Thursday, March 31, 2011

Derrick Rose or LeBron James: Who Deserves the NBA MVP Award?

The NBA MVP award will be given to either LeBron James or Derrick Rose. While Dwight Howard, Kevin Durant, and, yes, Dwyane Wade each have legitimate claims of their own, the media votes are the ones that count, an issue alluded to by Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy. This means that the award is similar to a beauty contest. Objectivity is pushed into the corner. While every candidate is attractive, a gesture as simple as a gravity-defying, one-handed, alley-hoop dunk during a January contest against a lower-level team can be the defining highlight that is too hard to ignore come ballot time.

The criteria used to determine which player is, in fact, the most valuable is almost as subjective as whether you prefer blonde or brunette.

Is he the BEST player in the league? Does that question answer who is the most VALUABLE? Of course, it depends on whom you ask. If the award goes to the best player, then a player like Michael Jordan should have as many MVP trophies as he has years spent in the league. The best player doesn’t always take the cake.

Is the player with the most impressive stats the most valuable player in the league? That cannot be the case. Every team plays the same amount of minutes as the rest of the league. Stats will accumulate for even the most mediocre of players.

Best player on best team? This is not the Heisman Trophy. This NBA award is an individual one, at least in comparison to college football’s version.


The only question that must be answered is: Which player has played the biggest role in his team’s success, where success means having a legitimate shot to win the NBA Finals? This can also mean: Which contending team, when removing its best player, suffers the most?

Sure, some of the previous questions can be correctly answered by applying this simple equation, but they can also lead voters on the wrong path.

The best player in the NBA? LeBron, Durant, Wade, and Howard come to mind. Kobe should be there somewhere, too. Rose is in the discussion.

The player with the most impressive numbers? LeBron, Howard, Rose, Blake Griffin, Monta Ellis, Kevin Love, and Zach Randolph have put up impressive lines all season.

There is something to be desired with these lists, at least with regard to the MOST VALUABLE PLAYER in the league.

Let’s ask the question again: Which player, on a championship contending team, plays the biggest role in his team’s success?

There are eight teams that have a real shot to win it all: San Antonio, Los Angeles Lakers, Dallas Mavericks, and Oklahoma City out west and Chicago, Boston, Miami, and Orlando in the east.

We can eliminate players from the west. Each of those teams can lose their best player and still compete at a high-level. The Lakers sport two towers in the middle, Dallas is as deep as anyone, San Antonio relies on its system almost as much as its facilitators, and Oklahoma City has Russell Westbrook, a budding star in his own right.

We can eliminate Boston and Miami, both of whom combined to represent seven of the East All-Star’s twelve participants this year. Also, Wade and Chris Bosh, along with key complimentary pieces, and under the sole leadership of Wade, would be a title-contender even without LeBron. The same can also be said about LeBron and Bosh, sans Wade.

This leaves us with Orlando and Chicago. Howard vs. Rose. Big vs. small. Size vs. speed. Point guard vs. center. The great debate. Howard may be a more coveted commodity, but Rose has his team atop the standings.

At this point, other than flipping a coin, one should not be convinced either way. It is safe to say that both teams lack the firepower around their shining star to compete any more effectively than Milwaukee or Phoenix.

This is not a bad thing. Hugely subjective? Absolutely. But who cares? This is an individual award. The fact that there is any debate about who deserves the award is an example of how intriguing this league is. The game is better for it. Publicity is good.


Can I vote for co-MVPs? If so, I vote for Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

Then again, it is the Finals MVP that really matters.

NBA Threeview

NBA Threeview



1. Atlanta beats visiting Orlando, 85-82, in a preview of a very probable first-round playoff match-up.

2. New York beats host New Jersey, 120-116, winning its second straight after dropping 10 of 11.

3. Chicago travels to Minnesota and routs the Timberwolves, 108-91, while adding a half-game to its conference lead over idle Boston.


1. Oklahoma City easily defeats Phoenix, 116-98, to win their fifth straight while all but eliminating the Suns’ playoff hopes.

2. Dallas outlasts host Los Angeles Clippers, 106-100, while keeping pace with second-place Los Angeles Lakers.

3. Houston loses to host Philadelphia, 108-97, dropping the Rockets three games behind victorious Memphis for the final playoff position.


1. Boston visits San Antonio in a game that each team should treat as a Finals preview. Both championship teams enter the contest with identical 5-5 records through their last 10 games. While San Antonio is battling the injury bug, Boston has yet to find traction after trading away their center(piece), Kendrick Perkins, to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green. In either case, a win tonight will be a welcome sight for sore legs.

2. Los Angeles hosts Dallas in a contest that could determine which of these two teams earns home-court advantage in the second round of the playoffs, a series in which these same teams should meet again. Add to it the fact that both are riding extended winning streaks (L.A.-7 in a row, Dallas-5 in row) and you have the makings of a playoff atmosphere. Exciting, it is.


1. The Bulls have only the Celtics to worry about in their pursuit of home-court advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs. Miami will end up second or third in the east. Boston, however disappointing recently, can regain its edge while recording a significant late-season statement by defeating the depleted Spurs. A loss, on the other hand, may spur a furious run by the Heat to gain the second seed and home-court in a probable second round match-up against the Celts.

2. Although San Antonio sits atop the league standings, its recent swoon only strengthens the detractors who contend that the Spurs cannot rely on its current core to win another championship. Considering the teams right behind them, they may be correct in their assumptions. Los Angeles, Dallas, Oklahoma City, AND Denver are in the middle of serious late-season runs, the profits of which will be evident when the real season starts and the strengthened chemistry and confidence carries each team during the grueling grind, also known as the first round of the Western Conference.

3. For the second straight game, the Heat have encountered extended scuffling fisticuffs versus cellar dwelling teams who considered their meeting with Miami as Game 7 of the Finals. John Wall and Zydrunas Ilgauskas exchanged contact information with each other-Big Z with a well-concealed veteran elbow or two, and Wall with a similarly concealed hook to the ribs. Two nights ago, Ryan Hollins from Cleveland and Dwyane Wade invited each other to their respective mansions for Easter, I imagine. The Heat have been experiencing firsts all season, obviously. Theses recent pleasantries are exactly what Miami should expect come playoff time, and the Heat should be well-prepared. Not to retaliate, but to do the exact opposite, retreat. Any first-round opponent would be well-served to bait Miami’s trio into a possible melee that could see one of the Big Treat suspended for a game. Heat-Knicks ’97?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NBA Threeview

NBA Threeview



1. Miami travels to Cleveland and loses, 102-90, losing a half-game to idle Boston and falling to third place.


1. Oklahoma City defeats visiting Golden State, 115-114 in overtime, keeping pace with Dallas for the third seed while almost guaranteeing first-round home-court advantage.

