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Deron Williams shocked a lot of people this week when he signed a contract to play overseas for a Turkish basketball team, Besiktas, next year.  This, of course, comes in reaction to the NBA locking the players out last week.  

Many fear that there will be no NBA season at all next year.  The players and the owners are very far apart in their negotiations, and the issues are so complex that even when they finally get "close" in their negotiations, it will take a significant amount of time to figure out how to implement the new CBA.

Now, Williams' contract with Besiktas is for $5 million, which is far less than the $16.4 million he was due to make from his NBA contract next season, but still not too shabby.  The overseas contract also has a clause that will allow Williams to terminate the contract whenever the NBA lockout is over.  

Is he serious though?  If he gets hurt overseas, he stands to lose a lot of money.  The Nets could void his contract.  He is a free agent after this year, and most people think it would be foolish for him to put his free agency at risk when he's entering his prime.  Granted, a person can get injured doing just about anything (Carlos Boozer breaking his wrist falling over a gym bag... supposedly).  However, I still doubt that Williams is just dying to get on the court and is willing to take the risk to play with inferior talent overseas.

Besiktas indicated that they also want to bring Kobe Bryant over to play, and Kobe said he wouldn't rule out playing overseas.  Is this going to be a trend?  Are we going to have the NBA in Europe next year?  

Once again, I'm pretty skeptical.  I think this is basically a ploy by the players to show the owners that they can hold out too.  They are just trying to show the owners that they have leverage.  Maybe some stars will sign overseas, but they won't go there to compete.  They will be more like sideshows.  Besiktas and other overseas teams will pay these guys to be glorified mascots.  They will sign autographs, play ten minutes a game, and barely give an effort.  The players will like it because they can make some money for doing very little and can hold out longer against the owners.  The overseas teams will profit from the publicity of the NBA stars.  It really is a win-win situation for the players and foreign teams.  

Therefore, I think that Williams may be starting a trend, but I don't expect him or any other stars really "competing" overseas, but several may end up "playing" overseas if a new CBA isn't hammered out soon. 

 
 
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Matt Garza did not have his best stuff Thursday night.  He gave up 7 runs in two innings, and it looked like the Nats had the sweep all locked up.  The Nats tacked on another run to make it 8-0 and the Cubs couldn't put across a run in the first 5 innings.  

However, the Cubs showed some resiliency Thursday night.  They put together a 6-run 6th inning followed by a 2-run 7th.  The Cubs actually took a 9-8 lead in the 8th inning, only to give up a run in the bottom of the inning.  Darwin Barney didn't want to waste the comeback, and he doubled in Tony Campana in the top of the 9th to give the Cubs a 10-9 lead.  Marmol made things interesting in the bottom of the 9th by letting runners get to second and third before finally retiring the final out.  The Cubs are still far out of contention, but games like this are at least fun to watch. 

The White Sox on the other hand did not put forth a very entertaining game.  Phil Humber, who has been the most consistent starter on the White Sox staff, had his worst game of the season.  Humber only lasted 3 2/3 innings and gave up 11 hits and 6 earned runs.  

Unlike the Cubs, the Sox bats could not pick up their starting pitcher.  Outside of a 2-run home run from Mark Teahen, the Sox struggled to hit Carl Pavano, and could not get across any other runs.  The Sox are not taking care of business in the AL Central.  After losing 2 of 3 to the lowly Royals, the Sox have now dropped the first game to the Twins, and are 0-5 against the Twinkies on the year.  Dunn and Rios are still scuffling and Paulie is no longer on a tear.  On a positive note, Paulie was voted to the final spot on the all-star roster (should have been there from the start).

The Sox will look to turn things around tomorrow when Gavin Floyd takes on Nick Blackburn.  The Cubs will send Rodrigo Lopez to the bump to face James McDonald, as the Cubs kick off a series against the Pirates in Pittsburgh. 

 
 
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It seems like we have entered a transition phase in the two country club sports.  

For the past 15 years, Tiger Woods has dominated the golf world.  Up until a year ago, it was a foregone conclusion that El Tigre was going to beat Jack Nicklaus' Major championship victory record.  Personal problems and leg injuries have derailed Tiger.  In Tiger's absence, youngster, Rory McIlroy has burst onto the season with 3 out of 4 rounds of dominance at the Masters, and end-to-end dominance at the US Open.  

Tiger announced today that his knee injury will keep him out of the British Open later this month.  What happens if McIlroy wins this tourney?  Does this mean McIlroy has eclipsed Tiger as the face of the PGA tour?  Will EA Sports release "Rory McIlroy: PGA Tourt 2012? (Not likely).  Like Tiger said a couple weeks ago, he's 35 years old and not 65 years old.  He can still return, but he has to get his knee healthy and get back to the killer instinct that he had before Thanksgiving of 2009. 

