Monday, June 30, 2008

10 Most Hated People in Sport

Of course we love our athletes, we buy their shoes, what they drink, and what they wear but let us take a second to examine the people we don't like in sports. From athletes and fans to owners and management, there are plenty to pick from.

The 10 Most Hated People in Sport.

10. Rory Sabbatini - Yes, an 'athlete' from a gentleman's game is the number ten most hated athlete on the planet. The 32-year old South African golfer is known outside the game only for his comments regarding Tiger Woods, referring to him as beatable. On Rory's best day he probably could beat Tiger, as long as Tiger was playing blindfolded and with one arm. After the 2008 US Open, you know the event in which Eldrick played on one pin and still won in a playoff, how beatable did he look then? Rory Sabbatini's nearly $18 million in career tour winnings is dwarfed by the $82 mil that Tiger has taken home, nuff said. In the words of Johnny Miller; Rory go clean my pool!

9. Sean Avery - New York Rangers Left Wing is probably the most hated man in the NHL. That's why I love him. Avery gained national recognition during the 2008 NHL playoffs by parking himself in front of the New Jersey Devils goalie and pestering him all game. Avery became the first person in the history of professional sports to have a rule changed in the midst of the playoffs just to stop him from bugging the crap out of the opposing team. While Avery is loved by "some" fans and could hold some responsibility for the Rangers great playoff run, the New York hockey team is debating whether or not his obnoxious personality will be back with his puck mates in 2009. Could there be a better New Yorker?

8. Randy Johnson - Has any athlete ever pissed off the New York media faster than RJ upon his arrival in the Big Apple? When Randy showed up in NYC the pursuit was on, New York media followed the newest Yankee pitcher down the street until the cantankerous UNIT turned and berated them. Randy's tyraid didn't stop one reporter from screaming right back at him: "Welcome to New York." Priceless. Johnson, was a combined 34-19 during his time in New York with a 4.40 ERA and failed to bring the Yankees what they really want, a championship. Luckily for the Big Unit he has spent the majority of his career in Arizona, where the fans are all retired, and Seattle where the fans watch the games from Starbucks while listening to Nirvana, not exactly New York. If you still don't believe he is that disliked, the man killed a bird with a fastball, sick, but impressive.

7. Mark Cuban - Now I like the Mavericks owner, but as far as owners who are involved too much, Cuban is number one. Since Mark Cuban purchased the Dallas Mavericks they have hit highs that the franchise never hit before him. On the other hand the NBA has never handed down more fines to an owner than they've handed down to Mark Cuban. In principle, I agree with Cuban's philosophy on sending NBA players to play in the Olympics. Cuban is right, if I was running a team and paying guys the money that he is, I'd be pretty pissed if they got hurt playing on my dime for another team, I.E. Team USA. As much as I'd like to see Team USA comprised of college athletes, amateurs, it's not. As long as it isn't, the NBA players born in this country have a responsibility to play a sport for their country, once every four years. If Cuban doesn't like that the Cubs are for sale and football isn't a Olympic sport, many teams need driven owners like Cuban. Sorry can't back him on this one.

6. The New England Sports Fan - I'm one of them, I think I know how badly we are hated. First it was in Maxim and now in this weeks edition of Sports Illustrated, articles dedicated to the dislike of professional sports fans in New England. 3 Super Bowl Rings, 2 World Series Trophies, 1 NBA Championship, all since 2001. Had enough of us yet? Not so fast . . The Celtis have another run left in them, the Red Sox have become a farm system machine see: Michael Bowden, Justin Masterson, Daniel Bard, and the Pats are coming off a season in which they racked up a record 18 wins before losing in the Super Bowl. Fans from Philadelphia, Chicago and of course New York may attribute to the majority of the hatred toward New England sports fans. Then again I'd hate us to if I had to cheer for the Phillies, Eagles, Cubs, Mets, and Yankees.

5. Joakim Noah & Al Horford - You know who hates these former Gators turned pro? I HATE THESE FORMER GATORS TURNED PRO! If this was a list of who I hate most in the NBA they would be #1 & #1B. That is why they go together on the top ten list, because I cannot stand them. We'll start with Horford, I don't care if he becomes a Hall of Famer, after the 08' Playoffs he's on the list. You should be ashamed that you got a future NBA champion team to play you seven times before bouncing you from the playoffs and you couldn't even finish the regular season above .500, that's pathetic. The fist bumping, jersey popping, self promotion that Horford, who hasn't won anything in the NBA, showed during the playoffs was asinine. Now my boy Joakim, maybe I'll give you a pass for showing up at draft day wearing that rediculous bowtie get up but as for the crying to officials I can't handle that. A man who has been in the NBA for all of 30 seconds shouldn't expect to get calls, it ain't going to happen. Secondly, would it be to much to ask for you to NOT go back to Gainesville after you graduated and walk down the street smoking weed? The Bulls get awarded Derrick Rose, the greatest guard to come out since Chris Paul, and your down in Gainesville playing beer pong and smoking weed? I've had enough of the Florida Gators.

4. Former Players who become GM's in the NBA - For every Danny Ainge and Joe Dumars there are ten Isiah's, Michael's, McHale's, Bird's, and of course Steve Kerr's. Has the experiment folded yet? Do we still think that the guy who brought (the ball up the court is the same guy who can win a championship from the owner's box? After drafting Kwame Brown with the #1 pick and crushing the Wizards franchise Jordan has moved onto Charlotte. While in Charlotte, Jordan has drafted every middle of the road college player to come out of the tournament, Adam Morrison (smokes cigarettes) anyone from North Carolina, and a new point guard D.J. Augustin let's add another young point guard) Things we don't need for 500 Alex! glad to see he follows March Madness. Steve Kerr went from the broadcast booth to the GM job in Phoenix, that would be like going from bagger at a supermarket to owner of the supermarket. So why are wondering why he traded for Shaq who proved to us WHY the Heat sucked when Wade was injured. Kevin McHale hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha, now you got Mike Miller and Kevin Love, here come the T-Wolves. No seriously though, Kevin Love? I really feel bad for Al Jefferson after this one. When O.J. Mayo is a 2-time All-Star by 2011 and Kevin Love is playing for Tel-Aviv, McHale will still have a job somewhere. Isiah Thomas, so you folded the CBA, destroyed the Toronto Raptors, got fired by the Pacers, and got an even better job with the Knicks? Sounds right, he even escaped a sexual harassment claim with his job intact. Tell me how ANYONE with a clean record wouldn't have been better?

3. Hank Steinbrenner - I can't believe we got this far without talking about someone currently involved with the New York Yankees. After taking over for George, son Hank has not fallen far from the tree. Undermining general manager Brian Cashman and new manager Joe Girardi has come easily to the Yankee owner. Hank doesn't keep his comments at home, oh no he's already started in on the so called Red Sox Nation, Inter-League play, and construction workers. Demanding that the buried David Ortiz jersey (laid in the concrete mix of the new Yankee Stadium) be drilled up and the concrete be laid back down was just his first act of lunacy in a sure to be long string of them.

Hank on the National League: “The National League needs to join the 21st century. They need to grow up and join the 21st century.”

Hank on Red Sox Nation: "Red Sox Nation? What a bunch of shit that is, Go anywhere in America and you won't see Red Sox hats and jackets, you'll see Yankee hats and jackets. This is a Yankee country. We're going to put the Yankees back on top and restore the universe to order." (Hunger, Poverty, War, and Disease . . . .but the Yankees on top will restore the universe)

Hank on that construction worker: "I hope his coworkers kick the shit out of him." nice.

2. Barry Lamar Bonds - I like Bonds, believe it or not. I even respect 762 career home runs and a career .298 batting average. Unfortunately I think I'm one of the only ones who does. Sure the media hated Barry, (that's his fault) but fans and former players alike have turned Barry into the plague. The all-time home run king will be doing card shows in Las Vegas for the rest of his life, and he'll never add HOF (Hall of Famer) to the end of his signature. That's a tough pill to swallow after dedicating the last 22 years of your life to one game. As much as Barry will tell you he doesn't care about that, of course he does. It isn't just Barry's cold and mean side that turns people off to him, McGwire was the nicest guy in the world and NO ONE came to his side after he was found guilty in the court of public opinion. Barry won't ever be able to escape what he is remembered for and that will make him our generations Pete Rose; not a great guy to follow.

