Thursday, June 26, 2008

NBA Draft Day

Well well NBA Draft Day is finally here, and I couldn't be...less excited? Sorry but I've just had trouble getting real fired up for this one. When talking about the draft I'm going to you these things "" a lot because the NBA Draft, at least until it actually happens, is based entirely on rumors and speculation. Entirely. GM's at this point are blowing smoke trying to strengthen their position in case they want to trade. Will they make trades? Probably not, although the Pacers/Raptors swap yesterday looked pretty good for most teams. Still, before the draft, the "rumors" and " speculation" and "sources" all say every team is looking to trade up or back or sideways. And usually nothing happens.

So we'll see, but call me skeptical. Part of it is also being a little more than skeptical that Wolves GM Kevin McHale will do the right thing at #3. What's the right thing? How about not taking Brook/Robyn Lopez (I can't remember which is the good one and I really don't care. All I know is both of them have girls names and neither is going to be a good NBA player) or Kevin Love there? The "Rumors" say McHale loves Love (You love Love? Kevin, are you just looking at players in the draft and saying you love them? I LOVE LOVE! Ok thank you Kevin), but not me. He's a 6'10 power forward with limited athletic ability who just kinda sorta disappeared in the NCAA tournament when he had to play against bigger, stronger, athletic players- you know, like the ones he'd see every night in the League. So hey, it's nice that he can throw an outlet pass 75 yards down court to the guy in row 13 aisle 11 and hit him in stride for a layup. Awesome. And that comes up how many times per game? 2? 3? What about the rest of the time? I just can't but think he's a decent white guy and so he's vastly overrated because he's, you know, a decent white guy. Maybe it's me.

And Tracy Lopez? It happens just about every year: a "white guy" (if I offend Jennifer Lopez because I'm classifying as a Useless White Center, I apologize) center gets drafted way too high for unexplained reasons. It's like Russian Roulette except with a big useless white center. This year Allison Lopez is that guy. Every fan of every team in the lottery is scared to death that their team is going to take Jessica Lopez. Mark my words somebody in the lottery will get him, and that somebody will regret it almost as soon as they take him. Don't you just LOVE the NBA Draft? No Mr. McHale, not Kevin Love, we know how you feel about him. Thanks.

So anyway, besides the scary notion that Amber Lopez will be the Wolves #3 pick, there's the also the question of what happens at #2 with the Miami Heat. Since about the midway point of the college season, "experts" decided this was a 2 player draft- with Rose and Beasley being those two players. Well OJ Mayo, he of the under-the-table-payments, actually quietly had a really good season for USC (and he'd better with how much he was being paid...sorry couldn't resist), and now Mayo is being considered as the clear-cut third best player in the draft. Well Pat Riley has been saying all along he loves OJ Mayo and wants to draft Mayo, trying to entice somebody (like the Wolves, Sonics, or Grizzlies) to move up to 2 to take him. Problem is nobody is biting. So now the question is does Riley stay at two and take the guy he says he wants in OJ Mayo, or the "consensus" second best player in Beasley?

I don't see why this is even a question. Who gives a %&^* what other people think or what other teams think of Beasley or Mayo? If Riley truly believes Mayo is the better fit and is going to be the better player, why wouldn't he just take him? I mean if the argument is that "well Beasley is a better VALUE pick because more people think he's better", isn't that a completely ridiculous argument if nobody will trade up with you to get that value? If he believes Mayo is the better player, then he should take Mayo. EVERY YEAR a guy that's taken later in the draft ends up being a much better player than most of the guys taken ahead of him. Riley has one of those guys on his team, in Dwayne Wade who was taken fifth, yet if the draft was done over he'd unquestionably go second after Bronbron. So why not just take the guy who YOU think is the best?

It all makes so much sense it probably won't happen and Miami will take Beasley and then the Wolves will probably take Love or Sharon Lopez and Mayo will go to the Oklahoma Bastard Redneck A--Holes and the state of Oklahoma will get to enjoy a Kevin Durant/OJ Mayo combo for the next decade. Hang on a minute while I go stick my head in the oven...

