Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Get back

Ten free minutes for me, 10 free throwaway lines for you . . .

1. Worried about Josh Beckett? Eh, I'd call it mild concern at this point; I'd be more bothered if he had a blister. While back problems for a pitcher obviously can cause bigger problems down the road if it affects his mechanics, it sounds like this strain or pull or whatever it is will cease to be an issue with proper rest and treatment. The Sox, unsurprisingly, are being appropriately cautious with their ace. It's a long season, and they can survive without him in the short term. Maybe it's even a blessing that he misses the ridiculous trip to Japan; we wouldn't want him suffering a debilitating season-long case of Mike Mussina Jet Lag, now would we?

2. Thrilled to read that "Friday Night Lights" has, against long odds, been renewed for a third season. I've been banging through the DVD of the first season, and it has to be among the best written and acted dramas on TV. I appreciate that the writers rarely cop out with a neat, tidy, ending to an episode; even the most likable characters are complex and flawed, and the result is a rare authenticity. It's criminal that Kyle Chandler, who is spot-on as gruff, good-hearted Coach Taylor, hasn't even been nominated for an Emmy, let alone won one. And Tim Riggins is fast becoming one of my favorite TV characters of recent memory. He's hilarious, in a brooding, greasy-haired sort of way. It's not quite at the level of "The Office," in my personal TV ratings, but it's getting close.

3. All right, what the hell, might as well say it: I honestly believe the Celtics will - will - win No. 17 this season. I promise to write a longer column on this when time permits, but I just wanted to get it out there now, because I am completely convinced that they are the best team - and that's the key word, team - in the league this season. They are an absolute joy to watch at both ends of the floor, there seems to be uncommon camaraderie among the players, they just added one of the finest big-game players of his generation as a willing role player, and the kids seem to improve on a nightly basis. Detroit can't keep up with them, and I don't think the survivor of the West bloodbath will, either. It might be the most fun I've had watching this team in, oh, 22 years. Can we just skip ahead to the playoffs already?

4. My hypothetical NBA MVP ballot: 1) LeBron James (I am scared to death of the Celtics having to deal with him in the playoffs, though I remind myself that two of his key teammates are the fossilized Wally Szczerbiak and Delonte West . . . which makes all that he has accomplished all the more impressive. 2) KG (The national media seems to be overlooking him now, probably because the Celtics continued to win when he was hurt. But his importance, especially defensively and emotionally, cannot be overstated. Knew that, didn't you? 3) Kobe. (If the Celts don't make the finals, I'd love to see Cavs-Lakers, just to watch him and LeBron try to one-up each other.)

5. Gerald Green, upon being traded by the Timberwolves to his hometown Houston Rockets Feb. 21:

“It’s like a dream come true. Never in my life did I think this would happen. I am on cloud nine."

The Rockets cut him barely two weeks later. Maybe that will be the dose of reality Green needs, though I doubt it. While he has oodles of physical talent - players with his ups and photogenic jump shot are scarce - he hasn't improved at all in his three years in the league, which tells you that he either has no work ethic, or that his IQ, on the court and off, is in the sub-Tony Allen category. At this point, he might as well call himself a Dunk Contest Specialist. It's funny, I've been poring through my archives the past few days, and I was shocked by how often I praised Green's "potential" last season; I think most of us knew all along that the kid was too much of a knucklehead to make it, but we were so desparate for anything to root for that we convinced ourselves that his 10.4 ppg average for a truly atrocious basketball team constituted progress. Man, I'd really love to hear Doc Rivers's or Paul Pierce's candid assessment of the kid. I bet they have some stories, and I can't imagine they're surprised he now finds himself trolling for employment with the likes of the Yakima Sun Kings.

6. I'll admit I'm no expert like Mike Mayock, Mel Kiper Jr., or Larry Johnson, but the more I look at the way the upcoming NFL Draft appears to be falling, the more I hope the Patriots find some sucker to trade a handful of picks for that No. 7 spot. There are no cornerbacks or linebackers as far as I can tell that would justify being selected in that slot, assuming workout warrior Vernon Gholston goes to the Jets at No. 6. If all the stars are aligned, maybe Jerry Jones will trade his two No. 1s - the 22d and 28th picks - along with, say, a fifth-rounder, and the Pats can get a couple of pieces they need (Keith Rivers? Dominique Rogers-Cromartie?) at good value.

7. What does Matt Walsh have in his video collection? Well, like most guys in his early 30s, he probably has "GoodFellas," "Dazed and Confused," definitely owns the "Best of Jenna Jame". . . oh, you meant his other video collection? Right. Well, here's my best - and probably wishful - guess: a couple of tapes of opposing coaches' signals from the 2000-02 seasons. And that's it. If you consider the timeline here, Walsh first mentioned possessing material that would "embarrass" the Patriots after they got busted in the Jets game, but - and this is the key - before it was revealed that there were other tapes. The suspicion here is that Walsh knew there were other tapes, had a few of them as keepsakes, and was bummed when he realized he didn't have the bombshell he thought he did once the Patriots apparently came clean with Sheriff Goodell.

8. This sure seems like the season Manny Delcarmen makes the leap and becomes a dependable and perhaps even elite eighth-inning setup guy; he's in excellent shape and certainly has the stuff to succeed in a crucial role. But first I need to be sure that he's eliminated the Schiraldi-esque "holy crap, this is a huge moment" look from his repertoire before I'm officially convinced. He wasn't trustworthy in big spots in the postseason last year, and he still needs to prove he can handle the pressure that comes with a late-inning role.

9. Let's see . . . 11 of you, my dearest readers, sent me this link today (plus one posted in the comments), and while I suppose I'm flattered that you immediately think of me when a story's subjects include Jenna Fischer, a casting couch, and, um, a synonym for pee, I'm also somewhat concerned about my public perception. But not enough to prevent me from clicking the link all 11 times you sent it. Thanks, freaks.

10. As for today's Completely Random Baseball Card:

Because sometimes, it really is random.