1. Congressional Subcommittees and Bored U.S. State Senators - Hearings on drug-testing in major league baseball, wether or not Roger Clemens lied to investigators, subpoenas meant to place athletes in jail, and a video taping scandal that means nothing to people with real jobs. What's on the docket next Mr. Senator? I've explained in the past how crazy it is to take these men down to Washington for a show in front of the fans but they just don't listen to me. (shocking) Subcommittees and Arlen Specter need to spend more time on fixing the problems domestically rather than looking to grab popcorn headlines and get on a couple radio shows. In no way should Specter be concerned about what the New England Patriots do to get a competitive advantage. If athletes decide to put needles in their ass, leave the narcotics police to that, our tax dollars don't need a hearing. I've never heard any fan say "I'm glad their doing this, I'm glad that things will be right after they get a hold of them" never, nope it won't EVER happen. Fans have more worries, what will their kids have for food at night, when is my next pay check coming in, and why the F*CK am I paying $5.00 a gallon for gas?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

What is so bad about Carmelo?

Before the 2003 NBA Draft all the hype was surrounding the young Ohio high school phenom, Lebron James. The top pick in that draft, James has become an instant success. From his multi-million dollar endorsements to his appearance in last years NBA Finals, Lebron is set to embark on a long profitable career in the NBA. The King will most likely move from his current home in Cleveland to a more financially viable city like say, New York. At that point we will see his ego go from huge to f*cking huge and include at least one or two championship runs.

The number five selection, Dwayne Wade from Marquette, is currently the poster boy of the NBA. Wade gave expert analysis for ESPN during the 2008 Finals and oh yea, he was the MVP of the 2006 NBA Finals. Wade is just in his fifth season as a pro and has already been to the top of the mountain and won. Dwayne is the cornerstone of the Miami Heat and is featured in commercials for T-Mobile and Gatorade to name a few. When healthy, Dwayne Wade is one of the top 5 players in the world.

After being passed over by the Detroit Pistons for none other than the historically awful Darko Milicic (from parts unknown) Carmelo Anthony is selected by the Denver Nuggets. For Carmelo, who was fresh off leading Syracuse to a national championship in just his freshman year, Denver seemed like a good fit. The Denver Post (as mentioned in other rants and tyraids of doesn't exactly rip athletes as much as say an New York or L.A. newspaper, yet they have their moments. Carmelo would be playing against the best of the Western Conference every night. A proven scorer in the league, Anthony was even handed future hall of famer, Allen Iverson, last year to enhance his game. More than Wade, who was placed along side a lazy declining big man, and Lebron whose team decided that adding Ben Wallace, the games worst offensive player, was a viable second option. So why hasn't Carmelo won?

His Skills:

While Anthony hasn't been as glorified as Lebron & Dwayne, his play hasn't suffered. Melo (as the kids refer to him by) has averaged 20+ points and 5+ rebounds in each of his first five seasons, including his 2006 campaign where he dropped nearly 30 a night. Carmelo was the fourth leading scorer per game in the NBA in 2008, while being paired with the third leading scorer in Allen Iverson. Only Iverson, Kobe Bryant, and Lebron James scored more points nightly. Lebron and Kobe are also the only players to have more field goals made than Melo yet he has a better average of made against missed than both of them. Anthony clearly can get to the rack ranking in the top ten in free throws attempted as well. Watching Carmelo play in pre-Olympic competition it was obvious that he is the most diverse player of the three, see Carmelo's domination against Italy and Puerto Rico last summer. If you don't buy that, watch when all three are playing in China this summer.

His Issues:

Despite Carmelo's on the court game being outstanding, his off the court game leaves little to be desired. The New York native was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence earlier in the Spring. This came on the heels of Melo's criticism of George Karl and the Nuggets of how his game was being handled. Since the season ended and Melo's Nuggets were ran out of the playoffs by Kobe and the Lakers, rumours of the superstar being traded have been swirling. From Melo actually ending up on the Pistons to the Nuggets coming out and saying they have no interest in trading him, his future doesnt' seem certain. I cant' get a clear read on wether or not Melo wants out of Denver, he is getting paid, playing well, and making the playoffs but unlike Wade and James it doesn't seem like a Championship is in his sights just yet.

The Solution:

As I touched on earlier I think that the Summer of 2008 will be a touchdown moment in Melo's career. Back with a college coach, in Team USA's Mike Krzyzewski and on a national stage, the Olympics, for the first time since the National Championship run of his Syracuse team, Melo is primed. The best cure for a tumultuous season and off season is time away from the everything but basketball. Averaging 21 points, a team high, during last years competitions in World play, Anthony excelled as an offensive threat. I think Carmelo is the type of player who needs coaching from figures like Jim Boeheim and Coach K, rather than the George Karl's of the world whose success has clouded their ability to teach players as oppose to telling players what to do.

Carmelo is a rare talent, if the Nugs were to trade the guy it would be way to difficult to get equal talent. Like Shaq to the Heat, Garnett to the Celtics, and Rasheed to the Pistons, these deals don't always work out when you don't get the best player in the trade. So I ask, What is so bad about Carmelo?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Nail In The Coffin

I thought the transition from NBA playoff basketball to mid-June baseball would be a seamless one, WRONG. It's like a meth addict trying to stay clean while all his friends are busy doing what meth addicts do (errr playing whose got the cleanest needle maybe?) While I'm trying very hard to ween myself off of the NBA several things have still gone unsaid and several things are still happening. Because I don't believe that the Tampa Bay Dev . .oops, I meant Tampa Bay Rays will be hanging around come September, (I should remind you they've never finished above .500) and the College World Series is about as exciting as a funeral were going to stay with hoops for the next week or two, or whenever I decide not to because this column is primarily about doing what I want, deal with it.

Leading Off:

With Shaq going to the Suns (we'll get to his rapping exploits in a bit), Pau to the Lakers, and J-Kidd to the Mavs would you ever have expected that the biggest deadline move was the Celtics pulling P.J. Brown out of retirement?

J-Kidd was a train wreck in Dallas, if you don't think so see Avery Johnson on the unemployment line and the New Jersey Nets with a quality young guard in Devon Harris. Good call Cuban. Surprised that despite your best efforts to slam the U.S. men's basketball team, somehow your starting point guard, Jason Kidd, ended up on the team? Make friends Mark, not enemies.

Pau to the Lakers worked out great, until June. The Lakers are the premier team in the Western Conference, no bones about that. But do we need anymore examples of European players being "soft" than what we just saw in the Finals? No one saw it coming, NO ONE, that the Lakers would get completely physically dominated in the Finals. Maybe Andrew Bynum was more of a loss than anyone of us thought, but can you say, with certainty, that Bynum would have rolled over P.J. Brown and Kendrick Perkins in the Finals? No matter how many talented Euros you have, Vladimir Radmonivic, Sasha Vujacic, and Pau Gasol, you still need players who are willing to fight and bang down low, hopefully Bynum can be that guy, Pau isn't.

After the season ended Steve Kerr had to look at his roster in Phoenix and say, what the F*CK did I do?!?!!?!? A team that was among the top contenders in the Western Conference when they dealt away future free agent and un-signable Shawn Marrion in exchange for the Big Aristotle. The Suns were quickly sent home by the Spurs, followed by the departure of one of the top coaches in the NBA, Mike D'Antoni, to the KNICKS of all teams. When the Knicks seem like a better option than what you currently have, your in trouble.

