Sunday, May 31, 2015

The NBA Finals Pick: All Or One

All Or One
With just another week or six before the start of the NBA Finals, it's time to get the prediction out there. And while I'm going to do my due diligence on this, in the hopes that it doesn't reduce to something just oppressively dumb, there's no getting around it... starting this round, you are either taking the team that has what is universally regarded as the best player, or the one that has the best team. The fact that this seems to be a relatively even split tells you all you really need to know abut the nature of hoop, and the nature of LeBron James.

So let's get into it...

GOLDEN STATE vs. Cleveland

The case for Golden State: The best team in the regular season. Home court advantage, and they've got an absurdly good record there, with crowd noise that's unmatched in the Association. Deep and strong bench that frequently separates from opponents, or at the very least, requires crushing starter minutes from the opposition, who tend to wear out over the course of a series. Might be the best long-distance shooting team in NBA history. Rookie HC Steve Kerr has been uncanny in his adjustments and ability to draw optimal performance from benchies and stars alike. Shooting creates a margin for error that most teams just don't have, and has allowed them to come back from big deficits, and to explode past teams in short bursts. Deadly in transition, and much better on the road than in the past. Good enough at the line to close out games and not give up leads. PF Draymond Green was the runner-up for Defensive Player of the Year, and SG Andre Iguodala and C Andrew Bogut were second-team. PG Shaun Livingston is long and good, and might end the Matthew Dellevedova run that terrorized the Cavs' earlier opponents. There's no one alive that can "stop" LeBron James, but Golden State has more guys that can slow him than anyone. Has Stephen Curry, who has been the best player in the NBA this year. They are 12-3 in the playoffs in the varsity conference.

The case against Golden State: Turnover-prone, especially against strong on the ball pressure. Have benefited from an optimal playoff schedule in the West, in that they played the inexperienced (New Orleans), the injured (Memphis) and the injured and thin (Houston) to get to the Finals. Had they ran into the Clippers or Spurs early, or Memphis at full speed, the 12-3 record might not be as pristine. C Andrew Bogut has been hit or miss, and C Festus Ezeli might be playing over his head. G Klay Thompson was concussed in the series ender against Houston, and hasn't been as effective as he was in the regular season. If PG Stephen Curry is turning it over and not hitting from distance, they can lose their way. Prone to going for highlight plays, rather than workmanlike. No Finals experience, outside of Kerr, and he's never been here as a coach.

The case for Cleveland: In LeBron James, they have the best player of the generation, and one of the five best in the history of the Association, fully rested and at the height of his powers. NBA playoffs have been won on less than "Team With Best Player Wins", especially when, like James, he's the best player on both ends of the floor. James hasn't had the best year, but he is, without a doubt, the best player. The nature of the travel schedule and television timeouts greatly diminishes the importance of a bench, which makes James even more vital.

PG Kyrie Irving might be healthy for this, and if so, he can make Curry work on both ends, and maybe even have games where he matches him on production. PF Tristan Thompson has been incredible on the offensive glass, and C Timofey Mozgov has been dramatically more effective with James feeding him. SG/SF J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert have been able to score on open looks, and defend all over the floor. Dellevedova is more irritating than a rat in an elevator, and has had a JJ Barea in Dallas level impact. They are 12-2, and haven't been tested since the Chicago series, and even then, not really.

The case against Cleveland: Make no mistake about this; this team operates without benefit of a coach, assuming you don't just give that credit to James as well. Smith and Shumpert can shoot them out of games, and might remember that they were Knicks at some point. If James can't ever get off the court, could wear down, and hasn't been efficient as a shooter in these playoffs. Iguodala has had some success against him in the past (see Sixers v. Heat, when Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were frequently the best Heatles on the court), and the Warriors just spent a series turning one outstanding offensive asset into a shell of himself by the end of the series. Some weak free throw shooters, and occasionally prone to foul trouble. James, for all of his merits, is only 2-3 in the Finals, having lost to the Spurs, Mavericks and Spurs, and beating the Thunder and Spurs. Keep in mind that the Spurs win all three of their encounters with James if Ray Allen doesn't hit a miracle three at the buzzer in Game Six... and the Warriors play a lot more like the Spurs than the Thunder. Finally, the Cavs' opponents in the East (Celtics, Bulls and Hawks) might not have won a series against anyone in the top half of the conference, and maybe not the bottom, either.

The pick: I think we're going long, folks. The time off will be terrific for the Cavs. Thompson might not be very effective at all for the Warriors, having struggled for much of these playoffs against more intense marking, and coming off the concussion. Mozgov and Thompson give the Cavs a fighting chance at parity on the offensive glass, and it's not as if James doesn't open up rebounding opportunities. The Warrior bench isn't going to have much of a chance to impact this series early, unless there are overtime games and/or foul issues, which is a major bonus that's different than the regular season. Cleveland Fan hasn't won a championship in forever, and realistically, hasn't been this close since Jose Fricking Mesa. We are, in short, in for a massive and incredibly compelling battle.

But at the end of all things, my heart says Dubs. It's been 40 years since the best basketball fans in the world had a shot at a championship so they aren't really giving up anything to Cleveland there. Had Atlanta gotten Game 3, I think they would have pushed the Cavs to six games, because there are major issues with this team, especially at defense on the point guard. That's not exactly the problem you want to have when you are facing Curry, and even if the Cavs throw James at him, the other Dubs are good enough at ball movement to get great looks and layups. James probably also can't stay with Curry at this point in his career, having had little success in last year's Finals when he tried to stop the Spurs at the head with Tony Parker. Finally, playing against the lEast has to count for something, right?

Warriors in seven.

Year to date: 12-2

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Brief And Obvious Points About Sam Bradford's (Lack Of) Health at OTAs

Needs Moar QBs
Perhaps trading for a QB that is coming off two straight season-ending ACL issues, who makes 6X what the QB you traded him for, plus you gave up draft picks...

And the health issues were significant enough that said QB had to be talked off the retirement ledge, and if he does get on the field, he'll be Not Mobile in a system where the QB needs to be at least a little bit mobile...

 And the QB in question is not exactly Johnny Freaking Unitas when it came to his statistical performance before the injury, and was slow before he got hurt...

Well, all of that might speak to a certain, shall we say, utter lack of clue in the part of Boy Genius GM Chip Nero Kelly, who is also the coach, and who has also never had this job before.

 I'm sure that as soon as the Eagles pour some Magic Smoothies on Bradford's knee, all will be well. And if it's not, Jebus will make Tim Tebow's ability to throw a football actually manifest, or that prolonged exposure to Nero will make Mark Sanchez stop being a turnover machine. Perhaps all of this is Genius Level Motivation for Matt Barkley to Be Great Right Now. Sure, that's it.

Or that this is all turning into a double-digit loss machine that will somehow result in Nero making more moves for more Not Good Ideas at Quarterback, because super offensive geniuses can only win with great QB play.

Finally, I will accept that I'm just not clapping hard enough for any of these various Tinkerbells, and that the previous 55 years of championship-free play is just because Philly Fan, unlike fans in any other city, boo athletes and are mean.

Clap harder for Nero! He'll fiddle if you clap harder!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Top 10 reasons why the Bulls fired Tom Thibodeau

Thibs Wearing His Unsurprised Face
10) Want to make sure the guy wearing the suit when LeBron James ends them next year looks different

9) Would have been awkward to have him still employed when Fred Hoiberg started doing his job

8) Making the playoffs for five straight years is a lot less impressive when it's in the lEast

7) A new coach will stop making the strategic mistake of filling Derrick Rose's knees with pencil shavings and coffee grounds

6) In the NBA, consistent defensive tenacity really only gets you so far, so being a defensive expert doesn't scream out Won't Hit A Plateau

5) Thibs didn't do enough to promote the team's culture, which is PR BS speak for He Didn't Beat LeBron And Failed To Kiss Ass With Enthusiasm And Vigor

4) Being the second-best coach in franchise history isn't as impressive as you might think, considering the Bulls have really only had one good era

3) Just couldn't adjust to the reality that regular season doesn't mean squat

2) It's almost impossible for an NBA head coach to keep a gig for five years without a ring

1) As it was a slow news day in the NBA, they wanted to treat themselves

Thursday, May 28, 2015

The Warriors Advance En Masse

Yes,Yes, There Was
The history books will say this was Warriors 4, Rockets 1, with Houston SG James Harden committing an NBA record number of turnovers in the clincher. But what happened here was just one of those reminders that sports is not cinema, and the story does not have to be what you'd expect to be compelling.

