Thursday, April 28, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs Notebook-Dirk Nowitzki, Dwight Howard, Kobe Bryant

He’s a legitimate 7-footer who can dribble the ball rather easily and effectively for someone his size. His shot is more lethal than most shooting guards in the league. He’s a former MVP and 3-point shootout champion. He is, quite possibly, the most interesting man in the NBA.

Dirk Nowitzki, like Kevin Garnett and LeBron James, is a revolutionary player. While Garnett opened the floodgates for high-school players to hop, skip, and jump from prep prom king to teenage rookie, and James is arguably the most physically gifted player to ever don an NBA jersey, Nowitzki is the first foreign player—one who did not play high-school or college ball in the states—who is a true superstar.

Only a championship can cement his legacy. Only a championship can put to rest the softness label normally associated with him, and foreign players in general. That’s all.

He’s the only dominant center in the league. While his offensive game is a work-in-progress—and, yes, it is progressing—his defense is the best in the league. This is highlighted by his third straight Defensive Player of the Year award. He is, quite possibly, the most disappointing player in the NBA.

Dwight Howard, like Shaquille O’Neal, Tim Duncan, and Hakeem Olajuwon, is a force on both sides of the court. His length and athleticism is unmatched by any single player in the league today. The NBA is a big man’s league, yet Howard has not dominated the postseason the same way as the giants before him.

Only a championship can shed this tag against him, allowing him to enter the discussion as potentially one of the best big men ever. Only a championship can earn this man-child a deserving Superman title. That’s all.

He’s considered the best player in the league, although he is clearly in the sunset of his career. He is the one player that most compares to the legend that is Michael Jordan. His 81-point effort five years ago will not be reached again by any player. He is, quite possibly, the most overrated player in NBA.

Kobe Bryant is one of the all-time greats in Los Angeles Lakers history. Anyone who says differently is guilty of player-hating. However, he is not one of the top 5 or 10 players in the history of the game. His five titles are not as impressive as his two Finals defeats are disappointing. While he has been the best player on his team for the past two championship seasons, his rings are more a product of the team around him rather than his individual exploits. “Despite” his individual exploits probably best describes this sentiment. A worthy Hall of Famer? Absolutely. The Greatest of All-Time? No thanks.

Only a championship can allow the Black Mamba to enter the VIP room reserved for all-time greats, regardless of team. Only a championship can justify his inclusion in the best-ever debate. That’s all.

Come join Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, Moses Malone, Dr. J, Dominique Wilkins, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Bill Russell, and Magic, Michael, and Larry as they all witness future history.

The 2011 NBA Playoffs continue tonight. Game 6, first-round. That’s all.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs Notebook- Hawks, Grizzlies, Magic, Spurs, Nuggets, Lakers, Hornets, Thunder

Dallas defeated Portland last night, 93-82, in the first Game 5 of this year’s NBA Playoffs. The outcome of this game should not surprise anyone as this series was the most likely of all the first-round match-ups to last the full seven games. The next two nights provide six more Game 5s for us to consume, with all but Lakers-Hornets serving as a possible elimination game. This means that five more teams have a chance to close out their opponent and join Boston in the conference semifinal round while allowing themselves some rest during these most trying of times. This also means that five teams must conjure the fortitude necessary to stave off early exits, the fruits of which can propel them to improbable come-from-behind victories.

Atlanta, Chicago, Miami, Oklahoma City, and, yes, Memphis are one victory away from causing their respective fan bases, as well as everyone in their respective organizations, to look ahead and wonder, as Derrick Rose did when asked about his MVP chances earlier this season, “Why not me/us?”

Orlando, Indiana, Philadelphia, Denver, and, yes, San Antonio are one defeat from being forced to the sidelines with the rest of the league—championship aspirations lost in the dust in the wind. The question for these teams becomes: Is the two-game mountain to high to climb?