But as the story goes, Doc and Danny give P.J. Brown a call and tell him they believe he is a key to Banner 17. A retired veteran re-enters the league in March and is playing in the Finals by June. Not only did Brown play in the Finals but he played HUGE in the Finals. When Kendrick Perkins and Kevin Garnett got in foul trouble early, P.J. entered the game. He was methodical in the use of his 6 fouls, fouling to prevent easy lay-ups and moving his feet while playing outstanding defense. P.J. Brown withstood the attack of the Pistons bigs off the bench, he manhandled the Lakers, and finally won his 1st NBA ring after a long career. When Perkins was out with an injured shoulder it was Brown who stepped up in games 5 and 6 to help with the load. Not Shaq, Pau, or Kidd was as prevalent as P.J. Brown was in the playoffs.

I honestly don't know

My friends and I are coming up upon our second annual NBA Draft Party. The Inaugural Draft Party consisted of 4 guys, two cases of miller, and a three-day hangover, among other things. This years draft party will be slightly better, with the Celtics picking nowhere near the lottery, a half-day of work on Friday, and the whole weekend off, let's just say excited is an understatement.

To more pressing issues . . we highlighted the NBA draft of 2007 because of young talents Greg Oden & Kevin Durant, the clear cut 1 and 2 of the 2007 draft class. With Oden on the pine with injuries during the season we have yet to see the value, but with Durant, the 2008 Rookie of the Year, we can see the instant impact rookies can have. After picks one and two this year I plan on playing how many Euros drafted before I black out, over under on 4.

To lead you down a long winded path of who I think SHOULD be the #1 pick is irresponsible, Michael Beasley or Derrick Rose I can't make up my mind. If you recall earlier this summer I attempted to do so and came up with Beasley, after going back and fourth my opinion has changed.

Derrick Rose is as exciting as they come, if this kid wants Chicago as bad as he says he does, make him the king of the city. Sure it'll take some moving of parts and some ball washing on the part of Kirk Hinrich but it's worth it. If Rose can be the type, not exactly, but the TYPE of player that Chris Paul is, he's worth his stock. The Bulls aren't relevant right now and despite popular opinion, I don't think it's a quick fix. With Beasley or with Rose the Bulls don't know where they are going and that is in fact the larger issue.

The coaching search they just conducted appeared to be a clusterf*ck, plain and simple. After being the leverage for Mike D'Antoni to get the type of dollars he did in New York, their next look was at former Bulls coach Doug Collins. Collins last winning season came in 1996 with the Pistons, that would be TWELVE years ago. Lucky for the Bulls Collins passed on the offer. The Bulls ended up hiring first time head coach, Vinnie Del Negro. The Suns former assistant general manager, not assistant coach, nope just a front office guy with years of playing experience. No knock on Del Negro, but was he really the guy to right the ship?

I'm curious if John Calipari was given a call, the prospect of the Bulls with the top pick, Rose wanting to come to Chicago, and his college coach who can clearly coach young talent. Just a thought.

Speaking of that Draft

With the Celtics closing a deal for Ray Allen followed by the acquisition of Kevin Garnett it was clear that the Celtics were being most active among playoff hopefuls. Several teams will see the C's success and think that A: it can be turned around that quick and B: they have the people to turn it around that quick. So the remaining question is, Which teams believe that?

The Detroit Pistons. By now you know that the Pistons have been to 6 consecutive conference finals and risk the chance of becoming the Atlanta Braves of the NBA. Since beating the Lakers in 2003-3004, the Pistons have not only been rolled up by the Cleveland Lebrons in 2007 but were dispatched at home in 2008 by the eventual WORLD CHAMPIONS (god I love saying that).My theory on the Pistons is they actually do have ENOUGH to win a championship. In the postseason the emergence of Jason Maxiell and rookie guard Rodney Stuckey makes players Rasheed Wallace & Rip Hamilton expendable. While I like the play of both veterans it is clear that the Pistons need a shake up, and Joe D is the first one to say so. After the firing of Flip Saunders, who the players didn't respect, and hiring the coach they wanted to play for Michael Curry, the Pistons will be active this off season, very active.

The Miami Heat. The Heat dumped the contract they didn't want most in February, Shaq out. With Wade clearly being injury prone due to his style of play and lack of teammates around him the #1 goal is to not waste one of the top 5 players in the NBA. The Heat will get Marrion to stay on South Beach, and make a splash in the draft. Clearly they don't think Beasley is the guy for them, as crazy as that sounds. I really think the Heat will make a couple mistakes in this offseason, they'll be active, but they won't be successful in my opinion. The rumours that have been floating around is their interest in Carlos Boozer when he becomes available after the 2009 season. If history tells us anything about Boozer its that he isn't exactly a reliable guy circa ditching the Cavs and Lebron for Utah. If your going to pass on the most dominating collegiate scorer of the last five years, Mike Beasley, in hopes that Carlos Boozer does what you want, you better have the checkbook ready. (I still haven't gotten over what they did to everyones favorite Pizza man, Stan Van Gundy)


If you haven't heard of Shaq's free styling in the NYC nightclub over the weekend, don't worry it went something like this:

"I hate Kobe, I'm washed up, I like when people taste my butt . . . " I'm paraphrasing.

Shaq is ludicrous, not the rapper. I've always like Shaq, I thought he was entertaining and I also thought that offenses should be run through him instead of around him. That was when he was on the Magic though. Shaq is a complete horses ass. His rapping is about as good as his free throw shooting. I don't care if he has to carry his ass up and down the court for 82 games a year and then the playoffs, he is a professional athlete and should just get in shape and make it easier on his knees and ankles. Unfortunately Shaq always considered himself better than that, he was to good for others to tell him what to do and how to do it, he relied only on his god given size and hoped the rest would come. Kobe may be 0-1 in the championship without Shaq, but the big man is kidding himself if he thinks he's the result of Miami winning a championship. D-Wade played unreal in that post season and ran the Mavs right off the court in the Finals. Wade averaged 28 points and 6 rebounds a game in the 05-06 playoffs. The Diesel put in a mere 18 points per game in those playoffs, a far cry from the 30 points a game he put in during the Lakers first of three championship runs. Say what you want about Kobe, he spends his off season playing in the Olympics and adding something to his game, Shaq is rapping in a night club.

Insert Nail in Coffin of the NBA 2007-2008 Season . . .

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I'm not sure you know . . .

It first hit me during Kevin Garnett's post game press conference, I'm not sure were aware of what it's like to be a Boston Celtic. I don't know if Michael still roots for the Bulls to win, I doubt Shaquille cares about the Lakers, but between Bill Russell, John Havlicek, and Jo Jo White there's the Boston Celtics and nobody else.

When KG first arrived in Boston it was Paul Pierce who instructed him to embrace the city, because they'll embrace you no matter what. The city that rallied with Pierce in 2002 when he was playing aside Tony Battie and Erik Williams, would rally around anyone who wore Celtic green. The 'I Remember' commercial put out by the NBA upon Garnett's arrival in title town documented what exactly this gave the city of Boston. What it gave was a thought, a thought that the banner that has so eluded this franchise over the past twenty years might actually become real. Garnett was welcomed with open arms by us, but it was them, the Celtics legends, that you really want to accept you.

The idea seems a bit "frat" like, but it's real. Bill Russell who gave his entire life to this organization, Jo Jo White who attends nearly every game and cheers as if he was on the bench, and of course Tommy, whose calls of the game have become so bias over the years you can't help but notice his loyalty. When Garnett mentioned in his post game remarks that you really feel like a Celtic when these older players embrace you it hit me, they hold every player to a higher standard than anyone else ever could. KG was right, it means something to put on that jersey and play in this city. Pierce has said it a million times "You really want to win a championship in this city, it's like no other."

When you see Havlicek sitting in the stands watching intently or you see Russell embrace Garnett, you know they want this just as bad. I can't help think the "knight-like" figures that they've become is a result of one legend, Red. A man who cared more about winning than anyone else, the pioneer of the game. For the Celtics to allow one Phil Jackson to break Red's record on that court would have been disastrous.

