published Friday, October 25th, 2013

5-at-10: Friday mailbag with NBA, first-year SEC coaches' grades and the 5-at-10's third birthday

Gang, great week — as expected. Tomorrow is the 5-at-10's third birthday — more below — and we're trying to think of all the regulars who have come and gone and you brave souls who keep coming back everyday to waste 20 minutes on our ramblings. There have been a bunch, and we may try to list some of the more prominent ones later today and hope to see the currents swing by as normal.

From the "Talks too much" studios — which used to be the "7-Up stinks" studios — somewhere Les Miles smiles, Jon Gruden extols and Pretend Al Davis snarls. Good times indeed. (And we still love the draft — you know this.)

From Stewwie

Toto's "Africa" and Europe's "The Final Countdown" fall into the "weird, yet cool" category for me. However, if played too much, they can easily get annoying. But hearing them every once in a while makes me want to time warp back to the 80s for a minute. But only for a minute.

For the mailbag (or Tuesday), what are your NBA predictions for the upcoming season? At the least, pick who you think will win the conference finals and Finals. The West looks like it will be a little more unpredictable than the East.

Stewwie —

First, you just capsulized the entire 80s music scene. Can be fun in measures. Can get from cool to "Egad turn that off" quickly. Also, we saw your question late Thursday, and if you did not see them in the paper, our final Fab 4-plus-1 picks are BYU minus-7 and buy the half tonight and Buffalo plus-2 over Kent State.

As for the NBA, we're going to touch on what we expect, and we're going to search for outlier predictions from everyone next week as the NBA season tips off. Deal? Deal.

The West does look slap crazy. The East looks amazingly top-heavy, and that fact will magnify getting the No. 1 overall seed more than ever.

To answer your specific question, we'll put this down on the record:

Heat over Nets in the East; Thunder over Rockets in the West. Heat over Thunder in the Finals.

Here are five predictions for the upcoming season:

1) Durant wins the MVP over LeBron even though LeBron deserves it. This screams of those years in the early 1990s when the league looked to give it to anyone other than MJ. 

2) The race for the worst record will be every bit as exciting as the race for the best record this spring. With a stocked draft class led by future stars Andrew Wiggins and Julius Randle, draft position matters. And while the Suns will finish with the worst record — we've played in church leagues that had better rosters — in one final tribute to David Stern, here's saying that somehow Boston 'magically' gets the No. 1 pick.

3) The Cleveland Cavaliers will make the playoffs as the No. 8 seed and face the Heatles in round one. And we are already tired of the "Will LeBron return to Cleveland" storyline that would ensue.

4) The Eastern Conference playoffs are going to be so stacked the NBA will own May and June — well other than the NFL draft which has been moved to May. We love the draft. You know this. How deep is the East? Scary deep. So deep in fact that positioning is huge because if you finish as the No. 4 seed you may have three super-tough foes to get to the Finals. Look at this: if it finishes something like: Heat, Nets, Bulls, Pacers, Knicks, Moe, Larry and Curly. (Side question: How much better was Curly over Shep? This is like the debate between the black-and-white Andy Griffith and the color version in that there is no debate.) Anyhoo, in that scenario, the winner of the 4-5 matchup of Pacers-Knicks then gets No. 1 Miami and then still has Nets-Bulls winner on tap. Wow.

5) Kobe will return. He'll lead the league in shots and could lead in scoring. He is 'that' guy in pick up games that you pray is not on your team because he's never met a shot he did not like or could not make. And in truth he's right, Kobe taking bad shots is a better option than most team have but still. 

————

From Daily Reader —

You reference Hump Day -- which is hilarious commercial -- the other day.

What's your best commercials Rushmore?

Thanks and thanks for the 5@10?

Daily Reader —

Thanks for being you and for being a daily reader. See what we did there 9er?

Since we know we're going to approach the 3,000-word threshold, let's move quickly.

We're going to have one spot for 'ESPN SportsCenter' commercials and there are a slew of them that are great, but the one that always come to our mind is the "Stiener come get your whoppin' boy" with Evander Holyfield. If you have another ESPN commerical, fire away.

