Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Youth Will Be Served: The Wiz Go Up Big

Bull Futility
Tonight in Chicago, the too young for playoff success Wizards, who clearly were not going to be able to score in the half court, or have enough poise to convert in deep shot clocks... and weren't going to show the hunger to go for the 2-0 jugular vein start after winning game one on the road... went on an 20-4 run late and into the overtime, and made the home court Bulls look like, well, a team without a star. a bench, or a coaching situation that could manage minutes to give their team any chance at even scoring the basketball, let alone winning the game.

How bad was it? When Nene hit a jumper halfway through the overtime to go up 6, I pretty much expected the Bull faithful to head for the exits. Chicago missed 12 straight shots, ending the drought only when futile Kirk Hinrich got a transition trip to the line. Washington held on, with a classic Ball Don't Lie free throw moment when Hinrich's free throws that could have sent the game to double overtime missed.

But it's unfair to pin this all on Bull Futility. The Wiz had better ball movement, athleticism, and depth. Bradley Beal was smooth in the filth, and while John Wall had all kinds of bad moments, with a terrible fifth foul on an inbounds play, he's still growing by leaps and bounds in this series. They'll go home to a DC crowd that will mark out for playoff hoop like nothing you've ever seen, and so long as they can manage their emotions, they'll sweep this series.

Which leads me to wonder what's next for Chicago. They've got money to spend, having dumped Luol Deng, and with soft forward Carlos Boozer widely expected to be amnestied. There's always the possibility that star struck Derrick Rose might come back and give them something; the man was the MVP not so very long ago, after all. The salary cap is going up by about $5 million as well, and it's not as if they don't have guys you want to play with in Joakim Noah, Taj Gibson, Jimmy Butler, and a nice bench scoring reclamation asset in DJ Augustin.

But what they might not have is coach Tom Thibodeau, who hasn't been able to ride home big third and fourth quarter leads, and who has been there too many years without a Finals run to survive a first round upset. Thibs won't be unemployed for long, and he's far from a bad coach, but it's just not working out here. and the fact that he clearly lost out on the Deng situation to miss the handwriting on the wall. That's life in the NBA, where the coaches control everything and nothing, and the only job security comes with rings.

Top 10 signs you have a terrible fantasy baseball team

Danny Salazar Is Not Happy
10) You were betting on the Royals to hit for power

9) The "He's Thin!" spring training excitement over C.C. Sabathia convinced you to buy in

8) Your closers were Joe Nathan, Jim Johnson and Nate Jones

7) Bryce Harper's lack of hustle matches your own

6) You regard Homer Bailey's first name as an unheeded warning

5) The name "Danny Salazar" makes you engage in spontaneous weeping

4) You keep telling yourself that Prince Fielder is just a slow starter, and not, well, just freaking slow

3) Your stolen base strategy of paying too much for Billy Hamilton and otherwise ignoring the category isn't exactly looking airtight

2) Writing off counting categories is already part of your mindset

1) You are paying more attention to the NFL Draft, and what it might mean to your football league, than anything in hardball

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The Grizz Grizz, and the Dubs Fade

Tonight in the NBA playoffs, both western conference first round match ups went to 1-1, but in very different ways.

First, the early game; Memphis took out the Thunder in OKC, in overtime, in what might have been their best game of the year. Most of the time when a road team wins in overtime, there were moments that they were long stretches that they weren't the better team, or got good and lucky, but not so much in tonight's game. OKC got an absurd 4-point play from Kevin Durant on a falling down three pointer from the corner, then a putback overtime-forcing bucket from noted offensive machine Kendrick Perkins (?), just to get to bonus time. In overtime, the road dogs kept pounding the Thunder on the glass, owning them in half court, and honestly should have won by more. OKC should still win this series, because the Grizz are not going to get this much from Beno Udrih, Mike Miller and Courtney Lee, but what was looking like a squash for much of Game One has now moved up into Must Watch status.

In the late game, the Warriors mailed it in, with Blake Griffin shaking off the Game One foul trouble to dominate, Klay Thompson disappeared, Steph Curry deferred too much in the first half and the Clips more or less ended things early for everyone. There's a reason why the Dubs are a fraud, and games like tonight, when they didn't need the game and clearly weren't all that interested in going after it, are the reason why.