I've got to believe that when you hear Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, and Paul Pierce say that "Red would have loved this team, that man stuck by me" they feel a bit of relief to know what they accomplished is what he would have wanted most. When the 2008-2009 season kicks off and the Celtics look to defend a title, Paul will be playing with a little less on his shoulders and Doc will be coaching with a little less pressure. Like I said, I'm not sure any of us have a clue as to what it means to be a Celtic.

Sweet Seventeen

That just happened. I'm in a complete fog, it could either be the fact that I was up until one-thirty and woke up at six or the fact that the Boston Celtics just completed the single greatest turn around, from one year to the next, in professional sports history.

Did I want a double-overtime thriller? F*CK NO. The Celtics did what they needed to do. Send the Lakers back to L.A. on the heels of a 39-point blowout. Leave no questions on the board as to who the best team in the 07'-08' NBA season was. In doing so shut down Kobe completely and emphatically. Celtics 131 Lakers 92, ballgame.

This championship run was one for the ages. While the Celtics 2.0 aren't quite the Celtics of 1985-1986, they've made some memories of their own:

The defense of the Boston Celtics anchored by Kevin Garnett was nothing short of spectacular. As the former Finals MVP and current Heat guard, Dwayne Wade, put it just before Game 6 "This is the best defense I've seen in my time in the NBA" and later added "When we play the Celtics, I'm not guarded by one guy on the court, but all five guys." If Game 6 wasn't a 48 minute snapshot of that stifling defense I don't know what is. Whether it was Pierce, Ray Allen, or James Posey pestering Kobe, each of them made sure he had a hand in his face. When Bryant took the ball inside help immediately rotated toward Kobe forcing a pass or in some cases an immediate turnover. The goal wasn't to shut Kobe out, that's impossible. The goal was to contain Kobe and if he was going to take over a game it'd take a herculean effort. Between Lebron James, the Detroit Pistons, and Kobe Bryant the Celtic defense took care of business.

I've bagged on the reigning MVP for a bit too long now. Kobe isn't Michael, we get it. I don't feel bad for the multi-million dollar athlete who already possesses three championship rings, but I do respect his ability and that's it. Not Phil Jackson, Pau Gasol, or Derek Fisher will help him win a championship. The truth is, the Celtics played him better than anyone else did. Kobe and the Lakers waxed San Antonio, took out Utah on the road, and made quick work of the Nuggets. They had a great regular season and were the class of the West, the thing is though, the West doesn't bang like the East. Even Detroits big men would have given Pau and Lamar fits. If Kobe wants to win another championship anytime soon he'll have to bank on Andrew Bynum, who is a pretty good player. Sorry Kobe, good luck winning the gold in the Olympics.

I won't lie, from day one I doubted that 'Big Baby' Davis was a guy that the Celtics would benefit from drafting. This morning my words are officially swallowed. I think one of the most amazing story lines in sports are the guys that come right out of college onto a winning team and win a championship in their first full season of a professional sport. When some players go their whole entire career without winning a championship or even sniffing a finals like P.J. Brown before this season, like Paul Pierce and Ray Allen as well. Then a guy like Davis comes into the league and what luck, he plays well enough to suit up night in night out then BAM an NBA Championship just like that. Not only did Davis play in last nights Final, he played well. More than just an energy guy off the bench, Davis grabbed boards, played Pau tough, and got to kiss the trophy at the end of it all. Congrats Big Baby, I was wrong about you.

Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett, Thank You. Truly. It sounds lame and a little on the dramatic side but Banner 17 wouldn't have even come close to coming true if either of you hadn't agreed to come to Boston. Even though we were ready to sell Ray Allen down the river after the first two rounds of the playoffs, he showed up big time in the NBA Finals. Ray's 7 for 9 from behind the arc in the clinching game 6 was unbelievable. Ray may not have the personality of Pierce or the intensity of KG but his game is just as good. The UCONN Alum is one of the top shooters over the past ten years if not THE top, let alone that at all times I'd argue he is the smartest player on the court. As for Kevin Garnett, how's it feel? The man who was once known for his inability to carry a team to a championship now will have a ring dawning that finger. Kevin Garnett allowed players like Pierce and Rondo to gamble all season long on the defensive end of the court. They could go for steals, blocks, and really defend close to the ball because of number five standing behind them. Garnett shrunk somewhat in the Finals but really stood up in game six, the one game he really needed to. The intensity that KG brings to the C's every game is something I've never seen out of any Celtic. Both Allen and Garnett deserved to add the coveted jewelry to their resume, I applaud that.

My WTF moment of Banner 17 would be when Celtic captain and future broadway actor Paul Pierce decided to dump an entire bucket of red gatorade on Doc Rivers with two minutes remaining on the game clock. Love the enthusiasm, I know this is a monumental monkey off your back, but this isn't the NFL, your not on a field, and Doc is rocking a pretty expensive suit I assume. This is what Paul either A. Didn't think of or B. Looked over.

1. With time on the clock the basketball might venture down the Celtics bench, if a freshly poured bucket of gatorade is all over the floor it will undoubtedly stop the game have to be cleaned up and extend this romp of a game even longer.

2. I can't recall a basketball game that someone actually did this. Was Paul just bucking the system and showing us all that basketball can play dump the cooler on the coach?

3. I can't assume there were to many guys on the bench to stop him and say, "Paul, this might not be a great idea when everyone is running around after the game" Between Perk and KG, zero college credits.

Rajon and Perk, the future of the Boston Celtics. The difference in game 5 was that Perk had one arm and Rajon was still hobbled. Rajon played like an all-star against the Lakers during game 6 and even though Perk had five fouls, he was able to throw Pau off his game early and keep KG out of foul trouble. What seemed like 15 steals for Rondo was only 6, but to go along with his 21 points and eight assists, Rondo was great. If Perk continues to progress over the next couple years with Garnett alongside him, the future looks solid for him. As far as Rondo goes, I think he is a legit all-star in this league, relatively soon.

To the Truth, Seventeen. Paul Pierce officially placed himself among Celtic greats. His number would have been hung in the rafters win or lose a championship, but with a win it's so much sweeter. Pierce is the lone player remaining of the 2002 Eastern Conference finals C's. Pierce kept the Celtics in the playoffs with his 40 point performance against the Cavs in the second round. Paul was the driving force behind the Celtics 24 point comeback against the Lakers in game 4. What else can we say about this guy? Finally the national media talks about the play of one Paul Pierce. The only player to ever mention his own accolades in a post game interview, the only man to ever high five a security guard in an empty hall while yelling "one more baby, one more." While I think it is very possible that Pierce has knee surgery over the summer and gains 30lbs, I could care less at this point. I love Paul Pierce, and I love the way he showed up Kobe on the biggest stage. He is and will always be, The Truth.

Congrats to the 2008 NBA Champions!!!!!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Thoughts On Game 6

Tiger Woods proved he's better than most with one good pin, Willie Randolph got fired by the Mets, and Broncos WR Javon Walker proved yet again why Las Vegas is no place for professional athletes. I cannot elaborate any further on those issues because my entire focus is on tonight's Game 6 of the NBA Finals.

Despite the Celtics losing Game 5, I wasn't all that worried late Sunday night. Unfortunately I'd had 48 hours to sit on that loss and now I'm more worried than ever. Boston may have been nothing short of dominant at home during the playoffs and regular season. Yet even while having two shots left, at home none the less, I don't feel great about this.

For starters, the Celtics have one healthy one and he looked the worst on Sunday night. Paul Pierce dropped 38 points on L.A. but his knee is speculated to be more damaged than we thought and could even need surgery after the season. Kendrick Perkins shoulder was roughed up so bad he had to miss Game 5 and subsequently is being called a game-time decision for Game 6. Rajon Rondo played in spurts during Game 5 and at times his ankle looked worse than led on. While no physical injuries apply to guard Ray Allen, his youngest son was taken to the hospital Sunday night and Ray was forced to take a later flight to meet his team in Boston on Monday. Playing with a sick child on his mind may not be the best thing for Ray or the Celtics. So we are left with Kevin Garnett; two-clutch free throws bricked Kevin Garnett, instant foul trouble Kevin Garnett, and no rings Kevin Garnett. Terrific. (optimism has faded entirely)

The last 48 hours hasn't been completely absent of humour:

Jemele Hill (admitted Pistons fan) wrote, “Rooting for the Celtics is like saying Hitler was a victim. It’s like hoping Gorbachev would get to the blinking red button before Reagan.” Goodbye ESPN.Com, and hello East Cupcake Times.

