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Thursday, January 26, 2006 

Strong Returns - Artest, Hingis and Elias

Done Deal

Ron Artest is going to start playing again, and as someone who traded for him during his down time in my fantasy pool, this couldn’t have come at a better time. I traded Jalen Rose and Tayshaun Prince straight up for the idle Artest, and let everyone know to do the same if they could. This deal should be great for Artest holders. You know he’s going to be hungry to prove himself after all that forced time off, and Sacramento should be a good fit for Ron. The Kings have fallen from grace this year, finding themselves in the cellar of the Pacific Division with an 18-24 record, and needing to do something to try to turn things around. Peja’s numbers were down this year, and they needed a superstar to both fill his shoes, and give a new spark to a team that seemed to have lost all it’s luster. Featuring a starting lineup now of Mike Bibby, Kevin Martin, Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Brad Miller, and Ron Artest, the Kings appear to be a team to be reckoned with again. Artest will be just the spark they need, and even the team’s center will be able to dish the ball to Artest. He will see enough touches to easily average 23 points a game, and brings with him a much-needed drive to the basket.

On the other side of the equation, then, is the question of did the Pacer’s get full value for their Super Star. The quick answer is a resounding yes. The closest comparison to this fire sale in recent history is the exodus of Vince Carter from Toronto. In exchange from the Nets the Raptors, as you know, got a big sack of nothing, a small sack of nothing, and the honour and privledge to pay a player to play for the Miami Heat. So, considering the Pacers were able to pick up the premiere 3-point shooter in the league, you have to like this deal as a Pacers fan. They need someone to come in and clean up the mess that Tinsley has been dealing out on the point this year, and as well as anyone, Peja can make a lot out of a bad pass. This is truly one of those few trades that looks great on both sides of the deal. If you managed to get Artest during his time off you will benefit in the same way people who grabbed up Vince while he was in Toronto did last year.

Speaking of the Raptors, they had their donkeys handed to them by the Chicago Bulls tonight by a final score of 104 to 88. It’s not every day that a 16-point win sounds closer than it actually was. It would appear that, as I predicted, the Kobe game did take the spark out of the Raptors season. With this season done, then, I no longer mind the rumoured deal to send Rose and James to the Knicks for Ariza and Hardaway as much. Obvisouly, Hardaway’s not really going to show up in Toronto. Ariza also looks like a lesser version of 4 guys the Raps already have at small forward. But exchanging Jalen’s lack of play for a lack of play with a contract that expires at the end of the year is a good deal. Another thing I have noticed is that without James in the lineup, Morris Peterson is a much better player. It’s the same reason that he turned from a great driver to a 3-point shooter in the past when Vince was on the team. Mope seems to think that is there is a driving option on the floor already, then his position is to stay on the outside. This isn’t a great move for someone who has some of the most creative drives in the league. This year when Calderon has been on the point and James has been on the bench, Peterson has looked like the player he promised to be in his rookie campaign. To have him play that way for the rest of the season and hopefully get used to it again for next year would be a bonus for the Raptor’s. Then with all the extra money, hopefully they can convince a big man to come up north. If not, then all their moves will be for nothing. Babcock’s reputation in the league has become so negative, though, it’s hard to imagine many free agents lining up to come north of the boarder while he’s still in Toronto. The solution to that problem, however, seems sadly out of the question in the Raptor’s books, to the confusion of pretty much everyone in the basketball world.

Welcome Back

It’s always nice to see a childhood crush came back to the forefront. As her return to the Australian Open comes to an end, Martina Hingis has given notice that, despite 3 years of downtime, she is still the real deal. She easily made her way through the tournament to the quarterfinals, where she lost 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 to Kim Clijsters, who will now become the number one seed in the world. This was a match that could have gone either way, and appeared to be in Hingis’ favour going into the fourth quarter, as she took 6 straight games leading into it. Clijsters went on to lose to Amélie Mauresmo in the semi-finals after rolling her ankle, while Maria Sharapova faced off with Justine Henin-Hardenne in the other semi final last night. In a tough played match Sharapova took the first set 6-4, but all out failed to show up for the second set. The hard-court specialist Henin-Hardenne took it right to her, and it wasn’t pretty. Well, it was Sharapova and Henin-Hardenne, so obviously it was still pretty, but Sharipova’s effort was not. After dropping the set 6-1, Maria went for a change of clothes between the second and third sets (and no, this was not a part of the coverage, unfortunately). The announcer did, however, as the game came back from her long delay, say that she “has to get back to banging here”. I will leave that one to your interpretation. Anyway, Henin-Hardenne went on to take the final set 6-4, to move onto the finals. If you’re looking for a reason to be happy about Sharapova’s exit from the tournament, there is always the one reason why Henin-Hardenne is my favourite tennis player – she doesn’t do that female tennis grunt. The grunt is easily the most annoying part of the game, and in recent times has even found it’s way into the men’s side, which is too bad because it’s lack used to be the only reason to bother watching the men play. Needless to say, I love to watch Hardenne play and I am excited for the finals, it should be a good one.

Calder v. Calder

Not to be outdone by Ovechkin’s goal the other week, Sidney Crosby scored a beauty in his match up with the Capitals, and added 3 assists to boot. He came out of the corner, dropped the puck to his skate, kicked it through the defender and scored on the other side. I don’t have a direct link to it yet, but to see it go to Crosby’s highlight page Crosby's Highlight Page and click on his January 25th highlight. Not quite in the same league as “The Goal”, but team it up with the Penguins decisive 8-1 win, and Crosby takes this round in the battle of Calder contenders. Ovechkin did add a power play for the Caps, who looked completely out-matched by the worst team in the NHL all night. Even Boguniecki got on the score sheet for the Penguins in the very convincing romp. One game is one game, though, and Ovechkin is still the obvious Calder winner as far as I can see. Sorry Penguins fans, who I know are undoubtedly looking for anything to grasp onto this season, but I think you already know it’s true.

Elias Watch

10 games, 9 wins, 16 points. Elias is now up to 11th in team scoring, having played in 1/5th of the teams games. He has been in on nearly 50% of the goals the Devils have scored since his return. The Devil’s easy January schedule finishes up with match ups in Tampa Bay and Florida, and of the 8 games left before the Olympic break, only 2 are against playoff teams. Expect the Devils and Elias’ solid play to continue over that stretch, there’s really no reason why it won’t.

Groin Watch

In a scene that has become the norm this year, Peter Forsberg left the Flyers game tonight with a groin injury. Jovanovski also reagrevated his groin injury. What exactly is going on this year? There have been about 50 groin injuries at this point. And to update another groin of note, Bryan McCabe skated with the team yesterday. He’s not said to be back in time for this weekends games, but could make an appearance by the end of the month. Before then they have a tough match with the surprising Sabres, followed by Saturday at home to the Habs, and a match-up Monday with the Panthers. If the Leafs can’t win 2 of those 3 games, then McCabe’s return might be officially too late, and the rumours of Sundin’s exit from town might start taking on some semblance of truth. I’m sure some hard-core Leafs fans just shuddered at the sound of that one. Sorry mom, but you may actualy see it happen this year. The ability to bring in big money players to fill holes is closing in the league, so it may be time for the Leafs to bring in some prospects and start rebuilding. Telqvist, Steen, Wellwood, Stajan, Ling, Carlo, Wozniewski, McCabe, Kaberle, Kronwall and Bell is a pretty good nucleus to build on, and it's time to make room for them to all play on the team and develop together full time.


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