A successful journey through the quicksand trap known as a best-of-seven playoff series can foster sensations of invincibility. This is especially true for lower-seeded teams which are usually younger than their more experienced counterparts. If they can apply the final nail against San Antonio, the young Grizzlies will emerge from their first playoff series victory in franchise history with the type of ‘tude and confidence normally reserved for senior high-school cheerleaders.

The Hawks have a similar opportunity against the Magic. A series victory over their division rival, and the team that swept them in last year’s playoffs, will ignite a city-wide rejuvenation for all things basketball. Atlanta will feel as though its Hawks have arrived, finally. And who will be more motivated and prepared to display lockdown defense against the Rose-led Bulls than former Chicago point guard Kirk Hinrich?

The Bulls and Heat will win their Games 5s—games that will essentially serve as glorified scrimmages during the week off between rounds. Their Game 4 collapses will be a silver lining in the sense that each team can use the extra work before hosting truer competition in round two. The Pacers and 76ers can be content in knowing that they lasted one more game than the Knicks. The alternative for Chicago and Miami is what Boston faces: at least a full week off between games. The difference in the rest vs. rust debate is the Celts can use this break, lucky to advance with such ease.

Denver has the best opportunity to become the only team to survive a 0-3 series deficit. After squandering Game 1 in Oklahoma City and dropping a close contest at home in Game 3, the Nuggets put together a complete game just in time while escaping with a Game 4 win. With Russell Westbrook seemingly pulling a 2004 Kobe Bryant, failing to realize who the team MVP and leader is, the Thunder have all the makings of a group ready to implode, while the Nuggets are just the type of team that can overcome something as simple and daunting as making history.

New Orleans has competed in a way that would make all competitors who have ever had the privilege to compete in a competitive competition proud. In the end, however, the Lakers will prove to be too big and Los Angeles will be confident in the fact that they survived a similar scare in last year’s first round against the upstart Thunder. The problem this year is that the Lakers are a year older.

While the Mavericks and Blazers have followed script, the rest of the Western Conference has flipped it. Memphis and New Orleans should be done by now. Denver should be tied at this point. San Antonio was supposed to be too old to win, but that was going to happen next year.

The Eastern Conference is more settled. Boston is looking in the rear-view mirror waving a huge shamrock while sporting a golden dome. Chicago and Miami are in the driver’s seat. Atlanta is riding shotgun, with a shotgun. Orlando was supposed to advance to lose in round 2, but their early exit is not a big surprise. Yes, The Eastern Conference powers are in prime position to excite us in the fashion we expected before the season started, collision courses are still on schedule.

The 2011 NBA Playoffs are just starting to become interesting. Game 5 will show us just how interesting.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs Notebook-Knicks, Celtics

New York Knicks reserve shooting guard Bill Walker shot an astounding 0-11 (0-5 3pt), eliciting memories of one John Starks, who is a former teammate of current Boston head chief Doc Rivers, and his 2-18 (0-11 3pt) blitzkrieg on the iron in Game 7 of the 1994 NBA Finals versus eventual champion Houston Rockets. The silver lining in Bill Walker’s box score last night, interestingly enough, is his whopping +10—a number that determines how a player’s team performs while he is in the game.

This means his teammates were able to either will themselves to a +10 advantage, despite Walker’s presence on the court, or his teammates benefited from his effort on the defensive end, an area on the floor where numbers do not always tell the story. Maybe this anomaly is just another example of how players can affect the game without even attempting a shot (imagine how well the Knicks would have fared had Walker not even shot a 3-pointer).

Or, this tidbit of trivia is a microcosm of what this series has become—a paradox wrapped in a riddle smothered with extra irony…please hold the cheese (too late?).

The Knicks played without veteran point guard Chauncey Billups for the final minutes of Game 1 and all of Game 2, and lost their leading scorer from Game 1 and low-post presence Amare Stoudemire for the entire second half of Game 2. These injuries forced Knicks All-Star Carmelo Anthony to shoulder the scoring load, a task he performed beautifully, scoring 42 points to compliment his 17 boards and six assists.

