Thursday, May 31, 2007
Let me quickly answer those to the best of my ability: I don't know, but nothing other than the first questions is important.
Kobe talked about wanting West to come back. He's apparently doing the LA sports radio circuit now, or has been for the past few days. This soap opera, which could only happen here LA, is dominating the headlines all across the country (check out LA Times columnist JA Adande's final column about Bryant). And at this point, no one - probably not even Kobe himself - knows what the Lakers' superstar wants. He's talked about wanting out but also wanting to finish his career as a Laker. So which is it?
The Lakers should know by now that nothing good ever comes from trading away a top-tier player, let alone a superstar capable of dropping 50 points in a given night. If they think they can trade Kobe and come out ahead, they need to remember back to the 2004 summer when they traded that guy named Shaq. Turns out, he was just fine and the Lakers have won four playoff games in three seasons since.
Kobe may be upset, but whatever the situation, the Lakers front office needs to find a way to make Kobe happy. They can't trade him. He's the only marketable player on the team. Fans in LA won't pay top dollar to see crappy basketball. If they want to watch that, the Staples Center also features Clippers games -- and at a lower price to match the quality of the product on the court.
He's a great player. He's been part of three championship teams, but for whatever reason he hasn't been able to gel with Lamar Odom, Luke Walton and the rest of the new-look Lakers. A lot of people say it's Kobe's responsibility to make those around him better. I think the front office has some responsibility to try to get more talent around him. I don't know how to make those deals; I'm not a GM. But something's gotta give in LA.
Right now it seems Kobe vs. the Lakers front office is the most popular match up in the NBA right now - including the conference finals. And why wouldn't everyone else across the county be watching the situation here in LA? Fans are on the edge of their seats wondering how this situation will resolve itself. Which city could be the next Miami, the beneficiary of the last volatile situation in LA?
The Cold War going on within the Lakers must stop or this franchise will go into a tailspin. If Lakers fans think the past few years have been bad, those will seem like championship-years compared to a life without Bryant.
And, as Kobe said two days ago, the Lakers are no where near contending for a title right now.
Trading Kobe only takes them farther from that goal.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
But that match would only be the beginning. Heck, even Andy Roddick advanced all the way to the semifinals of the Aussi before running into the speed bump - er, the brick wall - known as Roger Federer. It looked like 2007 was shaping up to be a great year for American tennis.
To kick off the French Open, Serena Williams fought off a rain delay and a sluggish start to advance in a come-from-behind win. A day later, Venus moved on to the second round. The Williams Sisters are key for American tennis to comeback into the limelight. It's not going to be easy, especially after the retirement of fan favorite Andre Agassi, to get the county on the edge of their seats over tennis, but it's possible.
If it's going to happen, then the Williams Sisters need to lead the charge. But they can't do it alone. They need help from the men's draw.
And with Andy Roddick seeded No. 3 and fellow American James Blake not far behind at No. 8, this year's French Open will featu- wait, what? Hold on, I'm in the middle of telling the world how great American tennis will be this year. Uh huh. Uh huh. Oh I see. Hmmm.
*cough* *cough* Uh, about that...
During the FIRST ROUND of the French Open, No. 3 Roddick lost to unseeded Russian Igor Andreev 3-6, 6-4, 6-3, 6-4. The eighth-seeded Blake found himself up-ended by unseeded Croatian Ivo Karlovic. The two best American men got embarrassed in the first round. Not so much embarrassed by the score; both matches featured a total of eight very close sets. But they were more embarrassed because of the disappointment the two loses mean to American tennis fans.
It's true clay isn't the favored surface for either Roddick or Blake. It's also true that no one outside of a completely in-the-zone Federer will knock off Rafael Nadal on his surface he loves more than fish love water.
To start the French Open, the American men went 0-8 (only one American man is left in the draw). There are no American men left to cheer for. There will be no American men advancing to even mediocrity in this tournament.
And until Roddick or Blake or a new up-and-coming American tennis star break through Federer's strangle-hold and win a title (or, hell, just make it to Slam quarter-finals consistently), there will be nothing to truly captivate the nation when it comes to tennis.
I can only hope Venus and Serena take care of business in their draw. After all, that duo held the tennis world hostage for years. If American tennis is going to make any sort of a comeback, then it all falls on the two sisters - the only two Americans - capable of putting the sport on their back and bringing it back into the spotlight.
NOTE: As of this morning (last night in France, the final American man in the draw was eliminated, leaving the US men 0-9 in this year's French Open.
Last night at 5:05pm here in Los Angeles, I received a text message from my friend Brad - an Orange County native - who wanted to know what time his Anaheim Ducks would take the ice against Ottawa down at the Honda Center. I got online and checked. 8pm ET.
Oh crap! It's starting now. I sent him a text message back: "Now. Like now."
But that wasn't good enough. Moments later my phone rang. The caller ID prominently displayed "BRAD" across my cell phone.
"Hey, uh, what channel is the game on?"
"Hmm," I said. "Let me check." I got back online, found the information and replied. "Versus."
"Okay. Uh, do you get Versus?" he asked.
Brad told me he had a friend who would probably have the Versus network, and if he didn't have it, then no one would have it. We ended our call, and I went to check the local stations for the game.
CBS 2 --- no
NBC 4 --- no
KTLA 5 --- no
ABC 7 --- no
KCAL 9 --- no
FOX 11 --- no
FSN West --- no
FSN Prime Ticket --- no
Wait, so no local station is going to televise the game? I'm in Los Angeles. This is the home market, isn't it? (Sure, there's the LA Kings, but they have been to hockey what the Texas Rangers have been to baseball over the last four seasons.)
Okay, well I guess I won't be watching hockey, but that's no big deal. At least the people who are big fans of their team - people like Brad - aren't missing it.
Then the phone rang. Brad dialed me up to tell me his buddy didn't have the Versus network either. He wasn't going to see his Ducks tonight. So we did the next best thing.
We turned on ESPN and watched the Spurs and the Jazz play Game 4 of the NBA's Western Conference Finals.
