31 May 2008
Time for me to face up to my horrible predictions for the conference finals.
I thought the Spurs would out-execute the Lakers. Bzzzt. I was right about Duncan owning the Lakers' frontcourt, though it seems he didn't disappeared in the fourth quarter more than once.
What I didn't anticipate was Gasol's rebounding ability and Ginobili's complete meltdown in the series. He was a complete non-factor, outside of the one Spurs win. If Manu is at 100%, this series is a lot different.
Oh, and blah blah blah Kobe is suddenly a transcendent player blah blah Michael comparisons blah blah. If not for the Gasol trade, which was dirtier than Chicago in the 1920's, Kobe would not be in the Finals. He would still be throwing his teammates under a bus. No one would be comparing him to Michael.
So hooray, Kobe can win when surrounded by talent. How is this different from Kevin Garnett, LeBron James, a healthy T-Mac, or others?
Kobe is the most talented player in the league. He can do great things. But no one can win a title by themselves. I just wish everyone would stop acting like he is the lone reason the Lakers are playing for their fifteenth title.
Then we have the Celtics. Ray Allen showed up, role players showed up big time, and suddenly Detroit couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. Billups and Rasheed had at least three or four wide-open looks from the 3-point line and just flat-out bricked them. So much for Mr. Big Shot.
Similar to the Spurs blowing a 16-point lead because they couldn't buy a bucket.
Anyway, I was wrong. We've got our green and gold banquet, and it wasn't because of the refs.
Ratings will be up!
Casual fans and even people who never watch the NBA will suddenly passionately care about whether the yellow or green will win!
The state of the NBA is suddenly much improved! The future is bright!
Why does this make any sense?
I understand that Los Angeles and Boston are two of the biggest NBA cities, and that people who live in those cities will watch the games, even if they aren't usually big basketball fans. Ratings go up. Great.
But if you don't live in Boston or Los Angeles, why would you care more about these Finals than if it was, say, Orlando and Denver going at it?
Because the Celtics and Lakers have great histories, right? They've each won more championships than any other teams, by far. See this chart:
But why is this relevant? Why should we care that Bird, McHale, Parish, Russell, and others Celtics won a bunch of rings? Are any of them on this Boston team? Same goes for Los Angeles. Wilt, Magic, Kareem, Worthy and others are gone. At least Kobe's still around, but he's only won three of the Lakers' 13 championships.
Someone help me out.
And while I'm complaining, let's not forget to thank Jerry West and Kevin McHale for their excellent work in bringing another NBA Finals appearance to their former teams. West had the audacity to be at the Staples Center when the Lakers finished off San Antonio, and was even the one who presented the Western Conference Championship trophy to Mitch Kupchak.
So in conclusions, good times. More thoughts on the clinching games later.
29 May 2008
Up until a couple weeks ago, I'd never watched the original Indiana Jones trilogy movies. I'd seen parts, but never sat down and watched them all the way through. USA ran all three of them a weekend or three ago, so I DVR'd them and watched the first two with the wife.
Honestly, I don't like them that much. Sure, there's lots of great action, and who doesn't like seeing Nazis get punched out? And I'm sure they're iconic for the 1980's.
But I'm a big fan of character development and intelligent plot design. These are not things the original Indiana Jones movies were good at. Heck, all we knew about Indy after the first two movies is that he hates Nazis, likes finding ancient artifacts for museums, teaches at a university and hates snakes.
So when Indy 4 turned out to be pretty much the same thing, my reaction was, "meh."
Everyone seems to hate the aliens. But with Spielberg's Close Encounters background and Lucas' whole Star Wars thing, it was almost inevitable.
What bothered me more were the following:
Shia the Beef befriending a bunch of monkeys and then Tarzaning it to catch up to vehicles that are cruising along at 40+ mph. Oh, and the monkeys are apparently capitalists, as they attack the Commie Dominatrix Lady instantly upon seeing her.
Falling down three hundred-foot waterfalls in rapid succession and no one so much as suffers a scratch. That last fall was especially ridiculous, as our plucky adventurers fell over 100 feet onto what almost certainly were very sharp rocks. The fall was enough to completely destroy their vehicle (see Marion holding the steering wheel), but no one is even remotely injured?
I didn't like Marion in the first one, and I didn't like her here. Maybe other people find entertainment in watching Indy flirt/fight with her almost constantly, but it just annoys me.
What the heck was with Mack? He betrays Indy, then reminds him they were together in Berlin, so Indy trusts him again. At which point Mack betrays Indy. And then it's fine again. Or something.
I also think Indy needs to use his whip more. As much as the whip is a hugely important part of the character, he uses it like twice a movie. And where was it when he was trapped in the quicksand? Oh, that's right, it's more funny to force him to grab a snake to escape.
That said, the action was entertaining for the most part, and Indy is undeniably cool, even at age 83. And while I wish they'd write more character development into the movie, maybe that would ruin what makes an Indy movie and Indy movie.
Three out of five stars.
I can't wait for The Dark Knight.
28 May 2008
The league office on Wednesday reviewed the final play of the San Antonio Spurs' 93-91 home loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals and acknowledged that a two-shot foul should have been called on Derek Fisher for impeding Brent Barry.
I'm sure that is great consolation to Spurs fans.
And for Lakers fans who refuse to acknowledge anything was wrong with the final two seconds of the game last night, I guarantee that if it had been Parker landing on Kobe in that situation you'd be screaming for a foul.
So stop the hypocrisy. Admit you got away with one and enjoy your good fortune.
I'm tired, so here's one thought about tonight's Pistons/Celtics game:
The Celtics were in great position to pull off a major choke job tonight. They were up 16 at one point in the third quarter, then slowly squandered that lead until they were clinging to a tenuous three-point lead with under a minute to go.
When you're facing a team that has Chauncey Billups and Rasheed Wallace, and they've been on a major run for the past twelve or so minutes, this is not a good place to be.
After a two missed shots by Billups (Mr. Big Shot, my foot) and a missed jumper by Garnett, Rodney Stuckey was racing up the court with 16 seconds left and Detroit in decent position to force overtime with a 3-pointer.
Instead, Rajon Rondo fouls Stuckey. Genius! Stuckey hits both free throws, and now the Celtics need to only hit their free throws and the game is theirs.
Allen goes two for two, Rondo again fouls Stuckey, who hits one of two. Then Garnett hits two with three seconds left.
More teams need to stop letting the opposing team's hero bury a 3-point dagger in their hearts and instead force them to go to the free throw line restricted to only getting two points.
Senator Edward Kennedy was recently diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor.
Before I get started on my rant, let me make this clear: cancer is a tragedy for anyone who is afflicted by it. I don't find joy in people's suffering.
That said, if you ever want anyone to be universally loved, either get cancer or die young.
I get tired of reading stories about how Kennedy is receiving praise from both sides of the aisle in Congress, as if he's somehow a moderate bridge-builder, upon whom rests the fate of the country.
Kennedy is a hardcore left-wing partisan Democrat. Yes, he's sponsored legislation along with John McCain, but McCain isn't exactly conservative himself. And ignoring the man's politics, there is the Chappaquiddick incident, which at best paints Kennedy as a heartless coward.
And yet here we are, sainting the man because he's been diagnosed with a horrible disease.
This phenomenon can be seen at any funeral, and is most prominently on display when politicians and celebrities die young.