The problem with his breakout game is how comfortable Anthony seems to be with the overall outcome. This is not meant to diminish his effort. This is just an indicator of how much New York needs to learn. It is one thing to feel good about your team’s chances heading forward, while also alleviating some of the intense pressure off of your own back, but it is quite another thing to be happy about a 0-2 deficit just because you scorched your opponent on the offensive end. Great game Carmelo, but you guys just lost a second straight game that was yours for the taking. And foul next time, too.

Instead of returning to the Mecca with an insurmountable two-game advantage and the adulation of the entire basketball world, the Knicks face a must-win Game 3 against the defending conference champion whose confidence is truly emboldened from holding this series edge, if from nothing else at all.

After surviving the opening two games by the slightest of hairs, Gang Green may have established the foundation for an extended playoff run. There’s a phrase, something regarding the good fortune of a certain ethnicity, I do not recall exactly how it goes, but I’ll let you know when I remember. This saying best describes the Celts’ chances of advancing to the next round, and beyond. This is not to suggest that any success in the next two months would be due to pure luck, but only that they are extremely lucky to be up 2-0 now.

Thanks to some Big Apple sauce, Boston is flying high. Where they’re going is anyone’s guess. What they’ll find is debatable. But there is no denying the fact that all they want is the ultimate prize.

The question is: Does New York? Or will they be content only with fool’s gold?

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

2011 NBA Playoffs Notebook-Bulls, Heat, Pacers, 76ers

The Miami Heat have handled the Philadelphia 76ers rather easily through the first two games of the series. Despite needing a late-game surge to avoid an epic collapse in Game 1, Miami established itself as the more dominant team with its Game 2 rout. This, of course, is no surprise. The Heat were the heavy favorite entering this series; anything less than a five-game thrashing would be considered a disappointment.

The only problem with this sentiment—this apparent expected domination—is that hindsight is 20-20. What is it about Heat-76ers that is any different than Memphis-San Antonio, or, more appropriately, Lakers-Hornets? The Heat are the more talented team? The 76ers do not match-up well with Miami? Those answers are too simple. They can both be applied to Los Angeles, but cannot explain why New Orleans is up 1-0 on the road against the two-time defending champs.

This is where intangibles come in to play. The old immeasurable measure that explains why some formulas fail to produce the expected result is alive and well. The 76ers, unfortunately, may have finally realized that there is nothing else to draw from their tank in terms of having a real chance to win this series. They cannot outrun their opponent, minimizing their athleticism they relied on for much of the season. They cannot slow the game down in an effort to shorten it, thereby making it a half-court brawl, as their opponent is just as comfortable playing that style as anyone else in the league. The Heat’s defense, when played with the effort we should expect to see throughout this postseason, can intimidate even the most prolific offensive juggernauts. The 76ers have run out of ideas and motivation, the consequence of which is the prospect of needing 4 wins in their next 5 games against a team they have not beaten all year. There is, now, one way to measure Philadelphia’s chances the rest of the way: shake your head.

When you’re finished saying goodbye to Philadelphia, make sure to welcome the Indiana Pacers back home. After two heart-breaking losses to the overall number 1 seed on the road, Indiana returns to the state of basketball with all the confidence David had after slaying Goliath.

You say they’re down 2-0, facing the same predicament as the 76ers team, needing to win 4 out of the next 5 against everyone’s favorite to represent the East. I say Chicago did only what it was expected to do, and less.

The Bulls have not dominated the way the number 1 seed is expected, earning them a 2-game advantage over their opponent, yet squandering the main advantage it held entering the playoffs: undeniable superiority over a weaker opponent

The Pacers have no pressure to win—an underrated intangible. There should be no tightness or hesitation on the court. Their only problem is their lack of killer instinct, the ability to close out a team after leading the majority of the game. This is what separates winners from losers this time of year. This inability to overcome the final obstacle can be the single factor that allows one team to advance over another, regardless of match-ups. But the only way to learn how to win is by winning. The only way to win is by playing in hotly contested, high-stakes games. Indiana’s recent disappointment is their only chance to overcome their present reality.

