Thursday, May 31, 2007

All That Jazz

The Jazz' playoff run has come to an end with a shellacking in San Antonio. Even though it was a rather embarassing end to a fantastic playoff run, I've been very happy with the way everything turned out this year. At the same time, I can't help but think that there need to be some changes in the team before next year. While I think this might be my first sports post, it's not for the lack of interest in the Jazz or sports. I've gone to games even through the dark post-Stockton/Malone and pre-Boozer/Williams era and didn't just get excited when they suddenly showed up in the Western Conference Finals. Anyway, with that aside out of the way, a position-by-position analysis of the Jazz:

Point Guard: What can you say about Deron Williams? I was excited they chose him and not Chris Paul on draft day, and even when Paul had a stellar rookie year I was behind Williams. I think he's more of a learner and he fits the Jazz system better. Paul probably wouldn't have been ROY last year under Coach Sloan either, because with Sloan you have to earn your position. It's why Carlos Arroyo flamed out, it's why Ostertag was perpetually in his doghouse, and it's why Giricek is the second coming of Ostertag. How do you earn your position? Hard work. If you play tough D, you compete, and you are always aiming to improve, you'll never have a better advocate. If you squander your natural gifts and punch in for the paycheck, you might as well put your name on the pine, because that'll be your permanent seat. Paul would have done much the same as Deron did, but it would have taken time, just like it did with Deron. After Williams, the Jazz have some decisions to make. I would like to see Derek Fisher back him up, as the plan was from the get-go. Right now the rotation's a bit odd because you have D-Will come out and he's replaced by a 2 guard with Fisher sliding over to Point. Fisher's not as fresh as he otherwise would be as a result. The Jazz' greatest success came with Howard Eisley coming out and spelling Stockton for a time, and you have to have a fresh Point do that with Williams to make sure the team keeps it up when he's out. I like Dee Brown - he's got great hustle and heart, but I don't trust him to run the offense much. He's a good third guard, but that's about it.

Shooting Guard: Here's a big problem. Fisher's not a natural 2 and I would consider him a stopgap option at best. We don't have anyone better at the moment, so he got the call. Giricek is not the answer either. He's a good shooter when he's on, but he's far too spotty to use as an effective answer. Add to that that he's a shoot first player and he doesn't fit the system. I dread seeing the ball in his hands because you know he's not going to look for a cutter or for someone on the low block, he's just going to huck it from wherever he is. That's great if you're lights out, but if you're not and if it doesn't fit the system, you can't just toss things up there. Ronnie Brewer might be the best long-term solution. I like what I've seen of him - he's athletic, he seems pretty unselfish, and I think that he could go far. The question is whether or not he'll fit with Coach Sloan. Some young players do (Shandon Anderson, Williams) and a lot don't (Arroyo, Sasha Pavlovic, Kris Humphries, Kirk Snyder). I'd love to see Brewer fit in and be a long-term solution. CJ Miles has shown potential, but it doesn't look like he'll be around much longer. We need to get a good shooting guard, the question is who. Manu, would you like to come over to our side?

Small Forward: This is a bit of a conundrum. Andrei Kirelinko is an incredible athelete, a great person, and he fits well in Utah. When he's in the game (and I mean his head's in the game), he's a game changer. At the same time, throughout the year he's looked lost. He was the man there during the transition period, but with Boozer and Williams really stepping up as the leaders of the team, I think he's felt like there's no room for him. For some reason he gets back down to touches (i.e. shots). If AK could overcome that desire for the Jazz running the offense through him and instead focus on his strengths (deflections, blocks, steals, rebounds) and use those to get his touches and his scoring, it would help both him and the Jazz. You can see how effective he is when he buys into this philosophy (as evidenced by the latter part of the Rockets series and the Golden State series) and also how ineffective he is when he doesn't (the Spurs series). The question is if AK will do so, and if he does is he worth $12 m/year? Harpring's a solid backup and he plays Sloan-style ball. I don't see any reason to have him go anywhere as he's a solid 6th man.

Power Forward: This position is all sewn up. Boozer, while having all kinds of health problems initially, has been incredible. He's not the world's best defender, but that can be taught. He's shown that he has the desire and the heart. If that translates into a similar jump like he made last year, you can bet that he'll be in the same league as Duncan, Malone, and Barkley. Millsap is a beast who is too good to stay behind Boozer for long. Unfortunately that probably means that he'll be lost to free agency in a few years, but while we have him, we're in great shape.