2. Houston is victorious over host Toronto, 112-87, keeping its playoff chances alive and well, while Phoenix dropped a must-win game at Sacramento, 116-113.



1. Orlando and Atlanta match wits tonight in what is sure to be a first-round playoff preview. Although the Hawks hold a 2-1 series advantage this season, the teams have not met since December. Atlanta must prove they can compete with Orlando, or they can expect a repeat of last year’s postseason sweep in the conference semifinals at the hands of the Magic.

2. New York hosts little brother New Jersey in a game that can go a long way toward helping the Knicks gain some momentum in time for the playoffs.

3. Chicago takes on host Minnesota. A victory over the outmanned Timberwolves can erase the memories of last game’s defeat to Philadelphia, while adding a half-game to its lead over Boston.


1. New Orleans hosts Portland in a game between the 6 and 7 seeds. While every series in the west will be hotly contested, the Hornets would be well-served to avoid the Lakers at all costs. Portland will have its hands full against either Los Angeles or Dallas, or maybe Oklahoma City, but New Orleans stands no chance against the Lakers.

2. Houston heads east to Philadelphia in a game featuring two of the best ‘teams’ in the league. Philadelphia is a lock to make the playoffs, but Houston must continue its hot streak (7-3 last 10) just to have the honor of playing San Antonio in the first round. It should not surprise anyone if either of these teams sneaks into the conference semis after upsetting a higher seed in the opening round.

3. Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Denver take the floor against inferior teams while each hopes to keep pace with the field. The crowded west is similar to a pulsating heart, an amoeba like substance whose parts continuously move back and forth and sideways until the final days of the season, at which point we will be able to dissect the final product. All we know right now is who will have home-court during the first round, everything else is up for debate.


1. Miami experienced its worst loss of the season last night, succumbing to the energized Cavaliers in Cleveland while failing to gain ground on idle Boston and Chicago atop the standings. The Heat had an opportunity the rest of the season to possibly catch the Bulls and definitely pass the Celts. The good news for Miami is they are equally adept at winning, home or away, so home-court advantage in the playoffs is not too much of a factor. The bad news is that they lost to Cleveland.

2. While the top teams in the east have suffered losses each time out, the west’s best, save the injury-riddled San Antonio Spurs, are on fire. Los Angeles, Dallas, Oklahoma City, and Denver each sport winning streaks of at least three games, with the Lakers winning seven straight. The horses have seemingly turned the final corner and hit their stride down the stretch.

3. The Final Four will capture the attention of hoops fans across the country, if not the globe. Four seems to be a magic number. The top four seeds in each conference are legitimate threats to make this year’s Finals. This has not been true for some time, meaning this summer’s playoffs are sure to be a treat. Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chad Ochocino Plays Futbol, the Beautiful Game

Chad Ochocinco has been awarded a reserve spot, or “honorary” membership, on MLS squad Sporting Kansas City. The limited ground view highlights I have seen of his recent reserve game match do not reveal the wide receiver’s true soccer ability. I suspect that this NFL star can hold his own physically, but his technique may need some fine-tuning.

Soccer players do not receive the credit they deserve for their superior athleticism due to the fact that no one cares about the game in our country. This is a sad truth. You ask why? It is not sad because the game is due our respect or attention, but because we, as a country, can become world powers almost immediately.

This is not to suggest that we could easily win the next World Cup-that would be too arrogant an expectation. The game requires incredible footwork, the likes of which are not readily apparent in our sports-football, basketball, and baseball. Steve Nash’s ability to get to almost anywhere on the basketball floor is a credit to his soccer playing days during his youth in his native Canada. Our athletes would certainly need a few years to hone their fundamentals.

I am suggesting, however, that we, as a country, could win every single World Cup after 2014.


I understand that the soccer-loving community, of which I am a part, will cry for a yellow card upon hearing such a bold analysis. Americans and foreigners alike may dismiss this claim as typical bravado from someone who does not know anything about the world’s sport.

The fact is the U.S. has the best athletes in the world, if only because we have one of the world’s largest populations and, football. We have generations of kids who have several sports from which to choose; the very best becoming professionals. We are, indeed, an athletic bunch. If we can get the athletes like Ochocinco to concentrate on soccer, dedicating their summer vacations to the ‘pitch’ while dribbling the soccer ball with the same ease as a basketball, we would surely dominate. The best soccer players in the world, as extremely athletic as they are, are not physical freaks. If I did not know any better, I would think Ochocinco was the best player on the field, based on appearance.

This is not hockey, where the ice bridges the gap from athletic phenomenon to excellent ice skater, which is why I would not suggest we Americans can dominate that sport as easily. This is soccer- 22 players on a pitch that is wider and a bit longer than our football fields. This setting allows for speed, an asset of which we have plenty, and power, a trait found in 99% of our pros, to combine with finesse, a characteristic, unfortunately, most commonly associated in sports with weakness. This is why we ignore it.


Finesse is not macho, or American. It is for chumps. At least until someone like Ochocinco, or Kobe, or D-Rose (can you imagine trying to stop him, if he could dribble the same way as Lionel Messi?), or DeSean Jackson decides that finesse, when used appropriately, can be as overpowering as all the speed and power in the world. Then the wall between football player and futbol player will slowly diminish, piece after piece, star after futbol star. It will be accepted to be a futbol player, unlike nowadays where soccer players are seen as having some medical condition. He plays what? Soccer? Something must be wrong with him.

Because of this attitude, we have yet to see our Michael Jordan sport shin guards or Babe Ruth or Joe Montana don the captain’s armband. Mike Tyson has not lined up for a penalty kick or, more appropriately, shed the goalie’s jersey after a big win. We have yet to claim the best soccer player in the world as our own.

The good news for soccer junkies in this country? We are almost there. Americans love a winner. As soon as the U.S. men’s soccer team makes that jump from Round of 16 losers to Final Four participant or better in the World Cup, then we will truly see an influx of young Americans using their feet to become a professional athlete.

The problem right now? The gap between winner and national interest is too wide. The feel-good sensation each of us experienced upon seeing, or learning of, our group stage victory that sent us into the knockout stage of last year’s World Cup was too short-lived and too far in the past to inspire our young jocks.