When that game ended, what did ESPN lead Sportscenter with? The first game in the championship round of one of the four major sports leagues in the nation? Ha! Riiiiiiiiiight. They didn't shove it to the backburner, but they did put it in the microwave to keep it warm. The lead? Obviously: the Western Conference Finals - Game 4.
I'm not going to rip NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman for taking the higher bid from Versus and not signing a deal with ESPN, but only because it's been done by every other hockey nut. And a hockey nut, I am not.
I'm merely a casual fan. A casual fan that lost interest in hockey after the lockout season a few years ago. I'm a casual fan who's trying to get back into the sport. I'm a casual fan that doesn't have the Versus network. And as a casual fan, I don't plan on going out of my way to order it.
Sure the true hockey fans will find a way to watch the games. But in today's highly competitive capitalistic world of business, the NHL can't rely only on the die-hards to support their support. By not becoming accessible to the casual fan, it turns out it's the NHL that will die hard.
Sunday, May 27, 2007
That shooter is Kobe Bryant.
The Lakers' All-Star is upset about his team. It's not that the guys around him aren't trying hard - granted it doesn't help when some of your teammates suffer injuries from freak snowboarding accidents midseason. The problem is the guys around him just aren't good enough.
Oh, they're good players. But in the mighty Western Conference, "good players" don't really do much when you stare down a schedule that includes Dirk Nowitzki, Tim Duncan, Steve Nash and Amare Stoudemire, T-Mac and Yao, Carmelo and AI, a suddenly fierce Golden State team, and now the younger prodigies of Oden and Durant.
While everyone around them continues to improve, the Lakers remain still. Motionless. They did not pull the trigger at the trade-deadline this season, and limped into the playoffs as a result. The only major move general manager Mitch Kupchak has made during his time at the healm of this team involved sending the disgruntled Shaquille O'Neal to the Heat for Lamar Odom and contracts that couldn't expire fast enough.
During the past few seasons since the Big Aristotle became a member of the Heat, the Lakers can only win when Kobe plays well. There's no Plan B incase Bryant has an off-night.
Bryant had to know getting rid of Shaq would result in a setback for LAL. But the superstar was willing to take a step back if his Lakers could take two or three steps forward. Predictably, the Lakers took their step backward, a step that reached its apex when head coach Rudy Tomjanovich stepped down during the 2004-2005 season. The Lakers missed the playoffs that year, but rehired Phil Jackson to right their ship.
But since they brought back Phil, the Lakers haven't done much to be proud of. Bryant delt with season after season of hearing about how he should pass more, or shoot more, or really pass more, unless of course he should shoot more. Bryant made the right choice: shoot more.
He did the only thing he could do in trying to resurrect the once-proud franchise. Shoot, shoot and keep shooting. He led the NBA is scoring the past two seasons, and had more than half of the individual 50-point games this season. Depending on your definition of MVP, Kobe could easily have fit the bill. Even Shaq said he thought Bryant was the MVP of the 2007 season during a guest appearance on a TNT postgame show a few weeks ago.
So if they have MVP talent on the roster, why hasn't the Lakers front office done anything to build around him?
You know, that's what Bryant is wondering also.
Which is why - as much as I completely dislike the idea of a player holding a team hostage - I understand Kobe's frustration and have to agree with what he has told ESPN in a recent interview: Bring back Jerry West or trade me.
West built seven championship teams for the Lakers, including the teams that won three straight titles from 2000-2002 when Kobe and Shaq were more lethal than Batman and Robin (the only problem there: Kobe didn't want to play Robin to O'Neal's Batman anymore). He didn't have as much success with the Grizzlies the last five seasons, but then again what player would really want to go play in Memphis? West has proven he can succeed in the Southland, so why wouldn't Kobe want him back?
This is the same GM that sent Vlade Divac packing for the young Bryant. West made him a Laker. West made the team around him a contender. West made LAL better. Now that they've slipped from the summit, Kobe is asking for the only man he feels comfortable with to win a championship.
We shouldn't be surprised either. This is exactly what he did the year after Rudy-T coached the Lakers for 41 games. He thought it would be a good idea for the Zen-master to return to the bench in the Staples Center. Sure enough, the Lakers acquiesed and Phil returned. And now, once again, Kobe is asking for some changes.
But what he's really asking for is just a chance. A chance to be a champion again.
If Jerry Buss really wants to win, he should give into the hostage-taker's demands. After all, would you really want to be on the opposing end of such a deadly shooter's attack?
The Lakers have sided with Kobe each time he makes on of these franchise-changing demands. They moved Shaq. They brought back Phil. And if you're in El Segundo next fall when the Lakers get ready to start the season, don't be surprised to see the familiar face of Jerry West.
Saturday, May 26, 2007
Both games ended with LeBron driving and deciding. That's all that really matters in my mind. Is he the one making these decisions? Is the team's superstar the one with the ball in his hands to start the final play? He doesn't always have to shoot. He can pass if that's the best option.
Everyone knows Michael Jordan drained that big shot against the Jazz in the 1998 NBA Finals to win it all. We always see the replays of MJ's shot over Elo to beat the Cavs in 1991. But don't think that Jordan took every single buzzer-beating shot attempt for the Bulls from the time he entered the Association until 1998. Think back to 1993 when Jordan's backcourt mate John Paxson nailed a three-pointer with just seconds left and the Bulls down by two. Paxson was the hero at the buzzer, not Jordan.
Yes, Michael Jordan was the Finals MVP and the main reason that the Bulls got as far as they did, but he didn't do it entirely alone.
And please don't misinterpret this and think I don't believe MJ was great. He defined greatness in the NBA and set a standard the likes of which might never be equalled. If anyone's silhouette will ever replace Jerry West in the NBA's logo, it could only be Jordan. He's that big to the game even now after having retired years ago.
All I'm saying is that the critics of LeBron James shouldn't get on his case for his decisions themselves at the ends of games 1 and 2. The critics really only need to focus on the fact that he isn't winning. He's putting the Cavs in position to win. He should have made that shot regardless of the contact at the end of Game 2. But it's not entirely on him. James's teammates had chances to win games 1 and 2 also. But it's not on them. It's on LeBron.