Confident, pressure-free, and two games closer to becoming the type of team that can keep a lead, the Pacers have some more surprising to do. They just need to continue to play their game.

As simple as this may seem, the difference between Philadelphia and Indiana is what is unseen. And, now, that is very easy to measure.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The NBA's Second Season is the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

For most NBA teams, the regular season comes to an agonizingly late and expectedly uneventful conclusion tonight. Several squads will showcase their bench warriors in an attempt to either rest key starters for the upcoming playoffs, or peek into the future while sending their young pups out for one last yard-fight.

There are, however, a hand-full of teams which still have important statements to record before the two-day hiatus between seasons. The Los Angeles Lakers have an opportunity to erase their recent five-game skid with a closing night victory to clinch the second seed and home-court advantage in a second round series in the cut-throat Western Conference. If they falter, the Dallas Mavericks find themselves in position to do the same. Late-season playoff jockeying resembles a preseason box-out drill. The ball’s in the air; who wants it more?

While the Eastern Conference is comparable to a set of Christmas gifts whose presence is expected, and whose absence may cause an unnecessary family squabble at the worst possible time, the battle out West still provides the type of suspense that only a good night’s sleep followed by a piece of toast and OJ and a good morning kiss can unravel, or unwrap.

It is, quite possibly, the most wonderful time of the year.

By this time tomorrow, NBA fans and followers will know what match-ups will be featured for at least the next four games—the 82-game half-marathon now only a prelude to the second, or real, season.


We all know the rules. Sixteen teams, each needing sixteen more wins, start a bracket-style, best-of-seven series against one opponent—each series eliminating another contestant until there are eight, four, two, and then one team standing.

The ‘first-to-four-wins’ format is an accepted structure for determining which of two teams is best. How often have we been told, repeatedly and without recourse, “In a seven game series, the best team always wins”? Why is that, anyway? Is it because the length of time? If that’s the case, why not have a best of 9 or 11? Of all series that have gone the distance, in the history of humanity, what makes anyone think that the loser of game 7 couldn’t win game 8?

Sometimes we accept tradition as scientific fact.

In any case, the progression of elimination is innately exciting. We will witness the best players nature can buy competing against each other in front of the entire basketball universe. The current format guarantees at least four straight meetings between two teams that have played against a new opponent each night for the past five months. Familiarity will not be an issue. But, like many friends who end up burning bridges as bitter roommates, familiarity will breed contempt. Competing against one team, and one team only, for an extended period of time is the perfect conductor for producing electric friction. By game 3, every team will hate—a strong word, I know—absolutely hate their opponent and everything they stand for. This disdain makes for a show like no other in sports. The desire to ruin your opponent’s aspirations is surpassed only by the desire to fulfill your own.


There is something very real about the difference between regular season and playoff basketball. The court is the same size, the ball bounces the same way, and the general rules are the same, although some rules are interpreted differently. Discretionary power among NBA referees is matched only by that of our fine police officers around the country. This is no surprise, and it adds character to the landscape. Stars receive star treatment, as playoffs receive playoff treatment.

The hyperbole that is sports talk can sometimes diminish the real effort needed to win. It can be extremely irksome to endure commentary after commentary regarding a player or team’s inner battle to delve into the deepest depths of the psyche in an attempt to accumulate more points than the team standing in the way, almost as if the ability to persevere through this ultimate physical and mental obstacle course is on par with creating world peace or discovering the cure for the common cold. This comparison does more to discredit the will that is necessary to advance, as no one wants to hear about young, rich kid’s “problems”. No one wants to hear about how great this accomplishment is and how it automatically makes someone the equal to Martin Luther King, Jr. or Mother Theresa. We all wish we could have their career, this job of playing a game.