The first two games of this series was medicinal grade hoop, with Harden playing out of his mind, only to lose both games, the last of which ended with the ball in his hands, and unable to get a shot off. Game Three in Houston saw the Warriors play their best game of the playoffs and end most doubt, in a game that was just a "Sweet Georgia Brown" soundtrack away from being full clowning. Game Four saw MVP Stephen Curry get hurt, Harden turn in his third of four great games, and the Rockets getting a lead and holding it all night.

So Game Five was expected to be the end of the series, and there were so many ways it would happen, really. Curry would have another one of those Good Lord nights from the field. Klay Thompson, quiet until Game Four, would capitalize on what he figured out in the last game and do the honors. The Warrior bench would put the game out of reach, as they had done so many times this year. Houston would quit, the way they did in any number of big playoff losses this year.

Instead... none of that happened. At all.

Curry couldn't hit from distance at his usual level of insanity. Thompson committed five fouls, then took a Trevor Ariza running knee to the temple, and was unable to return due to persistent bleeding. Andrew Bogut was scoreless, though far from poor. Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes and Andre Iguodala stepped up and played fine, but no single Dub player was the reason why the Rockets' season ended tonight. Houston kept making mini-runs and refusing to go away, even though C Dwight Howard continued his field test of how having a full load of technical fouls while being A Superstar just means you get away with more at the close.

No, this was pretty much on the Rockets, and most specifically Harden, just getting turned into mulch by the Warriors' pace and quality depth. When you are getting worked like a speed bag by fun retread G Leandro Barbosa, and when 9-team backup PG Shaun Livingston and injury-riddled back-up C Festus Ezeli are dispatching you with prejudice, that's a depth issue. The Dub depth is crazy great.

Depth in basketball doesn't get a lot of love. That's because most people live in the lEast, and have watched LeBron James drag increasingly unlikely starting teammates with him to the Finals. (Seriously, he's doing it with Knicks this year. It's insane.) But James lost to depth last year in the 10-deep Spurs, and the smart money is going to say it's going to happen again.

The Rocket starters were not the problem for them. Sure, they weren't better than the Dubs, and might not even have been with their missing PG and PF. But Harden had absolutely nothing tonight, and given his minutes and his role, they had no other options but to keep him out there and hope that he somehow found it again.

Will this happen again to James and the Cavs in a week? That's a topic for another day, and given that there is a full week of time off, there's no reason to rush into that. But the point should be made that the Rockets beat the Clippers because they had a better bench, and the Warriors ended the Rockets early because *they* had a better bench. It's not something that gets a lot of play, but that doesn't make it any less accurate.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Why UFC Is Winning

White On Whiter Crime
Last Saturday night, one of the regulars in my poker game hosted his own tournament in a brand-new basement space, and invited me over. The night at the tables went well, but that's not really the point. And yes, this will get back to marketing and advertising soon enough. Anyway...

My man has a fine new big screen TV, and had also splurged on the Ultimate Fighting Championship pay per view. I've been moderately familiar with the sport from just general cultural awareness, but had never seen an event up close. And while I'm long past the event horizon for becoming a fan, it's clear from just one viewing as to why the sport has made such inroads in certain demographics. Let's get into it.

* * * * *

1) It delivers what it promises.

In 11 fights, there were definitive winners (knock out or submission) in six events, with clear decisions (unanimous judging) in four others. If what works for you in sports is a clear winner and a clear loser, there really isn't anything more definitive than the end of an average MMA contest.

2) There's no "slow" play.

There doesn't seem to be such a thing as pointing your opponent to defeat, a la Floyd Mayweather, in a long and boring event where only the most discerning eye seems to acquire any worth from the contest. With so many offensive disciplines on the table, defense in UFC seems to be a case of ending your opponent's efforts before they end yours. Waiting them out, not so much. Which makes for a far more compelling spectacle.

3) There's a set schedule.

UFC events are numbered for a reason, and that reason is that the people who are watching this one seem absolutely locked into watching the next one. Which will be in three weeks, and the one after that is already on the calendar as well. Unlike boxing, where fans have to sometimes wait for years to see the fight they want, UFC fans know when their next fix is coming, and can plan accordingly.

4) It's pretty much impossible to not watch.

As noted above, I'm not a fight guy. I was in the room to play poker. But when the fight was live, the game was not, because that's just the nature of two people who might, well, fundamentally alter the course of the life of the other, in front of you. There's a reason why this sort of thing goes back eons, and why the competitors who seem more skilled at drawing the ire of the crowd get even more attention than anyone else. You can call it a train wreck if you like, but you're still watching.

5) There's no learning curve to new viewers.

Football, basketball, baseball: all have fairly arcane rules that can cause a new viewer to, well, ruin it for experts in the room by asking basic questions. As advanced mathematics come into play for player evaluations, the barrier to entry increases, because no one wants to explain all of that as well. UFC has more strategy and statistics than a casual observer might imagine, but you really don't need to know any of them to understand what's going on. Two people are trying to do massive and sudden violence to each other. You can ignore the statistics if you like.

6) It's (cheerfully) niche and exclusionary.

If you find this kind of sport to be morally repugnant, or the human equivalent of cockfighting, or something that just shows the worst of human behavior glorified and made fiscally lucrative... well, you aren't going to be watching it. Ever. Which means that the people who are watching it don't ever have to hear from you, as football fans have to during the run-up to the Super Bowl, or baseball fans have to with people who think their game is dull during the World Series, or basketball fans, or hockey fans, or soccer fans, and so on, and so on. There's big money in MMA (UFC is said to be worth $2 billion now, or 100X what it sold for in 2001), and yet it still has the feel of a shared secret, without watered down fantasy league fans or office pools.

7) It's going to get bigger, and probably better, with international scalability.

Like big special effects movies, you don't have to show massive artistic worth to make this product cross borders (or, likely, even a translation). There's a reason why boxers used to be worldwide celebrities. MMA fighters may not have the same level of appeal or career length, but so long as the events come out routinely and avoid high impropriety, there's no reason whatsoever to think the top of the wave is in sight.

Is there a gating element on the horizon? Well, sure. The nature of the sport is primal and exclusionary, and at some point, a fatality might occur in a high visibility event. (Some Web research tells me that there have been a handful so far in lesser leagues, but so far, the incidents have been less than boxing, which isn't exactly the highest of praise.) That potential might keep mainstream advertising away, though there's certainly a lot of big brands already on the telecast. The history of combat sports is one of inevitable corruption, because gamblers only need to get to one person to create fraud. That's probably going to happen here, if it hasn't already.

But in terms of what I saw in the room? Mainstream sports wish they had this level of attachment from their audiences. Which means it's also a DVR-free experience, and a high value marketing and advertising opportunity for targeted demographics.

Top 10 reasons why the NBA didn't give Dwight Howard an ejection for his Game Four flagrant foul

Yeah, Kinda Flagrant
10) Andrew Bogut is big, and hence, someone you can swing an elbow at with abandon

9) Howard is still enough of a star to get away with this, because the NBA kind of needs him to be

8) Better story for when he snaps and cheap shots someone while down 20 in Game Five

7) Someone told Rod Thorn that Throwback Tuesday was a thing

6) Didn't want to give the Rockets any kind of motivation to get to Game Six

5) Mark Jackson called in one last Screw Bogut favor

4) Everybody knows that the closer you get to a suspension for technicals, the more leeway you get in earning one

3) No one wants to see just how much the Warriors would intentionally foul Clint Capela

2) It's not as if Howard is a terrible human being who has boned multiple franchises, unlike that J.R. Smith monster

1) As Howard wasn't competent enough to actually hurt Bogut, he needs to be back in there to get a second chance

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Brief and Obvious Point About MLB Players Wearing Camouflage Gear on Memorial Day

Camo Ching
I'm sure that the following is going to be misun- derstood, but so be it.

MLB is donating $30 million to veterans' related causes, so that makes the sale of all of this camouflage gear OK, right? 

Um, no. Sorry.

If you want to honor the sacrifices of the service members, you don't make it a "yes and" moment. You just make the donation, and if you are truly charitable about it, you make it more than a one-time check writing greenwash moment.

You make a continued stink about the scandal that is the VA's inability to upgrade their services and get coverage faster.

You make a political stink for the long haul, and don't just back away behind your merch sales. You also don't try to make back your check through the sale of merch that, in all likelihood, is priced at 10X your cost, or maybe more, given how much stuff is made overseas.

If you, personally, want to honor the troops on your day off today, that's fine. Go to a hospital and volunteer. Start a continuing commitment to causes like Wounded Warrior. Tell the vets in your life how much they mean to you.