The most important thing, regardless of if the team's go-to guy passes or pulls up, is that the shot goes in and team wins. If not, that team leader needs to be ready to face the fact that they didn't win. It's on LeBron's shoulders for the Cavs to win, even if he isn't taking the final shot.
Think about Robert Horry's legacy (independent of his foul on Nash at the end of the Suns series, which no one will remember two years from now). He was just one of the key cogs in the machines that won NBA titles over the last decade. He was a Paxson for the Rockets and Lakers and now Spurs.
LeBron needs to find his Robert Horry. He needs to find his John Paxson. More importantly than any given teammate, he needs to find comfort in making a decision to differ to those around him or take the final shot himself.
Win and you're a hero. Lose and you're a goat, no matter what your decision is. All LeBron can do right now is continue to play, continue to keep his team in contention until the final minute, and - if he's really interested in getting fans and critics off his back - find a way to win a game.
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
I love that the game will be so close to home and will no doubt bring in big crowds to the metroplex, but as a native Dallasite, I can't help but cringe at the thought of this game being played in Tarrant County.
If only the Dallas City Counsel had found a way to put this new stadium in Dallas' city limits. If only they hadn't given the American Airlines Center a no-compete clause. If only members of the counsel weren't so focused on their own personal agenda's and not the long-term big-picture when it comes to the success of the city of Dallas.
Arlington will do a fantastic job of hosting the Super Bowl. The new stadium is the perfect venue for the game.
If only that perfect venue were located 30 miles east.
Monday, May 21, 2007
After one half, the Cavs are up 41-35 and LeBron hasn't even gotten going. The Pistons offense needs to get going, but more importantly they need to get ready for the King's arrival. Neither team is playing very well right now. One of these teams needs to start playing basketball in the second half.
I know that the match ups in both conference finals are two series with four solid teams, but these won't be the most entertaining match ups. It's too bad for the NBA.
And, of course, too bad for the Mavericks :-(
No one should be suprised that the Pistons are back. Sure Chicago was supposed to give them a challenge, that didn't pan out. The thing that fans in Motown need to worry about is the fact that Detroit loves to take "nights off" on game nights (see games 4 and 5 of the Chicago series). But when the Pistons show up, the other team may be better off not.
Pistons vs. Bulls No Joshin' prediction: Pistons in 5
Pistons vs. Bulls series result: Pistons in 6
Chicago went down 0-3 to Detroit and despite winning games four and five, I don't consider those Bulls wins so much as Pistons loses. No that Detroit is back in the conference finals, I expect them to be focused in once again on returning to the NBA Finals for a chance at a second championship in four years.
The Cavs are gearing up for their first title shot in the "King James" era. LeBron has led Cleveland past a depleted Wizzards team and an elderly Nets team.
Cavs vs. Nets No Joshin' prediction: Nets in 7
Cavs vs. Nets series result: Cavs in 6
I thought the Nets could beat Cleveland because New Jersey was - in my opinion - a more complete team. I've been viewing the Cavs as a one-man show. I also didn't put much stock in James' ability to come through in the clutch. Granted my expectations of clutch may be out of whack because I'm living in LA - where Kobe Bryant wins more games with buzzer-beating shots than the Clippers win in a season.
The Cavs kept do-it-all point guard Jason Kidd in check and they continued to move the ball to get a healthy number of points of each of their starters.
James (27.3 ppg), Larry Hughes (14.9), Zydrunas Ilgauskas (11.9) and Drew Gooden (11.1) have been solid scorers, but Detroit's D is the toughest in the East. The Pistons won the regular season series over Cleveland, 3-1, and are in great position to return to the NBA Finals.
LeBron and the Cavs are still just a year or two away, and with the powerful Pistons still ruling the East, it's going to take something spectacular for Cleveland to break through.
No Joshin' prediction: Pistons in 6
WESTERN CONFERENCE FINALS PREVIEW
Saturday, May 19, 2007
This Booze-cruise, led by Carlos Boozer and Co. out of Salt Lake City dismantled the hot-shot Golden State Warriors to get to the conference finals, and they did it with a lot of low-post scoring and stingy defense.
Utah vs. Golden State No Joshin' pick: Warriors in 6
Utah vs. Golden State series result: Jazz in 5
Utah has talent and they have a coach who has been there and knows what it takes to get to the finals. And the only thing that ever stopped Jazz coach Jerry Sloan from capturing an NBA title with Stockton and Malone is no longer a factor (Michael Jordan is retired).
I've either been underestimated the Jazz or overestimating their opponents throughout these playoffs. I've picked against them and each time they make me look foolish by pulling out the series win, including clutch victories in a Game 7 in Houston and causing the only home loss for the Warriors in these playoffs. So perhaps the low-post domination and hustle of the Jazz will be good enough to get them to the finals.
Yeah, maybe if they got to play the Suns or the Lakers or the Nuggets. Oops, all gone. Instead the cheese - the big cheese - stands alone at the Alamo waiting for the Jazz to come to the Lone Star State for a reality check.
The Spurs have faced a bumpy road to get back to another conference finals. I know people are making a big deal about the Pistons being in their fifth straight conference finals, but if not for a snafu in the NBA's playoff seeding, the Spurs would have met the Mavs in the conference finals last season. San Antonio is the real deal. They were the only team in the Western Conference entering this postseason that had proven they have what it takes to win a championship.
Spurs vs. Suns No Joshin' pick: Spurs in 6
Spurs vs. Suns series result: Spurs in 6
In their series against the Suns, San Antonio was able to hang with the Suns and survive numerous barrages of points. San Antonio could keep up with the fast-paced Phoenix Suns, but if they get to play with a slower-paced Jazz team - hey! - all the better. You can look at the two games that the Spurs won in Phoenix and make excuses, which is what the Suns must be doing, for an unbandageable nose and a questionable double-suspension. It's safe to say the Suns/Spurs series - arguably one of the most competitive of the playoffs - turned into a huge disappointment because of those suspensions.
