Can Jeremy Lin lead the Lakers to the playoffs?

With Steve Nash out Jeremy Lin becomes THE man at point guard for the Lakers.

   By Rich Winter

        Was visiting with a few of my Laker buddies last night during the Chargers vs. Broncos game.

       "Ya hear about Steve Nash," White Mamba asked me?

       "Nope," I told him.

        "Done for the year," he said.

         And then followed a few minutes of incessant banter about what a joke the whole Steve Nash debacle has been for the Lakers. Four draft picks to acquire Nash and he's given them 65 games since he's been in La-La land. 

      While the loss of Nash isn't completely unexpected, his loss does vault Jeremy Lin into the conversation as the main center-piece at point-guard for the Lakers. 

   The other point-guards on the Lakers roster are Jordan Clarkson (who?), and Ronnie Price.

    Wow, I could launch into a whole series of what was Laker management doing by not addressing the point guard position in the NBA draft last spring, but that card has been launched a few too many times.

      The Lakers are stuck with what the Lakers have and that is Jeremy Lin as a starting point-guard.

       I like it!

       I absolutely love the position this Laker team is in. Over the past few days I've heard more stories about Kobe Bryant being a difficult teammate and Laker Management not making the right moves and on and on and on as everyone gets ready to shovel dirt on these Lakers.

     I can just see Kobe Bryant salivating at the idea that the entire NBA world is rooting against him.

     Bryant is averaging 19 points per game in the pre-season, in limited minutes. I expect him to be around 24 per game.

      Carlos Boozer might have to see a shrink before the Lakers were to embark on any kind of playoff tour, but hey, it's LA and I think there is plenty of professional help to erase Boozer's ghosts of NBA playoff failures past.

         In my heart of hearts I think Kobe Bryant is going to like playing with Jeremy Lin. Mr. Lin is a decent defender but he just plays tough. Midway through the season in Houston a year ago I was calling for Lin to be an all-star. He was playing great but Houston folded up like a cheap tent in the latter part of the season and the playoffs a year ago. 

     Lin had that year in New York in 2010-2011 where he averaged 14.6 ppg and 6.2 apg. 

      Thus far in the pre-season in limited minutes, Lin is averaging 10.8 ppg and 6.0 apg in 24.5 minutes per game. 

      I like where those numbers are headed when he starts playing 30-35 minutes per game.

      Lin is a poor-man's point guard. He's a career 45 percent shooter and 35 percent from the 3-point-line. He handled the New York Knick saga much better than most people thought he could and he's always been battling up-hill. 

        With Kobe destined to shoot a lot this year I think Lin will get him the ball in the right spot. Without a lot of people to trust on offense, when Kobe gets doubled, I see him having no problem kicking it back to Lin.

       I'm a firm believer that the NBA playoffs are better when Kobe Bryant and the L.A. Lakers are in them. I see the NBA putting Cleveland and the Spurs in the finals but I see the Lakers squeaking into the playoffs.

       Not sure who falls out in the west but Memphis could go? 

       The Lakers will be much more dangerous this season that even Laker faithful are giving them credit for. 

      C'mon Mamba, you'll be sporting a Jeremy Lin jersey by Christmas for sure. 

           Follow me @panicgalore

Stevens the favorite, but the Raiders will have company in AA cross-country

Rapid City Stevens will be aiming for a second consecutive state AA cross country title but they will have company this year as a host of teams could challenge the Raiders for AA supremacy.

By Rich Winter

    With no Annie Kruse and no Tamara Gorman in the AA race this year, a new queen of AA cross country will be crowned tomorrow afternoon in Huron.

     But that list of individual contenders is long and any one of about eight girls could come out leading the pack.

    The contenders: 

     Savannah Woods - Yankton

Early this season Savannah Woods looked to be the AA favorite but she's had mixed results. Can she tune it up in time to grab AA gold.

Jasmyne Cooper won the East vs. West challenge on Oct. 10.

Emily Person of Rapid City Stevens finished 4th a year ago and will be counted on for leadership as Stevens aims for a second straight team title.

Kelsie Keaney - Sioux Falls Washington

Rachel Propst - Pierre

Madison McClure - Yankton

Courtney Klatt - Brandon Valley

Jamie Schweiss - Rapid City Stevens

      There are a lot of girls that are right there and the thing with this field is they've all taken turns at the top. The individual race should be a crowded affair for the first two miles until the contenders decide they've had enough of playing around and make the long sprint for home. 

     Should be a great race. 

     The battle for team supremacy!

     Rapid City Stevens - Emily Person and Jamie Schweiss give Stevens a really solid No. 1 and No. 2 punch. The pair finished 4th and 10th a year ago. With so many team contenders in the mix this year, Stevens could really use those two working in tandem and finishing in the top-5 to slant the team race in their favor. How Kendra Dykstra fares on Saturday will go a long way towards pushing Stevens over the top. 

     Experience will be a key factor for the Raiders.

    “We’re fortunate to return a lot of seniors to both of our teams,” said coach Jesse Coy. “Our leadership going into a big race like this is so good. That will take care of a lot of our nerves, and we’re kind of banking on that experience to carry us through.”

    Sioux Falls Lincoln - The Pats will be led by Jasmyne Cooper and Katie Patrick. Cooper, who transferred from Harrisburg before the season, has hit her stride, while the Pats have rested Patrick in recent weeks to preserve the triathlete for a stellar state meet. Cooper won the East vs. West meet on Oct. 10, defeating Schweiss by about eight seconds. 

