The Weekend in Sports / Quick Hits

Questions to ponder while the Yankees try to put the Phillies away and prove Jimmy Rollins’ 4-1 Philadelphia victory prediction to shame.

Speaking of Jimmy Rollins, has anyone ever seen he and actor Anthony Mackie in the same room at the same time?   I’m just sayin!

Jimmy Rollins by sparklemotion315.

Philadelphia Phillies  Jimmy Rollins

Actor Anthony Mackie

 

Folk can officially get off of A-Rod’s back.  Dude is balling… not only at the plate but he plays a very underrated third base. 

 Johnny Damon pulls into second base with steal only to find Phils third baseman Pedro Feliz covering the bag, and takes off for third.

Johnny Damon stealing third base after stealing second realizing that no one was covering third was the most heads up play in a big time situation I have ever seen in the game of baseball!  PERIOD!

With the NBA getting through it’s first week here are some comments!

200rondo.jpg

Danny Ainge tried to play all Tony Soprano with  Rajon Rondo.  But he was smart in making sure this guy got his respect and his money!

Look forward to seeing the Saints tonight!

Brett Favre officially got over on the Packers twice.  I give him credit for this; he didn’t mess the games up with turnovers though there were a couple opportunities that Green Bay could not take advantage of.  Favre, like every other game he has played with the Vikings manages the game and is able for the most part to make a big play when he needs to.   Still I can’t give him the props people at ESPN continue to shower him with.  After all, there is still a very good offensive line, Adrian Peterson, my god that rookie from Florida Percy Harvin, (Devin Hester of old) and a pretty good defense to boot making him look very good.  I’ll even be bold enough to say that many of the Packer players and coaches really punked out against the Vikings.  Some of the play calling on defense was especially suspect, and most of the offense triggered by a late wake up call by the offensive lineman took too long to actually play football. 

So while I admit that the Vikings are serious with Favre at the helm because of his big play ability, no way he does what he does without that team.  Favre has always been able to manage a game and make plays.  His consistent downfall to me is when the team is behind a couple touchdowns and he becomes ‘The Old Gunslinger” chucking the ball all over the field looking for a miracle.  So far he has not been in that position. 

Let’s see what else is there to talk about?

Oh yea and those East St. Louis Flyers started their road to repeat as Illinois State Champions with a 50-43 crazy ass victory over Bradley Bourbannais. 

Go FLYERS!

ES Louis-Bradley

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Cough, Cough! That Choking Sound in Boston

Orlando Magic center Dwight Howard looks up at the scoreboard in the final seconds of 92-88 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of NBA Eastern Conference semifinals at TD Banknorth Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, Tuesday, May 12, 2009. ( Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel)

Let’s get this straight off the bat.  Dwight Howard is technically correct when he says that Stan Van Gundy sucked in his coaching moves against the Celtic’s last night. 

They didn’t pass this dude the ball in the fourth quarter till the end when the Celtics fouled him with the sole purpose of putting him on the free throw line so the team could not put up a three point shot.  The guard play was horrible and they flat out panicked! The decision making in running the offense was some of the worst I have ever seen in basketball period, let alone professional basketball.

Nevertheless Howard does not escape blame himself.  When I look at all the greats over time, Magic, Kareem, MJ, Kobe, Lebron, etc., these guys demand the ball in a time of crisis.  They may not hit the shot but dammit they are either going to take the shot or put the ball in play where they draw enough attention to themselves to open up an easy opportunity for others. 

I remember in the Finals one year when the Bulls played the Jazz.  It was the end of the game and the Bulls needed a bucket.   Jordan was heard in the huddle telling Steve Kerr, “When they double me be ready.”  Sure enough they doubled Jordan and he hit Kerr for the open jumper.  Swish!  Game over!

Once when the Celtics were at the end of a game behind a point, coach KC Jones was drawing up a play and Larry Bird interrupted him and simply said, “Forget all of that, (he didn’t say forget) just give me the ball.”  They got him the ball – Larry shoots – nothing but net, game over. 