But Ochocinco’s rendezvous with the MLS may be the butterfly’s wings that can produce an avalanche of American soccer intrigue. Maybe a person with his athleticism and flair can finally show enough of the population that this game is not only fun, but extremely challenging. Competition, which is what all competitors want, will not be hard to find, as there is no lack of green grass in this great land of ours that can be converted into a usable pitch. American youth may soon see their heroes more readily available on the television, their triumphs or defeats causing that youth’s happiness or despair, much in the same way as the NBA, NFL, or MLB. Maybe the NFL is slowly opening this door through their finger-pointing and posturing, much the same way MLB undoubtedly took for granted their following in 1994 when the inability to negotiate a reasonable agreement between players and owners led to a work stoppage which caused the World Series to be cancelled that year. How popular is baseball now?

While I do not proclaim to be an expert on futbol, or anything else for that matter, I know that the draw of this game is its simplicity. Other than staying onside, not using your hands, and not intentionally kicking your opponent in the throat, the only rule is put the ball in the net. And I did mention that Americans would need a few years to grasp the fundamentals, didn’t I?

Simple and fundamental, yet fast and powerful--that surely makes for a great game.

America embracing it as such? That would certainly make for a beautiful game.

NBA Threeview

NBA Threeview



1. Boston loses to Indiana, 107-100, leaving the Celts in a tie with Miami for second place.

2. Chicago falls at home to Philadelphia, 97-85, dropping a half-game to idle Miami.

3. New York defeats Orlando at home, 113-106 in overtime, solidifying the Knicks’ playoff position.


1. San Antonio, playing without Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili, and Tim Duncan, drops its second straight to Portland and fourth overall, weakening its lead on the top spot, where they have a 3.5 game lead over Los Angeles.


1. Miami heads to Cleveland for its second game at Quicken Loans Arena with a chance to take a half-game lead over Boston for second place and home-court advantage in the second round.

2. Oklahoma City hosts Golden State and Monta Ellis. A victory puts the Thunder three games behind Dallas for third place, and, more importantly, strengthens its hold over Denver for fourth place and home-court advantage in round one.

3. Phoenix and Houston continue their struggle to earn a playoff spot when each team travels to play cellar dwellers Sacramento and New Jersey. Yes, the Nets are in the cellar with Toronto.


1. Miami is quietly climbing the top of the standings, sitting two games away from the number 1 seed. The Bulls hold the tie-breaker, meaning the Heat need Chicago to finish no better than 6-3 while finishing 9-0 themselves. That’s probably not going to happen, although the schedule is favorable for Miami. The Heat, however, control their own destiny for the second seed, thanks to Boston’s collapse over the past few games. Miami hosts Boston April 10th in a game that could settle the final standings while allowing the Heat to erase the Celtic’s mental hold over their younger counterpart.

2. San Antonio, like Boston, has struggled recently, losing four in row. The Spurs have been without the services of Tim Duncan for essentially five games and last night’s defeat saw each of the big 3 sidelined. San Antonio’s tenuous lead over the Lakers should be safe, but the Spurs and Celts cannot be comfortable heading into the postseason. The problem for the rest of league? If any two teams can turn the switch on come playoff time, it is these two teams.

3. New York’s win over Orlando allows the Knicks to remove the gorilla sized monkey off their back while gaining the slight momentum needed by any contending NBA team to right the ship. The Knicks are the ultimate wild-card this summer. While they struggle against the lower-level teams, the Knicks compete fairly well versus the teams they will likely face in the playoffs, even if they haven’t been victorious lately, as evidence by their 1-10 record entering last night. If the playoffs started today, New York would face Boston. Would anyone be too surprised if the Knicks found a way to beat the Celtics? Neither would I.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

NCAA Basketball Is Not Perfect, Until Now

As the NCAA tournament is set to tip-off the Sweet 16 round tonight, thousands of hoop stars around the country, and the world, will be shooting, passing, jumping, bumping, guarding, and jawing on the hundreds of basketball courts we are blessed to call our own. Whether you’re hooping-it-up on the blacktop or popping it from deep in the local gymnasium, you are excited because you know that the rest of the sporting world wishes they could be doing what you’re doing right now-and that is balling.

The circle of life reminds us of its presence during this time. Memories of past championship glory intertwine with hopes of future triumphs while the present unfolds before our eyes. Who will make the next great buzzer-beater, a la Christian Laettner? Who will carry his team to the title while evoking images of Danny Manning or Carmelo Anthony? Who, on this court right now, will grow into the type of athlete that could someday get the opportunity to shine before the nation for three weeks while claiming a page of history as his own?

There is a unique bond between the excitement and purity of college basketball and the playgrounds of Any City, U.S.A. This bond is stronger than it is with the NBA because, while most street ballers understand the gap in talent between NBA all-star and backyard hero, there are several weekend warriors who may believe that their starting five could beat VCU, or Butler, or even a Florida State or UConn, depending on just how “tight the comp” is in their neighborhood.

The truth is ninety-five percent of any combination of playground legends in the world would lose ninety-five times out of a hundred to not only Richmond or Morehead State, but any D1 school in the land. The other five percent would lose at least half the time, and that takes into consideration the fact that there are several blacktop legends that did play in the highest collegiate level themselves. There are plenty of players whom we cheered for during years past that now play the game as only a hobby.

While the entire NBA is easily accessible for examination, most college basketball teams fly under the radar all year until now. The average fan sees highlights of LeBron, Durant, and Dwight-all leaders of contending teams-but they also know what a beast Blake Superior is and what a blur John Wall is has proven to be, no matter how terrible their teams are now.

The college game, with rosters full of young freshmen waiting the requisite year before they can enter the NBA draft and older upper classmen who have yet to prove themselves as ready for the pro ranks, is rife with turnover that only your local pizza parlor can appreciate.

This lack of continuity produces a chink in the armor that is college basketball integrity. This chink in the armor gives the rest of us an excuse to dismiss the game as a glorified farm league, serving only as a forum for high-school stars to improve their draft stock.

This unfortunate reality belittles the hard work that these anonymous teams put in throughout the year. While the game is not currently in optimal shape, the teams still must put in the hours during the off-season and training camp in order to succeed in March. The teams that have reached this point still play for the name on the front of the jersey, no matter how many players may leave campus for greener pastures next season. There are still stars that will leave their imprint on this tournament, whether it is true freshman Kyrie Irving of Duke or fifth-year senior David Lighty from Ohio St.

Sure, the NBA is wrong for prohibiting high-school stars from entering the draft, thus forcing NCAA schools to take their chances on one-year wonders, or, in the case of Brandon Jennings, forcing these players to embark on an overseas, one-year adventure while anxiously awaiting their turn to shake the commissioner's hand in late June.

But the NCAA tournament hides these imperfections, if only for a few weeks. And playgrounds around the United States and abroad are better for it. This, in turn, makes for an exciting tournament for years to come.