With the optimism leaving me the doubt of how "fair" the NBA is enters even now more than ever. The best thing for the league is a Game 7 in Boston to decide the championship between the two most storied franchises in NBA history. TV ratings through the roof on America's most watched TV night; Thursday. The games best player, Kobe Bryant, attempting to pull of what no other team has ever done in the Finals. Ring less Paul Pierce, Ray Allen, and Kevin Garnett playing for their legacies. David Stern has to be licking his chops for this one.

My other questions are, how many of these comebacks do the Celtics have left? Can a team with so many injury questions continue to place themselves in hole after hole and continue to come out? Does the Zen Master have a plan after 5 games to get his team to hold a lead? Whould the entire state of Massachusetts be able to function on Friday morning after possibly losing a Game 7? They've already had their football team lose a shot at history in the worst possible way, then the Celtics losing after being up 3-1 and Banner 17 ripped away only six months later, not even a third World Series ring could stop that bleeding.

Ok breath . . . . that is a worst case scenario. AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

5 Reasons Kobe Isn't Michael

After allowing his team to lose a 24-point lead and subsequently lose game 4 of the NBA Finals, it has never been more evident that Kobe Bryant isn't Michael Jordan. Although Kobe has never claimed to be Michael or even "Like Mike," there have been many to make the comparison.

The question in itself, "Who is the next Michael Jordan?" is a ridiculous one at that. His Airness was the most dominant champion since Bill Russell. From 1991 to 1998, Jordan captured six NBA championships. If not for the passing of his father and abrupt retirement in 1993, many would claim that he would have won eight consecutive NBA titles. The 5-time MVP is recognized globally as the single greatest basketball talent ever. In his prime, Jordan managed to prevent stars and future Hall of Famer's such as Karl Malone and Charles Barkley from ever reaching the pinnacle of their profession as champions. The game's ultimate defender and competitor, Michael never allowed his teams to even get pushed to a game seven in the NBA Finals. For Bean Bryant to reach the top of the mountain, he'll have to defeat the most historic franchise in NBA history, the Boston Celtics, at their place in a game seven; a Jordanesque task for a player nowhere near the man we call Michael.

These are the top 5 reasons why Kobe isn't Michael:

5. Michael has his own logo. Not only his own logo, but his own division of Nike -- Team Jordan. Maybe Kobe was on his way toward a personal logo; McDonald's, Sprite, and of course Nike all were completely fascinated by him. A three-time NBA Champion at the start of the 2002-2003 season, Kobe had the corporations eating out of the palm of his hand. Yet a certain rape charge made against him by a 19-year-old woman sent those same corporations running for the hills. Both McDonald's and Sprite immediately pulled commercials of the accused superstar. People don't forget as quickly as we would think. A Finals MVP and numerous ABC stories of Kobe with wife and children won't put him back on the pedestal that he was once on. You won't see the logo of Kobe Bryant on sneakers anytime soon.

4. Jordan climbed to the top and Bryant ran to the top. Bryant won a championship with Phil Jackson running the show and Shaquille O'Neal in his prime during Kobe's 4th NBA season. Jordan had to climb to the top after 7 NBA seasons. In my opinion, my opinion, Kobe playing alongside Shaq and being coached by Phil Jackson made him spoiled in a way. He was shown what the top looked liked and figured he'd be there year after year, which turned into, "I'm the reason we're there." Michael went through 7 seasons, seasons in which he was the best scorer, defender, and player in the league, all while failing to reach the top. Playoff losses piled up and probably allowed Jordan time to figure out how to win and bring his teammates along for the ride. At the point in Kobe's career when he was screaming at teammates and showing up coaches, Jordan was arriving on the championship stage for the first time in his career.

3. Michael has always had Phil's trust; Kobe just gained it... maybe. Did Phil ever write a book documenting Michael's insubordination of "his way"? With the release of Phil Jackson's book, The Last Season: A Team in Search of Its Soul, the world was given a detailed look into the differences between Phil, Shaq, and Kobe. Clearly a problem Michael was never forced to face. Even to this day, in the 2008 playoffs, there have been times during the playoffs when Kobe visibly disagreed with Phil. No matter how much Phil comes to Kobe's aid, neither he, Kobe, nor the entire world would tell you that the hatchet is buried. Some people settle disputes based on how the other can help them get to where they need to be (i.e. Hillary and Bill Clinton) a classic example is Kobe and Phil, the sequel. When Kobe was trying to force his way out of L.A. last summer we weren't hearing boo about how he would be upset to leave Phil.

2. No player Kobe was paired with turned into a top 50 player of all time, because of Kobe. You know the story of Scottie Pippen, right? Nearly 17 points and six boards a game for his entire career, Scottie Pippen, is considered as ONE of the 50 greatest players of all time. A player that Jordan not only helped improve but helped become one of the greatest defensive talents the league has ever seen. A member of the original Dream Team and also the team that won the gold four years later, he was a seven-time All Star and a member of the all NBA defensive team eight times. Perhaps Pippen's best year was the year in which Jordan retired and Pippen finished third in MVP voting and carried the Bulls to 55 wins. Who was the last player that Kobe assisted in an All Star-like MVP season? No one.

1. Kobe won his first MVP after 11 NBA seasons. While an MVP isn't an easy thing to come by, he didn't achieve an MVP honor until 2008, his 11th NBA season. Despite a 35-ppg season in 2005-2006 and even an 81-point performance against the Raptors that season, he was passed over for MVP. In Michael's just third season he won the award (1987-1988). In a league that consisted of legends Larry Bird and Magic Johnson, Michael Jeffrey Jordan was the MVP. That year Jordan was also selected as the NBA's defensive player of the year and NBA All Star Game MVP.

Obviously these aren't all the reasons why Kobe Bryant isn't the next Michael Jordan. Kobe won't ever become the Michael Jordan that wore #9 during the Dream Team's first tour of the Olympic Games. He'll never be the Jordan to hold up six fingers showing the world how many times he's been to the top of the mountain, but he will always be one of the greatest players in the game. This column was meant to be more a of realization how of impossible it is to be the greatest, and how possible it is to just be you.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Game 4: Instant Classic

The game is 48 minutes long, not 24. I would like to breath a collective sigh of shock, awe, and relief for all of New England. I don't rock my sunglasses at night but if I was James Posey, the Ray-Bans would be coming out tonight. The Celtics silenced a rather rawkus Staples Center crowd in route to the greatest Finals comeback in NBA history; HISTORY.

Phil is forced to hit the podium shortly after the loss. Leaving Kobe alone with the underlings after probably the most upsetting loss of his career. Only being locked in a room with Hannibal Lecter would frighten me more. We got to witness Paul Pierce list his own accolades, first time that's ever been done:

"I was part of the biggest comeback in playoff history in 2002 against the New Jersey Nets, remember that, so I do know what it takes"

While not the modest of players, Pierce did attempt to give the usual lines, we take one game at a time, I'm only thinking about Sundays game, and my favorite, this series isn't over yet. I have man love for you Paul but you just dropped a team after being down by as many as 24 points, your up 3-1, and I don't care if the Red Sox did it in 04', this series is O-V-E-R.

