For 24 days, I was reminded of the world we currently live in—the age of technology. And for 24 days, I was reminded of how spoiled we are… especially as sports fans. First, let me tell you what happened and I’ll try to relate to you what it meant. Then, we’ll get to the good stuff. Get comfy. You can’t call me Jack Bauer, but this article is about to jump around more than a season of 24…
I just spent 24 days in Louisiana on a training deployment for the US Army.
First of all, when I thought of Louisiana prior to this trip, I envisioned this. But as it turns out, that vision represents a small portion of the state. Because as the plane was approaching the airport, I looked out the window to see this instead. WTF?! My arrival scene was like this: trees, swamp, trees, swamp, trailer, trees, broken down car, trailer, trees, landing strip. And that was merely the beginning. (I’m sorry to any readers we may have from Louisiana, but…) LOUISIANA SUCKS! At least, Leesville has severely tainted things from my aspect.
Look: this should be a purely aesthetic issue. Because it’s still America, right?
Wrong. It’s a step into a Third World Technology Country. There’s going to be a problem when T-Mobile has the strongest signal but data speed is making you remember the quick days of the dial-up. Verizon and AT&T? Non-existent. We’re talking about a place that still uses Cellular One as it’s area provider. Yeah. So while you are there, you start to starve… for sports. Kevin Durant hits a game-winner against Dallas? Yeah, I’m still wondering how the 3rd quarter is going to end. And that’s assuming the clouds have parted just enough for our satellites to get enough signal for our browser to finally not time out. Good luck with that.
Post traumatic stress disorder? Maybe not quite. But you start to talk trash based on no comprehension of the lead-in conversation.
Lakers Fan: We’re going to win the title. Bynum is gonna go ape-ish crazy.
Pacers Fan: Ha! No way. We’re gonna win the title because Danny Granger once beat MegaMan 3 in 3 hours. Bynum never even played the drums!!
You start to doubt what you hear. Amare punched the glass case of a fire extinguisher? Bullshit. That’s ridiculous. You misheard the story. You probably meant to hear that he postered Bosh and strained a finger for hanging on the rim. Josh Hamilton hit 400 home runs in 30some games? Yeah, ok. I think you mean your MLB 2K12 game. You should up the difficulty.
And then you leave.
You step into the future: present-day America. It’s a little overwhelming. You go from starving to nearly eating yourself to death. So that brings us up to speed. Now what?
I’m gonna talk about 24 things now. These are all things I would have touched on, had I been able to. Some might have just gotten a quick mention; some may have been the focus of an article. Get your discussion shoes on.
**SPOILER: #24 is so satisfying. Personally.
#1: 16-21 April 2012.
Back on 15 April, I wrote this article… in which I gave my picks on some of that week’s events. Unfortunately, I left for Louisiana before the week concluded, so I wasn’t able to figure out how I did. So let’s revisit:
16 April: I had Strasburg/the Nationals over the Astros (correct!)… Arrieta/the Orioles over the White Sox (also correct… but it took a Wieters’ extra-inning grand slam)… Giants over the Phillies in a pitchers’ duel (nope… Lincecum’s struggles continue)… 76ers over the Magic (nope… looks like Ryan Anderson is legit)… Thunder over Clippers (the highlight of the game was actually a playoff-bound LA holding OKC to just 77 points)… LINE: 2-3 (2-1 MLB, 0-2 NBA)
17 April: Only game I was checking out was Celtics over Knicks. Got it wrong, as Carmelo finally went off. Trip dub. Pierce still threw up 43. LINE: 2-4 (2-1 MLB, 0-3 NBA)
18 April: Had the Red Sox over the Rangers (nope, Rangers swept the series)… Cliff Lee/Phillies over Matt Cain/Giants (another incorrect pitching duel)… Bulls over Bobcats (a cheap pick, but I’ll take it)… Celtics over Magic (yup… strong games by Davis and Bass)… LINE: 4-6 (2-3 MLB, 2-3 NBA)
19 April: I had the Bulls going over the Heat. But D-Rose didn’t even suit up. Omen for Chicago’s future. LINE: 4-7 (2-3 MLB, 2-4 NBA)
20 April: Angels crushing Matusz (yup, Matusz got tagged for all 6 runs… but Pujols was 0-4)… Celtics over ATL in a first round preview (Boston went into rest mode, sitting the Big 4 plus Pietrus… should have seen that coming)… LINE: 5-8 (3-3 MLB, 2-5 NBA)
21 April: I didn’t think Arrieta could beat the Angels (I was right… not that Pujols was a factor)… Nuggets over Suns (got it… Ty Lawson led Denver to the playoffs and Nash was left to keep fighting)… LINE: 7-8 (4-3 MLB, 3-5 NBA)
BTW… O’s-White Sox series? Reynolds struck out 6 times; Dunn struck out 8 times.