...Yeah so that's pretty much the worst possibility ever, but with the "bad luck" (I believe that's the term used around 600 1st Avenue at Target Center. It's not the employment strategies of Glen Taylor that have resulted in the Wolves awful performance, it's "bad luck") Minnesota has had in the last decade or so, well, I won't be surprised if in a 3 Player Draft the Wolves, with the third pick, don't get one of those 3 players.

Anywho, I'm not much interested in any of the other rumor mongering going on about the rest of the draft, because most of it is unlikely to happen, but if I'm going to be quick to rip NBA GM's for bad decisions, I should give my own thoughts before it happens (and remember this is coming from the same person who thought Adam Morrison would be a good NBA player):

A few guys I like:
Jerryd Bayless, G, Arizona: a 19 yr old 6'3 VERY athletic scoring machine "point guard". To me he's quite clearly the 4th best player in the draft, and yet his stock seems to be falling. A Gilbert Arenas (minus the crazy) type guard who is a great scorer but can handle the ball. Monte Ellis in Golden State (who's 6'3 on a tall day), is proving this kind of player is thriving in the NBA right now.

Eric Gordon, G, Indiana: There's no question he can score, but at 6'2 or 6'3 can he handle the ball well enough to be effective? While that's a scary question, definitely worth a gamble in the top 5.

DeAndre Jordan, A&M & Marreese Speights, Florida, C: Both freshman centers with TREE-MEN-DOUS upside who didn't play as well as hoped in their first college seasons. Yes, they could be the next Stro Swift or Patrick O'Bryant (chances are you haven't heard of him, and that's the point), but their ceilings are much higher than Barbara Lopez or that Kosta Koufas guy (also a freshman center and THE most likely player to be drafted in the top 15 who is guaranteed to suck. I wish you could bet on this stuff). Young bigs take longer to develop, and both of these guys are big athletic kids with potential. Would I take them in the top 10? Probably not, but I'd absolutely take a shot at them outside of there if you've got the luxury of being about to wait a few years for them to develop.

Donte Green, F, Syracuse: Another potential mid-round steal. And if you're wondering, if I was picking in the lottery outside the top 5, I would absolutely be trading back into the late teens. Greene could be another Danny Granger.

Chris Douglas-Roberts, G, Memphis: Maybe he's not athletic enough to be a good scorer in the NBA, but I'd be willing to take the chance. Watching him in the NCAA tournament he's SO crafty and seems able to get his shot off on anybody. Of course this was the same rationale I used on why Adam Morrison would be good.

Bill Walker, F, Kansas State: In high school he was basically called "like Vince Carter- except he tries". Yes, he's now suffered 2 serious knee injuries in the past year, so he could be a write-off, but with a late 1st round pick, why not take a gamble?

Friday, June 20, 2008

An Open Letter to All Boston Sports Fans

Dear Boston,

We get it: You used to have it rough. You've been through a lot of pain and agony over the years with the Sox, Celtics and Pats. Trust me, we all get it. But you know what? Believe it or not...wait you should put down your celebratory champagne and take a seat for a minute...Ok seriously pay attention here. This is going to come as a shock to you but there's two things you really need to know.

The first is that there are actually other cities and teams and fan bases out there besides you and New York. No really, there are. What's more, the rest of us are really sick and tired of this whole "rivalry" you guys have going with them. Really, rivalries are great for the people involved, but not so much for the rest of us. See what you have is called an Inferiority Complex. I should know, because I'm from Vancouver and we have one about Toronto. We hate them because they and their fans and their media (they fancy themselve the "national media" even though it revoles soley around Toronto sports) not only care only about their teams, but they think the rest of the country does too (newsflash to Toronto: the Jays are not "Canada's Team." Neither are the Raptors. There's actually no such thing as "Canada's Professional Sports Team". I looked it up. Turns out the only teams that should carry the title of "Canada's Team" are ones that compete in international events. I'm not going to tell the rest of Canada who to cheer for, but please don't tell me I should cheer for the Blue Jays or Raptors because they're based in Canada. Thanks but I'd rather not cheer for a team that's 3,000 miles away who thinks the rest of the country is just one big extension of Ontario. Thanks but no thanks).

See how much venom and angst and bitterness is in those statements? It's how you feel about New York, right? See I DO understand. But like everybody outside of Canada who would ever read this, nobody cares about our hatred of Toronto, just like nobody outside of New York and Boston cares about your hatred of New York. So please, keep it to yourselves.

