Atlanta Sports Cards Blog http://atlantasportscards.com/blog Thu, 18 Aug 2016 15:43:07 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.5.2 Topps The Mint BBhttp://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/topps-the-mint-bb/ http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/topps-the-mint-bb/#comments Thu, 18 Aug 2016 15:43:07 +0000 admin http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/?p=5256 So it’s been quite some time since I posted on here.  I apologize for that.  I’ll try to get back on here more.  I simply couldn’t resist inputing my opinion into the newest Topps Baseball release.  This one is The Mint.  It’s the most expensive baseball box that Topps has ever produced.  I certainly wouldn’t call it the best though.

When I first saw the sell sheet I was mildly excited about the product.  The cards looked fairly nice and I saw the possibility for some nice cards.  I was a bit concerned that they didn’t show many autograph patches or big time chase cards like bat knobs, bat barrels, cut autos, etc.  Many people were excited about this product and I could certainly understand that.

Then I saw the checklist earlier this week.  My first reaction was total shock.  Not only were there a TON of names that should never have been on the checklist, but there were also only 10 names on the Autograph Patch checklist.  Wait, what?  I tried to remain positive and expect that there would be some un-announced content or something I was missing.

The breaks started to pop up yesterday and sadly I wasn’t missing anything.  Yes, the cards look nice.  The inscriptions are cool and it’s not hard to hit a big name autograph.  That’s not nearly enough for an $800-$900 box though.  Topps apparently has been receiving a lot of backlash as they released a statement today defending the product.  They mention how easy it is to hit an autograph like Mike Trout.  They talk about how every other box has an incremental memorabilia card.  And every 3rd box has an autograph patch.

Again, wait what?  Does Topps think an autograph patch 1 in 3 boxes is a good thing?  They know that you can buy Dynasty BB for about a third of the price and get an autograph patch #ed to 10 right?  In fact you could buy at least 2 cases of Dynasty for the price of 1 case of The Mint and you’d end up with 9-10 Patch Autos #ed to 10,  In the case of The Mint you’d get 1 patch autograph and it might be #ed as high as 150.  And does Topps really think an incremental non-autographed memorabilia card is that big of a deal?  The batting glove cards are kind of neat.  Just don’t look at the checklist.  The best names on that list are Dustin Pedroia and Miguel Cabrera.  No Trout, no Harper, no Bryant, no retired players.  And 90% of the incremental memorabilia hits are either an Adam Jones jersey card or a David Ortiz jersey card.  Those cards are #ed to as high as 250 and typically contain only a jersey and not a patch.  Thanks for the $10 Topps.  I realize they are from “special” games, but that won’t make much difference.

The bottom line is Topps really goofed this one up.  You want to make a $900 box you had better have some amazing stuff.  Where are the autograph patches?  Where are the bat knobs, barrels and cuts?  Where are the dual/triple/quad autographs?  I understand that it’s really easy to hit Trout and Ichiro autographs.  That’s great, but at $900 you’re going to get CRUSHED if your box hit is a Mike Trout autograph #ed to 50.  How can Topps possibly justify putting names like Aaron Nola, Henry Owens, Jon Gray, Lucas Giolito, Luis Severino, Miguel Sano, Andrew Miller, J.D. Martinez, James Shields, Adam Jones, A.J. Pollock, Cole Hamels, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Evan Longoria, Freddie Freeman, Francisco Lindor, Jason Heyward, Ryan Braun, Starling Marte and so many more into this expensive of a product?  I’m not knocking those guys as players, but their value isn’t high at all.

Look I get it.  Every card can’t be amazing.  Every card can’t be worth $500.  And honestly I’d be okay with all of those guys above being on the checklist if every box had a jumbo patch auto of Trout, Harper, Bryant, Griffey, Nolan Ryan, Rickey Henderson, George Brett, etc. plus the chase at monster hits.  Why not do a booklet quad patch auto of Bryant, Trout, Harper and Correa?  Why not do some dual HOF inscribed cards with guys that were inducted in the same year?  Or dual inscribed cards from Cy Young winners or MVPs?  Why not add in some vintage memorabilia cards?

I just really think Topps missed the target on this one.  Every other moderately high end product has more chase.  Tier One has bat knobs.  Triple Threads has tons of amazing patch books and multi-player patches.  Museum has silver framed autos and bat barrels.  Dynasty has a TON of jumbo patch autos, retired memorabilia autos and cut autos.  Why are NONE of these elements in their most expensive product ever made?

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Random Thoughts 11/18/15http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-111815/ http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-111815/#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2015 18:23:19 +0000 admin http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/?p=5252 -Topps Chrome Football is set to come out on Friday.  I’m very anxious to see how it turns out this year.  Last year’s product was a debacle.  They printed WAY TOO much of it and really ruined the product completely.  Anything remotely good was impossible to get.  The rookies this year are playing fairly well, so as long as they didn’t print the heck out of it, Chrome should be okay.  That’s the big question though.  Being that this is the late year of Chrome FB (at least for the foreseeable future), I wonder if Topps will want to go out with a bang or a whimper.  I’m not a huge fan of the way the designs look on the sell sheet, but they could be better in person.  The only thing that really matters is the print run though.  Chrome is a product that will always work if it’s not overproduced.  There is a big market for the single cards and collectors love all the color.  Here’s hoping Topps didn’t crank the presses too much.

-Anyone who was making fun of the Knicks for taking Kristaps Porzingis might want to re-think their bashing.  He had an absolutely monster game last night and appears to be the real deal.  He’s averaging 12.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks.  That’s pretty impressive for a 20-year old rookie who was supposed to be a few years away.  The rookies have been playing well so far overall.  Now if only Panini would put out some basketball products, maybe people could really get excited about these guys.  We had no basketball releases in November, yet we have 6 coming in December.  That really couldn’t be spread out more?  I don’t get that at all.  A basketball product like Totally Certified, Prizm or Absolute would be selling great right now.  Instead, many of these products will get looked over because they all come out on top of each other.

-Speaking of the release calendar, it is absolutely brutal for December.  There are currently around 30 products set to be released in December.  That’s completely ludicrous.  How can the manufacturers honestly think that the market can handle 30 products in one month?  The market often struggles to hand 1-2 big releases in a week and now we expect it to handle 6-7 each week.  I am assuming that some of these products will be delayed.  If they aren’t, it could get really ugly come the end of December.  There is no way the market can absorb all of this product.  So we’ll see plenty of dumping going on.  This will trickle all the way down to the single card market.  There simply isn’t enough money to go around for all of these products.  The sad part is that some of these products will go down in price simply because of the market being flooded.  They won’t go down because they are bad or because collectors don’t like them.  Group breakers will be in a tough bind too.  Will they really want to group break a product like Topps Strata Baseball or Panini Crown Royale Football or Topps Archives Signature?  I have a feeling products like that will get completely overlooked with everything else coming.  All I can say is it’s going to be a very interesting month.

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Random Thoughts is BACK! 11-10-15http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-is-back-11-10-15/ http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-is-back-11-10-15/#comments Tue, 10 Nov 2015 18:50:11 +0000 admin http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/?p=5249 -So first off I must apologize for the incredibly long layoff.  I’ve been busy with other stuff, but still should have found the time to do this.  I’ll do my very best to post at least once a week going forward.  I probably won’t do any rankings or blogs that are updated weekly, but will try to post a lot more often again.  I’m not going to cover everything that I missed over the last several months.  Instead I’ll sort of hit the reset button and start fresh.

-The NBA season is off and running.  It’s been a solid season for the hobby so far, but a relatively uneventful season for NBA fans.  The reason I say this is because the league seems more top heavy this year.  The Warriors may never lose a game.  They look completely unstoppable.  The Cavaliers look really solid as well.  They lost on opening night, but haven’t lost since then.  And they’re doing this without Kyrie Irving or Iman Shumpert.  The Spurs look very solid as well.  After that there seems to be a bit of a drop off.  I’d honestly be shocked if we don’t see a Warriors/Cavs rematch in the Finals this year.  You never know what can happen, but they appear to be the best two teams so far.  And none of this is bad for NBA fans, but it could be a fairly boring regular season outside of individual player performances.

