Tuesday, May 31, 2011

NBA Finals - 40 Mavs Heat Game One Takeaways

40) If you miss the TNT crew, and are already dreading on spending the next four to seven games with Mark Jackson and Jeff Van Gundy, you are far from alone

39) ABC decided that in showing five jerseys in the opening sequence, that Jason Terry outranked Chris Bosh

38) In the first three minutes of this game, DeShawn Stevenson had more good moments than the last three weeks

37) No team inspires and participates in more early game rock fights than the Heat

36) To describe the first quarter as ragged would be an insult to rags

35) JJ Barea had LeBron James one-on-one and got a stop

34) Dallas shot 29% from the field in the first half and led, which is only possible when the opponent does that as well

33) The Mavs scored 12 points on threes in the first 13 minutes, and 8 points via any other method

32) The ABC/ESPN announcers give a lot of credit to basketball teams for doing any kind of basketball act, and if you play the "lot of credit" take a shot drinking game, you will die

31) The chance of us having a game where we don't have a discussion of the Heat's off-season antics is statistically insignificant

30) If you want to blame the NBA for the ragged first half from the ludicrously long break, feel free

29) For soul-crushing asides about the tragedies that various players are going through during actual real-live game action, you can't beat these announcers with a baseball bat until they are unconscious, though if you fantasize about that... um, perhaps I've said too much

28) Once again, the late-career renaissance of Shawn Marion is doing wonders for the Mavs

27) Brendan Haywood had his uncontested dunk blocked by the rim, and it didn't seem like he was surprised or unprepared for that moment

26) In JJ Barea, Chris Bosh finally found a guy whose shot he could block and be all kinds of tough on

25) If you aren't seeing much of a role for Peja Stojakovic in this series, you aren't alone

24) For most of the game, Marion was better than Dirk Nowitzki, which is never a good sign for Mavs Fan

23) The difference between LeBron James in this playoff and in past is that when he shoots a bad idea three this year, they go in anyway

22) At this point in his career, Juwan Howard should not be expected to get a shot off without it being blocked

21) There really isn't much purpose for the Heat to play the first three quarters, since the game will be crazy tight at that point anyway

20) James' make at the end of the third quarter was borderline inhuman, and becoming expected

19) It's a good thing these teams made some threes tonight, or this game would have been in the '60s

18) Absent a few early moments from Joel Anthony and a lot of dumb fouls from Tyson Chandler, no one would notice if neither of those teams started a real center

17) Just about every name player did something positive tonight, which is why the game didn't have a double-digit spread until late

16) Chandler is finding life (a lot) harder without Kendrick Perkins to abuse

15) Say this for the Heat stars: they don't seem to mind passing the ball, even to guys that don't share their pay grade

14) Jason Terry isn't a big enough star to draw a falling foul with 5:45 left in the game on the road

13) Udonis Haslem is living proof that you can, in fact, be too aggressive

12) The broadcast crew actually fellated Steve Javie, maybe because they were also afraid of getting an undeserved technical foul

11) Marion's three-point play in the block with four minutes left against Miller would have gotten you shivved in a prison game

10) Wade's shot block and three combo will be used by James haters to prove that he's still the Big Kahuna, as if such things matter to anyone but soap opera enthusiasts

9) Which is, of course, why James decided to top it with a fast-twitch dunk of rage that left the Mavs looking like statues

8) Dirk shooting is a heck of a lot better for Mavs Fan than Terry shooting

7) Give it up for Marion to not go into Hide Mode after the James slam; he made a stop on the next possession

6) Haslem's really not going to be able to thug up Dirk the way he did in the '06 Finals

5) How the Heat went from a team that could not protect a lead in the regular season to one that never gives one up is one of the more impressive switch moments in recent NBA history

4) Only Wade is smart enough to push for a fast break kill shot transition dunk late, rather than dribble around and give the Mavs a chance to reset

3) A Bosh dunk is quickly becoming the Heat's victory cigar moment... except, of course, for coup de grace alley oop moments that would be the subject of vengeance fouls in a more hard-edged age

2) Miami is now 9-0 at home in the playoffs, which means Dallas is doomed

1) We're just three more Heat wins away from the biggest case of It Ain't Bragging If You Back It Up in modern American sports history

FTT Movie Review: A Film Unfinished

As always with such non-sports things, if it's not your cup of tea, skip.

Here's the most irrelevant lede that anyone has ever come up with for a movie like this: a discussion on the nature of ratings. I took the Shooter Wife to see "Bridesmaids" today, a day after I took her and the kids to see "Kung Fun Panda 2"; our air conditioner units aren't in the windows just yet, so spending some time indoors on someone else's matinee AC dime was a win.

"Bridesmaids" gets an R rating for some type A profanity, vomiting, sex and violence, but for the most part, it doesn't really seem like it should get treated with nasty adult gloves. It's just some gross-out humor with some excellent performances and writing, and it's definitely a hoot. "KFP2" goes through some nice battle scenes for animation and some adoption issues that might shake younger viewers; it gets a PG rating and that's fine, too.