Even so, the Spurs were able to win twice in Phoenix, which is more than really any other team can say or the entirety of the season I suppose. Had Nash gotten patched up, and had Stoudemire and Diaw played in Game 5, I still think the Spurs were the better team and could have pulled out the series.
San Antonio always seemed like a specific type of team. They moved slower, but that's okay because they played tough D. Over the past three seasons, when they've won two playoff series against the run-and-gun Suns, they've shown they are not the slow, old geezers they are labeled as. Different players on that team are coming up big at all the right times. Horry has hit his trademark playoff clutch three-pointer (and also has picked up the moniker "cheap shot bob" for his foul on Nash). Michael Finley had a game where he sank 8-of-9 3-pointers. The regulars like Tony Parkey, Manu Ginobili and - obviously - Tim Duncan come to play each night.
The Spurs are deep. They are stacked. They are ready to return to the conference finals with the intention of getting back to another Finals showdown against the Pistons (or the Cavs if you're that naive).
The Jazz have had a great playoffs this spring. No one expected them to go this far, and when Cinderella comes to the Alamo, her glass slippers are going to get shattered by the girls who regularly attend the NBA Finals Ball.
No Joshin' pick: Spurs in 5
EASTERN CONFERENCE FINALS PREVIEW
Friday, May 18, 2007
With Barry Bonds only 11 home runs shy of breaking Hank Aaron's all-time home run record, I still never understand the dichotomy between Bonds and Giambi. One is booed everywhere he goes, and with each home run causes commissioner Bud Selig to sweat even more about how to handle this record-breaking performance. He reportedly testified about using to the BALCO grand jury in 2003. He is public enemy #1 in not only baseball but all sports in this nation.
The other also reportedly told the BALCO grand jury in 2003 that he took steroids. He then went on to appologize for "what he did" without actually saying anything specific. Even so, he now gets no worse treatment than any other opposing player.
Bonds is viewed as the worst human is sports. Giambi is just another ballplayer.
So when Giambi comes out and says baseball needs to appologize for the steroid scandals of the past few years, part of me is sick to my stomach that Giambi was able to essentially skate on this while Bonds takes the heat for every user out there. Giambi doesn't have to face any of the criticism because he isn't about to break the most revered record in sports. Bonds must live with that every day of his life.
It's easy for Giambi to have appologized. What were the repercussions for him? Really, what happened? Clearly nothing too serious because he's still playing and still looked at as a hated New York Yankee, not a hated steroids junkie.
Bonds on the other hand can't leave the Bay without hearing boos. And if he breaks Hank Aaron's mark of 755 when they are at any other park in the nation, the fans will treat him like T.O. returning to Philly -- it won't be pretty.
In this time of Giambi calling for baseball to appologize, let's look at what would happen if others even considered trying this. Bud Selig coming out and saying, "we messed up and should have had stricter testing and rules in the past." I don't see that being a big deal. Everyone already knows it. It's just nice to offer up that little bit of sorrow and guilt to the public eye. Hell, even if Bud Selig isn't sincere (which, by the way, Bud, here's a link to get the definition of that word) at least he's acknowledging that baseball messed up big-time. After all, it worked out pretty well for Giambi.
But if Bonds came out and issued the exact same appology word-for-word as Jason Giambi, what would be the result? Really, if he just read the exact same statement without mentioning what he was appologizing for, oh my goodness, he'd need more security than the president. Everyone would ask the same questions they asked Giambi, only with an even more unrelenting desire to finally get Bonds to admit to his alleged steroids use. He's now viewed as guilty in the public eye. A formal Bonds appology would be equivalent to a public lynching.
Even if Bonds wanted to appologzie, he won't. He can't afford to. At least not now. Much like Pete Rose couldn't admit to betting on baseball, Bonds cannot take the hit of actually coming clean (which, by the way, I think he clearly is now). Whatever Bonds was allegedly taking a few years ago, you have to think he's off it now.
Furthermore, if he was taking something, who's to say that no one else was either? Bonds has become the fall-guy for every steroid user out there. He is the martyr of this "cause" and he will be villivied for it forever.
Giambi said to the AP, "That stuff didn't help me hit home runs. I don't care what people say, nothing is going to give you that gift of hitting a baseball." He went on to add, "I was wrong for doing that stuff. What we should have done a long time ago was stand up -- players, owners, everybody -- and said, 'We made a mistake.'"
Reread that quotation again. I'll wait. Go on. Reread that.
Okay, once again Giambi is now saying, hey I used steroids. It didn't really help me, and I'm sorry. Are we cool? And somehow, someway we are cool. ARE YOU JOKING ME?!
No, Jason, we aren't cool. You cheated the game. You cheated in a time where everyone was cheating. That doesn't make it right, but you don't deserve to walk in the ballpark of public opinion while in that same ballpark Barry continues to get plunked.
Bonds will break this record in the next few weeks. Anyone who hopes or thinks otherwise is wrong. He's not going to retire when he gets to 754 and just stop swinging. Not only is that assinine, but it's unfair to his teammates who need him to be hitting the way he has been. Heck, he's the only bat in the Giants' lineup. So when 756 goes over the wall and into a mob of people looking to cash in on the million-dollar ball, don't forget that Bonds isn't the only villain here. He's just the most visible.
The other cheaters like Jason Giambi are no longer hiding under the steroids cloud. Instead they are hiding amonst the cloud cover provided by Bonds as he inches closer and closer to all-time infamy.
Thursday, May 17, 2007
I accomplished a lot during those six hours back in April. I remember because a bunch of us went to the ATVN newsroom to watch the first round. Then we looked at the clock and realized the NFL needed to shorten the time limits for picks, or we'd be forced to get a life.
Don't get me wrong, I love football. I'm on record saying that not only is football king, but everything else from the NHL to the NBA to NASCAR to MLB is merely a court jester. I could watch football 24/7. Sadly, that's the amount of time now required to broadcast the entire draft. I - along with really anyone else in this county who isn't busy watching Queer Eye - can be found every sunday glued to a television to track my Cowboys. The problem with the draft: it's not a game. It's exciting to me for 15 minutes out of the entire first round when Dallas is on the clock.