Let's go with these, in no specific order:

ESPN SportsCenter

The Uecker Miller Lite commercials, which really changed the game

Nothing but Net

Where's the Beef lady

That list was quick and off the top of our head. Who you got, and yes it was amazingly tough to leave Mean Joe Greene and the jersey off. Man this is tough, because think of all the Budweiser ads too. No Office linebacker Terry. We may need a few extra Rushmores. No Geico or even the Allstate 'Mayhem' guy who was on Oz. (Did anyone else watch Oz, the HBO series about life in Prison. It was so haunting and so powerful that anyone who appeared on that show is "Hey he was so-and-so on Oz" no matter what other role they played. Gripping stuff.)

Dang you Daily Reader. Now we'll be thinking about this all day.

————

From 9er —

Frank Deford says studies show conclusively that there's no such thing as a clutch hitter. (Take that, Mr. October.) Question for Friday: Is there such a thing as a clutch hitter? Is hitting a baseball different from hitting a last-seconds free throw? Or kicking a game winning field goal?

9er —

I read the SI article spinning numbers and asking questions about this topic, and even the godfather of baseball stats, Bill James, has questioned the definition of clutch hitters.

Well, not to question James, who is the Obi Wan of OPS and the dangling tree of numbers and metrics that have resulted, but... (you knew there was a but, right?)

We view clutch in the sports term as the famous Supreme Court definition of pornography. We may not know exactly how to define it, but we know it when we see it.

The numbers-crunching of modern baseball can almost make an argument on any statement and support it. You then could almost support the other side too. Case in point: Stat hounds swear that Mike Trout should have been the MVP in 2012, the year that Miguel Cabrera won the first triple crown in 45 years. Discuss.

As for clutch, yes, we believe in clutch in all sports. And we believe hitting a baseball in big situations is just like making free throws with the game on the line or a field goal with 3 seconds left down by two.

The numbers for a hitter can be misleading in this case because there are so many situations for a baseball player to come to the plate with two outs and a guy on second. OK. Yes, those situations are big, but the moments happen enough that the averages are weighed. We're not looking for math in terms of clutch as we are looking for moments. 

And if you don't believe in clutch, well, what did you expect when Big Papi came to the plate with the bases loaded in the eighth of Game 1 of the ALCS with the Sox down 5-1? Yep, we all expected him to deliver. And he did. That's clutch, regardless of what the numbers say or even if the numbers can define it.

Embracing that moment can define a career — and wreck it. Joe Montana became Joe Cool because he walked into the Super Bowl huddle, his 49ers down a score with less than two minutes left and the first words out of his mouth were, "Hey is that John Candy?" The Niners cracked up and, relaxed, walked down the field to score the game winner. That's clutch.

Nick Anderson's career was never the same after he missed two big free throws in Game 1 of the NBA Finals in 1994. Scott Norwood? Einhorn is Finkel; Finkel is Einhorn.

The difference between Norwood and Adam Vinatieri? Clutch.

————

 From Fred —

Man, the 5@10 is excellent.

In talking with my buddy who reads you everyday, we decided that you could settle this -- who of the first year SEC coaches has been the best so far.

I'll hang up and listen, and anything new on Press Row -- you guys were excellent.

Fred —

Thanks for the question and for the kind words.

Let's take the second part first. David Paschall and the TFP Sports Editor had a blast doing Press Row on 105.1. It was fun. We have had some talks about trying to restart Press Row. We're hopeful that happens at some point, so we'll see.

As for the SEC coaches, well, it would be way easier to grade the worst one, right? Wow, the dumpster fire filled with bad Indian food and dirty diapers that is the Arkansas Razorbacks has become hard to watch and impossible to turn away from.

Plus, as Bret Bielema looks around at that roster and the scenes in the SEC West, where attempts at rebuilding make the guy who built his house on the sand look at you with puzzled eyes and a smirk on his face, this is a tall order. Heck, the Hogs may finish worse under Bielema than they did under John L. Smith. Yes, that John L. Smith, who entered a news conference last year with his primary talking point being that the members of the media needed to smile more.

OK, coach.