Now I am not saying that Dwight Howard is Jordan, Magic, Bird, or Kobe.  What I am saying is that you are the best player on the team, the self proclaimed Superman.  And if the team is not getting you the ball you need to speak up during the game not just afterwards. 

I told a kid this recently after a game he lost that I was officiating.  It was easy to tell he was the best player on the team.  But he was a post player so he couldn’t pass it to himself.  Over and over again the guards shot the ball for misses in the last 10 minutes of the game, ignoring his post up positioning.  The lead they had was lost and so went the game.  Afterwards I could see his disappointment and frustration.  And I told him these words.  “Son, I know your the best player out here.  And I don’t care if your teammates aren’t passing you the ball or if the coach is calling your number during a timeout.  There is a time when every great player who clearly understands that he can make THE difference must demand the ball.  Tell your teammates in the huddle or on the court.  Tell your coach who may not see what you see on the court.  Don’t be scared if you can back it up.  Take responsibility and be a leader out there.”

Same thing applies.  Dwight is a top power forward in the NBA.  When I think of Charles Barkley and Karl Malone back in the day, no way in hell would they not pass these dudes the ball in a playoff game.  They would kick somebody’s ass before that happens.

So yea, Dwight was technically right.  Shaq called Van Gundy “The Master of Panic” and he may be proven right.  But the NBA is a players league and Dwight has been in it long enough to know that.  If you don’t demand the ball then you can’t talk in the press conference.

cmac on sports – pre holiday rants

I grew up a Pittsburgh Steelers fan and as such hated the Dallas Cowboys. (Especially during the 80’s)  But I came to appreciate the 90s version with the likes of Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin, Emmitt Smith, Jay Novacheck, Nate Newton etc.  A lot that love came for Irvin in particular because of my love for the U.  (University of Miami) That was my college team during the glory days.

Anyway – since then I always felt it was good for the league if the Cowboys were good.  And I haven’t liked or disliked them.  But I have to admit that since Terrell Owens, (T.O.)  is about to implode another team, I have come to root against Dallas. 

I was glad when Baltimore beat that ass the other night.  Now if the Eagles can do the same, I won’t have to suffer this child during the playoffs.

Some of this is Dallas’ fault too.  Not just owner Jerry Jones who totally empowers this ridiculous behavior, but guys like Tony Romo the quarterback who won’t tell it like it is – that T.O. is whinny lil BEEaach who throws teammates under the bus during tough times!  They continue to cover for this fool and it just feeds the monster. 

Jason Garrett the offensive coordinator allowed a clandestine meeting to be held with Owens, and fellow receivers Patrick Crayton and Roy Williams, where Owens accused Romo and his boy TE Jason Witten of plotting to keep him from getting catches.  This in spite of the fact that Owens leads the team in catches and touchdowns.

Former players Michael Irvin and Deion Sanders have never publicly called Owens out on his continuous team destroying tactics from calling Jeff Garcia gay when he played for the 49ers.  Nor for throwing Donovan McNabb totally under the bus, starting a fight with Hugh Douglas – prompting the Eagles to send him home and be relegated to drive way push-ups for cameras while agent Drew Rosenhaus postured for this pathetic cancer of a teammate.

Next came the sleeping pills incident. (he took too many of them obviously in a fit of depression) Instead of dealing with whats wrong with the cat, they all covered it up and glossed it over.  An example is in the aftermath of Pill Gate, his publicist said, Terrell has 25 million reasons to live.” 

Earlier this year I knew for sure that T.O. was a selfish jerk when I saw him yelling at an assistant coach after a Dallas victory over Green Bay.  It was a great win for the Cowboys, but Owens only had a few insignificant catches while other guys shined during a prime time nationally televised game.  That told me this would be business as usual for T.O.

GO EAGLES!  Please remove this dude from my sports page to begin the 09! 

