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Dejan Kovacevic chat transcript: Nov. 15, 2012

| Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2012, 3:17 p.m.

Dejan Kovacevic: Hoka Hey, one and all ... You know, it's funny, I go 10 days without barely breathing a word about the Pirates and all that stuff. To me, Bob Nutting addressed the situation, even though he hardly did it satisfactorily.

But wow, as long as these guys are going to keep putting their feet in their mouths ...

yovan: What do you make of Neal's statements on MLB radio? (assuming the fact you have heard it)

Dejan Kovacevic: I have not, but our beat man Rob Biertempfel did. And the most striking aspect of the interview was when Neal Huntington was asked about criticism from INSIDE the organization about the military-style training methods and replied that there will always be "dissenters in the ranks."

Um, yeah. One of them owns the franchise .


Zack: Do you think that the comments made by the Pirates GM about dissenters in the ranks who voiced opposition to military-style training will have any impact on his status?

Dejan Kovacevic: Only one person can answer that, and that's the Dissenter in Chief.

What I can say is that this speaks very much to two things:

1. These gentlemen must believe that Nutting is easily swayed by public opinion, because they clearly don't believe he did any of his own work in uncovering WAY MORE about the military-style stuff than any reporter ever could have.

2. As I wrote in the column linked above, there is absolutely ZERO chance that these gentlemen will change anything about how they conduct business. Bunker mentality.

Alan Gifford: In my opinion it seems Batch with a quicker delivery would be a better option for the "dink and dunk" (or drink and drunk) offense. Am i seeing it wrong?

Dejan Kovacevic: One of my first thoughts when Ben Roethlisberger went down was that the Steelers might be better served with Charlie Batch as backup, in part because of the offense but also because he played last Christmas Eve against the Rams and fared well. But let's assume Mike Tomlin and Todd Haley thought of that way back in Latrobe when setting up their Nos. 2 and 3.

Certainly, there wasn't much to like about Leftwich the other night, but it's fair to give a guy benefit of the doubt after three years of rust.

BMac: Which of the new contributors (not limiting this to freshman) to the Pitt basketball has been most impressive to you so far this season?

Dejan Kovacevic: I've seen only the game Tuesday night against Lehigh in person, and the one who leaped out at me was James Robinson, the freshman guard. Total take-charge kid. Pitt fans are going to love him. Can do it all, including driving through the lane. Looks like a more polished Carl Krauser, if you will.

Steven Adams was double- and triple-teamed inside the paint and struggled a bit. Looks like he still has to find his way. But you can see what's there, too.

Jandy: Dejan, what is your latest opinion on the NHL/NHLPA fiasco? Who is being the bigger idiot?

Dejan Kovacevic: Maybe all of us are for even paying attention, you know?

Yesterday might have been the one that bugged me the most. You have both sides attending the Hockey Hall of Fame induction Monday in Toronto (great class, by the way, of Joe Sakic, Mats Sundin, Adam Oates and Pavel Bure), and both surprisingly expressing optimism about where they are in the talks. Then, the next day, they don't even communicate.

That's borderline scandalous.

Mike Jones: This isn't necessarily a question as much as it is a comment but the Pirates have a slogan every year ... what can they possibly say this year ... 'HEY EVERYONE AT LEAST WE AREN'T THE MARLINS"?

Dejan Kovacevic: At least the Marlins listen when Jeffrey Loria speaks.

Pat4Pgh: DK: Has any medical professional, who has seen/tested Ben this week,confirmed Ben's rib injury? Ben has overstated most, if not all, of his injuries in the past and I am skeptical regarding any comment he makes about his injuries....just asking?

Dejan Kovacevic: Really? We're still on the drama queen thing after this?

The reason that no medical professional who has TREATED Ben has spoken up is that they almost never do in sports. They're required to keep quiet, by the teams who pay them and by this little thing called the Hippocratic Oath (You can Google it.) Ben gave the clearest detail about the injury because he was the only one who could do so.

It's up to you to decide if he just made it all up.

Scott: Dejan, let's go man. When is Ben coming back? We know you know. Ravens in 2 weeks?

Dejan Kovacevic: My answer to that is that, given the nature of the injury, I can't imagine why that would be even a secondary concern. If that rib isn't fully healed -- and I mean 100.00 percent -- it's located right by the aorta. That's Russian roulette, one hit away from messing with the heart.

Vince: Dejan.....really enjoy the chat. Thank you! Have you ever asked Ray Shero about his drafting philosophy the past few years? Does he have a long range plan to actually keep all these defensive prospects?

Dejan Kovacevic: We've discussed it in detail, actually, including right as he's made the picks in Minnesota and at Consol the past couple years. To his credit, Shero is typically candid in his reply that these defensemen mostly get stockpiled to function as potential trade assets.