The problem is, in the world of sports, unlike most professions, judgment will arrive with the weight and momentum of two mating elephants falling from the sky. The perception of failure can be as everlasting as the adulation of success. This is why we know just as much as about those who have not won a ring as we do about those who beat them. John Stockton and Karl Malone? They were great, no doubt. As was Charles Barkley. They are three of the best players in the history of the game—to never win a title. Dan Marino and Bill Buckner can tell you why the postseason is so important, if for different reasons. Yes, a postseason career, or just a play, can define a player’s legacy. And as we have learned throughout the years: a legacy is a terrible thing to waste.


The opening weekend offers a preview of every team. The clean slate provides a forum for teams to strengthen their already defined identity, yet also allows for new traits to come to light. What underdog will upset in the first-round? Which contender will climb the highest to start, and therefore grab the Yellow Jacket as the ‘team to beat’? Which players will step up and, more importantly, which stars will cower? Which teams will carry the momentum from one series to the next? Which is the most intriguing Finals match-up?

These are a few of the several questions that need to be addressed. The answers will reveal themselves in due time, right before our eyes, without a doubt. Our intense attention will pulsate with enough force to pressure our hoops heroes into submission, or elevate them to the top where history awaits.

We should have a good idea what to expect, based on each team’s performance the last few months.

But that was last season.

For now, let’s get some milk and cookies. It’s almost time.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Three Point Play


In the current technology-driven world of instant results, satisfying or otherwise, finished products in sports, especially the NBA, are labeled as such at record pace. Gone are the days of players or teams growing in due time. The natural process of building chemistry required for championship success has been replaced with finding the correct elements to thrive immediately; maturation is forced, or the experiment is deemed a failure before the baby learns how to use its legs.

Patience used to be a virtue. New players and teams used to receive a pass when failing. Owners and fans alike understood that season-ending disappointments were a necessary evil in order for a certain core of players and/or coaches to learn and overcome. Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls lost in the playoffs several years before Jordan’s obvious talent matured to the point that no one would get in his or his team’s way again.

After succumbing to Detroit’s Bad Boys in the ’88, ’89, and ’90 playoffs, MJ and the Jordanaires finally overcame their greatest obstacle while essentially sending Isaiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Dennis Rodman, Bill Laimbeer, Rick Mahorn, John Salley, and Co. into the sunset--their run of Eastern Conference superiority now only a memory. In 1991, Jordan’s 7th year in the league, Chicago won its first NBA title over the Magic Johnson-led Los Angeles Lakers. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I failed so many times, which is why I succeed.”

Fast-forward twenty years later. The growing pains associated with learning on the job have transformed from years of supreme focus to weeks of supreme rehearsal. Free-agency and early-draft entrants have produced a win now or go home now mentality consistent with genetic manipulation. The rite of passage, the passing of the torch, is now a sprint, not a marathon.

The “process”, a term used quite regularly by Miami Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, can now be summed up in one page, rather than an encyclopedia.

Speaking of which, did anyone else watch the Miami Heat beat the Boston Celtics for the first time yesterday in a game for home-court advantage in the second-round, a series that will feature these same two teams assuming they do not trip and fall against New York or Philadelphia?


At one point during CBS’s coverage of The Masters, one of the unquestionably wise golf commentators brought to light the fact that, during the final stretch, each of the seven continents, save Antarctica, was represented by the remaining contenders.

Tiger Woods (North America), KJ Choi (Asia), Miguel Angel Cabrera (South America), Jason Day, Geoff Ogilvy, and Adam Scott (Australia), Charl Shwartzel (Africa), and Rory McIlroy (Europe) each had a legitimate shot to don the Green Jacket during the final 9.

While that makes for quite a world competition, which is exciting as the Olympics is looming, the truth is that there is only one player in the game that still captivates the attention of sporting fans around the world. Other than scantily-clad cheerleaders gracing the fairways after each tee shot, there is only one player who makes the battle for golf euphoria a must-see event. Whether you love him or now hate him, he is golf.