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Tennis has seen a similar changing of the guard.  For  a while, Roger Federer was the most dominant player.  Many consider him the "greatest of all-time" for his streak of dominance he had this past decade.  However, as we all know, tennis players have a short shelf-life, and Rafael Nadal has surpassed Federer as the #1 player in the world over the past two years.  

While some speculated that Nadal could one day be considered in the same category as Federer if he continued with his dominance, it is starting to look like someone else has something to say about that.  Novak Djokovic defeated Nadal at Wimbledon this past Sunday for Djokovic's 5th straight victory over Nadal.  Has Nadal been eclipsed?  Is Federer officially done?  Is Djokovic the real deal or is this just a hot streak?  

While it's fun to see new stars emerge, part of me wants to see Tiger, Federer, and Nadal show some fight and show they still have plenty left in the tank.  It's sad to see all-time greats not at their best, and I want to see them reemerge as the best in their business.  I think Tiger and Nadal have better chances of doing so then Federer, who is starting to get up there in age (in tennis years).  The next year or so will be interesting to see if McIlroy and Djokovic are the real deal, and whether these "old" guys can show they still got it. 

 
 
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The White Sox have bragging rights for another year in Chicago.  They are hoping to have more than that.  The Sox are finally back to .500.  After dropping to 11-games under .500, the Sox have fought their way back, and are now only 3.5 games back of Cleveland for the division lead in the Central.

The Cubs nightmarish season continues.  Matt Garza pitched a gem on Saturday, holding the Sox to only one run on four hits. Despite going the distance for a complete game, Garza took the tough luck loss.  Phil Humber went 7 innings and didn't give up a single run and Matt Thornton closed off the last two innings for the White Sox. 

The Cubs had their chances, but grounded into three double plays.  They could not get a clutch hit and left a ton of men on base.  

Juan Pierre, who many Sox fans had written off, was responsible for his third straight game winning hit.  Pierre singled in Gordon Beckham in the 6th inning for the lone run of the game.  Pierre is starting to look more confident at the plate, and is actually doing something that Adam Dunn should be doing, driving in runs. 

The White Sox look for the sweep on Sunday as Gavin Floyd will face off against Rodrigo Lopez.  The Sox should win this one based on the pitching matchup, but the Cubs really have to be fighting for their pride.  Northsiders won't be too happy to see the Sox take 5 of 6 against the Cubs in 2011. 

 
 
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The Sox and Cubs are each riding two game winning streaks into their matchup with each other starting Friday.  Unlike the three night games on the south side, all three games on the north side will be day games. 






The pitching matchups for the weekend (with my analysis):

Friday: Edwin Jackson vs. Randy Wells (Slight advantage to Jackson)
Saturday: Phil Humber vs. Matt Garza (Moderate advantage Humber... who would've thought)
Sunday: Gavin Floyd vs. Rodrigo Lopez (Big advantage for Floyd)

Not that Floyd has been pitching that well, but I just can't figure out how Rodrigo Lopez is even still in the majors.  From the looks of the pitching matchups, it looks like a White Sox sweep, which would mean the White Sox could end this series one game over .500.  

However, the Cubs will be at home in front of the Wrigley faithful. Plus, sweeps are rare in the Crosstown Classic.  If you are a general Chicago fan, I encourage you to root for the Sox because the Cubs don't really have a shot this season, and the Sox need any win they can get.  Enjoy the holiday weekend.

 
 
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NBA: Today, the NBA owners made its "final offer" to the players.  Apparently, the owners offered a $62 million "flex" cap, which the owners think is more than fair.  The owners let it be known that they are prepared to miss the entire season, and if the players do not accept the offer, the owners are going to lock the players out and push for a $45 million hard cap.  

NFL: DeMaurice Smith, the head of the NFL Player's Association, told some players in a meeting that the negotiations are not nearly as close as the media has been reporting. 

Wimbledon: Roger Federer, who was previously 178-0 after leading two sets to none in majors, lost to Jo-Wilfried Tsonga.  While Federer has seemingly been eclipsed by Nadal over the past two years as the most dominant player in tennis, many are asking whether Federer will ever win a major again. 

Greg Oden: The Portland Trail Blazers picked up Oden's $8.8 million qualifying offer.  Many speculated that the Blazers would just let him go after he has not been able to stay healthy in his three years in Portland.  While it is a risk, the Blazers don't want to give up so soon on the former #1 overall draft pick. 