Center: On the whole, this is a positive. Memo Okur had a great year and has shown that in general he's a good shooter, a competent defender, and the best center the Jazz have ever had. Of course, that's not hard to do. When you have a list that includes Mark Eaton, Felton Spencer, Olden "The Sheriff" Polynice, and Greg Ostertag, you don't have a lot of competition. Jarron Collins, while a nice person, is not my choice for backup center. I'm not a fan of his game, I think he's too close to the old center mold - slow, low scoring, and just a body. He's not strong enough to compete against the Shaqs of the world and he's too slow to compete against Amare Stoudamire or Tim Duncan. Then we have Rafael Araujo in the third position. I know that he's not a favorite of people in Toronto, but he's a hard worker and he's a bruiser. At BYU he had a nice scoring touch and given the right opportunity, he could find it again. He's strong enough to battle against the big centers, and while he's slow, he's got 6 fouls of punishment he can dish out. I'd love to see the Jazz re-sign him for less than what he's currently getting, trade Collins, and maybe draft a nice big man prospect in the second round and save some money in the process.
So I worked on some options using the ESPN Trade Machine and came up with some trades. While some are really pie in the sky, they'd make the Jazz better by addressing our biggest needs.
Andrei Kirelinko and Gordan Giricek for Kobe Bryant. Why this works - Kobe said he wants out. It helps the Jazz with a 2 who has a killer instinct. It helps AK by getting him on a team that would probably be a better fit. It gets rid of a problem for the Lakers in Kobe's trade demand and lowers their salary load. Why it doesn't - Kobe would never come to Utah. The Lakers may not be getting the best deal for it. It's in the same conference. Kobe wouldn't fit in Sloan's system. Kobe could stunt the growth of Boozer and Williams.
Andrei Kirelinko and Gordan Giricek for Cuttino Mobley and Corey Maggette. Why this works - salaries work, the Jazz tried to get Maggette several years ago, the Clippers have been going in a little different direction. Why it doesn't - The Clips may think they're giving up too much, Maggette's reconstructed knee.
Gordan Giricek, Jarron Collins, and a draft pick or so for Manu Ginobli. Why this works - salaries work, Manu would be a starter again, he fills the exact need the Jazz have, the Spurs get quite a bit in return, Manu would be a perfect fit in Sloan's system. Why it doesn't - Please, the Spurs get rid of Ginobli? I don't see that happening.

Propose something that would work and help both teams out, something realistic and logical that would help everyone out. Then maybe for some strange reason Kevin O'Connor will see it and do something. All we know is that both Boozer and Williams think there needs to be some change in order to get to the next level. Will it be in attitudes or will it be in personnel?

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The (Electric) Chairman's Club

While the Chinese government is far too punitive and vindictive, I think that their punishment here is right on. The former head of their FDA just got hammer-dunked as a result of accepting nearly $1 million in bribes to let drugs get approved in China. Death is a bit much in most bribery cases, but as people died because of his negligence, I don't have a problem with it. In this case the punishment fits the crime. Working in favor of Zheng is that the Chinese justice system is rather swift, and as a result, he won't be subject to any Jack Bauer-esque stints in a Chinese prison.
I really think that bribery cases like this should be subject to stiffer fines here in the US. Sure, there is the ever-popular trip to Club Fed as an option, but why not a fine equal to the amount that you were bribed? In almost every bribery case that this would apply to, the public official wouldn't be able to pay back the money and that's not a bad thing. They'd hit bankruptcy and that's a nice little disincentive. Of course, the Dukestir got hit with something that was pretty harsh, but he's more the exception than the rule. Let's get a little punitive when people are putting us in danger or wasting our tax dollars (well, wasting them as a result of a bribe - if it was just wasting our money in general, we'd end up without a Congress half way through their terms).