That's the biggest problem with the NFL draft. A fan can't just sit there for six hours and eight minutes waiting for the few moments where their team actually doesn't anything that will affect the upcoming season (sorry, Eagles fans, yall didn't even do that until Day 2).
So when it was reported that the second-year commissioner is considering shortening the time-limits for first- and second-round picks (each team now gets 15 minutes), I would have jumped for joy -- but I was still sleepy from staying up til all hours of the night to watch the first day of the draft.
Certain things about the draft just boggle my mind:
- Why does the team with the first overall pick always seem to use all 15 minutes? Didn't they have 15 weeks to make their decision before the clock began ticking?
- What's the point of Mel Kiper's mock draft board? He gets maybe 5-8 picks exactly right each year. That's great that he can tell me about the newest members of my favorite team, but I don't want to hear who he thinks we're going to take anymore. He hasn't predicted a correct Cowboys first round pick since Troy Aikman.
- Why do Eagles fans show up to the draft each year? They're only going to lower the self esteem of whoever Philly picks by booing the crap out of him. Examples: Donovan McNabb and Kevin Kolb.
And perhaps I can delay getting on of those life-thingys and continue watching the draft. I know it's not a football game, but the sport is a year-round party. Next year, let's just make sure not to celebrate too late into the night. After all, we do have to get up and do it all again the next day.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
(By the way, as a lying SOB myself, I loved the Suns quick explanation that Stoudemire was "going to check in." Great quick thinking. Obviously he wasn't, but in the pantheon of good BS excuses, this deserves an honorable mention.)
But the NBA decided that there was an altercation, and because Stoudemire and Diaw went toward the altercation, they are suspended. Here's the problem though:
Horry knocked over Nash.
Nash got up angry, and Horry and Raja Bell has a stand off. But if that was an altercation, shouldn't Bell be punished for being in the altercation?? And if Bell is NOT going to be punished for being in an altercation, I don't know if Horry was having a one-man altercation (like masterbation, but when you're angry at yourself). So then that begs the question, WHAT altercation were Stoudemire and Diaw going to join in?
Nothing happened after the hard foul. There was no fight to get in. It never happened.
And THEN you must look at the fact that the NBA is punishing the lesser offense of leaving the bench instead of the actual confrontation between Bell and Horry.
Horry deserves to be suspended one game for the cheap shot. Two? Eh, I suppose, but only because he's not a KEY cog in this series. Sure, those clutch shots will be missed, but like you said, 3.9 ppg aren't much (not in this series).
If the Association wanted to get this right, they should have suspended Bell (NOT Stoudemire or Diaw) for him getting Horry's face. They should fine the bench-leavers and give them a technical foul. Then if they do it again, suspend 'em.
Hard fouls are part of basketball. Cheap shots - sadly - are as well. Horry doesn't deserve to be a part of the rest of this series. But according to the rules and a spineless league, neither do Stoudemire and Diaw.
David Stern needs to have the courage to bend his own rules and adapt to some gray area. Otherwise, he's just Bud Selig.
What a scary thought that would be.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Robert Horry got ejected at the end of Monday's Game 4 between the Suns and Spurs for a hard foul on Steve Nash. He ran him over and leaned his shoulder into him, but I don't know about flagrant 2. Flagrant 1, sure.
Take a look at this foul:
As my friend Andrew pointed out, Nash does deserve an Oscar for the performance he gave after being hit. There's no doubt it was a foul. It was a hard fould. But there's nothing wrong with a good physical game of basketball.
These two teams are not exactly best friends - the Suns continue to accuse the Spurs of dirty play. But the Suns are a team still trying to break through. The Spurs are a team of veterans. Veteran champions, that is. And so no one this series is heating up the way it is. The Suns want what the Spurs have: a ring.
So Amare Stoudemire calls Bruce Bowen a dirty player. The Spurs get angry and Nash gets a hard foul courtesy of Big Shot Bob.
Game 5 is going to be an aggressive contest, to say the least. When Horry gets in the game, look for Marion or Stoudemire or Diaw to throw a few arrant elbows under the basket. And look for more flagrant and technical fouls called.
Monday, May 14, 2007
When the 2007 NFL season gets underway, be on the lookout for the following Peyton Manning highlight call. When he's under pressure in a collapsing pocket, I can already picture sportscasters screaming, "Throw the rock, Mitch!" This is definitely one of the funnier sketches I've seen on SNL in a while, just because of the absurdity and because it's Peyton Manning.
One of my go-to websites is dallasmavericks.com, the official homepage of the Dallas Mavericks. And each time the site loads, an awkward inition thought enters my mind. I feel frustration and anger toward the webmaster. How dare he not update the site to include the playoffs! Why isn't he telling us about how great our Mavericks are doing?! The main story is nothing more than Dirk Nowitzki making the All-NBA 1st Team. What about postseason basketball?!
Then I flash back to what I still am unable to block out of my mind. A sea of yellow t-shirts comprising the largest basketball crowd ever in California cheering on their team without the assistance of the jumbotron to lead them. I flash back to Baron Davis jumping head-first into Nowitzki, beginning to fall and throwing a prayer of a 3-pointer toward the basket. Swish.
I flash back to hearing ESPN spending every moment discussing the collapse of the Mighty Mavericks to their former coach and a bunch of players no one else wanted. I flash back to standing in my friend Jeff's apartment watching the game, my hands on my head, thinking that I was powerless to help the Mavs. I couldn't cheer them on in person. I wouldn't be seeing any playoff basketball this year.
I turned on TNT last night, and there were the Golden State Warriors in front of that monster crowd playing the Utah Jazz for a chance to go to the conference finals. The playoffs continue, even without the Mavericks. Dallas was eliminated and still the postseason exists. It doesn't seem right. It doesn't seem possible.
The dream season ended in nightmare fashion for Dallas. And every time I log onto the team website I must relive the nightmare. The lack of Mavericks playoff updates is all the reminder I need. I curse the webmaster, wishing he could put some good news up for me, for all Mavs fans everywhere.
