Monday, June 30, 2008

Happy Monday!

Hope you had a nice weekend, and got to check out some of Monday Musings...

1-Inbee Park. 19 years old, and US Women's Open champion. She played great, no doubt, but I ask, where were the serious threats? It was like Interlachen was Quail Hollow Club and it was time for the young, unheralded player to make their big splash. Anthony Kim did that at the Wachovia Championship, and Park has enjoyed her party. Wonder what replaced the bubbly at her victory party, Fresca?

2-Kurt Busch wins Loudon, thanks to Mother Nature raining out the final 17 laps. Feel horrible for Tony Stewart, though. He was crushing the field, and simply got unlucky. That team has missed a beat, or has been beaten by bad breaks all season long. Watching them on Sunday, I got the sense they are ready for their mid-season explosion of wins. Seems around this time of the year, when the schedule swings towards Daytona for the 400, Stewart starts to heat up. It's coming.

3-My beloved Chicago White Sox took back the broom they lost last weekend to the Cubs, and swept the "gone-a-century-without-winning-a-world-series" Cubs in the rematch of the Windy City Classic series Sunday. Mark Buehrle was nails, as was Scott Linebrink and Bobby Jenks, but more clutch was the play of Brian Anderson. Anderson is a former Charlotte Knight, who hit the eventual game winning home run, a 2 run shot that made the game 3-0 at the time. The Cubs eeked out a run to make it 3-1 in the 9th. Still. Anderson was able to drive a pitch out to left-center with a hit-and-run play on. He's just one example of the good, young players that the Knights seem to develop (if given the chance). If you can take in a Knights game, you should. Some good talent down there.

4-Kenny Perry won the Buick Open on Sunday, in what he called a "birdie contest." He was -19 for the tournament, and had to sweat Bubba Watson (yep, his first name is, in fact, Bubba) missing an 11 foot putt at the 18th that would have forced a playoff. Perry wins again this season, at the tender young age of 47. Normally when player hit that age, they are thinking about joining the Champions tour, and not winning on the regular Tour. Having interviewed Perry at the Wachovia in the past, I can honestly say he is a great guy that is the true definition of "grinder." He works hard at his game, puts in the necessary hours to be as good as he can be, but away from the course, he's as down to earth as you would ever meet. He stuck to his plan to not play in the U.S. Open, as his goal is to secure a spot on the U.S. Ryder Cup team. He should be a lock for Paul Azinger at this point, and Zinger will need every dedicated player he can find with Tiger Woods on the shelf through the end of 2008. He could do a lot worse than Perry.

Blog at you later!

Mike Solarte

Friday, June 27, 2008

My head hurts

That's what an NBA Draft will do to you. I told my wife when I got home Thursday night how excited I was to go to work. Going to cover the Draft with all the anticipation of a 6 year old on Christmas morning. Just geeked about all the possibilities.

Wow, what a let down.

The Charlotte Bobcats were hoping to inject some life and energy into their franchise with the draft, and from my chair, they missed the mark. Big.

I said it on the air Thursday night that the 3 men in charge of making the picks, Head Coach Larry Brown, GM Rod Higgins, and Co-owner (and Managing Member of Basketball Operations) Michael Jordan have forgotten more about the game than I will ever know. STILL, when the roster was screaming BIG at the #9 pick, they went with a guard. Not a slacker guard, mind you. D.J. Augustin had a nice 2 year stint in college. He was the Bob Cousy winner as the best point guard in college hoops last season.

Jerryd Bayless (a guard) was still available, as was Brook Lopez (a center). Both were players that seemed to be on the Bobcats radar. Both Bayless and Lopez were rated higher than Augustin in every pre-draft rankings list I looked at. Augustin has impressive credentials, but this seems like a bit of a gamble here, for my tastes.

Before I continue to hammer Augustin into the ground, I will say that in 2 years in the Big 12, he was one of the best players on the floor every time he laced his shoes up. He does have the game to play at the next level, and will be a good player in this league. He's no stiff, and he will be brutalized by Coach Brown as he develops. Brown is tough on his point guards, so Augustin had better be ready. Augustin will be a solid guard for this team, but the message is mixed with Raymond Felton. Rumors floated around on draft night that he could be dealt, although Jordan said after the draft that the team is planning on having Felton around. I like Raymond--I hope MJ is being honest here.

The reason for my ranting is it seemed the Bobcats addressed their needs with the best player available, but in reverse, and their 2nd pick in round one was even more astonishing.