-Several young players are playing well in the young NBA season.  Both Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor look awesome so far.  The ROY race will be one of the best in recent memory if they both stay healthy.  Speaking of ROYs, Andrew Wiggins has been on fire his last two games.  He’s scored 30+ in 2 straight and will look to make it a 3rd straight tonight against Charlotte.  The Timberwolves look to finally be heading in the right direction.  With all their young talent, they could really be something special in a year or two.  It’s also nice to see Julius Randle and Jabari Parker back out on the floor.  Randle has had some nice games so far.  Parker is still working his way back, but it’s just nice to see him playing.  The future of the NBA is bright with all these young stars.

-College football is starting to get very interesting.  The 2nd version of the Playoff Rankings come out tonight.  I’m curious to see how far LSU drops.  No question that Clemson, Ohio State and Alabama will be in the top 4, but who will be the 4th team?  Will Notre Dame jump into it with their win over Pitt?  Michigan State and TCU all but eliminated themselves from the Playoff hunt with their losses this past week.  Will a team like Oklahoma State jump up a bunch with their win over TCU?  If you forced me to pick the best 4 teams right now I would say Clemson, LSU, Alabama and Notre Dame.  I believe Ohio State will lose before the end of the year.  And I would be shocked if Baylor, Iowa and Oklahoma State all end the season undefeated.  I believe if any of them do finish the year undefeated, they should be in the Playoff.  If you asked me who I thought would be in the Playoffs, that would be a much tougher question than who I thought were the best 4 teams right now.  I do think Clemson will make it.  They will be double digit favorites in every game they play until the ACC Championship Game.  I also think Alabama will be there.  Bama does still have 3 tough games to play though.  They play at Mississippi State this weekend, at Auburn the last game of the year and then they would play Florida in the SEC Championship game.  While it’s possible they could lose one of those games, I wouldn’t bet on it.  The third team will be the winner of the Stanford/ND game at the end of the year.  Stanford does still have to play Oregon and Cal before the ND game, but I see them winning both of those because they’re both at home.  Then they’d play in the Pac-12 Championship Game.  That would most likely be against Utah and I don’t see Utah beating Stanford.  Notre Dame has two relatively easy games before they travel to Stanford.  They play at home against Wake Forest and then at Boston College.  The 4th team remains a mystery to me.  Obviously if Ohio State remains undefeated they are in.  I just don’t see that happening with games against Michigan State, Michigan and the Big 10 Championship Game (if they win the other 2).  If they happen to stumble, I’m at a loss as to who gets in next.  Would a 1 loss Big 12 team make it?  So many of the top teams still play each other.  In fact, the only team who could make the Playoffs without playing another top 15 team is Clemson (This could change if UNC gets into the top 15).  Everyone else will have to fight their way in.

I wanted to dig a little deeper into the Playoff hunt.  Here are the top team’s remaining schedules:

Clemson- @ Syracuse, vs. Wake Forest, @ South Carolina, ACC Championship Game

Ohio State- @ Illinois, vs. Michigan State, @ Michigan, potential Big 10 Championship Game

Alabama- @ Mississippi State, vs. Charleston Southern, @ Auburn, potential SEC Championship Game

LSU- vs. Arkansas, @ Mississippi, vs. Texas A&M, potential SEC Championship Game

Notre Dame- vs. Wake Forest, @ Boston College, @ Stanford

Baylor- vs. Oklahoma, @ Oklahoma State, @ TCU, vs. Texas

Michigan State- vs. Maryland, @ Ohio State, vs. Penn State, potential Big 10 Championship Game

TCU- vs. Kansas, @ Oklahoma, vs. Baylor

Iowa- vs. Minnesota, vs. Purdue, @ Nebraska, potential Big 10 Championship Game

Florida- @ South Carolina, vs. Florida Atlantic, vs. Florida State, SEC Championship Game

Stanford- vs. Oregon, vs. California, vs. Notre Dame, potential Pac 12 Championship Game

Utah- @ Arizona, vs. UCLA, vs. Colorado, potential Pac 12 Championship Game

Oklahoma State- @ Iowa State, vs. Baylor, vs. Oklahoma

Oklahoma- @ Baylor, vs. TCU, @ Oklahoma State

 

That represents every team that I believe still has a shot at the Playoffs.  Clemson and Notre Dame have the 2 easiest remaining schedules.  Yes, ND has to play @ Stanford, but that’s it.  A team like Baylor could conceivably lose all 4 of their remaining games.  Based on this list, I’ll be shocked if we see more than 4-5 of these teams have only 1 loss come the end of the season.  There are a few 2 loss teams that are rooting for several of these teams to falter.  I would still be surprised if a 2 loss team made the Playoffs, but anything is possible.

-That’s it for today.  I’ll touch more on the card side in the coming days and discuss the ridiculous release calendar that is coming.  It’s good to be back.

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Random Thoughts 3/11/14http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-31114-2/ http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-31114-2/#comments Wed, 11 Mar 2015 20:13:18 +0000 admin http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/?p=5245 -Wow, didn’t realize it’s been nearly two weeks since I posted anything.  Sorry about that.  Anyway, a lot going on the world of sports.  I’ll start with my favorite… basketball.  The NBA season is coming to a close.  Most teams have around 16-17 games left.  The Eastern Conference picture is becoming more and more clear by the day.  The Hawks and Cavs are clearly the best two teams in the East.  I know everyone will think I’m crazy, but I’m still not 100% sure the Hawks are an elite team.  I will admit that they have absolutely nothing left to prove in the regular season.  With that being said, they’re going to be judged based on how they fare in the postseason.  Anything less than reachingOne  the Eastern Conference Finals would be a major letdown.  Truthfully they should be disappointed unless they make the NBA Finals.  The Cavs feel the same way.  The way the rest of the East is playing, I think they’d all be happy to win one round.  Washington, Chicago and Toronto are all playing really bad basketball right now.  Toronto is 1-9 in their last 10 and Washington is 3-7.  The Bulls are hanging in there with a 5-5 record, but they’ve lost 3 in a row and just don’t look very good.  Indiana has really come on strong lately, winning 6 in a row and 9 out of 10.  To be fair, that 10 game stretch included 2 games against the Knicks and 2 games against the 76ers.  Plus they beat Cleveland without LeBron or Kyrie, they beat Golden State without Curry and they beat New Orleans without Davis.  I would be positively shocked if the Eastern Conference Finals isn’t Atlanta vs. Cleveland.

-The Western Conference continues to be a giant mess.  Who knows what’s going to happen there.  A big question is health in the West.  Houston is missing Dwight Howard.  Portland is without Wesley Matthews and LaMarcus Aldridge is banged up.  The Clippers are without Blake Griffin and Chris Paul looks a little gimpy.  San Antonio has had a myriad of injuries lately, but does appear pretty close to full strength now.  Dallas finally got back to full strength, but Al-Farouq Aminu got banged up last night and Tyson Chandler still doesn’t look 100%.  OKC needs Durant to come back and be 100%.  And New Orleans need Davis to stay healthy.  If all of those guys are healthy (other than Matthews who is out for the year), the West should be totally insane come playoff time.  I was listening to a podcast today talk about how the Mavericks wouldn’t have a chance and they don’t match up well against Memphis.  I don’t agree with that.  The season series is 2-1 in favor of Memphis right now.  One of Dallas’ biggest weaknesses is guarding against the three.  Memphis is 2nd to last in 3-pointers made and 22nd in percentage.  The argument I heard was that Nowitzki can’t guard Randolph or Gasol.  I don’t disagree with that, but those guys aren’t exactly threats to score 30+ and win the game by themselves.  Gasol has scored 30+ points only 4 times this year.  And Randolph hasn’t done it one time all year.  I just don’t see those guys going out there and winning the series because Dirk can’t defend them.  Switching gears a bit, how excited would you be if you were the Warriors and you won 65+ games and got to face OKC in round one?  If Durant isn’t Durant then I would say the Warriors wouldn’t be too worried.  However, if Durant is close to 100%, that would be a super tough match up for anyone.  I’d still pick Golden State, but I wouldn’t feel very good about it.  I truly wouldn’t be shocked to see anyone lose in the West, IF everyone is healthy.