But he can't. He can't tell us about playoff games that aren't happening. He can't keep us posted on the results of a team no longer playing.
But still I check my websites every day. Email. Facebook. Dallasmavericks.com. Every day the others offer me something new. And every day I hope that after reading new email and adding new friends, I can get a glimpse of Dirk's dominance. But there's nothing new to say. Only the pain of the Mavs meltdown remains.
I can't wake up from this nightmare. I guess I should just block the Mavs website until next October. Perhaps that's the only way to protect myself from painful flashbacks.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
As the announcers said on TV, the foul was unnecessary but so was Okur's drive to the basket. The Jazz clearly had the game wrapped up. He didn't need to throw down a big-time dunk. Especially on the road.
So when Richardson fouled him, part of me said, "Good. Protect the home court."
That's when I realized that may not be the healthiest reaction. Richardson received a Flagrant 2 and went straight to the locker room. Okur went to the free throw line. He's lucky he didn't go to the hospital.
Okur's head could have easily snapped back and hit the floor, knocking him out or giving him a concussion. You never want to see a player get hurt; not at this point in the season. Richardson could have committed a foul on him without sending him to the ground. Okur could have stopped and thrown up a meaningless jumper. So who's in the wrong?
Both of 'em.
In sports there are so many unwritten rules that are under the code of not embarrassing your opponent. You don't go for the punt block when you're up by 28 in the fourth quarter. And you don't drive hard to the basket when you've got the win already locked up, even if the shot clock is ticking down.
Sometimes those rules need to be broken, but this was NOT one of those times. There's no bad blood between these two teams. Ideally there won't be after that hard foul. I'm sure when Game 5 tips off in Salt Lake City, the crowd will be all over Richardson.
For Golden State, it's a sour note on which they'll likely end their postseason. They are now down 1-3 to the Jazz with Game 5 in Utah, where the Jazz are undefeated this postseason. The Warriors were a horrible road team this season. They have been the story of these 2007 playoffs, but now the story ends in a very unsportsmanlike fashion.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
Simply put, they ignored him.
They showed close ups of Yankees and Rangers players and the dugouts. They did as much as they could to deliberately avoid showing the fan who was apparently running around on the field.
Good for ESPN.
By not putting him on TV, he don't glorify this disruptive behavior that not only detracts from the game, but could also endanger players on the field. No one watching at home got to see anyone not in uniform on the field. Sure fans at Yankee Stadium cheered as their fellow New Yorker ran wild in the House that Ruth built, but other than that there was no incident.
And just now, another Yankee fan jumped down from the crowd and onto the field. Once again, ESPN didn't show this guy who was apparently put in handcuffs.
I really appreciate ESPN going out of their way to not encourage this sort of behavior and completely ignoring these idiot fans.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
If you think Roger Clemens signed with the New York Yankees to win a World Series, you need to wake up and see what's really going on here.
I can't think of any better way to put this, so I'll say what my 17-year-old sister told me when I asked her if she saw Spiderman 3 already.
If you truly think Clemens went to the Yankees for a chance to win a third ring, you're dumber than Andy Reid in a championship two-minute drill. He signed with them for the money. He signed with them because the richest franchise is baseball can afford to pay him more than anyone else.
The Yankees are desperate enough to have to pay so much for him and agree to his prima donna no-travel terms.
The only reason he said during the press conference that he signed with them to win another World Series is because - DUH! - he has to say that!!! He can't come out any say, "Hello, did you not hear how much this deal is worth? That's what I'm wearing pin-stripes, you morons!" It's understood he's there for the cash. If he can deliver a division title or more, hey, even better for Yankees' fans.
But don't think for a second Roger Clemens is really that stupid. If anything, his media savvy shows that he is completely the opposite.
Why did the Philadelphia Eagles take Kevin Kolb with their first pick in this April's NFL draft? It does seem strange considering they do have Donovan McNabb - a Pro Bowl caliber QB who when healthy is leading his team deep into the post season.
Oh wait, I just gave away the answer.
The sad reality in Philly is that McNabb hasn't been able to finish three of his last five regular seasons. He keeps getting hurt. And if he's not getting hurt, he's getting tired (*cough* Super Bowl XXXIX *cough*). Now the face of the franchise is 30, and the franchise faces the grim reality that he won't be around forever.
Sure John Elway ended his career at 38 with back-to-back Super Bowl titles. Let me clarify something really quickly: Elway, McNabb is not.
So McNabb's starting job will be secure this season, especially after backup Jeff Garcia signed with Tampa Bay, look for the new kid on the block to become the new QB in the huddle in the injury-prone McNabb continues his ailing ways.
I still think it was stupid for the Eagles to let Garcia move on. What NFL team wouldn't want a proven starter who just came off the bench to lead a struggling team to a division title and a playoff win? Apparently the team that plays in the Linc. I guess they think McNabb's health isn't an issue.
Or maybe, just maybe, they know because his health is an issue, it's time to start looking down the road to find the guy to take the torch from Donovan.
On a homer-note, as a Dallas Cowboys fan, I loved seeing Philly trade picks with Dallas and then use that 3rd pick in the second round on a QB. Dallas shouldn't have anything to fear from Kolb for at least a couple of seasons.
See the similar reactions that McNabb and Kolb got when the Eagles drafted the two QBs.
Sunday, May 06, 2007
Once again, T-Mac failed to make it out of the first round, as his Houston Rockets lost the final two games of their seven game series with the Utah Jazz. As far as the series goes, I'll just say the Jazz played great, but I don't know if I can say "they wanted it more." Not only is that very cliche, but could anyone really "want it more" than McGrady?
At his postgame presser, he kept repeating the words, "I tried. I tried." Finally, after a long pause, he mumbled under his breath something to the effect of "I can't do this," and he got up and left. He couldn't face the fact that he once again will not be moving on to the second round.
And that's what makes me mad about the Mavericks. Where is that emotion? Where is that frustration? Where is that pain of being left out of the second round and becoming the first 1-seed to lose to an 8-seed in a seven-game series?