"A Film Unfinished" is a 2010 Israeli documentary focusing on found footage from Nazi propagandists of the Warsaw ghetto in 1942, for a film that was never made. The footage has no sound, and the interesting thing about it is that the footage also has outtakes, where you can clearly see scenes being staged. It gets an R rating.

It's also the worst thing I've ever seen, and by worst, I mean stare into the black horrifying abyss of human awfulness and leave with every fiber of your being repulsed. R does not begin to describe it.

So you see the finished take the way the Nazis wanted -- of Jews dining in opulence, living in luxury, whooping it up for a theater performance, refusing to help the hungry or even notice the corpses littering the streets around them -- and then you see the troops with cameras forcing them past, or making them walk near it, or how the crowd in the theater was there at gunpoint, not allowed to relieve themselves, made to laugh and smile and emote for hour after hour after hour.

Nearly everyone shown in the movie died horribly, of course, either from starvation or disease or in the camps, but a few survived to look at this footage again now, and to share their remembrances... including one of the German cameramen, who was, of course, under gunpoint as much as anyone else, and appears to be as harrowed by the experience as anyone.

It's 91 minutes long, potent beyond potent, understated in its outrage, unsparing in its horror. It's now available in Netflix Instant, a firm reminder of what happens when evil is left unchecked, and vital to any true understanding of history.

I completely understand, however, if you do not want a true understanding of history. I didn't think my stomach was this strong, or my eyes this hard...

Monday, May 30, 2011

A's As In Apathy

Today in Oakland, the Yankees bear the A's for the eighth straight time. They are now 22-4 against Oakland since the start of 2008. And anything that happens 22 times out of 26 shouldn't change your mind about much of anything... except for the particulars involved here.

The Yankees' starting pitcher was Bartolo Colon. He's 38. Their closing pitcher was, well, Colon. A big fat sack of goo that was borderline out of baseball, and while he's been having a comeback year and all, he also gave up 6 ERs to Toronto last week, and has seen his ERA go up a run in May, mostly because 38-year-old sacks of goo should start melting into uselessness when the weather gets hot and the pitch count gets past the 50 IP mark.

Now, I'm clearly giving short shrift to Colon. According to the game reports, he was still hitting 95 in the ninth, and the man has always had command and control.

However, here's the lineup he faced today, along with their OPS ratings.

Coco Crisp, CF - 712
Daric Barton, 1B - 596
David DeJesus, RF - 708
Josh WIllingham, LF - 775
Hideki Matsui, DH - 628
Kurt Suzuki, C - 686
Mark Ellis, 2B - 544
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B - 609
Cliff Penington, SS - 653

Nine out of nine starters under their career averages. Nine out of nine starters that you would not want on your mixed-league fantasy team (unless, I guess, you are ready to just toss aside all kinds of categories for the occasional stolen base). Nine out of nine starters that you aren't excited to see today. Nine out of nine who should not be starting for this team in, say, 2013, assuming you don't think that Suzuki or Pennington has another gear, or that Barton will somehow be more than the weak sauce son of Scott Hatteberg.

Meanwhile, of course, Andre Ethier works in Los Angeles for the Dodgers, given up for the rental of a couple of years of Milton Bradley. Carlos Gonzalez works in Colorado as part of the talent exodus that followed Dan Haren out of town. And it's true that while neither of those guys is likely to go to the Hall of Fame right now, they'd certainly be a hell of a lot more entertaining to watch than anything the A's play right now.

So they don't hit *and* they aren't patient; it's the early part of the century Royals out there, only without even the single useful element of Mike Sweeney to provide occasional moments of flash. When they do win, which happens about as often as they lose, it's from the most dull way possible -- starting pitching and defense, in a park that rewards both, along with an utter lack of intensity, since it's been years and years since anyone really went with a strong expectaiton of victory.

A true fact about baseball: if you aren't going to win games, you might at least as well lose them in ways that people want to watch. Starting nine guys with OPSs that do not rank in the top 155 in MLB? Not fun. Having a minor league system that hasn't produced a position player (that actually played for the home nine) of positive note since the early part of this century? Also not fun. Showing no evidence of making an effort to win games until your stadium situation gets resolved? The least fun of all.

Oakland lost today, and are now a game under .500, just 2.5 games out of the West. They are a game above .500 at home, two games under on the road. They've won 5 out of their last 10. They get back their closer, Andrew Bailey, this week.

And I care... very, very little. Nor should you.

Top 10 reasons the NBA took so much time off before the Finals

10) Couldn't figure out a way to tie in the Finals into "Hangover 2" or "Brides-maids"

9) Time off required to get Jason Kidd's full paperwork into Social Security

8) Days off allow national media to remember about the existence of Caron Butler

7) Erik Spoelstra just grew the first hair on his chin, and as such, medical attention was required

6) Allows for national audience to know the full details and ramifications of Jason Terry's tattoo plans

5) Without this extra time off, we might not have had time for the wildly premature LeBron James / Michael Jordan comparisons

4) Most of Miami area still not aware of existence of team, so the time off is being used to good advantage

3) Mark Cuban lobbied for the extra time to make sure that his hosting of the finals completely upstages Jerry Jones at the Super Bowl

2) Extra time allowed for Dwyane Wade to manufacture some drama for missing a practice