The other thing I wanted to tell you is that not only are there other places besides Boston and New York with sports, but that most, if not all, of these places and fans have had it worse than you (well not counting the pro sports fans in Atlanta, LA, and Miami. If you took their teams away tomorrow they wouldn't even notice). Yes there's actually places where they haven't won the three major professional sports titles in the last two years, and six in the last eight. Believe it or not there are fans who would take 81 years with no World Series title to now have the best run team in baseball and an unlimited budget. Or the best football team of the past decade. Spygate? Losing to the Giants to ruin a 19-0 season? Must be so rough! Or getting to watch Kevin Garnett win a title in his first season there instead of watching him work his ass off year after year for nothing while your GM hunts and fishes and plays golf and on the two or three weeks a year he decides to work, he makes bad draft choices, trades and/or free agent signings. Really, I'm sure those 18 years between your 16th and 17th NBA Titles were difficult, but here's hoping you guys will recover.

Come to think of it, you guys have actually won another award! That's right, you know how you hate New York fans because you think they're pompus and arrogant and act like they own the sports world? Well guess what- that's now you! You have taken the mantle from New York as the most hated sports city in America, and perhaps the world. Congratulations, there's yet another title you can add to your already bloated trophy case.

So on behalf of the rest of the planet, your rights to whine and complain in public about the "misfortunes" of your teams have hereby been officially revoked for the next two centuries. Hell let's make it three. Not one more $&%*ing word about Spygate or Rick Pitino or Tim Duncan or Bill Buckner or the Bambino. You have now won three championships in the past two years in the three professional sports that really matter, and have won six titles this century. You're rabid, you're passionate, and you love your teams, your players, and your city. Well congratulations and enjoy it because you've earned it.

Now shut the hell up.

Thank you.


The sports fans of every other city (except for those in Atlanta, LA, Miami, New York, and Toronto- we've had enough of you too)

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Good For KG, Bad for Minnesota

Congratulations to Kevin Garnett on wining a title last night with the Celtics. If anyone in the NBA deserved one for how hard he plays and how much he cares, it's KG. When he looked to the rafters and screamed whatever it was he screamed while talking to ABC sideline reporter Michelle Tafoya last night, it was a genuine shout of joy, a realization that all he's worked for finally paid off. This is a guy who won't be pulling a Javon Walker and showing off his bling in a Las Vegas club, but instead really and truly appreciating this championship and what it means. Not only that, he'll work just as hard this offseason to go get another one. There's nobody else like him in sports right now, which is why even though he left Minnesota, you can't help but love the guy.

Yet while it was nice he remembered Timberwolves fans with a "This one's for 'Sota" reference after the game, it's clear this was not a championship that Wolves fan can share in, and instead only a clearer reminder of how badly the organization failed in their attempts to put a winner around him. Yes, Paul Pierce deserved the MVP (talk about a statement series for PP. Wow!), and KG solidified himself forever as a "Scottie-Pippenesque" great player who plays second fiddle, but there is no doubt Garnett was and is the heart and soul of that Boston team. Again, I'm very happy he won, but if you're somebody who cheered hard for him when he was in Minnesota and loved him (I'm hoping Jer comments or posts on this topic, since KG is his favorite player of all-time. For me it goes Griffey Jr, Mario Lemieux, Shawn Kemp, KG, Gary Payton- I LOVED GP when he was in Seattle, but my love wore off once he left-, Chris Webber and Barry Sanders), this was not a title to be celebrated but instead a bitter reminder of how badly the Wolves have and continue to fail.

And yes, I'm also bitter at the city of Boston. They are dominating the three sports that matter, and what's worse is that they have the nerve to whine about the Super Bowl loss. Really? You've already won 3 Super Bowls in the last five years, the Red Sox have won twice, and now the Celtics win their 17TH CHAMPIONSHIP?!?!? Excuse me if I don't feel sorry for you, while my teams in Seattle and Minnesota continue to go oh-fer. This cements them as my most hated sports city right now, grabbing the title from New York, and rank right up there with Bronco and Packer fans as the most arrogant and annoying. Of course this could be true of just about any fanbase who has some success, but since my teams never win, I'll never know.