That may be the reason Dallas is in fact at home while the Golden State Warriors will face the Jazz in round two.
Now I don't mean to say the Mavericks and their players don't care. They do. And I think their long offseason and harsh scrutiny from every basketball expert and blogger will be punishment enough.
Here's what espn.com quoted Dirk Nowitzki about this offseason...
"I think I did a decent job in the regular season of taking over when I had to," he said. "For whatever reason, this playoff series I couldn't do it. I couldn't put my stamp on it the way I wanted to. It was definitely very disappointing. I still think I have pretty good leadership skills. I just didn't show it this playoff series."
Although Nowitzki said "you go down as a team," he knows it's not that simple, not for a perennial All-Star who is the face of the franchise. Thing is, his own expectations are just as high, which is why the six-game ousting by Golden State, and how little he did to stop it, will eat at him all summer -- just like Dallas' collapse against Miami in the finals bothered him all last summer.
"That's the kind of person I am. I always take things very, very hard on myself," he said. "I don't need media people to tell me that I did bad. I know I didn't play my best in the playoffs. ...
"I understand the business by now. If you play well and you win, you're the greatest. And if you lose, you're the worst player in the league. It's obviously not the position I want to be in, but it's nothing I can change now. I believe that everything happens for a reason. Hopefully I can learn from this experience."
Two straight offseasons left to wonder "how did we lose that series?"
Last year, they dropped four straight to the Heat in the finals. This year, they became the laughing stock of the league after winning 67 games in the regular season before their playoff meltdown.
So while a dynamic player like Tracy McGrady thinks about how he can't get out of the first round, Dirk and company must sadly think about the same thing. They must also consider the fact that they faced the wrong team at the wrong time. No one in these playoffs is hotter than Golden State. Check their regular season 3-point shooting percentages versus the playoffs. It's obvious. And good for Golden State. They got hot when they needed to.
But for Dallas, they already felt the Heat last year in the finals. Now they need to find the heart of a Warrior if they're ever going to win it all.
Saturday, May 05, 2007
(2) Phoenix Suns vs. (3) San Antonio Spurs
The Suns can run, but the Spurs are faster than people think. More importantly, they're deeper than the Suns, who don't use more than seven or eight guys any given night. San Antonio can rotate in enough fresh legs to keep them in the game. I know Nash runs a fast-paced offense, but Tony Parker is no slouch. Also San Antonio has that Tim Duncan guy who, last I checked, is pretty good at basketball. Especially in the playoffs. Especially in the playoffs.
San Antonio will steal one game in Phoenix and hold serve at home to win in front of their fans. If this does end up going seven and going back to the desert, the Spurs will be in a tough spot. After all, look no further than the Golden State/Dallas series to see what a good home crowd can do for a team.
No Joshin' pick: Spurs in 6
(4) Utah Jazz vs. (8) Golden State Warriors
Utah and Carlos Boozer just won a game seven in Houston. But Houston fans can't hold a candle to that melee they've got going on in Oakland. Hey, who can? I don't know if anyone short of the Spurs can win in Golden State in the postseason, and I think the dream has a good chance to continue for the Warriors.
The Jazz are solid, no question, but the Warriors are hot. So hot, actually, that it makes me wonder when they'll cool off. Is this going to be like a hockey goalie getting hot for an entire postseason or just one series? They've gotta cool off. No one can stay as hot as the Warriors have been the last two weeks.
But I don't think this is when the sun sets into the Pacific Ocean for the Warriors. I'd like to think this will be an entertaining series. After all, the Jazz just won a tough game seven against a determined T-Mac and Yao, but the Warriors - well - we all know.
The Warriors will steal a game in Salt Lake City - just as they did in Dallas - and continue this improbable run.
No Joshin' pick: Warriors in 6
(1) Detroit Pistons vs. (5) Chicago Bulls
Both teams are coming off first round sweeps. The Pistons faced a young, inexperienced Magic team. The Bulls faced the defending champs. So naturally the Bulls are the tougher team here, right?
No way, actually. The Pistons didn't keep Ben Wallace around why? Not because they didn't want to pay, but because they didn't need to pay. Sure, Wallace was a huge part of the Pistons' championship run a few years ago. They played team basketball, and he was big cog in that Detroit machine.
Only problem for Ben's Bulls is that the Pistons are still playing that team game, and they're doing it just fine without him. Rasheed Wallace, Rip Hamilton, Teshawn Prince and company know what it takes to win. Throw in Chris Weber, and you've got a scary combination in Motown.
A lot of people think this will be a good series (personally, I think Suns-Spurs will be more entertaining and more competitive).
The Bulls don't have as many scoring options as the Pistons, and with both teams playing good defense, the key will be which offense can break through. That makes this an easy pick for me.
No Joshin' pick: Pistons in 5
(2) Cleveland Cavs vs. (6) New Jersey Nets
The Cavs haven't played in four months or so. Okay, not that long, but they've had some time off while the Nets dealt with those pesky Raptors. I thought the Nets would be too old to advance this post season, but instead they appeared too experienced to fail.
Jason Kidd and VC are the Eastern Conference version of the Phoenix Suns. They were able to dominate the young guns (Chris Bosh and TJ Ford) of Toronto, and they should be able to keep the pressure on LeBron. James hasn't shown an ability to lift a team in the clutch like Kobe Bryant does. That's great that they beat a depleated Wizards team, but this will be much tougher.
New Jersey should Net themselves another playoff series win. Experience will help the Nets advance to the conference finals versus the Pistons.
No Joshin' pick: Nets in 7
Thursday, May 03, 2007
No Joshin' pick: Mavericks in 5
Series result: Warriors in 6
I'm embarrassed for the Mavericks, and I'm embarrassed as a fan. This loss may be the most humiliating in the history of all Dallas-area sports. This hurts, and I don't know what else to say about it. I don't know if anything short of a championship next year will stop the hurt.