Or, better yet, support any and all efforts, now or in the future, to prosecute anyone that ever participates or encourages putting our people in harm's way, especially when it turns out to be in the service of corporate interests, or in the support of a base lie.

You say you love our veterans?

Then let's work to make sure we don't have so goddamned many of them.

And if you are MLB?

You use your political clout to do something more than pinkwashing with camouflage.

Because veterans, more so than the general public or your media enablers... are smart enough to see through this BS...

The Tyranny Of King James

Horford's Exit
Tonight in Cleveland, Atlanta played with the kind of desperation and energy that a coach can only dream of. Bench guys came in and made big shots on the road. They stood in the face of the fire of Prime LeBron and came back in the fourth quarter. They shook off end of clock threes and despairing dunks. They even held a lead late in the fourth and in overtime, with PG Jeff Teague finally showing the pure aggro that they'd need, especially with Kyrie Irving out with injury.

But at the end of all things, the Cavs had LeBron James, who threw down a ridiculous triple double (37/18/13). The Hawks missed a couple of missed open threes that could have sent it to double overtime. The Cavs now lead 3-0, and no one in the NBA has ever come back from down 3-0.

It's James' 12th career playoff triple double, which makes him second on that list, behind only Jason Kidd, who would usually only get 37 in 3 games. No one has ever had a game like that in the playoffs, and oh by the way, James started 0-for-10 and scoreless in the first quarter. Games like this are why I think James might be the best player in NBA history, simply because he does this kind of thing with less help. If James is off the floor, I don't think this Cavs team gets home court in the West. James is a game away from his fifth straight chance to win it all, and he's doing it with starting teammates who were part of the worst teams in the NBA in Denver and New York. As good as his numbers are, what he allows his teammates to do might be even bigger.

It's hard, honestly, to overstate James' contribution tonight. Had the Hawks won this game, it's 2-1 with the Cavs looking wounded, with Irving down and James, at some point, likely to lose tread with various cramps and knee issues. If the Cavs can close out the Hawks in Game Four -- and that's not a given, seeing how hard the Hawks tried tonight, down multiple starters -- they'll get a week and change off before the Finals, and no one will remember just how close this was to being an actual series.

There will be side chatter about Matthew Delevedova getting into his third incident in two weeks -- Taj Gibson, Kyle Korver, and now, Al Horford -- and some kind words for Kent Bazemore and Tristan Thompson. But you can save yourself a lot of time and worry here. The Cavs have the best player on the planet, in a conference where only three of the top 15 players in the NBA play. The second of those guys is James' teammate. He's a bully in a small playground, and the lEast might have been won on the day he chose to stay in conference.

Finally, this. There's been a lot of one-note attack on what Sixers' GM Sam Hinkie has been doing for the past couple of years, or how teams in the East have just been unwilling to step up their game to combat James. Then you see games like tonight, and on some level, you just understand it. The only opponent that's strong enough to defeat James in the East is the one that gets all great players in the end -- age. And that might come sooner than you think.

James is 30 now, and will be 31 in December. He's already played over 43,000 minutes when you add in the playoff minutes. By comparison, he'll have played as much as Michael Jordan did when he was 34 and walking away from the game in Chicago for the second time. He's already played more combined minutes than Larry Bird and Magic Johnson.

Wait, there's more. The full list of active players with more regular season minutes than James reads like a graveyard. Antawn Jamison (he's active?), Joe Johnson, Jason Terry, Andre Miller, Shawn Marion, Vince Carter, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki, Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett. He's 12th in all-time playoff minutes, with the only actives ahead being Tony Parker, Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan.

Which makes tonight's Cavs win... bigger than even Game Five and Six when they turned the tide against the Bulls. This can't continue forever, even in games like this one, when it looks like it will.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Growing Up Dubs: The Warriors Go Up 3-0

Curry, Inside, With The Testes
Coming into tonight's game, it was clear what was going to happen. After two close losses on the road, the Rockets were going to come back home and get their obvious win over the happy to be ahead Warriors. Houston had played too well, the home crowd would be too amped up, and most importantly, the Warriors would be satisfied enough to be up, rather than come out with clear fire in their eyes and go for the kill shot to the series.

So what happened? The game was over by halftime... for the road club. In a series where big early advantages have melted faster than ice cream on a hot day, there was no great run and challenge. The Warriors switched defensive adjustments on James Harden, Stephen Curry came out and crushed the weak Rocket point guards, and the Warriors won by a shocking 35 points.

How bad was it? The Warriors took their first lead four minutes into the game, took their second lead at five minutes, and never trailed again. They didn't turn the ball over in the first quarter, and when the Dubs aren't turning the ball over, they are terrifying. The bench looked better than the Rocket starters, and the Dubs scored dunks after Rocket made baskets, which really should not ever happen. Harden was turned into a low efficiency scorer, and Curry out-bumped Howard and took away an o-board away from him in a sequence that was more emasculating than any dunk facial you have ever seen. Rockets coach Kevin McHale called his team's effort into question, and the vast majority of this one could be called garbage time.

And sure, the Rockets are prone to falling apart against anyone at any time, because when your second and third best players are Howard and Josh Smith, you can fall apart at any time... but to me, this had much more to say about the Warriors than the Rockets. In the past, under Mark Jackson, they were far too content to just get back home with any kind of lead, knowing that their home court was such a strong advantage. In these playoffs, they are now 5-1 on the road. In the past, under Jackson, they'd keep the same defensive matchups, with Jackson going for motivational speeches over switches. In these playoffs, under head coach Steve Kerr, they make adjustments, and they've been unfailingly accurate. In the past, Curry would wear down and get exploited on defense. Now, Curry gets quasi-rest minutes on offense when Shaun Livingston comes in, because Livingston is long and defensively active, whereas past Dub bench guards were sieves.

With both conference finals looking to be the minimum, we're looking at up to nine days off, a ridiculous amount of time, before Game 1 of Dubs-Cavs on Thursday, June 4. The layoff is likely to hurt the Warriors more, since they will start at home, and a weak game at home is more destructive than a weak game on the road. And it seems odd to throw dirt on the Rockets a week after they came back from 3-1 to run the Clippers out of the playoffs... but the Dubs are better than the Clippers, deeper, and smarter. This was the game they were supposed to lose, and they wiped the floor with the home team. They really don't look like they are losing again in May, or interested in giving the world a minute more of basketball than they need to. We'll see if they are that ruthless on Monday.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Be Here Now: The Warriors Go Up 2-0

Defense For The Win
If you don't love hoop, and aren't watching this series... I don't get you, really.

This is pharma- ceutical grade Game, between two teams that are perfect for each other, with everything you could hope to see.

Two of the three best players in the world, Stephen Curry and James Harden, trading shot for shot and play for play, amazingly different players producing damn near the same results.

Big surly Dwight Howard and Andrew Bogut having big games against each other, coming back after injury and adversity.

Benches that are good enough to make runs, and sketchy enough to give them up. Comebacks from big deficits, back-breaking mistakes and plays in crunch time, and a crowd that's just out of their minds all the way through. No intentional fouling, or coaches overstepping their bounds. Very little in the way of flopping or fouling or anything else that distracts from The Power Of Hoop.

If these games were just being broadcasted by someone other than the World Wide Lemur chuckleheads, I think I might be dreaming it all. I want the Dubs to win because I love them, but I want them to do it in seven, just to get Moar Hoop. MOAR HOOP.

Anyway... Houston is now 0-6 against the Warriors this season, but were just a play away from taking control of the series tonight, with a ferocious comeback that was all about them, rather than mistakes by the Dubs. Harden just missed triple doubles the first two games, despite strong on the ball defense. As for the ultimate sequence, when Harden couldn't get a shot off while down one, with the world ready to chastise the Rockets for not calling a timeout... you can't take the ball away from him in that moment, not with the Rockets having an odd-man advantage on a break. The on the ball defense by the Dubs in that moment was frantic and as clean as you get late, and there's no way that Klay Thompson and Curry make that play before this year.

If the Warriors can get past turnovers, maybe they make this series short. They are, just like Houston, good enough to win on the road, and the Rockets are filled with guys who have erratic play in their past. But the reality is that this one is going to go deep, and be amazing, and there's no way the Rockets just roll over and die, having already come back from 3-1 in the second round, just to get here. Golden State has simply held serve. I'd be stunned if this one doesn't go seven.

