Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Great One

In full disclosure, I've never been a 'hockey guy.' With that being said, a Stanley Cup Finals is one of the few things in sports that can bring the most casual of fan into full blown fandom!

Being at the epicenter of the Boston Bruins Stanley Cup Championship has really struck a chord in me. A chord which wasn't located during three Super Bowls, when the Boston Red Sox stormed back down 0-3 or when they answered the bell yet again in 2007, and not even when Kevin Garnett declared to the world that "ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE" in the wake of the 2008 NBA Finals. Living in New England for all twenty-eight years of my young life, I've seen my fair share of champagne showers, veterans finally getting "theirs," and over the top championship parades, but this was different. It seemed to have real meaning, similar to the 2004 Red Sox. It had those 'could go either way' moments, similar to that of the 2001 New England Patriots. And it wrapped rather anticlimactically, very similar to the 131-92 blowout of the L.A. Lakers by the World Champion Celtics in 2008. It had it all, and for that, we seem to appreciate this one just a little bit longer, and just a little bit more.

The players first and foremost captured us. The Conn Smythe winning goalie, Tim Thomas, was flat out brilliant. He played the part of Tom Brady, David Ortiz, and Paul Pierce as if he had been playing it for a decade. Captain Zdeno Chara, the 6'9" defenseman, was everything we'd expect from the leader on this team and even now almost a week since winning the Stanley Cup, Chara might still be clutching the trophy. Veteran and 43-year old Mark Recchi was one major story of these playoffs. Coming back for one final season and an opportunity for a 3rd ring, Recchi will go out on top in dramatic fashion. Injured star Nathan Horton pouring out 'Boston ice water' onto the Vancouver rink prior to Game 7 will be engraved in the history books a Cup finals memory for the ages. Then there was Bruins rookie Brad Marchand. The Bruins left wing tormented Vancouver for seven games. He refused to be pushed around, bullied his way through the Stanley Cup Finals, and did all of it while being shy of six feet tall. He best exemplified what the Bruins players were able to accomplish against the Canucks. They plowed their way through the finals against a team which was all but anointed a Stanley Cup. The Bruins went after the cup from every aspect and just stunned a Canucks team which thought it was going to be handed to them. These are players which make up a champion, true to form.

Boston just does it better. Now I don't know what it is like in other cities, but I find it very hard to believe that they do it like this. On Saturday afternoon, everyone across The Commonwealth, hurled themselves toward Boston and rightfully so. Decked out in Black & Gold, painted faces, creative signs, children of all ages, these fans were on edge. They'd waited 39-years for the lid to pop off and out come a Stanley Cup. They sat and watched the Red Sox hang up a couple banners, the Patriots turn themselves into a dynasty before their eyes, and the Celtics go from worst to first reinventing themselves for the next five years in little over two weeks. Now it was their turn. They cried, grown men, maybe sober, crying. Then they let it all out, they celebrated all afternoon and into the night, I'm sure the work in Boston is suffering the first two days of this week with the parade hangover still working it's way out. But Boston is different, because they get behind the winners better than anyone, they travel far and wide to watch their teams win championships. The ownership groups of all four major professional sports teams thrive off of each other and the fans repay them with packed houses. Yes, we've won for a while now, and things take their course, but I don't see this ending anytime soon, anytime.

Even after writing this, I can't exactly put my finger on what made it different, but I know it was there. I know what was built up, I know what it presented itself as, I know 39-years isn't that long, especially to Red Sox fans who are also Bruins fans, but this had it all. Now I'm not going to tell you I'm now a 'hockey guy,' but I am a Bruins guy. On Bandwagon. Check.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

As Good As It Gets

I'll say this for the NBA, high drama ain't got nothing on you my friend. Three-days removed, you're still pulling more interest than Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals. 'Dirty Dirk pulling the Shia Labeouf and transforming into a closer. Veteran and future Hall of Fame guard Jason Kidd reaching the mountain top at thirty-eight. LeBron James, a.k.a. Captain Obvious, telling us our lives suck compared to his. Dwyane Wade's post game J-Crew wardrobe, yup the NBA Finals was worth the nine months it took to get there.