Having said that, better the fans of Boston get the titles than LA, since the people in New England actually appreciate it. I'm KNOW there are die-hard Lakers fans in LA, but when watching the games in La-La-Land, those people were nowhere to be found. It was the rich and famous and well-to-do who were just there to be seen, and I'm sure haven't lost one single second of sleep over the Lakers losing a series in which they were the better team but never played like them. So I guess I'm saying that I feel the same way about Boston fans as Wes Mantooth does about Ron Burgandy: I straight hate them...but dammit do I respect them.

Finally, the last time I posted, which was like sometime in 1997, I mentioned how Kobe really couldn't gain much in the public eye by winning this series. What I failed to mention or make a bigger deal of was just how much he had to lose. He was the second best player in the league this season, and he was THE best in the first three rounds of the playoffs. But in the Finals, facing some truly epic defense from Paul Pierce and the Celtics, as well as some awful performances from his teammates (that Pau Gasol trade does not look quite so good now, does it?), we saw the worst and most hated parts of Kobe in all his ugliness. For me, I really enjoyed watching him in the first three rounds, but felt like everybody else in the Finals, and Kobe now has cemented his legacy as one of the most hated NBA players ever along with Bill Laimbeer (and really most of that Pistons team) and Jim McLlvaine (oh wait, that's probably just me). But hey, on the bright side, the NBA has a true villain again on a team that's not going away. And it has a hero in Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and the Celtics.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

An Evil Petting Zoo?

Poor Kobe Bryant. He’s not only threatening to become the best player since Michael Jordan, he’s also threatening A-Rod and Barry Bonds for the crown of America’s Most Hated Athlete.

Thanks to MJ, we'll never be able to fully appreciate Kobe's brilliance. Well, ok that and the fact he forced himself on a 19 year old as a married man...and tried to force a trade at the beginning of this eason and then magically backed off when Pau Gasol fell out of the sky...and forced Shaq out of town on a rail…and forced roughly 97 shots in his first all-star game...

Ok so I guess Kobe has contributed plenty to ruin his own reputation, by trying to force himself to be someone he’s not. Newsflash: Kobe is NOT Michael Jordan. While I think basketball fans worldwide have grasped this concept, it’s about time Kobe did too. This is not a knock on Bryant, who during these playoffs has clearly established himself as the best player on the planet (yes I am aware Lebron James is alive and well. I’m also aware that wherever he is right now, Bronbron’s working a lot harder to become The Global Icon than he is on a mid range jumper or any semblance of post moves), it’s just that we can tell Kobe’s trying a little too hard off the court to please us. And he needs to stop.

Look, on the court, if you can just forget about all the off-court stuff, he has been A-MAZE-ING to watch during these playoffs. Did he deserve the regular season MVP? No. Still should have been Chris Paul. Will he be the Finals MVP in June of 2024 when this series finally ends (we’re assuming it’ll have started by then. Not sure though. Let’s take more time to start the series and in between games. Brilliant)? No doubt. Dare I say it, but he’s taking over playoff games in similar fashion as a certain #23 did for the Bulls in his prime. His performance has been bigger than the 31.9 pts, 6.1 boards and 5.8 assists he’s been averaging this spring; it’s the WAY he’s been doing all of this. Deferring to his teammates early, trusting them enough to make plays, and then taking over down the stretch. The game 5 victory summed up what Kobe’s become: 17 of his 39 points in the fourth quarter as he brought the Lakers back from 17 down in the second half to take the series. And honestly, when the Spurs had the big lead early in the third, didn’t you just KNOW the Lakers were coming back, and Kobe was going to be the one leading them? And unlike Bronbron, he’s not trying to the rim 1-on-5 or firing up ridiculous fade-away 3’s. Because Kobe has actually worked his ass off on his midrange jumper, he can hit those all night, forcing the defense to play him honestly, which gives him the opportunity to get to the rim uncontested over and over.

And I don’t see this changing against the Celtics. Boston has nobody that guard him 1-on-1, and they can’t employ the “All Hands on Deck!” strategy to swarm him when he drives, because he’ll either a) hit the 12 footer or b) his teammates will kill them. I don’t care how good Boston’s D is because the Lakers with a healthy Pau Gasol have been flat unstoppable (and just wait until they get Andrew Bynum back next season. Dynasty anyone?). I’ll take the Lakers in 6, but could see it over in 5 pretty easily.