A final note on this... the post that I shared on the corporate blog the other day, about the NBA becoming bigger than the NFL, has gone viral on LinkedIn, with thousands of views, dozens of shares and likes and comments, and most of the comments are coming from NBA doubters. (My favorite comment, just because it encapsulates everything that you have to love about the Internet, and no, I am not making this up... "I didn't read the article, but this will never happen. respectfully." I have no words, or at least, none that the commenter will read.)

The nature of multi-game series, you see, just makes sure that the Association will never be as big as the winner take all NFL. Casual fans will never buy into events where you can lose today and win tomorrow.

Think about that for a moment. Compare it to other forms of entertainment. Short-form, maybe without drama, beats long. Less product, more open to variables and swings of luck or referee malfeasance, is better than more. Amazing games with career-defining duels between the world's best players... don't matter because they aren't Game Seven.

Let's bring that out a little further. Your best moment at college has to be graduation. Your best sex ever has to be on your wedding night. Your best meal has to be the one where you spent the most money. The best movie you will ever see is the one that makes the most money at the box office. Your best job will be the one with the biggest paycheck. And so on, and so on.

How much nonsense do you have to believe, really, just to say I Like What I Like And I'm Right And You're Wrong?

Tonight might have been the best basketball game of the rest of your life. This might be the best sentence I ever write, or the best one you will ever read. The future is something that is promised to none of us, lest of all games that are close and well-played.

How hard is it, really, to just watch the game and be present in the moment?

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Top 10 reasons why the NFL made extra points kick from the 15

Woo, I Say, Woo
10) Adds critical half second more of drama to 3-hour game

9) Increases chance that a team will lose a game based on a guy who is barely a football player

8) Since it doesn't seem like this play results in concussions, we need more of it

7) Makes things a little easier for dome teams, especially the ones that cheat on crowd noise, which is to say, dome teams

6) It's been a solid day or so since the league made a grasping play for off-season PR

5) It was either this or make the kickers come at the ball in a straight line again

4) Improves the in-stadium experience, since it's one more play with a relative cut in body odor near the largest number of spectators who are close to the field

3) Now that so many guys are making that jump the center move, extra distance was needed to give the defender a longer running start

2) Announcers needed something to say during the extra point that we hadn't heard for the last 30+ years

1) Simply deflating the kicking balls is, for some reason, no longer an option

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Eastern and Western Conference NBA Predictions: The 3-Way Dance For Best Player Alive

Fight, Fight, Fight
As much as I'd like to put together some Grand Statement of What It All Means that four 3-and-D teams that believe in math are left standing in what should be some of the best playoff basketball ever... well, all of that pales beyond the pure appreciation of Hoop. I don't need to be right, and meatheads to be wrong, to just savor the final 12 to 21 games, all of which will have LeBron James, Stephen Curry and James Harden, AKA the three best players on the planet. Oh, and each of those guys gets declared Best Player Alive if his team wins. No pressure, guys. Let's get into it.

GOLDEN STATE vs. Houston

The case for Golden State: The best team in the Association this year, and playing at their best level in the past couple of games. Fully healthy, with home-court advantage, and the best home court in the league. More rested, and deeper. Can go small with killing efficiency, and have a greater margin for error than any other team, thanks to their ability to hit 3s at historic levels. Have the MVP in Curry, and one of the best benches in recent memory. HC Steve Kerr has been a revelation as both a tactician and a motivator. In Andre Iguodala and Draymond Green, have two of the better ideas for guarding Harden. Kerr isn't likely to intentionally foul C Dwight Howard, because the Dubs win on pace, which means the offense isn't going to get bogged down for tactics and poor morale.

The case against: Some possibility of paper tiger here, as they have had the easiest road to to the final four, due to opponent inexperience and injury, especially at PG. Some weak FT shooters among their better defensive line ups. C Andrew Bogut was erratic against Memphis, and G Klay Thompson hasn't been nearly as good as the regular season.  Have a tendency to take their foot off the gas with a lead, and could react poorly in a close game, as they have to be considered the favorite... and their fan base hasn't been here in any of their likely lifetimes. When they play nervous, they turn the ball over, and they can fall behind quickly, especially if the other team is hitting from distance. Houston, as the last series showed, can put together some runs.

The case for Houston: Rescued their year with three great games against the Clippers. Harden was the MVP of the second round, and could continue his Jedi ways of wearing out a path to the free throw line. Golden State doesn't have a FT magnet for them to succumb to base instincts, rather than try on defense. Might be the only team in the league that wants to push the tempo as much as the Dubs, and have enough run and gun types on the bench to make it work. After that Houdini act against the Clips, are absolutely playing with house money / a sense of destiny.

The case against: Howard and F Josh Smith are just as likely to go back to bad as to stay good, especially against this kind of defensive pressure. G Jason Terry will be lucky to stay in the frame with Curry. Have played more games, and had to try harder in them, for possible fatigue issues. Started the playoffs down two starters. Don't have a good matchup, at all, for Curry. Might be content to just have gotten this far, since a beatdown from the Clips might have broken up the team. Howard and Harden have come up small in playoffs before, and anyone who can predict what they'll get from Smith is smarter than me.

The pick: Golden State in seven. I see the Dubs struggling with Harden and taking some time to adapt to the different series, and Smith and Howard having a good game or two. The Rockets are just hitting on all cylinders right now. But at the crux of this, there's just going to be more big shots going down for Curry and Thompson than Harden and Smith. Not in every game, but often enough to put Game Seven in Oakland, and the Rockets aren't winning that game.

Atlanta vs. CLEVELAND

The case for Atlanta: Home court due to the best record in the East. Balanced attack with good ball movement has been the only way anyone has beaten a LeBron James team in the playoffs; pure star power hasn't done it. Better defensively than given credit for, especially when they start blocking shots. Good coaching and home court, even though you've never heard of either of them. PG Dennis Schroder has given them a crunch-time small ball option with starter Jeff Teague that has led to more open looks for the bigs. SF DeMarre Carroll isn't a bad choice to try to check LeBron, and the bench is deep enough to try to wear him out.

The case against Atlanta: Unless SG Kyle Korver is making shots, margin for error is a lot less than it was in the regular season, and it's not looking great for that to just come back online, given how much playoff teams close out on shooters. Were victimized by the Wiz bigs, especially for offensive rebounds, and that's what Cleveland does best, other than employing LeBron.

The case for Cleveland: James is the best player of his generation, and one of the best five in NBA history. He's healthy, rested, focused, relentless and when the jumper is dropping, utterly indefensible, even in playoff halfcourt sets. He's also able to eliminate the other team's top option on offense, and if they don't have one, will just be a free safety / blocks and steals machine, which keys one of the most efficient transition games in the history of the Association. Better on defense with Kevin Love out, with C Timothy Mozgov and PF Tristan Thompson in particular coming up big. Wing defense is also better than advertised, with SF Iman Shumpert and SG JR Smith bringing much more game then they did in their Knick days. PG Kyrie Irving can make difficult shots and take pressure off James. PG Matthew Delevedova has hit a lot of open looks recently. Might have already beaten a better team in Chicago, though Chicago's injuries and coaching weirdness makes that an open question.

The case against: Basically operating without a coach, as James showed in the audible to end the Bulls in Game Five, and the near-disaster timeout call from HC Puppet David Blatt. Injuries to Irving don't help, and Love would give them a distance option against a Hawks team that might make some threes. Bench is historically shaky, though they haven't looked that way in the playoffs. If you can somehow get James off the floor, either with injury or a festival of flopping for foul trouble, this team is exceptionally beatable.

The pick: I've learned my lesson, and I'm not picking against James, so long as he's in the lEast. Cleveland's on the ball defense has gotten good enough to make Atlanta unsettled, and Irving's return to health means that James won't have to tire himself out chasing PGs. It'll be fun to watch, and go fairly long, but the blueprint to beat Atlanta has been well publicized in the last month. Cleveland in six.

Year to date: 10-2

Monday, May 18, 2015

Chris Paul, the Clippers, and the Nature of Baggage

LAX, in many ways
The baseball writer Bill James once wrote this, about a massive playoff fail for then then-young and unsullied Toronto Blue Jays: "The problem is, you acquire a past." It turns out that this didn't really matter that much to that franchise, but sports writers are always looking for the new tragedy, because that's just redder meat for your word meal. So the phrase is in my mind as I write this.

The Clippers have one of the worst pasts in NBA history, but with Donald Sterling receding into the unlamented dustbins where his kind always go, that didn't seem to matter. And after four games of their second-round series with the Houston Rockets, the Clips were up, if it's possible, more than 3-1. They were up everything, and waiting for a concession speech.