It really sucks to be handed the Larry O'Brien Trophy, hear me out, when the story ultimately finds its way to who lost rather than who won. That's how we are going to play this out. I love Dirk Nowitzki, he's a Hall of Famer with or without the ring, but boy does it shine. Nowitzki turned into the player the world needed to see him be during The Finals. Time and time again, Dirk came through in the clutch, the fourth quarter, the end of the game, whatever you would like to call it, he got there. Here's a guy who for all intents and purposes flipped the proverbial script on his career over the last two months. After losing the 2006 Finals, jetting off to Australia, and never coming as close since then, Nowitzki wasn't given the opportunity to win a ring, he took it. As feel good stories go, watching Dirk, relieved and exhausted, rush to the locker room to let out the emotions that had been built up for his entire 13-year career, well that was all we needed. It felt great. (Oh, and it was hilarious to see him with the Championship hat on looking like a little dutch boy, clutch moments.)

You feel good for 11-year veteran Shawn Marion, you feel good for Jason Terry, a Maverick for the past seven seasons through thick and thin, you feel great for the embattled Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle, but save everything for Jason Kidd. The future Hall of Fame point guard, three months from his 38th birthday, the 1995 Rookie of The Year, do the math he's been around for a very long time and now he got his. I don't need to do any reading on this one, I watched Kidd play in the Eastern Conference for over six seasons with the New Jersey Nets. He battled the Celtics early on in Paul Pierce's career, I was at those Conference Finals games where Kidd was getting all the abuse of a packed house in Boston. We hurled insults at Kidd, relentlessly, and Jason Kidd did nothing but perform at the highest level. At every stage in his career it was something else, another reason why we shouldn't believe in Kidd, he couldn't shoot, he was limited, he was getting old, and still Jason Kidd continued to show up and contribute. A couple of three-pointers, eight assists, and all the leadership you could ask for from Kidd in these finals. When asked at the end of the game, with all of the emotions of becoming a champion running through him, Kidd's response to whether or not he would come back or go off into the sunset "I don't know, I think I got another three years with this group in me." Wow, a legend.

Finally, to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. Right down to his class act of bringing on Don Carter, the original owner of the Mavericks to get handed the trophy, Mark Cuban became something different over the past weekend. A man who undoubtedly learned from his mistakes in 2006, making everything about the officiating and distracting his team, Cuban left it all up to them and took a back seat in the moment he probably wanted to do the exact opposite. How can you not recognize Cuban's silence during these playoffs, his constant belief in Dirk when the detractors were out in full force, the hiring of Carlisle, staying with Jet Terry, Mark Cuban has got to get his at some point. In addition to everything he's been for Dallas, taking them from obscurity and a laughing stock to NBA Champions and contenders for the past decade, the guy must be the first owner to accept a Larry O'Brien Trophy in a t-shirt and jeans. Much respect, especially when he's picking up the tab for the Mavericks championship parade.

Now to the losing Heat. They're most likely going to get at the very least, one. Realistically here, we now know what exactly Miami is and have no remaining questions as far as I'm concerned. (1) LeBron's a #2 now, it's about time we get used to it, if we haven't already. His post game press conference showed the immaturity. His Finals performance displayed what he lacks, the ability to adjust and the ability to overcome. He's deferred all season long, in pictures, in-game, post-game, in every way he's allowed Dwyane to remain the 'Alpha-Dog' of this squad. I'm not buying stock in this guy. (2) With that, Dwyane should be held accountable for his immaturity as well. Mocking Dirk Nowitzki, failing to do the stand-up which teammate Chris Bosh was able to do after Game 6, yes Dwyane Wade needs to do exactly what Chris Bosh did. He appears angry, frustrated, and tired after this NBA season. Wade should have told the Heat "No, we're not starting off with this celebration in Miami," and he didn't. (3) The pieces didn't fit at the end. Boston made LeBron shoot those shots and in that particular series he made them, when Dallas made him do it, he couldn't hit those shots. They had no answer off the bench consistently, no coach who could draw up plays like Rivers, put the parts together like Carlisle did, it's the bottom line. All this being said, the Heat were very close to being up 3-0 in this series with commanding control, so for someone to say they aren't going to eventually win, be honest, they'll get at least one.

Sidenote: I've got to give some credit where it's due, to Heat forward Chris Bosh. A player who endured a ton of criticism because of who he is throughout the season. Whether it was him latching on to the other two stars on this team to ride the free-agent frenzy this past summer, being called out by LeBron and players on his team questioning what he is capable of, or the media and their general dislike for Bosh, he withstood. Bosh was honest with the media explaining how the moment may have been to big for him early on in the Celtics series, to his credit he'd never been 'in that place.' Bosh had to be consoled after Game 6, openly showing his emotion immediately after the game with no hesitation, no hiding, just real raw emotion. He gave the Mavericks all their credit first and continued to pay respect at how they handled themselves and overcame, something neither Wade or James were as willing to do after the clinching loss. When teammate Mario Chalmers decided to go after the Mavericks DeShawn Stevenson, not LeBron or Wade were the ones yelling at him and telling him to keep calm, it was Bosh. Maybe he isn't the most likable, but I've got to give him credit for being as respectable as he has been the last couple weeks.