NBA Threeview



1. Orlando travels to New York to hand the Knicks their fourth straight loss, 111-99.

2. Philadelphia beats Atlanta, 105-100, and stands 2.5 games behind the Hawks for the 5th seed.

3. Memphis defeats Boston in the Garden, 90-87, pushing the Celtics a game behind Chicago for the top spot.


1. Denver outlasts visiting San Antonio, 115-112, while extending its record at home in the Mile High city to 29-7.

2. Oklahoma City handles business at home with a 106-94 victory versus reeling Utah, solidifying its first-round home-court advantage while gaining a half-game on idle Dallas for the 3rd seed.

3. Memphis travels to Boston and surprises the Celtics, 90-87, while extending its winning streak to three and solidifying their hold on the 8th seed.


1. Dallas, needing a victory to stay within Los Angeles for the 2nd seed out west, hosts Minnesota.

2. Utah, hoping to stay alive for a playoff berth, hosts New Orleans, which needs a victory of its own to maintain its tenuous hold on the 7th seed.


1. Boston suffered a big loss at home against Memphis. The Celts are stumbling at the wrong time and have yet to prove that trading Kendrick Perkins for Jeff Green was a good move-unless you’re a Thunder fan. Home-court advantage is not the most important factor for Boston’s success, but their superiority in the conference does not seem to be the case anymore. The mental edge may be dissipating as the postseason looms.

2. Oklahoma City is forming the necessary bonds after acquiring two big bodies in exchange for its third-wheel. The Thunder are destined for a second-round match-up against San Antonio, which could be the defining series that catapults this young squad past the Lakers or Mavericks to this year’s Finals.

3. Philadelphia is quietly climbing the standings. Coach Doug Collins has his squad playing as a team and will prove to be a tough out for whomever they face in the first-round.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Three Point Play


The Butterfly Effect is a theory that suggests that something as simple and pleasant as a butterfly flapping its wings can cause, in due time, something as large scale or chaotic as, too be sensitive, a snowstorm halfway across the globe.

The opposite of the Butterfly Effect is an elbow in the chest.

I read and heard some rumblings earlier this week about Andrew Bynum’s hard foul on Michael Beasley last Friday night. I dismissed it as hard play by one of my favorite centers in the league; although I did wonder why the foul was being examined so closely and thoroughly by the media.

Last night I saw the highlight during TNT’s NBA action, and I immediately thought not only about how physical this game is, but how these encounters quickly dissolve due to every player’s understanding of just how physical this game is. No one is trying to hurt anyone.

Bynum crossed this line through his obvious attempt to “finish him!” (Justin Case: original Karate Kid) by intentionally delivering a WWE-style chest blow while the defenseless Beasley was mid-air. I do not remember the last time I saw something as cheap and dirty as that on the basketball court, including the incident I witnessed at the park yesterday when two players engaged in a UFC-type flailing walrus imitation at mid-court after one of them set an extra-heavy-duty, shoulder-first bulldozer of a pick, in a pick-up game, at mid-court.

At least that girl was trying to set the pick.

Bynum’s lack of control cannot be excused. If you clearly attempt to harm, and to be clear, the big center did exactly that, since he had his mind made up before Beasley was in the air that his elbow would land squarely across his chest while he was en route to the rim-he had him lined up, then you immediately miss the next two games or more depending on just how disgraceful the contact is.

I suggest this rule be named the Bynum Effect.


The Chicago Bulls defeated the Atlanta Hawks last night, 114-81, in a game that was decided by halftime-if not the first quarter. MVP front-runner Derrick Rose finished with 30 and 10 in 29 minutes.

The Boston Celtics and Miami Heat should examine these documented statements recorded by the Bulls and realize that they are difficult to dispute. Chicago is the beast right now.

The issue that causes the most concern is that there is one player in the league right now with the speed, power, vision, shot, quickness, and confidence to lead his team single-handedly if necessary. One player who most accurately displays the physical ability to dominate at will, much in the same manner as the legendary Michael Jordan. And, much like his Airness, this player has a chance to prove that he may be the best player in the league while older, more accomplished players from Los Angeles and Boston and Miami attract the attention.

If Rose continues to mount impressive victory over spectacular play over big win on top of clutch performance, he may be laying the foundation for what could be the best career this league has seen since the last great Chicago Bull.


The NFL has approved a rule change which would place the ball at the 35-yard line on kickoffs. The extra five yards given to the kickers is considered an insurmountable advantage which would render the kick return game as useless.

While this may be true, there is one way to counter this advantage and truly pronounce the return game as relevant again: return the ball.

Sounds simple enough. If you catch it, run it. Too often we see a teammate cautioning the return man to take a knee, unless the runner is only a yard or two in the end zone. If you truly have the ability to gain more than 20 or 25 yards, then just do it.

As for the rule itself?

I say, “It’s just the NFL- No Fun League anyway. Aren’t those guys fighting over bmillion dollars or something like that? Why do they bore us with their rule-changes and draft plans now? How about settling on an agreement and assure the fans that you’re not as greedy as you seem to be while restoring order to the sports calendar, because most of us are beyond put off by the recent antics of spoiled, grown babies seemingly pillow-fighting on a trampoline on the beach, while pretending to flex their muscles for the whole world to see, however failing to digest the bigger issue here which is: popularity is a fleeting sensation…?

Ask MLB how popular America’s pastime is right now. Football is the best sport in the country. But basketball is not far behind, while soccer is truly the most popular sport in the world. The NFL and the players better lower themselves back down to earth and stop believing that any publicity is good publicity.”

There, I said it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Three Point Play


Virginia Commonwealth University’s men's basketball team find themselves in the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA championship tournament. Since there always seems to be a double-digit seed to reach this stage (10 Florida State and 12 Richmond join VCU in the Southwest Regional), it is not necessarily surprising that they have advanced.

This is especially the case when you consider that VCU played in last Wednesday’s First Four play-in game, beating Southern California 59-46 to advance to the opening 2nd round. What?

While the NCAA tournament seems to be in the midst of a massive restructuring of the former 64-team field, there is no doubt that VCU has benefited from the momentum of their first round victory, thus prompting me to wonder whether playing in the first round is an advantage or disadvantage.

Conventional wisdom would suggest that playing the least amount of games possible is the ideal situation, and this is logically true. However, I’m pretty confident that Georgetown would have been better prepared had they played, and won, a meaningful game in the same manner as VCU.

There is something to be said for gaining momentum through successful repetition, while gaining confidence before taking the main stage that is the Big Dance. Of course, USC may feel differently, but there is no denying the fact that the slippery slope known as rest vs. rust can either swallow a team whole or catapult a squad to heights they may not have considered possible just a week ago.

Hopefully, VCU can ride this wave and find themselves the likeliest of the unlikeliest to advance to the Final Four. This is why we watch this tournament.