Take Game Four. To call it a runaway would be to undersell the nature of runaway. Houston stayed close in the first half only by making a mockery of the game of basketball, not that they were unique in that strategy. When actual flow happened, the Rocket offense was entirely a matter of four guys standing behind the arc and waiting for James Harden to do something foul-inducing or miraculous. Defense consisted of letting Blake Griffin treat them like a speed bag, or watching any number of Clippers defy their lifelong numbers and nature to drain looks. It wasn't close. It was barely watchable.

Basically, the only thing that prevented a Clipper sweep was that Chris Paul was on the bench for Game Two, the game where Harden did pull off some miracles and the Clips seemed to just not have enough of a killer instinct to go up 2-0 on the road. Games 3 and 4 were just so total, such a refutation of the Rocket Way of playing hoop that basketball dinosaurs like Charles Barkley and Phil Jackson were laughing on the grave, as if the playoffs weren't littered with "D and 3" teams in Golden State, Atlanta and, yes, Cleveland if you look past the impossible to look past presence of LeBron James. Paul's series-ending mid-range shot against the Spurs proved that, when the games got Serious, hitting from distance or being Analytically Sound meant nothing, dammit. That mid-range jumper was Moar Aggressive and Special Big Shot Big Testes, and all of the other things that the dumb kids who didn't learn math knew mattered Moar. Much, much Moar.

So when the Rockets won Game Five, it was more of a Nice Thing, really, rather than any kind of alarm that the series had changed. Dwight Howard stayed out of foul trouble and the Rocket benchies played well and Honor Was Saved, if only just. Surely a fully healthy Paul would combine with Jordan and Griffin and lead the team with three of the best four players on the floor to a win, right? And when the Clips ran out and hid in Game Six, it was all over... until it wasn't.

It's going to be impossible to tell the story of this series without going into the nature of how honored Paul has been for individual regular season work, but how he's never gone to a Conference Finals. This is, of course, an absurd standard to bear on a single undersized player, and ignores the nature of Paul's career (all of which has been spent in the murderous West, battling the best run of PGs in NBA history)... but it is what it is. When you and your teammate are on every commercial break during the games, and you don't win, people notice. When you don't advance while facing an ancient Jason Terry, rather than the young defensive werewolf Patrick Beverly, people make it worse. And when you on the likely downside of your career and make your game with speed, it gets ever more nettlesome.

It's possible, though unlikely, that this is the highwater mark for the Clips. Doc Rivers the GM gave Doc Rivers the HC a thoroughly useless bench of Spencer Hawes and Big Worthless Davis up front, and his stumbly kid and Glue Factory Turkoglu to miss from distance. Only Jamal Crawford had any use, and at 34, that's increasingly intermittent. You shouldn't lose a 2nd round series because you can't get your three horses any rest at all, and the failure of JJ Redick and Matt Barnes to do anything when it mattered was also not a feather in the cap of the GM. There was a moment in the first half of this game where Houston scored on a secondary break as 4 out of 5 Clipper benchies slow trotted back, and had it called out by the ABC/ESPN telecast team, it was so obvious. That's not exactly an endorsement of the GM or the coach... and if Jordan takes FA money to go somewhere else, they will quickly fall out of the first rank in the cutthroat West, and it's not as if they are staring at high picks to fill that meager bench.

On the other hand... new owner Steve Ballmer is beyond committed, LA will always have its allure, the Lake Show is horrible, and playing with Paul has its merits. I still think they can ascend, because the eye test says that Griffin is still on the rise, but his failure to show up when it matters is, to my eyes, much more troubling than what you can put at Paul's doorstep.

In tonight's Game 7, as the Rockets slow-danced their way to Choke Alert status, Paul seemed to be the only Clipper willing to go all-in. To watch him is to love his game, because the effort is pure, the leadership tangible... but Griffin had triple doubles with him on the shelf, and disappeared with him around, in this series. Merely doing this again next year with the same stars and different subs, when you have the foundational knowledge of Choke?

The problem is, you acquire a past. One that might also be your future.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

A Brief and Obvious Point About Tim Tebow Being "A Significant Contributor to the Eagles Offense"

Woo, I Say, Woo
(In re this.)

Tim Tebow is not now, nor has ever been, good at playing professional football.

That is why he has been unable to find work as a professional football player for over a year, despite his ability to sell shirts to people who believe that God cares who wins football games.

He was not good in Denver, or New York, or New England.

All of those teams have comparable or better offensive lines and running backs to what is on the Eagle roster right now.

The wideouts do not matter, since Tebow is incapable of consistently getting the ball to one of them, outside of a handoff.

So if Tebow is a significant contributor to that, the Eagle offense will also not be good, which means that no one really needs to think very hard about this.

Finally, it doesn't really matter if you think this could all come to fruition due to a greater reliance on two-point conversions, because those plays still require, well, someone being good at football.

Which Tebow is not.

But by all means, people, buy some shirts, especially now that you can get insurance for them...

Friday, May 15, 2015

Clippers - Rockets Game Six: Inconceivable

Do Not Touch The Owner
I've watched pro hoop longer than many of you have been alive. I go all the way back to CBS tape delaying the Finals as the Magic & Kareem Lakers slapped my Sixers silly. Every spring, I hide in my basement and stay up too late and jam hoop into my veins.

 I watch a lot of this.

And I've never seen a series where...

> Both teams spit in the eye of Basketball God with intentional fouling

> The team with home court advantage went down 3-1 in a beatdown loss that was so devoid of effort that further games seemed to only serve to embarrass

> The up 3-1 team then loses Game Give for no real good reason or adjustment

> The 3-2 team with home court closed out the second with a run, then open up the third with Globetrottery that was so extreme, their power forward (Blake Griffin) made a layup with his eyes on his own rim, not the one he was shooting at

> The road team then went on a 49-18 run with their best player (James Harden) on the bench just because they went on a run without him

> The best player on the floor in crunch time wasn't the four stars you've heard of (Griffin, Chris Paul, Harden, Dwight Howard), but one of the worst players in recent NBA history (Josh Smith, who a terrible Pistons team paid to go away, and got better when he left)

> A center (DeAndre Jordan) was destroying the trailing team while they intentionally fouling him, and now that they aren't, he's just a guy again

> A low level PG MVP candidate (Paul), who is nearly complete in his recovery from a hamstring problem, got outplayed by a guy (Jason Terry) who has been in the league so long, most people assumed he was long gone from the league

> The home crowd started chanting a mocking chant of their likely next round playoff opponent, only to see their team blow a huge lead and lose, so that they now get to hear that chant in their nightmares, especially if the team loses Game Seven

Game Seven is Saturday, and honestly? I have no idea why any fan of either team could feel confident about their chances. The Rockets still have no one who should be able to stay with Paul. They need Smith, a clear Agent of Chaos, to have two big games in a row. Howard got a flagrant and a technical in this one, and is clearly on the ref hit list. The Clips need their terrible bench to show up and play well in a road Game Seven. Harden can't seem to shake his cold.

Nothing makes sense any more.

Oh, and tonight's game was the first of the series that was actually fun to watch.

See you for Game Seven...

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Dubs Dub And The Hawks Fly

Awkward / Effective
Tonight in the Association, we had two highly watchable games, for two very different reasons.

In Atlanta, the Hawks came back in a fourth quarter where they didn't score for the five half of it. They won after Playoff Nightmare Paul Pierce hit what could have easily been yet another game-winning three, where he was somehow open despite everyone in the world knowing he was going to take shot. Pierce then told Hawk Fans that the series was over, without paying too much attention to the fact that there was eight seconds left, PG Dennis Schroder had spent much of the game getting to the rim, and that Al Horford was picking up offensive rebounds like they were daisies. Schroder got to the rack. Wizard PF Nene Hilario (aka, the only big on the floor for DC -- whoops) failed to secure the board. Horford scooped it up and laid it in like he was putting a baby in a cradle, and DC didn't even have a timeout left to try to get back the game winner.

Make no mistake about this: the Hawks escaped their own court with a win. They turned it over a ton, couldn't connect from the arc, and the next good game that Kyle Korver plays will be his first. The Wiz got back PG John Wall in this one, and he played reasonably well, with SG Bradley Beal continuing his breakout playoffs, following his injury-riddled regular season. These teams are both very flawed, and don't seem likely to me to get past the Cavs or Bulls in the next round... but that doesn't stop them very playing wildly watchable ball, with point guards that make their teammates better, fresh faces (well, with the exception of Pierce), all-in crowds that haven't been to a Conference Finals in their lifetime (anyone missing Celtic Fan or Laker Fan? Yeah, me neither), and two teams that don't seem able to get more than ten points away from each other. It's as much fun as you could hope for, really.