#2: NBA Injuries.
Check it out. We already know that injuries can have a profound impact on any team. And it’s a proven fact that NO ONE is immune to injuries. And we thought we knew the injury risk in such a condensed schedule. But WTF??? Look what has happened…
Dwight Howard went down early. I have more to say about Dwight Howard later, but that was a big blow to Orlando. Even with Dwight Howard, I don’t think the Magic make much noise in the playoffs. The team is talented, but it’s not a championship team. It’s flawed structurally, like Chicago. But without D12, Orlando is nothing more than enhancement talent.
Amare went one round with a fire extinguisher case. Yeah, who knows. Maybe it’s because the Knicks in the playoffs are like the Bobcats of… always. Go ahead and give them the L in the results. Write it in pen too. I don’t think Jeremy Lin plays such a pivotal role that the Knicks needed him. But they definitely needed Amare to have a chance.
For as much trash-talking as I am known to spew… from claiming that Lebron is the “Lyin’ King” and possibly the biggest bitch the sports world has ever known… for declaring that Dwayne Wade once had a pair of balls, which he exchanged for a slumber party with James and Bosh… for saying that Chris Bosh wouldn’t even be the most talented woman in the WNBA… I admit it: I felt a wave of relief when I heard that Bosh is out indefinitely. Strained abdominal. Just sounds painful.
We almost lost another beard. First it was Brian Wilson. Then Metta World Peace tried to rob us of James Harden. Thankfully it appeared worse than it really was.
Then there’s the injury that knows no boundaries. Every fan and athlete fears it. A player is in the middle of some movement and goes down… hands slowly reach for the knee… and you are at the mercy of this cruel devil known as the ACL. Sometimes it’s a teaser… diagnosis: sprained knee. Rest and ice and cross your fingers. But sometimes it’s a nightmare. Ask Iman Shumpert. Better yet… ask Derrick Rose.
**Chicago, I feel ya! Don’t forget, us Boston fans believe we have 18 NBA titles. We have the 17 that we are recognized for. And we have the 1 that Kendrick Perkins’ knee stole from us.
Not even the best conditioned player is safe. Every time he plants his feet for the quick J, my heart jumps into my throat. Don’t forget, he’s already playing on two artificial ankles.
Take anyone out of the equation and once again, the sure bet changes again. Be careful, Chris Paul/Blake Griffin, Tony Parker, KG/Rondo/Pierce, Durant/Westbrook, James/Wade, Granger. You’re one heart-stopping moment from ruining your city’s destiny.
#3: Initial 1st Round Thoughts.
I missed the entire first round of the NBA playoffs. But here’s a quick rundown on what I would have thought was going to happen…
(1) Chicago Bulls over (8) Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers crawled into the playoffs. If they had a deeper fan base, we might be talking about the way they had the Atlantic Division grasped and collapsed, much like we do about the Red Sox choking away last fall. I would have rather watched a Bulls-Bucks series.
(2) Miami Heat over (7) New York Knicks. We all got played by the Knicks. When they got Amare, we thought they were ready to get serious. When they got Carmelo, we thought they were contenders. When they got Chandler, we thought the Knicks had leapfrogged Boston and had joined the tier of Chicago and Miami. And when Lin got hot, we thought they were legit contenders. Wrong. It just doesn’t work. The Knicks are just not meant to be anything more than a question of Why Doesn’t This Work. I would have also expected D-Wade to take control and tell Lebron to take notes on how to actually matter when it counts.
(3) Indiana Pacers over (6) Orlando Magic. The Pacers are the East’s sleepers. They are just silent ass-kickers. I bet the average fan can’t name any Pacers other than Granger, George, and Hibbert. And I’m not positive that most can name all 3 of those. Howard is shut down for the postseason so Orlando is riding Ryan Anderson harder than ever. He might be the league’s Most Improved Player but he isn’t enough to carry a team deep.