Chicago Baseball: After a terrible day yesterday, the Cubs and Sox got back into the win column Wednesday night.  The Cubs beat Tim Lincecum and the Giants 2-1, with a great pitching performance from Ryan Dempster.  The White Sox finally pulled out a close win as they beat the Rockies 3-2.  AJ Pierzynski had an RBI double and the game winning sac fly in the 9th to bring in Carlos Quentin.  Both, the Cubs and Sox, have day games tomorrow before they get ready for the second round of the Crosstown Classic at Wrigley, which starts on Friday. 
 
 
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The Cubs dropped a doubleheader to the Giants and the Sox lost a nail biter to Colorado in the 13th inning. 

As I've discussed several times on this blog, the Cubs simply aren't a good team.  You can't expect much when you have Rodrigo Lopez and Doug Davis going for you in a twin-bill. 

The Sox continue to disappoint.  They can't seem to get over the hump.  They keep hovering around 2,3, or 4 games below .500.  As Hawk Harrelson always says, every team will win 50 games and lose 50 games; it is what you do with those other 62 that separates you from the other teams.  The Sox have played several games this past week that would fall into that "other 62" category (close games), and they can't seem to pull them out (other than the games against the Cubs).  

I know it's getting old, but seriously, Adam Dunn has got to start hitting if this team is going to have a chance.  It's starting to look more and more like a lost season for Dunn rather than a bad slump.  I'm hoping this is not the case.  There is still half the season left for him to get it together, but he needs to get it together soon.

The Sox have to be thankful that they play in the AL Central, where no other team is that great this year.  They are not out of contention by any means, but they have to start playing better. 

The Cubs... Well, it'll be interesting to see if Jim Hendry tries to make any big moves to save his job.  I can't see anyway that Ricketts brings him back next season.  But, they're the Cubs, so as Kevin Garnett said it best, "anything is possible."

 
 
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As we all know, the NFL has locked out the players since March 11th.   The Players Union has decertified and are suing the NFL for antitrust violations.  There have been several attempts at mediation and negotiations on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but no luck up to this point.  Last week seemed like they were getting closer.  Some rumors of proposed agreements to the CBA were leaked, but ultimately nothing has been done yet.  

Overall, I have not been that interested in the NFL lockout.  While I love football and will be really upset if we miss any games this year, the issues at hand have no bearing on my enjoyment of the game.  Basically, the main issue is, how should we allocate billions of dollars among rich people?  While you may have an opinion one way or the other on how this should be done, ultimately, the game and the structure of the teams will be the same.  

The only issue that has drawn my attention a little is whether or not two games should be added on to the regular season.  I'm really not in favor of it.  The owners want it and most of the players don't.  More games obviously means more tickets sold,  more TV revenue, etc.  I think the owners are mainly just throwing it out there as a bargaining chip.  Basically, they'll withdraw their proposal for an 18 game schedule if the players concede over a bigger chunk of the money.  

I'm against the 18 game schedule because it diminishes the numbers and comparisons of the game.  Already, NFL numbers are pretty meaningless due to all the rule changes over the years.  How are we supposed to compare a season TD record set during an 18-game season to a past player's season who played less games?  Plus, the more games teams play, the more chances for injuries to occur.  The NFL claims they are all about player safety, but if you put the players out there fore two more games that means more pounding to the player's heads and bodies. 

Other than that, I just want them to get this thing settled and get the OTA's and training camp underway.

As for the NBA potential lockout, Charles Barkely made news this week, saying that he could see the NBA not playing a game next year.  The NBA owners claim that most of the teams are losing money and they are really pushing for a hard cap.  For those that don't know, a hard cap is what they have in the NHL.  Every team's payroll can only reach a certain amount and they cannot go over that amount under any circumstances.

This is what killed the Blackhawks after their Stanley Cup season.  A lot of players had progressive contracts that went up in value every year, and the Blackhawks needed to dump a lot of their quality players to get within the boundaries of the salary cap.

The NBA has a soft cap, in which teams can get over the cap with a bunch of different "exceptions."  The majority of teams in the league are over the cap.  Teams like Orlando and the Lakers are so far over the cap that they pay a luxury tax ($1 for every $1 over the cap).  If the NBA instituted a hard cap, it would totally change the structures of teams around the league.  

I don't even know how they would accomplish it.  Would teams like the Magic be forced to let go of their players?  How could they do so if the players are given "guaranteed" contracts?  Would the Heat be forced to give up one of the "Big Three?"  Would the Bulls  have enough money to re-sign D-Rose?