And it doesn’t hurt that I had Georgetown in my Final Four.


Carmelo Anthony recently suggested that the New York Knicks will need time to make things work correctly. This is no surprise, as we have seen how long the Miami Heat have taken to mesh after adding powerful new ingredients to their championship recipe.

With Amare Stoudemire, the Knicks have one of the best scoring duos throughout the league. The problem is that these scorers cannot pass the ball with the same ease as a Dwyane Wade or Russell Westbrook or LeBron James. The problem is compounded when you realize there is only one basketball on the court. This is why Chauncey Billups is such an integral part of New York’s success.

The Knicks have the opportunity to use the remaining regular-season as a glorified training camp, since they are locks to make the playoffs but will undoubtedly face a team that will be favored against them.

While the Knicks are a mediocre 7-7 since trading for their second superstar, the Heat went 9-8 to start the season, prompting similar criticism that currently faces the team from the Big Apple. But New York will have close to 30 games under their belt with their current crew when the second season rolls around, where they will be lucky to avoid the likes of Cleveland, Detroit, and Milwaukee- teams that have beaten these new Knicks, including twice against cellar dweller Cleveland.

This team should not be ignored.


The NCAA tournament will resume Thursday when the Sweet 16 gets underway in four different locations across the country, marking the second of three de facto final fours for whichever teams do advance to the Final Four in Houston.

This means that every remaining team has won at least two straight games, which means there are sixteen college basketball teams that believe they can win the NBA Finals. There are no more surprises; every team is a legitimate threat.

While the first weekend showcases every team, David or goliath, and the Final Four weekend will produce our champion, it is this weekend that makes this tournament so sweet. Sixteen times so.

Thursday, March 17, 2011



For my money, Michael Jordan first introduced the world to the notion that being competitive is the single most important characteristic of being a champion. Being competitive, as I can tell, requires the desire to not just beat opponents, but to seek and recognize the best opponents, and beat them at anything and everything, including, but not limited to: firm handshakes, cool stories, exotic women and beer, three-point shooting, day-to-day relevance, and name-dropping.

Some may refer to this as ‘it’.

Tiger Woods is a competitive competitor who competitively competes in competitions. Tom Rinaldi helps remind us of this during his recent interview with Woods on ESPN.

Rinaldi: Blah, blah, blahah. Who is the best player in the world? Blah.

Woods (pretends to think about the question as he perceives it to mean: what is the main concern with my current game, the resolution of which will allow my dominance to flourish once again?): When I get my swing dialed in? (smirks)

Rinaldi (concludes): You?

Woods stares at Rinaldi then, in a matter of one second, nods his head, eyes closed. His answer, in that split-second, translates to: “Of course, the best golfer in the world today is me. And, sure, my swing needs a little work (Justin Case: I am not suggesting that Woods’ swing needs some tweaking, I would never know. He’s the one who said it), but that is caused mainly due to the year-and-a-half whirlwind of mad clown, tent-less circus public scrutiny and assessment, a time during which I’ve embarrassed myself and my family. But I’m Tiger Woods! I win events before they start. That’s what I do. I’m surprised you asked me that question. You’re better than that, Tom. C’mon, man. Next question.)

Rinaldi: Will you break Nicklaus’ record of 18 majors?

Woods: That’s the goal. That’s always been the goal.

Blah ha hahah blah. Blaah ah ah haa ha blah. Blahama mama.

Rinaldi: Do you believe that you will reach the goal?

Woods: Absolutely.

Rinaldi: What evidence do you have…?

Woods: I believe in myself.

Rinaldi: That’s enough?

Woods: Yeah.

As someone who is not a competitor, unless you’re referring to the ability to avoid competitive competitions against those who like to compete, in which case my ability competes with anyone in the world, I believe in Woods too.

And to those who don’t, I say: Keep competing.


DeMar DeRozan says he will not compete in the dunk contest as long as it continues to be, what he calls, a prop contest. While DeRozan has a legitimate gripe, the problem is the dunk contest itself is a prop. It is an unnecessary tool used to showcase the incredible, creative leaping abilities found in almost ninety percent of NBA players. The irony is that the dunk contest conceals the true poetry and artistry that is known as the in-game dunk.

DeRozan can say whatever he wants.

One thing is for sure: Dwyane Wade’s dunk last night over Kendrick Perkins deserves much props.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011



It seems to me that every year I find myself watching television alone in the living room of a friend, or a friend of a friend, or a stranger’s house-warming party. House-warming parties are especially endearing to me as I feel as though I can always return, no matter how many years later, and claim: “I remember the first party you had here, stranger.”

I went to a house-warming, wine-tasting party last night. It was quite disappointing, not because I could not find a television to watch, but because the house was still being renovated. The bathroom in the family room did not work properly, forcing partygoers to hike the flight of stairs to the master bedroom, or to the backyard behind the recycle bins, in order to maintain stability. The kitchen, however majestic, lacked a working refrigerator, meaning all beverages-and foods- were served from the mega cooler in the backyard behind the recycle bins. The front door was permanently locked due to a super-glue gun mishap. Lastly, construction on the guest room in the backyard by the pool had just started. I don’t drink wine.

The house was beautiful, but I hope to receive an invitation to their next party, when all the incidentals are resolved after receiving the requisite permits from the building department, and I can congratulate them on their new surroundings.

Did anyone else watch last night’s NCAA play-in games? Anyone else get the feeling that our beloved, single-elimination, win-or-go-home immediately tournament is undergoing an enormous remodeling undertaking, awaiting approval from the powers that be in order to proceed, the final result of which will see a 128-team, 7-round heavyweight rendezvous? Or worse, did anyone else think to themselves: “First Four? What are they talking about? The tournament doesn’t even start until Thursday.”?


Inter Milan defeated Bayern Munich in the second leg of the UEFA Champions League round of 16 knockout stage yesterday in Germany by a final count of 3-2. The result netted a 3-3 aggregate tie for these two goliaths. Inter will advance to the quarterfinals based on the away goal rule which states, in the result of an aggregate tie, the team which scored the most away goals advances.

I am a huge proponent of the structure of world football’s several leagues and tournaments and Cups. Mainly because there is a uniqueness to their madness. While I believe there should be a playoff, or postseason, for the biggest leagues-English, Spanish, Italian, and German-I appreciate that they play their regular-season games and the leader at the end is the champion. The season is a race, every game as important as the next.

The away goal rule, however unique it may be, has worn out its welcome. It is difficult enough to score a goal in soccer no matter where you are, goals should not carry more weight based on what arena they were scored in, especially in a tournament as prestigious as the Champions League.