-Spring Training is fully underway and it’s been a blast for me so far.  Many of you know that I’m a big Cubs’ fan and boy was yesterday fun.  In case you missed it, Soler, Baez and Bryant went back-to-back-to-back.  Let’s hope that’s a sign of things to come.  The Cubs will be a huge story all year in the trading card industry.  I can’t remember a time when one team had so many guys that could impact products.  For all of our sakes, I hope that 2015 is a heck of a season for the young Cubbies.  The Red Sox are another team with several guys who can help products.  Everyone is banking on Rusney Castillo being the real deal.  It was unfortunate to see him get hurt in his first game.  Hopefully he comes back quickly, so that he can drive some of these early season baseball products.  I was very sad to see the news about Yu Darvish.  I can’t say that I’m a Rangers’ fan or a Darvish fan, but I certainly have never had any issues with them either.  I always hate to see elite talent get injured.

-How about all the moves in the NFL?  It’s been crazy.  I can’t remember a time when we saw so many star players get traded.  Oh all the trades, the one that makes the least amount of sense to me is the Saints trading Jimmy Graham.  They just signed him to a new contract last year.  He’s truly an elite TE, who is an absolute game changer.  I get that the Saints needed to dump salary.  However, I just can’t imagine there weren’t other players who could have been traded or cut.  They did get a first round pick and a quality Center.  I just don’t get why they’d blow up their offense like that.  Do they really think Drew Brees isn’t the answer anymore?  Are they truly going to shift to a run-first offense?  I don’t mind what the Eagles did in acquiring Sam Bradford.  I’m not totally sold on him being a franchise type QB.  However, they didn’t have to mortgage their future to get him.  He’s still only 27 and isn’t making an obscene amount of money this year.  He is a free agent in 2016, but that gives the Eagles a year to decide if he’s really their guy.  The free agency period has been fairly wild too.  I always have a tough time understanding why guys leave certain teams.  I’m a very competitive person so this may be skewed.  However, it’d be darn near impossible for me to leave a contender for 10%-20% more money when I’m already making millions.  Maybe I’m wrong but I bet Julius Thomas is going to be sitting there in week 8 wondering why he left Denver.  Jacksonville will be 3-5 and Thomas will have 32 receptions because his QB play stinks.  I get the idea of chasing the money.  And I realize it’s easy to sit here and say that I’d leave money on the table.  I’d just hate to be on a team that is perennially bad when I have the chance to play for a winner.  Revis did the same thing.  He was in New York for several years and never got to a Super Bowl.  He finally gets on the Patriots and wins a ring in his first season.  So what does he do?  He skips town and goes back to New York.  Maybe he doesn’t care now because he got his ring.  I just don’t see the Jets competing anytime soon.

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Random Thoughts 2/26/15http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-22615/ http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-22615/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 21:50:02 +0000 admin http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/?p=5242 -So much going on these days in the world of sports.  Perhaps some of the Hawks’ players read my article a few days ago and that encouraged them to pummel The Mavericks last night.  Or it could just be that I was just totally wrong and the Hawks are an elite team.  Big game in Cleveland tonight with the Warriors coming to town.  This is a huge measuring stick for the Cavs.  They’ve been playing great lately and are only a game and a half behind Toronto for the #2 seed in the East.  Tonight’s game should really tell us if the Cavs are ready to compete with the elite teams  I get that it’s just a regular season game on a random Thursday in February, but to the Cavs it’s more than that.  This is a game that can give them great confidence heading into the final stretch of the regular season.

-It was a sad day for me yesterday when I heard that Josh Hamilton had run into trouble again.  I’m not his biggest fan, but I’ve rooted for him ever since he got clean.  I like stories where athletes overcome adversity like that and turn their lives around.  Hopefully this is just a minor blip on the radar for him.  I’d hate to see it ruin his career or send him spiraling downwards again.  Speaking of baseball, I’m already tired of hearing about Alex Rodriguez.  Here’s my take on the situation.  I know this will NEVER happen, but what if ARod said, “Look everyone, I’m really sorry.  As a punishment to myself and to help out my team I’m going to forfeit 80% of my salary for the remainder of my contract.  I know that I cheated and I know that many of you will never forgive me for this.  I also realize that I have cost the Yankees more than I can ever repay them.  With that being said, I’d like to try.  I will also forfeit any bonuses that were due to me over the length of my contract.”  Wouldn’t that make an impression on you?  I will never love the man, but it would certainly make me respect him a whole lot more.  He’s made $356 million dollars already.  Does he really need the $68+ million more on his contact?  Like I said, it’ll never happen, but even if he said he’d take half I’d be happy.  He talks like he wants to move on and that he is sorry.  Well, put your money where your mouth is Alex.

-The NFL is starting to become a circus.  It hasn’t made me any less interested in the league, but it feels like there is a piece of negative publicity every day.  I’m still waiting to see if anymore comes from this whole Dez Bryant thing.  Was there really an incident at the Wal-Mart?  If so, why are we just now hearing about it?  Is there really a video?  The NFL can say and do whatever they want, but they’re never going to stop some of their players from being dumb.  If the league has the proper punishments in place and the players still continue to do dumb things, is the league really at fault?  Is it Apple’s fault if one of their employees does something stupid?  Do we hold all companies on the same standards as we do the NFL?  I have no problem at all with all the punishment the league hands down.  But I do think it’s a bit ridiculous when we hear about a player who has too many speeding tickets or has unpaid parking tickets.  Can you imagine if there were websites and tweets that reported news on you just like they do on these athletes?  The biggest problem the league has is the process for handling these situations.  Why do I always feel like something gets missed the first time?  It’s never a quick process where all the information is divulged upfront.  It’s always long and drawn out.  I realize there are difficult things involved in regards to the union, the lawyers and everything being so public.  However, the league has to figure out a way to handle these situations better.

-Donruss Basketball and Topps Chrome Mini Football released this week.  I actually like the looks of both of these products.  Donruss basketball is a lower end product that is an absolute blast to open.  Tons of inserts, parallels and rookie cards.  Plus you do get 4 hits per box.  If you’re looking for a fun basketball product to open, this is the one.  Topps Chrome Mini will be hard for many to swallow.  Topps Chrome football was so bad that it definitely left a sour taste in many of our mouths.  Chrome Mini offers much more value with a huge drop in production.  It’s so much easier to get #ed autographs and you can actually get the autographs of the better players.  Mini cards aren’t for everyone, but Topps actually did a decent job on this product.

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Are the Atlanta Hawks REALLY this good?http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/are-the-atlanta-hawks-really-this-good/ http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/are-the-atlanta-hawks-really-this-good/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 07:19:42 +0000 admin http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/?p=5240 As many of you know, I’m a huge NBA fan.  This has been a really fun season so far because the top two teams (Atlanta and Golden State) aren’t the same old teams that are always at the top.  San Antonio is really struggling.  Miami lost LeBron.  Cleveland is finally starting to figure it out, after struggling for much of the early season.  Chicago has had a ton of injuries.  The Clippers have struggled and now are without Blake Griffin.  OKC has had major injury problems with Durant’s foot and Westbrook’s early season issues.  There are so many great story lines this year, but my favorite is how good the Hawks have been.  I will admit that I’m not a Hawks fan, even though I’ve lived in Atlanta for over 25 years.  With that being said, I certainly don’t root against them.  There has been quite a buzz this year in the city over just how good they’ve been.

