My Life as a Chelsea Fan – Yes Way, Jose

Yesterday Chelsea played in a thrilling Super Cup Final against Bayern Munich.  The flashbacks to the 2012 Champions League Final were palpable, even when the final shooter stepped up – although this time there was no Didier Drogba to save us. 

However, the takeaways for me from the start of the season have been very positive.  Somewhat surprisingly, Mourinho has managed to make the team his own and has begun to raise their overall level of play.  The Blues believe in their new manager, and it was evident eight minutes in when Fernando Torres scored a blistering goal on a great one timer.  The team was firing on all cylinders and seemed destined to pull out a surprise victory, until the final eight seconds when Ashley Cole inadvertently kept one of the Bayern strikers onside by playing deep within his own eight yard box. 

Chelsea, believe it or not, even playing with ten men deserved to win this game.  Petr Cech was unreal in this game; some of the saves he made seemed to defy possibility.  He was leaping, diving and punching out balls with reckless abandon.  During Bayern’s final onslaught he made four or five incredible saves. 

Despite the loss in the shootouts (a mistimed stutter…) Chelsea fans should seek the positive in this contest: we should have won.  We could have won and maybe later on in the season we will in fact win.  After battling presumptive champs Man U to a draw, Chelsea has shown that they can raise their game when it is necessary.  Hopefully they can continue to play above subpar competition as well and get points when they need to get points. 

For the team, not much has changed aside from the coach.  We picked up Eto’o for scoring depth, and he may win us one or two games a la Defoe for the Spurs but what we seek most is long term stability up front and at Manager.  Can Jose win us the Premier League?  Does Frank Lampard, Chelsea legend, have what it takes to make one more run?  Will John Terry racially abuse someone else? 

Welcome back Premier League, welcome back.

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Oden to the Heat – Threepeat On!

On Friday, Greg Oden, super potential star and draft day bust, signed with the reigning world Champs Miami Heat.  For both sides, this is a fantastic move.  Oden gives the Heat a dimension they have been lacking since the big three came together.  During their three year run, Miami has been troubled by teams with good big men (see Dallas, San Antonio and Indiana) and with Oden has a chance to change that around.  Oden gives the Heat exactly what they have been missing – a skilled big man who can score inside, rebound and block shots…when he is healthy

Unfortunately, it is impossible to look at all Oden can bring to the Heat without taking into account his extensive injury history.  Oden came out of high school as a “can’t miss” prospect, easily the most highly touted since LeBron.  Had he not spent a year in College (where his title game performance was a tantalizing glimpse of his frightening potential) he would have been the top pick out of high school.  Everything seemed to be in place for him to dominate the center position for the next decade.  Then, as all the Blazer big men before him his body betrayed him.  Again and again he struggled to get healthy through multiple knee surgeries.  When healthy he was actually quite a good player – easily one of the five best centers in the league.  However, all the time he spent off the court added up and up and up.  Oden was labeled a “bust”; the guy could not stay on the floor. 

Then there was the other part of the equation: Kevin Durant.

Had Durant been an average player, or even a very good player Oden may have been okay.  Unfortunately Durant is the second best player in the league, by leaps and bounds.  Oden’s bust status rose and rose, and ultimately, Portland’s GM was fired, ultimately for not taking Durant ahead of Oden. 

So why is Oden a great addition for Miami?  He gives them a player to combat every big man in the league, and he can score inside with relative polish.  His rebounding and defense will grow and expand under the best defensive team in the league.  And…he is playing with LeBron, Wade and Bosh – three of the best in the game.  He will see how they take care of themselves, carry themselves and better themselves.  Some writers have suggested he made a mistake in going to Miami because of the scrutiny he will be under.  I see the opposite, as he has the chance to play for a contender, and he does not have to take the burden of being the number one player.  He is going to a functional and good organization starving for a big man to play key minutes.  On a team that needs a spark to carry them to their fourth straight finals and third straight title, Oden could provide that spark.  He could help them when it counts most, and he could give them just what they need to beat Chicago or Indy or Brooklyn or San Antonio or OKC (would that not be the greatest mini story of the finals?  Oden vs. Durant?)

Greg Oden has a chance to make a meaningful impact on a potential championship team – was there really any other decision he could have possibly made?  Greg Oden can be one of the top five centers in the league, a defensive force, a rebounder who takes the pressure off LeBron and Bosh and he could be a champion…

…If he stays healthy.