Boston Bustin Out on L-7

Kevin Garnett Picture

I got to give it up to the boys from Beantown.  For any team to win a world title, only to come out and win 26 of their first 28 games including 18 straight!  Talk about NOT resting on your accomplishments.  This reminds me of the Bulls teams who won championships and managed to chase 70 wins the next couple years.  Kevin Garnett is a beast.. making plays and making teammates cry on the bench.  (Side note, I honestly think Garnett has this image of Hall of Famer Bill Russell looking at him evaluating his effort every night.  He wants to please Russell like a kid wants to please his father.  Garnett wants to live up to Russell’s standard.  I think this is fueling his intensity even more to never let up.)  Back to the rant…..

Paul “The Truth” Pierce ain’t lied yet, Ray is Ray – and Rajon Rondo looks like Tiny Archibald.  If he continues to play the way he is, pencil these cats in the Finals in June.  I got nothing but mad respect for the Celtics and the way they go about their business!

Can’t sleep on the Cavaliers though.  Damn does LeBron James ball now or what?  I haven’t been able to see ESPN’s First Take over the last few months but Skip Bayless may as well get up off of his nutsack cause dude is putting up MVP numbers.  I hear Bron Bron is up to 274 pounds of 100% man now – and by FAR he is the fastest most athletic cat in an NBA full of fast and athletic cats.  The Cavs are just waxing fools and Bron is putting on a rock concert not seen since dare I say…… MJ?  It will be interesting to see how well the team does after the new year and specifically how they fare after the All Star Break.  This is where we always separate the men from the boys in terms of who is seriously going to contend.  Will Lebron’s legs give out on him?  Remember he did spend the summer in Beijing winning gold.  Only time will tell – but I am a believer.

Derek Fisher, Anthony Johnson

Uhhhh which brings me to my boys the Los Angeles Lakers.  They won last night in Memphis thanks to Kobe.  My boy Blue drove his son down yesterday to see the Lake Show down 55 south, and will call me later for the details.  They have one more game on the 4 games in 5 days road trip tonight against CP3 and the Hornets before that Christmas Day match-up against the above mentioned Beast of the East.  They lost last Friday against the Heat and then followed that up with another uninspired performance against the Orlando Magic.  All and all we are probably playing like the worst 22-5 team in the history of the NBA.  I don’t have to talk about how bad the D is…  I will let Lamar Odom speak for himself. 

“It’s just like when we used to play against Phoenix two seasons ago.  “We always felt like, ‘Oh, we’re going to get back in the game. They are playing an offensive style of basketball.’  I think that’s how teams right now might be looking at us.  We’re not making it hard enough for teams, as far as around the basket, as far as our defense. At the beginning of the year, maybe the first seven or eight or 10 games, we had teams that quit.  It was like, ‘This is too hard. We know we can’t stop them.  And they’re making it hard for us on defense.’  Now, I feel like teams feel like we’re going to let them back in the game.”

Translation… Get the house in order fellas or you will be the Dallas Mavericks come playoff time.   

New Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia during his introductory press conference.

In the “Don’t hate the playa” category, I got to send love to CC Sabathia the pitcher who inked a 7 year 161 million deal to don the pinstripes.  I remember when we used to say that the CC stands for “Captain Cheeseburger” because of his weight.  Now it stands for Cha Ching!  The Yankees initially offered CC a 6 year deal worth 140 million, and it sat on the table for a month cause he really wanted to play on the West Coast – preferably for the Dodgers.  Team LA wasn’t even close, and Artie Moreno the Angels owner had his eyes on Mark Teixeira. (The Yankees signed Teixeira for 8 years 180 mil today – Maybe CC needs to have his deal re-worked!)  The Yankees then added another year with an even 23 million per.  (9 million signing bonus)  And please, spare me the economy talk.  Any one of us would take it if we could throw the rock like him and someone offered it to us.  I ain’t mad at you brother!

The Story of the Year!

This is the story that has me the most hyped for 2008.  No, its not Michael Phelps and his 8 gold medals.  That’s nothing compared to the feat the Gridiron Gang from Motown is about to pull off.  A PERFECT SEASON…. in reverse.  That’s right for the first time in NFL history a team is flirting with backwards perfection:  an 0-16 season.  Detroit is a tough town… the Pistons have rings, and Tigers have had their ups and downs but were in the World Series a few years ago.  The Red Wings dominate!  Now the Lions are about to make their mark.  Just one more tank job against the Packers this Sunday and its a done deal.