That leads me to the point of this article.  Are the Hawks REALLY this good?  My favorite sports writer is Bill Simmons from Grantland.  He often does a segment on his Podcast called “Are we sure they’re good?”  I got inspiration from that for this article.  Are we SURE the Hawks are good?

No one can question the Hawks’ success this season.  They are 44-12 with a plus 6.1 score differential.  They’re 15-4 against the Western Conference.  Perhaps the most amazing stat is that they started the season 1-3, so they’ve gone 43-9 since then.  That’s remarkable.  They have had all of the following quality wins this year: @ Washington, vs. Chicago, @ Cleveland, @ Houston, @ Dallas, vs. LA Clippers, @ Milwaukee, vs. Cleveland, @ Portland, @ LA Clippers, vs. Memphis, vs. Washington, @ Toronto, @ Chicago, vs. Oklahoma City, vs. Portland, vs. Washington, vs. Golden State and @ Milwaukee.  That’s a very impressive list of wins.  They are good on the road at 19-8 and excellent at home with a record of 25-4.  The statistics aren’t lying.  This team has played REALLY well so far.

What I can’t figure out is why they have played so well.  I’ve heard and read all the things about them playing true team basketball.  That they pass up a good shot to get a great one.  That they have 5 guys who can all do a little bit of everything.  I understand all that.  I really do.  The question of why is a deeper question.  This is nearly the exact same roster as they had last year.  They finished 38-44 last year.  Horford did miss a lot of the season, but does he account for 20-25 wins by himself?  The one player that plays a lot more this season is Dennis Schroder.  And while he’s been great, he’s essentially replacing Louis Williams.  Williams averaged 10.4 points per game with a PER of 14.2 last season.  Schroder is averaging 8.5 points per game with a PER of 14.7 this season.  Not much difference there at all.  Thabo Sefolosha and Kent Bazemore are new, but they’re averaging less than 10 points combined and have a PER of around 12 (which is below average).

In addition to a very similar roster, none of the Hawks are really at an age when they’d figure it out, so to speak.  Teague is still young at 26, but has been in the league for 6 years.  And really his numbers aren’t that much better this year.  Horford is in his 8th season and is 28.  And he’s actually having his worst season since 2011-12, statistically speaking.  His field goal percentage is the lowest it’s been since 2008-09.  DeMarre Carroll is 28 and was just about the same player last year.  He is shooting from three-point range a tad better, but he’s worse in overall field goal percentage and worse from the line.  He’s also averaging less rebounds, assists, steals and blocks than he did last season.  Paul Millsap is also about the same as last year.  His field goal percentage is up, but his three-point percentage, rebounds, assists, blocks and points are all down from last year.  Kyle Korver is one guy who is having a better season, although not as much better as many people probably think.  His field goal percentage is considerably higher than high career average.  His three-point percentage is actually not the highest of his career, but it is significantly higher than his career average.  All his other numbers are right in line with what he did last year though, including his points per game.

The coaching is certainly one thing I can look at and say has made a difference.  There’s no question there.  Mike Budenholzer came to the Hawks before last season and he’s clearly had a huge impact.  I do wonder why the Hawks weren’t a little better last year, but it takes time to adjust to a new system and a new coach.  The team definitely has a better grasp of the system this season.  However, this doesn’t explain how they went from winning 38 games to a projected 64.  A coach and a system doesn’t make a 26 game difference if the talent remains nearly identical.

The Hawks’ defense has dramatically improved this year.  They’ve gone from giving up 101.5 points per game to giving up 96.8.  Atlanta’s opponent field goal percentage has dropped from 46.2% down to 43.4%.  Their opponent three-point percentage has dropped from 36.5% to 33.7%.  They’re also turning the ball over slightly less, while causing slightly more than they did last year.  The numbers are definitely better, but again I ask why?

Their offense has also improved this year.  They are shooting 46.7% from the field as opposed to 45.8% last year.  They’re also better from long range hitting 38.3% this year compared to 36.3% from last year.  Their points per shot and adjusted field goal percentage are also up slightly.  Lastly, they get to the free throw line about one more time per game than they did last year.  Their offense isn’t as improved as their defense, but it is better and more efficient.

In truth, I haven’t watched that much more of them this year than I did last year.  I have watched some games and they’ve looked really good.  I have no doubt that they have some talent.  At the same time, I wonder if it will keep up the way it has.  I broke their season down into three parts and found something pretty interesting.

  • In their first 10 games they went 5-5 and gave up 103.9 points per game while scoring only 102.6.  So they were outscored by their opponent during this 10-game stretch.  They only played 3 teams with winning records during these games.  This was not a very good stretch of basketball and you would be hard pressed to convince anyone they were much better than an average team during this time.
  • Over their next 38 games they were completely dominant.  They outscored their opponents 103.61 to 94.05.  During this stretch they went 35-3.  That’s a pace of almost 76 wins in a full season.  There was no way they could keep up that pace, as it was simply one of the most dominant stretches we’ve ever seen.  Not to mention that many of their big wins came during that stretch.  Two of their three losses were very close.  Only the loss to Milwaukee was a bad game for them.  They nearly went 37-1 during this stretch.
  • Their next 8 games have been more like the ones at the beginning.  They’ve been outscored 102-99.88 and they’re 4-4 during this stretch.  They lost to two non-Playoff teams (to be fair New Orleans would be a Playoff team in the East) and they were manhandled by Toronto at home.  They did beat Washington and Golden State during this stretch, so that’s good news.

I realize that every team goes on streaks.  The Warriors, Grizzlies, Cavaliers, Clippers, etc. have all had streaks where they were really good and streaks were they weren’t as good.  I haven’t looked at the numbers, but I’m not sure they are quite this drastic for any team (not counting the Cavs’ terrible play while LeBron was out).  If you simply break their season down into two parts it becomes a little clearer.  You have an 18-game stretch where they went 9-9 while being outscored 103.06 to 101.39.  Then you have a 38-game stretch where they went 35-3 while outscoring their opponents 103.61 to 94.05.  I’m fairly confident most elite teams don’t have 8-10 stretches where they are outscored.  Even the Cavs who started 5-7 were only outscored by less than a point per game during that 13-game stretch.  And this is a team which had a completely new roster and new coach.

The 38-game stretch is a much bigger sample size, but 18 games is still a decent amount of games.  This isn’t a definitive explanation or justification to say that the Hawks aren’t really this good.  However, it certainly has to raise some concerns.  That’s especially true when you consider their last 8 games are a part of the “bad” part of their season.  Are the Hawks closer to the 38-game stretch or the 18-game stretch?  Are they somewhere in the middle?  Should we throw out the first 10 games since they were still learning the system?

I tend to think the Hawks truly are a good team, but not a great team.  Does this mean they can’t advance in the Playoffs?  Absolutely not.  With the news coming out today that Derrick Rose is having surgery again, the Bulls now become a team that’s probably not a real threat.  That leaves the Raptors, Cavs and maybe the Wizards as threats to the Hawks.  However, the Wizards have their own health issues and won’t be a major factor if they can’t get healthy.  I’ll be shocked if the Hawks don’t win their first round.  Even if they somehow lost the #1 seed, they’d still play a far inferior team in Round 1.  I personally don’t think there is much chance they lose the #1 seed, but you never know.  There’s just not enough time left in the season, barring a major collapse by the Hawks, for anyone to catch them.  But after round one, things could get very interesting for the Hawks.

