Dim-witted Nets fan pulls a Bartman

During Monday night’s Suns/Nets game, there was an incident when Steve Nash went to save a ball that was going out of bounds. As he attempted to make the save, a fan sitting courtside (wearing sunglasses, no less) reached out and hit the ball away. Here’s a snapshot of the play.

After the refs discussed the play, the ball was awarded to Suns, even though Corey Hart was seen celebrating his shady move. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Way to hurt your team, buddy.

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How worrisome is Mark Ingram’s 40-time?

Mark Ingram ran a 4.62 in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine, which is considered to be on the slow side of average. In fact, the average 40-time for a RB since 2005 is 4.56, and that’s from a sample size of 163 RBs over six years.

Seven of the top eight rushers in the NFL — Chris Johnson (4.24), Jamaal Charles (4.38), Adrian Peterson (4.40), Maurice Jones-Drew (4.39), Michael Turner (4.49), Steven Jackson (4.45), Rashard Mendenhall (4.41) — ran a sub-4.5 in the 40-yard-dash.

There was one notable exception, and it was the top rusher of 2010, Arian Foster. He reportedly ran a 4.69 at his pro day, which just goes to show it doesn’t take elite speed to rack up yards.

Still, with so many of the top rushers with good to excellent speed, isn’t it worrisome for a team thinking about drafting Ingram? I posed this very question to our NFL guru, Anthony Stalter, who currently believes Ingram will go #15 to the Dolphins, and here is what he said:

There are a lot of fans and draft pundits who get too caught up in 40-yard dash times. When I watched Ingram last year, I saw a physical back but one that has great short-area quickness when he went through holes. It’s true, he doesn’t have great top-end speed and he’ll never be a back that can rely on straight-line speed (which is what the 40-yard dash measures). That said, Ingram is a very solid prospect.

I think one of the most overrated factors when sizing up a running back prospect is speed, with vision being the most underrated attribute. When I watch Ingram play, he reminds me of Emmitt Smith. The former Cowboy didn’t have great straight-line speed like Chris Johnson or Adrian Peterson, but he was a natural runner with tremendous vision, instinct and balance. I’m certainly not suggesting that Ingram is the next Emmitt, but he bears a resemblance to Smith when he runs.

That said, as John has pointed out, speed kills and the proof is in the pudding. When all of the elite running backs in the league are running in the 4.3s or 4.4s (or in CJ’s case, a freakish 4.2), it makes you wonder whether or not Ingram can be an elite back in the NFL. Then again, I haven’t heard one analyst deem him an elite prospect, so it’s all relative. It would be great if every top 15 pick were elite, but the draft remains the ultimate crapshoot. If the Dolphins were to take him at No. 15 and he wound up being a solid feature back for the next 6-8 seasons, went to 1-2 Pro Bowls but was never considered an elite player, wouldn’t their selection of him be considered successful?

After running a 4.62 forty at the combine, there’s a good chance that Ingram could drop into the bottom half of the first round. I still like him at No. 15 to Miami, but some teams are overly reliant on the forty so I could see him potentially falling come April. It would be too bad too, because I think he’s a nice overall player who has worked hard to shed some weight in the offseason.

Foster is the exception that proves the rule: Speed kills. It’s great that the undrafted Foster landed in a good situation in Houston and made the most of it. But Ingram is widely regarded as the top prospect in a weak RB draft, and in all likelihood will be a first round pick. If the Dolphins are drafting him in the middle of the first, isn’t it their expectation that he’ll be elite? And what are his chances of becoming elite without top-end speed?

Charlie Sheen quotes Allen Iverson [video]

We’ve officially gone down the rabbit hole, folks.

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Francisco Liriano-to-Yankees talk heating up

Over the weekend, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the Yankees were keeping a close eye on Twins’ starter Francisco Liriano. On Monday, Nightengale told Jim Bowden of MLB Network Radio that he thinks Liriano will be traded to New York sometime in the next two weeks.

From Rotoworld:

Minnesota Twins starting pitcher Francisco Liriano throws against the Chicago White Sox in the third inning at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago on August 12, 2010. UPI /Mark Cowan

We’ve heard discussion about the Twins possibly trading Liriano from a variety of sources, so it appears this rumor has legs. The Yankees have an obvious need in their rotation, but the Twins would be trading away the closest thing they have to an ace at the moment. According to Nightengale, the Twins would acquire either Ivan Nova or Joba Chamberlain, in addition to other pieces. Stay tuned, because it sounds like things are about to get very interesting.

If the Twins acquire Chamberlain, I wonder if they’ll consider him a starter or a reliever. Because obviously the Yankees’ brass doesn’t feel that he’s a starter or else he would be mentioned along with the other 25 candidates that are trying out for the No. 4 and No. 5 spots in New York’s rotation.

If they do wind up trading Liriano, it’s hard to like Minnesota’s chances in the AL Central this year. The White Sox and Tigers have retooled and the Twins’ bullpen took some big hits in the offseason. Getting healthy seasons out of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer would become even more vital given the losses the Twins have (or will) absorbed in their pitching staff.

Assuming Liriano could handle pitching in the Bronx, he would give immediate hope to the Yankees’ pitching situation. Now all of a sudden, less would be expected of A.J. Burnett and Phil Hughes, which is huge in the case of Burnett (who succumbed to the pressure last season after pitching well in 2009).

Whatever happened to all the dominant Duke big men?

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski (L) questions a call by an official during the second half of his team’s NCAA basketball game against Temple University in Durham, North Carolina February 23, 2011. REUTERS/Ellen Ozier (UNITED STATES – Tags: SPORT BASKETBALL)

Let me throw out a few names: Danny Ferry, Christian Laettner, Cherokee Parks, Elton Brand, Carlos Boozer and Shelden Williams — what do they have in common? Yes, they all played for Duke, and they all averaged at least 17.7 points and 7.4 rebounds in their final years in Durham. On average, this group posted 19.6 points and 9.0 boards in those years. Ferry, Laettner, Brand and Williams were named First Team All-Americans, while Boozer made the Third Team. Parks could have been an All-American as well had Mike Krzyzewski not missed most of of his senior season due to back surgery and exhaustion. Williams was the last “dominant” Duke big man, and he graduated in 2005-06.

Since then, Duke has seen a string of highly-touted big men come through Cameron, including Shavlik Randolph (who played with Williams), Josh McRoberts, Brian Zoubek, Miles Plumlee, Mason Plumlee and Ryan Kelly. Randolph, McRoberts, Mason Plumlee and Kelly were all McDonald’s All-Americans coming out of high school. Other than maybe McRoberts (13.0 points and 7.9 rebounds), none of these guys have even approached the numbers and success of the aforementioned group.

What has happened to big man development in Durham?

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