Blogs > Lions Lowdown

One thing you can count on with the Detroit Lions is that they are never, ever boring. Follow the latest news including injuries, roster moves and more here daily from Oakland Press beat writer Paula Pasche. Plus you'll find regular commentary about the team.


Picture perfect

I know it's not my usual fair, but after driving to Cleveland today (where I'm covering the Tigers' important four-game set with the Indians) and listening to a few segments worth of talk on the Alex Rodriguez saga, I feel compelled to weigh in.

In case anyone missed it, the Yankees' $252-million man was spotted (followed?) by a New York photographer cavorting about Toronto over the weekend. A-Rod and a blonde accomplice were seen dining at a steak joint, partying at a strip club, and lastly heading into a hotel elevator together. This is admittedly new and dangerous territory in the sports world, but honestly it's something I saw coming and, unfortunately, see continuing.

My wife gets magazines by the truckload about everything entertainment, and every week it seems a new Britney Spears, Angelina Jolie or Lindsay Lohan picture graces the front. The most compromising shots and most intrusive stories sell the best. Truth be told, about the only time I open one of her rags is when something eye-catching like that is on the front.

Fact is, we live in a celebrity-obsessed culture and athletes are to one segment of the population what actors and entertainers are to another. More than that, there's cross-over appeal in these type of stories. My wife even put her magazine down when a story of A-Rod's exploits appeared on SportsCenter yesterday (and for those of you that know my wife, you know that's a big deal).

Unfortunately, the millions of dollars athletes make and the grand stage they play on opens their lives to this type of public introspection. Some journalists would prefer not to cross that line, but 10 years from now I've got a feeling we'll look back and say there's nothing atypical about the New York Post story.


Mojo update

Two blogs for one today, but I just got off the phone with Maurice Joseph and he said, despite a zillion rumors to the contrary, he still hasn't decided where he'll be playing his college ball next year.

Joseph, who's looking to transfer from MSU for more playing time and to pursue a graduate degree, confirmed that he visited both Rhode Island and Vermont earlier this month. He also said he spoke with MSU coach Tom Izzo about his pending decision over the weekend.

"He just wanted to see where I'm at with the whole thing and see where he can help, see who he can call," Joseph said.

There's no hard date set for a decision, but don't be surprised if Mojo makes his choice in the coming days. It's in his best interests as a basketball player (and student, he's set to graduate next spring) to settle on a new home soon.

Money lines

I spent the weekend in Las Vegas for a bachelor party where I did a little work-related research for the upcoming college football and basketball seasons. OK, so maybe it wasn't totally work-related, but here's what I discovered:

Your late-May favorites to win the NCAA tournament next year, according to the Las Vegas Hilton, are North Carolina and UCLA. Neither is much of a surprise. The Tar Heels lose Brandon Wright and Reyshawn Terry off last year's Elite Eight, but went about 12 deep last year and, assuming they win the ACC, won't have to leave the state of North Carolina until the Final Four (first- and second-round games are in Raleigh, the East regional in Charlotte). UCLA lost its best player in Arron Afflalo, but adds one of the nation's best preps (Kevin Love) to a core that's been to two straight Final Fours. Both teams have 7/1 odds, low enough that if you're thinking of playing a few futures bets you can cover your behind with one of the favorites. Personally, North Carolina's my early choice.

Memphis (8/1) was the only other school inside 10/1, and Louisville (10/1) is No. 4 on the oddsmakers' board. There's plenty of value elsewhere, including three Big Ten teams - Michigan State, Indiana and Ohio State - at 30/1. I like both MSU and Indiana next year as both teams return the bulk of their lineups, add good freshmen classes, and in MSU's case could have a favorable tournament draw that includes a regional date at Ford Field. Further down but worth a look are Syracuse and Villanova (40/1), UConn (50/1), Maryland (75/1) and North Carolina State, which played well at the end of the season, could benefit from a North Carolina-like homecourt scenario and is worth a flyer at 100/1.

In college football, USC (5/2), Florida (8/1) and Michigan (8/1) are not surprisingly the favorites three months before the season. In some form, they'll be the top three teams when I put my AP vote together later this summer, and I fully expect two of them to square off in the Superdome Jan. 8 in the BCS title game. You'd find better odds, of course, playing the rest of the field. LSU and West Virginia, my other probable top-five teams, come in at 10/1, and deeper discounts can be had with Arkansas and Virginia Tech (both 30/1), Tennessee (50/1) and Cal, my 60/1 darkhorse for the year with home games against the Vols and Trojans. If you're looking for a non-BCS team with the best chance at going undefeated, Hawaii is 300/1, but like Boise State last year the Warriors'll be hard-pressed to reach the title game.

In case you're wondering, Michigan basketball is only 100/1 to win the title, while MSU football is part of the "field" bet with the same odds. Seems the oddsmakers believe in John Beilein's magic, but not Mark Dantonio's.


Three thoughts

I had a blog all wrapped and ready to go Tuesday about LeBron James' decision to pass up what would have been the game-tying shot in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, but I spent all day on the west side of the state (with no Internet access) working on another story and got home too late to post it. It's a little outdated but it boils down to this: I love James' game. He's unselfish, has the best court vision of anyone to enter the league since Magic, but he's got to take that shot. He had a step on Tayshaun Prince, Rasheed Wallace was coming from the weak side to help, but James could have powered up for a layup and (potentially) got the Cavs to OT. My gut tells me Cleveland won't come as close to winning a game in Detroit the rest of the series.