 Then we had the nightcap, where the visiting Grizz came out to take a first quarter lead thanks to some skittish Warrior turnovers, only to watch MVP Stephen Curry microwave the lead away before the break, and Sweet Georgia Brown to start playing in the third quarter. This was the first game in the series where the Dub Bench, so good in the regular season, went into full effect, maybe because the lack of Tony Allen for Memphis meant that they saw way too much Vince Carter (can't guard anyone anymore), Nick Calathes (has never been able to guard anyone, at any time), and even Mike Conley, who looked out of sorts for the first time in this series. Dude bounced a pass off poor Marc Gasol's head tonight, and while it's not as if that mistake was all that costly, it was telling.

What comes next? I think Atlanta and the Wizards are going to go to Game Seven, and my only hope for that Game Seven is that everyone is healthy for it. This series has been far too defined by John Wall's injuries, whenever Beal falls down, and the various slights and dings that seem to be required in the league now.

As for Grizz-Dubs, you might think this will end on Friday, now that the Warriors have seemingly figured the Grizz out... but big blowouts don't always agree with the favorite on the road, and if Game Three Andrew Bogut shows up again, the Dubs can lose to anyone. It's going to require an actually good offensive game from the Grizz, though, and I'm not sure they can do that against the Dubs. Especially when it comes to the bench work of Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, the Grizz guards And since the other two series are also going to Game Six, there's no extreme urgency for either favorite to close things out, even though they will feel differently, of course.

Finally, this. Whoever emerges from the Dubs-Grizz *has to* win the next round, because it's the only way the Finals doesn't have intentional fouling. And if you want to root for that club to win the next round in four games, even though we have only 16 to 29 of Game left until Halloween, and should really just be rooting for seven games in every series... well, I can't argue with you. Because what the Rockets and Clippers have done to hoop is just unforgivable, and needs to be punished as strongly and unequivocally as possible. I would be totally OK with eliminating both clubs and bringing back the Spurs.

Enjoy the games, everybody.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

DeflateGate Musing, By The Talking Points

As reactions continue to hit over the NFL's attempted smackdown of the Patriots in re DeflateGate, I feel the need to issue some corrections to the following talking points that seem to be carrying the day.

> Robert Kraft is no longer buddies with Roger Goodell, and there will be hell to pay.

The scandal has lead some to wonder if Kraft is going to go full Al Davis and sue the league, and me to wonder if we've lost the technology with which to go soak one's head. Davis did not give a damn what anyone thought of him, and never made any bones about his disdain for the media (a major reason, by the way, as to why the Raiders were so beloved by so many). Kraft isn't that guy, and Goodell isn't nearly as bulletproof or Teflon-riffic as Pete Rozelle was, back in the day.

Instead, Kraft is going to set himself up here as the wrongfully aggrieved party who will take the high ground, and try to outlive the commissioner. Given how there isn't a month that goes by without Goodell infuriating someone with his very nature of being, this is a sound bet. Kraft's going to undermine Goodell with other owners, over the long haul. He's not going to stand in court and make it obvious.

> The punishment was incredibly harsh.

Perhaps some need to look up the definition of the word "incredibly." Incredibly harsh would have been a lifetime ban of Brady or HC Bill Belichick, rather than just a couple of clubhouse flunkies. Incredibly harsh would have been a negation of the Super Bowl title, along the lines of what the NCAA did with USC and Reggie Bush's Heisman. Incredibly harsh is not two draft picks, four games and a million bucks for a franchise that probably makes that much before breakfast, and is a prime destination for top tier free agents, who also take less than market value to sign with a winner.

I get that Patriot Fan thinks that this was draconian. If it happened to my laundry, I might think the same. But we'd both do well to go look at what happened to the Saints in re Bountygate, or what Kenesaw Mountain Landis did to the White Sox in the 1920s. When teams go up against commissioners, it can get a lot worse than this.

> The Patriots are being unduly punished by jealous rivals for their success.

It's understood by even the most rabid Pats fan that their franchise has been convicted of repeat offenses, right? That's reached the level of accepted fact, no? The name Aaron Hernandez hasn't completely gone down the memory hole in the wake of more recent travesties, and when a franchise employs a remarkably terrible human being, some of that reflects on them. Finally, what is the color of the sky in your world, where a repeat offender doesn't get a deeper punishment?

The Patriots are the de facto home team for ESPN, given the relative proximity of Bristol to Boston's teams. They are the closest thing to a dynasty in this era of NFL football, and NFL football is the closest thing to a dynasty in this era of American sports. Like Dallas, everything is bigger here, independent of any tendency of their fans to drama queen status.

It does not matter that Kraft used to be tight with Goodell. It really does not matter that the franchise enjoys positive PR and media tongue baths, or that they seem much more grown up in a division where multiple teams have employed Rex Ryan and Richie Incognito. If the Colts weren't eager to rat them out for anything, it would have been the Ravens, or a half dozen other teams.

Oh, and if you think it's uniquely unfair that people are lumping this in with Spygate and the snowplow incident for the field goal against Miami some 30-odd years ago as a franchise-wide tendency towards chicanery? Ask Philly Fan about Santa and the snowballs, or San Francisco Giants Fan about Juan Marichal with the bat, or White Sox Fan about Disco Appreciation Night, and so on, and so on. Teams acquire brands. The Patriot brand is winning hypocrisy, rooted on by apologistic spoiled whiners. You have both arned it.

> People who lump this in with other outrages (most notably, Harry Reid with the DC Slurs) are terrible and obvious opportunists who are just trying to tear the league down.

The NFL is doing a fine job on its own at tearing things down on their own, really. What with head trauma cover ups, scheduling games every day of the week regardless of injury or quality, and wildly inconsistent punishments based around domestic abuse, DC Slurs is just a back burner embarrassment. Frankly, if you aren't angry with the NFL about something, you aren't paying attention. And congratulations for that.

> Patriot Fan is starting a GoFundMe campaign to pay the fine, and arranging for arrest outside of the NFL offices while chanting Free Tom Brady, to show they are very, very serious about their displeasure.

Imagine if their team didn't win the Super Bowl, how upset they might be...

Anyway, the hack point is to show the utter insanity of paying an NFL team's fines, or staging some stunt to add to your public record. (Special points to any future employer that decides against hiring anyone for this, by the way; shows questionable judgment without any excuse for sobriety or spur of the moment decision making.) But the more telling point is just how entitled and Very Special Snowflake Boston Fan is.

The outrage requires their own money, their own arrest, their own witness, to be meaningful. The fact that appeals are likely to limit the damage, or that the team will still win their division and maybe be even better for it (no Super Bowl hangover when the Evil NFL took away your QB, right?)... does not matter. Boston Fan will pule, Boston Fan will howl, Boston Fan will sue and handcuff themselves and give money to a billionaire, unprovoked and unrequested. This is because they care more than you do, are more passionate than you are, and just doggone care more than other towns. That's why they win, you see. Has nothing to do with any other factor.

It's a wonder the rest of us still go to watch games, or root for other teams. For many reasons, really.

Finally, one of my own...

> This is going to be the new normal for every targeted team.

Because this kind of behavior gets noticed, and in an era of social media and microcasts to the devoted, imitation is the sincerest form of inevitable.

Besides, every fan of every team wants their club to cheat -- err, compete -- just as hard as the Patriots do, right? Since winning by any means is the only acceptable outcome?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Top 10 takeaways from the Patriots DeflateGate Punishment

Cue The Sadness
10) Tom Brady will miss the first four games of next season, also known as that part of the year When Patriot Fan Freaks Out About How His Team Might Not Win Their Cake Division For No Good Reason At All

9) The loss of a first and fourth round draft picks in future drafts will clearly make the Pats Cheat Even Harder in future, since this will help to cut down their window

8) Missing September will cost Dreamboat $2 million in salary, but one suspects he probably can handle that

7) The indefinite suspension of the clubhouse guy known as "The Deflator" will protect the league's integrity from dastardly patsies

6) Patriots' owner / assistant commish Bob Kraft said the punishment "far exceeded any reasonable expectation", which just goes to show how much people can differ on the definition of the word "reasonable"

5) To everyone who feels that this is a tempest in a teapot over a game the Pats won handily against the paper lion Colts, I admire your ESP abilities to know just how many times they pulled this nonsense before that game

4) Brady's agent says he will appeal, which surprises, um, not a single person on the planet

3) The report leading to the punishment was 243 pages long, which has to set some kind of record for padding

2) The fine to the Patriots was the largest in NFL history, at least until the next time the club gets caught doing something that fundamentally damages the integrity of the league

1) The news brought ESPN to Defcon 1, where the channel stops broadcasting games and locks all pundits in a safe room for 24 hour relentless marathon of constant Hot Takery

Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Golden State Warriors Are Girlie Men Who Shoot Jumpers, And Other Moments Of Deep Hurting

Does Not Analyze The NBA
So the Golden State Warriors are now down 2-1 to the underdog Grizzlies, and I spent most of the entire game wondering just who the hell was in their uniforms, especially in the first half, on defense. Not to throw shade on the home team, who are truly playing very well and all, but...

> Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson went 6 for 11 from the freaking free throw line. They shoot about 90% regularly. And all of the misses hurt, as the Dubs were trying to get out of a game-long hole.

> Marreese Speights went 3 of 7 from the floor in a little more than five minutes, then got hurt, because that's just how this series is going for the Dubs so far.

> The club shot 6 for 26 from the three point line. It's only the best shooting team in recent NBA history, and for the past two games, they've missed enough open looks to make me wonder if we've secretly replaced them with members of the 2013-15 Sixers.

> Andrew Bogut gave them 2-8-2 in 21 minutes while Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph dominated, and while the plus/minus didn't call him the worst player on the floor, the eye test sure as hell did. I'm kind of hoping he's hurt, that's how bad he was.

> No member of the Dub bench, which was the best in the NBA by a fairly wide margin this year, had a positive plus/minus in this game.

The game got a little bit close for the Grizz in the second half, because their offense stalled, and there's only so many minutes that Metal Face Mike Conley can go right now... but they don't have to go anything more than win two of the next four games, two of which are at home, to close things out. They are getting the bounces and makes that winning teams get -- more than a few crazy bank shots, more than a few back-breaking loose balls and Tony Allen Hero Plays on defense -- and the wind is in their sails.

If the Dubs can't pull it together and win Game Four on Monday, probably without Speights and against a better every game Conley -- the best regular season team in decades is going home a whopping round later than last year. In a season where everything has gone their way, and against a team that, honestly, has no shot at winning it all, because they bog down on offense, don't shoot threes well enough to have a margin for error in games when they aren't getting all the loose balls et al...

And this is where math and nerdery seems to fall sway to small sample sizes and Grit, because the Dubs are said to be a Jump Shooting Team, and thereby Not Manly or Aggressive or whatever. The Grizz are able to slow the game down and play volleyball with rebounding, and that's more playoff and manly.

So the playoffs are working out just like the last 30 years, and I'm just going to go drink now, because if this somehow winds up as a Grizz-Bulls rock fight, when we could have had something far more watchable...

Well, that's not how the best playoff season in NBA history would end now, is it?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Top 12 Takeaways From ESPN Firing Bill Simmons

Off The Chain
12) It's absolutely OK to dislike everyone involved here, because, well, Reasons

11) The editorial chill for Grantland's remaining writers should be enough to prevent the use of air conditoning

10) This finally ensures the Fair and Balanced coverage of the NFL and Roger Goodell, who has been previously unable to get favorable coverage of a league with Absolutely No PR Issues Whatsoever

9) Between this, DeflateGate's likely upcoming Tom Brady suspension, the Red Sox pitching woes and the Celtics and Bruins being out of the playoffs, Boston Fan will finally get to tell you how hard he's got it

8) Both fans of the Grantland Basketball Hour are going to be powerfully disappointed

7) The mood at the ESPN HQ in Bristol was said to be joyous over Simmons' departure, because yes, ESPN only hires and employs Mean Girls

6) Simmons has somehow gone Radio Silent for the entire day of his termination, because being 45 can sometimes allow for the possibility of wisdom, or at the very least, gives you the ability to avoid LeSean McCoy Syndrome and Lawyer Up more effectively

5) Aggrieved White Guy wil note, far too often for anyone's comfort, that Stephen A. Smith is still employed while Simmons is not (and fail to realize that Smith is given his clickbait lines by ESPN)

4) We should all feel very bad for Simmons, who will likely only make 50% more than his last salary after a 4-way bidding war, rather than 2X and five-way

3) The final straw was said to be Simmons using a WWE catchphrase to degrade Goodell in an appearance on Dan Patrick's non-World Wide Lemur radio show, which is at least six nouns of Things You Don't Need To Think About

2) Doing this on a Friday with nice weather and tons of Actual Games to pay attention to ensures that ESPN's future lack of coverage will be only slightly less obvious

1) Keith Olbermann hasn't said anything too telling about this on Twitter, which either shows the wisdom of age, the ability of ESPN to censor, or that being fired a dozen times in your professional life means you've learned what not to do on days like these

Thursday, May 7, 2015

LeSean McCoy Isn"t Getting Over It

Step away from the mic, please
So as part of what is probably the fifth or sixth recent interview in which he talks about how he's over everything and has no malice towards Eagles coach Chip Kelly... best RB in team history LeSean McCoy talked about how Nero "got rid of all of the good black players."

Oh, Shady.

Look, I get that you're really not good with being de facto fired for what was, really, probably the first time in your life, and for no good reason at all.

But dude? This probably isn't going to be the last time this kind of thing happens. Very few people get through this world without running into a terrible manager or six. (Or, eventually, becoming one themselves. It's kind of like how badly parented kids become bad parents.)

When this happens to you, as hard as this road is to take... you need to go high road with it. For a bunch of good reasons, really, and not just because always doing the opposite of what Stephen A. Smith says has never been a bad idea for how to live your life.

Besides, every time you open up with the butthurt? It just becomes one more line in the entry in the Hard To Work With File, and that isn't a file you want to feed, especially when you are looking to supplement your lifetime earnings with those final years that are more or less only ever offered to Good Soldier types. (See the final years of Emmitt Smith in Arizona, which probably didn't do much for his brain, but added to the career numbers and bank account.)

 More importantly... your own personal brand and ability to keep selling to folks in Philly is at risk if you go all Bitterly Dumped on your old fans. Nero isn't running off good black players; he's running off all good players who were here before he was, and if you don't believe that, hit up Evan Mathis sometime. Or anyone who is good enough to do just one thing, or command the market rate for his position.

Nero is probably doing this because (a) your clubs haven't won a playoff game during the Obama Administration, and (b) he thinks he can only win games that matter with guys he saw or played in college, because he's of those Clever Marks that have paid the bills of con artists since the Earth began. But that's neither here nor there. When you are freed from a Bad Manager, talking about the Bad Manager is just time spent looking in the rear view mirror, and there's never any money there. It might feel good to rip them a new one, and there will be any number of journos who are happy to fill their word hole with your butthurt... but none of it is helping you.

You are en route to a bust in Canton. Said bust will likely say Philadelphia on half or more of the lines. The people who show up to cheer you in Canton aren't all coming from Pittsburgh from your college career, and in ten to fifteen years, when whoever has the team after Jeffrey Lurie ends his reign of environmentally correct mediocrity, you're going to want to consent to a jersey retirement ceremony. There's no need to make things even more awkward on that day with Fletcher Cox, Jason Peters, and whoever else manages to have a career during the upcoming disaster.

Oh, and a word for soon to froth Eagle Fan, who is likely using every word of this to fuel an upcoming boo-fest for McCoy's visit to town with Buffalo in December? Like DeSean Jackson before him, there's a chance he might not be wrong on the merits. DeMarco Murray probably isn't going to be better than Shady was in 2014, especially behind an aging and unsupported offensive line. You don't have to just blindly root for the laundry when the laundry is circling the drain. This isn't clapping harder for Tinkerbell, folks. The club's going to lose whether you root hard for them or not.

So, Shady? Start reciting cliches. Maybe go for some new performance art, a la Marshawn Lynch, aka another guy who wound up being happier at NFL Spot #2. Ignore Nero. He'll be out of the league before you, and living well is the best revenge.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Top 10 Reasons Why James Dolan Hired Convicted Sexual Harasser Isiah Thomas To Run His WNBA Team

Maximum PR Fail
10) It's a purely selfless act to get Thomas off NBA TV and TNT

9) Believes that everyone deserves a ninth chance, provided that they were famous once

8) Feels that WNBA fans should get the same kind of sterling service that Knick Fan gets

7) What's $11.6 million in damages for sexual harassment among horrible, horrible people

6) Hasn't exercised Billionaire's Prerogative in weeks

5) Wants to see if that guy who he told to go watch the Nets cares about the WNBA, too

4) Given the current PR climate in America, now is certainly the best time to be remarkably tone-deaf towards women

3) If Thomas is a complete disaster here, will become the first guy ever to wipe out in the CBA, NBA, CBB and WNBA

2) Reunites Thomas with Bill Laimbeer, who fulfills his lifelong mission of making Zeke look slightly less loathsome in comparison

1) Thomas has photos of Dolan in bed with hardware, multiple fluids, a dead girl, a live boy and a wide range of cute and endangered animals

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Blake Flips The Script

Look Upon Ye Works
So tonight in Houston, the road Clippers had every reason to just lay down and lose Game One. They were going against a massively rested home team, without point guard / savior Chris Paul. They were starting the coach's kid, Austin Rivers, and everyone who has ever seen abusive Little League games knows this never works. Houston came out with Dwight Howard getting all kinds of beastly play, the crowd was into it, and it looked like a simple home win was coming. 25-19 Rockets after one, Rivers looked hopeless, and if you wanted to start checking in on Paul's status for stealing Game Two, you weren't alone.

