Chances are that Joba Chamberlain is entering his final season with the Yankees. While he’s spent the majority of the last two seasons on the disabled list, he’s continued to amass service time and he’ll be eligible for free agency next winter at the tender age of 28. The news yesterday that Chamberlain still thinks…
Capitals defenseman Mike Weber is not ashamed to admit it. As a child growing up just 20 miles north of downtown Pittsburgh, he always wanted to be a Penguin.
There was one problem, however, his grandmother was a diehard Steelers fans and so was everyone else in his family.
“The town bleeds black and gold,” said Weber, who is expected to be in the lineup tonight at Consol Energy Cenrer in place of the suspended Brooks Orpik when the Capitals face the Penguins in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series.
“I grew up with that mindset. In school it was all about football.”
As a tall, athletic teenager, Weber played defensive back and defensive line, but after watching Mario Lemieux, Ron Francis and Paul Coffey win two Stanley Cups in the early 1990s at the old Igloo, his true love was hockey.
“I played football for a few years, until I had to choose between football and hockey,” Weber said. “It was an easy decision. I wanted to be a Penguin. I didn’t fit in that well in school. I’m sure hockey is a lot more popular now than it was when I was coming up.
“They take (football) pretty serious in Western Pennsylvania and when I missed one football practice for a hockey game they kind of gave me the ultimatum. I said, ‘OK, see ya later.’”
Weber attended Seneca Valley High School in Cranberry Township, close to where the Penguins practice today, and moved to Tecumseh, Ontario, where he played four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League and was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres in the second round of the 2006 NHL draft.
One of Weber’s greatest hockey memories was recording his first NHL point in his first-ever game at the old Igloo, which is now a parking lot across the street from Consol. His family and friends were there to share the moment.
“It was special because I went to a few Penguins games as a kid and listened on the radio on the way back from late-night hockey practices,” Weber recalled. “They catapulted me into watching and wanting to play and it worked out pretty well.”
Weber spent his entire NHL career with the Sabres before they traded him to the Capitals for a third-round draft pick just before February’s NHL trade deadline.
In his first game in Pittsburgh as a Capital on March 20, Weber made quite a few enemies when he checked rookie Bryan Rust from behind and was given a game misconduct.
“I know I’ve had some impact there playing against them,” he said. “Maybe I get mixed reviews now about going back.”
Weber says his rugged style is a product of his upbringing.
“It’s a special area and it’s nice to be from such a hard-working town,” he said. “As I’ve gone along in my career I’ve always kept that chip on my shoulder and not forget where I came from. They’re working-class people and I try to bring that along with me.
“I always get jacked up to play the Pens. It’s always fun going back to Pittsburgh, but it’s more fun to beat them.”
As for his grandmother and the rest of his family, he expects blood to be thicker than their deep-rooted rooting interests.
“They have to support their family,” Weber said. “They can wear a Pens jersey if they want underneath, but it better be a Caps jacket on top. They better be supporting the family.”
This week, I will profile the Ravens’ 11 draft picks with three things you need to know about them. First up is their final pick, cornerback Maurice Canady from Virginia, who went in Round 6 (209).
Three things about Canady:
1. University of Virginia alumni should be particularly proud of himself.
Canady was the only Virginia player drafted this year, and he extended the school’s streak to 33 straight years of having at least one player selected. He continues the Ravens’ recent connection with Virginia players. Left tackle Eugene Monroe, defensive end Brent Urban, and former defensive end Chris Canty all attended Virginia. Canady is a Richmond, Virginia native, so he’s thrilled to stay on the East coast.
2. Special teams could be Canady’s ticket to making the team.
The Ravens are looking for game-changing punt returners, and Canady returned a punt 74 yards for a touchdown last season.
3. At 6-foot-1, Canady has the height and wingspan NFL teams prefer for cornerbacks.
Canady needs to work on his ball skills – he did not have an interception last season. However, his height is a plus matching up against bigger receivers. Canady had a strong week at the Senior Bowl against elite competition. If he stands out the same way during minicamps and training camp, Canady can carve out a place with the Ravens.
An incredibly successful season for the Charlotte Hornets is over, after a 48-win regular season and a Game 7 elimination to the Miami Heat. They’re loaded with free agents who are worth pursuing.
The Wizards's goals are to get younger, more explosive and identify a few two-way players in the process to improve their 21st scoring defense. Adding players indiscriminately isn't an option because of the salary cap. The big fish (meaning, big-name free agents) will get signed first. Assuming the Wizards land one, even if it's not named Kevin Durant, they'll construct the roster with the remaining money with as many as eight other spots open. More than likely they'll retain 2-4 of their own free agents which will cut that number of open slots from 5-7.
They'll need a solid backup for Marcin Gortat at center, a true scorer behind Bradley Beal and a backup point guard for John Wall.
These are Charlotte’s free agents, in order of best fit (and projected affordability):
Courtney Lee: A career backup with the ability to start, Lee is a solid two-way guard who made $5.7 million and now is an unrestricted free agent. He has good size and is a perfect complement to Wall or Beal as he can plug two gaps. The question for him, is starting a requirement (he made 65 in Memphis and Charlotte this past season) and for the Wizards would be how much would they be willing to pay a No. 2? Lee also shot 38% from three. He fills a lot of voids in one player.
Jeremy Lin: At 6-3 and seasoned, he’s the perfect backup point guard but could start pending on where he ends up. He only made $2.1 million after coming off a monster deal previously and has a player option. Lin has done enough to get back some of that lost income with 11.7 points. Lin is a better defender than Ramon Sessions, who is looking for a starting job after playing the last two seasons behind Wall.
Marvin Williams: He has a few qualities to make him a prize catch as an unrestricted free agent -- size, experience, the versatility to play both forward positions and three-point range (40%). Williams, who was backup with Charlotte a year ago, was elevated to a starting role this season and is in line for a sizable contract, well above the $7 million he earned. Given the Wizards already have Morris who has a better low-post game and a much more cap-friendly deal, paying Williams makes little sense. But since Williams can play the three spot, too, there’s a scenario of playing both. Of course, Otto Porter and Kelly Oubre occupy those spots and are much cheaper.
Nic Batum: The perfect definition of a two-way player, Batum can shoot the three and defend both guard positions and the wing effectively as well as smaller fours. He finished the final year of his deal that paid him $13.1 million after being traded from Portland. Batum is now unrestricted and will be in high demand. If the Wizards were to make a play for him, that’s a lot tied up into one position with Porter and Oubre at the three spot. A roster move to relieve that glut would be likely for it to make sense which is why Batum is listed this low. Otherwise, he’s first.
Al Jefferson: His 12 points and 6.4 rebounds represent his lowest output since his second NBA season, and he earned $13.5 million. But Jefferson was injured and came off the bench as the Hornets went to small-ball to adjust. He still can put up starter’s numbers, is a load in the post and by all indications accepted the backup role with grace. Jefferson is on the other side of 30 in a game that’s become increasingly about faster-paced players. He doesn’t make the defense any better but offensively he’s a true back-to-the-basket option. But at what cost? He can find a starting job and a bigger payday somewhere.