The next five games should be fairly interesting for the Hawks though.  Considering they’re in the middle of one of their not-so-good streaks, I’m going to enjoy seeing how they react to a fairly tough schedule.  Their next five games are: vs. Dallas, vs. Orlando, @ Miami, vs. Houston and vs. Cleveland.  Fortunately they are all at home except for Miami, but those are 4 Playoff teams in 5 games.  If they go 4-1 or 5-0 then I think it’s safe to say they are out of their mini-slump and they truly are a very good team.  However, if their slide continues and they go 2-3 or even 3-2, are we really ready to call them really good?  Is it fair to judge the Hawks on 5 random games in the middle of their season?  Maybe not, but these games are vitally important to their confidence.  The Cleveland game will be a huge barometer for the Hawks.  Dallas and Houston are both very good, but Cleveland is hotter than fire and a major speed bump for the Hawks if they want to make the NBA Finals.

Even after looking at the statistics and seeing that the Hawks are improved over last year, it’s still hard for me to believe that they are an elite team.  I’m still waiting for them to lose 7 of 10 and for people to start talking about them as just another Hawks’ team.  And I’ve heard and read all different experts talking about how good they are and how they play so well as a team.  That’s all fine and good, but we’ll see how good they really are come Playoff time.  Will these same experts be a bullish about the Hawks when they are facing Toronto or Cleveland in the Playoffs?  I recently heard a guy on a podcast say that he really liked the Hawks from the beginning of the season.  This I have a very hard time understanding and/or believing.  Again, this was nearly the same exact team that finished 38-44 last year and lost in the first round of the Playoffs to an Indiana team that was really scuffling.  How in the world could anyone have predicting they’d become the best team in the East?  I’m not buying that.  Was there reason to expect improvement?  Sure.  But not a 20-25 win improvement given they didn’t make many adjustments at all.

My prediction for the Hawks is that they’ll sputter a bit down the stretch, but they’ll maintain the #1 seed.  They’ll win their first Playoff round fairly easily.  Then they’ll struggle in the second round.  They may pull out a second round win, but I would be shocked if it wasn’t a 6 or 7 game series with the games all being fairly close.  If they do happen to make the Eastern Conference Finals, I’ll be shocked if they win.  I simply don’t think they beat Toronto or Cleveland in a series right now.  And yes I realize that Cleveland is currently the 4th seed, but with Rose now out for the year, I like Cleveland’s chances of securing the 2 or 3 seed.  For me it really comes down to confidence.  How confident are you that the Hawks really are this good?  If you could get even odds on Atlanta making the NBA Finals vs. Cleveland making the NBA Finals would you bet on Atlanta?  Would you bet on Atlanta with even odds against Toronto?  I certainly wouldn’t against Cleveland and I doubt I would against Toronto either.

The current odds in Vegas have the Cavs as the favorite to win the East.  And Chicago is not far behind the Hawks, although I suspect those odds will go down once they reflect the Rose injury.  My point is that there isn’t a confidence in the Hawks like there is in other teams.  If you switched records and had the Cavs at 44-12 and the Hawks at 36-22, no one would give the Hawks any chance to win that series.  The same could be said if you switched the records of Atlanta and Chicago or Atlanta and Toronto.  Even though Cleveland is 9 games behind the Hawks and Chicago is 8 1/2 back, the “experts” still give the Cavs an edge and the Bulls nearly even odds.  Compare that to the Western Conference where Golden State has much better odds than a team like Memphis or Houston.  The only team even close to the Warriors, in terms of odds, is Oklahoma City.

Odds are not a perfect measuring stick.  A team with LeBron is always going to get better odds because people like to bet on or against LeBron.  Same thing with OKC and Durant/Westbrook.  However, it has to say something when the Hawks currently have the 4th best odds to win the title (and very nearly the 6th best) and yet they have the second best record.

To sum all this up, I don’t believe the Hawks really are this good.  They had an amazing 38-game stretch where everything worked and they rattled off one of the best stretches in NBA history.  The Rockets did this several years back and ended up doing nothing in the Playoffs.  The numbers in the other 18 games the Hawks have played and they’re numbers from last year just don’t scream “elite team” to me.  Perhaps I’m wrong and they will get back on track and rattle off another amazing run.  But don’t be surprised to see them finished the season with a record around 15-11 in their last 26 games and struggle in the 2nd round of the Playoffs.

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Oscar Preview and Predictionshttp://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/oscar-preview-and-predictions/ http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/oscar-preview-and-predictions/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 19:53:31 +0000 admin http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/?p=5235 The Oscars are this weekend and I can’t wait.  I’ve always loved movies and award shows, so the Oscars are a perfect match for me.  I always make it a goal to see as many of the Oscar nominated movies before the show each year.  This year I was able to see all the films nominated for Best Picture plus a few of the others nominated in other categories.  The Oscars are a show that most people enjoy watching, but not necessarily for the same reasons as me.  Many of the movies nominated are not the big, high-budget movies that we have becomes so accustomed to.  Of the 8 films nominated for Best Picture, only American Sniper has grossed over $100 million.  Fifty Shades of Grey grossed more in its first weekend than all the Best Picture nominees, other than American Sniper, have grossed during their entire time in theaters.

The bottom line is that the majority of the Oscar nominated films aren’t made for the masses.  They aren’t made to make hundreds of millions of dollars.  They are made for the diehard movie fanatics who enjoy films for things like cinematography, music, dialog, acting and scenery.  I really enjoy these things and that’s why I love most of the Oscar films.  Many of my friends call me a movie snob.  While I think that’s a bit harsh, I can understand where they are coming from.  To me, a movie snob is someone who only likes these type of movies and says a movie like Hunger Games or Avengers is dumb.  Truthfully, I enjoy just about any movie.  It’s very seldom that I watch a movie and can’t find anything I like about it.  That’s the beautiful thing about movies to me.  Maybe the story had holes in it, but the acting was great.  I recently saw Jupiter Ascending and I bet a lot of people would say it was a lousy movie.  However, if you go see it in 3D and appreciate the movie visually, I find it hard to believe you would hate it.  Was it cheesy?  Absolutely.  Was the story a little strange and confusing?  No doubt about it.  But the visuals were awesome and worth every penny.

Without further ado I’d like to get to my preview and predictions.  I’ll start with some of the lesser awards and move up to Best Picture.  While I have seen most of the films with nominations, I haven’t seen them all.  For that reason, I will be picking some of the winners based on what I’ve heard and read.  Also, I will pick a My Winner and an Actual Winner for each award.  The difference is My Winner is the one I want to win and the Actual Winner is who I think will win.  Also, I’m going to skip the following categories because I’ve seen none of the nominated films: Short Film- Live Action and Animated, Foreign Language Film and Documentary- Short Subject and Feature.

Visual Effects:

  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier
  • Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
  • Guardians of the Galaxy
  • Interstellar
  • X Men: Days of Future Past

This used to be a category where one or two films really stood out.  Now, all of these films are great visually.  With computer graphics and all the visual effects they can utilize, these films all turn make believe into reality.  Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Guardians of the Galaxy had amazing effects.  The Apes swinging from trees and invading the city was awesome.  And all the space scenes and different characters in Guardians of the Galaxy were a site to see.  With that being said, Interstellar was a notch above the rest.  I saw this movie in the theater twice.  Once in 3D and once in IMAX 3D.  Truly a remarkable movie and one of the best visual movies I’ve ever seen.  My Winner- Interstellar.  Actual Winner- Interstellar.

Writing- Adapted Screenplay:

  • American Sniper
  • The Imitation Game
  • Inherent Vice
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

I’ve seen all of these films and enjoyed them all.  I feel like the writing in American Sniper might get overlooked because most people focused on the acting and all the shooting and not what the people were saying (not that writing is only dialog).  Inherent Vice has some fantastic lines, but might be a bit too strange to win anything.  The Theory of Everything and The Imitation Game were both great dialog movies.  However, this has to go to Whiplash.  The lines and conversations in this movie are fantastic.  Plus, the Academy will want to reward a movie this good and it’s not going to win anything else except Supporting Actor.  My Winner- Whiplash.  Actual Winner- Whiplash.