(4) Boston Celtics over (5) Atlanta Hawks. The Celtics just have way too much pride to bow out early. Kevin Garnett will take on the entire Hawks team by himself if it comes down to it. And he would probably scratch and claw his way to a series victory too. The Celtics enter the playoffs in full stride and determination is going to be a bigger factor than usual. Besides, the Hawks are kind of like the Falcons (sadly)… they are a good bet to make the playoffs every year… but don’t expect them to go any further.
(1) San Antonio Spurs over (8) Utah Jazz. If it was the Phoenix Suns instead of the Jazz, I might pick the upset. The reasoning is a direct reflection of my thoughts on Boston-Atlanta. Except replace “Kevin Garnett” with “Steve Nash”. The Spurs are just a good team this year. All things equal, the Jazz win this matchup… in two years. The Spurs just won’t go away.
(2) Oklahoma City Thunder over (7) Dallas Mavericks. Simply put: the Thunder have got to be the favorites to win the title. They have a young core that isn’t breaking up. They have a bench that could probably hang with the starters in a split-squad game. Oh, and Kevin Durant. Period. Sorry, Dirk… you were just a Cinderella story last year.
(6) Denver Nuggets over (3) Los Angeles Lakers. It’s going to happen one day. The Lakers are going to be overrated. I don’t think this is the year. But I do think Denver has just enough of a team to go to blows with the shallow Lakers and remain standing. Lawson is a great PG and Gallinari is replacing Carmelo like no one ever could have guessed. Kobe is slowly breaking down and Bynum is a mental enigma.
(5) Los Angeles Clippers over (4) Memphis Grizzlies. The Grizz are the West’s Pacers. OKC seems like the obvious pick. But Memphis is the logical sleeper. One problem: CP3. CP3 has helped turn the Clippers into LA’s new toy. The Clippers have the statistical edge in the 5 major categories (Scoring, Assists, Rebounds, Blocks, Steals). And I think they will be able to ride the excitement into the next round.
#4: Black Mamba Vs. Durantula.
I wrote an article where I questioned Kobe Bryant’s M.O.. Somewhere around the second half of the article is where I first touched on Kobe vs. Kevin. I introduced the idea that Kobe—who was holding a slim lead in the scoring race—might be milking an injury in an attempt to preserve his title.
Let’s re-visit what happened. Durant finished strong and reclaimed the lead.
Kobe had one last chance. He needed to score 38 in the season finale to end Durant’s streak.
What happened? Kobe sat out. Again.
I could be wrong… I might be wrong… but I think Kobe knew that getting 38 was far from guaranteed.
In fact, he was in the ultimate lose situation.
- If Kobe plays and scores 38+, he got the title in a cheap fashion. Why? Because the Lakers were playing the lowly Kings. Durant had to finish against the Nuggets.
- But if Kobe plays and doesn’t score 38, he still loses. Why? Because he had to play the Kings!
- But by sitting out, Kobe still paints himself into a corner. I believe he sat because he wasn’t assured the scoring title without playing a game that didn’t come easy this season. And rather than fight for a title that was his to lose… he gave it up. Without giving Durant to satisfaction of knowing whether he was given the title or if he had truly earned it. That’s three titles in a row for the Durantula.
Sorry, Black Mamba… but you didn’t win this battle. And it looks like Durant is going to win the war too.
#5: Looking Closer At the MVP Decision.
Most Valuable Player.
That’s what MVP stands for. But I don’t think the MVP award means what it should.
First of all, the main problem is that the MVP award is based on regular-season performance. I mean, I thought the goal was to win a championship. Is someone really an “MVP” if they can’t lead their team to a title?… or if their team can’t even make it out of the first round?
Another big problem is how we decide what factors make such a player so valuable. Is a guy that leads his team/league in scoring more valuable than a guy that leads in assists? After all, the leading scorer probably got some of those looks because of the leading passer… right? Or maybe you’ve heard that whoever wins the rebounding battle, wins the game… so maybe the most valuable player is the best rebounder… ? But then again, defense wins championships. So a defender should be the obvious MVP.
Then there’s the intangibles… the locker room leader… the team chemist (see question #16)… the team figurehead…
Let’s face it, usually the MVP is decided by popularity. So let’s (at least) recognize some people who should be considered… and some people who shouldn’t.