Alexis Ajinca at #20? This is a player that may not even be STATESIDE in the fall. This to me was a reach as well, considering the Bobcats heed help NOW, not down the road. The selection of Ajinca (who Brown said Thursday could have been a top 3 pick in next year's draft, so he sees something in him), does absolutely nothing for this franchise if Ajinca stays in Europe this season, for whatever reason. The Bobcats have to obtain his rights from his club in Europe (from what I was told), before he can come to Charlotte. Jordan said last night that Ajinca has good range for a big man, but that range likely does not include the Atlantic Ocean.

I don't get it. I am trying, but I just don't get it.

Then, this morning I hear of an almost deal that would have sent Gerald Wallace to Toronto for T.J. Ford (who was later dealt to Indiana for Jermaine O'Neal)? I love Wallace for his hustle, heart, desire, leaping ability, tenacity, all of it. The guy is a fan favorite. Dealing him would have been, and could very well be a gut punch the fan base may not forget.

This was Michael Jordan's 3rd draft with this team. He was high on Adam Morrison, then last year's picks of Jared Dudley and Jermareo Davidson. Now Augustin, Ajinca, and Kyle Weaver in round 2. Jordan coming on board was thought to be a good thing for the fan base, as having him connected with such a young franchise could have a positive ripple effect, both in the fan base, and in the front office. You know, get people excited.

Hey fans. You excited yet?


Casey Mears won't return to Hendrick Motorsports in 2009. That came down this morning, officially from HMS. I hate it for Mears. He's a good, young, talented driver. And a nice guy to boot. It was a treat watching him get his first career Cup win at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the Coca Cola 600 in 2007. Problem is, though, nice doesn't equal wins, and that is what drives competition. Mears will land another ride, and I wish him well. Mark Martin should be the guy to replace Mears at Hendrick. That is a fit that makes sense, too.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

NBA Draft Day and more...

NBA Draft is finally here, and the Bobcats have worked out half of the planet trying to figure out who they want to select with the 9th pick. Problem is, though, they worked out the half of the planet WITHOUT the top names in the draft, save for a couple. Larry Brown touched on it during one of the post-workout media chats, saying the agents are trying to control the draft. Coach is right, and the agents are likely going to be surprised when their clients aren't selected where they originally thought they would be. It's a dangerous game the agents play, especially when all rookie contracts in the NBA are slotted, and locked in--that whole Rookie Pay Scale thing the NBA has.

Which new rookie will Larry Brown be coaching next season?What will the Bobcats do? Well, I said a few days ago I thought they would trade out of the 9th pick, and after picking up Denver's #20 pick on Wednesday, that smells like a package deal with a team ahead of them to dish both picks, acquire an earlier first rounder, and perhaps pick up a veteran to go with the exchanged pick.

Or they could shock everyone and just keep the 9 and 20 and make selections. It's a very fluid situation, and one we'll be keeping out eyes on. I'll be live at Time Warner Cable Arena tonight, at Bobcats HQ, and we'll have the latest for you on Sports Night at 10.

Spraying to all fields:

* Charlotte 49er golfer Jonas Enander Hedin helped his European Palmer Cup team to a 2.5-1.5 lead after the first day of play in Scotland.

* Former Charlotte 49er speedster Sharese Woods is leaving for the U.S. Olympic Trials in Oregon today, and News 14 is hoping to track her down (she is fast, you know). She's a 4-time All-American, and after the Marion Jones debacle, USA track needs some good news. I hope Woods is it.

* Thanks to Raymond Felton for stopping by the studio on Tuesday. You can see the interview at here at , if you missed it.

* Ocean's 13 is better than Ocean's 12, but not as good as Ocean's 11. Of course, I'm not talking about the original Ocean's 11 with the Rat Pack. The original was good for its time, but the trilogy with Clooney and Pitt dominate. Maybe we should run a field of 64 "Movies of All Time" bracket....lemme ponder that.

Mike Solarte

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

This just in...

The Charlotte Bobcats made a deal with the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday:

Bobcats get:
The 20th overall selection in Thursday night's NBA Draft.

Denver gets:
Charlotte's protected first round pick in 2009.

What does that all mean? Based on what I have researched, it means that the teams negotiated for Charlotte's first round selection next season, which is conditional. The Bobcats have yet to tell us the conditions (as of 6:30p.m. tonight).

Where the Bobcats go with the 9th, 20th and 38th overall selections is about as fluid as it has been all off-season.

We'll keep you posted.

Mike Solarte

The "Sport v. Game" Debate

Long a favorite, and ultimately, there is no right or wrong answer. What makes one activity a "sport" and another activity a "game?" How about "competition?"

One criteria I have heard for this argument is this--there must be a significant risk of injury to constitute "sport." By the way, this wasn't a scientific discussion--let's just say it involved chilly beverages.

