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Archive for May, 2012|Monthly archive page

The Hornets are David Stern’s #1 Pick

In NBA on May 31, 2012 at 7:00 am

The NBA believes in New Orleans.

It has to.

While other cities (like Seattle, which got their Sonics stolen away after 41 years, or Sacramento, which is about to get screwed because inept ownership is intent to relocate) were allowed to see their beloved teams leave, the NBA has gone to extraordinary lengths to keep the Hornets in New Orleans. Instead of letting the team (which should have rightfully moved to Oklahoma City in the first place) be fairly purchased on the open market, the league stepped in and paid $300 million dollars, all so that other potential buyers couldn’t move them elsewhere.

Because the league believes in New Orleans.

Because David Stern doesn’t want to be the bad guy.

“Am I allowed to smile yet, Mr. Stern?”

While I can’t think of a single fan base (besides maybe San Antonio) who actually likes the commissioner, don’t tell Stern that. Like the delusional monarch he thinks he is, the man believes he is beloved by all (except for maybe fans in Phoenix, or by the one half 85% of Los Angelenos who don’t root for the Clippers), and that he is a kind, merciful and just lord.

In reality, Stern is further ruining the respectability of the league.

For the man who took over the NBA at a time it was considered a podunk operation, when it rated worse than Hockey or golf tournaments, it’s a sad change of events. Don’t get me wrong. I do not look back at Stern’s career as commissioner with rose-colored glasses, and long for the golden age of his tenure. His duration has not been without controversy and scandal.

But for all the dirty tricks, Stern used to do it in a way that didn’t make the league’s fans feel like a bunch of suckers in the process. We used to believe in the production that was put before us, and embraced it. Jordan was the best player ever, not because of ‘Jordan Fouls’ or marketing genius, but because he was. We were led to believe that the Bulls were destined to be as great as they were.

But then Jordan retired and Stern tried to capture the same magic in a different bottle. And with every attempt, the facade of the past came down a little bit more. Maybe Jordan had help. Maybe this, maybe that. For every harsh, example-setting penalty, to prove that things in Stern’s league were on the up-and- up, (like the Minnesota Timberwolves-Joe Smith-tampering case), there was a 1997 or 2007 Playoff fight suspension, which rang of improper officiating. For every NBA Cares commercial, there was Stern telling players during the CBA negotiations that, to summarize, “he knew where the bodies were buried, because he buried them.”

It was as if the carefully planned and plotted product Stern had spent so many years constructing had grown too big for him, and was slipping away. It was as if the NBA had changed, yet David Stern wouldn’t. It was if David Stern had become John Gotti, and that the dirty tricks would still work, and people would still fall for them, damn it.

Don Stern-eono

(I realize this is all a little off topic for an article on the Hornets receiving the number one pick in this year’s draft, but bear with me)

For years Stern’s NBA has operated the Hornets, who until very recently, couldn’t sucker a potential buyer into not relocating the team if they bought them. Hadn’t New Orleans already been through enough? Did they really need to also lose the team no one went to watch anyway?

But then they did find a sucker buyer.

Then the Hornets beat the odds (insert ‘the Bobcats are so bad, they couldn’t even win the lottery joke here) to get the right to draft The Andrew Luck of Basketball (while the term “The Michael Jordan of_____” has been reserved for a person of greatness in their respective field, the phrase “The Andrew Luck of_____” is, for the time being, reserved for a person of great potential, which is overshadowed by waaaaay too much hype).

David Stern wants to be the nice guy, who did everything he could to keep the Hornets in New Orleans after Katrina practically destroyed it. But for a team with just a 13.7% chance to win the lottery, to have just finally been sold, to then magically beat the odds, smells like Stern’s up to his old, dirty tricks again. With the exception of Chicago landing Derek Rose, not since 1985 has a draft smelled so fishy. It was like Stern pulled the Michael Jordan of Fast Ones. It’s like maybe we were the buyers suckers all along, after all.