John F. Kennedy was not a particularly great president. But his a.) good looks, b.) "Camelot" aura around the White House and c.) untimely death in office gives him legendary status.
Abraham Lincoln was a great president, but I think he'd catch a lot more flack today for his actions during the Civil War if he hadn't been assassinated in office.
Is this logical? Not really. I'd prefer we judge people on their actions, not how much we feel sorry for them.
But it seems even non-Catholics have the innate need to create saints from mortals.
27 May 2008
I'm back from a big-time slacking Memorial Day weekend.
Things I missed:
The Celtics winning on the road.
The Spurs blowing the Lakers out of the water.
Something about golf.
A whole 1\25th of the MLB season.
But onto tonight. I only caught the last 20 minutes of the game. When I came in, the game was tied. Over the next 17 minutes, San Antonio made eight shots. It wasn't very pretty. Ginobili was invisible much of the game, and Duncan didn't shoot well at all down the stretch.
In short, the Spurs did not deserve to win the game.
That said, after a couple 3-pointers by Brent Barry and a suddenly on fire Manu, they were only down two with 27 seconds left, Lakers ball. Fisher airballed a shot (where was that against Utah, Fish?) and then Kobe missed another tough shot as the shot clock expired and it looked like San Antonio might have a chance.
Down two, 2.something to go. The Spurs called a timeout and ran Brent Barry off a couple screens to get him the ball at the top of the key. This part of the play worked well, and Fisher had to pop out to guard Barry. Barry pump-faked Fisher into the air, who left his feet and fell forward onto Barry.
Now, I've been saying for a long time that if the defensive player jumps straight up and comes straight down, and the offensive player jumps into him, it should be a foul on the guy with the ball, ie. the one who initiated the contact.
But here, Fisher was clearly moving forward in his jump and landed on Barry.
No whistle, Barry is forced to huck up a desperation 3-pointer that is wide right, game over.
Lakers fans: "It was the last five seconds of the game! Of course the refs are going to swallow their whistles. Stop whining. The Lakers have 28 championships!"
Spurs fans: "That was a foul! Duncan was hacked every time he touched the ball in the fourth quarter and shot zero free throws! This is more evidence of an NBA conspiracy to get the Lakers and Celtics into the Finals. Oh well, it's an even-numbered year."
As someone who hates both teams evenly, I'm going to have side with Spurs fans here. I disagree that refs won't call fouls in the last five seconds of a close game; I've seen them do it before and there was no reason to not call a foul here.
Anyway, I'm not too riled up about it. I could stand to not watch another game in this series, whether there be one or three more.
UPDATE: How on earth did I forget to mention that Joey Crawford reffed this game? Really, David Stern? You sent Crawford to ref a do-or-die game in San Antonio? Crawford, the ref who assessed Tim Duncan a technical foul for laughing on the bench last season? The same Crawford who reportedly challenged Duncan to a fight in the same game? The same Crawford that was suspended from refereeing for the playoffs in 2007?
Wow. I'm not saying this is part of the vast conspiracy by Stern to get L.A. to the Finals, but you may want to at least avoid the appearance of evil here, Mr. Commissioner.
22 May 2008
Ray Allen has his best game of the playoffs by far, and the Celtics lose at home for the first time in the playoffs.
I don't think Allen was a ballhog or anything (9-16), Detroit just played extremely well. They shot 49% from the field, 50% from the 3-point line and 87% from the free-throw line. Can't ask for much more than that.
Hamilton was huge, scoring 25 and hitting two big shots in the final minutes of the game to put away the Celtics.
Not looking good, Boston fans. First your Patriots go undefeated in the regular season, only to lose in the Superbowl; now it looks like your Celtics, who won 66 games in the regular season will lose in the conference finals.
Maybe this will teach sports writers to avoid anointing a champion before the season begins.
21 May 2008
Tim Duncan destroyed Gasol/Odom, going for 30 and 18 with four blocked shots.
The Spurs were up 20 in the third quarter, and then completely fell apart over the next 15 minutes. This might have had something to do with the Spurs playing the day before yesterday and then spending the night in an airplane.
A Lakers friend of mine is comforted by the win, seeing it thusly:
The Lakers are not capable of playing any worse, yet they pulled it out.
I see this more as the Lakers barely pulling out a home playoff game in which the other team self-destructed down the stretch.
You say potato, I say potato.
Should be an interesting theory, despite the fact that I can't root for either squad.
I drive a 1994 Toyota Corolla. It gives me 37 miles to the gallon freeway, which is nice with gas prices rising and all.
On the highway from Idaho Falls to Rexburg there's a billboard for a Toyota dealership.
"Toyota Corolla!" it says. "Get 37 miles per gallon!"
Um... what? Why is it that the exact same model of car got the exact same gas mileage 14 years ago as it does today?
As I told Eric in the comments of my post on gas prices earlier today, I don't buy conspiracy theories, but this is highly suspicious. A lot has changed since 1994. We don't wear neon nearly as much as we used to. We have MP3 players instead of boomboxes. We download at megabytes per second instead of bauds per second.
My point is, we've made big strides in all areas of life over the past ten years, and Toyota can't produce a car that gets more than 37 miles per gallon on gasoline?
Something is up.
Apparently today is a day for political rants.
I've been watching TV on and off while blogging this afternoon, and an ad for a new HBO movie caught my eye.
It's called Recount, and apparently it'll air this Sunday.
Near as I can tell, this is more of liberal Hollywood whining about the presidential election of 2000.
Are you kidding me? I can't believe how many people still complain that Bush stole that election, eight years later.
Let it go, guys. Get behind your Messiah, Barack Obama, and fight to get him the presidency.
Then all your problems will be solved and you can go back to making movies like Indiana Jones and the Depends of Fortune.
We'll all be much happier.
It's no secret that many liberal politicians wish we were more like Europe.
No death penalty, socialist economies and medicine, same-sex marriage, great worker's rights... it's a veritable Disneyland of left-leaning politics.
So how are things in, say, Germany? This is a great country with a fantastic economic base built from the ground up after WWII. The entire goal was high efficiency in the tradition of brilliant German engineers and businessmen.
From a poster at Cougarboard.com who used to live in Germany:
I just saw a German news program on the German economy:
A full eighth of all Germans live under the poverty level (meaning their take home pay is less than $1100 a month for a single person, under $1650 a month for a family of 4). Another 1/8th live right at those levels - through government assistance (on total, 26% at poverty level or lower).
Another 1/8th are "rich" - and take home over $4500 a month. And they're complaining about the increasing gap between rich and poor.
And this in a country where less than 40% own their home, where gasoline is currently priced over $9 a gallon, where utilities are 3 or 4 times what they are here, etc., and where the current big debate in government is not whether to raise taxes, but by how much. And lately their news reports have been full of gloating about how poorly the US economy has been doing.
If Europe is what our elected officials want for us, Europe is what we'll become.
That's a vaguely worrisome.
Everyone hates high gas prices. As I'm going to start a 60-mile round trip daily commute next week, I hate high gas prices, too.
But as I stated three weeks ago, in the midst of all the complaining, we don't hear much analysis.
I solicited the knowledge of those much smarter than I am, and luckily, my uncle James responded.
Essentially, he said the price is based on supply and demand, with the factors of China and India's growing economies and how our oil suppliers hate us thrown in.
Pretty much what I figured.