Going off of that, auto racing is a sport, along with lumberjack games (have you seen a big-league splinter?), and figure skating.

Now, let me break those 3 items down:

1-Auto Racing. I know it may sound sacrilegious in these parts, but auto racing, to me, is competition, not sport. GASP!!! Auto racing is a true test of man and machine. The drivers ARE athletes, don't get me wrong. The pit crew members are athletes (just watch them bust off a stop in under 14 seconds to see why). There is truly significant risk of injury. The drivers athleticism comes from their incredible endurance, reflexes and mental focus. I still go competition, though, due to the driver being able to sit for the whole race.

Why are the drivers athletes? Here's why. It was explained to me years ago by Todd Bodine, when I was hosting my radio show in Raleigh on 850 the Buzz. Bodine was an in-studio guest (promoting one of his sponsors), and I basically asked him point blank, what makes you guys athletes? His reply: "Get in your car, cut the power steering, turn the air conditioner to high heat, roll up the windows, strap yourself into your seat allowing you little wiggle room, and drive as fast as you can in rush hour traffic tightly packed with 42 other cars, all doing to the same location."

Drivers are athletes.

2-Lumberjack competitions. Do I need to explain this? Those are made for tv events (who rolls logs anymore?), which ESPN used to fill time before they won contracts to broadcast baseball, football, hoops, etc. Lumberjacking is an occupation, not a sport.

3-Figure skating. Competition, not sport. Here's why: any competition whose results are based solely on the opinions of judges can not be viewed as sport. Boxing is exempt from this rule, as a boxer can be knocked out, taking the judges out of the equation. Figure skating relies solely on judges, who, if they happen to blink, can miss a crucial element, and incorrectly score a competitor.

Now, others that qualify is competition or games include: bowling, golf, darts, etc.

Bowlers are highly skilled at what they do--still, your ability to drink frosty beverages while playing limits the athlete argument.

Golfers are highly skilled, and I have long maintained the golf swing is perhaps the single most difficult athletic movement to perfect. Still, for 99 percent of the golfing world, golf is competition, and not sport. The 1% left out of that number calls the PGA Tour home. Those guys are good.

Darts. Competition. See the beer rule. Great skill and hand-eye coordination. Not sport.

Athletes above reproach-basketball players, football players, soccer, hockey, baseball, cyclists, track and field athletes and jockeys.

Jockeys? Yep. Jockeys barely outweigh the best international figure skaters, yet they have the strength to guide an animal running at top speed, and the courage to try and get that animal to run towards a victory.

What are some games or sports that you feel deserve the recognition, or deserve to be knocked into the games/competition column?

Knock out a comment, and let us know.

Remember, there are no wrong answers!

Mike Solarte

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Tuesday musings

Notes of interest on this Tuesday.

Bobcats fans will want to make time for Sports Night this evening, as Raymond Felton will be in studio to talk hoops with us. In fact, tonight would be a good night to make Sports Night a regular part of your tv watching time. Like watching it every night, for instance. Thanks, we now return you to the blog.
Been thinking about Dwayne Jarrett's DWI situation which went to court on Monday. Jarrett pleaded guilty, lost his license, paid $420 in court costs and has to perform 24 hours of community service. I get all that. Big picture for Jarrett in regard to his football career, he's running out of chances.

The Panthers are an organization that doesn't like negative press. They've had enough of it, frankly. You mention names like Rae Carruth, Kerry Collins, the tragic death of Fred Lane, and sure, it makes sense the Panthers would rather you see them on tv running a football camp for kids, than anything else. Jarrett has to mind his business, to keep himself off the path taken by those guys before him.

Jarrett's "to-do" list should look something like this:
1-Get my nose in the playbook, and know it better than anyone else on the offense, and that includes Jake Delhomme. There is a reason that Steve Smith called you out in front of other reporters last year, and if there is any player in the Panthers dressing room that has grown up right in front of everyone, it's Smitty. Best advice? Learn from #89. You'll be a better professional for it.

2-Work out as hard as possible to build my body into a big-time NFL receiver body. The framework for Jarrett is in place. His commitment to his fitness is not in question by anyone. Showing his teammates that he is dedicated to the plan will pay big dividends in the dressing room alone, down the road.

3-Use the community service time as a way to show kids (preferably in high school), that drinking and driving don't mix. I don't think I need to elaborate on this one, as high school kids are not too much younger than you are now, D.J. Make the impression on them that "in just a few years, you will be my age. Do as I say, not as I did," kinda thing.