Now the Hornets will draft first, and will undoubtedly take the center everyone wishes they had. The guy Deron Williams wanted the team he will soon depart, if they got the pick, to trade for Dwight Howard.

It’s a new era of basketball in New Orleans.

Because David Stern wouldn’t want it any other way.

UPDATE: 2:31 PM

Here’s a fun little link to a picture taken supposedly two weeks before the draft. Let the conspiracy theories commence.


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Dear Mr. Urlacher, Please Don’t Go Anywhere

In NFL on May 30, 2012 at 10:40 am

I must confess, I am not a Chicago Bears fan.

It’s not that I have anything against da Bears, it’s just that I’ve never found myself ever rooting for them. Every time Fox showcases the NFC North rivalry game between da Bears and Green Bay, I usually find myself rooting for the Pack, but that’s only because I am easily influenced by pop culture references (I can’t help but enjoy Aaron Rodgers’ ‘Discount Double Check’ Dance). The last time da Bears played in the Super Bowl, I rooted for Peyton Manning (not the Indianapolis Colts mind you, but Peyton Manning). I mean, have you seen that guy? He’s hilarious! Too bad he’s probably going to end up crippled sometime later this year, though…

Either way, although I don’t root for da Bears, I still found myself somewhat saddened by the report that the face of da Bears’ organization (and Old Spice spokesman), Brian Urlacher may, after the 2012 season, leave the only team he has ever played for.

“If you beat me up now, I will only grow up to sack the crap out of you when you least expect it.”

Urlacher is a free agent at the end of the season, and at 34 years of age, da Bears might not be willing to pay the linebacker what he wants. Plus, with the powerhouse that is Green Bay, and the new Motor City Bad Boys, the up-and-coming-when-not-in-trouble Detroit Lions, the NFC North is looking a wee bit crowded, especially if you’re in the later part of your career and still searching for that elusive first Super Bowl ring. Moving to a destination with an easier road to the playoffs might be an attractive lure for anyone. New England maybe? The Texans? Anyone in the NFC West (until the 49ers repeat their 2012 success, I am still saying that division is wide-open)?

I understand it’s the sentimental pick to hope Urlacher stays with da Bears. Sure, professional athletes switch teams all the time; Brett Favre played with the Jets and Vikings; Michael Jordan went to the Wizards; Emmitt Smith played for the Cardinals (Seriously, Emmitt Smith played for the Cardinals. I know, right?).

“Yeah Jerry, we sure look stupid in these things!”

Either way, it’s an unfair comparison to put Urlacher in the same conversation as Favre, Jordan and Smith. Those guys, although different positions than Urlacher and, in Jordan’s case, an entirely different sport, are considered the greatest athletes of all time. Urlacher simply doesn’t compare. He’s good, don’t get me wrong, but no where even in the same universe as those other guys.

But what’s significant about Urlacher is that he played all twelve of his seasons with da Bears. Granted, it was not without a controversy or two. Or three. But it was never anything gratuitous. It was never anything that tarnished and/or lingered over his reputation. Besides Kobe Bryant and Ray Lewis, who has perfect judgement, right?

Right now, Urlacher is one of the few professional athletes who can say he never went anywhere else but where he started. That he served his one and only team with the best years he had.

But let’s say he and da Bears can’t resolve their differences, and in the end Urlacher looks for greener pastures. If he does decide to play somewhere else, in a few years he might only be getting (money-wise) what da Bears would have offered him in the first place. The market for aging linebackers is a slim, after all. He might even find himself bouncing from team-to-team, still chasing the money, and still chasing that Super Bowl dream. And then, after a year or two of that, the offers start drying up and the playing time diminishes. And then what do you have?

But if Urlacher takes what da Bears offer, he’ll get to keep his spot where he has felt most comfortable throughout his entire career. He’ll also have something too few athletes can nowadays say; a legacy of one player, one team. Through think and thin. And he wasn’t even half as good as those other guys.