   “It’s good because there are other teams that are right there with us,” said Lincoln coach Eric Pooley of the unpredictable field. “We think we are one of the teams who can push Rapid City Stevens if we have all of our girls firing on all cylinders at the right time.”

    More from Pooley on his top two guns - “Jasmyne has come on at the right time. She had to work through a stretch where she just had to get used to the way we do things,” said Pooley. “Once she did that, she took off. Katie Patrick is recovered now as well, so we really have a one-two punch that can set the pace.”

   Yankton - Yankton has a big-3 and that's always dangerous heading into a state meet. At the ESD championships on Oct. 13, Savannah Woods was No. 1, Madison McClure was No. 2 and Lauren Graves was No. 3. The Gazelles finished 2nd at that meet to Brandon Valley.

Brandon Valley - At the ESD meet, Brandon Valley had five in the top-14, all of them running under 16:27. 

Pierre - I've kind of been waiting all season for Pierre to come around. Rachel Propst was slow to come around after missing most of her off-season training. With Emily Mikkelsen and Propst, the Lady Govs put two in the top-8 at the ESD meet and four in the top-17. Pierre has been kind of an after-thought all season, but if everyone races up to full potential, the Lady Govs could be in the mix.

     Gotta love cross country.

     Good luck to all the athletes, teams, coaches and parents.

    Follow me @panicgalore

Fantasy - Aren't ya glad you held onto Ryan Mathews?

When the Chargers come off their bye week, I expect Ryan Mathews to be the man in the Charger backfield.

By Rich Winter

     Was it just me or did the San Diego Chargers spend way too much time last night trying to establish the run?

      Thirteen times the Chargers stuffed the ball into the hands of Brandon Oliver last night, and all they saw from it was a measly 36 yards. Frankly, I thought the Chargers tried to dumb down their offense a little more than I'd like to see from a team I consider one of the most explosive offenses in the NFL. 

      The Chargers tried that little dump-off pass to Brandon Oliver seven times last night. For most of the night he was trapped in negative receiving yards until he broke a few late in the game to get past zero.

Brandon Oliver vs. Broncos - 13-36 rushing, 7-27 receiving. 

    As the Chargers head into a game with the Dolphins in about ten days, one thing is clear to me.  

   Brandon Oliver is not the Chargers starting running back!

   That duty belongs to Ryan Mathews who has been sidelined since week two with a sprained MCL suffered against the Seahawks. 

     I'm guessing Ryan Mathews starts running this week.

      I'm guessing he doesn't play vs. the Dolphins.

      Mathews then gets the benefit of a bye week and won't have to be in complete playing shape and ready to take the field until Nov. 16 at home vs. a porous Oakland Raiders run defense. 

   From my perspective in watching the game last night, Brandon Oliver looked like a great third-down back that would benefit from seeing way less touches per game. He's not a straight-ahead running back that will put his head down and get you two tough yards.

     For all of you Brandon Oliver owners, you had a nice little run while it lasted. I wouldn't drop him because Ryan Mathews is a glass-jaw just waiting to get hurt again.

    Oliver is Danny Woodhead wrapped into a little beefier package. He's great when he catches you by surprise and he's ineffective when you know all you have to do is stop him. 

      So, hold on tight to Ryan Mathews friends, in three weeks he's going to be the man again.

     Follow me @panicgalore

Is Von Miller the most disruptive defensive force in the NFL?

Von Milller added another sack total to his already gaudy stats last night.

By Rich Winter

         Every time I watch Denver this year, Von Miller jumps off the page at me.

        At 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds, this 25-year old from Texas A & M had some off the field problems a year ago. Now that he's straightened himself out, he seems to be the best playern on what you could argue is the best defense in the NFL. 

       While his stats from last night's game with the San Diego Chargers don't scream off the page at you, two total tackles and a sack (leads the league with nine), he seemed to be around the ball a lot more than that. Miller is like a shot-blocker in the NBA in that he might not get to every ball (QB), but he changes the trajectory of the ball (teams must scheme around him now). 

       While this Denver team seems tied to Peyton Manning and that slippery-good offense, I think the Broncos and all football fans know that a Super Bowl is going to come through the defense.

      The addition of DeMarcus Ware, and now a return to full health with clear mind and conscience from Miller has elevated this team. 

       Miller might have gotten to Philip Rivers just one time statistically last night, but his presence changed the way the Chargers wanted to play the game. How many times did you see that little flip from P. Rivers to Brandon Oliver last night, as the Chargers tried to throw in the void left by a rushing line-backer? Oliver caught seven passes for 27 yards last night and spent a good share of the night having negative receiving yards. 

         Miller is so young still, just 25 years of age. You get the feeling when you watch him that he's only going to get better. Sure, J.J. Watt has a better motor and is probably a more disruptive force on defense but Miller is right there.

      He's big enough he can line up as a down lineman. He's agile enough he can cover tight-ends coming off the line.

     But what Miller does best is get after the quarterback. He's fearless in that regard and reminds me a lot of Lawrence Taylor in his relentless pursuit of either the quarterback or the running back from the back side. 

     Nine sacks through seven games - That's awesome baby!

      Toss in the mere idea that Denver has DeMarcus Ware on the other side, seven sacks that is second in the NFL, and it's hard to find a way to double both guys.

      I think Miller is going to make a run at 20 sacks this season and that puts him right up there as one of the, if not thee, most disruptive defensive force in the NFL. 

   Follow me @panicgalore

In a game against the Chargers a year ago, Von Miller had three QB sacks and two forced fumbles.