If Jarrett is able to accomplish those items to their fullest, that will earn him a spot in the lineup in the fall. It may not be a starting spot, but at least he'll have a uniform on Sunday, unlike last season when he was a healthy scratch in more games than he dressed out. Jarrett faces stiff competition at the receiver spot, with Smith, Muhsin Muhammad, and D.J. Hackett in the mix, not to mention Ryne Robinson wanting a piece of the receiver pie. Jarrett has the tools to become a solid NFL receiver. It's a matter of applying those tools, but now he has the added weight of proving his character to not only his teammates, but to the organization and the league as well.

Training camp begins on July 25th in Spartanburg, but there is a silver lining in it. The time spent there will be reduced from years past. How much time there? Hearing 2 weeks, rather than the 4 of the past. Good decision, guys. I love it.

Blog with more later, and always, your comments are welcomed.

Mike Solarte

Monday, June 23, 2008

The start of something new

Hello friends (my small tribute to Jim Nantz there), and welcome to the News 14 Carolina Sports Blog. From time to time, we'll be popping in with thoughts and ideas from the world of sports. Everything from who the Bobcats should select in the upcoming draft, to what should be done with the coaching staff of (insert team name here).

We'll try to keep things light, but also try to keep you, the News 14 viewer (and web reader) up to date on all things sports related.

That being said, some random thoughts from my scattered brain this Monday afternoon.

1-Kyle Busch is good. Yeah, like really good. He may not have said this publicly, and I have asked him about it, and he gave me the true politically correct answer (well, it is an election year), but the young man is driving with a chip on his shoulder the size of Hendrick Motorsports race shop. There is no doubt in my mind he went to Joe Gibbs Racing with something to prove.

He wanted to prove Rick Hendrick wrong for dumping him in order to sign Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

He wanted to prove his critics wrong. The ones who said he was too immature to compete consistently in the Cup series.

He wants to prove anyone who has had any doubts about him, and his talents wrong, and he's done that so far this season. Not to mention he's done it in his first year in the Toyota Camry, a car that couldn't find the racetrack last season, now can't miss finding Victory Lane. Good for Kyle that he is hitting his stride. I hope he stays on the path, and doesn't let success get to his head.

2-The College World Series. Any chance we can get rid of the aluminum bat? ANY CHANCE? C'mon, people. I understand it costs more money to make wooden bats, since they break, and aluminum bats don't (in general), but really, it's time to put the skill of the players (pitchers and hitters alike), back in. Hitters, in my opinion, have an advantage with the metal bat--just make contact, and it's gonna go. Pitchers have to try and be super-human to record outs, as it's tougher to get guys to hit the ground ball when they can take a golf swing at it with the metal bat, and just about golf it to the fence. Hats off to the UNC Tar Heels, for giving it a game run, taking Fresno St. to the brink. Not a bad feat to go to the final CWS series in 2 straight years, and come up short in year 3.

3-The NBA Draft. I don't THINK the Bobcats can select a UNC Tar Heel on Thursday. Maybe they can--I haven't double checked that, but given the Big 3's return to Chapel Hill for next season, a non-Heel will more than likely be coming to Charlotte. Where do the Cats go with the 9th overall pick? That's the $64,000 question. Luckily, I don't have to have the answer, as that's Rod Higgins/Michael Jordan's decision. Wait, that should read Michael Jordan/Rod Higgins decision. Bobcats areas of needs are many--yes, I wrote that. They aren't deep at the point guard spot, and at the center spot. Depth there would be nice for first year coach Larry Brown. The Bobcats do have talent, and they play hard. I like the make-up of this team. Raymond Felton, Jason Richardson, Emeka Okafor, Gerald Wallace....that's a nice group. The bigger questions for the Bobcats are Sean May and Adam Morrison. Both missed last season with knee issues, and May could be on his last chance with this franchise. He's missed too many games due to injury, and that makes folks ask "why are we keeping this guy around?" don't get me wrong, I'm pulling for Sean, I like him alot. When he plays, he plays hard and he contributes, and that is what you look for. Bobcat fans haven't seen enough of that in his time with the club.

Where do they go? My gut says that they may trade out of the 9th spot, and could go either way--up or down. If they stay at 9, the mock drafts list Brook Lopez (Stanford) or Kevin Love (UCLA), as possible fits. Both are big (Lopez at 7 feet, Love at 6-10), and would provide some support under the bucket for Okafor and Nazr Mohammad. Ryan Hollins needs to bulk up some more (but man can he jump out of the gym) to become an effective NBA forward/center.

I hope the Bobcats make the right pick, as winters can be long when covering a losing basketball team. Been there, done that.

Much more in the days, weeks, months to follow. Feel free to leave comments, and replies, as all are welcome.

~Mike Solarte