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Take the Pepsi Challenge

When I lived in Japan, I loved scouring the vending machines and grocery/convinience stores for the latest drinks. Unlike the US, in Japan companies make limited release beverages that are only around for a few months or so and then replaced with something else. While it was nice in that you could find some great drinks, it was disappointing because instead of being able to get a nice Fanta Fresh Peach, you'd have to go back to the old reliable Mistio (in a 500 mL can) or Melon Cream Soda. Every once in a while you'd find something that was so bizarre that you had to try it and then be disgusted by it. That time is now, and Pepsi Cucumber Ice is the beverage. Derek, are you willing to ship me one of these bad boys? I can't imagine it would taste good, but I must try it!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Immigrant Song

Judging by the comments (all two of them), I am clearly on the wrong side of the immigration debate in the eyes of my loyal (and not quite so loyal, but just stumbling upon) readers. First, in response to the comments:

Can we just round up all the immigrants and send them home? This right here is the biggest reason why a "kick them out" policy will never work. This would be feasable in someplace like Nazi Germany or Chavez' Venezuela, but here in the USA? There isn't a prayer in heaven. Think about it for a moment. You have the US government, designed to be ineffectual by the founders in large part to prevent things like the wholesale rounding up and internment and/or deportation of people. The only way that this would be remotely feasable is if the government had the military do it and even then it wouldn't happen. When you consider that the most effective part of our government is closing in on six years without finding Osama bin Laden, it's hard to think that they'd ever be able to get 12 million people out from among us, and remember, not all illegals are Mexican. You've got plenty of Indians, Asians, Africans, and Europeans here too. In addition, the US Army can't operate on US soil without the suspension of the Posse Comitatus Act, which is also a rather significant political hurdle.

Let's assume that we decide to override the Constitution for about a 1 year period to give the President the ability to get all the illegals out. Are we prepared for, in addition to the economic cost of booting out 12 million people and trying to replace them (at 4.5% unemployment, that's not an easy task), the cost of increased taxes to fund the effort? Knowing the government's penchant for waste, let's assume that to procure flight time on military C-130s, build internment camps, house and feed the illegals until they're shipped away, provide fuel for the transports and for the camps, and so on down the line, let's peg this at a conservative $300 billion. That's about the yearly cost of the Iraq War, and it doesn't seem like this would be any smaller an effort. It took that much to clean up the Gulf Coast after Katrina, and that's not done yet either. That's going to be a tax increase now or later.

Let's assume that we still go forward. Do you think that they'll go quietly like the Japanese did during World War II? A lot of that could be attributed to misguided patriotism, which the illegal immigrants most certainly will not have if we come to boot them out. Who here would like to place a bet on how many states will have martial law declared before it would be finished? You'd see it in California, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Arkansas for sure, with other states like New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Washington, Maryland, and Georgia distinct possibilities as a result of their highly immigrant-centric urban centers. You would likely see a lot of violence before this was curbed as the illegals fought for their lives and the lives of their families against a nation that has turned against them.

Is that worth it, or should we just decide that the rule of law is good in most instances but bad in this one. Current immigration policy is ridiculous already and there's no sense in punishing all these people, as well as the rest of the nation just because a dumb law is on the books. There was a law in Missouri until Kit Bond rescinded it in 1976 that you could kill a Mormon. Is that law really one that should have been followed or used as any sort of justification in a court of law? No. Let's let common sense dictate what we should do and allow these people to stay here, with a penalty, and not try to ham-handedly enforce an archaic policy that should have disappeared with smallpox.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Maybe We Could Get Us Some of That Reform