After getting absolutely run off the court by Lamar Odom and the L.A. Lakers in the first half, the Celtics went into the locker room down 18. I had began my assault on a twelve pack and was sitting in shock. Little did I know that the Lakers would play no defense in the second half while allowing James Posey and Eddie House to play the Celtics back into this game. Pierce was determined to hold Kobe down in the second half, and even after Bryant drilled a jumper right over him, Paul went down the court demanded the ball put two moves on Kobe and sunk a mid-range shot right in front of him. I'm done arguing about it, Paul Pierce deserves to be called THE TRUTH, he is THE TRUTH, and needs to get WAY more respect. Telling Vladimir Radmanovic to chase Pierce around the court is sinful; Pierce controlled the ball, ran the offense, and found the open men. When the Lakers took a four point lead late in the fourth and I thought the comeback was all for nothing, James Posey nailed a three followed by a Eddie House jumper to put the Celts up by 1. The game was over after that, you don't claw back, take a lead and then lose the game in the FINALS. Ray Allen placed the nail in the coffin by breaking Sasha's ankles and taking the ball to the rack. BALL GAME.

I have never seen a more critical loss than what happened last night. If the Lakers had lost a game that was close for the whole game, even that wouldn't have been as bad. Snatching a win in game 4 gave the Celtics that feeling, that feeling they had when they ended the Rockets 22-game win streak, that feeling they had after dismantling the Hawks in game 7, the feeling after Pierce dropped 40 on Lebron and the Cavs to send them home. I think Jim Armstrong of the Denver Post owes us all a retraction; he was right, this series has seemed lopsided, not to the Lakers side though. (shhhhh, but Ray Allen is having a HELLUVA series)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Game 3: The Hangover

Assume a positive spin is coming:

Kevin Garnett & Paul Pierce shot a combined 8-35 from the floor and the Celtics were still in the position to tie the game up at 78 a piece with minutes remaining. Lamar Odom decided to show up in the fourth quarter, Sasha Vujacic (first time I've respected the man enough to call him by his name) drilled a coffin closing three ball, and what more can we say about Kobe?

You didn't see Michael defer the ball to Scottie to close it out, you won't see Kobe doing anything different. The Lakers needed game 3, we could argue about who needed it more, but the Lakers couldn't go down 3-0. Boston didn't die completely but they certainly weren't the team that came to play in games 1 and 2. Between jawing with Paul Pierce, finding Vujacic wide open, and drilling back to back jumpers to close the game out, Kobe was determined. Aside from Kobe's struggles at the charity stripe, he played a dominating game. Ray Allen stayed with him, put a hand in his face, yet that didn't face Bryant. To the tune of 36 points, 12-20 from the field, and getting to stripe 18 times, Kobe was the agressor. The reason his team is back in the series.

With Jack sitting court side and tabloid whores Eddie Murphy, Sly Stallone, and Steven Spielberg also grabbing free seats how could Kobe not be excited to play for his fans? (Insert sarcastic tone) Here's my issue with the "stars" sitting court side: Am I supposed to believe that they actually like the Lakers? Am I supposed to believe that a bunch of self-absorbed actors wearing sunglasses indoors actually become depressed between losses? With the exception of Jack and Leo (who traveled to Boston to watch his team play) they are all just as I so thoughtfully put it, media whores. It's one thing when Boston sports icons, David Ortiz and Curt Schilling show up, even when Magic and Jerry West want to catch some Celts/Lakers action, but when I start seeing Ellen Pompeo & the guy who made The Adventures of Pluto Nash, wearing sunglasses sitting courtside, that's where I draw the line. (Insert joke about Eddie Murphy picking up transexuals on Rodeo) Please get this series back to the bean.

Game 4 is a must win for both teams; Boston needs to steal one in L.A. and this may be the best opportunity. The Lakers can't lose a game in L.A., it is hard enough to win one on the road, let alone two. Now forgive me but I need to go rip my hair out because of last night.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Junior goes Yard; 600 Times

When I was a kid my favorite ball players were Cal Ripken Jr. and Ken Griffey Jr. It has been years since Cal last took the diamond and it may seem like its been years since we heard from Junior Griffey. Since his move to Cincinnati in 2000, Griffey has been plagued by injury after injury. Missing over 400 games due to injuries between 2000 and 2007, Griffey continued to march forward toward the Hall of Fame. So when Ken Griffey blasted is 600th career home run Monday evening the first question that must be asked is, What if he had played in those 400+ games?

Griffey, who in his prime (1996-2000), was averaging 49.8 homers a season and 137 RBIs, was the undisputed best player in the game. While smashing the ball out of every ballpark Griffey was still averaging 170 hits a season and grabbing 15-20 bags every summer. Griffey was mentioned before Bonds, Sosa, & Big Mac as the guy who would eclipse Henry Aaron as the eventual home run king. On Monday evening Ken Griffey joined Bonds, Sosa, Ruth, Mays, and of course Aaron as the only six players to ever hit 600+ home runs in a career. As Griffey continues to pile up his statistics in a sure to be hall of fame career, he still remains the most modest of superstars. In a time when questions whirl around every Major League milestone passed, Griffey remains unquestioned.

The ten-time gold glover and two-time American League MVP may never reach the ultra-exclusive club of Major Leaguers to hit 700 home runs but I refer you to his pace pre injury plagued seasons. At the end of the 2001 baseball season, a season which Griffey sat 51 games with injury, he had smashed 460 home runs in his career. It wasn't until June 20th, 2004 that Griffey put #500 into the seats. In the three seasons from 2002 to 2004, Griffey played in 206 games out of a possible 486 games. Without even looking further into the numbers you can see that Griffey with 460 homers in 2001 would have easily hit #500 twelve to fifteen months earlier than he did.

Even after his prime officially ended and the injuries had plagued his career in Cincy, Griffey wasn't done. For the last three seasons, seasons which Griffey played over 100 games in each, his home run totals went 35, 27, and 30 in 2007. For Junior to reach 700 at a pace of 30 each year he would hit 700 after his 41st birthday. With seven hundred home runs in a career Griffey would be 62 homers away from Bonds' mark of 762. Would anyone honestly say we wouldn't have a different home run king if Griffey hadn't missed all those games due to injury?

One of the greatest assumptions of the steroid era is that Major Leaguers had unnatural power and athletic ability. That assumption is false, the unnatural part was the ability to stay healthy and get back in the batters box or on the pitchers mound. Questioned stars Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds were able to do that, Junior wasn't. All due respect to Barry Bonds, the greatest ball player I've ever seen play is Ken Griffey Jr.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

GAME 2: Kobe Face Returns

Yea, Yea, I get it the Lakers shot and made a ridiculous amount of 4th quarter three balls. They cut a once 24-point lead down to just two points with under a minute remaining yet failed to complete the comeback with a victory. The comeback may have put a little bit of a smudge on the Celtics monster night but before I hit the hay the Celtics had 2-0 lead heading to Hollywood. The best thing for the Celtics is something few have seen in the 07'-08' season: Kobe Face

Minute and twenty seconds remaining in the third quarter, Celtics up by 20 points, time-out Lakers. Kobe grabs a towel, looks toward the camera, and THERE IT IS; Kobe face.

Watching his teammates get absolutely throttled for an entire quarter has Kobe reminiscing about the days when he would drop 50 a game for seven straight games and have no idea who the other four guys wearing the same jersey were. It has Kobe wondering if he can beat the Celtics four times, by himself. Gone is the Kobe who was laughing with Luke Walton and high-fiving the guy Phil Jackson still calls Vlade. Arrival is the Kobe who destroyed his teammates confidence in practice and obliterated it on game day. Kobe face, it's an "Incredible Hulk" like change in personality and it might just be back after the Lakers 3rd quarter embarrassment Sunday night.

The bad thing about Kobe face is that the Lakers were a quick first round out when it existed. The good thing about Kobe face is that it leaves no doubt who the planets best basketball player is. Some may wonder, what is it that creates Kobe face? I can't answer that question but I can assume that Leon Powe throwing down five uncontested jams over Pau, Vlade, and Stoli doesn't keep Kobe face at bay.