The holier than thou purists who feign at the sound of his name would be well-served to cast stones at their own mirror rather than assume that the game, from a spectators point-of-view, can survive without this player.

After more than 14 years in the spotlight, his presence has been taken for granted. His infamous divorce is the dividing line where perception skews reality. Golfers now need to appreciate his greatness more than ever, regardless of how they feel about him personally, because when he’s gone, the fans will leave with him.

And the backlash against this player, considering the elitism associated with it, will be the single driving force that alienates fans for the foreseeable future.

Good luck, Jon Daly. Here’s looking at you, kid!


Speaking of elitist malarkey, the Los Angeles Lakers seem to not be hitting stride just in time for the real season which starts next weekend. Losers of five in a row, the Lake show have fumbled the aura of invincibility at the one-yard line. While the scrum to recover this fumble will take some time to dissipate, the beast at the bottom of the pile seems to be the Oklahoma City Thunder.

There is much to be said for sitting in bed fat and happy, no matter what Kobe’s seemingly contrived jaw scowl may suggest. The hunger to win is greater than the will to repeat, or three-peat. Now, while Kobe may be motivated enough, simply because he is the team’s leader, the other members of the purple and gold need to rid of themselves the natural complacency hidden in the form of overconfidence.

Is any contending team in the Western Conference afraid of this year’s Lakers, as they were the previous two seasons? Dallas and San Antonio may be aware, but still must be licking their chops at a chance to take down this year’s version of the defending champs. Oklahoma City was too young to realize what they were getting themselves into last year, and now they are improved in the front-court and their confidence is justly sky-high.

As it stands, Los Angeles is set for a date with New Orleans in the first-round. Lakers fans should hope that the bracket finishes this same way, since the Hornets are the only playoff team that cannot beat them.

Friday, April 8, 2011


The big party had been in the works for some time. Somewhere between a wedding and a spontaneous weekend get together is where this gathering should be classified. While there weren’t supposed to be many out-of-town guests, there were plenty who had this date marked down as a can’t-miss event.

As such, there are certain people without whom this fiesta would surely be a failure. Not that their presence would necessarily add to the aura, but their absence would undeniably and inexplicably minimize the electricity. Uncle Buck is one such person.

As the nightfall signaled the arrival of several guests, family, and friends, the phone rang. It was Buck. He said he cannot make it tonight as he has been sick since last night, regurgitating repeatedly, his body still in shambles as the slightest of movements triggered massive changes in stomach comfort.

What!? How can he not make it tonight? What do you mean he’s sick? I don’t believe him. He obviously doesn’t want to be here. Who gets sick, anyway?

Normally, I would agree with this sentiment. How can someone become conveniently sick at such a bad time? And even if he is sick, how can he be so sick that he cannot make it to this long-anticipated party? Maybe he has a cold, but it’s obvious that he doesn’t want to be here. Uncle Buck must be a liar.

However, the past two days have reminded me of just how sick a person can be, no matter what time it is. I started to feel a little woozy Wednesday night. My stomach was crying either, “feed me, jerk” or “get that food away from me, jerk”. I wasn’t sure which it was. So I went to Taco Bell.

Now, I understand that the Border doesn’t serve what many would think is a healthy meal, but if my stomach wanted food, this is perfect to satisfy its request, and if not, then I would surely know after the first bite.

It became painfully, literally, obvious that my stomach did not want any food-but not until I scarffed down two steak soft tacos and a double-decker supreme. I immediately felt the repercussions of my misdiagnosis. My entire body was hot and cold, weak and weaker; all the while I could feel the bug circulating from my head down to knees and back to my stomach.

I felt as though I just woke up on a Sunday after an especially exciting college football Saturday. The difference is I know what to expect after drinking from noon until midnight. I understand why my head is throbbing and my stomach is empty. Not this time. I haven’t had a drink since last week, why do I feel like I want to rip my entire insides out?

