Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Andray Blatche Will Be Amnestied By the Wizards

A reliable source told me that they expect the Wizards to amnesty Andray Blatche, perhaps at the start of free agency. Not that this comes as a surprise to anyone and Andray has worn out his welcome in DC, which is a shame because if he wasn't such a stubborn bonehead he had the potential to be a solid part of this franchise. Despite his off-court issues Blatche was very solid when filling in for Antawn Jamison 3 season ago...but in three seasons the fans have quickly gone from supporting Blatche, who was finally living up to his potential, to running him out of town because he became the next coming of Kwame Brown (or Juwan Howard in his last days as a Wizard).

If the team can convince some other team to absorb his contract for some floor wax and a case of Gatorade (flavor to be named later) they'd gladly ship him out, preferably at the NBA Draft tomorrow night.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Welcome Back Adam Oates

When it was announced that Adam Oates was going to interview for the Capitals head coaching position I thought for sure he'd get the job. For the past few weeks I've said I'd be shocked if he didn't get it and even stated that since the Capitals had the 77th pick in the draft last weekend that it was an omen that the team would bring back their former captain to coach the team.

Today, hours before the announcement was made that Adam Oates would be inducted to the Hall of Fame, the team made the official announcement that he would be the team's coach and outside of bringing back Ron Wilson or Terry Murray I don't know if the Caps fans could really be any happier. Having been the team's captain Oates will be able to help Ovechkin with his leadership. He has a great hockey mind and should be able to do a good job of conveying his message and teachings to the team.  He coached the Power Play in New Jersey, an area the Capitals struggled this past year. Like Hunter, Oates not only played in the NHL, he played in DC and the players will listen to him more and more intently because he's been where they've been and he's been where they want to be....playing for the Cup...though he didn't win it as a player and holds the record for most points in the playoffs without winning it all.  In addition I hope that with Kolzig already in tow, maybe he'll keep Jim Johnson on staff, maybe he'll look to have Calle Jo and Bonzai or other former Caps be a part of the coaching staff or mentors.

The most important part of his hiring though could be the fact that Oates is one of the NHL's all-time leaders in face-off win percentage.  Oates will be able to pass along his techniques to Backstrom, MoJo, Laich and whoever else the team has in the dot this season beyond Ribeiro.

While much will be made about this being his first head coaching gig, I do believe that Oates is ready. When you think about it as players get older and in their final years of playing they do more of an on-ice coaching job with their teammates. They may not be doing the X's and O's and they may not be doing the line-ups but they have some of the best minds in the game and it can help with the transition from the ice to the bench. Plus the past few years as an assistant should have him ready.

The draft got me excited for the season to begin...a season that may never happen if a new labor deal isn't struck. These guys need to sit down and hammer something out. Learn from the NBA's and NFL's mistakes and avoid a work stoppage or lockout or whatever else you want to call it. Hockey has finally recovered from the lost season 8 years ago. This sport, this league, these players...they can't afford to go through this again, not at a time when unemployment is high, money is tight for everyone, and millionaire athletes and billionaire owners are squabbling over money that's generated from the fans hard earned income.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Washington Wizards Make a Good Deal for Once?

Anyone that has followed this downtrodden franchise for the last 30 years knows that when it comes to making trades for players that Wizards haven't exactly been on the winning end of deals. Granted most of  the ones I remember were those under Wes Unseld's watch but anyone that thought trading Chris Webber, who was entering his prime, for an aging Mitch Richmond needed to have their head examined. Some would say trading Rasheed Wallace for Rod Strickland was a terrible deal but that was a move that fit a need, I guess the question would be could the team have gotten more value based on Rasheed's potential but he was so volatile and had so many red flags would it have been worth passing on the deal. Besides when you have Webber, Juwan Howard and Gheorghe Muresan its not going to be easy to find room for a powder keg like Wallace who could take a team that has its bigs in foul trouble and make them even thinner by getting tossed from a game.

The next trade I can think that the team made was the Ben Wallace for Ike Austin trade...MORONS! Or how about Richard Hamilton for Jerry Stackhouse? IMBECILES...I only remember one positive from Stackhouse as a Wizard and that was his last second tip-in alley-oop to beat the Lakers. 

