Friday, June 28, 2013

Recapping the Crazy, Fun and Wild 2013 NBA Draft

So raise your hands if you expected Anthony Bennett going No. 1?? Raise your hands if you expected the Pac-12 to tie for the most draft picks by conference?? Heck, raise your hands if you've not dizzy from all the trade talk.

I tried my best to focus on what I liked in the draft. No losers, just winners and good things. Except for maybe a few words on Bill Simmons trying to bring down the draft coverage like he does on the ESPN NBA crew.

Oh and Cody Zeller to Charlotte? Good luck there. 

I'd also like to say I'm very happy for Allen Crabbe and Solomon Hill, having covered them close in high school. I saw Tony Snell help Kawhi Leonard beat Mater Dei in the 2009 CIF Division I-AA championship and it's funny that Riverside King now has 2 NBA players from their squad and that loaded Mater Dei team has none yet.

Also, I didn't cover this in the video but the Boston-Brooklyn trade? Either the Nets are going to be the 2003-04 Lakers or it's going to blow up spectacularly. Rajon Rondo's going to have be a miracle worker but he's got good pieces in Kris Humphries and Gerald Wallace along with Marquis Daniels and Avery Bradley.

Five years after they met in the NBA Finals, the Celtics and Lakers are both pretty close to starting back at square one. Nature of the beast, I guess.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Are the Lakers Getting Desperate?

So this is real huh?

We know that Dwight Howard has a decision to make. We also know that he didn't impress many during his 2012-13 season due to his injury recovery, mental state, lack of post moves and overall inconsistent play despite leading the league in rebounds. Heck, we know the Clippers have stolen the buzz in LA with a thunderclap with Doc Rivers.

It's important the Lakers do their best to convince Howard to stay here, despite my nonchalance over it. But this billboard the Lakers have on Staples Center? This has gone too far.

What has this team become? With Kobe hurting and Pau Gasol or Metta World Peace maybe being amnestied, this is what they stoop to?? Begging a quality big man to stay instead of working hard to convince him behind the scenes?? Begging?!??!?!?!?!

Lakers fans don't beg someone to stay. Neither do the Lakers. They don't hang billboards like teams who haven't had anything close to their years of success. They don't reduce themselves to being at the mercy of a free agent. Free agents choose to be here or don't. No harm, no foul.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Comparing Players Isn't Just Lazy, It's Shortsighted

Sports debates are a great reason why we love the game. I love hearing different opinions and why/how somebody believes what they do.

I used to love doing it. At least for me, I’d try to know enough about the past to make my comparisons valid. When LeBron first starting getting notoriety when I was in high school, I saw Magic Johnson’s passing with the body of an NFL tight end. I saw a remarkable athlete who had the impact to make people better.

The more I watch sports, the more I think the rush to compare somebody to someone has ruined the coolness of watching things unfold. Nobody can do anything without us looking for rank or judge it.

But why do we do it? Is it solely to remind us how great the past greats were? Is it to put the present in its proper context to combat prisoners of the moment? Is it to denigrate the present as not worthy?

I just think it’s a waste of time especially when the comparisons are so lazy. This goes back to what I addressed back in February but I'm going to take it a step further now.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Doc Rivers Coming Back to LA (So the Clippers Do Care About Winning?)

As my video thumbnail suggests, I'm bewildered and confused at the Clippers. Did they really just a make a good move after much haggling and discussing with the Boston Celtics? Doc Rivers is coming back to L.A. and for once, the Clippers seem committed to keeping a good thing going.

Doesn't add to my uneasiness as a Lakers fan that the JV squad continues to make progress while my team is entering a dark summer of the unknown.  Enjoy the video. I got a written piece coming tomorrow on the silliness comparing NBA players in lieu of Miami's championship and what we miss by doing that.

Friday, June 21, 2013

A Game 7 To Remember as an Era Continues

You can say whatever you want about these NBA Finals. After seven brilliant games, I can only applaud both teams for leaving it all out there and giving us a series to remember. Game 7 had a lot to live up to and it did.

I salute the Spurs in defeat. Tim Duncan and Gregg Popovich lost for the first time in these NBA Finals and they looked haunted as if they hadn’t already won four before.