Memo to Lions Players:  Anybody can go 1-15.  That’s not what you’re after.  Finish the job.  I know you are not the worst team in football cause if you were playing the Rams you would smash them.  But still, this is no time for semantics and nitpicking.  Man down.  Roll over.  Make history! Quit for godsakes!  Remember what Kevin Garnett said after he finished his season….. “Anything is possibleeeeeeeeeeeee.

Let The Games Begin! Lakers/Celtics Renew Rivalry

The first NBA game I ever saw on television was in May of 1980.  I was 13 and we had a house full of company.  Some must have been basketball fans because the TV was on the NBA Finals.  The Philadelphia 76ers were playing the Los Angeles Lakers.  I wasn’t a huge basketball fan at all.  Though I did enjoy watching Hayward and Coolidge on the White Shadow,  I was a baseball man.  Sure I had heard of Dr. J (Julius Erving) but my heros were Pete Rose and everyone else who were a part of the Big Red Machine known as the Cincinnati Reds.  I collected baseball cards and could name most every player on every MLB team.  Regardless, there was a lot of enthusiasm for the hoops being played on the tube that day.  I had to see what the big deal was.  And what I saw changed my perception of basketball forever. 

Up and down the court was this young energetic cat who seemed to glide from one side of the floor to the other – grabbing rebounds, dishing out passes and scoring at will.  On top of that he was 6’9 playing point guard.  But what was most engaging about this 20 year old rookie, was the fact that he seemed to enjoy himself more than anyone on the court – as if he were on a playground instead of in an NBA arena.   His smile was infectious and I was hooked.  Earvin ‘Magic’ Johnson made me a basketball fan and the Lakers with their colors of purple and gold became my team. 

I watched the game of basketball over the next decade and fell in love with what I found to be a beautiful sport.  In the early 80’s there were several good teams and players to get into.  Every sport needs stars and performers to sell it’s product.  The NBA had a reputation of being a drug infested league full of selfish and aloof black ballplayers.  But the guys I saw were outstanding on and off the court and taught me what good basketball looked like.  The Sixers had the Dr., but also Bobby Jones, Maurice Cheeks and Andrew Toney.  The Milwaukee Bucks had Sidney Moncrief, Terry Cummings and Paul Pressey.  The Rockets had Calvin Murphy , Robert Reid, and Moses Malone.  The Cleveland Cavaliers had a guy named World B. Free.  His name was as great as his fade-away jump shot.  There were plenty of ballers to keep my interest.

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But the decade was carried by the teams from Tinseltown (LA) and Beantown respectively known as the Boston Celtics.  Every year one of these teams factored into claiming the Larry O’Brien trophy given to those who would be called World Champions.  And boy there some series to remember!  I used to watch every game with great anticipation, jumping up and down yelling at the TV – comparing notes and “did you see that?” with my cousins.  I respected the Celtics because they had great players.  Names like Bird, McHale and Parish were all too familiar.  But others like Tiny ArchibaldDennis Johnson, Danny Ainge, Quinn Buckner and Gerald Henderson were ballers in their own right.  I will never forget the game dubbed The Memorial Day Massacare in 1985 when Scott Wedman blew up the Lakers in Game 1 of the Finals by hitting all 11 of his shots.  The Lakers won the series so I got over it.  Yea, I respected the Celtics, but I HATED THEM TOO!  I hated them cause they were the Celtics.  I hated them cause of their crazy fans.  I hated those hideous green road uniforms.  I hated the fact that they turned the heat on in June at the old Boston Garden during the Finals though it was 90 plus degrees outside to gain an advantage.  I hated that the media seemed to give Bird and McHale more love than they gave Magic and Kareem.  I hated that they seemed to get all the crucial calls.  Most black guys loved the Lakers anyway.  They had more black players.  The Celtics seemed to have most of the better whites. 