- STEVE NASH: Consider him. The Phoenix Suns sucked this year. They were a .500 team, but that has to do with what Steve Nash did. The leading scorer on the team was Marcin Gortat with 15.4ppg. According to ESPN.com, that’s good for 36th in the entire league. Oklahoma City had 3 players in the top 27. Sacramento had 2 players with higher scoring averages. Check out some names on the roster: Shannon Brown. Jared Dudley. Channing Frye. Gortat. Grant Hill. Robin Lopez. Michael Redd. Hakim Warrick. Sebastian Telfair. Yeah… and you’re telling me that Nash still almost took this team to the playoffs? I’d say he was pretty valuable.
- DWIGHT HOWARD: No. Forget the stats. This is about the intangibles. He has destroyed Orlando from the inside. He has made it become a choice of Dwight Howard or Stan Van Gundy. Pick SVG and you have a diva pouting on the bench. Pick D12 and you’re letting go of one of the best coaches in the league. Pick D12 and you have him for one more tumultuous season. Pick SVG and it’s time to rebuild. But hey, at least Dwight wants to be your friend.
- KEVIN GARNETT: An absolute monster since being pushed into the Center position. He’s been playing like a young T-Wolf. And his defense/rebounding has forced Boston to step it up yet another notch. The Celtics had the 2nd best record in the East in the second half. They lost just one home game. He gave us 21 double-doubles. Maybe I’m biased but I think he deserves at least a few votes.
- DERRICK ROSE: The defending MVP is a disqualification. He spent too much time injured this year. I mean, he only played 39 games. I don’t care if the Bulls were the best team in the East. Not an MVP season.
- CHRIS PAUL: Consider him. Not because he helped turn the Clippers into a newsworthy team for reasons other than Blake Griffin dunks… but because he just helped them defeat the Grizz in what may have been this year’s best playoff series.
- DWAYNE WADE/LEBRON JAMES: Should cancel each other out.
These mega teams are awesome when you’re thinking about potential dynasties. Something about mega groups is just appealing. Boston has the Big 3. Miami has a Big 3. New York tried to make a Big 3. OKC is the homegrown mega powers. Remember when Hulk Hogan and Macho Man were a tag team? What about when Rage Against the Machine and Soundgarden merged to form Audioslave? But… from an individualistic standpoint, it cancels out a lot of achievements. Wade and James should cancel each other out because if they were on separate teams, their numbers would be better. Thus, they are valuable players but they could be MORE VALUABLE.
- KEVIN DURANT/RUSSELL WESTBROOK/JAMES HARDEN: An argument could be created for any of these players. Yet, refer to the Wade/James argument above. Sorry, OKC fans.
I also think Kevin Love’s efforts should be recognized, as well as Kyrie Irving’s performance. The Pacers, Jazz, Spurs, and Sixers should also be recognized… but they didn’t have a standout star that screams “Without me, you’re a lottery team!”
Carmelo Anthony, Kobe Bryant, and Blake Griffin are deserve to be unrecognized. You’re good. And you’re stars. But you’re not a most valuable player simply because you hurt your teams in other ways.
#6: NBA Awards.
Greg Popovich won Coach of the Year. I’m ok with that because the Spurs had an amazing season. When I think of legit favorites, I forget about the Spurs because… well, they have no flash to them. They have become an extension of The Big Fundamental. They just do what it takes to win and they don’t care if anyone notices. I would have also been ok with Doc Rivers, Frank Vogel, Lionel Hollins, George Karl, or Scott Brooks taking home the trophy.
Kyrie Irving won Rookie of the Year. Yes. I’m glad it’s official. Ricky Rubio had a great season before he tore his ACL (there it is again!)… but Minnesota already has Kevin Love. Irving plays in Cleveland… a city still recovering from the devastation Lebron created. Poor Antawn Jamison… he lost Lebron and Mo Williams and got a fat Baron Davis. But then Kyrie came along. And for most of this year, I thought Cleveland might sneak into the playoffs. Gamechanger.
James Harden won Sixth Man. Of course he did. Any team in the league would love to put Harden’s name in their starting lineup. 31 minutes a game… 4.1 rebounds a game… 3.7 assists… 1.0 steal… 16.8 points per game… shooting splits of 49.1%/39.0%/84.6%. And the best beard in basketball. According to basketball-reference.com, he got 115 first place votes. Next highest vote-getter? Lou Williams. With 3.
Ryan Anderson won Most Improved. I don’t know how to comprehend the meaning of the award. Yeah, Anderson had a career year. But it’s not like this season blew anyone away. He’s still young and figuring out his place in the NBA. I would have rather seen this go to someone like Ersan Ilyasova or Avery Bradley. Hell, give it to Andrew Bynum even!
