NBA Finals, Conspiracies, Legends, and Has Been Bitches

Derek Fisher, Jameer Nelson

Last night’s game was memorable to say the least.  D-Fish gets all the credit in the world for hitting those two big threes.  Trevor Ariza really stepped his game up in the third quarter.  Kobe missed a lot of shots but the ones he hit kept the team from getting blown out when the rest of the guys were struggling.  But there were some other things that really bothered me that I have to say.  I say these things because others in the media won’t.  They are afraid to.  I’m not.  I have no stake in this thing other than being a devoted fan of the Lakers and an even bigger fan of the game of basketball. 

I tell people all the time.  “Yea LA has been my team since 1979.  Whether they were up or down.  If they play great they play great.  If they suck they suck.  I don’t say they are great or got cheated when they sucked.”  I am as hard on them as anybody.  The point being that I am no fair weather guy.  Even in the midst of this series part of my fan apprehension of the team is wondering what team would show up on a given night.  Would it be the inept team that showed up in the first half of last night’s game missing assignments and making mental mistakes?  Or that third quarter team that showed a level of hunger that matches their talent?  Either way I don’t deceive myself about what is before me.

I say all of that to say this.  If I wasn’t sure before, now I know without question that on occasions the NBA officiating is either corrupted by instruction of the league or of the gamblers.  Let me explain. 

While everyone is caught up in Fisher’s heroics and rightfully so, the Lakers were in a situation where the game was almost impossible to win.  Consider this: 

While the Magic went to the free throw line time after time in the fourth quarter, the Magic were not called for a single foul in the fourth quarter until the last two minutes.  This was not a situation where the Lakers were only shooting jump shots.  To the contrary Kobe himself went to the rack several times and got plenty of contact with no whistle. Eventually he just went with the fade away shots.  Meanwhile, Hedo,  and Howard went to the line with regularly and Pietrus got an “And 1”  opportunity (a good call) on a drive against Bryant. 

Let’s add it up on this level.  Of the last 17 minutes of the game, including overtime, the Magic had a total of three fouls called on them, and the only Laker to see the free throw line was Pau Gasol after a flagrant foul at the end of the game.  Meanwhile, during the first two periods, Gasol, Bynum (or Lord Bynum) and Odom quickly got into foul trouble.  The Lakers were sporting a front line of Mbenga and Powell in the second quarter for god-sake.   The first foul on Bynum in the first quarter was a play where Kobe clearly made contact with Howard, but Andrew got the foul.  OK no biggie.  But the foul Bynum got in the second half when he and Howard were tipping a lose ball was flat out ridiculous.  Not only was there no contact between the players, Bynum had the inside position.  The only reason the Lakers were in a position to tie the game was because Orlando turned the ball over 19 times and missed most of their crucial free throws.  The officials did everything they could to hand them the game.  The Magic just couldn’t take it. 

Lamar Odom foul call

Now look, I am an official and I know that we all miss calls.  So maybe Kobe goes to the hole and doesn’t get the call.  There are times when I don’t make a call and say to myself afterwards, “I missed that one. ” But the thing is, as an official you don’t keep missing them.  I also understand that at time teams get calls on their home court.  But for the Magic to be in the penalty five minutes into the final period and the Lakers not to get a call their way until the clock was under 2 minutes was shameful. 

I honstly felt sick to my stomach watching that game.  Because my love for NBA basketball took a hard fall while sitting in front of that TV.  Even as the Lakers climbed back in the game and eventually won it, as much as I have celebrated and cried for my team even as a youngster, I could only think that in spite of the NBA wanting to extend the series, justice was served as the Lakers fought their way to victory.  There was no smile on my face, only contempt. 

I get that there is an entertainment level to the game.  No one wants to see superstar players leave the game in foul trouble.  I get that.  Still for me win or lose, there has to be a purity to the game.  Players should decide the outcome.  Calls will be missed, mistakes made by players, coaches and officials.  The Lakers have benefited from such mistakes too in times past.  Last night it was so blatant it was just ugly.  I thought to myself  that I may not even watch the rest of the series.  I would like to see the Lakers take it home.  But I know this for sure.  I won’t look at the NBA the same anymore after last night. 