By now you know the previously mentioned, Leon Powe, was nothing short of amazing in the Celtics game 2 victory. (If I worked for ESPN, which I don't, I would mention something about him growing up homeless for the 838th time) I will try to refrain from doing that and just show respect for a guy who is man enough to wear #0, following such Celtics legends as Eric Montross and Tony Delk. Powe was an absolute beast in Game 2 scoring 21 points and getting to the free throw line more times than the entire Laker team (cough, cough, Sorry Phil). As my buddy Dan notes, between the play of P.J. Brown on both ends of the court and James Posey's defense on Bean Bryant, the Celtics have two veterans that are doing more than expected. The Ray Allen from the regular season is back on course, and Rajon Rondo continues to excite fans on a nightly basis (despite those passes that will end up turnovers rather than on a highlight film)

The Boston Celtics are up 2-0 and among the reasons already mentioned there are two more things which need to be noted:

1. The Celtic bench is loaded with quality bench players to fill every roll possible. From Leon Powe and P.J. Brown to James Posey and Eddie House, the Celtics have backups with experience and backups that provide energy. If Perkins is in foul trouble P.J. might even be the better option. If Rondo is playing poorly and needs a blow Sam Cassell is a serviceable veteran point. If Allen or Pierce are in foul trouble early or get injured, James Posey plays solid defense and can hit the big shot. Leon Powe and Glen Davis provide energy combined with power inside. Even though Davis and Eddie House haven't been used as much, both can be excellent off the bench against this Laker team, this Laker team that plays a shall we say sub par defense. Last night being a perfect example of how successful the Celtic bench can be, starting center Kendrick Perkins played 13 minutes picking up 4 fouls, the fix was for Powe who put in 21 points. When the Lakers sit Kobe, the Celtics roll.

2. The TRUTH is you can't stop Paul Pierce. Boston rotates tremendously well against a talent like Kobe Bryant. They put 2 and 3 guys on him each game and force him into taking shots while he is falling away from the basket i.e. low percentage shots. Pierce on the other hand looks at Vladimir Radmanovic, licks his chops and knows he can do what he pleases when he pleases against him. If Paul wants to roll off a screen and drill a three ball, Radmanovic is two steps behind him. If Pierce wants to make a fake then take him off the dribble, Radmanovic is clueless as to how to defend it. Showing up late against Pierce making a move to the rim will undoubtedly result in him taking two shots from the free throw line. Aside from the obvious, do you have ANY DOUBT that Pierce feels so confident in his shots, his ability to get to the line, and his teammates that you can't defend him right now. The TRUTH is, someone wants to shake himself of that label, "longest tenured Celtic to NOT win a ring." That won't be his legacy.

I'm still picking C's in six . . only way that changes is if the Lakers win 3 in Hollywood.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Oh Really?

Bill Plaschke, L.A. Time sports columnist, if you call him that, seems to believe that Paul Pierce was faking his knee injury in game one of the NBA Finals. He also goes as far as insinuating that his dramatic return to the court is what pushed the Celtics to a victory. I'll admit Pierce can be as good an actor as anyone, but Plaschke acting as a sports columnist in a city with no NFL franchise, that my friends, is an even better acting job.

Aside from the L.A. Lakers, who were a Kobe trade away from being irrelevant last summer, what does the L.A. sports scene have to offer? Plaschke must love covering that Mickey Mouse baseball franchise in Anaheim who poses like their from L.A. or maybe their Dodger counterparts? The same Dodger counterparts that were irrelevant before they went and got an east coast baseball legend to manage their ball club, and even that didn't solve things. The one thing that L.A. recently won, the 2002 World Series, was the sporting event that brought thunder sticks and a cheering monkey onto the scene, great contribution. My question for Plaschke, WHAT HAVE YOU BEEN WRITING ABOUT? It's no wonder you make asinine remarks about a basketball game you probably watched one quarter of.

Can I blame you though? I mean if I had to watch Shaq get traded for 3 quarters on the dollar and then watch him win another championship, I might feel slighted to. Especially when a similar trade happened last off season and now the Celts are on that same door step and all you have to answer that door with is two Russians, a Spaniard, and a Kobe.

I've officially gone into irrational behavior with this, but days after hearing Denver Post columnist, Jim Armstrong, say "this series is the most one sided Finals I've seen" I've completely lost it. Jim Armstrong works for the same paper that has hired Woody Paige, twice. The Celtics won 66 games this year and 25 against the Western Conference, explain to me the one sided part? Maybe he is a die hard Rockies fan and is upset about his baseball team getting their proverbial a** kicked in the World Series in 2007 by none other than the Red Sox. Or maybe he is just a reporter who quit doing real reporting ten years ago and just mails it in now.

Plaschke's contribution to his paper was an assault on Pierce's injury, rather than the Celtics taking game one and a series lead. Armstrong has probably watched three Celtics games all year. I'll remind you these are "those" guys who attack bloggers by saying we aren't factual, we've never been in a locker room. Here's the deal, watch the games, read the stat lines, do your f*cking homework.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Game 1: The Wrap-Up

The Lakers took the first blow in this best of seven heavyweight fight. Pierce gave his most dramatic Willis Reed impression, and KG posterized Pau Gasol in the waning minutes to put the nail in the proverbial coffin of game 1. For Celtics fans, were all excited back on the east coast and for Laker fans, the Viper Room is open for another three hours.

Several things, excluding Paul Pierce's "sprained knee", scared me about game one. For starters, Rajon Rondo did everything he could to pass up open looks, dribble into double teams, and give Sam Cassell more playing time. Those are three things Rondo CAN'T DO if the Celtics plan on raising banner 17 anytime soon. It will take Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant all of 48 hours to figure out how to defend the Celtics better and in that situation Rondo will HAVE to show up. For the first time in the playoffs I actually appreciated Cassell's ability on the offensive end, he hit a few shots but more importantly he didn't try and make THAT pass that Rondo attempts and turns over every time. Maybe it was just jitters in his first Finals appearance, but I've seen too much of Rondo this season to think he'll change overnight.

Secondly, Kevin Garnett cannot disappear at times during the middle of the game. I love KG and I love his intensity but at times during the playoffs I notice Garnett disappearing into the fold. Normally I would continue to just rip Rondo, Allen, and Cassell for not forcing the ball to him when he's got a smaller Odom guarding him but in the Finals you've gotta be calling for the ball on your own. Garnett had a great game, his numbers are terrific but in all honesty he could drop 30 points on Odom if he wanted to. Even ESPN's Mark Jackson points it out, put Garnett on the block, get the ball inside to him, allow him to turn and face the basket and just abuse Odom and Gasol. Even with Paul Pierce on the mend and Ray Allen having a streaky night the Celtics could have won by 25 had Garnett forced the issue of getting him the god damn ball, it's times like this when he needs to have a little Kobe in him.

Why keep looking at the negative though, Celts took over in the middle of the second half and cruised in the fourth. Ray Allen poured in 19 points, Pierce was automatic in the second half (and rode on a exercise bike during timeouts) and Kobe was pissed off after the game ended. If you don't sense the old Kobe coming out by game 3 down 2-0, your nuts. Old Kobe would have berated Radmanovic all the way to the locker room;

"Are you kidding me? You stoli drinking S.O.B., how many times are you going to let Pierce hit that shot in your face? Phil, teach this cat how to rotate on god damn defense. If you mothaf*ckers cost me my chance at another ring I'll make sure your next basketball game takes place in Siberia."

Celts take a 1-0 lead, CLUTCH!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Finals Preview

Before I get to the NBA Finals, I've been inspired by my recent obsession with HBO's original series, The Wire, to release the wire tap transcript on David Stern's phone line. If your new to the site, or you've just been in a coma, David Stern is the NBA's Commissioner and the following conversation picked up on The Wire, was with NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Enjoy:

David Stern, Commissioner of the NBA: "Gary, we caught lighting in a bottle here with Celtics v. Lakers, the cup finals have been cute but could you finish this off before we embarrass your ratings?"

Gary Bettman, Commissioner of the NHL: "Sure thing, Red Wings in 6"

David Stern: "So Crosby winning the cup wouldn't have been a good thing for the NHL? Hey, your the boss right?"