What kills me is how much blame President Bush gets for gas prices. Senator Patrick Leahy called the major U.S. oil execs before Congress this morning and began his statements with, "In the eight years since Bush took office, gas prices have risen yada yada yada...." as if the president has a lever in the Oval Office he can pull to lower or higher the prices whenever he wants.
So the Senate is upset that Exxon Mobile Co., Shell and ConocoPhillips are making money while hardworking Americans are paying $3.89 for gas.
But we know the high prices are a result of factors beyond the control of American companies.... at least as things now stand. Glenn Beck translates what Senator Leahy and other members of Congress are really saying:
Let me tell you what we've done here in Congress.
We told you that drilling in ANWR is off limits. We told you that drilling off the coast of Florida and California is off limits. We told you, Mr. Big oil, that there wouldn't be any new leases for drilling in the Gulf while China and Venezuela and even Cuba pursued these leases and have just signed 100-year leases on the oil in the Gulf of Mexico.
We here in Congress have promised, as all three presidential candidates have also promised, to introduce and pass in the next term a cap and trade legislation bill that will increase the price of gasoline according to the EPA by an additional $1.50. Some people say it could be as high as $5 additional per gallon.
We have said that we're shutting down oil fields in Colorado. We won't let you develop shale oil fields in several Western states.
We told you through our policies that we would not allow you to build a new refinery in over 30 years. In fact, this great country, under our tutelage, has even reduced the number of operational refineries by half since 1982.
We have even told your potential competitors in the nuclear and hydroelectric industries that we would send the environmental lawyers after them if they even dared think about building a new plant or a new dam.
We've refused to fund or allow the deployment of coal-to-oil technology which has been around since the 1930s. We've told you that you have to make different blends of gasoline, let states like California dictate what unique gasoline blends you have to make for them. We will not reduce our federal gasoline tax. We won't even consider reducing it for the summer months.
So Mr. Big Oil, tell me why exactly are gas prices so high?
Right between the eyes.
What's going on here is that our politicians are dead set on getting us off oil. That's fine. Oil is going to run out eventually, probably sooner than we'd like to think.
But so far, there is not a viable replacement for this energy source. As uncle James said,
Let's talk about something else that I think is an issue--bio fuels. In theory, it makes a certain amount of sense that we "grow" our fuel. Renewable energy is a good thing and all. However, since most material, like corn, that can be used for bio-fuels are also a part of our food chain, does it make any sense to starting burning our food as gas? Doesn't that just increase the demand for corn which in turn drives up the cost of beef, chicken and everything else that depends of corn? Don't get me wrong, I would be happy to see the American farmer become as rich as those Arabian oil sheiks, but at some point in time, I don't think we can grow enough corn to fuel all the cars of the planet.Not to mention the fact that it takes something like 1.3 gallons of gasoline (tractors, etc.) to grow enough corn for one gallon of ethanol. Uh...
So Congress is killing us by not allowing us to be even close to self-sufficient with oil, which means we're at the mercy of people who hate us, which means we have no control over the price.
But it won't do to have the American people realize this. Their 11% approval rating might sink even further. So they create a pre-emptive scapegoat in American gas companies, just in case their standby of "blame Bush!" isn't enough.
It's brilliant. And despicable.
Oh, and this is not a partisan issue. Both Republican and Democrat politicians are to blame for this one.
Columnist Michelle Malkin makes a great point re: Obama this week:
All it takes is one gaffe to taint a Republican for life. The political establishment never let Dan Quayle live down his fateful misspelling of “potatoe.” The New York Times distorted and misreported the first President Bush’s questions about new scanner technology at a grocers’ convention to brand him permanently as out of touch.I couldn't agree more. I'm honestly pretty disgusted with how easily the public has accepted the portrayal of Bush as the village idiot based on the fact that he's not as eloquent as President Clinton is/was.
Malkin goes on to show that Obama has said some stupid things during this campaign, yet we haven't branded him a complete moron.
Then we have outright lies:
* Last May, he claimed that Kansas tornadoes killed a whopping 10,000 people: “In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died — an entire town destroyed.” The actual death toll: 12.
*Earlier this month in Oregon, he redrew the map of the United States: “Over the last 15 months, we’ve traveled to every corner of the United States. I’ve now been in 57 states? I think one left to go.”
*Obama has as much trouble with numbers as he has with maps. Last March, on the anniversary of the Bloody Sunday march in Selma, Alabama, he claimed his parents united as a direct result of the civil rights movement:
“There was something stirring across the country because of what happened in Selma, Alabama, because some folks are willing to march across a bridge. So they got together and Barack Obama Jr. was born.”
Obama was born in 1961. The Selma march took place in 1965. His spokesman, Bill Burton, later explained that Obama was “speaking metaphorically about the civil rights movement as a whole.”
*Last March, the Chicago Tribune reported this little-noticed nugget about a fake autobiographical detail in Obama’s “Dreams from My Father:”
“Then, there’s the copy of Life magazine that Obama presents as his racial awakening at age 9. In it, he wrote, was an article and two accompanying photographs of an African-American man physically and mentally scarred by his efforts to lighten his skin. In fact, the Life article and the photographs don’t exist, say the magazine’s own historians.”
And finally, a pretty major flipflop:
And in perhaps the most seriously troubling set of gaffes of them all, Obama told a Portland crowd over the weekend that Iran doesn’t “pose a serious threat to us”–cluelessly arguing that “tiny countries” with small defense budgets can’t do us harm– and then promptly flip-flopped the next day, claiming, “I’ve made it clear for years that the threat from Iran is grave.”
The double standard has never been more apparent.
Senator Obama is heralded as the Messiah of all mankind, while President Bush is disregarded as a dunce (or a criminal mastermind, it depends on what the topic of conversation is). Both men have said some dumb things and misspoken on more than one occasion.
Difference? Bush is a white Republican, Obama is a black Democrat.
I wish there were another explanation. Let me know if I'm way off base here.
20 May 2008
The Falcons signed rookie quarterback Matt Ryan to a six-year, $72 million contract today.
I admit I didn't catch many Boston College games last season, but I did watch the BC/Virginia Tech matchup last October. Yes, this was a win for the Golden Eagles. Yes, Ryan threw two touchdown passes with under two minutes left in the game to lead his team to the victory.
And I came away unimpressed.
For much of the game, the Hokies had Ryan flustered and playing poorly. Boston College scored 0 points in the first three quarters, as Virginia Tech's defense blitzed and harassed Ryan every single down.
And then, with two minutes to go, the Hokies went into a prevent defense.
The stupidity of this decision by Virginia Tech's coaches aside, Ryan suddenly found he had plenty of time to throw, and was able to find his receivers for scores.
Forgive me for not falling in love with the guy.
And I think defenses in the NFL are a bit better than Virginia Tech's defense, which was admittedly outstanding. Ryan's not getting all day to throw no matter whose line he is standing behind.
And in Atlanta? Hmm.
Maybe Ryan blew the Falcons organization away during camps, but in this era of parity, where the salary cap rules the NFL, that's a lot of money to throw at an unproven quarterback.
The Bulls came into the NBA draft lottery tonight with a 1.7% chance at the number one pick.
They left with that number one pick, moving ahead of nine other teams with a better chance than they for the shot at taking their choice of Derrick Rose and Michael Beasley.
The big losers tonight? Seattle, who had an excellent chance at the number one or two spot, falls to number three into a no-man's land. I like to think that's a bit of karma payback for new owner Clay Bennett stealing the franchise and moving it to Oklahoma City.