The Lakers won’t say anything because miraculously they won the game.  But don’t think they don’t understand what went down. I don’t know that Orlando will get the help they just got though they have another home game on Sunday.  It wouldn’t surprise me either way.  But I’m just saying.

BB&G’s Random Rants

We know that coach Phil Jackson is trying to win his 10th NBA title as a coach.  But for some reason NBA has-been Alonzo Mourning thought it his place to say that Phil doesn’t do anything but show up while Kobe does the coaching.  This from a man who played 15 years in the NBA and didn’t win nothing until he rode the coattail of Dwayne Wade in 2006.  He seems to point to Kobe talking to players and showing them things on the diagram to make points during timeouts.  But as I recall every great team has facilitators and leaders who are coaches on the floor.  I remember Magic and Michael doing it back in the day.  Isaiah did it with the Pistons.  Chauncey Billups is the ultimate example of that.  But just because he was an extension of the coach I didn’t hear anybody saying that Larry Brown just showed up and called timeouts.  Or that George Karl doesn’t have anything to offer.   Phil is surely secure with himself so he makes fun of Zo’s being a bitch.  I guess that little play Phil drew up taking the ball out past half court so the Magic wouldn’t foul right away before Fisher’s three was Kobe’s idea too. Whatever.

Random Rants 2

I love me some Bill Russell.  Greatest NBA winner ever and a true statesman.  But WTF is up with him showing up at the last couple NBA Finals sucking up to the Lakers opponents big men.  Last year it was KG, which is understandable because it was the Celtics.  But this little feature with Dwight Howard was just ridiculous.  I mean what relationship does he have to the Magic?  Just that they are trying to beat the Lakers and if they were to beat the Lakers it would prevent Phil Jackson from surpassing Russell’s coach Red Auerbach in championship trophies?  I mean if the Cavs were in it would he be schmoozing with Anderson Varejao or Big Z?  I thought that was kinda whack.  Red’s place is cemented in history.  But these haters can’t take nothing away from Phil.  Talk about Jordan, Kobe and Shaq all you want.  But take one look at all of the hall of famers that Red coached and then get back at me on that.  A coach has to know how to work what he has.

Speaking of coaches.  What is up with Cleveland jerking Mike Brown around?  If this guy’s job isn’t safe this year, that shows that LeBron really has their management team shook.  I know ya’ll have to sign “The King” and all… but don’t be so fickle.  Have some balls at least and show some freaggin loyalty.  With this talk of Pat Riley Dan Gilbert is starting to remind me of Dan Snyder.

LeBron, A King with No Diplomacy

Ok… this is a light subject matter but what the heck.  It’s been a long weekend and I am still trying to gain my strength back so I’m not looking to think too hard.  Hopefully I won’t give too many words to the subject matter. 

But I was tripping off how LeBron James walked off the court on Saturday night after the Cavs got dismissed from the playoffs courtesy of the Orlando Magic.  Normally in the NBA, teams don’t shake hands after a regular season game, nor during the playoffs with the exception of the final game.  Instead, they go to their dressing rooms on opposite sides of the floor after the buzzer sounds. 

I have seen some heated playoff series where teams play one another up to seven games over a period of two weeks.  By the 4th, or 5th game, the players not only know what the other team wants to do, they are tired and irritable of having to deal with the same opponent which may lead to conflicts and minor scuffles.  But after it’s said and done, similar to boxing where guys spend several rounds trying to take each others heads off there is a certain mutual respect extended for competitors.  Personally I have been on both sides of that equation as well having both won and loss during baseball and track events in high school, as well as basketball events as an adult.  I always felt that it was classy to give props regardless of the outcome.

LeBron doesn’t think he did anything wrong when he stormed off the court like a child.  This was his excuse:

It’s hard for me to congratulate somebody after you just lose to them.  I’m a winner. It’s not being a poor sport or anything like that. If somebody beats you up, you’re not going to congratulate them. That doesn’t make sense to me. I’m a competitor. That’s what I do. It doesn’t make sense for me to go over and shake somebody’s hand.

Uhhhh, right!

