I hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend. Since everyone has to barbecue or at least go to one on this weekend, I had kabobs consisting of steak, peppers and onions yesterday, with baked beans and corn on the cob on the side. Good times.
The rest is kind of blurry. So I’m going to play a big game of catch up here, as I usually do. …
- I’ve got the Heat beating the Mavericks in five games as the NBA Finals begin tonight. Maybe Dallas can win two games at home and push it to six games given the 2-3-2 format. But I don’t see anyone beating Miami on its own floor. That team is just rolling. And as we saw in the Eastern Conference Finals, seemingly no deficit, no matter how late, is too deep for Miami. Kudos to the Bulls for making Oklahoma City’s choke job look ordinary.
But I digress.
True, Miami hasn’t faced an offense this explosive or extensive during these playoffs. But Dallas’ defense isn’t good enough to match up with Miami. I think that’s where this series will be decided. LeBron’s the MVP and no, the hate that he and Wade bring up so often doesn’t stop after this series. It’s just vanquished for a summer.
- Charles Barkley picked Dallas to win this series. But he also picked the Bulls in the last round and I think he may have even taken the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semis. Clearly, his dislike for the team’s preseason attitude and its fan base has blinded him.
On May 25-26, the Cincinnati Reds and The Philadelphia Phillies played for 19 innings and more than six hours. You can simply pick your storyline with a game like that. You could talk about:
Where this ranks among the longest games in time and innings in each team’s history;
How Danys Baez threw 73 pitches, his most in a game by far since 2002 to keep the Phillies in it;
Wilson Valdez becoming the first position player to be the winning pitcher in a game since Brent Mayne on Aug. 22, 2000;
The awesome fans who stayed past 1 a.m.
All of the players who played the entirety of this marathon and how some of them will have to suit up for another game less than nine hours after this one ended. One of them certainly won’t be Carlos Ruiz, who caught the first 18 innings before moving to third base in the 19th. He had played their just one previous time in his six-year career. He even made a diving attempt over the tarp for a foul ball in the final inning. Seriously, what a performance by a guy who went 1-for-7 at the plate.
That’s just a sampling of topics. For the sake of time and my sleeping habits, I’ll talk about two things: The overall time of the game and Dusty Baker’s continued questionable handling of pitchers.
It’s about time that the ulnar collateral ligament starts getting the ACL treatment. Just use the three initials and everyone knows what it means. I know that, unlike the ACL, there’s more than one UCL in the body. But I can’t remember the last time I heard it in the news associated with the wrist or the thumb. UCL means an elbow problem. And it’s a killer in sports. Much like with the ACL, a UCL conversation is never good. It likely means your season done and you’re on the shelf for about a year. Any mention of it strikes fear into the hearts of baseball fans. It is the Tommy John ligament. And the UCL has made life very difficult on two pitchers in the past day.
Chicago Cubs pitcher Justin Berg has struggled with his control during his brief time in the majors. He walked 20 batters in 40 innings last season.
But he pitched with decent control earlier this season. In fact, he hadn’t walked anyone in his past 6.1 innings pitched. So tonight, he made his first appearance since May 28 after being called up to replace Marlon Byrd and his fractured face on the roster.
Here was the situation: Top of the second inning, game tied at 4-4 (Old school baseball fans had already turned this one off). The Mets had runners on first and second with one out. Now, the pitch-by-pitch breakdown of Berg’s outing. Breakdown being the appropriate word:
is will be the newest head coach of the Los Angeles Lakers. Color me surprised, yet pleased overall. But know that changes still have to be made.
Brown and the Lakers have agreed in principle Wednesday to a four-year, $18.25 million deal, according to league sources. The contract is a three-year deal with a team option for a fourth year. If the Lakers don’t pick up the option, Brown is guaranteed to receive $2.5 million. That money sounds about right considering the Lakers didn’t want to overpay for a coach after giving Phil Jackson more than $10 million per year recently. If Brown doesn’t win a championship within those first three years, that team option will become meaningless.
I’m surprised because I had put all of my money on Brian Shaw, especially after Kobe Bryant endorsed him. But when all was said and done, it appears that he wasn’t even among the top two finalists for this job. The Buss family wanted someone who would represent more of a departure from Phil Jackson and the triangle offense. Brown kind of fits that bill, but his offense can bring principles of the triangle at times. I hope Shaw finds his head coaching job soon. He deserves one.
Brown was relatively successful as head coach of the Cavaliers from 2005-10 and got a raw deal when he was fired one season after being named Coach of the Year. He won 66 percent of his games in Cleveland, including 60-win seasons in 2008-09 and 2009-10. I say relatively because Brown didn’t get that ring. Many in L.A. will be wary of him because Brown never led his team to a championship, got swept out of the Cavs’ only NBA Finals appearance in 2007 and guided teams that were seen as playoffs busts in his last two seasons after winning 127 games.
But please consider the personnel he had to send out onto the floor. Here’s a list of the Cavaliers’ second-best player for each season Brown was head coach. The No. 1 guy ended up taking his talents — well, you know:
Fourth quarter, 4:48 to play: Thunder 99, Mavericks 84.
Final in overtime: Mavericks 112, Thunder 105.
We’re often poised with the same question in games with such drastic turnarounds — is this a fantastic comeback or a massive choke?
You have to give it up to Dirk Nowitzki for scoring 14 points in those final 10 minutes, a large percentage of them coming off of tough shots. They weren’t even good shots or smart shots; just crazy skill overcoming solid opposition. That was a memorable, all-time legendary fourth quarter by the German. To quote Gus Johnson: “Larry Bird! Maybe!”
You have to give it up to Dallas’ defense. which forced the Thunder to look elsewhere than Kevin Durant for scoring. Durant went 0-for-6 with zero — count ’em, ZERO — points after hitting a 3 that appeared to be final nail in Dallas’ coffin with 5:05 left in regulation. After that, he faced bracketed coverage as soon as he touched the ball, and OKC’s offense stagnated.
But don’t bury the lede, although I think I already have at 150 words in.
This was a choke, a gag, a collapse, a breakdown that pretty much ended the Thunder’s season. Nowitzki’s individual performance can’t ignored, obviously. But a win for Dallas wouldn’t have been possible without Oklahoma City’s assistance.
Another win for the confident Mavs in Game 5 at home seems academic right now. I don’t see how anyone can expect a demoralized, embarrassed and rather playoff-green Thunder team to respond with authority in enemy territory less than 48 hours after this. Durant looked like he had been told right before the postgame press conference that he has cancer.
5/23 UPDATE: Noah was indeed fined. $50,000. I thought it may be a little more, but I’m good with that number. I think the NBA is basically stating that there is a difference in saying “faggot” to a fan and saying it to an official. At least, I hope that’s what it means. But we’ll never know if Noah’s status as a lesser star in the assocation compared to Kobe affected his payment total.
Life moves forward …
If precedent means anything in the NBA, Chicago Bulls forward Joakim Noah is going to be carrying around a much lighter wallet in the near future.
There’s no question what words came out of his mouth. And yeah, that deserves a fine.