1. If you have not done so already, you must read Grant Wahl's piece in this week's Sports Illustrated on the Dribble-Drive Motion offense. It reminded me why I subscribe to Sport Illustrated. Wahl is a very good writer and the piece is a Moneyball-ish explanation behind an idea, specifically an offense that was invented by Vance Walberg, a basketball grinder out west, and has now been adopted by John Calipari at Memphis, Doc Rivers with the Celtics, and hundreds of high school programs.
In a nutshell, the offense is premised on the idea that perimeter players should attack the basket and either score or kick the ball out. It seems like a very simple concept, but the innovation appears to be that the offense eschews screens on the thinking that they get in the way of proper floor spacing. Naturally, the first thought I had when reading the piece is that the system probably works on the same principle as the spread offense in football: spread the defense out to create space for your quickest guys to beat their defenders. It's a pretty simple concept, but some smart guys in the basketball world are swearing by it, including Larry Brown. My fascination with the idea of Atlanta Spirit breaking the bank to hire Brown is growing, especially because the Hawks would go from a team without an offensive system to a team that would be very well suited to run DDM with Bibby taking the ball, Joe Johnson as the designated shooter, Childress and Smith as the cutters, and Al Horford as the weakside big guy.
2. Thomas Dimitroff's Day after Valentine's Day Massacre illustrates one basic point to me: health is a skill. What is the common thread between Byron Leftwich, Wayne Gandy, Rod Coleman, and Alge Crumpler? None of them could stay healthy in recent years. There is such a premium placed in the NFL on getting production from high-dollar players that a team simply cannot afford to be spending on guys who are injury-prone. This is especially true of a team like the Falcons that has not done a good job of drafting and doesn't have depth behind their stars. The fact that Warrick Dunn and Keith Brooking haven't been cut yet, despite the fact that the latter could be the most overpaid player in the league, is a testament to the fact that they are both fairly durable.
3. I kept half an eye on the Barca-Zaragoza game on Saturday aftrenoon while working. While I was happy with Barca getting three points in a tricky road game to pull to within five of Real Madrid, the Blaugrana's performance was hardly vintage. Zaragoza created the better chances and only lost because their finishing was dreadful. Barca scored one goal that might have been played with a hand by Thierry Henry (although the pass from Deco was excellent and the run and finish from Henry were also top-drawer) and the winning penalty was marginal and hardly earned. Deco's great pass aside, Johan Cruyff has a point when he says that Barca's midfielders dawdle on the ball too much. Iniesta is the most direct of the midfielders and I hope he's in that role on Wednesday in Glasgow. My preferred lineup for the match: Valdes, Abidal, Puyol, Milito, Zambrotta, Yaya Toure, Iniesta, Deco, Henry, Bojan, Messi. If Eto'o is healthy, then he comes in for Bojan. I'm not sure what I'd do if Zambrotta is still out. I like Puyol on the right side of defense because he's got excellent ball skills, but I do not like Marquez in central defense. At all. He was routinely skinned by Ricardo Oliveira on Saturday. Rafa is a defensive midfielder at this stage in his career. And speaking of Mexicans, I'm not thrilled at all by Giovanni dos Santos, who has no idea what to do with the space that his pace creates. Anyway, this is a long way of saying that Barca aren't playing especially well right now and it wouldn't surprise me to see them struggle with a Celtic team that I don't rate at all, but that is a tough out at home.