The WSJ has reported that the Senate and White House have reached a compromise on immigration. All I can say is that it's about time. Fortunately Democrats have been holding on to common sense here in the face of GOP idiocy. The structure would look something like this:
The proposed agreement would allow illegal immigrants to come forward and obtain a "Z visa" and -- after paying fees and a $5,000 fine -- ultimately get on track for permanent residency, which could take between eight and 13 years. Heads of household would have to return to their home countries first. They could come forward right away to claim a probationary card that would let them live and work legally in the U.S., but could not begin the path to permanent residency or citizenship until border security improvements and the high-tech worker identification program were completed.
A new temporary guest worker program would also have to wait until those so-called "triggers" had been activated. Those workers would have to return home after work stints of two years, with little opportunity to gain permanent legal status or ever become U.S. citizens. They could renew their guest worker visas twice, but would be required to leave for a year in between each time. Democrats had pressed instead for guest workers to be permitted to stay and work indefinitely in the U.S.
This is truly a unique issue in the sense that opposition and support are all over the map. You have labor unions, fearmongers, and racists on one side and common sense, moderates, economic conservatives, and bleeding heart liberals on the other. It's really the only issue that I know of that splits groups like this. Unfortunately, as Alan Greenspan said, "We used to be a melting pot but now seem to have some trouble with that. I think that's sad."
What's my take? I think it's the best we can hope for. I'd love to have the permanent worker program, but I do like the increased emphasis on getting skilled immigrants. I also like that we're not going to pull a Tancredo and ship them all back to Mexico, which is far too expensive, prohibitive, and impractical to ever do. We can get these people out of the shadows of society, which may make our hamburgers and tacos a bit more expensive, but what it will also do is reduce crime. Mark my words, if this does indeed pass, you will see far less crime by illegal immigrants. The reason for this is because allowing illegal immigrants to become part of society will effectively neuter the organized crime syndicates (not Mafia crime, but the organizations that work to bring these people in and then exploit them) by allowing them to climb out from under whatever rock they have been hiding under to avoid the authorities. It's the equivalent of cutting out the middle man - now they can buy their products directly from the factory instead of having the crime markup that society has imposed on them.
Will there be opposition? Undoubtedly. I'm sure that the anti-immigrationistas are already working to kill the bill, but hopefully we'll see it pass. I know that Chris Cannon would like to see that as every anti-immigration Republican in Utah's 3rd district is already lining up to try and take him out. Of course what Chaffetz, Cook, John Jacob Jingleheimer Schmidt, and Leavitt don't seem to understand is that they're all going after the exact same group of people: those who don't like Cannon's stand on immigration. Who's ready for some free meals from candidates who will ultimately kill each other in the convention? I know I am!

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

They Call Him The Whip Master!

This is one of my all-time favorite SNL sketches. Unfortunately, they've not put it on any of the SNL greatest hits DVDs (seriously, did we really need a "Best of the post-Dana Carvey/pre Will-Ferrell" show? I think that it must be 90 minutes of static), but YouTube has it in all it's Whip Mastery glory:

EDIT: YouTube had to take it's another link:

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

And The Traffic Parted For Me As Moses Through The Red Sea

Here's an absolutely classic piece of Utah culture here. I've heard people end their speeches like this before, but never a traffic report. The second best part is the long awkward silence as the DJ collects his thoughts.


Friday, May 11, 2007

It's FAAAAN-tastic

I'm back after a busy April that wasn't so busy on the blogging front. The past few weeks of the NBA playoffs have been great (at least for me - I know that some people think they've had the same suck factor as the NBA season did this year). The Jazz survived a tough series against Houston and are getting lucky against Golden State. I know that their two wins have been a combination of skill and dumb luck, but honestly, how in the world could they have won Game 2? Williams was in foul trouble the whole night, Kirilenko had to play point guard when there was nobody else on the court that could do it, and still the Warriors ended up killing themselves in the end by bricking a bunch of free throws. Will the Jazz be able to win tonight? I don't know. Oakland is notoriously difficult to play in, but after looking at the Golden State bench at the end of Game 2, you knew they were toast. They looked like someone had just stolen everything in their house and they didn't have insurance. Could these last two games become Dead Men Walking games? We'll find out soon enough.
While the playoffs have been great, they've introduced me to one of the worst commercials of all time. Yeah, I know that the Sizzler ones where they tried to go upscale by having a chef talk to a white trash family or where they had the construction worker eating a Malibu Chicken platter (you know he's a construction worker because he wears his hard hat everywhere) were bad, but this is painful bad, not even funny bad. I'm talking about the "Think Fast" ad. Here we have a guy who thinks he's all that and a bucket of chicken and he's "playing basketball" with a bunch of stickers on his wall. He's busy schooling these stickers by passing them the ball, but because they're stickers they can't catch them. So these stickers aren't catching his passes, he's saying "think fast" a billion times, and he doesn't realize that if, in theory, he was a good basketball player, those stickers would be catching his passes, or he wouldn't be hitting their faces and/or groins at the very least. The only redeeming quality of the whole thing is when Steve Nash's sticker gets fed up with this chump and tosses a basketball at his head. Why would they pay somebody for this commerical? Sure, I remember it (in part because it was on every single commercial break, and I can't TiVo the playoffs), but at what cost? I'm not going to buy anything from them out of protest alone. Who's with me?