Saturday, May 31, 2008

1980's Redux

It's official.

The NBA finals are Lakers-Celtics. Three of the major players in the conference finals were three of the big players (including Detroit) from the 1980's.

I will admit - I was certain this was going to seven games before this game, and when the Celts coughed up the lead in the third quarter with some shabby play, it reinforced my belief that was the way the series was going.

It was nice to see the Celtics stick the dagger in. Paul Pierce was an absolute beast in the fourth quarter, taking over the game and refusing to lose. Maybe in that down time between the third and fourth quarters he thought back to all those seasons that he spent on losing squads.

Now the Celtics renew an old rivalry.

The Lakers and Celtics are the two most dominant teams in the history of the NBA, accounting for 30 of 61 possible titles. After this series, either way, they will account for half of all the titles in the NBA - either the Celtics will be at 17, or the Lakers will be at 15.

In all honesty - I'm rooting for the Celtics, but I think this is the Lakers' year. To make a football correlation - L.A. has looked energized lately, much like the Giants did in the playoffs. Boston, on the other hand, has been much like their football counterpart - the Patriots. Like the Pats, the Celts alternately looked tired, dominating, or passable in each post-season series approaching the finals.

The team has the ability to win the series. But do they still have the legs?

Go Celtics.

Friday, May 30, 2008


When I coached I was adamant with my kids - don't bitch about the officiating. Period.

I didn't want to hear it, and the officials sure as hell didn't want to hear it. I used to tell the kids that complaining about the officiating was the coach's prerogative - because, while annoying, I could live with it if I garnered us a 15-yard penalty. If one of my players cost the team by getting a 15 called on him for complaining to an official, then he was getting benched.

I only note this for Rasheed Wallace's skewed grip on reality as demonstrated in his profanity laced tirade about the called penalties and people flopping all over the place in Wednesday's game.

It's funny in as much the Pistons were regularly mugging Paul Pierce and not getting called. The refs gave the Pistons a gift flagrant against the C's P.J. Brown early in the game. The Pistons went to the line for 38 foul shots to the Celtics 30.

Wallace is only the tip of the ice-berg.

Detroit has made it to six consecutive conference finals. They've been there before. Which is what makes Wallace's teammates whining about the pleasantries between him and Kevin Garnett before and after each game puzzling.

While I'm sure they think they're trying to set an attitude throughout the team - all they're really doing is creating (at least the appearance of) a rift in the locker room.

Do his teammates really think that Wallace isn't playing his ass off from tip to horn? Do they expect him to put up Kevin Garnett numbers? Do they think that he should be able to completely neutralize Garnett? Garnett, the defensive player of the year, hasn't been able to neutralize Wallace.

The things happening in the Pistons locker-room are not indicative of a team that thinks it's going to win. Rather, it's indicative of a team looking for a scapegoat...reasons why they lost, rather than preparing for a game to win.

Don't get me wrong. I still feel as though Detroit is an extraordinarily dangerous team to the Celtics, and that they have a very good chance of winning given the fact that the Celtics have demonstrated time and again in these playoffs that they just don't have the cajones to go for the jugular when they have their opponents' backs to the wall.

But this is ridiculous.

Through every level of athletics I have participated in, I have had friends on opposing teams - youth, high school, college, club. On every level I have talked to those people before and/or after the games. Sometimes I've gone and a had a beer with them afterwards. Never have I gone easy because they guy I was against was someone I knew. If anything, I've typically been more intense if I've been matched up against a friend.

And I'm not getting paid.

I have a hard time believing that Wallace might be going easy on Garnett just because they're friends.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


It was nice to see the Celtics go ahead in the series with a 3-2 lead, but C's fans shouldn't be comfortable with that win. There was a lot of good to go with a lot of bad - let's take a look at the bad first...

The Celtics appear to lack a killer instinct. Up by 17 in the third quarter, the team got sloppy in the fourth, letting the Pistons get as close as one with little more than a minute to play. This didn't happen due to sterling play by the Pistons. Not to take anything away from Detroit, which capitalized when the Celtics got sloppy. And boy, was Boston a mess - passing in to traffic (Rajon Rondo, Kevin Garnett) when they had open jump shots, passing to the other team (Garnett), and turning over the ball with thoughtless penalties.

The fourth quarter was ugly and should inspire no confidence in Celtics fans.

The good? Ray Allen looked like...well, Ray Allen for the first time in the playoffs. Allen shot 60 percent and scored 29 points. Garnett, while having trouble protecting the ball at times, put up 33 points. But Kendrick Perkins might have been the biggest difference-maker for the Celtics.

Perkins played like a man possessed. Perkins had a double-double, putting up 18 points, had 16 rebounds (11 on the defensive boards), two steals, and two blocked shots.

I can't help but think that they need to close this out in Detroit, because a win in game seven is nowhere near a gimme.

Staying with the playoffs, I just need to comment on the following statement regarding the ending of the Lakers-Spurs playoff game -

"With the benefit of instant replay, it appears a foul should have been called," NBA spokesman Tim Frank said.
It took the league instant-freakin'-replay to figure out that one player landing on top of another constitutes a foul?! I'm sure that statement is a great consolation to Spurs fans everywhere. The Lakers get away with a blatant foul on an 87 percent free-throw shooter as time expires while up by only two. I keep hearing how the refs shouldn't decide the games, but let's face it, if they're not going to call that as time expires, then why shouldn't players body check shooters at the ends of playoff games? I commend the NBA for admitting the mistake - but trying to claim, by saying ""With the benefit of instant replay," that it was call that easily could have been missed...well that's just embarrassing and disgraceful.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wind Sprints...

