it was his split-section decision to go high and make the aggressive pass on Kimball. It's perfectly reasonable for a 23-year old rookie to make a mistake at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - it happens multiple times annually. The only problem is that it rarely happens after the final turn, on the final lap, while the rookie is leading the race.
FINAL VERDICT It's a choke. Hildebrand is a great kid, with a ton of talent, who has handled the heartbreaking situation with the class of a long-tenured veteran. That being said, it doesn't matter how nice or how classy JR is. It would've been highly unlikely that he a) would've run out of gas, or b) been passed by Wheldon had he let off the gas a little bit and played it safe heading to the line.
Besides celebrating the birthdays of Cam Newton, Salvador Dali, and Francisco Cordero, May 11th is a special day on the calendar because it's the two-year anniversary of The Zone!
I've already done so on the Zone fanpage on Facebook, but I also wanted to take this space to thank all of you that have listened, supported, and participated over the past 24 months. It's been a big thrill for me, and I'm looking forward to more of the same.
It was very strange to watch the approach to this year's Draft for the Colts. For so long, we had seen this franchise draft based on the best player available, and for a long time that approach worked. But, a new philosophy - perhaps signifying a new era with Chris Polian waiting to take over for his father - was ushered in on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday: the Colts were drafting for need. The offensive line had been rapidly deteriorating for a long time, and that area was finally addressed by the team. Indianapolis used their first two picks to fortify their shaky line by adding tackles Anthony Castonzo, and Ben Ijalana. Ijalana, out of FCS program Villanova, is expected to shift to guard. Both are skilled and, more importantly, large. Castonzo checks in at 311 pounds, while Ijalana would be a beefy guard at 317 pounds. The additions of the two draft picks should lead to some shifting on the offensive line. Expect Charlie Johnson to move to the right side, whether that be at guard or tackle, with Castonzo securing the starting LT nod. The battle at offensive guard should be the most interesting storyline of Training Camp (if there is one), with Ijalana, Mike Pollak, Kyle DeVan, Jamey Richard, and Jacques McClendon all getting a look. The odd man out in this whole situation could be longtime RT starter Ryan Diem. Diem, a ten-year veteran, has been regressing for years and is due $5.4 million (a jump from $3.8M last season) in 2011, the final year of his contract.
Drake Nevis, a third-round pick out of LSU, puts an extra body at the interior of the defensive line with the statuses of Daniel Muir, Mookie Johnson, and Eric Foster still yet to be determined. Nevis will also get a chance to start. Also, I'm very intrigued by RB Delone Carter from Syracuse. The 225-pounder has a body type that we haven't ever seen in the Colts' backfield, and could help with their struggles in short-yardage situations. If Chris Rucker of Michigan State can prove his legal issues are a thing of the past, he can contribute as well. He is projected to help at safety, where the Colts have glaring depth issues.
All in all, the 2011 Draft class signifies that the Colts have gotten the message. Their patchwork offensive line needed improving, while the defensive tackle position and depth at RB and S needed to be addressed. We won't know how to grade this five-player haul until several years down the line. However, based on positions only, you have to be happy with what the players the Colts were able to bring into the fold.
Mock Drafts are hardly an exact science, but with the 2011 NFL Draft beginning tonight, I was surprised at how nearly-unanimous the experts were in projecting the Colts' 22nd overall selection:
Colts' #22 Mock Draft rundown Mel Kiper, ESPN: OT Nate Solder, Colorado Todd McShay, ESPN: OT Nate Solder, Colorado Mike Mayock, NFL Network: OT Nate Solder, Colorado Pat Kirwin, NFL.com: DT Cory Liuget, Illinois Russ Lande, Sporting News: OT Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin Rob Rang, CBSSports.com: OT Nate Solder, Colorado Chad Reuter, CBSSports.com: OT Gabe Carmini, Wisconsin Adam Caplan, FoxSports.com: DT Muhammad Wilkerson, Temple* (* this was after Caplan had Solder in his first three Mock versions)
It's tough to know anything about offensive lineman, outside of the guys like Jake Long who are considered top-five picks. Here's a highlight video of Solder:
I don't really care if Solder is the pick or not, but with this being such a great draft for offensive tackles, the Colts really need to take advantage of that. I'd list their other needs in order as: DT, S, and depth at WR and CB.