Back to Chicago. I'm putting my tinfoil hat on and throwing a theory out there:
Stern rigged it for the Bulls.
We all know how giddy he is that the Lakers and Celtics are back among the elite teams in the NBA. It must pain him to see Chicago, winner of six NBA championships with Michael Jordan, be so terrible. He can't count on another horribly one-sided trade to resurrect the franchise, as he already got lucky twice in Los Angeles and Boston.
What better way to give the Bulls a major boost than a number one pick in the draft?
Glad to see Minnesota and Memphis drop. Anyone who intentionally sinks their franchise to benefit old friendships deserves to stay at the bottom.
On to the playoffs!
Like I said last night, I don't like anyone left. The NBA, it's faaaaaaantastic!
I see the Pistons beating the Celtics in six. Boston did nothing to impress me in rounds one and two. I like KG, but when even diehard Celtics homer Bill Simmons is questioning his heart and clutch-ness, it's a bad sign.
And in the West, we see another series I have large amounts of apathy for. I can't bring myself to root for either the Lakers or the Spurs, but as I discussed with my friend James last night, the Spurs are ruining the entire NBA, while the Lakers are not.
The combination of Kobe, Fisher, Odom and Gasol is formidable. That said, Duncan can handle the Spaniard down low and the Spurs' bench looks better than L.A.'s right now. Bowen can get in Kobe's head, and the Odom/Manu matchup will be interesting.
My head says the Spurs in seven.
Where does that leave us?
Another Spurs/Pistons NBA Finals. ABC execs are weeping into their Chardonnay right now.
Heaven help us all.
Oh, and if turns out I'm wrong (as usual), and we end up getting a Boston/L.A. Finals, you'll have a hard time convincing me there weren't any shenanigans to make it happen.
19 May 2008
Yes. Yes I would. Oh, except for the part where I have an inkling regarding the future of the league. That doesn't sound like me.
And here? I would again say the first thing. After that... I acknowledge women basketball players work hard. I acknowledge they'd beat the crap out of me.
Doesn't mean they're any fun to watch.
The Spurs beat the Hornets tonight, winning the series in seven games.
San Antonio did what they do best, slow the game down and make it ugly. And it paid off. Good for them.
Now we're left with the Spurs (who I hate), the Lakers (who I hate), the Pistons (who I only kinda hate) and the Celtics (who I don't hate, but think are weak and can't really cheer for).
Ugh. A Boston/Lakers finals just means Stern got what he wanted. A Spurs/Pistons finals means incredibly boring games with horrible ratings. Spurs/Celtics would be equally slow and boring. Lakers/Pistons? Hmm... mildly interesting. I guess that's what I'm rooting for.
Wow, what a sad state of things.
If there's one thing NBA fans and analysts can agree on about the Jazz, it's that they need a major upgrade to their interior defense. Boozer and Okur are almost unbelievably bad on that end of the floor, and the Jazz will not win a championship while letting everyone from Francisco Oberto to Linas Kleiza get to the hoop whenever they feel like it.
The discussion about how to fix this problem ranges from trading Boozer for Marcus Camby or Samuel Dalembert to keeping Carlos and bringing in a Kurt Thomas or other lower-paid player.
Then there's Kyrylo Fesenko.
The Jazz signed the Ukrainian center to a rookie contract in August of last year, after being impressed with his play in the Rocky Mountain Revue. I attended a couple of these summer league games and came away similarly interested in the 7-foot-1-inch white kid.
For starters, he doesn't move like he's that big. I saw him corral a few rebounds and thought he was a small forward. He can jump, run, and outquick a lot of guys.
He also fights hard at the rim. Playing for the Jazz's D-League team, the Utah Flash, he averaged 10 points per game, seven rebounds and two blocks on the season. In his first NBA game ever, he scored six points and pulled down seven rebounds, four of them offensive, in 17 minutes of play in a win against the Lakers. Boozer and Okur did not play in that game.
The next time Fes got significant minutes in a Jazz game was 11 games later, against Orlando. In 13 minutes he got five rebounds and blocked two shots. Two of those boards were offensive.
Since then, he's only played five or more minutes twice, and has only gotten time on the court in three games since December 22.
Now, it's hard to tell why Fes has gotten little to no chance to prove himself over the second half of the season or the playoffs. One of Sloan's favorite things is to never play rookies. Deron played behind Keith McLeod and Milt Palacio much of his rookie season. Ronnie Brewer never got minutes his first year, despite the fact that Derek Fisher and his 39% FG percentage was playing the 2 far too often.
So we can't assume that Sloan thinks Fesenko just wasn't ready for more time. Honestly, from what I've seen, the kid could have given the Jazz 10-15 good minutes a game against the Lakers. I would have given my firstborn son to see someone, anyone, act like they cared about defending the rim.
I just wish we had more evidence to judge Fesenko with. He could be the next Millsap, and he could be the next Kirk Snyder.
But if he can give the Jazz that toughness inside and just wants the ball more than the guys he goes up against, I think Utah's interior defense problem is fixed.
18 May 2008
Highlight reel of great BYU football moments. Here's a list of what they are.
1980 - BYU 46 SMU 45 (53 yard Touchdown pass as time expired)
1983 - BYU 21 Missouri 17 (HB Pass to Steve Young in final seconds)
1984 - BYU 20 Pitt 14 (Late touchdown beats #3 Pitt)
1984 - BYU 18 Hawaii 13 (Diving tackle saves the victory)
1984 - BYU 24 Michigan 17 (BYU wins the National Championship)
1990 - BYU 28 Miami 21 (BYU beats #1 ranked Miami with a final pass breakup)
1996 - BYU 41 Texas A&M 37 (Long TD in final minute of the game)
1996 - BYU 19 Kansas State 15 (BYU wins the Cotton Bowl with a late interception)
1998 - BYU 26 Utah 24 (Utah misses a FG in the final seconds of the game)
2000 - BYU 34 Utah 27 (BYU wins the game in final seconds with 2 long passes)
2001 - BYU 24 Utah 21 (BYU scores late and wins the game with a late interception)
2006 - BYU 33 Utah 31 (BYU wins the game on the final play of the game)
2007 - BYU 17 Utah 10 (BYU wins with a desperation 4th and 18 pass, and late TD run)
2007 - BYU 17 UCLA 16 (BYU blocks a field goal as time expires to win the game)
17 May 2008
Thanks for tearing my heart out, Jazz. I would have preferred the 20-point blowout loss it looked like the game was going to be than this "show up with three minutes left and get tantalizingly close that's not enough to win." You can score 35 points in the fourth quarter but only 20 in the first? This is an elimination home playoff game! In a building where you have lost five times in 90+ games! Did I mention if you lose your season is over? And yet the Jazz came out flatter than a skunk th'just got run over by a steamroller.
So let's get this over with.
Here's how I did with my predictions for Game 6.
Obviously I was wrong about the outcome.
I nailed Boozer's performance. I said he'd get 13 points on 5 of 16 shooting and 11 rebounds. He ended with 12 points on 5 of 16 shooting with 14 rebounds. Where are you, Booz?
Surprisingly, I didn't hear much at all about the Jazz's fouls committed per game stat. We also heard nothing about the Jazz opponents' fouls committed per game stat, so I got that one.
Kobe's back came up around eight times, not 16. Okur's Achilles was not mentioned, as far as I heard.