Writing- Original Screenplay:

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Foxcather
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Nightcrawler

I have not seen Foxcatcher, but I highly doubt it should or will win this based on what I’ve heard.  This is a tough category though.  Birdman was a truly original movie.  Boyhood was the same.  Their scripts were certainly different in that Birdman is pretty out there and Boyhood often feels like you’re watching a home video.  I did not enjoy Nightcrawler and would be disappointed to see it win.  My pick would be The Grand Budapest Hotel.  I absolutely love Wes Anderson and this is one of his classics.  So many great lines and so much fun.  I would be shocked to see it actually win though.  My Winner- The Grand Budapest Hotel.  Actual Winner- Birdman.

Sound Editing:

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies
  • Interstellar
  • Unbroken

I haven’t seen Unbroken yet.  I had every intention of seeing it, but then it received poor reviews and almost no Oscar buzz.  This category is so tough for me.  American Sniper, The Hobbit and Interstellar all had amazing sound.  I saw all 3 in IMAX with better sound quality whereas I saw Birdman in a regular theater, so that could have some impact on my judgement.  I thought American Sniper was just a bit better than the rest, but I think the Academy is going to reward Interstellar with a lot of the technical awards since it was snubbed in the major categories.  My Winner- American Sniper.  Actual Winner- Interstellar.

Sound Mixing:

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Interstellar
  • Unbroken
  • Whiplash

Many people, including myself in the past, get the two sound categories confused.  I’ll make it sound as basic as possible.  Sound Editing is the art of finding and recording the sounds and Sound Mixing is the art of integrating those sounds into the movie at the right times.  Typically the same same film will win both of these awards, but it’s not impossible to see two different winners.  I actually think this will be a year with two different winners.  I just don’t see how American Sniper doesn’t win this.  Finding the sounds of gun shots and explosions is one thing, but mixing them into the movie while there is dialog, other explosions and so many other sounds is quite a feat in this film.  My Winner- American Sniper.  Actual Winner- American Sniper.

Music:

  • “Everything is Awesome” from The Lego Movie
  • “Glory” from Selma
  • “Grateful” from Beyond the Lights
  • I’m Not Gonna Miss You” from Glen Campbell… I’ll be Me
  • “Lost Stars” from Begin Again

I’ve only seen The Lego Movie and Selma, so this is a bit of speculation on my part.  Just from all the buzz and popularity, I’m going to say “Glory” wins this one.  It’s the biggest movie of the group and definitely the most recognizable song of the group.  I enjoyed “Everything is Awesome” for the first couple of times, but everything is definitely not awesome after you listen to that song more than a handful of times.  My Winner- “Glory”.  Actual Winner- “Glory”.

Production Design:

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Into the Woods
  • Mr. Turner

I have not see Into the Woods or Mr. Turner.  The Grand Budapest Hotel and The Imitation Game were both very well done in terms of Production Design, but there can only be one winner here.  Interstellar has to win this.  If you’ve read about Interstellar you know that a lot of the space scenes were filmed using sets and not done with computers.  That’s an amazing feat and something that needs to be rewarded.  My Winner- Interstellar.  Actual Winner- Interstellar.

Makeup and Hairstyling:

  • Foxcather
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Guardians of the Galaxy

I have not seen Foxcatcher, but I’ve certainly seen the clips of Steve Carrell and how crazy he looks.  As great as he looks, Guardians of the Galaxy sticks out to me.  There were so many cool creatures in this movie.  I just can’t see how anything beats it out.  My Winner- Guardians of the Galaxy.  Actual Winner- Guardians of the Galaxy.

Music:

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Interstellar
  • Mr. Turner
  • The Theory of Everything

Again, I haven’t seen Mr. Turner.  The Theory of Everything won the Golden Globe and I suspect it’ll win here too.  However, I feel in love with the music in Interstellar.  Hans Zimmer truly brought his A-game for this one.  I actually downloaded the soundtrack and love listening to it when I’m driving around town.  The music in The Imitation Game and The Grand Budapest Hotel didn’t really hit home with me.  I was shocked to see Gone Girl not get nominated here.  Loved the music in that one and Trent Reznor has already won an Oscar for his score from The Social Network.  Anyway, I hope Mr. Zimmer pulls this one out.  My Winner- Interstellar.  Actual Winner- The Theory of Everything.

Film Editing:

  • American Sniper
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Whiplash

I’ve seen them all and they are all great movies.  I wouldn’t be upset to see any of them win.  But how can you not give this to Boyhood?  This was filmed over 12 years!  Yes, 12 years.  Imagine trying to edit a scene 11 years after it was filmed.  Or trying to edit the scenes each year, and then puting them all together to make sense at the end.  We’ve never seen anything like this.  My Winner- Boyhood.  Actual Winner- Boyhood.

Cinematography:

  • Birdman
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Ida
  • Mr. Turner
  • Unbroken

To be fair I’ve only seen Birdman and The Grand Budapest Hotel from this category.  Yet, I have no doubt who should and will win this award.  It absolutely has to be Birdman.  Emmanuel Lubezki won last year for Gravity and should have no problem repeating this year.  If you are into cinematography and you haven’t seen Birdman, run to the theater tonight to watch it.  For the first 20-30 minutes I don’t remember seeing a single cut.  Clearly there were some in there, but good luck finding them.  Lubezki has quickly become my favorite cinematographer.  Yes, I have a favorite.  Not only did he do Birdman and Gravity, but he also did Children of Men.  Children of Men is one of my all time favorites and if you don’t think it’s filmed in a cool way, I don’t know what to tell you.  The way Lubezki follows things around with the camera is truly remarkable.  Okay, enough gushing.  Sorry, can’t help it.  My Winner- Birdman.  Actual Winner- Birdman.

Costume Design:

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • Inherent Vice
  • Into the Woods
  • Maleficent
  • Mr. Turner

I haven’t seen Into the Woods, Maleficent or Mr. Turner.  But I’m going to guess that Into the Woods wins this one.  This is a guess based on what I’ve briefly read and seen.  Truthfully I probably shouldn’t even be picking this category.  My Winner- Into the Woods.  Actual Winner- Into the Woods.

Directing:

  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • Foxcather
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game

While all these directors are deserving of being nominated, I can’t see how Boyhood doesn’t win this.  Not to beat a dead horse, but this movie was filmed over 12 years.  How the heck can a director take a year off 11 times and still be on their game?  That’s crazy talk.  My Winner- Boyhood.  Actual Winner- Boyhood.

Animated Feature Film:

  • Big Hero 6
  • The Boxtrolls
  • How to Train Your Dragon 2
  • Song of the Sea
  • The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

This is another category I probably shouldn’t even be picking.  I actually haven’t see any of these films.  The only reason I’m picking it is because a friend of mine saw Big Hero 6 and absolutely loved it.  So I’m going with him and saying that it should win.  My Winner- Big Hero 6.  Actual Winner- Big Hero 6.

Actress In a Supporting Role:

  • Patricia Arquette- Boyhood
  • Laura Dern- Wild
  • Keira Nightly- The Imitation Game
  • Emma Stone- Birdman
  • Meryl Streep- Into the Woods

Of all the major awards, the two supporting role awards have the least amount of surprise to them.  It would be a major shock if Patricia Arquette didn’t win.  The other women were great, but she was better.  One quick thing, does Meryl Streep just get a token nomination at this point?  I’m not criticizing her in anyway, but does it even matter what her role is?  Could she have been in Dumb and Dumber 2 and still received a nomination?  I feel like Streep and Daniel Day-Lewis do (and should) get nominated no matter what they do.  My Winner- Patricia Arquette.  Actual Winner- Patricia Arquette.