It's a neat way to draft. It's more like playing for poker chips than building a depth chart. Defensemen happen to be the most valuable commodity in hockey right now. Therefore, Shero piles up as much of that value as he can, then tries to parlay it later into ... say, James Neal.

And if you're really good at what you do, even when you get Neal, you make the Stars THROW IN Matt Niskanen.

c-man: Wow, was I impressed with this Pitt hoops team! Zanna seems like a consistent scorer now and James Robinson definitely upgrades the guard position, especially on defense. Do they have a shot at knocking off a polished #5 Michigan at MSG already, or should we be patient until they find out what type of team they want to be?

Dejan Kovacevic: No one looks more improved than Talib Zanna. I've probably written about him annoyingly too much in relation to his production the past couple years, but I've never been able to get past imagining what all that power, athleticism and drive would look like if infused with a bit of polish.

That's what we're seeing right now.

I asked Jamie Dixon about Talib the other night got his reply on video for you on the blog .

Lots of Pitt hoops stuff today. I like it!

Kevin: The combination of the big-armed Leftwich and Wallace seem certain to connect on Sunday- agree?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not if Leftwich overshoots him as badly as he did against the Chiefs.

Really, I mentioned this in the Wednesday column , but for all we're going to talk about the Steelers missing Ben, the offense in this game will come down to a good running game against a not-so-good-rushing defense. If the Steelers can run and defend, they'll have enough points to win.

Guest: On Monday the Chiefs did a pretty good job exposing the left side of the Steeler's run defense. That wasn't the first time this season this has happened. Do you see any quick solutions to this problem or will Ray Rice run wild against the Steelers this Sunday?

Dejan Kovacevic: Our Mark Kaboly tackled this topic on his weekly (and excellent) Steelers Film Review page for the Trib.

Whether or not Dick LeBeau adjusts, plain and simple, Ziggy Hood and LaMarr Woodley can't get bulldozed over there play after play. We saw it in Cincinnati when the Bengals ripped right down the field on the first drive, nearly every play a run to the right side. We saw it again Monday.

If LeBeau has to get an extra man over there to help a first-round pick and a $61.5 million linebacker, that's a shame.

tim m: any news on why Mario isn't more involved in the talks. Or is he involved behind the scenes? know you thought he should get involved

Dejan Kovacevic: Yeah, I've raised the question about Mario.

But there haven't been any answers. And no, none of us at the Trib is aware of any sort of behind-the-scenes work Mario might be doing. Doesn't mean it isn't happening. Just means we haven't heard if he is.

It's too bad, too. I never suggested he could bring a magic wand, but he certainly could help the league and union avoid ridiculous days like yesterday.

Lions can: From what you have see of Bill O'Brien do you think he will stay at Penn State for the long term or is he NFL bound?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sounds to me like O'Brien could take his pick at this point. And sorry, but I couldn't get past how quickly he described the NFL talk as "flattering."

His loss would be immense. He's been a godsend for the program and the university.

Matt in Ann Arbor: If you could make a bet on Jamie Dixon getting Pitt to the Final Four once in the next four years, would you?

Dejan Kovacevic: Always. Too good a coach, too good a program. And depending on how the futures of Adams and Robinson play out, too much talent to not at least think it's possible.

Naterosboro: Is Jeff Karstens coming back?

Dejan Kovacevic: Not with this management team in place.

Greg from ATL: I watched a couple of Junior games and see Matta and Harrington doing real well. Matta looks like a real top prospect with an offensive game to now go with his D zone talents. Do you see Ray trading a couple of Dmen very early into the season (if we have one) or waiting it out till the deadline? I just can't see a couple of our young Dmen passing through waivers.

Dejan Kovacevic: The bigger variable in scenarios like that is how the NHL's salary cap will tie Shero's hands. He can trade top defensemen, but he's still got to fit his new acquisition -- who almost surely would make more money -- under the cap.

I liked what I saw of Olli Matta at the development camp this summer. Not the world's quickest guy, but clean in his own end and makes a good first pass. I've been a Harrington fan in the past, but he didn't show at all for that camp scrimmage, which was kind of odd given the setting in front of the Penguins' full management.

Jandy: Speaking of Shero, how smart does he look in hindsight...dealing Jordan Staal when he did? With the way things are going, the Pens would have gotten NOTHING in return.

Dejan Kovacevic: Indeed. Although, in fairness to Jim Rutherford, who's drawn some criticism in Carolina for overpaying, it's a unique circumstance for the Canes in that the GM really wanted to keep Eric Staal happy, and getting Jordan was seen as vital.

Might work out for both parties. I know the Penguins, especially the coaching staff, are delighted to have Brandon Sutter. I'll write more about that if/when there's ever an actual season.

Matt in Ann Arbor: What has been the most positive and the most negative aspect of Paul Chryst's 1st year so far?