Phil Jackson's complaints about the noise in the ESA weren't mentioned, but the telecast didn't start on ESPN until about five minutes into the game, so maybe the announcers talked about it before then.
Re: the calls... I'll save that for tomorrow.
Number of time the Jazz go Horry on Kobe: 0. Right on the money. I can't quite decide if I'm glad the Jazz showed some class or if I'm disgusted the Jazz didn't put Kobe on his back once the entire night.
Deron's line wasn't as good as I thought it'd be: 21 points and 14 assists with only two 3-pointers. Still, for much of the night it was he, Millsap and Brewer who gave a care. Deron's got the killer instinct no one on the Jazz but maybe Millsap has.
Kobe's final line: I said 35 points and seven assists on 11-32 shooting. What he got was 34 points and six assists on 9-19 shooting. In short, he did what I thought he would, though much more effectively.
BONUS: I said Millsap would get 29 minutes, he played 24.
The Lakers shot 50% from the field, 63% from the 3-point line and 82% from the line. The Jazz? 38% from the field, 37% from the 3 and 88% from the line. Yet the Lakers only won by three points?
Because the Jazz attempted 27 more field goals than L.A. TWENTY-SEVEN. That was mostly thanks to 20 offensive boards by the Jazz and 14 turnovers by the Lakers. Why can Okur and Boozer rebound but not play defense?
Millsap had a great game, going six of seven from the field for 15 points, grabbed eight rebounds and blocked three shots. Four of his rebounds were offensive. We have got to keep this kid when his rookie contract is up.
An interesting point is that for much of the game, it wasn't Kobe beating the Jazz. He was content to pass the ball or sit on the bench while guys like Gasol, Vujacic and Odom did the damage. But when the Jazz were threatening, he took over. The Jazz were down only seven with five minutes left, but then The Black Mamba went to work. He hit a three over Korver and then got a 3-point play the next Laker possession... suddenly the lead was 13. All in all, he scored the Lakers' next ten points after the Jazz got within seven.
Then the Jazz decided that maybe they didn't want their season to be done after all, and hit five 3-pointers in the space of three minutes. Andrei hit two of them, after going 0-9 in the series up to that point.
In the end, it wasn't enough, and now I have to pray the Hornets beat the Spurs on Monday.
Because if the Western Conference Finals are Spurs/Lakers, my best bet is to hope for a 747 to crash into the Staples Center during Game 1.
So go Jazz. I still think we need to trade Boozer. More thoughts on what the Jazz should do in this offseason in the coming days.
16 May 2008
And even when Ryan turned into an arrogant jerk I didn't mind. Sure, he treated everyone like crap and developed a drug habit, but whatever.
But when he started threatening Halpert, that was it. I started hoping he'd get his.
And he did.
Now that Ryan's been arrested for fraud, I predict Jim will get his job. The only reason he turned it down when he was offered it last year was because of Pam. Now that Pam's going to New York for art school, it works out.
Oh, and Andy is done. Wow.
Here's the play:
Let's go over why this makes me so mad.
1. Horry threw his forearms into West's back. West has a bad back.
2. Horry got up on his toes to hit West high enough to hurt him.
3. West was in the air when Horry made contact. Who sets a pick on a guy in the air already? Oh right, Spurs players. That's who.
4. For the announcer to say "that's playoff basketball" is despicable. Intentionally injuring an opposing player is not playoff basketball. That's bush league and should warrant a suspension.
5. As West was on the ground, writhing in pain, Spurs fans chanted Horry's name.
The final ridiculous aspect of this play is courtesy of ESPN. On Sportscenter they showed the pick and asked if it was clean or not. A commentator (I don't know who it was) said the following (I'm paraphrasing):
"Robert Horry has won seven championships. He's a class act and in no way was this play dirty."
Um, what does the number of championships he has have to do with this? Dennis Rodman has multiple rings. Bill Laimbeer has multiple rings. Does that mean they were class acts?
And secondly, there was no mention of Horry's bodychecking Steve Nash into the scorer's table in the playoffs only a year ago. How do you fail to bring that up, Sportscenter? Maybe if the Nash incident had never occurred, I could give Horry the benefit of the doubt.
But it did, and I can't. I'm rooting hard for New Orleans to beat San Antonio down in Game 7 on Monday.
And I'm willing to bet most of the NBA fanbase is with me.
Let it not be said I never listen to my readers.
Here are some predictions for tonight:
1. Jazz win by eight.
2. Boozer's line: 5-16 shooting, 13 points, 11 rebounds.
3. Number of times we hear about Utah's average fouls committed per game: 9.
4. Number of times we hear about Utah opponents' fouls per game: 0.
5. Number of times we hear about Kobe's back: 16.
5. Number of times we hear about Okur's Achilles tendon: 2.
6. Number of times we hear about Phil Jackson whining re: the noise in the ESA: 11.
7. Number of unbelievably, unarguably horrible calls we see: 3.
8. Number of times the Jazz go Horry on Kobe: 0.
9. Deron's stat line: 29 and 14 with four 3-pointers.
10. Kobe's stat line: 35 points and seven assists on 11-32 field goal shooting.
BONUS: Number of minutes Paul Millsap plays: 29.
15 May 2008
J.A. Adande wrote today:
When the Jazz got close to the basket, there was more contact than in a rush-hour crowd shoving into the subway, but rarely a blown whistle. Meanwhile, at the other end, Lamar Odom breezed past Carlos Boozer for a layup and got a gift and-one. And Utah players and coaches are still wondering how Mehmet Okur could wind up sprawling toward the baseline, leaving Pau Gasol alone under the basket for an easy offensive rebound and dunk to put the Lakers ahead by five points with 20.5 seconds remaining.The rest of the article is just more evidence that the Team Ball Lakers are much more dangerous than the Kobe Show.
The question now is if the Lakers can expect to win Game 6 in Utah, where the calls didn't always go their way in Games 3 and 4...
T.J. Simers from the L.A. Times:
NBA Commissioner David Stern stopped by the press room before the game and said he had just met with the referees, I presume to remind them how excited he is about the upcoming Boston-L.A. Finals.
For some reason when this game started, the refs called four fouls on Utah, none on the Lakers, and then tagged Jazz Coach Jerry Sloan with a technical foul.
No need to make it so obvious, guys.
Makes me shake my head.
A good friend of mine has requested that I answer for my apparent hypocrisy in decrying fair-weather fans while calling for Carlos Boozer to be traded.
I'm going to try and explain it by expanding on my "being a fan is like being a parent" analogy.
If the team represents the child, then in my opinion, unskilled and overpaid players are like problems the child goes through. As a Jazz fan, Greg Ostertag was like your bright and talented teenager skipping class and not ever studying. If you're a Blazers fan, Darius Miles is like your kid always talking back and not respecting authority.
Do these things make you turn on the kid? Kick him out of the house? Adopt a new child?
You work with the child to help them get over these undesirable traits. And if your team has players who are weighing the team down, eventually it gets to the point that they need to be let go. I have no loyalty to the specific players who wear a Jazz uniform. If I did, I'd still be a Deshawn Stevenson fan.
That said, I will never boo a Jazz player. Watching Boozer makes me disappointed and sad, not spiteful. I'd love to see him succeed. I'd like to watch him learn how to play defense. But at this point it's clear that's not going to happen. The Jazz can't afford to have him and Okur play underneath. And in my judgment, Okur is more valuable to the team.