Tyson Chandler won the Defensive Player of the Year. A good choice. But I think Kevin Garnett meant more to his team’s defensive success. Same with Dwight Howard or Tony Allen. But the award should have gone to Serge Ibaka. 3.7 blocks per game!!!
And Lebron won the MVP. At least he won something. I think Durant deserved it more.
#7: The Charlotte Bobcats Suck.
Oh don’t pretend like you didn’t already think this. In fact, this is such an obvious statement that I shouldn’t have to mention it. But it’s the level on which they suck that I must touch.
They just went 7-59. I found a list on nbauniverse.com that lists the 50 worst regular season teams in NBA history. Obviously the Bobcats are #1. But just keep looking at that record! 7-59.
If you were in the NFL, you’d have to go 1-15 to get a winning percentage as low as .106. That has happened. Surprisingly often… until you remember that the football season only lasts 16 games. 1-15 is embarrassing… but you would have to think given a longer season, you could make your record, at least, a little more respectable.
BUT… if you were a Major League Baseball team, you’d have to go 17-145 to match that .106. The worst season record ever in baseball was 20-134 by the 1899 Cleveland Spiders (thanks, Wikipedia). But that’s still .130. The worst 162-game record? The 2003 Detroit Tigers. And their record was 43-119!!!
Come on, Bobcats. How can you suck that bad? How do you run off losing streaks of 16 and 23… IN THE SAME SEASON?!?! IN THE SAME CONDENSED, SHORTENED SEASON?!?!?! You ranked 30th out of 30 teams in scoring, with a pitiful 87.0ppg. There’s a problem when I can take the top 4 scorers for the season (Durant, Kobe, Lebron, and Kevin Love)… and defeat your entire team by 22 points.
According to the criteria used by basketball-reference.com, you were 30th out of 30 in Offensive Rating AND Defensive Rating. Your team was last in FG made. In contrast, Kevin Durant has made almost as many shots in his past 3 seasons as the entire Bobcat team did in 1 season. You were last in FG percentage. You were last in 3-point percentage… with 29.5%. You were 29th in rebounding (pat yourself on the back).
On your roster, you carry three players that didn’t attend college (Biyombo, Diaw, Diop). That shouldn’t be a big deal… Boston has 4, Miami has 2, OKC has 3, Lakers have 4, and San Antonio has 5! But it’s the rest of your roster that sucks. You have players from college powerhouses such Virginia Military Institute (Williams)… Notre Dame (Carroll)… Oklahoma (Najera)… and Meridian Community College (Moon).
Meaning that you don’t seem to know how to draft. I checked it out. Only once has the team ever finished above .500. So your odds of getting a decent-to-great draft pick are off the charts. BUT YOU KEEP FAILING! Hopefully Kemba Walker can change that.
Maybe you should just go back to the basics and think things over. Change it up. Designate someone as the primary scorer. Get back to the fundamentals and learn how to play basketball. Enroll in the nearest 5-and-under league to learn how to properly shoot. Draft good players (because we know no one is coming via free agency). And don’t forget: Michael Jordan sucked when he was in the offices of the Wizards. And he still sucks running a team now… So maybe you get someone who knows what they are doing?
#8: Mayweather Wins Again.
I know nothing about boxing except what Fight Night on X-Box has taught me. So still, pretty much nothing. But I do know that Floyd Mayweather just beat Miguel Cotto. And he won again, despite getting a good beating himself.
The guy is 43-0. And he went 12 rounds at a heavier weight to take another title. That’s so legit. And I believe Manny Pacquiao is playing some Kobe games right now. Supposedly the issue preventing Mayweather-Pacquiao is about Pacquiao submitting to Olympics-style testing. I don’t know the difference between Olympic-style testing and standard testing… except I guess you piss in a cup and then run across the country, waving your sample in the air. But after refusing to play that game, I hear Pacquiao is open to it now. I think he was trying to buy time to find some way around his objection.
And now that Pacquiao is ready to go, it seems coincidental that Mayweather is about to serve time for domestic abuse. It’s all cat-and-mouse.
Then again… I know nothing about boxing.
Let’s take a break. We’re 1/3 of the way to returning to sports freedom. Got thoughts, opinions, ideas, beefs, questions? Leave a comment. Starvation can mess up your thoughts.