The best trade I can think of was moving the albatross contract of Howard, Calvin Booth (who I liked) and Obinna Ekezie (Terp love) for Christian Laettner, Courtney Alexander, Loy Vaught (totally forgot about him), Hubert Davis, Etan Thomas (who in the end became the center piece of the deal) and $3 million. That trade, executed by Michael Jordan, was probably one of the best trades I'd ever seen the team make, even if it looks insignificant 11 years later. The two teams did another deal 3 years later when Laettner and Stackhouse, along with Washington's 1st Round Pick (Devin Harris) were traded to Dallas for Antawn Jamison. While it would have been nice to have Harris, Jamison was a solid veteran addition, stand-up player on and off the court and brought leadership to a team sorely needing it. Unfortuantely for the NBA good guy his time in Washington didn't end as pleasant as it started.

This brings us to yesterday's trade.  The Wizards traded Rashard Lewis, he of constant knee or back or ego injuries and due $23 million  this upcoming season, and a 2nd Round Pick for Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza. Many, myself included, expected the Wizards to just buyout Lewis for nearly $14 million but GM Ernie Grunfeld had said he would be available if the right deal came along.

Apparently that right deal did come along as the Wizards added an All-Star caliber C who had averaged 13 points and 10 rebounds over his career and a SF who can play defense and get hot from beyond the arc.  I'm not a big fan of Ariza but he's an upgrade over Mo Evans and both players bring quality leadership to a young team. Also a front-court of the defensive minded Okafor and Nene can be intimidating to opposing teams and be helpful to a team that has lacked on defense. While the offense may suffer some they will also be good mentors to Trevor Booker and Kevin Seraphin which should help both players grow. Both young guys shined last year and showed their potential when healthy and given minutes. One concern is both veteran bigs are injury prone.

I honestly haven't been this excited for a move in a long time and had even read a few weeks ago how it would take a lot (multiple 1ist round picks being one thing) to get Okafor. Apparently freeing up $30 million in cap room was more important to the NBA and its new owners and while the cap room would have been nice for the Wizards lets be honest no big name player outside of Gilbert Arenas has come to Washington as a free agent and after the guns in the locker room incident and the immature attitudes of the players who would want to? So a deal was the way to get big name players and while Okafor may not be along the lines of Chris Bosh and more a poor man's version of Andrew Bogut he is a NCAA Champion and former NBA Rookie of the Year, and the #2 pick from the 2004-05 draft.

Now the team will have to learn to play fundamental basketball under Coach Whittman, who I felt deserved the contract he got since the team responded to him. They are still a team without an identity. John Wall, Jordan Crawford, and Trevor Booker thrive in an up-tempo offense. Okafor and Nene are a bit better in a slower scheme and will need to avoid foul trouble for this team to really make strides. While this move doesn't put the team in playoff position, they still have to move Andray Blatche, they have the 3rd pick in the NBA draft and I would guess they have another trade (not Blatche) that they'll make, this is a move that puts the team in the right direction and brings in the right group of character guys.  I seriously doubt you'll hear about Okafor getting shot at 3am or involved with ladies of the night or whining over playing time.

As a Wizards fan you have to feel better about this move and this team than you did going into the draft lottery. By the way has there ever been two players named Trevor on the same NBA team during one season? Of course these are the Wizards, Okafor is injury prone and the Curse of Les Boulez always looms.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Jana Kramer: Actress Adds Country Music Star To Her Resume

I've seen about 30 seconds of One Tree Hill so when checking iTunes a few months ago I had no idea who in the heck Jana Kramer was.  When I heard "I Won't Give Up" back in February of 2011 I instantly fell in love with her voice. Next I got to hear "Why Ya Wanna" and found out she was going to have a Country CD released and knew I'd have to get it. I decided to pre-order it through Jana's website and patiently awaited receiving my CD and signed slipcover/booklet. When the CD arrived I immediately popped it into my computer and added all the songs to my iPod and planned to listen to the CD at work on June 5th and have played it nearly once every work day since.

I don't expect Jana's music to appeal to all country fans and I'm sure some will go in thinking she's more pop than country as that is what much of the genre has become. A few songs may give that impression but there is no denying that the Detroit girl is all country at heart.

Below are my thoughts on and/or understandings of the songs ..really the titles do give away what the songs are about

Good Time Comin' On - This song is a total party anthem that is guaranteed to have you bopping along.

I Hope It Rains - A girl gets dumped, finds out her ex doesn't need the time or space he implied and she hopes he gets what's coming to him for breaking her heart. This is the type of song many females would wish upon their former beau.