Duncan gave it all these last two games but it was two easy shots in the paint guarded by a smaller Shane Battier that many will remember. His reaction afterwards made him more human and for one of the 15 greatest players of all time, it's hard to not feel empathy as he left the Finals for the first time without a ring.

It’s a heartbreaking moment similar to Tom Brady feeling dejected after the 2012 Super Bowl. A former champion at the closest he’s been to the mountaintop only to fall short and not know if that was the last chance.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

NBA Finals: Game 7 and The Overratedness of Legacy

Regardless of what happens Thursday night, legacies will not be defined. That’s right. Win or lose, nobody’s legacy is at stake.

Why? Because a legacy can’t be defined in one game. It can’t be restricted to one game because that goes against the basic principle of what a legacy is.

It’s so easy to bring up that word. It’s thrown around so much that it’s become a cliché. As such, it’s misused and abused because people forget that in a team sport, legacy is always dependent on so many variables.

Why are we so obsessed with it? Why does it matter to define? Because it’s easy and as Game 6 reminded us, one person’s story can change at any time.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

NBA Finals: A Masterpiece Game 6 Gives Us Game 7

Game 6 was a battle of will, desire and heart. And I loved every bit of it! Neither team wanted to lose and Tim Duncan and LeBron James are part of the reason why this game was an absolute gem.
Game 6 last night was the kind of Game 6 I'm used to seeing in baseball. The World Series is full of classic Game 6 moments. 2011 when the Cardinals came back. 1986 when the Red Sox blew that lead. 1991 when Kirby Puckett did everything to win that game.

We just got that as hoops fans. A masterpiece performance from both teams and several players. A memorable comeback. Both teams willing each other to the top and defense saving the day. All I can do is try to make sense of it and I hope I did in this video.

LeBron James gave us another great Game 6 to remind us of what he did last year in Game 6 vs. Boston in the Eastern Conference Finals. Tony Parker reminded us how he won Game 1. Tim Duncan reminded us why he's still an All-NBA level contributor. Kawhi Leonard showed why he's going to be a very good player in this league.

And that's just some of the folks worth praising. How about Ray Allen on offense and defense? Chris Bosh being aggressive on the glass AND as a shot blocker. Shane Battier's defense! Alright, let me stop so you'll have a reason to watch this video. It's only fitting we have one more game of this and I'm so excited!

I also jumped on a podcast with my guy Paris and his brother Zeph and we talked more in depth on Game 6. Check that out here cause that was a doozy as we consoled Zeph on being upset that the Heat ruined his evening.

Monday, June 17, 2013

NBA Finals: A Ball of Brilliant Confusion

This has been a strange series. Game 1 had us thinking we were in for a series of close games a la 2011. What happened over the last four games is nothing short of confusing.

Two blowouts thanks to a silly 33-5 Miami Heat run in Game 2 and Gary Neal/Danny Green going bonkers in Game 3. Game 4 saw Dwyane Wade rise from his shooting slump followed by Manu Ginobili doing the same in Game 5.

Even weirder? All four of those games I mentioned seemed to shift in the third quarter. Games 2 and 5 had runs that started in the third and spilled over in the fourth.

So either we have teams that are remarkably balanced except for a 10-minute stretch or both teams figuring the right time when to use their advantages and pour it on. Got it? Good, cause I don't?

Friday, June 14, 2013

NBA Finals: The Resurrection of Dwyane Wade

Very nice of Dwyane Wade to finally make an impact in these Finals. As hobbled as he is, he sucked it up and found his flow at the same time LeBron James began taking charge of things.

With some help from Grandmaster Flash chopping up Blondie, I take some time to talk about Flash's impact and the hope that he can keep this up because as I've stated, the series will hinge on his performance, not just LeBron's.

Shouts to Chris Bosh as well getting aggressive on both sides of the ball. If I look a little light in this, blame that natural sunlight coming from the window on my clean buzz from the other day.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Stat Culture Gone Wild (And How It Can Mesh with Tradition)

When I was growing up, I loved numbers. Before I was a writer and a history buff, I loved math. Maybe it was my Dad's influence as a civil engineer but math came very easy to me.