With this all down, I'm definately excited heading into next season, just as I should be at the wrap of any regular season of professional sports. Follow me on Twitter . . .

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

From West Germany . . .

As a long-time fan of the Milwaukee Bucks (work with me here), I wake up with nightmares at least twice a week during this time of the year. No, not because the Hong Kong wunderkinds Yi Jianlian never worked out after being selected 6th overall in the 2007 NBA Draft. But more so because of the '98 draft night deal which sent a 7-ft. German born kid named Dirk Nowitzki and Charlie Brown (doesn't matter that it was Pat Garrity) to Dallas in exchange for the late Robert Traylor (4.8 ppg, 3.7 rpg, career). Yep, ladies and gentlemen, that one stings a bit.

While the Bucks have mired in mediocrity and worse, the Dallas Mavericks West German native Dirk Nowitzki has become an MVP, perennial All-Star and future Hall of Famer. In the midst of his second crack at the Larry O'Brien, Nowitzki has an opportunity to add another title to his NBA legacy before his 34th birthday, NBA Champion. Based on the last two weeks, it might just happen.

In Game 2, after suffering an 84-92 loss to Miami in Game 1, it was Nowitzki who strapped the Mavericks to his back and went off ripping another victory from Miami in the 4th quarter. Outscoring the Heat 24-18 in the 4th quarter, including 15 points from Nowitzki, the Mavericks overcame the deficit and knotted the series up refusing to dig themselves a deep hole so early in the NBA Finals. Maybe it was the early celebration from Miami's Dwyane Wade that triggered Dirk to go off and not let happen in 2011 what happened in 2006 against the Heat and Wade. Or maybe it was just him pushing 34 and knowing that the window is drawing very low for Jason Terry, himself, and veteran guard Jason Kidd. Either way, Nowitzki proved yet again why he's an instant Hall of Famer.

In Game 4, again after a loss, their first home game of the NBA Finals, a flu ridden Nowitzki would do the same for the Mavericks as he had in Game 2, not let them lose. Being exhausted with sickness, a 101 degree temperature, and a sleepless night the night prior, Nowtizki scored ten points in the final quarter and 21 in the game to give the Mavericks the late boost they needed. His 11 rebounds, five of which came in the last quarter as well, don't go unnoticed as they were essential in preventing second chance opportunities for the Heat and giving them to the Mavericks. A series knotting victory, 86-83, put the Mavericks in position to take a lead in the series in their own house in Game 5.

No matter the turn out in this series, Dirk's career performance has been key to the Mavericks rise to the top over the past decade and that can't be ignored. To think, the Bucks gave up the Wurzburg, German native for The Tractor. Well, that's just rough.

Catch more LynchyRightNow everyday on Twitter . . .

Monday, June 6, 2011

Get Over It!

Southern California was stripped of their 2004 BCS National Championship on Monday afternoon, June 6th, 2011. So, the 12-0 Trojans smashing of Oklahoma 55-19 on January 4th, 2005 didn't actually happen?!? To the readers passing by this short column in 2035, that happened. The embattled Trojan running back, Reggie Bush, was easily one of the top, if not the top, collegiate player in the decade. No doubt. Get off your *$%&#@$ (explicit) soapbox and get over it!!

To former Auburn coach Tommy Tuberville, you better be careful here. After calling for the BCS to make your '04 Auburn Tigers the retroactive National Champions, you really better hope your Tigers were 100% clean. Nobody notices how the SEC powerhouse and current defending National Champions haven't said they too support Tuberville's opinion?!? Of course they won't. In five years famed Auburn quarterback turned #1 NFL draft pick, Cam Newton, may be facing the same backlash as former Trojan Reggie Bush, as may the Tigers. Not fair you say?!?! Life isn't fair. Tuberville and Auburn deserve the National Championship in 2004 as much as I do, that's not at all if you're scoring at home!

To ESPN talking head Dick Vitale, how dare you go down that road! On Tuesday morning Vitale sounded off on the actions of one Reggie Bush by saying this amongst other things, " . . .he embarrassed the school," please. For Vitale, a man who has spent much if not all of his adult life around young men, to paste a 20-year old Reggie Bush to the wall is ludicrous. Vitale wouldn't have a nickel to his name if not for young men like Reggie Bush. His career spent in college hoops, well Dick if you don't have young men, who make mistakes from time to time, you wouldn't have a job! To hear Vitale say Bush embarrassed The School, be real. Southern California isn't being laid out on the pavement for the actions of just Reggie Bush, they're being put down because their lax behavior and their willingness to turn a blind eye. No the kids there now, and the administrators and coaches might not be responsible, but by the BCS and the NCAA doing what they've done, they're attempting to get the message across to a school who needed a message sent. Dick, they embarrassed themselves!