Gary Bettman: "Sh*t, I didn't think of that"

David Stern: "You are what you are Gary, you are what you are"

That may have been way more fun for me than it was for you, I say that alot, unfortunately. The long anticipated NBA Finals Preview is being brought to you by Cialis (have to pay the bills);

Before I went to bed Thursday night I dreamed of a Celtics v. Lakers NBA Finals, as sad as that seems, at least my dreams have come true. I openly admit I'm from New England and I want an early summer parade through the streets of Boston with the fans wearing nothing but Celtics painters hats and green t-shirts, circa 1986. I want nothing more than to see Kobe fail in his first attempt in the finals, post Shaq. With that said the Los Angeles Lakers pose a very big threat to those things listed above never actually happening.

For the Lakers

The Zen Master, Phil Jackson, is on the verge of his 10th championship season as a head coach. I'm not sure even Phil could have predicted he'd win 3 to 5 more rings after he and Michael parted ways. As a friend of mine accurately corrected me, this hasn't been Jackson's best coaching job, but it's close. Reigning in Kobe Bryant after his tumultuous summer, completely changing the dynamic of the team after the injury to Andrew Bynum, and crushing the defending champion Spurs in five games, makes a pretty good 2008 resume. You aren't going to find anyone, who watches the NBA with any regularity, that will tell you that Doc Rivers has the upper hand in this coaching match up. While Doc does have the most dominating defensive team in the NBA, his inconsistent rotations are a clear sign that he is questioning his decisions game by game, something Jackson rarely does. Having Kobe Bryant helps, but Jackson having the trust of his entire team gives the Lakers a coaching edge. Ray Allen questioning Doc's offensive game plan, Pierce questioning Doc giving Rondo the ball at the end of the half, and watching Sam Cassell completely butcher the game plan in three minutes makes you wonder how much trust they have in Doc's decisions. You don't question the game plan or decisions of a 10-time NBA Champion.

While we appreciate the lock down defense the Celtics played on Lebron James, he was passing off to Delonte West, not Derek Fisher. If the Celts can defend Kobe half as well as they defended Lebron, Derek Fisher will play a huge roll in the NBA Finals. Fisher hits that knock down three-pointer, EVERY TIME, and the duo of Rajon Rondo & Ray Allen will have to be able to defend him well. The play of Derek Fisher is vastly underrated, on a team with Kobe Bryant everyone is underrated at times. Fisher has been an NBA Champion for some time now and has that calm under pressure game that stars like Chauncey Billups and Tony Parker have as a point guard. Unlike guards Mike Bibby & Delonte West, Fisher isn't as flawed as Rondo has appeared at times during the 2008 playoffs. His career is similar to the career of former Bulls guard Ron Harper, a guard who was never "THE GUY" but plays that roll of getting the ball to "THE GUY" as well as anyone. The court leadership and ability to rely on him in pressure situations makes him just as big of a threat as Kobe, Lamar, and Pau. The Celtics cannot fall in love with only defending Kobe in this series.

Not since his days at URI (New England shout out) has Lamar Odom played as well as he has since the arrival of Pau Gasol. Odom becoming the third scoring option on a champion contender was the best thing for him. Playing in that Tony Kukoc (I loved the Jordan years, Sorry) role has allowed him to become more of a slasher and play the natural power forward position he plays. Averaging 14 points and 10 boards on the season Lamar rounds out the Lakers, if you don't believe me look at his production since January, it's gone up every month. Odom as well as Fisher plays a critical role in this series. Depending on who he plays on defense whether it is Perkins or Garnett, he'll be placed in the position of stopping or slowing down,their dominate inside presence which they displayed against the Pistons. It was Odom's 18 ppg and nearly 12 boards against Utah that carried the Lakers into the Western Conference Finals.

There are few guarantees in life, taxes being one, death being two, and Kobe Bryant playing well on the NBA's biggest stage being the last. You can bet your ass that Kobe will drop 20-40 a night against the Celtics, they know, you know it, and he knows it. Not since Michael Jordan has a player been able to score at will like Kobe can. It isn't just Kobe's offense which is a threat he plays great on the ball defense and is a superb passer. Much like Lebron, Kobe can create his own shot which proves to be very difficult to defend. Ray Allen having covered Kobe in the past, and Paul Pierce will have their hands full, using James Posey and even Tony Allen off the bench to defend Bryant will be a challenge. If Kobe wins his 4th Championship he is more than IN the conversation for top 10 of all time, as current best player on the planet goes, Kobe is it.

The Boston Celtics . .

I'm so eager with anticipation I can barely hide it. I currently have ignored nearly everyone I'm working with today because I'm in the zone. The thought of Sam Cassell being the anti-back up guard, Rajon Rondo turning the ball over 5 times in the stretch, and Kevin Garnett passing off open shots cannot even deter me from being as excited as I am for the opener tonight.

As noted before Rajon Rondo needs to get it under control. The globetrotter like passes to Leon Powe and P.J. Brown under the hoop in transition need to stop. I know it's a good thought and if Allen or Garnett were receiving those I would at least say they are going to finish. The problem is Powe and Brown aren't even catching the passes, they are becoming turnovers and killing leads. For three quarters Rondo is playing like an all-star, pushing the ball up the court, splitting defenders and dishing off to the open player, yet in the fourth quarter he is lucky if he advances the ball past half court. If Billups was playing with all is limbs 100% intact, Rondo could have cost them the series in Game 5. Nothing more evident than when Pierce gave Rondo the death stare after Rondo attempted an over the top pass to Pierce who was being double teamed. Being quicker than Derek Fisher is the only thing Rondo has on him, he'll need to use that and common sense in the Finals. I like Rondo to have a huge impact as long as he stays away from trying to make TOO many plays, and his brain stays away from becoming silly puddy in the fourth quarter.

Kendrick Perkins needs to play like Kendrick Perkins played in games 5 & 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Other than shaving his chin growth, the best advice I can give to Perk is to play like he's been playing. He won't be seeing any of Jason Maxiell or Antonio McDyess, no Theo Ratliff's, and no Rasheed Wallace's, this should give Perk plenty to work with. The L.A. bigs aren't nearly as physical as Perk and he should be able to gain position. Those once calling for the head of Kendrick Perkins are now praising him, the big man finally GETS HIS ROLE. It only took 82 games and three playoff series' but he gets it. Don't get in foul trouble early and finish strong when you get it down low.

Rivers needs to coach his ass off. Use Eddie House when your at the Garden, don't leave the rotation of Posey, Pierce, P.J., Leon, and Cassell on the floor to long, and STOP CRYING TO THE REFS! The NBA and it's officials love Phil Jackson, they LOVE the L.A. Lakers, getting on the refs gives you no leverage on the road. With the recent play of Ray Allen, it makes Doc's job that much easier. With Allen being able to score and make plays to the hoop Doc can rest Pierce a couple minutes here and there and get him ready for the fourth quarter. I could rant about Doc for twenty minutes but the truth is, there aren't many coaches that could coach this Celtic team much better. My favorite Doc Rivers line is "We are where we thought we'd be" he's right, with 66 regular season wins and a #1 record in the entire league, you SHOULD be in the finals, you deserve to be in the finals.

Who do I like?

You know how special Pierce, Bryant, and even KG are going to be in the playoffs, they just are too good to not be. I like the Celtics to steal game 4 on the road after winning two in Boston. The Celtics have faced physically stronger teams and the Lakers just haven't. Despite Boston's struggles against Atlanta and Cleveland, you can't argue they didn't take Lebrons best shot on the chin and move right along. Detroit with a healthy Billups maybe push the series to seven, but we don't know that for sure. After San Antonio was taken to the brink against New Orleans and their fast paced offense you can't tell me they weren't weak going into the Western Conference Finals. Ginobli was a shell of himself the entire series and he is way more to San Antonio than Billups is to Detroit. The Celtics won 25 games against Western Conference opponents this year, they ripped up Detroit in the Eastern Conference Finals, this team is more than just the Conference Champs. Why aren't' we banking on Kobe reverting back to Kobe of 2006 just a little bit if the Lakers get down by a game or two. The Ghosts of Red prevails . . . Celts in 6.