Stanley Cup Prediction: L.A. Story

In NHL on May 30, 2012 at 10:11 am

Call it West Coast bias, or simply call it playing the safe bet, but I don’t see the New Jersey Devils doing anything to beat the LA Kings, once they start their Stanley Cup Final series tonight in New Jersey. I’m quick to mention New Jersey, because the Kings are 8-and-0 on the road these playoffs. They’ve so far beaten Vancouver, St. Louis and Phoenix, all on hostile ice. Not only that, but after barely even making the playoffs, the Kings have only lost two games the entire postseason.

Even fans in L.A. wouldn’t be able to identify a single Kings player, so why bother with their picture?

The team from Los Angeles just looks like the faster, better and scarier team.

The Kings penalty killing has been downright murderous so far. At times, it seems as if they like to score more with one man down than otherwise. Their defense has looked impenetrable, and their goaltender, Jonathan Quick, has looked more like a human wall than a hockey player. Add in the offensive play of RW Dustin Brown, (seven goals, 16 points in the playoffs) and LW Dwight King (five goals in the playoffs) and you have a hard hitting, fast scoring favorite that’s not just going to be tough for New Jersey to beat once, maybe twice, but impossible four times.

That’s not to discredit anything the Devils have done this season, or the playoffs. They’ve played tough and managed to ruin the NHL’s marketing dream of an LA/NY series. The NHL still got it, sort of, only in its less sexy New Jersey form.

Either way, I hope the LAPD has their riot gear ready. While hockey is arguably the least cared about sport in Los Angeles, I know its residents like any excuse for an old timey, down-home riot.

Kings in six.

The San Francisco Giants Should Consider Trading Brian Wilson

In MLB on May 29, 2012 at 9:05 am

While only two years removed from their first Word Series Championship since moving to the Bay Area 56 years earlier, the San Francisco Giants should consider trading the man who threw their final out.

The Giants should deal The Beard.

“I am completely insane.”

Now I know there will be those in San Francisco crying, “but what about all the jerseys, and t-shirts, and fake Santa Claus beards, and shoe polish I bought to dye said fake Santa Claus beards? Don’t you know I have a $2500-a-month rent to make? If they trade Wilson, what am I supposed to do?”

First, I would recommend looking into a rent controlled place further inland, and then I would bring up how Wilson is more like damaged goods at this point of his career than a feared major league closer. And this was before he even got hurt.

Sure, it was all fun and games when Wilson had the mohawk, and yes, it was quite the chuckle when he grew the beard. But then The Beard’s beard birthed a life of its own. The Beard’s gimmick became too gimmicky. Heck, The Beard started being referred to as ‘The Beard.’

While Wilson was sort of a big deal in the pitching world (and still borderline crazy) before being rocketed to stardom after the 2010 Word Series, he became too big a deal (and certifiably insane), afterward. His game became distracted. He became a distraction.

And then pop! went the elbow, and here came a second Tommy John surgery. Tommy John is a funny thing. When it first came out, odds were 1-in-100 that you were back to normal. Now it’s more like 85%-to-90%. Some pitchers come back like nothing happened, while others spend years trying to find their former selves. Some are never the same. And that’s after only the first go around at surgery.

It’s a huge gamble to trade Wilson, for sure. If Wilson storms back from rehab stronger (and hopefully a little humbler) than before, then the Giants still have one of (if not the) best closers in baseball. But if he doesn’t, than they will have a struggling pitcher who will get very annoyed that a) he can’t perform at the same level he did before surgery, and b) the fame of yesterday is no longer the same. If that happens, Wilson will become a toxic asset in the clubhouse, and trying to move him then will only yield a lesser return than dealing him during recovery, when other gamblers are betting on a return of The Beard of old.