  • photo
    Western Kentucky head coach Bobby Petrino watches from the sideline during an NCAA college game in Nashville against Kentucky in this Aug. 31, 2013, file photo.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Here's one other thing: How sure are we that Bielema is committed to this? Would it stun you completely if in this offseason of much change that will start with monolith jobs such as USC making hires and the trickle down from there will create waves more than ripples, if Bielema picks up after one year and heads somewhere else? And, while that may not happen, how long before the vocal minority of Hogs fans start longing to have the salad days of Bobby Petrino back? Tough times in Fayetteville for sure.

That said, the other three first year guys in the SEC are riding waves of positive vibes. Mark Stoops and Co. at Kentucky have put together a top-flight recruiting class by making the SEC pitch in talent-rich Ohio and spending shoe leather chasing prospects. Kentucky's current class is ranked No. 8 in the country by Rivals.com and is currently ahead of such recruiting juggernauts as Texas, LSU and Florida. And yes, we double-checked to make sure it was the football rankings.

On the field, UK is taking a squirt gun to a shootout, but the Cats are fighting in every game. Stoops gets a solid B and if he keeps that recruiting class together and finds another win or two down the stretch, it could be a B-plus.

In Knoxville, Butch Jones has flipped the script. He has laid a foundation of buzz words and catch phrases — and whomever came up with the Farm Bureau commercial that emphasized "Brick-by-Brick," well that person deserves a raise — that took off. It took off with recruits and UT fans. It has galvanized a locker room that had become an eight-figure building of misfit toys that barely worked together and lacked direction.

The spirit and energy were super and exciting and the fundamentals and discipline were fine and dandy. But they do not last without results. Butch and Co. took their swings against Georgia. They won against South Carolina. They have delivered above the tapered expectations and in some ways have already made the first step in renewing the rivalry with Alabama because we are at least interested to watch today's game. That's something this time last year was hardly true, considering that trying to put intrigue in Derek Dooley vs. Nick Saban was like trying to figure ways that the baby seals could beat the clubbers.

Add in the recruiting class — Butch's bunch is No. 2 in the nation according to Rivals — and it is tough to find much to criticize with Butch's first 10 months on the job. We'll give him an A-minus that will be bumped higher if/when the Vols qualify for a bowl game.

Which brings us to Gus Malzahn, the first-year Auburn coach who inherited a dysfunctional but talented program, put on his wizard hat, added a sprinkle of junior-college quarterback Nick Marshall and BOOM, the Auburn Tigers are in control of their own destiny in the SEC as we approach the final Saturday of October. Yes, imagining the Tigers topping Alabama is to stretch the limits of even the most diehard Tigers fan, but it still is undeniable that there are only three SEC teams in complete control of their fate in the conference and Auburn is one one of them.

That fact is made even more eye-popping since this was about the point last year that the Tigers phoned in the end of last season. Now, they are already bowl eligible and have ratcheted their expectations from hoping to make the postseason to playing in no worse than a New Year's Day bowl.

According to a recent story on ESPN.com, several Tigers including star running back Tre Mason have said Malzahn has preached from Day One that Auburn would have the biggest turnaround in the country. After going 3-9 overall and bagel-and-8 in the SEC last year, the 6-1 Tigers are ranked No. 11 in the AP poll and well on the way to making Gus the Wizard look like Gus the Prophet.

Let's recap: Bielema gets an incomplete that looks a lot like an F; Stoops gets a B that could swing up; Butch Jones gets an A-minus and Malzahn gets an A-plus.

What do you think?       

————

From Jay —

I have been reading this FOIB sports column for a while, and I have had the same question a lot so I decided to go ahead and ask.

How did you get started on this? Seriously? Where did you come up with a lot of this? Your blog is funny dude but as you say you can talk too much.

Thanks and thanks for 5@10 

Jay —

Great name, by the way.

Wow, it's been a busy and crazy ride with the 5-at-10, which started out Oct. 26, 2010 as a brief — yes Spy, brief — highlight of the sports from the day before that was updated by the now-defunct 2:00 Drill, which was an update at 2 p.m. everday.

We went about six weeks before we got any comments so the 2:00 Drill was where we updated things. Once the comment tap was tapped, the 2:00 Drill became redundant.