Let me tell you the real reason why LeBron walked off the court.  A lack of respect for the Orlando Magic players.  Let me explain:

The last time you saw a team walk off the court during the playoffs like that was the Bad Boy Detroit Pistons after they lost to Michael Jordan’s Bulls in 1991.  Prior to that year the Bulls were Detroit’s bitch getting thrashed every year in May.  Jordan would try to do it all himself, but the Pistons would continue to beat Chi-Town.  I remember when the Piston players would laugh at Jordan during the game as he fell to the floor trying to make every difficult and spectacular shot.  Michael didn’t have teammates that he trusted, and he fell spectacularly hard as a result.

Finally the Bulls improved as Phil Jackson was promoted to head coach, and they got some players around them that Michael had confidence in.  The Bulls came of age and got over on the Pistons.   Before time ran out of the deciding game that would put the Bulls in the Finals for the first time in it’s team history, Isiah Thomas and a few of his Piston teammates left the bench and proceded to walk off the court.  The Pistons were two time champions and obviously that hurt.  But the reason that Isiah led his crew to walk was his utter hatred and disrespect of Michael Jordan.  Thomas hated Jordan since Michael’s rookie year when he was adorned with so many accolades before he accomplished anything.   Jordan had the Nike contract, his own clothes etc.  Thomas is known for freezing Jordan out of his first All Star game by making sure no one passed him the ball.  The Piston’s leaving the court was a Bad Boy “F- YOU!” to the Bulls.  They didn’t want to shake their hands since the tables turned. 

This is where Thomas was a hypocrite:

1) He didn’t have a problem with shaking hands when they were bouncing the Bulls from the playoffs the previous years. 

2)  The Pistons were in the same position as the Bulls a few years earlier when the Celtics would make them cry by sending them home every spring.  Remember, “Bird steals the pass, underneath to DJ for a layup – Celtics lead.”

When the Pistons finally got over on the Celtics, I clearly remember Hall of Fame forward Kevin McHale grabbing Thomas and looking into his eys telling him how it was Thomas’ time, that he earned it, and to finish the job by becoming a champion against the Lakers.  Thomas listened and I could tell he appreciated the gesture.  Thomas did not extend Jordan the same courtesy.  He punked out and cowardly walked out before time even expired because it was a personal thing with Jordan.  He just couldn’t be pro enough to give props where they were due.

What does this have to do with LeBron?  He essentially walked out on the Magic for the same basic reason.  He has no respect for the Orlando Magic and he fully expected to win that series.  Look at the Magic’s roster.  Sure you have Dwight Howard, but after that it’s Hedo, Lewis, Alston, etc.  The Magic are an awkward herkey jerkey team that presented some serious match up problems for the Cavs.  They shoot threes like a renegade bunch of rebellious youths.  Many times they are undisciplined and seem ready to implode at any moment.  And yet they got it done against the Celtics and then the Cavs who had the best record in the league.  I can tell you that if the Celtics had knocked the Cavs out of the playoffs like they did last year, LeBron would have shaken hands because he would not have dissed Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.  When he looked at the Magic roster, there were no guys he had enough respect for to give them props.  He feels they are beneath him as a unit and that they should not have messed up his dream matchup against Kobe in this year’s Finals.  That is the real deal.

Now where LeBron doesn’t get it – (and he is still young at the tender age of 24) is that “to whom much is given much is required.”  He has a following with the whole “Witness” campaign, the chalk thrown in the air, the puppet commercials etc. and kids look up to him.  What he does in defeat is just as important as how he conducts himself in victory.  And even if he walked off the court the way he did out of sheer anger and frustration, the best thing he could have done upon reflection is to own it by saying, “I got caught up in the moment.  I should have been a bigger man and shown better sportsmanship.  That will not happen again.”

LeBron say’s he’s a winner.  He certainly has won more than he’s lost on the court.  But his immediate “exit stage left” act was as immature an act as you’ll see from a superstar of his calibur.

LeBron Dominates! Cavs Win, Extend Series

S29CAVSb

LeBron James took over the game.  He either scored or assisted on every fourth quarter point his team got in the fourth quarter.  He got yet another triple double in this crucial playoff game.  I won’t say it was the most dominating fourth quarter performance I’ve ever seen.  That’s no disrespect by any means to The King.  It was different than that. 