So that's it. My loyalty is to the team, not the players. Hope that clears things up.
Deron shot eight free throws, which ties his playoff high. For as aggressive as he was last night, that's incredible. Deron spent a lot of time driving to the hoop and getting hit. Unfortunately, because he doesn't fall down every time he attempts a layup (Tony Parker), he can't get the whistles.
Thanks for ruining it for the rest of the league, the Spurs.
Has flopping really become so entrenched in the NBA that if a player doesn't fall down he doesn't get the call?
My brain is completely fried at how completely and utterly frustrated I am about the game tonight. It was horrible on so many levels I'm still trying to figure it all out.
First off, the Jazz played like girls over the last five or six minutes. Boozer and Okur were absolutely horrendous on both ends of the floor. The Lakers' final few buckets were eeeeeasssy dunks or layups. I've come to accept that Okur and Boozer are quite possibly the worst defensive frontcourt in the NBA. Please convince me I'm wrong.
But when you combine that with no offense from either of those guys in the fourth quarter, and you might as well play Michael Jackson at the four and Shia LaBeouf at the five. Why Sloan didn't insert Millsap or even Collins I'll never know. I've been hard on Jarron for a long time, but at least he tries on defense.
Watching our two All-Star big guys in the final quarter was torture.
And while I'm complaining about who gets playing time, why can't Brewer see the floor late in games? Korver has been beyond bad this postseason, hitting somewhere around 28% of his 3-pointers. Tonight he was 1-3, so he improved, but still. He didn't do a thing for Utah in the fourth quarter. Put Brewer in and see if he can do any better.
The other half of my frustration was the officiating. I'll freely admit the Jazz didn't deserve the win tonight, but the refereeing was the worst I have seen in a long, long time.
The play where Gasol bowled Matt Harpring over for a layup in the fourth quarter? That was as clear a charge as you'll ever see on any level of basketball. Harpring was there, and set well outside the circle, for a good second and a half to two seconds before Gasol got there. It is one of the few legitimate charges Harp has ever taken, and he didn't get the whistle. That was so bad, it was "send the tape the NBA and the ref gets suspended" bad.
Then you have the phantom whistle against Boozer as Odom got free off a screen for the dunk (see: horrible defense in the fourth quarter). Boozer was trailing Odom, beaten in every sense of the word, and had essentially given up on the play. And then the refs called a foul. Are you kidding me? Boozer was close enough to maybe nick Odom with his fingernail.
Then there's the series where Deron took the ball down the lane for a layup and got whacked on the arm. No call. Farmar does the same thing going the other way, foul on Deron.
Then there's the play where Vujacic dribbled the ball off his own foot while being pressured by AK. The ref right on top of the play called it out of bounds, Jazz ball. The ref clear across the court overrules him and calls Andrei for the foul. How is that ever okay in the NBA?
I've been resisting the "Stern wants a Lakers/Celtics Finals" conspiracy stuff. But when we are watching the gold versus the green in June, I'll be sure to throw a brick through Commissioner Stern's front window.
Because it's coming.
Oh, and the Trade Boozer Parade is back on schedule. Non-existent defense + 5 of 15 shooting when it mattered = trade the man.
14 May 2008
I've made it clear that my favorite presidential candidate for 2008 was Mitt Romney.
And since he withdrew his candidacy in February, I've struggled to find someone to support. McCain excites me in no way. Obama is a charismatic socialist. Hillary is flat-out insane with her desire to get more power.
So when this candidate declared his intention to run, I looked over his platform and immediately recognized this was someone I could gain guidance from.
Now, I know what you're thinking. How can a mythical aquatic reptilian creature lead our nation? You are showing your bias, friend. There's nothing in the Constitution that precludes a mythical sea-beast from being president.
Now that that's out of the way, here is evidence of Liopleurodon's leadership in action.
I encourage all disaffected voters everywhere to throw their support behind Liopleurodon. It is out best chance for success as a nation.
But tragically, when Welsh brothers Barney and Michael Jones founded the Church of Jediism, they underestimated the threat of the dark side of the Force.
Last month, a man claiming to be Darth Vader attacked the founders of Jediism during a training session in their backyard. Using a metal crutch, the Dark Lord of the Sith bruised one of the brothers on the leg and thwacked the other on the head.
Fortuitously, we have a video record of this attack. Hopefully it will help teach Jedi everywhere to be ever-vigilant of attack.
12 May 2008
I must admit, Game 4 was the first of the Celtics/Cavs series games I really paid attention to.
Bottom line, LeBron is still horrible from the outside, but not as horrible as he was in Games 1-3. At least the kid hit two clutch 3-pointers tonight.
But the real surprising issue here is that, at least in Cleveland, LeBron's supporting cast is better than KG's. Paul Pierce and Ray Allen were far from stars, while the combined effort of Wally, Big Z, Gibson and Varejao was good for 49 points, over half of the Cavs' final score of 88. LeBron was finding guys like he usually does (13 assists), and they were hitting their shots. Can't ask for more.
The Celtics look pretty bad right now. Then again, Boston doesn't need to win a single road playoff game to take the championship. That's what homecourt does for you.
Paying attention, Jazz?
Anyway, I didn't make a prediction for this series. This is partly because they played Game 1 before I got around to looking at the matchups, and partly because I couldn't quite make up my mind. On the one hand, the Boston Threeparty weren't that impressive against Atlanta.
On the other hand, Cleveland still looked like LeBron and the 10 Stooges against Washington.
Obviously, my second observation has changed, while the first one remains the same.
That said, at this point the series is a best-of-three, and Boston has homecourt. I'm going to call it for the Celtics in seven.
But no one thought the Cavs would get through Detroit last year, either. So I'm fully prepared to be dead wrong. LeBron is LeBron. Even if he's ice cold from the field, he still finds a way to win.
Should be fun to watch either way.
11 May 2008
Adam Hoff, writer for Section F Sports, became a Jazz fan for the day after the horrible officiating in Jazz/Lakers Game 4.
The Utah Jazz pulled out a 123-115 overtime victory over the Lakers today and for that I can only say, thank goodness, because they nearly got screwed worse than any team this postseason.
[F]or most of the game, the refs were fine. Then, they collectively lost their minds with four of the worst calls I've seen this postseason. All of which came in an 8-minute stretch from the close of regulation through overtime. And all four went against the home team.
Good to see an unbiased third party thinks the Jazz get the short end of the stick once in a while. At home. Four times in a row during a crucial stretch in a playoff game.
Anyway, read the post. It's good.
So the Jazz win and there is more evidence to support my Kobe Show theory. On an afternoon where Odom and Gasol were great, The Black Mamba jacked up 33 shots and hit only 13 of them (39%). That outstanding number includes a 1-10 performance from the 3-point line.
Gasol had his best game of the series, going for 23 and 10, while Odom was great, contributing 26 and 13.
But when it was crunch time, Kobe was throwing up airballs and getting blocked by Andrei. Maybe next time he should dump the ball inside, like he did with Shaq back in the day when the Lakers were winning championships.
Deron had his best game of the series, dishing 14 assists to go with his 29 points. Going 3-4 from the 3-point line and getting two steals helped make his performance extremely impressive. Part of this has to be attributed to his posting up Fisher early on and getting the Fish in foul trouble. For whatever reason, Deron doesn't seem to play well against Derek.
Okur did what he's done all series, giving the Jazz 18 and 11.