Why Ya Wanna - Again the heartbroken girl, from a small town, encounters her ex that she is still trying to get over. Unfortunately for her letting go has been hard and his presence brings those feelings right back to the forefront.

Goodbye California - More pop than country that's for sure and not about heartbreak unlike the previous two. Not one of my favorites on the album but its catchy. Basically a country girl, displaced to California for some time but as much as she loves Cali there's nothing quite like home.

Whiskey - Another "teary" song about the boy went away. Totally feel a country-ism when she says "everybody way up north call him Cornbread." I'm probably just dense on this song but her voice comes off so soothing I don't worry about the confusion.

Over You By Now - By far the slowest tempo song on her album. Another sad song about a boyfriend that fell out of love but couldn't find the nerve to tell her right away in turn causing her to poor her heart out about how she could have moved on had he told her when he first realized it. Honestly a really good song and one that should be released as her next single.

One of the Boys - Tomboyish anthem. Essentially the PERFECT girl, country accent, little to no makeup, blue jeans, and ball cap. Just a girl looking to have a good time with the fellas. Up-tempo and very solid.

What I Love About Your Love - As if the title didn't give away what this song is about. There are times where I feel the twang in her voice comes off a bit odd when she says certain words (feet and sometimes love). Definitely a song a girl will be singing to her man when she's smitten with him.

When You're Lonely - Another slower paced song, another problem with an ex. This one only comes around when he's lonely or hurt by something BUT she basically tells him tough luck and that she won't travel down that road again. This is the type of song I wish more women would abide by rather than giving in to the guy that hurt them and will continue to do so.

King of Apology - Up-tempo song where Jana lets the guy that always apologizes for everything he does to her which hurts her or pisses her off know that she's not going to forgive him again. Really catchy ditty.

Good As You Were Bad - Once again Jana is hurt by a former lover, one that treated her amazing but could treat her just as poorly. I equate this song to someone that was a drunk or drug addict that could be abusive. One thing Jana does in this that she does in the other sad songs is she sings it with feeling and pulls you into her pain.

I honestly don't believe there is a bad song on the album and there aren't many musicians that I will listen to their whole CD constantly and not grow tired of it (anything Carrie Underwood, anything Lady Antebellum, almost anything Rascal Flatts, Kenny Chesney's "When the Sun Goes Down," anything Daughtry, and anything Theory of A Deadman). Jana Kramer's CD has joined those quickly.

For a debut it sure is a strong one. My personal feeling is that its one of the better Country CDs we'll hear in 2012, whether sales reflect it or not. If you can catch her on the road with Brad Paisley I would suggest you do it. She's beautiful and has an amazing voice.

For the album I have to give it a 5/5. Some people may not care for all the songs regarding the girl who had her heartbroken or it may not be their type of country but anyone that is a fan of Country music should at least give the album a listen. I for one can not wait to see what Jana does for an encore, until then I'll catch up on her movies.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Reviewing a Free Box of 2011-12 Panini Titanium Hockey

2011-12 Panini Titanium Hockey

Product Overview:

CASE BREAK (16-box master case)
- One Rookie Card numbered to the player's sweater number!
- One Home Sweaters autograph, featuring a pair of game-used swatches!
- Three Hat Tricks triple memorabilia cards!

My Experience
During the Stanley Cup Finals Panini America was giving away free boxes and cards to a select few followers they chose at random on Twitter. One of the prizes during Game 2, I believe, was a box of the brand-new 11-12 Titanium Hockey that 4 lucky Panini followers would end up getting to bust. The next morning I found out that I happened to be one of the four chosen during that night’s contest.

Earlier this week the box arrived and when I got home from work I sat down and eagerly tore through it. With only 5 packs per box and 4 cards per pack I knew it would only be mere moments before I was done opening the packs and needing to decide whether this product would be worth the $100 price tag that it retails for.  In fairness you really can’t really deem a product good or bad over just one box.

Dubbed as a poor man’s “Upper Deck SP Game Used” you are guaranteed 5 autographs and/or memorabilia per box.  My box consisted of 3 memorabilia, 2 autographs, and 1 numbered parallel out of the 20 cards.  To me that was better than my last box of SPGU where I received a memorabilia in every pack and an autograph of JS Giguere for $150.