There, I said it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Three Point Play


The UEFA Champions League resumes play in the knockout stage today as Italian giant Inter Milan travel to Germany to take on perennial world power Bayern Munich. The other match features world renowned Manchester United from England hosting top level French squad Marseille. The start time for both contests is 3:45 p.m. EST.

Before last weekend’s daylight saving time clock switch trick, Champions League games regularly began at 2:45 p.m. EST. The Beautiful Game reminds us why it is so. The soccer, I mean futbol, gods are not concerned with mere human perspective, but with a more natural, spiritual representation of the order of things. Time, as we know it, is irrelevant. The position of the sun is what matters here. That is beautiful, we agree.


The beautiful game seems to be quite prevalent lately. At least that is what occurred last night for the Miami Heat as they extracted a bit of revenge on the San Antonio Spurs, topping the league-leaders by 30 ten days after these same Spurs laid a 30-point smack down against the Heat in Texas.

Coach Erik Spoelstra should frame the box score from last night’s victory. If the Heat need to be reminded of what type of effort it takes to win when it counts, this game is the true measuring stick. Chris Bosh playing big down low. Dwyane Wade and LeBron James streaking up and down the court while Wade takes on more of the scoring load and James acting as more of a facilitator, albeit a facilitator who can create easy scores for himself as well. The entire team committing to the defensive side of the ball. Everyone contributing in some fashion.

The Heat have another opportunity to record a statement when red hot Oklahoma City visit American Airlines Arena Wednesday night. Sure, the Lakers are the champs and the Spurs are the class, but the true beasts of the west may be the Thunder. Kendrick Perkins made his debut last night, adding bulk to the athletic yet slim OKC front line, addressing the main issue that faced this team in last year’s playoffs.

The Thunder have flown under the radar most of this season, despite offering the league’s leading scorer in tandem with one of the most electric of the new breed of NBA point guards. Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook form one of the most formidable duos the league boasts. The complimentary pieces fit nicely as each player knows his role. Perkins and Serge Ibaka hold the fort in the trenches as Thabo Sefolosha provides a defensive presence on the perimeter. James Harden comes off the bench and is expected to contribute on the offensive end, adding to the already potent scoring abilities of the two stars. Nazr Mohammed and Eric Maynor providing stability and depth during the long haul that is a 48-minute NBA adventure.

While the Heat have plenty of obstacles to deal with in their own territory, they will be well-served by recording a documented statement, or documenting a recorded statement, or just stating their case to the Thunder, a team they should expect to see in about three months, by sweeping the regular-season series.


The NFL is a true joke. There is a pattern here that the elitist, better than thou, owners AND players need to recognize. Baseball used to be our country’s preferred sport. While there are several factors over a long period of time that have allowed the NFL to overcome MLB and the NBA as America’s favorite pastime, baseball’s strike in 1994 due to labor agreement disagreements is the single event that led this author to slowly remove himself from what was probably his favorite sport growing up.

It did not help that the Florida Marlins twice blew up their World Series winning squads, furthering my discontent with everything diamond.

However, it was beyond me how there was not going to be a fall classic that year. How could that be? There is always a postseason in baseball. How could anything stand in the way of what was considered a staple of American life, a highly-anticipated yearly event that seemed to usurp everyone’s attention and passion for as long as is was necessary to determine a champion, or at least until a game 7? What do you mean there’s no more apple pie?

Of course, I was a youngster. The business side of sports was as foreign to me then as it is to me now. Sure, I understand more now than back then. Sports is a business, as is everything in this world. But I do not care, nor should we as fans, how much money is made or divided among these selfish bmillionaires. I have a favorite sports bar in town, but I have about as much interest in their day to day business dealings as I have an interest in what color undergarments the chef is currently sporting.

There are several factors that lead to a loyal customer severing ties with his or her favorite vendor. Supermarket A is right down the street, always reliable, and easy on the wallet. One day, unfortunately, while waiting patiently to order my favorite steak and cheese hero sub job, a baby rat snuck its way from the air conditioning vent past the ice chest and through a well-concealed hole in the ground corner. I go to supermarket B now.

This rat most assuredly had been in supermarket A during my entire relationship with them, but I never saw it. When I did, I took my talents to another supermarket, one that may be a bit further down the road, but still offers edible foods for honest dollars.

I hope professional football irons out the kinks sooner than later, but if they do not, they risk losing their legions of followers to the more powerful than ever, at least since Michael Jordan graced us with his basketball presence, NBA or, dare I say, world football, also known as futbol, or soccer.

No, not the current population, but the younger generation who may wonder, how could there be no football, no Super Bowl? Does this mean I’m not going to have a birthday this year either? I don’t understand.

Wait, what’s that? The Champions League?

That looks cool.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Three Point Play


Anyone else as excited about the NCAA tournament as I am? Not the basketball version, which is undoubtedly the hot topic for the next few weeks, but the co-ed sewing competition. Every year around this time, some of the best young sewers our nation has to offer converge on one lucky city and compete in various sewing challenges, the fastest and most creative advancing to the next round, culminating in a final, weekend-long sew fest that requires the final four participants to sew together a life-sized version of each of their respective three competitors.

This year promises to be the most exciting NCAA Coed Sew Fest in some time. The favorites are the four seniors from Hofstra. Recruited from the same area in the sewing-rich town of Asheville, North Carolina, the Super Sewers, as they are known to the sewing world, have won an unprecedented 420 competitions in a row, including four conference titles and three national titles. They will face the 32nd seed in the Northsouth bracket, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets, led by true freshwomen Sue Shue, first team all-American from Cincinnati, Ohio.

I cannot wait to arrive in Lincoln, Nebraska for the festivities. It’s sure to be a sew storm.

While there is no sew fest I am aware of, any tournament, and therefore, bracket, brings out the best in me (I brushed my teeth for an extra minute this morning), as it should bring out the best in all of us. This is especially true when the winner of the tournament is recognized as the champion of the sport.

Now if we could only get NCAA basketball’s cousin, NCAA football, to concur, then the world would be a better place.


Have the NBA playoffs already started? I must ask, as I see Heat-Spurs, followed by Magic-Lakers on tap for tonight. How exhilarating would it be if the playoffs did start, and these match-ups were actual playoff-or post-season-games?

After sweeping the season-series against Los Angeles and routing a strong Memphis team last week, Miami has a chance to jump another hurdle by defeating the league-leading San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs have been rolling all year, although it is tough to imagine 63-year-old Tim Duncan leading his team to another post-season trophy-hoisting triumph. The big three of Duncan, Tony Parker, and Manu Ginobili were the core of three of Gregg Popovich’s four championships. The international trio epitomized team basketball as they proved will can overcome skill, time after playoff victory time. Sure, Parker is one of the quickest players in the league and Ginobili will still dunk on your head if you fall for one of his misdirection dribbles, but in order for this year’s San Antonio squad to relive past glory, the big man in the middle must play like it’s 1999.