Boozer still hasn't figured out how to be consistent with his shot. I'm not happy with his 5-15 showing from the field. I can't decide if the length and quickness of Gasol and Odom are bothering him or if it's something else, like a bad back.
So GO JAZZ! It's a new series... best of three, Lakers have homecourt.
How frustrating is it that if the Jazz had just beaten Minnesota in March and Miami in December they would have the number one seed? The regular season does matter, apparently.
10 May 2008
Sports Illustrated writer Stewart Mandel really likes the Cougars.
In the last four college football seasons we have seen three "mid-majors" crash the BCS party (Utah in 2004, Boise State in 2006 and Hawaii in 2007). Do you think another mid-major will rise up and earn a spot in a BCS game during the 2008 season? If so, which team has the best chance to make it? -- Brett Butler, Boise, IdahoI usually don't get too interested in college football until after the NBA playoffs are over, but all this talk about BYU is pretty awesome.
BYU has all the right ingredients. The Cougars have quietly posted consecutive 11-win seasons. They return practically their entire offense. They're most likely going to be ranked at the start of the season, so it wouldn't take that much to climb into the top 12. And they play a schedule not unlike the one Utah did during its dream season in 2004, with two games against "name" opponents -- UCLA and Washington -- that will add credibility, but whom the Cougars should be favored to beat.
In my opinion, a lot is riding on quarterback Max Hall. Last season he was good, but not great. Though for a first-time starter with zero Div 1-A experience, he was positively fantastic.
But the jump from good to incredible is a hard one to make. It took Beck a good long while to be able to absolutely carve apart opposing defenses, and most quarterbacks never get there, in my opinion. I question Max's arm strength. We'll see.
09 May 2008
Ever since Shaq left L.A., there has been one constant truth.
When Kobe tries to make the Lakers the Kobe Show, the Lakers lose more often than not.
The Kobe Show doesn't scare me.
What scares me is when Kobe is getting his team involved, teammates are cutting and making the extra pass, and guys like Odom go off for 25 points. When this happens, the Jazz are no match for L.A.
But the Jazz can beat the Kobe Show, and they did tonight.
Sure, Boozer is back in form, recording a supremely impressive 27 and 20, shooting 12-21 from the field and recording two blocks. Sure, Deron attacked the basket all night, racking up 18 and 12 with only two assists. Sure, Okur was on fire for most of the first half, hitting four of five 3-pointers on his way to 22 points.
But in my opinion, the biggest stat of the game was Kobe taking 20 shots and getting 17 free throw attempts, while the next highest scorers for L.A. took 10, seven and six shots from the field, respectively. No other Laker scored more than 13.
In other words, Kobe had the ball for most of the game.
Just what the Jazz need.
Again, this can backfire if Kobe is absolutely on fire, but outside of a few minutes early in the third quarter, The Black Mamba was average. His 50% field goal percentage is somewhat offset by his 0-6 3-point shooting.
As good as I feel about tonight's victory, it shows how slim the Jazz's chances are at winning this series. First, Utah played about as well as I can expect on offense. Second, Kobe tried to take over and couldn't.
And yet the Jazz only won by five. At home.
Bottom line, the Jazz could win this series, but they could easily lose in five.
Oh, and Fisher scored 13 points tonight. 3-6 from the field, 1-3 from the three with two assists.
That's the Fish I know. I don't want to see any more of the sharpshooter Fish who impersonates Peja Stojakovich.
The Jazz still would have won the series, but then I wouldn't have to listen to every national broadcaster lambast Jazz fans for booing Fisher when he returned to Salt Lake as a Laker this season.
Because then all of the facts regarding his time in Utah would be based around his shooting 38% from the field and 30% from the 3-point line. Then "common knowledge" wouldn't be that Fisher was the reason the Jazz were so good last season.
In a related note, Carlos Boozer has a sick child. His family moved to L.A. to get him treatment and Boozer NEVER asked to let out of his contract. Never talked to the media about it. He showed up for work every day.
And yet no one writes sappy pieces like this one about him.
The hero-worship of Fish, the demonizing of Jazz fans, the sanctimonious tone people like Michael Wilbon and John Barry are using about Fisher getting booed... I'm getting very sick of it.
Founded in 1944, the Minneapolis Lakers got off to a great start, winning five championships in six years from 1949-1954. Such Hall of Fame players as George Mikan and Jimm Pollard starred for the team during this time.
The Lakers moved to Los Angeles in 1960. Not much changed in regards to getting Hall of Fame talent. Elgin Baylor, Jerry West, Wilt Chamberlain... the list goes on. The championship well they had enjoyed back east dried up, however, and L.A. was only able to go to the NBA Finals six times in the next ten years.
The cursed Boston Celtics and Bill Russell kept thwarting Wilt and Company.
Finally, a whole sixteen years after their last championship, the Lakers won in 1972.
But the 80's were really the glory years for L.A. They won it all in '80, '82, '85, '87, '88 and '90. Boy, those teams were good. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, James Worthy, Bob McAdoo, Michael Cooper, Byron Scott, A.C. Green... the list goes on.
If you were a kid in the 80's, the Lakers were the team to cheer for.
Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and gradually, these Lakers greats retired or moved on, one at a time.
Thankfully, in 1996, the organization was able to pay a young Shaq to come to L.A. for a seven-year, $122 million contract. And then they were able to trade Vlade Divac for the rights to rookie Kobe Bryant in 1997.
It took a couple years, but once the organization was able to sign Hall of Fame coach Phil Jackson, the Kobe and Shaq Lakers won three consecutive championships from 2000 to 2002. Times were good.
But tragically, Shaq and Kobe couldn't get along, and Shaq ended up going to Miami to win a championship with Dwayne Wade, a moment that must have pained Lakers fans everywhere.
L.A. has not won a championship since then, but having "The Black Mamba" Kobe Bryant breaking records and being the class of the NBA must have soothed the souls of troubled middle-aged men wearing yellow Lakers jerseys everywhere.
But once again, things threatened to fall apart, as last summer, Kobe said he wanted to be traded. This move had a big chance to sink the franchise for a long, long time.
Thankfully, Lakers third-year player Andrew Bynum suddenly bloomed into the second coming of Wilt. Kobe quickly changed his story, and everyone was happy in Lakers-land again.
But the ol' Lakers-style good fortune really smiled on Los Angeles last Februrary, when ex-Lakers great Jerry West, now managing the Memphis Grizzlies, traded his star forward Pau Gasol to them at virtually no cost.
And now the Lakers look all the world like they're the favorites to win their fifteenth NBA championship this June.
Wow. Even during the down years, Lakers fans still had Kobe Bryant to cheer for. Any Hawks or Knicks fan would kill for that.
The Lakers are a team of short-term, relatively painless downs and long-lasting, extremely high ups.
It's easy to root for a team that always wins. That's why the Red Sox, Yankees, Spurs, Lakers, Red Wings, Celtics, Patriots and Colts lead their respective leagues in jersey and ticket sales.
But that's like choosing to only adopt children who are straight-A students, captain of the football team, head cheerleader, and never talk back.
But heaven forbid they flunk their chemistry test or take the car without asking. Then they're back on the street.
There's something very rewarding about supporting a team through bad times, as well as the good.
It's more akin to raising a child from birth, through the terrible twos and that time they set the curtains on fire to late nights worrying where they are and hoping they're not doing drugs.