A real team with steel in their hearts doesn't go for all of that touchy-feely stuff of showing up for coach's Easter ministry service (I have nothing against Mark Jackson's religion, except when it creeps over into work, and becomes one more way in which boundaries are blurred between coach and pal), or letting a hated rival clown you for a 40-point blowout... but the plain and simple of this series, and hoop in general, is that good big men beat good small men, and with Andrew Bogut out and David Lee turning into a softer and softer turnstile, the Dubs are left with long periods of time when they are reliant on 35-year-old Jermaine O'Neal to hold down the fort. Against Griffin and the startlingly improved DeAndre Jordan (dude even hit his free throws tonight, that's unfair), it's really not enough, especially when Chris Paul is eating Curry alive.

Things will change in Game Three, of course; they always do, and I'm not changing my picks for either series. But long, deep, nasty series with road teams winning early to set up serious drama and more Western Conference games? Please and thank you. By any means necessary.

Top 10 reasons why Phil Jackson fired Knicks' coach Mike Woodson

Weak Boss Level
10) Woodson didn't show enough excitement over the Lamar Odom signing

9) Insists on the ability to have his own choice to lead this terrible, terrible collection of talent

8) Certain that Carmelo Anthony will react well to constant change in the coaching spot

7) Woodson clearly responsible for Tyson Chandler being made of balsa wood, and Ray Felton being made of fat balsa wood

6) Gave the team an important small moment of tabloid relevance against a Nets team that's, um, actually in the playoffs

5) Insists that his team run hard to watch isolation-riffic half court sets from a triangle basis, rather than with all five players on the floor

4) Woodson's suggested reading list for his players dramatically lacking in New Age nonsense

3) Doing something that was totally expected convinces players, media and management that, dammit, there's a new sherriff in town

2) Any number of former players and assistants ready to come in and lose before getting big-footed in the end game

1) Helps to convince Ted Dolan that he's, like doing stuff to justify that absurd paycheck

Monday, April 21, 2014

Loving The End Days Of Golf

Oh Noes, Not That
So there was a story in the NY Times last weekend about how people are taking steps, including but not limited to just ditching the rules and making Frisbee sized holes that make putting and chipping an anything goes experience. The reason why this might happen is because the demographic playing the game is graying strongly, and the young'uns just aren't playing the game. So if something isn't done, and done fast, it will all go sideways.

Now, I play. Badly, pretty much a 30 handicap, with a desperate need for lessons and all of the failings of the hack golfer. Inconsistent yardage, poor striking consistency, erratic wedge work, emotional instability that makes the game harder than it should be, etc., etc. I didn't play for a good 10-plus years after my kids were born, mostly because kids just require that much freaking work and money, and when I lived in California and the cost of a round was always 2X more than what I thought it should be, and I'm pretty cheap. But in the past couple of years, now that I'm back on the East Coast where mediocre golf courses are prevalent and not cost-prohibitive, I get out.

And you know what's awesome, when you are playing golf? Not having other golfers on the course.

Other golfers make you wait, or hit up on you. Other golfers make you hurry your shot after you've already hit a crappy one, and maybe aid and abet your round being more expensive from the lost ball kick in the pants that happens when you hook or slice your ball into Parts Unknown. Other golfers keep the cart girl occupied and are in the fairway you wind up using, which is to say, the one you are not supposed to be playing. If there were no other golfers, and Mr. Ranger is also so Not Busy as to just go the hell home early in the day, you can just keep playing after 18 holes are up for fun and for free, because, um, who the hell cares and it's scramble golf bonus time. Some of the best times I've ever had on a golf course have occurred when the sun was setting, no one's around, and I'm just tired / loose, knowing that I've dragged every good moment of the day out of a course.

None of that happens on a crowded and prosperous course. Nor does the post 3pm discount, the emailed coupons to get you to come back, the free balls at the driving range or the ranger not giving you grief for maybe driving the cart at something other than 90-degree angles.

The best golfing run I ever had was in the fall of 1999, when a job in Oregon didn't work out the way I was expecting, and I found myself with an untold amount of free time in a part of the world with 5-star golf courses, and not enough people to play on them. I'd go out for peanuts as the rest of the world spent the day hunting, play 36 holes, and even got borderline good, with rounds in the mid '90s and best-of-life iron play.

So, if golf is going through a tough time, and might not survive for my kids to not play it?

Well, don't expect the world's current golfers to shed too many tears over it. There's a lot of play in the end game... and in the long run, we're all going to wind up hitting into a green screen as soon as someone gets the technology down just right anyway. Because when I hit into the green screen, I don't ever have to worry about Other Golfers...