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But the Celtics had their share of fans in the African-American community.  At Lincoln Park or Dunbar Elementary on the South Side of East St. Louis,  it was pretty much split between who the cats were rooting for.  There were plenty of heated debates too.  We argued on the school yard about who was going to stop James Worthy on the wing or how Kevin McHale’s post moves were the best anyone had ever seen.  I saw dudes bet 6 packs and 40oz brews for bragging rights between games and ghetto commentators broke down key moments and momentum changes during the series like NBA PhDs.  Those were the days!  We lived and died with every quarter of every game.  We took the rivalry as seriously as anyone in Boston or LA would.   

As time went on, both teams got old.  And picking last in the draft tends to defleat youthful talent on the rosters.  So there was transition.  The 90’s belonged to Michael Jordan and the Bulls.  Guys like Ewing, Barkley and Miller could only dream of getting a championship ring since they played in the same era.  Olajuwon benefited from Jordan’s gambling ‘errrrr baseball’ hiatus.  Since Jordan left the scene the NBA has struggled with its fan base.  Many of the newer stars didn’t market as well corporately so the fans didn’t gravitate to the game the same.  The young generation of players associated with the hip hop image made fans of individual stars but not of the game itself.  The new rivalries didn’t measure up to the standard of LA v Boston.  The San Antonio Spurs had some great teams and they won.  But they were boring to the casual b-ball fan.   Last year when the Spurs swept the LeBron James’ Cavaliers, television ratings were at an extreme low for recent years. 

Its a good thing for sports in general and the NBA specifically that the Superpowers of the league are relevant and on top of their games again – at the same time.  The Lakers experienced winning early in the turn of the century with a three-peat thanks to a core of Shaq and Kobe, a very mature and experienced bench along with an awesome coaching staff brought over from Jordan’s Bulls.  The Celtics had not been so fortunate over the last 20 years.  They seemed to be cursed with tragedies like the deaths of their #1 draft pick Len Bias, and fan favorite Reggie Lewis.  During bad times Celtic coach Rick Pitino  told desperate fans that Bird, McHale and Parish were not “walking through that door.”  The Celtics thought they would get to draft Tim Duncan but that didn’t work out either.  Last year I was sure they were losing games on purpose so they could gain the top pick in the lottery.  As fate had it they ended up with the 5th pick.   But GM Danny Ainge prayed to the ghost of Red Auerbach and was able to trade for Jesus Shuttlesworth, aka Ray Allen and “The Big Ticket,” Kevin Garnett.  One year later the leprechauns are smiling again as the Beaners are eyeing another title.

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For the Lakers, Kobe Bryant has redeemed himself as an MVP who is a proven team leader with take over skills not seen since Jordan.  Like the Mychal Thompson trade in the 80s the mid season acquisition for Pau Gasol has been a hit.  The Lakers roster is the youngest in the NBA and yet they have made it to the Finals showing poise and maturity beyond the age and experience of most of it players.  Derek Fisher returned home after stints in Golden State and Utah to provide backcourt leadership and a dangerous jumpshot.  Lamar Odom is as versatile a player on both ends of the court since Scottie Pippen.  And the coaching staff lead by Hall of Famer Phil Jackson is stacked with experience and championship rings.   

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My prediction?  Well if you look at the rosters it appears that the Celtics have a leg up with the second coming of The Big Three in Pierce, Garnett and Allen.  Kendrick Perkins has been dominate on the boards and I wish we had Andrew Bynum to match up with him.  James Posey has championship experience and Rajon Rondo has handled himself well during the playoffs.   However, when I look at the Lakers I see the best player and closer in the game in Bryant, the best passing team with one of the better defenses in the league.  As previously mentioned the entire coaching staff is full of champions.  Phil Jackson has won 9 championships as head coach and has coached in 10 Finals series.  This will be Doc Rivers’ first Finals appearance and I suspect this will factor when it comes to making crucial adjustments between quarters and games.  Unless the youth of the Lakers team becomes apparent and guys like Jordan Farmar, Sasha Vujacic, and Vladimir Radmanovic seem overwhelmed, the experience and leadership of guys who have been there like Bryant, Fisher and Luke Walton should prevail over a bunch of stars who have yet to win it all.

Lakers in 6