If they fall short, then everyone will look at this now-ended season as "their best chance to win" and remember how they couldn't get out of the first round. If the Mavs never win a title during the Dirk years, everyone will remember this series. This series, when Nellie destroyed and humiliated and crumbled the marble statue of a superstar he built. This could very well have been the end of the Mavericks. I don't know, and I hope it wasn't.
I hope it wasn't.
How do you top a 67-win season? I guess the answer is: add AT LEAST four wins. Ideally 16. But the Mavs couldn't do either. And now they are going to be looked at as the benchmark for professional sports collapses.
MVP for Dirk?
Only if it stands for Most Vanished Player.
No Joshin' pick: Spurs in 6
Series result: Spurs in 5
San Antonio has a lot of talent, not just in their starting five, but on their bench. Think the vets like Robert Horry or Michael Finley are too old to contribute? Just ask Nuggets coach George Karl. Horry nailed the clincher in Game 4, and Fin went off from beyond the arc in Game 5 (8-for-9 on 3-pointers). That won't be a regular occurance, but Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Ginobili should have no trouble carrying the load the rest of the way.
If you think Dallas-Golden State has been a good series, just get ready for Spurs-Suns in round 2. Those are two hot teams who are playing great basketball right now.
No Joshin' pick: Suns in 5
Series result: Suns in 5
Steve Nash and Co. were able to out-run the Lakers in the desert last night to close out this series. Bryant got help from Lamar Odom (33 points, 10 rebounds) in Game 5, but no other Lakers really stepped up throughout the series. ESPN is now reporting Kobe is asking the front office to make some moves "now" to help this team get better.
One Lakers fan friend of mine threw out the idea: Andrew Bynum and Lamar Odom for Kevin Garnett. You know, that doesn't sound half bad. KG and Kobe on the same court. Holy crap! I like that two-some better than AI and Melo.
For the Suns, they'll have to face off against the team that eliminated them in the 2005 Western Conference finals: the San Antonio Spurs. The Spurs are a tough team to beat come playoff time. Then again, perhaps the Suns are setting in on the aging veterans in San Antone.
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
Texas Tech and Oklahoma State are reportedly nearing a deal to play their annual game in the Cotton Bowl. This big time Big 12 match up would be another huge win for the aging stadium that seemed to be on the verge of ambiguity with the new Cowboys Stadium going up.
If this deal gets done and puts another football game in the middle of the Texas State Fair, football fans across the Big 12 will continue to flock to Dallas in October, providing major revenue to the city.
This game would also help as a recruiting tool for coaches in Lubbock and Stillwater. Dallas-area recruits are some of the best in the Big 12 (*cough* Southlake Carroll *cough*), and a game between these two programs would allow local kids to see these programs in action. Dallasites get an annual taste of the Longhorns and Sooners at the Red River Shootout every second Saturday in October. Why are Texas and OU always at the top of the conference? Because they are getting the exposure in front of the biggest, more talented recruiting base.
Win the recruiting game in DFW, and you win the Big 12. It's that simple. If Texas Tech and Oklahoma State want to get in on the action, then coming to the Cotton Bowl is the perfect solution.
Long live the Cotton Bowl. Here's to the historic stadium avoiding extinction at the expense of Jerry World for as long as possible!
Now, I don't know just how much Philly truly needs a new quarterback like Kevin Kolb, but whether he turns out to be the next great Eagle QB or if he's the next Akili Smith, this is his first impression of what it'll be like to be a Philadelphia Eagle.
Instead of becoming the only 1-seed to lose to an 8-seed since the NBA went to a seven-game first-round format, Dirk Nowitzki became a Superman-like figure, showing up when all seemed lost. Surely there wasn't enough time left for him to save the day? Turns out there was plenty of time; and don't call me Shirley. All of the sudden, fans in the Double-A C pointed toward the rafters as someone disguised as an MVP flew down and crushed the enemy Warriors with a mighty blow while rescuing the damsel in distress.
Dirk's performance in the closing minutes of Game 5 can only be described as heroic. He scored 12 points during the Mavericks 15-0 run over the final 3:07 to lead the Mavericks back into this series. Now the NBA's best team this season will head back to Oakland for Game 6.
The fans at Oracle Arena will be loud and obnoxious, doing all they can to affect the Mavs' attempt to force a Game 7 back in Dallas. If Golden State puts on another 3-point shotting clinic, Dallas will be in trouble. There's not a lot you can do when the other team hits three after three after three. But if Dirk can find a phonebooth, the only thing that will save the Warriors is kryptonite.
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
No Joshin' pick: Cavs in 4
Series result: Cavs in 4
This one is simple. For the Wizards, no Gilbert Arenas. No Caron Butler. No problem for LeBron. And no surprise Cleveland swept.
With a healthy roster, this may have been an entertaining series. Instead it turned into a nightmare for D.C. residents. All they can is wait for 2007-2008 and hope their stars are healthy when April rolls around. As for the Cavs, they'll get some well-deserved rest before taking on the winner of the lengthy Nets-Raptors series.
Robert Horry sat atop his sniper's perch as Tony Parker penetrated the Denver defense and dished to the far corner where Horry did his best cheese impression. He stood alone. No Nugget defender was close enough to attempt to put a hand in his face. Not like it would have done any good. Horry has made a career out of hitting big playoff shots late in the game. The Game 3 clincher is simply another in his Anthology of Clutch.
The Nuggets, who got off to a great start in this series by winning Game 1 in San Antonio, now find themselves losers of three straight and on the brink of elimination as they head back to the Lone Star State.
I'm surprised the Nugs couldn't win at least one game in the Rockies, but now they will have a heck of a time getting back there - at least getting back there for another game. San Antonio should put this game away Wednesday night in Game 5.
Denver will be a great team next season. AI and Melo together for a full year; I can't see too many Western Conference teams excited at the idea of playing that duo. But that offensive duo has two of the league premiere defenders standing in their way in Tim Duncan and Bruce Bowen. The Spurs are a championship-caliber team, and they have the experience and now the momentum in what has turned into a one-sided series.
Plus if they get in trouble, they can always look down the bench for those three little words that always seem to make the biggest impact.