The Heat are still searching for half the chemistry the Spurs possess, and a victory at home ten days after being humiliated on national television in Texas can go a long, long way toward producing some of that championship glue which is necessary for any successful team.

No matter the result, Miami should take a chapter from San Antonio’s book and apply it as their own. If they do, the rest will be history.

AND 1.

Tiger Woods shot a six-under par sixty-six in the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship at the Doral Resort and Spa in Miami. His performance did not put him in contention for a victory, but it was a beneficial outing as he tunes up for this year’s Masters in April.

That is correct: -6, 66.

While Tiger should not be compared to the angel of destruction, his goatee seems more natural now, as does his all-black golf attire he has worn more readily for the past year or so.

Sports needs villains. How perfectly ironic would it be for former poster boys Woods and LeBron James to transform from corporate puppets to methodical maniacal madmen while dominating their respective sports for the rest of the decade?

Grand Slam? Three-peat(s)?

In the current soap-opera world of big time sports, where we know more about our characters than ever before, Tiger and LeBron can write an epic script that enables us to root for the ‘villain’ without the normal feelings of guilt piercing through our soul.

What have they done to deserve this backlash, anyway?

One cheated on his wife, and the other took his talents to….taking less money while forming what could be the greatest dynasty in all of sports.

Oh did they? That’s despicable. I say lock them up and throw away the gate-opener.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Miami Heat Back on Track, As Expected

After the first 17 games, roughly twenty percent of the season, the Miami Heat sported a mediocre and disappointing 9-8 record. The following 22 games, however, saw Miami bulldoze through the league with a 21-1 mark. The Heat then went 1-5, followed by an 11-1 run, and finally a 1-6 stretch before last night’s much needed victory over the Los Angeles Lakers. There are now 17 games left in the regular season, roughly twenty percent.

What does this mean, other than the fact that Miami’s record is 44-21 and they currently sit on the leader board at the three spot in the East?

While every loss in the early season was a letdown, the Heat has lost only one game all year that you can look back at now and say, “How could they possibly lose to them?” November 22, 2010, the Indiana Pacers traveled to American Airlines Arena and looked like a varsity team practicing against the JV squad before a high-school state championship game. Indiana 93- Miami 77.

What about at Memphis two nights earlier? Wade was out. Not an excuse, but a very good reason why the Heat could not pull out the victory- a victory Rudy Gay sealed with a fade away jumper over the outstretched hands of LeBron James at the buzzer. Memphis has proven their worth since then, currently in contention for the last playoff spot out west.

What about losing against the Clippers in L.A. on January 12th, snapping a 9-game winning streak? Possibly. But not when you remember that the Clippers were playing very good basketball at the time, riding the tidal wave known as Blake Superior. The Clippers jumped out to an 18-point lead after one quarter, yet Miami was in the game at the end, and then LeBron tweaked his ankle (was it karma? I forget). Should they, could they, have won? Of course. But the loss itself was not as disappointing, nor surprising, as it was a very exciting game featuring three of the most explosive players in the league today.

While the Heat has suffered several disheartening losses, the losses themselves are not what one should consider ‘bad’ losses. Blowing double-digit leads at home against conference rivals looking to state their cases against you (New York, Orlando, Chicago) and being humiliated on the road against a possible Finals opponent (San Antonio) are not necessarily good things, we know.

Disappointing? Absolutely. Championship teams do not lose the way Miami has recently. But Miami is not a championship team-yet. Deflating? Sure. The Heat were supposed to be a well-oiled machine by now (Sometime earlier this season, before looking at the schedule, I predicted that the Heat would not lose after the All-Star break). Losing any games, especially these recent home contests played in a playoff atmosphere, chips away at the shield of confidence formed by having three of the best players in the league on your side.

But bad? Not at all. Bad losses in the NBA are those caused by indifference, by taking a night or two off during the clearly draining sludge fest known as the 82-game regular season. The types of losses the Lakers have suffered this season. Luckily for them-and the Celtics and Spurs, teams that are proven- they can afford those bad losses. They’ll be fine.

Miami, at the very least, has been anything but indifferent this season. With pressure on this team magnified to previously unseen levels, every game is a building block, none is worth ignoring.


In the NBA, it is not easy to win games you should lose, but it is very easy to lose games that you should win. This should not be ignored.

There are also plenty of occurrences when two teams are seemingly even. Games between these teams come down to several factors, not the least of which is will.

Chemistry is another factor. The Heat’s chemistry has been under the microscope all season. The team has tried several methods, through trial and error, to not only define each player’s role, but keep everyone happy and on the same page, therefore creating a tested, finished product strong enough to impose its will when it counts.

In this sense, Miami’s recent unraveling has been exactly what it needed. A mental obstacle course seemingly sent from above as a preview of what’s to come in April..and May…and probably June. Who would have thought that the Heat would experience this roller-coaster groundhog day mini-playoff preview versus conference and league contenders, where each game comes down to the final seconds, forcing the team to learn how to win against the same teams they will face in the playoffs?

Now, they may have not won these nail-biters, but they cannot be surprised anymore. Miami is essentially in the middle of an 11-game playoff stretch. Each game requiring ultimate effort for a victory, but more importantly, producing stronger bonds which are necessary for solid chemistry. Each game providing another forum for important pieces like Chris Bosh to pronounce themselves as relevant, not afraid to mix it up, on or off the court. And each game allowing other important pieces to agree with each other, like Wade and James passing the ball to Bosh, and not just because coach called the play, but because he’s open.


There is something truly unique happening in South Beach, I mean Miami. But it is all too common.

There has never been a team faced with as much fanfare, scrutiny, adulation, and spite as this year’s Miami Heat. This will happen when one LeBron James takes his talents to…
Along with the championship celebration before the season even started.

But, like any team hoping to successfully blend new, dominating forces among themselves, the Heat still must learn how to play with each other. They must learn to lose and then respond together. They must be tested. After this is accomplished, then the victories versus the elite teams will come more naturally.

In the meantime, the Heat must be content only with sweeping the season series versus the two-time defending champion.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Anatomy of an NBA Game

Assuming we can agree that the human body can be divided into four groups- head, torso, arms, and legs- and I’m sure we can, considering our capacity to grasp concepts that most ten-year-old babies comprehend, then we agree that an NBA basketball game is comprised of four parts, or quarters.