That was three years ago tomorrow. It's hard to image really.

52 weeks x 3 years = 156 weeks

156 weeks x 5 = roughly 780 consecutive Monday-through-Fridays that we have done some sort of 5-at-10.

As for where is started, well, we have a slew of administrative duties at the TFP but we got into this business to write about sports. This was a way to make sure we write about sports every day. For that we are tickled. We also are tickled to have the chance to interact with the regulars and the newcomers.

There's rarely a day that goes by in which we don't see some one that mentions something about the 5-at-10 and that's a good thing. And for that we are thankful.

In truth, we likely would have stopped this a long while ago if it had not been for the regular comment-givers and those that pitch in. We have roamed the gambit, and had several folks step in or out depending on busy seasons, pay walls, jobs or what-have-you.

For those of you that have been around these parts for a while, thanks. For those of you reading for the first time, pull up a chair and stay a while. (We used to say, "don't cost nuthin'" but that's not entirely true any more.)

The subject matter and topics either come quickly or are vetted through some early morning research. Like most things, some days it's really easy to have stuff to write about and some days it's a chore.

In the end though, this has become one of the funnest parts of our gig, and certainly one of the most rewarding.

And for that — and for three day-in, day-out years — we say thanks.

And yes, we still "Talk too much."

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

My most memorable SportCenter commercial is the Y2K commerical, where Mark McGwire is beating a computer in with his bat, and chaos reigns at ESPN. Charlie Steiner finally comes out with a tie tied around his head and says, "Follow me! Follow me to freedom!" Still makes me laugh just thinking about it.

Can't wait for Saturday. As always.

October 25, 2013 at 10:26 a.m.
mrspud said...

HUMP-Daaaay is an instant classic. Sports Center has so many good ones it's hard to pick just one. You forced me to Google Terry the office linebacker just so I could laugh at it again....and then I wasted 10 minutes watching other crap. Auburn is a big surprise this season but where the heck did Missouri come from? We'll see how they handle the rest of their schedule but right now they look good (SEC East good, not to be confused with SEC West good).

Congrats on the upcoming 3rd bday and thanks for the 5@10. I'm ready for Saturday and some co-colas. Giddy up.

Mr. Spud

October 25, 2013 at 11:06 a.m.
chas9 said...

There's lies, damn lies, and statistics.

Wowza. I remember the old Southwest Conference days when The Razorbacks were formidable. Seems to me your grades for first year coaches is about right. If you don't include next year's recruiting, Stoops' grade is lower.

Last evening's game showed they've got a ways to go. The Bullies were UK's best shot at an SEC win.

With a healthy Whitlow, Cats would've won. With a healthy Whitlow they might knock off Vandy or Tennessee. Otherwise, like last year, they go zip wins for the league.

But Kentucky's more competitive than in 2012, by a long shot. Most of the playmakers are Stoops-recruited freshmen, and next class will have lots more.

So Spurrier might oughta retire now, before UK supplants The Cocks as a top-tier East team. Next season looks to be a free-for-all.

Have you ever seen such a curious scoring pattern as the Sons of Starksville have this year? They dominate the second quarter and sleepwalk through the second half.

Kentucky cannot make a third down and cannot stop their opponents on third. Is there any reason other than not having enough stud players that a team loses the third down battle this badly?

Together Marshall and MTSU scored 100 and gained over 1000. How 'bout them Blue Raiders?

October 25, 2013 at 11:37 a.m.
Stewwie said...

Nice predictions for the upcoming year. My guess for MVP is Chris Paul (using the same logic you had about LBJ not winning it). My conference finals picks are Heat over Bulls and Thunder over Clippers. Then Heat over the Thunder in the Finals. Interestingly, SI is picking the Thunder over the Heat.

Happy 3rd birthday to the 5@10. Always a fun read and a nice break from the grind in the morning. Enjoy the back and forth in the comments too. Well done, Jay. Keep up the good work!