Actor in a Supporting Role:

  • Robert Duvall- The Judge
  • Ethan Hawke- Boyhood
  • Edward Norton- Birdman
  • Mark Ruffalo- Foxcather
  • J.K. Simmons- Whiplash

This is the landslide of all landslides.  These are the kind of performances I wait all year to see.  Usually once or twice a year an actor or actress has a performance that you know is better than all the rest.  We saw it last year with Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto.  We saw it with Daniel Day-Lewis in Lincoln and Javier Bardem in No Country for Old Men.  That is what J.K. Simmons was this year in Whiplash.  If you only watch one movie from the Oscar nominations to see one performance, this would be it.  He’s that good.  The others were great as well, but this award is all about Simmons.  My Winner- J.K. Simmons.  Actual Winner- J.K. Simmons

Actress in a Leading Role:

  • Marion Cotillard- Two Days, One Night
  • Felicity Jones- The Theory of Everything
  • Julianne Moore- Still Alice
  • Rosamund Pike- Gone Girl
  • Reese Witherspoon- Wild

Sadly I’ve only seen two of these performances having missed Two Days, One Night, Still Alice and Wild.  Everything I’ve seen, heard and read says this is Julianne Moore’s award to lose.  She plays a woman struggling with early dementia  and is supposed to be fantastic.  Since I didn’t see that one I’m picking Rosamund Pike from Gone Girl.  I really enjoyed that movie and thought she was a perfectly cold character.  He facial expressions almost made her feel like a robot who had no emotions and simply did what she had to do.  Loved it.  My Winner- Rosamund Pike.  Actual Winner- Julianne Moore.

Actor in a Leading Role:

  • Steve Carrell- Foxcather
  • Bradley Cooper- American Sniper
  • Benedict Cumberbatch- The Imitation Game
  • Michael Keaton- Birdman
  • Eddie Redmayne- The Theory of Everything

This one is SUPER tough for me.  I didn’t see Foxcather, but thoroughly enjoyed all the rest of the performances.  To me there isn’t a true stand out that can’t lose, but all of these performances were top notch.  I would have to go with Bradley Cooper if I were allowed to vote.  I loved American Sniper and hope it doesn’t get shut out.  Keaton and Redmayne won the Golden Globes (the Globes are split up into a Drama and a Musical/Comedy so they both won).  I could see either of them winning this.  I’ll be shocked if Carrell or Cumberbatch win.  My Winner- Bradley Cooper.  Actual Winner- Michael Keaton.

Best Picture:

  • American Sniper
  • Birdman
  • Boyhood
  • The Grand Budapest Hotel
  • The Imitation Game
  • Selma
  • The Theory of Everything
  • Whiplash

Where do I being?  First off let me say that I have seen all of these.  I enjoyed all of them to varying degrees.  From an entertainment standpoint, I probably enjoyed American Sniper and The Grand Budapest Hotel the most.  Birdman was a little strange for me, but the music, cinematography and acting were all so great, I can’t discredit it at all.  Boyhood fascinates me because of all the work that went into it.  It’s nearly all just dialog and it’s long, but I never felt bored or wanted it to end.  The Imitation Game and The Theory of Everything felt very similar to me.  Both had great acting from the main actor and actress.  Both were based on a true story.  Both were about England’s history.  Neither one totally wowed me, but they were both very well done and entertaining.  Selma was a great movie about a great man.  I’ll be honest that I didn’t know a ton about what happened.  I enjoyed learning the story and seeing a part of American history and felt like David Oyelowo did a fantastic job as MLK.  Whiplash was the last one of the eight that I saw.  I hadn’t heard too much about it going into it, but man was it fantastic.  The story was enthralling and the acting was amazing.  I really enjoyed it.  One quick note I’d like to make is that I was really disappointed that Interstellar didn’t get nominated for Best Picture.  It wouldn’t have won, but it was my favorite movie of 2014 and I wasn’t alone.  Not that IMDB.com is everything, but Interstellar is #21 on their all-time list and has an 8.8 rating.  Also, it was nominated for several Oscars, so clearly the Academy did appreciate the film.  Anyway, getting back to the films that were actually nominated, I have gone back and forth on what I think should win and what I think will win.  I can say with certainty that I would rule out The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything and Selma.  And while I’d love to see The Grand Budapest Hotel win, I don’t think it has a real chance.  I feel the same way about Whiplash, even though I might vote for it as my winner if push came to shove.  Truly, I believe it’s going to come down to American Sniper, Birdman and Boyhood.  They are all worthy and have compelling arguments.  Birdman and Boyhood both won the Golden Globe (again it’s broken up into Drama and Musical/Comedy).  American Sniper hasn’t won anything, but has really picked up steam over the last month or so.  Sniper is also the highest grossing movie of these 8 films, by a large margin, if that matters at all.  When all the dust settles, I think I’d have to pick American Sniper.  I enjoyed that film so much and it was extremely moving.  However, I feel as if they will give the award to Birdman.  My Winner- American Sniper.  Actual Winner- Birdman.

 

 

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Random Thoughts 2/11/15http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-21114/ http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-21114/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 17:12:15 +0000 admin http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/?p=5232 -I watched a good bit of the LSU/Kentucky game last night.  I’ve been a bit obsessed with Kentucky this year, as they chase history with a perfect season.  They’ve nearly given that perfect season away during their last two games.  Granted these were both tough road games @ Florida and @ LSU, but they have not played with the same defensive intensity as they showed earlier in the season.  Perhaps the length of the season is starting to wear them down a bit.  One thing to remember is that this team gets the best shot from whoever they are playing each night.  It would make just about any team’s season to be the one that knocks off the mighty Kentucky.  Let’s also not forget the pressure these kids (and coaching staff) face each and every night.  Does it really matter to Duke or Virginia or Gonzaga if they lose a random game on a random Tuesday?  Sure they might not like it and they might drop in the rankings, but it doesn’t truly impact their season.  So if the other top teams have an off night, so be it.  They take their loss and they move on.  This is not true for Kentucky, especially not now.  Had they lost to Kansas or UCLA earlier in the season, it wouldn’t have been as big of a deal.  Now that they have reached 24-0, there is pressure every single game.

-Big night in the NBA tonight.  With 12 games on the schedule, nearly every team plays its final game before the All-Star break.  There are so many big story lines heading into the break this year.

  • Is Anthony Davis’ shoulder okay?  He took a nasty spill on Monday, but seems to be okay.  New Orleans is just outside of the Playoffs right now and won’t have any chance unless Davis is 100% healthy.  The Pelicans need him, the NBA needs him and the fans need him.
  • The Rockets and Clippers forge on without Dwight and Blake.  The West is so competitive that losing a guy like that could cause you to slip 4-5 spots in the standings.  Neither team is in any danger of falling out of the Playoffs, but losing home court could end up being a big deal.  The good news is that both of these teams should have their stars back by the time the Playoffs start.
  • Can the Hawks and/or the Warriors keep up their current pace?  They are both on pace to win 66+ games.  Only 13 teams in NBA history have won 66 games.  10 of those teams went on to win the NBA title.  And we’ve never had a season where two teams won 66 games.  With all this being said, I’d be shocked if they both stayed on their current pace.  The Warriors are a better team than the Hawks, but the Hawks schedule appears to be easier.  They don’t have a ton of tough road games left.  They play @ Phoenix, @ Golden State, @ Oklahoma City, @ Charlotte, @ Washington and @ Chicago.  Those could all be tough, but the rest of their games are either at home or against inferior competition.  They actually only have about 6-7 homes games that are tough too.  The Warriors schedule is much different.  They play @ Washington, @ Cleveland, @ Toronto, @ Phoenix, @ Portland, @ Memphis, @ Milwaukee, @ LA Clippers, @ Dallas, @ San Antonio and @ New Orleans.  Plus they still have tough home games against San Antonio, Dallas, LA Clippers, Atlanta, New Orleans, Washington, Phoenix, Portland and Memphis.  That’s 20 tough games.  The Hawks only have about 13-14 tough games left.
  • Are the Cavaliers are good as they’ve looked now or as bad as they looked earlier in the season?  They are playing out of their minds right now.  A lot of this has to do with LeBron playing like LeBron.  The trades they made have also helped out a ton.  I actually believe they’re more like the team we’ve seen recently.  If they are healthy (or should I say if LeBron is healthy), this team is legit.  There is some concern over the whole Kevin Love situation, but that is being overblown to some extent.  However, there is real concern over whether or not he fits on this team.  He’s a great player, but he hasn’t been as good as the Cavs were expecting.  This has been covered a million times, but would the Cavaliers trade Love straight up for Wiggins right now?  Given the way Love has played and the money he’s making, I tend to think they would.  The real question is whether or not they’d trade Love to anyone.

