Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Catching up with NBA FA, Trades, and My Running

It’s been a while since I checked in, so let me get up to speed.

First off, as you’re all aware, the Pistons signed F Josh Smith for a reasonably largish contract that pays him about $12M/yr for 4 years. That wasn’t a bad deal, and not really an overpay since he actually made more last year. Smith was the biggest name FA the Pistons had a shot of signing this summer, so in that sense you could call it a success. However, he’s more of a PF (Greg Monroe’s position) than a SF (Detroit’s biggest area of need), so he creates an awkward situation with the frontcourt. Additionally, Smith’s offense is most effective close to the rim and he’s one of the LEAST effective scorers from longer range (long 2’s and 3’s).

On the plus side, Smith is a superior defender who can cover 3’s and 4’s. He’s AMAZINGLY effective on offense when he doesn’t settle for a long 2, and he’s a great passing forward. Still, unless Monroe magically develops a 16 footer that he can convert at least 40% of the time, this offense will go through some serious dry spells. Good defenses will be able to slow or stop them.

So what happened next? They brought Chauncey Billups back, re-upped with Will Bynum, and snagged Italian league MVP Luigi Datome to perhaps pad the bench scoring. Then the BIG move – a sign & trade that sent Brandon Knight, Khris Middleton and Slava Kravsov to Milwaukee for PG Brandon Jennings. Jennings is getting $8M/yr for 3 years, which is a decent price for him.

I was hoping the Pistons would upgrade the PG spot, and it was looking like they weren’t going to until this deal. I like it. I think Knight has a chance to be a player, but not at PG and I don’t think he’ll be a starter. Not for several more years anyway. While Jennings’ decision making needs improvement (specifically shot selection), he’s got the tools to become a pretty good PG (which Knight just doesn’t have).

As it stands, the depth chart looks like this:
Jennings         Bynum           Siva
Billups/KCP    KCP/Billups    Stuckey
J. Smith         Singler           Datome
Monroe          Jerebko          Mitchell

Chauncey probably starts at the 2 guard until he gets injured. I can see KCP becoming a sort of 6th man, playing the 2 & the 3 with Smith sliding to the 4 from time to time. I like this team offensively, at least more than last year’s. There are 2 scorers (Jennings & Smith), Monroe can handle a secondary scoring role better than primary, there are plenty of 3PT shooters (Jennings, Billups, KCP, Singler and possibly Datome), and a Jennings-Billups backcourt will move & protect the ball MUCH better than Knight & Stuckey did.

On the defensive side, the Pistons are finally starting 2 plus defenders, with KCP being a possible third off the bench. Last year they started ZERO plus defenders, with Tayshaun being only a moderate defender (and traded away in February), Maxiell being too undersized to be a “plus defender”, and Drummond not getting the starting job until the season was basically over. Monroe sounds like he has improved his defense significantly, year 2 for Drummond ought to be good, and Smith is the best defender to wear a Pistons jersey since Ben Wallace left for Chicago.

Presuming the Pistons are done wheeling & dealing (at least until the trade deadline), here’s my verdict for the season:

Best Case Scenario
– Drummond draws Defensive POY buzz, KCP does a decent Danny Granger impression, Jennings picks his spots & focuses more on involving others in the offense, Cheeks figures out a decent mix & match forward rotation, and the Pistons make the 2nd round of the playoffs as a 5 seed. 47 wins.

Worst Case Scenario – Drummond takes a step back, Smith & Monroe can’t coexist, Jennings goes rogue, KCP lives in the D league, and Cheeks never figures it out. 32 wins.

The Tigers hedged their bets (wisely) with Jhonny Peralta and dealt Avasail Garcia for Boston’s SS of the future, Jose Iglesias. Well, Peralta got his 50 game suspension and Iglesias has played in 3 different infield spots for the Tigers, acquitting himself well on the field and at the plate. Iglesias has drawn comparisons to Ozzie Smith and Omar Vizquel as a defensive wizard, and so far he’s looked the part.

While the Iglesias deal has gotten more press, the Tigers also acquired Jose Veras from Houston. Veras is a former closer and adds a solid arm to a bullpen in need of solid arms. At the moment I like the Tigers to represent the AL in the World Series. They appear to be hitting their late-season stride, similar to what they’ve done the past 2 years. Cleveland and KC are tougher Central Division opponents this year and it remains to be seen how the new playoff structure affects the Tigers, but so far it’s looking pretty good.

As far as my personal sports go, I’ve been improving by leaps & bounds. A couple of weeks ago I had a 15 mile long run. Two weeks prior I managed to get my 14 mile run in at just over 9:00 pace, so I was hoping for something similar. I decided to take 2 gel packs on my 15 mile run instead of 1, and we were in Midland that weekend, so I was running a different course. Well, I killed it.

It was cool and cloudy/foggy that morning. I hit the Rail Trail around 7am (I think) and ran a steady 9:00 pace for the first 7.5 miles. I still felt pretty energetic, so I kicked up my pace to about 8:30 for the rest of the way, finishing the whole 15 in 2:12:06. I was pretty stoked. I started pushing my pace in my shorter mid-week runs, and last Saturday I ran just over 6 miles in 44:56 (under 7:30 pace). I’ve got a 16 mile run this Saturday which I’m going to try to run at 8:30 pace the whole way.

At the moment my running gear includes brand new Stabilicore New Balance running shoes, an Amphipod water bottle & belt with a pocket, and Cliff Mocha Gel packets. The last thing I need is a timing watch (I’m currently still using the stopwatch on my cell, which works but isn’t ideal).

I’ve lost about 30 pounds, which is very noticeable to people who haven’t seen me in a couple months. Last weekend I played some basketball and tested my vertical (I’d noticed some improvement after blocking some guys I couldn’t block before). I was able to touch rim about 3 or 4 inches below my wrist. The rim is bent so it’s not a standard 10ft, but it’s still pretty high & I think I could probably dunk on it. I’m going to try it out next time we play.

It feels pretty good. In high school I was a decent athlete. Maybe 15% - 20% of the guys
that played sports were faster, stronger and could jump higher (I certainly wasn’t a “star athlete”), but playing in pickup games I was used to being better than average – soccer, football, basketball… That started going away after I got into my mid 20’s. I didn’t work out, I didn’t play sports on a regular basis, and I ate like crap. Well, I always ate like crap but I started paying for it then. I hated to lose that active/athletic part of my life, but there seemed to be little I could do about it.

My wife & I started working out on a regular basis when we got engaged. I dropped about 25 lbs. After we got married, we stopped & I gained about 10 lbs back. My wife encouraged me to pursue my bucket list goal to run a marathon, so I got on a diet & exercise program. I started losing weight again. I started & stopped a couple times, and then got going for good this January. Since THEN I’ve lost about 27 MORE pounds, bringing my total weight loss to 46 lbs since January 2010. I can jump at least 6 inches higher, I can run MUCH faster (my mile pace for a 10k has gone from about 9min to 7:30), and my belt tightens 3 notches higher. I’m in as good a shape as I was when I was 17 years old. Anyone can do it, you just have to want to (and having someone who loves you be so encouraging definitely helps BIGTIME). Motivation for the day.

Next time: Lions preview

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