October 25, 2013 at 12:07 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent

9er- You're right on all fronts. With Whitlow, the Cats win last night. Heck, with a healthy Maxwell Smith they win last night. There's obviously something wrong with his shoulder. This Cats team is MUCH better than last year, but the rest of the middle to bottom of the SEC is much better, too. I don't know if UK gets an SEC win this year, but help is on the way. I think UK will slowly rise up over the next two years and by 2015 will be pretty good. Of course, 2015 is the year I think Tennessee will be contending for the SEC East again, too. South Carolina and Vanderbilt will be at the bottom of the East by then, and Missouri may as well. In 2016, Kentucky may be able to compete for an SEC East title if everything comes together. The Marshall-MT game was very exciting. Nice showing.

October 25, 2013 at 12:57 p.m.
WilliamRscott said...

Jay-G,

Regarding today's T-FP section D, 10 pages with the biggest ad being a half-pager exceeded expectations [review time at work]. 1 minor complaint: the Mocs + the Vols play conference football games tomorrow. But instead of the SoCon + SEC standings + schedules, you give us the NBA "pre-season" standings + schedules. OK, I typed it. I feel better now.

Speaking of clutch + commercials, what about the MTSU QB + his Allstate [All-State?] good-hands receiver?

Go Blue [Tornado], #GoMocs, #GBO, War Eagle, and all that other stuff...

Billy-In-Brainerd

October 25, 2013 at 1:58 p.m.
JonathanMCook said...

Minna-san,

Nothing of interest hince why no response until now.

WRS-

I wouldn't expect anything of major reportage regarding The Tennessee Brothers vs. El Cid and the Bammer Jammer (Sounds like a 1940s serial) ^^() simply because of The World Series + Friday Night Football. However, I would imagine both topics to be covered in the Saturday edition in order to try to get some more butts in Finley at the 11th hour. Right Jay? Jay? Where'd he go?

October 25, 2013 at 2:24 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Stuck —

The ESPN commercials were really good. Like the opposite of Berman good.

And we were impressed with the way UK fought and the way Miss. State tried to blah that game away.

Good times. (Mullen's gone, right? Dude's just going to head off to like Iowa State or something and the whole time muttering, "I should have taken the Penn State job dagnabbit."

Spud —

Thanks for playing along and yes, we'll see about the Tigers. Both of them.

If a miracle happens and the Tigers see the Tigers in the SEC title game, what odds could you have gotten on that before the season, 100,000-to-1 maybe?

9er —

Third down also has a lot to do with depth on defense and experience on offense.

Defensively, if you are noticeably weak at a position or three and a team exploits that regularly on third down, then you have a hard time getting off the field. Conversely if you are inexperienced and have a breakdown on third-down, it can blow the whole thing up.

Stew —

Almost went with CP — under Doc he may put up sick numbers. Heck Rondo put up sick numbers under Doc and CP is better than Rondo (sorry 9er).

Thanks for playing along.

BiB —

Well said, and enjoy the tailgate manana.

JMC —

There will be plenty of football for the eyes to behold. That's what we do.

As is the 5-at-10.

Thanks for making it fun gang.

October 25, 2013 at 3:07 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Rondo has ring. CP has commercials. I'll take Rondo. That being said, the Cs, even with Rondo, will be ML Carr coaching-era bad, even though I think Brad Stevens will be good down the line.

So some nitwit at ESPN put Kobe way down on his list on best 25 NBA players. Aren't there some people who just shouldn't be allowed to broadcast their opinions (that means you, Stephen A. Smith. And you, too Skip Bayless. And seeing Paul Finebaum on TV makes me realize I am not the most comical looking person ever to be on television. Don't say that it's close, 5, no matter how much you may think it).

All that aside, I will be hibernating during the NBA season, which will end about this time next year. I have college football. I have baseball. I have swimsuit models and Hooters girls (not intersecting subsets on the Venn diagram at this point) to waste money on.

And you, brief, 5? Did I miss that? (I kid. I kid.)

October 25, 2013 at 4:21 p.m.
sportsfan said...

Jay - congrats on 3 years. Looking forward to many more.

October 25, 2013 at 4:48 p.m.
jomo11 said...

Jay- exactly which brick was that, at Bama ? . . Not a very sturdy brick there Butchy

October 27, 2013 at 12:45 a.m.
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