There is so much uncertainty with the prospect of a hard cap.  I think it is all pretty ridiculous.  The only reason David Stern is having to push for the hard cap is because the  NBA owners are too dumb with their money.  He basically has to save the owners from themselves.  A hard cap will help small market teams at the big market teams' expense.

Being from Chicago, I don't like it, and I definitely don't like the idea of missing a season of basketball in D-Rose's prime.  I really don't want to hear much about the negotiations of either the NFL or NBA.  Just get a deal done and wake me when we can start signing some free agents. 

 
 
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While most years, hitting is the safest bet for the first round of fantasy drafts.  Typically, one pitcher, maybe, goes in the first round of fantasy drafts.  Pitchers are inconsistent.  They're risky.  You can get quality pitchers that can have a serious impact on your team late in the draft, often even off waivers.

However, hitters are a different story.  There are only so many elite hitters, and it is rare that you can pick up a hitter midseason that can have a serious impact on your team.  Thus, people like to anchor they're team down with a stud hitter in the first round.  As the saying goes, "hitters hit."  Plug them into your lineup and you should be good to go.  Not so much this year. 

Looking over the players that were the consensus "first rounders," there are few that are actually delivering on their stud-status.  Whether due to injury, slumps, or just inexplicable reasons, fantasy owners and baseball fans aren't getting the type of production they expected out of the "elite" hitters in the game.  Let's take a look...

Pujols: OK, he was doing better lately, but he started off the season very slowly.  He is now on the DL for 4-6 weeks (I'm hearing more towards 6).  His average is only .279... Yes, he hasn't been terrible, but not what you expect from the consensus overall #1 fantasy player in the game, and this injury is crushing teams (one of mine). 

Hanley:  What happened to this guy?  I thought he's been slightly overrated as the consensus #2 guy in fantasy the past couple years, but I didn't think he could play this bad.  He's barely hitting over the Mendoza-line and only has 4 homers nearly midway through the season.  He has less than 20 RBIs (Ben Zobrist had 10 RBIs in one day this season).  Hanley has been another fantasy-team killer this year, and hasn't done much to help the Marlins either. 

Longo: Longoria had an early oblique injury that caused him to miss about a month of the season.  He has been back for a good amount of time now, but has yet to really get going.  He is hitting only .232 with 7 homers.   Once again, not what was expected from a top-8 pick. 

David Wright: Wright has had a nightmare season.  Between being trashed by his owner, a slump to start the season, and then a fractured back, Wright has had a terrible year.  Wright is still recovering from a stress fracture in his back, and is expected to be out until about the All-Star Break.  Even when he was healthy, he only hit .226 with 6 homers.  Wright was more of a fringe first-rounder, but still a guy that has killed some teams. 

Carl Crawford: Just when it looked like he was starting to get things going, he goes and gets hurt.  Still, when the Red Sox signed Crawford to a 7-year, $142 million contract, they were expecting more than what they were getting.  Fantasy owners were expecting more too.  Crawford, known for his speed, only has 8 stolen bases in 67 games to go along with his .243 average.  

Ryan Zimmerman: Zim has always been a little injury prone, but it still hurt when he went down for 50 games after an abdominal surgery.  Zim hasn't looked too comfortable since he came back and only has 2 homers and is hitting .257.  Zim was another fringe first-rounder this season, but he's sure to take a big drop in drafts next year.

Overall, I think this year is a little bit of an outlier than a trend starting. Hitters are still more reliable than pitcher, and I wouldn't change my draft strategy next year.  Most of these guys have mainly been affected by freak injuries.  No matter what it is, fantasy owners and baseball fans are looking forward to these guys getting healthy and starting to live up to the preseason hype. 

 
 
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Scottie Pippen clarified his statements earlier this morning on who he thinks is the greatest of all-time

Come on Pip... You know in the social media age, the media is going to take comments like "LeBron could be better then MJ" and run with them... 

You are an ambassador of the Chicago Bulls.  You played with MJ.  There have always been rumors of your jealousy of MJ.  You didn't really think this wasn't going to cause a stir.

Thanks for correcting yourself, but we all didn't need to hear the pointless "LeBron vs. MJ" debates the past couple weeks.  

Also, I'd like to welcome Blender to the Underdog Staff.  Blender will be blogging about Entertainment and whatever else she desires.  Be sure to check it out.  Also, make sure to check out the Skinny Fatman's reviews of Chicago restaurants. 

 
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    Mysterious B

    Mysterious B is a long time sports enthusiast and diehard Chicago Fan. His hobbies include the law and sports. If we told you more, he wouldn't be Mysterious now would he?

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    Great picture of MJ, Ditka, McMahon, and Hawk Harrelson

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