Recreation (OR Madness, I tell you!)

March 26, 2009

This month has been somewhat of an anomoly for me. Usually, as March Madness gets rolling I find some time to watch conference tournaments and the Selection Show, after which I promptly create a Tournament Challenge group and fill out my bracket. This year? I did even see a complete bracket until about 3 hours ago, one week after the tournament started…

Needless to say, I’ve been flying a little blind as the tournament has unfolded. It has been fun, though, to just watch the games.

And, since I’m in basketball mode, I thought I’d offer some basketball thoughts to take a break from the political inanity where the opposition party can offer a “budget” without numbers.

Starting with my first look a the bracket, I was a little surprised at how much to form the tournament has gone. Only two teams (Arizona and Purdue) were not a 4 seed or higher.

The first couple games tonight would probably be called defensive battles as 3 of 4 teams really struggled to score. Only UConn got above 60 points. What’s really impressive about that, is that I’m pretty sure that the NCAA modified the rules to say that Purdue players do not, by definition, foul. UConn overcame the hack and grab style that is synonymous with Big Ten Football, to win by an impressive margin.

In the other early game, Xavier seemed position to eek out an upset until Pitt’s senior guard, Levance Fields, drilled a contested long 3. Next possession, Pitt force a turnover and the game was all but over.

And now, I’m really enjoying the fast paced, high scoring Mizzou/Memphis game. Either of these teams against UConn will make for an interesting game. In the meantime, this is one fun game to watch, especially in the aftermath of the two offensively limited, slow games earlier.

And it’s halftime, punctuated by a made 3/4 court shot by Mizzou!

On Giving Up

July 24, 2008

In not-exactly-hot-of-the-presses news, the Nuggets last week traded Marcus Camby, their best off-ball defender, best rebounder, and 2006 NBA Defensive Player of the Year, to the L.A. Clippers, in return for two prospects, and a protected first-round pick.

No, wait, that’s not right at all!  Instead, the ever-savvy Nugz managed to extract from the Clippers a promise to let them switch draft picks, in the event that the Clips have a better pick than the Nuggets do.  In 2010.  In the second round.

Yes, that’s right.  One of the top defensive players in the league, traded for the right to move up in the second round of the NBA draft 2 years from now!

Look, I get it that the Nuggets went over the salary cap when they traded for Iverson, and are subject to the luxury tax, and had to clear some cap space.  I also get that the team, as currently constituted, was not competitive in the Western Conference, and so some changes had to be made.  I even understand that, when you take risks, and they don’t work out, you end up suffering for those mistakes before you can recover from them.

But come on – one of the major jobs of a professional franchise is to manage the hopes and dreams of its fans.  Part of the joy of sports is how, at the start of every season, the slate is wiped clean, everyone starts with zero wins, and an equal opportunity to win the championship.  When you trade a great player, like a Kevin Garnett, or an Allen Iverson, you may recognize that you’re not going to get equal value back, but you have to get something! Otherwise, you’re just sending up the white flag.

If the Nuggets had managed to score an outright draft pick or two, or, even better, a couple young, hungry prospects, I would have been fine with the trade.  As it stands, I am rescinding any even partial fanhood that I have bestowed on them since arriving in Colorado.  That’s one messed-up franchise….

Must-See T.V.

June 18, 2008

In case you didn’t see it, Kevin Garnett gave the most surreal interview last night on the court with Michelle Tafoya. You can see it here (it’s the second video clip.)

Good stuff. At the 1:17 remaining point, I was fairly convinced that Garnett was going to go feral on us and rip out Michelle Tafoya’s jugular with his bare teeth. That would have been either the greatest or the most horrible thing ever seen on television, I’m not sure which. Possibly both.

Hat tip to Faithful Reader (and adopted Brit) R.T. for pointing me towards the video.

Various And Sundries

June 17, 2008

Okay, a few short posts to make up for several days of light (by which I mean no) posting.