The Red Sox are suffering from Celtic syndrome - they're having trouble buying a win on the road lately. Road Warriors they're not. At least not so far this season.

I've decided that a good knuckleballer is the equivalent of pitching Russian roulette. Sure, a good one wins more than he loses, but there's always that one start that's like the bullet in the chamber.

It was nice to see Manny finally break out of his home run drought. It's a shame that Mike Timlin couldn't help make it count for something.

The Celtics were absolutely brutal in Detroit the other night. I don't think they can afford another game like that in this series - even in a loss as that's the sort of game that will give the Pistons the confidence that they can take the series if it goes to seven.

The good news for the Yankees is that this time last year they had 21 wins and were already 13.5 games back, tied with the Rays for last place as opposed to 25 wins and only 6.5 games back. The bad news is that the Yanks are once again in last and this year they trail the first place Rays.

Speaking of the Rays being in first as we near June and we're almost a third of the way through the season - is that the third, or the fourth sign of the apocalypse?

Vince Young evidently considered retirement at the end of his rookie year, noting that his heart wasn't into the game. Yeah - the guy to whom they handed the keys to the kingdom admitted that he wasn't thrilled by football. He claims to have prayed really hard in order to realize that football was God's calling for him. I don't know about anybody else, but the couple of times that I saw Young play last season, he looked more like the guy whose heart wasn't in it than someone imbued with God's will.

Anyone else out there think that the Dallas Cowboys are a powder keg on the verge of exploding? Terrell Owens' internal clock has got to be ready to hit midnight, they now have Pacman, Terrence Newman recently threw Roy Williams under the bus, and the team made no secret about the fact that Wade Phillips' successor is waiting in the wings.

Recently attended a roller derby event in Frederick. While entertaining, the whole thing appeared to be slower than film I have seen of the sport dating back to the 1950's. Personally, I'm hoping the sport catches on. Nothing quite like a chick in fishnets and roller skates body checking another one in hot pants. I'm hoping that as the women gain experience that the sport becomes faster and more entertaining. Truth be told - I still am not sure how scoring worked.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Knowing when to fold 'em and other thoughts

The components of a trade speak volumes as to what scouts think of a ballplayer's worth.

For example - a key component to the trade that brought Pedro Martinez to the Red Sox was Carl Pavano. While Pavano has largely struggled in his major league career, the scouts and major league brass saw enough potential to think he could be the ace of a staff.

Jon Lester was one of the demands by the Twins in the aborted Santana trade. Peter King at SI may have summed it up best in his Monday Morning QB column when he wrote...

Minnesota wanted, if you believe the reports, either Jon Lester or Jacoby Ellsbury, along with minor-leaguers Justin Masterson, a pitcher, and Jed Lowrie, an infielder.

Lester threw a no-hitter last week. Over his past five starts, he's thrown 34.1 innings and allowed 18 hits and six earned runs. Over his past five starts, Santana has pitched 32.1 innings and allowed 37 hits and 13 earned runs. I haven't even mentioned Masterson -- who, in two emergency-duty starts after being called up from Double-A, is 1-0 with a 1.46 ERA -- or Lowrie, who beat Minnesota with a homer May 10 before being sent back to the minors.

If Santana is the mark against which Lester has to be measured this season, so far it looks like the Sox got the best of this in not trading Lester.

But I digress.

Every now and then a trade happens that should send a message to the player or players involved.

This one speaks volumes, and most of what it says is, "hang up your spikes."

According to an AP report 26-year old minor league pitcher John Odom was traded last week for ten bats. The estimated retail price of said bats - $65.50 each when purchased in bulk. In essence, the pitcher who is 9-8 in three seasons with a 3.99 career ERA in AAA (primarily short season), was traded for $655.00 worth of equipment.

Once a draft pick of the San Francisco Giants, Odom was released at the end of 2007 and his contract was not picked up by any clubs with major league affiliates. Instead, he has been playing for independent league teams since.

It's one thing to be a key component in a trade, or to be a throw in for a major leaguer - but Odom was part of a trade between two independent league teams and was traded for equipment. Hope he has a college degree.

In spite of the trade, and the fact that his career has taken him further away from the majors, Odom has remained optimistic - "I don't really care," he said Friday. "It'll make a better story if I make it to the big leagues."

That's nice, but let's face're not making it to the majors.

Say Hey?

Willie Randolph survived this weekend, but let's face a basic fact - if you're going to be accusing the press of racism in the way you're being covered - you better not have a piss-poor record since the previous June 1 with some of the highest priced talent in the majors.

As of Sunday, Randolph's Mets had gone 77-81 since June 1 of last year. It's now 77-83.

He was manager of one of the worst regular season collapses in the history of the game.

His clubhouse is a mess.

Yeah, it's not like the press can't just resort to the facts of his tenure as the Mets manager as an indictment. They need to resort to racism.

For the thick ones among you, that was sarcasm.

If things keep rolling like this, the Mets have to fire Randolph.

Fond Farewell

Earlier this week actor/director/producer Sydney Pollack died from stomach cancer.

Pollack was involved in directing and acting in a number of top notch films, but I mention him here only because he was involved in the production of the recently released Leatherheads and the excellent chess film Searching for Bobby Fischer.

If you're not familiar with Pollack's work, rent a film of his this weekend in honor of his memory. He was excellent as Dustin Hoffman's agent in Tootsie (which he also directed), or if you like something a little more serious, I highly recommend Three Days of the Condor, or Absence of Malice.