Dejan Kovacevic: They're really one and the same, as I see it. Pitt's risen to the level of a couple of really good teams, and they've shrunk to the level of the Youngstown State/Buffalo/UConn types. That's both praise for the coaching staff in terms of improving certain areas, especially the line play, and an indictment for not having their guys prepared.

After all the paint Chryst is known to have peeled over on the South Side this week, it'll be all the more interesting how Pitt comes out for its next game.

Chris: Lightning round Question -- Better sports era in Pittsburgh -- 1979-80 or 2008-09

Dejan Kovacevic: Oh, yeah, thanks for the reminder. Tampa Bay Lightning time. Quick Qs, quick As, etc.

I was but a small lad for the former, but there's no way not to choose that one. Baseball was still transcendent at the time, and the image of Terry Bradshaw and Willie Stargell sharing the cover of Sports Illustrated for its "City of Champions" issue, no way that 2009 could top that with all due respect to the Penguins and Steelers of that year.

tim m: what kind of leash do you think clint hurdle will be on this year? if they start slow do the pirates release him or is that too simple?

Dejan Kovacevic: The leash isn't on Hurdle. It's on those above him. Hurdle's fine.

carisi_99: There was a lot of buzz before the season regarding Ziggy Hood putting on muscle and getting stronger during the offseason, but he looks like he is getting pushed around. At what point is he just not what they thought he would be?

Dejan Kovacevic: Ziggy's issues aren't athletic. They're anything but. He lifts as much or more than anyone in that locker room, and he's almost superhuman quick for someone his size. His issues seem to be more of focus and technique.

Copanut: Hi Dejan - love the chat and your various coverages. Any internal read on concerns regarding the lack of productivity from James Harrison?

Dejan Kovacevic: No need for some inside scoop here. Harrison is telling us week after week -- and he did again Monday night -- that he isn't the same right now in terms of explosiveness because of the knee. He's giving what he's got. And in fairness, you'll notice teams aren't running to HIS side because they have a pretty good idea he'll stop it.

But the MVP version of Harrison who's eating QBs for lunch, he's not there. And he knows it.

Pittsburgh Sports fan: Ditto for the late 70s. It was a magical time in Pittsburgh. No era will ever top it.

Dejan Kovacevic: No, and it's a little hard for me to have fully grasped this back then, but history shows the city never, ever needed its sports teams more than those years when all the steel mills were closing. It's a big reason why even ex-Pittsburghers still cling, particularly to the Steelers.

Joe: Confidentiality about Ben's condition has more to do with HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996- dealing specificly with privacy and security of patient information- rather than the Hippocratic Oath that deals primarily with practicing medicine ethically and honestly. That said, would we rather a guy be forthcoming about an injury or not forthcoming? The guy is seriously hurt, obviously. I'm glad he is willing to shed a little light. The team and coach sure won't and doctors can't without his consent. How do you see it, Dejan?

Dejan Kovacevic: You're right about the above, of course. Live chat and all. Thanks for clarifying.

And yes, I find it admirable that Ben was as straightforward as he was about this.

Playoffs by 2012: Will you allow a Tampa Bay Lightning question on the Tampa Bay Lightning round?

Dejan Kovacevic: That would be awesome. Is there a Lightning yet?

AVG: Despres this year, Morrow next year?

Dejan Kovacevic: Sounds about right, although Simon isn't exactly tearing up the AHL right now.

Napper: Who would have thought the goal of the year was in a soccer friendly instead of on the ice?

Dejan Kovacevic: One of the greatest plays I've ever seen in sports, actually. If you haven't seen the goal by Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimovic yet, check out today's Wakeup Call on the blog . Boggles the mind.

Brian G: Any chance Ryan Malone comes back to Pittsburgh after his contract is up? In the games I watched of him last year he was always banged up so his price won't be nearly as high as it was when he left the first time right?

Dejan Kovacevic: There's no question Malone would be happy to come back. It's something he and I discussed -- in the broadest possible way -- back at the Olympics in Vancouver. He's been happy with the Lightning and with living in Tampa, but this is home.

Hey, did someone just sneak a Lightning question in here and I didn't realize it?

Josh: Thing nobody is talking about: Baltimore's pass defense is ranked 26th as well as their run defense. Byron doesn't have to be Peyton Manning. He just has to be average to do well.

Dejan Kovacevic: That's a fair point. It's also worth stressing that, even though the Chiefs are 1-8, their defense is pretty good and was again on Monday night. Haven't seen ANY opponent blanket the Steelers' receivers like that all season.

And they were blanketed, no matter what Emmanuel Sanders has said since.

Josh: Did someone actually use the name of the act and still call it HIPPA? It's HIPAA! Pet peeve.

Dejan Kovacevic: Duly noted.

That's it for this week. The column runs Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The holes are filled with a radio show Tuesdays and this here chat on Thursdays. The blog is omnipresent, omniscient and ... is there another omni word? Omnibus?

Thanks to all for participating. Be sure to say something nasty about your boss in public today. Always a great idea!

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