And look at the potential returns. Right now the Giants are second place in the NL West. Sure, it’s to the Dodgers, the best team in baseball, but it’s only May, and the closest competition, the injury-plauged Diamondbacks, are dropping to the DL like flies. One idea is moving Wilson for a perform now, big time veteran hitter  (practically anyone on the Red Sox is probably available) to help with the offense and stabilize a clubhouse filled with young talent. Another idea is the Giants moving Wilson for a heap of hitting prospects to cure the inept offense that has plagued them for years.

Everyone on this team can hit better than the San Francisco Giants.

Yes, for Giants fans, it would be sad to see the departure of a player who has become an icon to the city. But who knows? If Sergio Romo steps up a bit, maybe he, and not Santiago Cassila, would be the Giants’ next closer. He and Wilson sort of look-alike. Maybe you won’t have to get rid of those Santa Claus beards after all.

Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, and the San Antonio Who Cares?

In NBA on May 28, 2012 at 11:07 am

A few days ago, CNN published an article wondering why no one was rooting for the San Antonio Spurs in the playoffs. The article suggested the Spurs’ lack of popularity is due to the team being boring to watch. It argued that although we, the viewing public, scorn players like Lebron James or ‘Ron Artest’ (I refuse to give-in to this guy’s whims) for their bad behavior, we are actually all hypocrites. While we say we don’t like Lebron’s Decision, or ‘Artest’ jumping into the crowd, we still love it when it happens. It’s really us who have issues, the article states, not the team-oriented San Antonio Spurs. So why is it that we don’t love the Spurs, “nay, adore them?”

In light of the Spur’s 19th straight win Sunday, which puts the team three games away from being back into the NBA Finals for the fifth time in thirteen years, I thought it was time to reflect on why we, the viewing public, aren’t just indifferent to the team from Texas, but why most of us practically hate them. Despite the obvious “they’re boring to watch” (I don’t care how much CNN tries to spin that fact; just watch any Spurs game since Greg Popovich started coaching the team. I have a few on DVR, which I watch late at night when I’m having trouble sleeping) here’s a few more reasons.

#1: Tony Parker

Insert “I embody every French stereotype joke” here.

I know it’s not the most politically correct thing to say, but Americans have a bias against the French. It’s stupid and petty, but it still exists, even if only on a subconscious level. Fair or not, we all grew up hearing stories from our elders on how we had to “go over there” and “save their asses in World War 2.” Or we all laughed how Pepe Le Pew was a rapist. It might not be fair, but being French was still a strike against Parker before he went off and married one of the most beautiful women in the world during the height of her popularity. It was as if we were all sitting around Buffalo Wild Wings one day, watching the playoffs, and then it occurred to us how desperately we wished we could be like the little guy who flops every time an angel breathes on him, and how much we really hated ourselves because of that.

Fortunately, our feelings were vindicated a few years later when Longoria divorced Parker, because Parker was not only having an affair, but having an affair with a teammate’s wife. Maybe Le Pew isn’t so bad after all, right? The short of it is that Tony Parker is a bad person.

#2: Americans don’t like soccer

“What do you mean I can’t just fall down and cry? Come on!”

If the Spurs do in fact win a fifth championship, this could easily be titled “Manu Ginobili Wins Fifth Academy Award.” Nobody flops like Manu. To be fair, he’s really good at it. It’s as if he spent his youth locked away in a convent, where everyday he had to master his craft. If flopping and crying and whining and withering in pain until magically cured seconds later, when he drives hard for a lay-up, or complaining about ever little imaginary foul is an art, Manu Ginobili is the Mona Lisa. He’s a soccer player in a basketball jersey, and there’s a reason why Americans only watch that sport ever four years.

#3: Sins of the Past

“Sorry if you can’t hear anything over my bow-tie.”