Game 6 of the NBA Finals has proven itself to be highly unworthy of liveblogging.  In particular, the Lakers have disappointed, although I wouldn’t necessarily say that they have particularly underperformed expectations.  After Game 5, many of the announcers, especially Jeff Van Gundy, Mark Jackson, and Mike Wilbon, absolutely killed the Lakers for their defensive effort, or lack thereof, saying things like (paraphrasing) “if your defensive plan comes down to hoping they miss free throws, you don’t win on the road like that.”

And, while I thought that they had a point, I felt they were being unnecessarily harsh.  After all, the Lakers did win an elimination game, and if they didn’t look good doing it, winning ugly can be the sign of a team with big heart.

But, no.  The Lakers just, kind of, well, suck.  I am forced to agree with something I think Van Gundy said during one of the recent games.  There’s no way this Lakers team would have beaten the Hornets.  The way Pierce, an above-average driver, has been carving up this D?  Holy crap, Chris Paul would have absolutely demolished them.  He would have had to start paying rent on the paint, he would have been spending so much time in the lane.

This is a baaad defensive team.  I like their offense – when it’s running well, it is absolutely a thing of beauty.  But the Celtics have found too many ways to slow them down, in large part by keeping them from running by making almost every shot.  Maybe the Lakers will be much improved with the addition of Andrew Bynum’s interior defense next year, but he’d better be the second coming of Bill Russell the way the Lakers D has played this series.

One thing I’ve never seen pointed out – I’d love to know how many of Gasol’s and Odom’s assists go to each other.  Those are some sweet-passing bigs.  Too bad they’re both incapable of guarding Garnett on the perimeter, and unable to consistently get their shot inside.

NBA Finals (OR It’s been sooooo long)

June 4, 2008

How is it that I have been pretty busy since the last NBA Playoff game and yet still feel like the wait for Game 1 of the Finals has been much too long…

Whatever momentum/excitement the Playoffs may have generated in me appears to have dwindled. It’s for similar reasons that I hate the 2 week break before the Super Bowl…   you get in a routine of watching football every Sunday and then, for no reason other than that the Super Bowl has become more spectacle than football, your rhythm is broken.

Oh well…  at least the wait is almost over. Game 1 is tomorrow.

Wait for it… (OR No really, just wait ’til we’re ready)

May 30, 2008

The Lakers won their series last night. The Celtics have won theirs tonight. The NBA Finals match up is set. So, we’re ready to go, right?

Nope. The Finals don’t start for 6 days. Whee…   Hope you weren’t excited about the start of that series, ‘cuz it won’t be here for a while.

In the meantime, I was looking at the Finals schedule this morning and was reminded that the series will be in the ridiculous 2-3-2 format. So, the Celtics have home court “advantage” and yet, the Lakers, a team that hasn’t lost at home this post season, will get to play three home games before they do.

Given the way the Celtics have played, I would not be surprised to see the Lakers steal one in Boston and then win their 3 games at home to take the series without going back to Boston.

Silly schedule…

Sports Sports Sports Sports

May 28, 2008

A few thoughts from recent sports occurrences…

I see that Sam Cassell turned in another Big Testicle Classic tonight, logging 2 minutes and shooting 0-for-0, with one turnover.  This brings my mind to one of my pet peeves, the star player who, having played a long, statistics-filled career, and having pretty much lost the qualities that made them a one-time star player, signs a veteran minimum contract with an already-loaded team, in hopes of having their sorry carcass drug to one more (or, in some cases, one first) championship.  Generally, that player fails to make any contribution to the team (although there are of course exceptions, such as Ray Bourque with the Avalanche), and more often than not, fails to win a title at all.

Cassell is a particularly detestable example of the phenomenon, as he actually went out of his way to make himself so unpleasant to the team he started the year under contract with, the L.A. Clippers, that they cut him at midseason, leaving him able to sign with whatever team he felt like.  Although I’m too lazy to find the link, back in September or October, before the season even started, Bill Simmons was speculating about how nice it would be to get Cassell at midseason, after he tanked his way off the Clippers’ roster.