To the BCS/NCAA, it's too easy. I agree that Southern California should be punished, as bad as you want to punish them, but make it about the school not the athlete. The system breeds some things and what Reggie Bush did and took part in, well he is a product of his environment. I don't excuse Bush by any means, but do you realize that we are doing all this to one person? On a human level, aren't you more concerned or shouldn't you be about the system which breeds this? I get you took away 30 scholarships from the program, Bush was forced to give back his Heisman, and they're banned from postseason play for a few years, but the way we continue to speak about Bush as if he really hurt someone, it's just wrong and not true. It's to easy for the BCS to come out and say things like, "we're sorry but the actions of one man, his selfishness, well that's what lead you to this." But is that really what lead USC to this?!?! Or is it that USC let these type of people around the program, these marketing companies, these boosters, etc. Gentlemen, we get it, you're very good at slamming the door when somebody has already left, but what are you doing to stop these things before they happen?!? What is being done to make sure players don't have the ability to sell memorabilia, don't accept cash from boosters, what else are you doing before the horse is left out of the barn?!?!

By writing this I don't intend to defend Reggie Bush and his actions, and I apologize if I come across as if I am. However, my intent is to challenge you and your opinions as well as that of the media. It's too easy for us to pin on Reggie and his mistakes and place blame just on him, despite that being just what we do. We find a guy who we can blame and put it all on him so it's clean and we can tie a bow on it. The coaches (Jim Tressel & Pete Carroll) sacrificing character for money, can you blame them when we're willing to pay them as much as we do and let them leave whenever they want to?!? The media (Dick Vitale) is terrified to lose access to coaches, administrators and presidents, so they blame the defenseless, the athletes. The schools (USC & Ohio State & Auburn & it goes on) they stick their heads in the sand because it's easy, people keep their jobs, they make money, and when it's all blowing up, you have the built in scapegoats, the athletes.

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rapid Reaction: NBA Finals Game 1

My Twitter & Facebook feeds blowing up with anti-Heat sentiment, is amazing. 90% Of NBA fans rallying against Miami's championship bid probably can't remember what team LeBron left last summer. 75% Of those fans couldn't name more than two players on Miami, and an equal amount couldn't name you one player on their Finals opponent, the Dallas Mavericks. With that said, Game 1 in the books, this series will answer a slew of questions we've been waiting all season to have answered.

For approximately (2) days prior to Tuesday night, I actually believed the Mavericks were going to avenge their '06 debacle. I anticipated the moment NBA commissioner David Stern has to grin and hand The Davey O'Brien to Mavericks owner Mark Cuban, the future owner of the Los Angeles Dodgers. Kidd would go out on top, cap off his Hall of Fame career with a championship, Dirk would finally get his due amongst the NBA elite, the Mavericks had a shot here. Yet I've got to be real here, that went up in smoke in the final minutes of Game 1, entirely.

Wade, LeBron, and Bosh went for 65. LeBron James was as aggressive as he's been in the postseason. Dwyane Wade got 10 rebounds attacking the glass and passed off for six assists. Chris Bosh played steady throughout the entire game, got to the free throw line twelve times, scored 19 points, and was a rebound away from a double-double. Gone is the team that played cautiously in the fourth quarter earlier in the regular season, this is a team that gripped the lead late in the game and held on. In every postgame interview, the Heat were humble, they were serious, they were all business, someone has schooled this team on winning four games in four games, not in one.

So where was I off?!? I really like the Mavericks bench with Jason Terry, J.J. Barea, Peja Stojakovic, and Brendon Haywood - but they got outscored 27-17 and outrebounded 15-8. I really liked Tyson Chandler, the Mavericks seven foot center - 9 points, 4 boards, and 5 fouls?!?! Well, the Mavericks can really shoot from behind the arc, right?!? 9-22 From the 3-point line. The Heat are more than happy to allow Dirk to get his points, as long as they play up in Dallas face and contest shots, crash the boards, and get production from bench players Chalmers, Haslem, & Miller, as they did in Game 1.

The Mavs are in trouble, yes already. With a night off in between games the Mavericks should be headed back to the drawing board, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade aren't going to stop coming anytime soon.