And that is exactly what happened. After a couple false alarms, my entire life led to this point. Huuuuuaaaaaaalllllcccckkkkaaaahhhhhh! That felt pretty good, to be hon- HHHHuuuuuuaaaAAAAAlllLLLckkAAAAAhhhh! Oh yeah, that hit the sp-HUALCKAH! Ahh, yes. A lot better now, back to bed.

I thought I chewed that steak.

While I felt better, I knew I wasn’t finished. Within minutes, my body felt the same as it did before I rode the porcelain bus, as my father likes to call it. I knew there was more to be had.

To make a long story short (Too late!), I had another, much more violent attack similar to the one described above. After that incident, there was no doubt about the emptiness inside. My entire last meal, along with several cups of lemonade, orange juice, coke, strawberry Jell-O, and water, was halfway down the sewage pipes. My body, finally, empty.

Yesterday, Thursday, was the same, except without the regurgitation, which is actually worse. There was nothing left to barf, but my body still felt the bug circulating.

It is at this time when the sickness can be overcome, an obstacle that can slow you down but in no way stop you. It is this time when an athlete can will his or her way through the pain, or use it as an excuse. You know that you’re sick. It doesn’t matter if anyone believes you. You also know that you never, ever, ever, want to experience that feeling again. Finally, you know that it is all in the head. You can overcome any illness by pretending that it’s not there. Or can you?

The next time someone says he or she is sick, give the person the benefit of the doubt. Even after this horrible experience, I know I will be skeptical the next time I hear someone complaining of an illness, no matter what my insides tell me. But the truth is, some physical ailments need more than just mental fortitude in order to be cured.

It is now Friday. I feel slightly better. I may be well enough to travel to the local sports bar later for some wings and a pitcher.

Just don’t expect me to make it to any parties.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011



I just returned from the basketball courts. I never go to play, only to watch and wish I could play. There was a good, competitive game unfolding. The rules at this park are simple: games are up to 15 with one and two-pointers, win by 2, game ends at 21. The locals always have good, competitive games against each other. No one tries to hurt anyone, except their feelings. Hard fouls are as welcome as a give-and-go lay-up. It is easy to be embarrassed out here, although no one would acknowledge it. I wish I could get a game.

This particular game featured two visitors. It is always exciting when new comp arrives at this park. Because there are so many regulars, new players stick out like sore pinkies. These two also welcomed the expected scrutiny. They are playground veterans too, no matter what you think. No one playing in this game was in foreign territory. The court is the same size around the world.

After a series of dipsy-dos and dunkeroos, three-point splashes and penetrating gashes, shot swats and ankle locks, the park was aware: these two can hoop. It did not matter that neither fit the profile. A lanky, pestering defensive gnat of a giant who could not hit a jumper to save his pierced eyebrow and a modest, light-skinned vanilla swirl, albeit with a milky smooth left-handed jump shot from anywhere on the court, both players knew how to play the game. Neither tried to do too much, and each did what was needed to win.

I forgot who won that game. A couple games later, the best player in the neighborhood showed up. His name is Michael Gordon. Luckily, I know his sister and he owes me some favors. He picks me up to play on his team, along with the pierced, tattooed dude. The other team picks up the lefty Larry Bird. Of course, we won. Michael’s teams never lose. We won six games that day: three in a row, then Mike had to go to the store for some Gatorade, so we lost twice, then he returned, and we won three more in a row.

I’ll always remember the day I finally got the chance to run on my neighborhood court.

This reminds me: Congratulations to Dennis Rodman, Chris Mullin, and the entire 2011 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class!

It is, undoubtedly, a well-deserved honor.


The MLB season started last week, reminding me that the NCAA women’s basketball tournament is coming to a close, which reminds me: Skylar Diggins is pretty good.

Her long brown hair, black eyes, and beautiful lips will surely bring a new fan base to a WNBA arena near you. This is in addition to her court-vision, scoring, and leadership she has displayed all season…

OK, I’m lying.