Two more nuggets to leave you with for the day. First, former Michigan State star Zach Randolph's days in Portland appear to be numbered now that the Blazers have the No. 1 pick. Portland will draft Greg Oden and pair him with LaMarcus Aldridge in the post for years to come. Randolph's a 20-10 guy, but there's no room for him on the block anymore. Plus, he's a heat-seeker for trouble. Expect him to be gone by mid-July to a team like New Jersey, Indiana or Philly.

Finally, after talking with Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman yesterday, I have every reason to believe a deal will get done with your local cable company to carry the network come fall. There's no rush now mostly because the network doesn't launch until late August, but the bottom line is it's in everyone's best interests - the cable providers and viewers. The only content I see myself watching is the football and basketball games and maybe the nightly sportscast or Friday night tailgating shows. But if you're a parent of an athlete in an Olympic sport that gets less than no coverage, my guess is you'll fall in love with the channel.

By the way, I've got the Pistons winning a little more comfortably tonight than they did Monday before running into some trouble in Cleveland. Call it Pistons 81, Cavs 73.


How many wins for the Lions in '07?

Just got back from Lions mini-camp where I got that old Naughty-By-Nature feeling after three days in Allen Park - everything's gonna be all right.

First a disclaimer, covering college football for the last four years I wasn't able to keep up with the NFL like most red-blooded Americans. Sundays were work and travel days, so I watched the occasional NFL game, covered one or two more, attended most Thanksgiving Day games as a fan and kept up with the exploits of an old high school buddy (who played with the Browns, Bills and Saints) as best I could. I knew next to nothing about the inner-workings of the Lions, and admittedly began covering them earlier this spring with a clean slate. Whether that's good or bad only time will tell, but half an offseason later I feel comfortable enough to say this team will be surprisingly competitive this year.

A couple things jump out. First, the offense has fantastic potential. Calvin Johnson will be a Pro Bowler in three years, and Mike Martz has enough other weapons to make things purr. Defensively, the Lions are blessed with compartmentalized coaching. Rod Marinelli spent the first 40 minutes or so of every practice working with defensive linemen (his speciality), and defensive coordinator Joe Barry spent plenty of time drilling the linebackers (the position he coached in Tampa). There's some good young talent in the front seven (Dewayne White, Ikaika Alama-Francis), and I'd buy futures on Keith Smith and Stanley Wilson.

I'm not calling the Lions a Super Bowl team (as Dan Orlovsky half did today) or even saying they'll win 10 games (as Jon Kitna did two months ago), but I'd bet milk money they make serious strides in on-field performance and have a handful more wins as evidence. Check back in September for an official prediction, but I'm house hunting in the six- to eight-win neighborhood now. Am I crazy? Let me hear your thoughts.


Random rumblings

Two quick Friday thoughts before I head out of town for a week's vacation and a little R and R:

First, the NCAA men's basketball rules committee took a bold and appropriate step yesterday by voting to move the 3-point line back to 20 feet, nine inches. After 20 years of existence, the 3-pointer had become too easy a shot in the college game (at 19-9, it was same distance as the line junior high teams use). The move, which still needs to be approved later this month by the Playing Rules Oversight Committee, won't dramatically affect scoring but it should impact 3-point percentages, which may very well make it easier for big men to operate inside.

Second, just got done watching a little of Drew Stanton's first rookie mini-camp practice as a Lion. He admitted to being a little erratic after practice, and it was evident Lions offensive coordinator Mike Martz is overhauling his throwing motion.

"I could probably sit here for an hour and write a book on (what changes Martz is making)," Stanton said. "There's a lot of things from your feet to your eyes to where I hold the ball. All those things that he's taught all the quarterbacks that have had success, so now I just need to really just hammer it home and get it through repetition."

Barring an injury to Jon Kitna, Stanton will have at least a year to iron out his motion and take hold of Martz's offense. And in case you were wondering, the Lions other rookie skill player, Calvin Johnson, looks as good as advertised running routes and catching just about everything thrown at him with ease.


Drew in Honolulu blue

I've been asked at least a hundred times over the past three days what I think of the Lions drafting Drew Stanton in the second round? Was it too high? Will he be successful? Why do they want to torment him? My thoughts ...

I personally think the Lions' best bet was to draft defense in Round 2, especially after grabbing Calvin Johnson to kick things off. But fact is Matt Millen liked Stanton a lot — he said so as far back as the combine — and the Lions were intent on taking their quarterback of the future sometime Saturday.

By getting Stanton early, the Lions gave themselves some trade flexibility. They weren't going to move Josh McCown (who they shipped to Oakland with Mike Williams for a fourth-round pick) until they had his replacement in house, and Stanton would have come off the board before the Lions' picked in Round 3. I know Trent Edwards slid to the end of Day 1, but Buffalo, Baltimore and Washington all had Stanton on their board and I'm convinced one of them would have nabbed him before the Lions got another chance.

As for Stanton's future, there's no doubt he's going to a good situation in Detroit. I know, the organization has been a graveyard for quarterbacks, but Stanton has the luxury of sitting for at least a year, watching Jon Kitna and learning from Mike Martz. Kitna is the consummate pro. He did wonders for Carson Palmer in Cincinnati and I'm sure his influence on Stanton will be the same. Chances are Martz will land a head coaching job somewhere else before Stanton gets his chance in Detroit, but a year of tutelage under Martz's discerning eye can never hurt.

None of that will guarantee Stanton success — nothing does — but at least the pieces are in place (including a weapon like Calvin Johnson) to give him a shot, which is more than you can say about his time at Michigan State.