Over the last thirteen years, the Spurs have been the dirtiest team in the NBA. From pre-bowtie Bruce Bowen karate kicking Wally Szczerbiak in the face, to kicking Chris Paul while he was down, to kicking at Amar’e Stoudemire’s feet in midair (okay, enough with Bruce Bowen), to Robert Horry’s hockey check of Steve Nash, the Spurs have built themselves a nasty reputation over the years. Some call it scrappy, some hard playing, but the fact of the matter is, when you look at all the evidence, it’s nothing more than dirty basketball. Throw in the fact that Tim Donaghy refereed the game that Horry checked Nash, and you also have a team that not only acts like they should be allowed to play above the rules, but thanks to some help, can.

“I got money on this thing, I GOT MONEY ON THIS THING!”

There are plenty of reasons why no one outside San Antonio roots for the Spurs, and none of them are because the viewing public is a bunch of ill-informed hypocrites. For all the spite Miami got directed toward them because of the way they obtained ‘The Big Three,’ the Heat are the a bunch of nice, relatable guys in comparison.

Valentine’s Day Massacre: Why the BoSox Need to Rethink Their Mess

In MLB on May 27, 2012 at 8:26 pm

It’s only May, and if you’re a professional baseball team, panicking about your team’s record at this point is sort of like freaking out about your report card after the second week of school. But, if you’re the Boston Red Sox, especially after today’s loss, maybe your feelings aren’t so far-fetched. Maybe it might be time to take your team back to the drawing board.

And I mean a completely blank page.

2012 Boston Red Sox team photo.

First draft: You trade Youkillis, Ortiz, Beckett, Lester, Gonzalez and Pedrioa. See what you can get Sweeney. See if you can get anything for Ross. Purchase a “Whacky-Waving-Inflatable-Arm-Flailing-Tube-Man,” and host an “Everyone Must Go” fire sale outside Fenway. Afterward, burn down the stadium and file an insurance claim. Relocate the team to Oklahoma City and rebrand yourself “The OKC Corrals,” but only after ruling out “The Storms,” as a possible name. Change the team’s colors to orange and blue.

After stepping away from the drawing board for a while, you take a few deep breaths, calm down, and approach the table once more.

Second draft: You admit your mistake and fire Bobby Valentine.

You put the two drafts side-by-side and judge each draft’s merits. You realize you have a team loaded with expensive talent and a new manager you hired to replace the manager you fired after he won you two World Series following an almost ninety-year drought. Valentine was supposed to bring discipline and order to your franchise, which was falling apart after losing last year’s playoff spot on the final day of the season, but has instead so far only isolated himself in a clubhouse filled with pissed-off players whom he pissed-off and isolated.

You consider your options. If you truly believe that Valentine’s leadership is the future of your club, you need to wipe the slate clean and get rid of everyone associated with the last regime. You need to go so far as to get rid of players like Gonzalez, who despite playing only one year with the former manager  (who will be referred to as ‘He Who Must Not Be Named’), is still tainted by the influence of ‘He Who Must Not Be Named.’ Everyone must go, even players like Ross, who despite joining the team just this season, has still been corrupted by the lingering influence of the past. Burn the thing down and rebuild.

Or:

You realize you made a miscalculation by hiring Valentine. You realize that maybe the tactics of the former manager (who isn’t nearly as bad as Voldermort, but your still not ready to say his name) weren’t so bad, and that maybe the club really did respond to that type of coaching, and maybe you tried to put a candle out with a waterfall. You consider that maybe Bobby Valentine is like R.L. Ermey’s drill instructor from ‘Full Metal Jacket‘ and your team’s like Peter Pan’s Lost Boys, and no amount of discipline and yelling is going to make them stop with their imaginary fried chicken, beer, or golfing on days they’re supposed to be injured. It’s just not going to happen. The two styles can’t mesh together and they never could.

“How many more losses until I can go back to Baseball Tonight?”

