- The Season's Over -

What Your Friends at ETB Have Been Up To

June 21, 2010

We’re still here; we’ve just been busy.

Some of you may have noticed that updates have been fewer and further between the past month or so, and for that we do apologize for keeping you in the lurch. As much as we might like to be, we are not machines, not even cyborgs, so we’ve been taking somewhat of a deep breath to recharge, travel, and get some sun. Everybody needs a break now and again, but don’t worry, we’re not going anywhere and I’m sure we’ll be ramping back up again soon.

I was away for 5 weeks traveling abroad in Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and South Africa, and since coming home about 2 weeks ago have been rather busy with some travel writing. If you’re interested, I have a few short blog posts up on Lonely Planet about my time in Sri Lanka, the Maldives, and Kruger National Park; another one to follow shortly on Cape Town. A few months ago I also joined up with the award-winning online travel magazine Perceptive Travel and am writing weekly columns for the blog; all of them can be found here.

While I was away, longtime ETB contributor Zachariah Blott branched out on his own and launched Hoops Karma, a move which we announced a few weeks ago. Zach is obviously focusing a lot of his time and attention on his site, but will still be dropping by periodically to say hello and shit on Kobe. Hey, it’s a dirty job but somebody has to do it, right?

As for Andrew Thell, my partner in crime here at ETB, he was last seen on a frisbee golf course in Florida, NY, marveling at my putting skills and asking for tips on how to improve his midrange game. He also mentioned something about a lightsaber and has developed a F’real addiction.

In summary: We are here. We are not going anywhere. We thank you for reading. Come back soon.


Brian Spencer
Editor & Co-Founder

5 CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jun. 21, 2010 at 4:55pm in Administrative

The NBA FIFA World Cup Time Machine

June 14, 2010

Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By Zachariah Blott

The World Cup kicked off Friday morning in host country South Africa, and with that the NBA Finals were completely forgotten by about 90% of the globe (including, ahem, your faithful editors at ETB). The Cup has and probably always will trump the NBA Finals in most parts of the world when it comes around every 4 years, so maybe it’s time the NBA’s players stopped swimming against the tide and joined in.

What if Team USA had access to a time machine and could start training the NBA’s future stars in the ways of the world’s most popular sport instead? Who would they target and for what positions? Lucky for you I pondered these questions and have some answers.

Here are your NBA members of the hypothetical 2010 World Cup champs (if Team USA soccer actually had a time machine, and, well, didn’t actually use it to help humanity):

Goalie: LeBron James

With his size, hops, and quick-twitch speed, LeBron would probably be the best goalie in the world. He’d pounce on any opponents who dribble their way into the middle, could block shots close to the goal that require lightning fast reflexes, and he’d easily snatch any crosses that were intended for headers anywhere in the box. His aggressive attitude would fit his massive frame well, controlling the penalty area to the point of intimidation.

Center Fullbacks: Ron Artest and Chris Andersen

Center fullbacks have to control the area in front of the goalie so that opponents never get an easy look to score. They need the physical and mental toughness to stand up to any world-class forward, and they need enough speed to cover up anything that slips by the fullbacks out on the wings or the midfielders. Not only that, they are usually two of the team’s taller players so that they can head looping crosses out of harm’s way. I’d say Artest and Andersen are just about the perfect combination of size, toughness, and attitude to ensure no one ever gets a clean look at the goal.

Left and Right Fullbacks: Monta Ellis and Russell Westbrook

You need fullbacks on the wing who are fast and annoying and all over anything that the opponents are trying to develop from the outside. They have to be relentless on defense and willing to push ahead quickly with the ball when the opportunity presents itself for a counter-attack. Ellis and Westbrook possess all the natural skills necessary, plus they’re both more than able to pester opponents into making bad decisions with the ball, or to turn poor passes into quick strikes the other way.

The rest of the NBA FIFA World Cup 2010 team after the break…

Read the rest of this article »

5 CommentsPosted by ETB Contributor on Jun. 14, 2010 at 9:29pm in NBA

Golden Tate’s Soft Spot for Maple Bars

June 11, 2010

We’ve all been there: one drink too many, starving, and nothing’s open except the shitty overpriced deli on the corner. Most people suck it up and boil some noodles at home, but Seattle Seahawks rookie WR Golden Tate recently had a serious case of munchies that couldn’t be satiated with just any everyday perishable from the pantry.

After a night out with friends, Tate, in true Homer Simpson fashion, couldn’t pass up a steaming tray of hot maple bars sitting temptuously in the window of his local Top Pot. The only problem? Top Pot was closed.

Breaking sports news video. MLB, NFL, NBA, NHL highlights and more.

No CommentsPosted by Brian Spencer on Jun. 11, 2010 at 11:00am in NFL

What to Make of Dan Haren’s Terrible 2010

June 3, 2010

Buy Low on Dan Haren

Dan Haren Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By: Andrew Thell

For Diamondbacks fans and Dan Haren owners Tuesday’s turn at Dodger Stadium offered a chance to come down off the ledge. 2010 has been a disaster for the ace thus far, with his ERA standing at a bloated 5.35 in 74 innings coming into Chavez Ravine. That is not what we signed up for back in May when drafting the 29-year-old ace, myself included. In fantasy you’re always supposed to wait on pitching unless the hurler in question is a true difference maker in the ratios, and Haren had proven he was just what with 216 innings of 3.33 ERA, 1.13 WHIP and 206 Ks in 2008 followed by a truly elite 3.14 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 223 Ks in 229.1 innings in 2009. Coming into the season there was little question Haren had transformed himself into an ace with a strikeout rate and WHIP that had improved in each of the last five seasons.