Why do parents do it? They do it for the times their kid wins the spelling bee, for the time she gets an A on her science project. They do it for the day he graduates from college and she gets a great job.
I'd argue the bad times make the good ones that much sweeter.
That's what it is to be a fan, in my opinion. No one respects the guy wearing a newly-purchased Hawks jersey over the white shirt and tie on the front row of Celtics/Hawks Game 6 last week. But watching the die-hard New Orleans fan who has followed the team since the Charlotte days enjoy a playoff series win for the first time in decades brings a smile to your face.
It's not easy to watch the team you love stink. BYU football in 2003-2005 was not a good program. Quarterback John Beck played poorly at times, and losses came pretty frequently.
That said, I saw a lot of potential in Beck. Enough so that I defended him against the many BYU fans who were calling for his head.
And you know what? In 2006 he led the team to an 11-2 record, while posting huge numbers. After being drafted by the Miami Dolphins in the 2007 NFL draft, he looks to be the starter at quarterback this fall.
That is awesome.
So don't stop supporting your team just because things don't look good right now. Their fortune will turn around. Maybe not this season, and maybe not for ten seasons, but someday.
And then you'll be glad you stuck around.
08 May 2008
Upon reviewing my post from last night, I realized I need to give credit where credit is due.
Kobe was incredible. 34 points, eight rebounds, six assists on 11 of 18 shooting is a great performance. Some of the shots he hit were just mind-boggling. And he did it without alienating his team by trying to do it all himself. My knock of Kobe has never been that he doesn't have the skills... in the past, I've criticized him for taking bad shots and not playing smart.
Seems he's fixed that.
Deron was 5-5 from the 3-point line on the night. Three of them came in the last 30 seconds of the game. Uh, Deron? Maybe you could have shown some of that when it mattered.
If the Lakers win another NBA championship this season, they should be required to ship the trophy to Memphis. The Gasol for Kwame trade would have been vetoed in every fantasy league in the country if someone had tried to pull it off. I know Pau isn't exactly dominating this series (20 and 5 last night), but he does a lot for the team.
1. Now Lamar Odom is the third option on the team and not the second one. He's MUCH more comfortable in that role, as evidenced by him going off for 19 and 16 on 7-10 shooting.
2. The Lakers can now effectively play an inside-out game where if Kobe is double-teamed, he can kick it in to Gasol for an easy bucket, and vice versa. Before the trade, L.A. couldn't do that.
3. Gasol's post presence also allows the Lakers' shooters to get more wide-open looks, ie. Fisher, Vujacic, Walton, Radmanovich.
It was the trade of the decade, in my opinion. I was discussing it with a friend of mine, and he suggested that maybe there needs to be some kind of veto system for trades in the league. Maybe a rule where if 80% of the owners are against a trade, David Stern doesn't let it go through.
Problem is, Stern's ecstatic that the Lakers and Celtics are back on top (through questionable trades). He just about said as much on TNT last night before the game.
So I don't ever see it happening. I'll just add it to the list of ideas that would be good for the league that Stern will never consider. He's too busy fixing broken replay rules, I guess.
07 May 2008
Losing because Derek Fisher plays 300 times better tonight than he ever did for Utah last season,
Losing because two of the Jazz's "stars" can't hit a shot to save their lives,
Losing because the Jazz can't hold the Lakers to under 60% shooting as a team,
Just flat-out irritating.
But I could deal with the loss except for two things.
First, the record needs to be set straight regarding Derek Fisher's time in Utah. Apparently TNT commentators Kevin Harlan and Doug Collins cannot be bothered to do any research.
According to them, Fisher came to Utah, led a resurgence of the team and was the key factor in them getting to the Western Conference Finals last season. Then his daughter got cancer, he asked Jazz owner Larry Miller to be released from his contact so he could live closer to better treatment options for her. When coming back to Utah as a Laker, heartless Jazz fans boo him like the trash they are.
This is a gross misrepresentation of what happened.
The real chain of events are as follows:
Fisher complained about coming to Utah when he was traded here from Golden State. He played horribly while with the Jazz, with the exception of ten combined minutes against Golden State in the second round of the playoffs. He wanted out of Salt Lake.
This sums up his time on the court with the Jazz:
Tragically, his daughter did get eye cancer, and he approached Larry Miller about getting released from his contract with the Jazz so she could get better treatment than was available in Utah.
Here's the problem: Fisher's daughter is receiving treatment in New York City. Los Angeles is closer to New York than Utah is... how?
And besides, Salt Lake City's Hunstman Cancer Institute is a very highly-rated cancer-treatment hospital.
Now he's the starting point guard for the juggernaut Lakers, shooting over 10% better from the 3-point line and generally playing like an All-Star.
Things I cannot prove but strongly believe:
A.) Fisher used his daughter's cancer to get out of Utah.
B.) Fisher was dogging it while playing for the Jazz. He simply didn't care enough to play hard, and his stats showed it. The man was getting the exact same looks in Salt Lake as he is in L.A. A veteran player doesn't suddenly drop 10% off his field-goal percentage and then regain it one season later for no reason.
And Fisher wonders why he was booed in Salt Lake.
The second thing, a 43-16 free-throw disparity in favor of the Lakers, wouldn't bother me as much except for a couple things:
Harlan and Collins spent the entire night telling us how the Jazz play physical and foul a lot, so OF COURSE there's going to be a free-throw disparity.
What they missed is that while the Jazz commit a league-leading 24 fouls per game, they are fouled 23 times per game, which is good for third place, only 0.7 fouls less than league-leading Denver.
In essence, the Jazz don't often give up easy layups on defense, but they take it to the rim on offense, too.
Problem is, tonight, they weren't getting any calls on these drives to the basket. Utah scored 58 points in the paint and shot 16 free throws total. In a game where the Jazz were within eight points of the Lakers with three minutes left in the fourth quarter, that's pretty significant.
Hopefully they will get the whistles in Salt Lake, but I'm not holding my breath.
Oh, and finally, Boozer has these next two games against L.A. to stop me from starting my "Trade Carlos" campaign. Shooting 3-10 from the field and grabbing an astounding eight rebounds isn't doing much to stop me, buddy.
06 May 2008
The Hornets are for real. I've picked against them in both rounds of the playoffs so far, and they're two wins away from making it to the Western Conference Finals.
Again, I will never bet on sports.
But I've never been more happy about a prediction of mine going down in flames. A healthy Spurs team getting knocked out in the second round? It's like Christmas!
And David West is cementing himself as one of the up-and-coming stars in the league. He's quick, strong, and has a very reliable 16-17-foot jumper. I'd take him over Boozer any day, and to those who believe West is nothing without Paul, I say that's ridiculous.
In other news, Orlando is a talented, but stupid, team. Howard, Turkoglu, Rashard and Nelson (somewhat surprisingly) are great players and have a bright future as a team.
That said, I've never seen more botched possessions late in one game than last night when they played the Pistons on Game 2 of their series. Bad passes, tough shots, dumb decisions... the Magic had a very, very good shot at winning that game and apparently had no desire to.
Down 2 with around two minutes left, over 15 seconds on the shot clock, Magic have the ball. What do they get out of the possession? Hedo jacks up a long three with a defender right in his face. Shot misses terribly.
Another possession later on, Rashard drives in and attempts a corkscrew up-and-under layup around two Pistons players. No good.
I could list at least three other horrible plays the Magic ended up with in the last five minutes.
Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy was beside himself with frustration. Can't say I blame him.