As I became a sports fan who read everything I could, I became obsessed with statistics. Reading the box scores, seeing who scored what, who were the all-time leaders - all of that was a part of my education. It continued that way all through high school and part of college.

Then I became a journalist. Suddenly I had to learn a whole new set of rules because when it came to interviews, I couldn't just pull up stats and use them. Not when I heard folks question about the flow of the game or key moments. I'd sit in press conferences or postgame interviews thinking I had to take it to another level.

That's when I learned to study the game closer. Watch for moments. Watch for changes in tempo. Watch how players move. Watch and learn how a coach manages the game. Go beyond the box score and be an observer.

This has been my education the past seven years. Yet at the same time, stat culture has grown in its influence on front offices and fans. For better and worse, it's changed how sports is discussed.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Here's Looking At You, Coach (Heat's on Erik Spolestra)

Somewhere right now, the Miami Heat are stewing. Dealing with the aftermath of a revenge blowout they got in Game 3. Good.

Many folks have said that this is exactly what LeBron James needs. A reminder that he can't table set anymore. Oh it's nice that he's averaging a double-double and leading Miami in assists. But folks don't appreciate that when you haven't scored 20 in any of the Finals games. It's time to go to Darth James. The killer of last year.

Me? I feel that way too but I'm aiming my biggest cannon at a guy who has been skating by most of my criticism. A guy losing a matchup I glossed over in my preview but I knew would be just as crucial as anybody on the court.

Erik Spolestra has been getting outcoached. Somewhere after Game 3, I realized that he's the one who needs to be plotting and stewing the most because Gregg Popovich has tactically mastered him so far.

Monday, June 10, 2013

NBA Finals: The Block And The Invisible Men

The Block. As humiliating as a poster jam is, few things hurt more than being blocked when you think you have an open score. Rejection isn't easy but embarrassment makes it worse.

Miami's 33-5 run was an explosion that I didn't see coming. A back and forth game suddenly became a runaway train as the Heat's defense overwhelmed San Antonio. For that glorious stretch, I felt like I saw the Heat that won 27 straight games.

Keying it all was LeBron James. He did what was needed: Setting screens, grabbing rebounds, finding the open man, scoring with ease after being in check most of the game. But that one play symbolized how much he had his fingertips on the game.

Too often, people criticize James when he sets the table instead of dominate from the jump. Nevermind that San Antonio is forcing him to use his mind as much as his strength. Nevermind that Miami has been close to the Spurs because of his stellar play. It's people expecting obvious greatness all the time instead of cerebral dominance in all ways of the game.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Yasiel Puig: Something Like A Phenomenon

Has anybody had a better first week in pro sports recently than Yasiel Puig? The Dodgers' highly touted phenom has been on a tear this week unlike anything I've seen. A recap of his first five games.

Monday: 2 hits and a bullet assist from deep right field for the game-ending double play.
Tuesday: 2 home runs. The first to tie the game, the second to give the Dodgers more insurance.
Wednesday: 0-for-4. A reminder that he's human.
Thursday: Grand slam in the 8th inning to turn a 1-0 lead to a 5-0 cushion. On the first pitch!!
Friday: Game-tying home run in the 6th. Intentional walk in the 8th.

4 home runs, 10 runs batted in. A name on the lips of non-baseball fans. Can't script it any better. He'd be front and center on that old VH1 show "Best Week Ever"

I was at Dodger Stadium Friday and to see the Puig Phenomenon live was something to behold. We saw folks already selling bootleg Puig shirts on the drive in. There were fans with "Viva Puig" signs in the stadium. The atmosphere was ready to see another big moment and the team's latest phenom didn't disappoint.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Draft Day Joy for Dominic Smith

After being drafted by the Mets, Dominic Smith has his moment interviewing with Sam Ryan of the MLB Network
What an amazing seven days for Serra High School's Dominic Smith. Last Friday, he pitched his school to their first ever CIF Division championship. Thursday, he became the newest member of New York Mets as the No. 11 overall selection of the 2013 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

This Friday? He graduates from Serra. Not bad for a 17-year-old who's living his dream. Even better that former Mets All-Star and Crenshaw High School standout Darryl Strawberry was at the draft to welcome Smith to the team. If anybody understands the adjustment moving from L.A. to N.Y., it's Strawberry.