First Quarter-Legs

The first quarter requires a team to start off running, the goal of which is to set a pace and tempo that is most conducive for success. Whether you are an up-tempo team and would like to create a fast-paced, high-scoring game, or a half-court team, whose strength is grinding out a low-scoring victory with ball movement on offense and ferocious defense, you want to get a jump on your opponent.

Second Quarter-Arms

The second quarter is the time of game when some adjustments are made. While players rotate from the bench to the floor, in-game patterns start to form. It is time for the coach, through strategic maneuvering, and the players, through on-court reacting, to put their handprints on the current game. It is time to roll up the sleeves.

Third Quarter-Torso

The beginning of this quarter signals the return flight of this round-trip journey. Whether you’re protecting a lead or fighting from behind, you now have your heart invested in the outcome of this match. You will either put your opponent away, or claw and scrap your way back to even.

Fourth Quarter-Head

The fourth quarter, money time, is the most important part of the game. The legs, which have been running since the first quarter, and the arms, which have shaped the identity of this game since the second quarter, along with the heart and body, which have controlled the entire game to this point, are all now under the control of the head.

Twenty-six point deficit? No problem, there’s time for a comeback. Fifteen-point advantage? OK, let’s put this team away.

No matter what the thought is, your head must be in the game not just mentally, but emotionally.

The first three quarters provide a forum for the body to perform, showcasing the many talents the league has to offer, but the fourth quarter can diminish these efforts to almost nothing. The head can cause otherwise supremely talented individuals to wilt under the pressure of those more headstrong, rendering second-quarter heroics meaningless.

This is where the separation occurs. Some players, and therefore teams, are just not able to put it together during money time for a victory.

Overtime? Now you’re just becoming greedy.

Dr. Phil, Coach Spo, Mike Miller, and the Big Treat

The Miami Heat, stocked with the considerable talents of the Big Treat-Dwyane Wade, LeBron James, and Chris Bosh- and the varying expectations around the basketball world, have been unraveling recently right before our eyes. Five straight losses, four of them at the normally friendly confines of American Airlines Arena, and three of them after squandering second-half double-digit leads to conference foes, along with allegations of locker room Dr. Phil sessions revealed by head coach head Erik Spoelstra, provide plenty of fodder for audience consumption.

Luckily, teams play 336 regular-season games during the NBA season. Odds are the Heat regains momentum and makes a deep playoff run-one that may very well conclude with another parade down Biscayne Boulevard.

In the meantime, there are some issues to be resolved. And who better to bring these issues to light than the man himself: Dr. Phil.

Joining Dr. Phil is the trio known as the Big Treat, Coach Spo, and Mike Miller, who will act as bench representative.

Dr. Phil: Tell me, D, what is it you would like to talk about?

DW: The thing is, we all have to sacrifice. We know that as a team coming in to the season, we all have to sacrifice on the same page.

Dr. Phil: And what do you mean by sacrifice?

LeBron interrupts.

LJ: We have to blend our games together so that we can act as a cohesive unit in the clutch.

Dr. Phil: Clutch?

DW: Yeah man. The clutch.

LJ: We all know how talented we are from the past. C-Bosh, D-Wade, and myself are all 1s. We’re used to being the main options for our teammates, now we have to do it as a team.

DW: When it matters most.

LJ: Exactly.

Dr. Phil: What about you, C? What do you have to say?

CB: Man, we just need to get it together, all of us, as one. That’s the key to the ingredients- the chemistry.

Dr. Phil: Chemistry?

CB: Yeah man, we just need get it to where we’re comfortable sacrificing for ourselves. That takes time.

DW: And we all know that we’re capable, we’re winners, competitors.

LJ: It’s not all the time that you have an opportunity like this. You have to take advantage.

Dr. Phil: Advantage, Bron, what do you mean?

LJ: All I’m saying is I don’t want to be taken advantage of. Whether we get home court advantage or not is another story, Phil.

CB: We all hate to lose, we have to figure it out. We’ll figure it out. We have to.

Dr. Phil: What about you Mike? What’s on your mind?

Silence ensues for several seconds as the bench rep is speechless, and therefore worthless.

Dr. Phil: Coach?

Spoelstra: Well, if you thought this would be a cake-walk, you were absolutely wrong. There is a process, and we all must trust each other to persevere after the adversity sets in, otherwise we’ll never grow as a team.

Dr. Phil concludes:

Evidently, there are real emotions piercing through this group, the flurry of which can only be measured with ultra sensitive magnifying glasses normally used to track the movement of red ant farms in central Kansas and parts of northern Indonesia, and the consequences of which can only be described as everlasting, which can tear apart a community in same amount of time it takes for a baby to sneeze, and have obviously affected the performance of this group to the point that one must wonder aloud: What have we gotten ourselves into? And is there any way out?

I have two simple answers to these questions.

What have we gotten ourselves into?

Expectations are like excuses. We all have them. Some expectations are as light as a feather, a feather that somehow knows it exists, yet acts indifferently. Some expectations, on the other hand, are as heavy as a triple-cheeseburger from Jake's Shakes and Burgers and Things.

You gentlemen, I must admit, have the heaviest of all expectations I have had the privilege to analyze. Therefore, you have gotten yourselves into what I like to call “a whole heap of chicken salad”.

The second question is a bit more complicated, but still requires only an elementary answer.

Is there any way out?

No, there is no way to get out of what you’ve gotten yourselves into. Jumping ship now, or at any point in the near future, will only lead to more, and appropriately this time, more negative, criticism and scrutiny. There is, however, a way to right this ship and thus, silence the millions of voices in your respective heads.

Win. If not now, win when it counts. Win one game, because you can only win one game at a time. Then win another game. After that, win the next one. Then you can compare these recent losing performances with these upcoming wins. That’s how you grow.

You start the season 9-8. Then win 21 out of 22. You lose 5 in a row, now go and win 10 of the next 14.

There is a wall of soft cement closing in on your collective psyche, winning tomorrow against the defending champions while snapping their 8-game winning streak will go a long way in shredding this gravel before it solidifies and throttles any attempts of reaching the ultimate goal.

CB: As a collective team, right?

DW: Together, like brothers, right Phil?

LJ: Like sacrificing a lamb, I think?

Dr. Phil: No, Bron, not a lamb. But a limb. Not literally, but figuratively speaking. You must be willing to sacrifice a little more than you are now. Make the extra pass, take the charge, get the ball inside early first, then let D and Bron take the game over, then repeat the process. Bron, pass the ball. D, want the ball. C, lift some more weights, or at least act like you do. And Mike, show up. It’s excruciatingly obvious that your teammates need you (the bench). That’s the only way to win.

And, as we all know, winning cures everything.