 

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Random Thoughts 2/9/15http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-2915/ http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-2915/#comments Mon, 09 Feb 2015 16:59:23 +0000 admin http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/?p=5230 -Lots of interesting talk around the NBA as they get ready for the All-Star break.  One of the most interesting things I heard was that there was consideration of switching the Playoff system to include the best 16 teams, regardless of conference.  This would make it more of a tournament than a Playoff.  There are certainly things to like about this idea.  This year you’d have the West include 10 teams and the East would be 6.  While I like the idea of New Orleans and Oklahoma City making it instead of Charlotte and Miami, I can’t help thinking something about that feels wrong.  They the NBA is really going to consider this then it has to consider a few things.  They will have to either get rid or divisions and conferences all together or have automatic entries for winning your division.  If we truly want the 16 best teams isn’t it only fair for them to play more balanced schedules?  Why should Milwaukee get to play teams like Detroit, Indiana, New York, Philadelphia, Boston and Orlando so much when OKC has to play Portland, Golden State, LAC, Phoenix, Memphis, Houston, Dallas and San Antonio?  Even if these two teams are “equal” OKC is at a disadvantage based solely on schedule.  I’m sure people will argue that this is true in the NCAA tournament.  However, that’s totally different because it’s not just based on record.  The bottom line is that I really don’t think there are going to be a bunch of bad first round match-ups in the East.  Right now the match-ups would be: Atlanta/Miami, Toronto/Charlotte, Chicago/Milwaukee and Washington/Cleveland.  Yes, Atlanta has been MUCH better than Miami, but it would still be fun to see a healthy Heat team try and give the Hawks a run for their money.  Would Miami be any more of an underdog than Phoenix against the Warriors?  I highly doubt it.  Regardless of what the NBA does, this year is going to be a ton of fun in the Playoffs.

-This is a continuation of the NBA discussion, but I’ll separate it for ease of reading.  There has been a lot of talk about legalizing gambling in the NBA (and other sports).  I honestly am not a gambler.  I play fantasy sports, but I don’t bet on games.  With that being said, I do think it would be a great idea to legalize gambling.  It’s going to go on either way, so why not regulate it?  The NBA and the government could make a TON of money if this happens.  And they’re never going to be able to completely stop the betting that goes on.  I love the forward thinking of the NBA.  They always seem to be on the cutting edge and pushing the envelope.

-I was bummed to see James Shields sign with the Padres today.  I was holding out a glimmer of hope that he’d sign with the Cubs.  Fortunately, the Cubs should be okay without him, but would have loved to see him in Cubby blue.  The Padres have made quite a splash this off-season.  It should be a fun year for them.  They still might not be able to compete with the Dodgers, but they should be able to put a much better team out there now.  I’ll be doing a full writeup on the upcoming baseball season in the next few weeks.

-I watched the Grammys last night and I must say that I was a little disappointed in the performances.  I watch the show every year and normally really enjoy it.  Perhaps I’m just more out of touch this year.  There seemed to be tons of performances and nominations that I didn’t know.  The show just didn’t seem to have the energy this year.  I can’t wait for the Oscars in two weeks.  I’ll be doing my yearly Oscar predictions next week.  Hopefully I’ll be more entertained by the Oscars than I was by the Grammys.

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Random Thoughts 2/4/15http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-2414/ http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/general/random-thoughts-2414/#comments Wed, 04 Feb 2015 20:00:26 +0000 admin http://atlantasportscards.com/blog/?p=5227 -I know everyone is tired or reading about the controversy at the end of the Super Bowl.  However, I just wanted to give my take.  Let me start by saying that if your a Seahawks’ fan it really doesn’t matter what ANYONE says, you’re still going to be upset.  You can show them all the statistics and analytics that you want, but they’re still going to feel terrible.  Did the Seahawks screw up?  Maybe so, but had they won no one would have cared.  The reality is that the only “right” call is that one that makes you win.  Had they scored too quickly, people would have complained they didn’t eat up enough clock.  Had Lynch been given the ball and didn’t get in or fumbled, people would have said they should have thrown the ball.  Every play is going to be scrutinized in a game of this magnitude.  The only complaint I have is a general complaint and not necessarily directed at the Seahawks.  That complaint is that too many coaches and staffs are trying to be cute these days.  I’ve heard so many crazy things over the last few days about what “should” have happened.  I even heard someone suggest that the Patriots should have intentionally missed the extra point on there last TD so that the Seahawks weren’t forced to go for a TD.  I get playing the odds, but it’s gotten a bit ridiculous.  If the Seahawks knew they were going to run the ball to win, why not run it on 2nd down?  The over-thinking is what got them in trouble, not the decision.  Why not go ahead and get the score and take the lead and not worry about the clock?  You worry about the clock and you end up not scoring.  This happens in every sport, not just football.  Coaches and management have become so aware of all the odds and statistics out there that I think it sometimes goes to their heads.  In addition to that, these teams all know that whatever they do will be looked at under a microscope.  I say, do what feels right and what you believe is best for the team.

-The Hawks finally lost a game after winning 19 in a row.  That’s a heck of a feat to win that many in a row.  The NBA season will really heat up after the All-Star break.  The West Playoffs are going to be epic.  The East, not so much.  The Cavs seem to be putting things together, but the rest of the East doesn’t look too formidable against the Hawks.  Maybe the Bulls figure it out.  Maybe the Wizards or Raptors get and stay healthy and have enough.  But right now, it looks like a 2 team race in the East.  I’m sure many would say I’m crazy and that the Wizards and Raptors are better than the Cavs.  I only have one question for those people.  If you were in the Playoffs and had to play the Cavs or anyone else, who would you rather play?  Assuming LeBron is healthy, you can’t honestly say you’d rather match up against the Cavs than the Wizards, Raptors or Bulls.  As I said earlier, the West Playoffs are going to be epic.  Yes, Golden State looks to be the best of the best.  But you tell me who in the West you’d want to play?  Memphis plays great D and has just enough offense to be scary.  Houston has James Harden and what else do you need?  Portland has Lillard, Aldridge and a great group of secondary players.  The Clips can run and shoot you out of the building.  Dallas has a tremendous coach and a HOF power forward.  San Antonio needs no explanation.  Phoenix and New Orleans are solid as well.  And this is all assuming Oklahoma City doesn’t get their heads on straight and start playing like everyone thought they would.  Can you imagine being a Golden State fan and getting a lovely match up of Oklahoma City in the first round?  This is the reason that many experts are picking the Hawks to make the Finals more often than any of the West teams.  They simply won’t face the competition to get there.

-Big day in college football today with signing day.  Per usual, Alabama cleaned up.  One day someone will supplant them as the champ of recruiting.  Auburn and UCLA have both had tremendous days too.  Sadly it has not been a great day for my Domers.  Their Class looks decent, but they had several guys today that they were hoping for that didn’t go their way.  Such is life.

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