This was a great day not just for Southern California, but the Black baseball community in Los Angeles. Smith hopefully represents a rebirth of Black kids enjoying baseball and I know that many will see him as think, I can do that do. Especially as they watch his high school team continue to succeed with mostly Black players.

Congrats to Dominic! Congrats to Serra, who has a rare honor of having an high-round NFL (Robert Woods) and MLB Draft selection in the same year! I'm working on arranging an interview with Smith so if that develops, I'll keep you posted.

Also congrats to Oaks Christian pitcher Phil Bickford going No. 10 to Toronto and J.P. Crawford (cousin of Carl Crawford) going No. 16 to Philadelphia. Even bigger props to my alma mater's latest star Kris Bryant, who was drafted No. 2 overall by the Chicago Cubs.

NBA Finals Game 1 Notes (Tony Parker's World)

All I have to say after Game 1. Can we please get at least five more of these?

The first three quarters were magnificent. Great execution from the two best teams in basketball. A reminder why both regular season games were down to the wire. And in the fourth, Gregg Popovich said, "Turn it up" and Tony Parker went to work.

Parker's dagger shot with under 7 seconds left may have been fluky but it was incredible after a turnover free game. Just an unbelievable make considering LeBron James was all over him and he fell to the floor just prior to the shot. A fitting end to how well the Spurs played in the final frame to slowly pull that game away.

Oh and Tim Duncan had 20 points, 14 rebounds and 3 blocks. The Spurs only had 4 turnovers this game. How much better can you play as a team on the road? They were out-rebounded, out-assisted and still won?

Tip my hat also to James for an incredible all-around effort (18 pts, 18 rebs, 10 dimes). He got folks involved and if he's get chastised for that, then that's on you. I'll only say that he has to score 25 a game here on out cause it appears the Spurs will let him be Magic Johnson instead of the combo Magic-MJ he can be. They also did a great job shutting down his drives to the basket.

Here's what the Spurs and Heat need to do in Game 2.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Six-Year Itch for LeBron and Duncan (NBA Finals Preview)

To understand my thoughts on the 2013 NBA Finals, I have to go back to 2007. An NBA Finals I can't remember much of besides Tony Parker carving up the Cleveland Cavaliers and hugging Eva Longoria to celebrate afterwards.

I do remember one thing vividly. That video above of Tim Duncan being congratulated by a young LeBron James and Duncan telling the then 22-year-old James the NBA would be his one day. James was disappointed from carrying the Cavs to the NBA Finals but soon we'd all see him make Duncan a prophet.

6 years later, Duncan and LeBron meet again at the mountaintop. Both still All-NBA First Teamers. Both older, wiser and better. LeBron has a better team than he did in 2007. Duncan has a better version of Parker than he did in 2007 along with a strong supporting cast.

To be great, you have to go through greatness. For the Miami Heat to finish off one of the greatest seasons in NBA history, they have to go through one of the pillars of greatness over the last decade. A San Antonio Spurs team that has methodically eliminated their Western Conference playoff foes with precision and balance.

Here's my key things to watch.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Andrew Abbott: Chasing the NFL Dream

During the 2013 NFL Draft, 254 men saw their dreams fulfilled as they got to hear their name called on stage. It was the culmination of years of hard work and success to get to that point.

For those whose names weren’t called, like UCLA defensive back Andrew Abbott, the dream had to wait as they face the uphill task of trying to make it as a rookie free agent or pursue other options.

After being invited to the Minnesota Vikings’ rookie minicamp, Abbott left without a contract. Since then, he’s been training with ProActive Sports Performance – whose clients include Larry Fitzgerald and others – and doing his best to stay ready for if a team calls him.

“I’m in the mindset of train, train, train,” Abbott said during a phone interview. “I feel like I had a pretty good college career to where I have enough film to be on the radar of NFL teams where if they need me, they’ll call me.”