So after some thought, you call up your manager, assure him it’s not him, it’s you, and that you hope you can still be friends. Then, you log on to Match.com and see who’s available (One of the many compatible matches that pops up first is that of Bob Brenly, who’s stuck in a broadcast both over in Chicago. After going through his profile, you see that he not only has a World Series pedigree (against your hated rival, no less) but he did it by getting a bunch of expensive underachievers to play up to par, all while famously throwing out the rulebook imposed by the former manager, Buck Showalter, an infamous control freak himself).

Whomever you choose, make sure he’s compatible with you first. You’re the Boston Red Sox of course, and there’s no shortage of suitors who would love to nestle up to your East Coast-elite deep pockets. Make sure you’re compatible first, and then give it some time. These things don’t happen over night, after all. And if it doesn’t work after that, then you can go back to considering that first draft.

Why Steve Nash Should Re-Sign With Phoenix

In NBA on May 27, 2012 at 7:15 pm

Put me in the minority of folks yearning to see which destination Steve Nash will land, once the NBA’s free agency opens up.

As everyone seems to be clamoring for Nash to take his talents to Miami, or the Lakers, or rejoin Amar’e Stoudemire (who supposedly left Phoenix in 2010 not only for a bigger, guaranteed contract in New York, but to ironically leave the shadow cast by Nash), or even the fringe group who, for some reason, wants Nash in Portland, I for one hopes he stays where he’s at.

Sure, there are those who cry Nash must leave Phoenix because he’s too old, and over the hill. That his window of opportunity is surely shut if he stays with the team he has played with for ten years. Yet, funnily enough, those same people crying about Nash’s age are usually Laker, Heat, Knicks or Blazers fans. Or associated with ESPN. It’s as if Nash is too old in Phoenix, but man, he sure would look fantastic in (insert your team here)’s jersey…

What team wouldn’t be attracted to Nash?

There is no question that, in basketball years, Nash is old. He’s 39 years old to be precise. But at 39 it’s as if he’s going on 20, rather than 40. Maybe that’s too generous. How about 22? Regardless, he is still performing at a level far better than a majority of NBA point guards, and far better than a majority of NBA point guards available to Phoenix this free agency. Look  what he did this season: he turned a team that would have surely been a top-five lottery pick into a team that was a victory over Utah away from going to the playoffs.

I’m sure there are those in Phoenix who want Nash gone, who will point to that fact (Nash ruined the team’s lottery chances) as reason why he must leave. That the team can’t get any worse in order to get better. That only a number one lottery pick will secure the future of the franchise.

But think about this: for every Lebron James there’s Kwame Brown. If that comparison seems too extreme, because it is, think about this: for every number one pick there is a Kenyon Martin.

Martin is a pretty good player and former All-Star, but how much success has he brought the teams he’s played for? How many championships has Martin won? After you think about that, factor in all the Elton Brand’s and Joe Smith’s and Michael Olwokandi’s and you’ll realize that tanking to get the first pick doesn’t always mean a championship. It doesn’t even mean the playoffs. Or a .500 season.

And then what happens if the team doesn’t even get the number one pick, and has to pick second? Then remember Sam Bowie and Greg Oden (although Oden makes Bowie a Hall of Famer by comparison).

Nash is the best player the Phoenix Suns have. He’s arguably one of the best players available in free agency. The team should not let him walk without making every possible effort to re-sign him. Tanking doesn’t guarantee winning, only winning guarantees that (I am fully aware how obvious that statement is). Cutting off your nose to spite your face doesn’t do anything except make you ugly. And even then, no plastic surgery can guarantee a fix.

“Bwwwwaaahhhh, I have no idea what I’m doing!”

Granted, the Phoenix Suns are owned by Robert Sarver, considered one of the worst owners in basketball, so signing any free agent worth the money might be difficult for the team. But if the Suns can convince Nash to play out the rest of the his career with them, they should bend over backwards to any request he makes. He seems like a nice guy. Except for wanting good players to help him win, I’m sure none his requests are too far-fetched.

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