ANYWHO, back to Kobe. On the court he’s been other-worldly: Cool, calm and collected, an absolute assassin. Nothing forced, nothing contrived. Off the court? Um yeah he’s the complete opposite. He fake-laughs at jokes, tries to play nice with the media, and act like a fun-loving guy. Except he’s not, and he never will be. He could win 10 titles (and again, if Bynum comes back anywhere close to 100% next year, it’s really not out of the question) and he’ll still never EVER be considered as good as Jordan because of how Kobe’s handled himself.

See this is the most underrated part of the Greatness of Michael Jordan: it’s not just how well he played on the court, but how well he handled himself off the court. His public persona was ALWAYS classy, confident and in control. He had charm, personality and charisma that you just can’t teach, but the brilliance of Jordan, and those in his inner circle, was that he made sure this is the only Jordan you ever knew.

A friend of a friend told a story at my buddy Sheldon’s wedding (not during the wedding mind you. Sometime during that weekend. Sitting around a lake and drinking Kokanee was involved) about seeing MJ in a restaurant he worked at. Jordan and his crew sat in the back, and Mike spoke, how do I say this…”Eubonics” (ok that’s the whitest thing I’ve ever written, but I can’t think of how else to say it). Jordan spoke like he was from the hood, talking smack and sounding as black as any rapper on MTV. The Sports Guy has told a couple of stories like this where you don’t see the “Corporate MJ” but instead the “Black MJ” which is probably more who he really is. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with this, it’s just that in his playing days, he never let the media and public see this part of him. And it’s not like this part of him wasn’t there. Not only that, he was also so bloody competitive in his playing days that he was as bad a teammate or worse as Kobe has ever been (if you’re interested, read a book by Chicago Tribune columnist Sam Smith called The Jordan Rules. It’s an incredible behind-the-scenes look where you see how much of an a-hole Jordan could be. The guy hated to lose so much that he refused to workout with his teammates because Horace Grant could lift more than he could.)

Anyway, what I’m trying to say is Jordan was, or at least could be, just as much as an arrogant a-hole as Kobe is, but he was just much, much better at hiding it. Jordan’s big mistake, his gambling problems, were also a lot more forgiveable than what Kobe did (if you’re scoring at home, and you become famous and screw up, make sure your problems are either alcohol or gambling related. People will forgive you for that. Just ask Brett Favre. But getting on a 19 year old when you’re supposed to be rehabbing your knee, or jumping into a hot tub with high school girls- I’m talking to YOU Mark Chmura!- yeah people will not be so willing to forgive you for that one. Like ever. Good luck living that down. Oh and don’t do steroids and then lie about it. Also a bad one), although I think Kobe’s potential to supplant MJ was over even before his fated rehab in Colorado, because he was always trying way too hard to be MJ. His first all-star game when he shot 12 million times ticked off more than just the players- it ticked off the fans too, and they’ve generally been against him ever since.

And again, this is not to say Kobe’s as good a player as Jordan- he’s not. I’d take Jordan in his prime 100% of the time over Kobe. But I’m saying that even if Kobe continues the dominance he’s shown this spring for the next five or six years and goes onto shatter all the career scoring records, he’ll still never be considered the greatest player ever because people just don’t like him.

Personally, I think he needs to stop forcing the “nice-guy” routine and just embrace his inner A-Hole. I don’t watch fake-wrestling, but I understand there’s good guys and bad guys, and that Hulk Hogan once switched to the bad guys and wore all black and tried to become the villain. Kobe needs to do the same thing. I mean, if people hate him already, what does he have to lose? Why not go all-out with the Dr. Evil/Cobra Commander/Darth Vader thing? Always wear black and refer to himself in the third person. Constantly tell us how great he is and how much everybody else sucks. Club baby seals, clear cut forests, don’t recycle, say he hates white people, have sharks with fricken lasers on their heads. Do whatever will really upset the masses, then go out on the court and continue to destroy people.

If he’s destined to be the guy people hate to love he might as well put his efforts into being the guy we love to hate. So put away the Come Fly With Me videos and start watching Dr. Evil, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Hillary Clinton, and work to be The Villain we know he can be.

It’s fricken freezing in here Mr. Bigglesworth!