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.

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