This reminds me of something I heard on the radio yesterday, which I had to take note with.  Colin Cowherd, on ESPN Radio, was waxing rhapsodic about Lakers coach Phil Jackson.  Cowherd stated that it was not possible to find a player who did not play their best ball under the Roundball Guru.  Ummm, Colin, ever heard of a little man named Karl Malone?  For those who don’t remember, after John Stockton retired, Malone vacated Salt Lake and signed on with the Kobe/Shaq Lakers in ’03, chasing that ring that had eluded him for so long.  As I was a lifelong Karl Malone hater, that team’s eventual sweep in the NBA Finals at the hands of the Larry Brown-coached Pistons brought me great joy.

Anyhow, this phenomenon is in distinct contrast with the veteran who takes a hometown discount in order to stay with a team he has had success with, so that they can continue to surround him with great talent and keep winning.  Obvious recent examples include Tom Brady of the Patriots and Mike Lowell of the Red Sox.  Actually, Brady’s a bit of a red herring example, as, if I recall correctly, he will end up making about as much money in compensation over the life of his career as Peyton Manning, only Brady’s contract involves the actual numbers of his salary, whereas Manning’s, like that of nearly every NFL player, is sheer fiction after you got through the guaranteed money period – he has long since renegotiated the unguaranteed years to a more reasonable salary structure.  Regardless, Lowell absolutely accepted less money in the offseason than he could have gotten, probably from the Sox and certainly from other teams, because he liked Boston and wanted to stay there, and help the team stay competitive.  It’s the kind of thing that convinces you that, at least for some pro players, it really isn’t all about the Benjamins.  That sort of behavior, though rare, is to be lauded.

Meanwhile, on the other end of the NBA Universe, the Lakers moved a step closer to their next title yesterday, beating the Spurs under somewhat controversial circumstances to go up 3-1 in their series.  I expect the series to end Thursday night in L.A.  Counting the Spurs out is not exactly good statistics; on the other hand, it is an even-numbered year, which reduces their franchise historical odds of winning the championship from 4-out-of-5 (rate in odd years out of the last 10) to 0-out-of-a bunch.

And it’s deserved.  The Lakers are younger, more athletic, and more skilled, 8 men deep, than the Spurs.  They also have the best single player in the series in Kobe Bryant, one of the most transcendent players ever to lace ’em up, who is at the peak of his powers right now.  Much like ‘Second Threepeat’ Jordan, Bryant now has the ability to control a game with his scoring, his defense, or his passing.  Watching him harass poor Jose Calderon into (approximately) 1.5 billion turnovers in the U.S./Puerto Rico game in the Olympic qualifying tournament last summer was downright impressive.  If Bryant goes on to match Jordan’s 6 titles, winning 3 more with this supporting cast, he deserves to be included in the ‘best ever’ conversation.

However, lost in this adulation is the fact that the Lakers ought to be struggling to make all this work, still relying on Lamar Odom to be the second leading scorer, and praying for any contribution whatsoever out of Kwame Brown.  Instead, they committed highway robbery by getting Pau Gasol, a legitimately very-good, if not great, center, from the Grizzlies, in return for the ultimate in Poo-Poo Platters, the shambling corpses of Brown, Aaron McKie, a rookie prospect in Jarvis Crittendon, some cash, the draft rights to Gasol’s younger and lesser brother, Marc, and two first-round draft picks.  There were arguments made that the Griz got what they wanted, clearing cap space and landing prospects and draft picks.  By using the plural term ‘prospects’, presumably they are counting 36-year-old McKie as a prospect, since the only way ‘prospect’ ought to be attached to Kwame Brown is in the phrase ‘prospectively the biggest bust draft pick in the history of the NBA’.

My favorite part of the deal is the protection on the picks.  The Grizzlies get the Lakers’ first-rounder in 2008, unless that pick were to fall in the top 3.  Since, instead, the Lakers finished with the third-best record in the Association, the Griz will be restocking the pond with the 27th-best player to go pro this year.

Anyhow, my point is just that, presuming the Lakers do go on to win it all, it ought to just be pointed out that this team had no business being put together in the first place.  I’m not a NBA conspiracy buff, but I find it very hard to believe that one of the other contending teams looking to make a move at the trading deadline couldn’t have put together a more competitive offer.  It’s very suspicious, that’s all I’m going to say…