The first hit I pulled was a GU piece of JVR. Despite being a Flyer I do like the kid so that’s not too bad. What I didn’t realize in the pack was also a Spectrum Red of P.K. Subban. I guess going through the pack so fast I didn’t pay attention to the foil and never saw the numbering /99 so this was a nice added bonus as I went back through the packs but can’t help but feel that I’ve either become too used to Panini’s products that the shiny card just seemed like it was another base or if I just had a brain fart as I tried to get through the whole box to see what all was in there.

In the second pack I hit an autograph of Carey Price. I figured this was a card that probably sold in the $20-25 range which would be around the average cost per pack, so far the first one to appear on ebay sold for $22+ shipping. For the record I’m not that kind of breaker but I do like to keep tabs on value in case I do ever need to part ways with my pulls.

In the third pack I hit my second auto, this time a New Wave of Viktor Stalberg. I follow hockey pretty closely but don’t recognize the name. Chalk this up to your common base auto that you’d expect to receive in just about any product. Also the New Wave reminds me of some Topps autographs, maybe like Game Day from Topps Football.

Pack four yielded another memorabilia card, this one numbered to 199, Hat Tricks which consisted of three members of the Carolina Hurricanes (Zach Boychuk, Jamie McBain, and Justin Faulk).  The card reminds me of a triple memorabilia from another product from another sport but I can’t put my finger on which one. Also these fall at 3 per case.

Pack five yielded the final game used card, this of Ryan O’Reilly.

My Thoughts
When I finished breaking it I did feel a bit disappointed, regardless of it being free or not. At first I didn’t feel like this was a product I’d want to pay $100 to bust and I’m hoping that by the time the National rolls around in Baltimore it will be closer to a $70-80 break. However after seeing some of the cards that others pulled I will say that this product has a lot of promise and there are a ton of inserts that obviously weren’t pulled by me. Also rookies are numbered to just their jersey number, and fall at ONE PER CASE, so completing a set of Titanium hockey will not come easy.

As a sports card collector I’m not a big fan of sticker autos but can accept them if done right and the player’s auto isn’t cut off. While the stickers don’t always look great the fact that the background where the stickers are placed is white does help ease the look.  The Private Signings, which are a cross-brand autograph insert that has appeared in quite a few products,are really sharp looking and all on-card. This is much like the original Skybox Autographics but the design hasn’t changed, which I think is perfect. I also approve of them using prime and patch differently than I've seen in the past...the patches are amazing.

One draw back to me is that they didn't include a checklist in the box. I'd have loved to know what exactly was available without going to their site or ebay but as you'll see in the pics that follow there are some big names with some great looking cards.

Randomly Inserted into Packs
Spectrum Ruby/Gold (100 cards) - See Ruby above

Rookie Draft Selection Parallels (100 cards)

Game-Worn Gear (99 cards) - See above
Game-Worn Prime (91 cards)

Game-Worn Gear Patches (100 cards)

Game-Worn Gear Autographs (63 cards)

Game-Worn Gear Prime Autographs (49 cards)

Game-Worn Gear Patch Autographs (64 cards)

Game-Worn Gear Dual Memorabilia (50 cards)

Game-Worn Gear Dual Prime (46 cards)

Game-Worn Gear Dual Patches (50 cards)

Four Star Memorabilia/Prime/Patches (20 cards)

Hat Tricks (30 cards) - See above
Hat Tricks Memorabilia Prime (29 cards)

Hat Tricks Patches (29 cards)

Quad Memorabilia (47 cards)

Quad Memorabilia Autographs (25 cards)

Six Star Memorabilia (25 cards)...kills me to put that punk ass in this blog but its a good looking card

Rookie Reserve Dual Memorabilia Autos/Prime Autos/Patch Autos (25 cards)

Home Sweater Autographs (30 cards)
Home Sweater Prime Autographs (29 cards)

Home Sweater Patch Autographs (30 cards)
Road Sweater Autographs/Prime Autographs/Patch Autographs (30 cards)

Third Sweater Autographs/Prime Autographs/Patch Autographs (15 cards)

Draft Day Autographs (50 cards)

Rookie Dual Signatures (30 cards)

Marks of Honor (20 cards) - beautiful set

Titanium Reserve Autographs (50 cards) - See above
New Wave Signatures (50 cards) - See Above
Private Signings (38 cards)

Private Signings Platinum (9 cards)