I happened across Sunday night’s women’s NCAA Final Four while engaging in some serious semi-professional channel surfing. My options at the time were dwindled down to Baseball Tonight, Dallas-Portland on the League Pass, and Real Housewives of Orange County. R.H.O.C. was on commercial break, so I set adrift to a national semi-final, which is exciting regardless of the sport.

Immediately, I see a streaking dart of energy slicing through the middle of the court-her striking good looks capture my attention at this point- on her way to a cagey short jump shot in the paint-she’s pretty good, for a girl, is my next reaction.

I notice the score and change channels.

I miss her already.

I turn the game back on and throw the remote on the couch. All of a sudden, this model in sneakers is taking the game over. Shots, lay-ups, assists, defense, point-guard leadership, she is awesome. I hear she is only a sophomore. Wow. An All-American too. Wow, again.

Google Skylar Diggins: Gatorade National High-School Player of the Year in 2009. Incredible.

Here’s hoping Texas A&M wins the 2011 National title; Miami Hurricane fans will tell you why. But here’s hoping Skylar Diggins plays another magnificent game while she adds to what should be a long career on the court.

This is not to say that women’s basketball needs some hooping hotties to draw more fans, but it is. Not for me. I appreciate the women’s game. I scrimmaged versus my college’s women’s team. They can play. It is played below the rim, and is the epitome of team basketball. Unfortunately, in order to attract more of a male audience, good looking ladies will need to grace the floors, and not just to lead cheers.

This is not to say that there are not too many lookers in the league now, but it is. Not for me. I appreciate the beauty on display any given night during the WNBA journey. I dated a basketball player for a while. She looked great on and off the court. Unfortunately, they are as rare as a giraffe in the ocean.

I hope the WNBA, and women’s basketball in general, makes strides in the areas it lacks. Otherwise, I will be resigned to watching nothing but nine innings of posing and posturing for the camera while trying to outthink the opponent with a bat and glove, also known as MLB.

Thanks to Skylar Diggins, however, there is at least one more game to watch.

Monday, April 4, 2011

NCAA Basketball Tournament Gets It Right, Every Year

That sure was an exciting tournament the NCAA showcases for their basketball teams each season. Sixty-something teams competing against each other on the court, each game eliminating another participant until there are sixteen, eight, four, two, and ultimately one team left standing. I wonder whose idea it was. Who was the visionary that came up with this perfect plan for determining the ultimate champion among champions?

While there may be some reservations regarding the legitimacy of college basketball’s title winners, considering the single-elimination format which gives underdogs a better opportunity to advance-anything can happen in one game, as we have seen every season-the fact is each team knows when it is winning time. Every team knows that the madness begins in March. The NBA starts its playoffs in a couple weeks. Players and coaches realize this. College is no different, except that the favorites only need to win one game to continue, not four out of seven.

If you are a heavy favorite, yet fail to bring it when it matters, you do not deserve to be champion, even if you were undefeated up to that point.


How many college basketball national champions of years past are big surprises? While not every favorite has won, there have only been a handful of Villanovas and N.C. States that have pulled off the unthinkable. Kinda like the New England Patriots in 2001 and the New York Giants in 2007. The reality is the best teams win each year because the NCAA gets it right when it comes to the hardwood. Conference tournaments, a time when each team gets a chance to test itself in the one-and-done format, precede the Big Dance, allowing for extra preparation that even the pros do not receive. Teams are then paired depending on how well they performed in the regular season and conference tournament. Win and get rewarded accordingly. There should be no excuses.

And, please, do not call me Guy.

Sorry, guys and Guys.

Now, if the NCAA could somehow contact that person who conjured the idea for its basketball postseason, and urge this same person to save college football’s postseason from the deep depths of greed wrapped in selfishness covered in tartar sauce and feces known as the BCS, then the world would be a better place.

Congrats, UConn! And many thanks for knocking me from first to fourth in my bracket, which awards the top three.

Thanks, Guys!