Then this season happened.

I managed to get the Diamondbacks feed for Tuesday’s tilt and it was one of the few times in my life I was actually glad I didn’t draw the venerable Vin Scully’s mellifluous commentary for a Dodgers game. That’s because Arizona announcers Daron Sutton and Mark Grace spent a bulk of the broadcast dissecting Mr. Haren, a topic I was acutely interested in. Despite a woeful ignorance of and aversion to advanced stats, they still provided useful information in discussing a mechanical adjustment Haren had made between starts to stay on top of the ball through his motion, allowing him to better keep it down in the zone and below the belt-line – something that had been a problem resulting in an uncharacteristic 16 HRs allowed in just 12 starts (and 8 in his last 2). The results seemed to speak for themselves as Haren did keep the ball down, striking out 7, inducing grounders with regularly, not giving up any deep flies of note and putting goose eggs on the board for 8 innings.

It was an encouraging start to say the least. Less encouraging was manager AJ Hinch’s handling of his ace. Hinch sent him back out there to face the heart of a dangerous Dodgers order for the 8th inning of a tie-game, putting Haren in a position to potentially unravel the confidence he had built through 7 stellar innings and pushing the struggling star to a career-high pitch count of 127. It was a terrible decision, but it worked out – at least until Haren’s next start versus Atlanta, where I hope the excessive pitches don’t catch up with him, or later in the season, where I pray the workload doesn’t eventually shelve Haren. Throughout the season Hinch has proven himself a clown in his handling of the pitching staff, bullpen included, but that’s beside the point.

Setting concerns over Mr. Hinch’s managerial ineptitude aside, a look under the hood shows that we really shouldn’t have been that worried about Haren even before the strong performance in LA. He’s now at 83 Ks in 82 innings, good for a career-high 9.11 K/9, the best mark of his career and a strong indication there isn’t a lingering injury. Haren’s BABIP on the season is .342 and he has a 17% HR/FB, both up drastically from his career .302 BABIP and 11.2% HR/FB. Those are two more strong indications bad luck are playing a huge role in the current bloated ERA and WHIP.

Other than a not-easy schedule for the remainder of June (vs. ATL, vs. STL, @ DET, vs. NYY, @ STL) I don’t see any reason to think Haren can’t build on Tuesday’s performance and start turning in the type of quality starts (and Quality Starts) we’ve grown accustomed to over the last few years. Of course, there is the ominous late-season split Haren has built up (3.28 ERA, 1.09 WHIP, .231 BAA pre-All Star break; 4.21 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, .277 BAA post-All Star break in 1,300+ career innings). But I don’t buy into that dramatic a difference at this point in his career – I think it’s something that will iron out over time, and this is likely a year where he posts an inverse split which starts that process.

Bottom line: Diamondbacks fans can exhale, owners of Haren will want to hold on to their investment and keep trotting him out there (except perhaps for that start against the Yanks), and any fantasy owner in need of front-line pitching help the rest of the way should have been trying to buy low for a couple weeks. Make your offers now, the window of opportunity is closing here. There’s no guarantee Haren won’t throw up a couple of stinkers, but there’s also no reason to think he’s not the stud fantasy owners spent that third- or fourth-round pick on.

No CommentsPosted by Andrew Thell on Jun. 3, 2010 at 9:52pm in MLB, MLB Fantasy News

Introducing Hoops Karma to Your Favorites

June 2, 2010

Lamar Odom has been lacing his shoes tightly

Lamar Odom and Kobe Bryant Photo Credit: Icon SMI

By: Andrew Thell

Loyal Empty the Bench readers have grown accustomed to the work of regular NBA contributor Zach Blott over the last year. Zach signed on last season to cover the NBA with his unique perspective and has been delivering the goods on a consistent basis since. Readers have come to know Zach’s hallmarks: strong research, solid statistical analysis, a desire to look past the big name and easy storyline, an affinity for team play, rebounding and defense and … an undying distaste for Mr. Kobe Bean Bryant.

We’ve been proud to host Mr. Blott’s work over the last year as he’s tackled NBA-related issues from Grizzlies GM Chris Wallace’s insanity to the 2009 NBA Summer League to the very best and worst in NBA logos to the top NBA stories of the decade to the the NBA MVP race for perimeter players and post players to his controversial statistical analysis of LeBron James’ foul totals to his stellar Advanced Basketball Statistics 101.

We’ve grown quite fond of Zach’s strong contributions all over the site, as I’m sure all of you have, and so we are proud to announce that Mr. Blott has founded an NBA-specific website of his own. The new digs will be dedicated exclusively basketball news and the site goes by the name Hoops Karma. HK examines the why’s and how’s of the NBA and discusses observations of trends and happenings in-depth. Hoops Karma has already been mentioned on ESPN2′s SportsNation and given Mr. Blott’s skills and work ethic I have little doubt this is just the beginning for him. So bookmark Hoops Karma, add it to your RSS feed and follow HK on Twitter.

To get you started, some recent quality posts on Hoops Karma include:

- Lakers’ Fortunes Rest on Bynum’s Knee
- NJ’s Summer Decisions Will Make or Break the Next Five Years
- Don’t Forget About Shaq In This Free Agent Market
- Is Bad Luck a Thing of the Past In Washington?
- Hoops Summer Reading List

Check it out, you won’t regret it.

From both of us here at ETB, we wish you the best of luck Mr. Blott.

1 CommentPosted by Andrew Thell on Jun. 2, 2010 at 10:41pm in Administrative, NBA


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