Then Blake Griffin decided to be the best player on the floor. Which he was to the tune of 26/14/13 (!), and honestly, he might have been better than that.

A small word about Griffin: I've never been that big of a fan of his game. For all of his physical gifts, he settles for the mid-range jumper too much, and his past rebounding and blocked shot numbers have whispered that the big ups and rampant TV commercials weren't warranted. Sure, he's funny on the mic and can dunk through the building, but he seemed to come up small in the playoffs, and I like my 4 to be a double-double machine. And if he can jump like that on offense, why not on defense?

Well, in this game, just like in Game 7 against the Spurs, Griffin took his talents and added an equivalent amount of production. The mid-range jumper was still there, but he was nailing it. He ran the break like a runaway beer truck, kept his head when the stupid incessant fouling made the game unwatchable, got vocal when needed, and so on, and so on.

Now, to be clear? Houston played a bad game. They looked rusty and overconfident against a Paul-free opponent, and any team that's relying on Ancient Jason Terry and Loco Josh Smith can stink up the joint at any moment. I still think Houston should win this series, because they've got the guy that *should* be the best player on the floor in James Harden, and it's impossible for me to see a team with the Clipper bench players succeed at the highest level.

But if Griffin wants to keep messing around and getting triple doubles?

Well, that's a whole 'nother kettle of fish.

And it's not as if Houston has a guy that seems physical or emotionally capable of guarding him...

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Ten Questions For Those Who Watched Mayweather v. Pacquiao

Originally said by Johnny Rotten
(Me? Not so much. That money buys groceries, which are kind of more important to my life right now. Besides, well, Not A Boxing Fan, thank heavens.)

10) If you spent big on a fight that did not entertain you, when fights as a rule seem to be highly unlikely to entertain you, and one of the participants is known for not being very entertaining while being highly successful... um, don't you lose any right to be angry at anyone but yourself?

9) If one guy has a clear statistical advantage in every way, and there are no falls, don't you pretty much have to respect the decision of judges who are wildly more experienced at viewing this sort of thing?

8) If both guys are morally reprehensible for different reasons, isn't it OK to root against the guy who is more reprehensible to a greater percentage of the population?

7) Why are so many people so butthurt over what appears to be long overdue attention to the reprehensibility of both men?

6) Since the fight seems to have been something of a snoozefest between two guys who are very past their prime, isn't an admission of a beyond dead sport that the only potential next step for a reasonable payday is a rematch?

5) Does the presence of so many private jets at the Las Vegas airport warm the cockles of your heart, as it does mine, that rich people can get suckered as badly as poor?

4) Shouldn't everyone involved just give up and watch Human Cockfighting already, since that exercise at least happens relatively routinely, and does a better job of giving the spectators the bloodlust they want?

3) Given that terrorist actions never happen at live events that appeal to the 1%, doesn't that just speak to the relative importance of human life as it equates to economic importance?

2) Is Mayweather's substantial appeal among athletes all that you need to know about their opinion towards women, and the relative seriousness of domestic abuse?

1) Do boxing fans ever get tired of being used?

The Eagle Draft, Or Nero Kelly Fiddles With A Little Less Obvious Fire

I'm Going To Use This A Lot
I'm trying to not spend too much time thinking about the Eagles' off-season moves, because, well, I value my happiness, and thinking too much about this club imperils it. But the point of being a sports blogger is to have opinions that people can tell you are wrong now and ignore later (assuming they come true, so let's get into it).

First off, in what is one of those cases of a mark not being able to find a con artist, the Eagles were unable to pay a huge ransom to the Titans for the rights to draft Marcus Mariota. Supposedly, the cost to move up 18 spots in the first would have been three defensive starters (DT Fletcher Cox, LB Mychael Kendricks and CB Brandon Boykin, aka the best player in each unit in 2014, and in the case of the first two players, some of the best young talent in the league at their position), a replacement QB in Sam Bradford (naturally) *and* future picks.

And while I get the idea that Mariota really might be a game-changing QB, putting a guy like that into a situation where he's got to put up 40+ points a game to compete, because the other side of the ball is just decimated... well, not a recipe for success. Especially when you add in the future picks problem, considering that the offensive line is aging and increasingly infirm.

But hey, the Titans said no; praise heaven and move on to making some picks. First rounder Nelson Agholor, a WR from USC, looks to be a Jeremy Maclin clone, and there's nothing wrong with that, other than you wouldn't have had to spend a first round pick there if you had just extended Maclin early in 2014, when it was apparent that he was going to succeed in this system. But hey, spilled milk, right?

Second round was Eric Rowe, a CB with past S work from Utah. Rowe continues the Pac-10 myopic draft strategy, in that his best game was against Agholor. At some point, someone in the press might want to ask Nero Kelly if scouting extends beyond guys he knew back in college, or whether it's OK to draft guys from a better conference than the Pac 10 (there is one, right? Rhymes with SEC?)... but as Rowe seems fine and they were clearly short a starting DB, whatever. B+ draft and move along.

And then the draft takes some whiffs. In the third, they reach for future coach Jordan Hicks, an ILB from Texas with an injury history who didn't project beyond the fourth or fifth for other teams. The astute reader might also wonder why you want to go after an ILB so soon in the draft, when you've got Kiko Alonso, Kendricks and Nero Binkie DeMecco Ryans on the club, and issues elsewhere. But hey, whiffing on a LB seems to be a Kelly tradition, and at least this year it happened in the third round, rather than the first.

Lacking fourth (traded to Detroit for their third next year, so, um, WTF, given that might be a whopping 10 to 15 slot move up after the upcoming Disaster Year) and fifth round picks for various machinations, they then grabbed two CBs (JaCorey Shepherd from Kansas and Randall Evans from Kansas State). Shepherd is neither big nor fast, and Evans is a little better than both on that, but if you're starting to wonder why the club signed two DBs n free agency and then drafted three more, when they already had some guys on the roster (Malcolm Jenkins, Boykin, maybe Earl Wolff, Ed Reynolds, Jaylen Watkins) who presumably might be worth having on an NFL roster. Oh, and by the way, if they aren't, that just means that the team blew multiple draft picks last year.

The final pick, oversized DE Brian Mihalik from Boston College, is already on Eagle Fan's radar as the sleeper of the draft, but I tend to be more skeptical of such wonders when they come at 12 picks before undrafted free agent status. Also, oversized DE prospects rarely work out.

So they got the WR and CB they needed, then took a bunch of DBs to solve last year's sieve issues. Why am I such a whiner? Nero's just drafted the new Legion of Boom, right? Well, no, because it's just more Versatile (i.e., not good enough to star at one position) Guys, to replace last year's Smart Guys (Reynolds, Watkins). And because the Hicks pick is just asinine when you've got an offensive line that's getting older, and that you've systematically undermined with releases and obvious trading block moves (see Mathis, Evan)... and when that line is going to have to protect a statue QB with two ACL injuries in Bradford, and to create holes in a tempo offense for north-south runners, a crippling lack of depth goes right into Criminal Negligence. Something of a theme for Nero's realm.

I guess it could be worse. They could have drafted QB5 or RB4, and neither of the first two picks were embarrassing reaches. They didn't move for some fresh TE, which means Zach Ertz might finally have the chance to have some confidence and a starting role. There's no obvious ST fetish move. By the short bus standard reached by Kelly in the past six months, this is just meh, rather than actively infuriating.

But honestly... having 12 DBs and 9 LBs on a roster, and not taking an OL when you desperately needed one in the fourth? Just more wood to the fire that there is no real plan going on here, and reality isn't going to be pretty. When the second tier OL that got dominated in the first month of 2014 take the field in 2015... they still aren't going to be good enough. And they are going to play a lot more. Cue the fiddle.

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