The fourth quarter of this game reminded me of a high school game where there was one dominate player on the court – clearly head and shoulders above all the rest in talent and athleticism.  In the crucial last 5 minutes of the game this guy got the ball every single time at the top of the key.  Held the ball, sized his man up and reacted to the defense by either scoring or laying down an easy assist via a three pointer from Daniel Gibson or Mo Williams.  If he didn’t score or pass to those guys he caught Varejaoor Joe Smith for an easy lay up.  There were no play calls, no strategy drawn up by the coach.  Simple meat and potatoes.  “Get this guy the ball and let him decide what to do with it… period!”

I know that there are a lot of people who feel that LeBron is better than Kobe at this stage in his career.  I tend to disagree though I feel The King is the most dominating player in the league right now.  LeBron turns the ball over too much for my taste to be considered better than Kobe.  This should change as he matures – and yes as great as he is he still has room for improvement.  If he stays healthy, there is no reason why LeBron won’t be top 5 of all time. 

The way he willed his team to victory last night was just phenomenal.

LeBron, Liars and Sportsman

I remember when Magic Johnson used to talk about the competition between himself and other NBA superstars in the league.  Not merely the in-game competition when they were competing against one another; but just other games around the league as the season goes on.  For guys like Magic, it wasn’t an individual ego thing but a motivation to elevate his game to the highest level.  When you are already better than 98% of the people you play against on any given night you have to tell yourself things to keep you from being bored.  Such was the case with Magic, Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, etc. 

During a normal game time interview they would never admit it.  But get Magic on a couch and he would readily admit that he would search the newspapers every day to see what Larry or Dominique Wilkins did the night before.  “I’ll looked at the stats sheet and say, “Oh Larry got 35 last night?  That means I’ll have to get 38 or 40.” 

Jordan of course was the same way.  He would tell himself that the other opponents didn’t respect his game and through that anger will himself to another spectacular performance.  I’ll never forget the time the Bulls played a home and home against the then Washington Bullets.  The first game in Chicago saw LaBradford Smith a kid who wanted to be Jordan score 35 against his hero.  Jordan had a so-so game and afterwards they asked Smith about his performance in “stopping” MJ.  Smith no dummy said, (paraphrasing) “Oh no!  Nobody stops Michael.  I just had a good game.  I was fortunate that my shots went in.  Michael is Michael.  He’s the best.” 

Still that didn’t stop Jordan.  Just because the question was asked… the next night he torched Smith for 40 something fouling him out the game.   He played with an angry scowl the entire game.  He knew he was better than Smith so that wasn’t the point.  He wanted to make sure everyone else knew it too.

These memories all came to me upon seeing Kobe Bryant put 61 on the Knicks at Madison Square Garden the other night.  It was the most points scored by any Knicks opponent in The Garden’s history.  The Knicks, blessed or not so blessed with a home schedule that called for the Lakers, the Cavaliers and the Celtics to come visit during the same week had to face the wrath of LeBron James a couple nights later.  Of course James down played the situation saying he was not interested in records.  I knew he was a damn lie.  Every hoops junkie knows. 

Magic had newspapers.  Today’s generation has SportsCenter and Blackberry’s where their peeps text them with, “Man did you see what Kobe did?”

What does James do last night?  He scored 52 points, 10 rebounds and 11 assist… making the first time in over 30 years since a guy had 50 points in a triple double.  He scored 20 in the first quarter.  Of course he was looking to match Kobe and even surpass his effort earlier in the week.  Kobe and LeBron have been friends since James was in high school.  They bonded even closer during the Summer Olympics in Beijing.  Both understand the significance of performing well in the basketball Mecca that is MSG.  No doubt James texted Kobe who was busy putting up 36 in a win in Toronto last night something like, “I’ll see your 61 and raise you 52 and a fu*&% triple double beeeeaach!  How ya like me now?”

Kobe has enough problems, they have the Celtics tonight in Boston.  And speaking of the Celtics… don’t think that Paul Pierce ain’t looking to put up mad numbers on the Knicks on Friday.  Of course, he wont’ admit it.

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.