The Blazers missed the boat

The Portland Trailblazers had the opportunity to trade Darius Miles and Theo Ratliff to the Knicks for the huge, expiring contract of Penny Hardaway and a first round draft pick, but didn’t pull the trigger.

Apparently, it was because owner Paul Allen couldn’t shake his inexplicable love affair with Miles.

That one was a no-brainer. It was like taking candy from a baby. But Allen, along with former coach Maurice Cheeks, was responsible for Miles’ signing a long-term, above-market-value contract with the team in the first place, and he apparently wasn’t ready to part company with him.

Allen is apparently scared of trading away young players only to have them blossom elsewhere. He’s still reeling from the loss of Jermaine O’Neal several years ago. The difference here is that Miles is 24 while O’Neal was just 22 when the Blazers traded him to Indiana. In the NBA, those two years are crucial. Miles is physically gifted, but if he hasn’t made major strides in his game at this point, then he probably doesn’t have the work ethic to become a superstar in the league.

I think, based on the performance of Knicks’ GM Isiah Thomas over the past few years, that any trade he proposes to you is proabably a good deal…for you. I still don’t understand why the Blazers passed on Chris Paul. Maybe Paul Allen should just give me the GM job. Give me an assistant who is a salary cap expert and I’ll put together a playoff team in Portland.

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Redick wins AP POY, shares USBWA award

The Associated Press selected Duke’s J.J. Redick as their Player of the Year while the United States Basketball Writers Association gave its POY award to Redick and Gonzaga’s Adam Morrison. This is the first time in its 50-year history that the USBWA has given the award to two players.

The AP award has been won by four Duke players in the last seven years. Elton Brand (1999), Shane Battier (2001) and Jay Williams (2002) preceeded Redick’s award this season.

Final Four preview

On Selection Sunday, CBS’ Clark Kellogg said that this would be the first year that the four #1 seeds would make it to the Final Four. Two weeks later, we’re looking at a Final Four without a #1 seed for the first time in 26 years. Reportedly, only four contestants in ESPN’s Tourney Challenge picked the four remaining teams correctly and one of them mistakenly picked George Mason because they were thinking of George Washington, a team that was ranked in the top 10 for most of the season. There is no word on how many brackets these particular contestants filled out. It would be quite impressive if it were one or two, but if it was 50 or 100, not so much.

I wouldn’t mention my bracket if not for how it went down in flames on Saturday and Sunday. Having correctly picked six of the Elite Eight (missing only LSU and George Mason), I was in first place and all of my Final Four teams were still alive. Of course, I picked Texas, Memphis, UConn and Villanova. Each team was favored and each team subsequently lost. You might think that this would send me to the looney bin, but I was actually more impressed with how the four remaining teams played and I’m happy they won.

This Final Four is all about grit. Take #11-seed George Mason, who shrugged off the Selection Sunday bid controversy to dispatch #6-seed Michigan State, #3-seed North Carolina, #7-seed Wichita State and #1-seed Connecticut in overtime. Though I had UConn winning it all, I couldn’t help but root for the Patriots, whose feisty play put the Huskies’ “cooler-than-thou” attitude to shame.

More after the jump.

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The weird West

The Western Conference playoffs are shaping up…oddly. Due to a quirk in the seeding system – where each division winner is given one of the top three seeds – the conference’s two best teams, San Antonio (55-16) and Dallas (54-18), will probably end up with the #1 and #4 seeds. This means that the two best teams in the West would meet in the second round of the playoffs instead of in the conference finals.

If the playoffs were to begin today, the bracket would look like this:

#1 San Antonio (55-16) vs. #8 Sacramento (36-36)
#4 Dallas (54-18) vs. #5 L.A. Clippers (41-29)

#2 Phoenix (47-23) vs. #7 L.A. Lakers (38-34)
#3 Denver (40-32) vs. #6 Memphis (41-31)

Imagine you’re the Clippers and your reward for finishing fifth in the conference is a first round date with Dallas and a potential second round matchup with San Antonio. The Clippers would be much better off losing a couple of games and finishing sixth, getting a first round matchup with Denver, the worst of the three division winners, before a potential second round series with Phoenix, a team that is both banged-up and struggling.

Whenever there is incentive to lose on purpose, there’s a problem, and the NBA needs to fix this one.

Packers want decision from Favre, target Woodson

At the NFL team meetings, new Green Bay HC Mike McCarthy said that the team would like Brett Favre to give them a decision on whether or not the quarterback will play this season.

McCarthy said the Packers do want Favre to make his decision by Saturday, which is the latest deadline for the $3 million roster bonus they owe him.

But the deadline is an artificial one, because Favre’s contract stipulates the team doesn’t have to pay the bonus until September if he returns and doesn’t have to pay it at all if he retires.

Still, McCarthy said he’d like to see the issue resolved ASAP.

“I feel like it’s Groundhog Day. I’ve been answering the question the same way for two months,” McCarthy said. “The bonus, that’s pretty much the goal we’re trying to set (for a decision). Obviously, you keep moving back the date, (but) there’s a reason behind the date. So, we would definitely like to know as soon as possible.”

This has been a case of the tail chasing the dog. Favre wants to see offseason improvement before he decides to play another season and the team can’t have a truly effective offseason plan if they are unsure about Favre’s desire to play. It sounds as if McCarthy is going to hold Favre more accountable for his interception count, but that has a lot to do with other facets of the game – talent at the WR position, an effective running game and a good defense.

If the Packers are able to draft DE Mario Williams or LB A.J. Hawk with the #5 overall pick, it would certainly help the defense. The team is also looking at Charles Woodson.

Woodson, the fourth pick in the 1998 draft, is one of the highest-profile free agents remaining on the market, though his contract requests have kept him from being a highly sought-after player.

The Packers and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers appear to be the only teams making a strong run at Woodson, who turns 30 in October.

The Packers have been frugal thus far in the offseason and the question is – how much money does he want? I don’t think it’s a good idea to commit a lot of money to a 30-year old defensive back, but if Woodson is willing to come down in his asking price, then he might be a nice addition to the defense.

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