1) Without the time off, no one would know when the Finals were going to happen, or that they are important

Sunday, May 29, 2011

The Finals Pick: Heat In Seven

The case for Dallas: Unlike anyone that Miami has played in the first three rounds, they can put five shooters on the floor at once. They have the cagiest point guard in the game, a solid bench with explosive scoring, and a proven coach with a lot of playoff experience. And most importantly, they have Dirk Nowitzki, who might be the best player in the game right now, and just got through a 5-game evisceration of the Thunder. Everything about them screams destiny, and there's nothing that they haven't done in the past six weeks that hasn't looked like a championship team. They also go into this matchup with depth in the wing defenders, a set rotation that knows its roles and provides quality defense at the rim, and three-point shooting that the Heat have not seen in this playoff. Finally, not like this mattered in the last two rounds, they have a winning record this year against Miami.

The case for Miami: They are playing the best defense in the world right now, and have, well LeBron James and Dwyane Wade. They've also gotten healthy in the playoff season, and now have a very functioning 8-man rotation, with Udonis Haslem and Mike Miller. They also have home court advantage, which matters a lot with the dumb 2-3-2 schedule. Most importantly, they've been deadly in late and close situations, with James in particular going into Best Defender In The World Mode, with turnovers leading to back-breaking dunks and momentum swings for days. Like Dallas, they haven't done a thing in the past six weeks that hasn't screamed out Champion, with the possible exception of parting like it was 1999 after they took out the Celtics.

If Dallas wins, it will be because: Dirk was the best player on the floor. Jason Kidd owned his matchup. Shawn Marion continued his solid postseason, and the Tyson Chandler / Brendan Haywood tandem in the middle prevented second chance points and stopped a few drives to the basket. They will also need to make their threes; we know they will make their free throws.

If Miami wins, it will be because: James was the best player on the floor. Chris Bosh gave the Heat a fighting chance at a draw against Dirk. Haslem and Miller continued their climb back up from terrible play. Joel Anthony and Ziggy Ilgauskas (yes, he'll have a role here, if only to get Chandler away from the hoop) are effective. Mike Bibby and Mario Chalmers match Kidd and JJ Barea's point output, which shouldn't be that hard, but is. And Erik Spoelstra continues to run hot at the table, with his faith in Haslem and Miller, and his willingness to get away from his season-long bigs in the Bulls series being the biggest example.

The pick: I've gone back and forth on this for a while. I don't see the Heat having anyone to guard Dirk, and their bench does seem better. I don't see Kidd turning into dust against the Heat pressure, and the fact that the Mavs can go super-small with him, Barea and Jason Terry might work well here, whereas going small killed the Sixers, Celtics and Bullets. After the 2006 experience, I don't see Wade getting every call, and like every other basketball writer on the planet, I don't believe in Bosh.

But in the final analysis, there's James, at the height of his powers and in a situation where he doesn't have to kill himself to keep his team close, in a situation where every aspect of The Decision gets vindicated in a Shut Your Mouth for the ages. I respect Dirk immensely; I think he's been the best player in the playoffs so far this year, and what he did to the Thunder bordered on inhuman. But in the final analysis, he can't shut down the opposing team's best scorer, doesn't have as much option for error in crunch time, and doesn't have the same high level of help when it comes to winning a game. Finally, the Heat have home court. They win one of the best series in recent memory, in seven games.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Weekend Off

Well, not off, just not blogging.

I was watching a few minutes of a Yankee piece of propaganda tonight, in which the scions of Big Stein say that one of the old man's aphorisms is that if you tell more than two people about a good thing you did for someone else, you didn't do a good thing at all.

This, like many things Big Stein said, is horseflop, but well-sounding horseflop.

Anyhoo... I'm doing a good thing tomorrow. And maybe Sunday, and Monday too, if it needs more doing.

If it ends early -- can't imagine it will, but hope springs eternal -- maybe I'll hie thee to a poker table and have some Daring Adventures to write about tomorrow night. Or even the ability to sit still and write about baseball, for the 14 of you who have been patiently waiting for me to end this NBA foolishness and get back to a sport you care about.

Come hell or high water, I'll also be around to write about Heat Mavs Game 1 on Monday night, and to make a big old picks column about who I think will win that. Seeing how I'm .500 with a bullet picking series this year, 2-1 with the Heat and 0-3 with the Mavs, you'd be a sap not to read that one, and run screaming the other way.

But for the next good long while, you're on your own, assuming the rest of the blog has already been thrown into the fires of your wordhole. So check out the blogroll, click on some ads, and be good to each other and any Troop you might happen to see.

As for me, I'm off to do a good thing. Too much of one, I suspect.

Top 10 Unspeakable NFL Lockout Protest Possibilities

Here's a small but fun rainy day dream...

We live in a country where a nebulous health care plan moved tens of thousands of Americans to go to meet their Congressperson, many of them armed. We also live in a place where tens of millions of people will pay to use their mobile phones to vote on a karaoke contest, think Flash mobs are fun, and seem to dream of posting a video on to the Web that gets a lot of hits, regardless of whether or not it causes them physical pain or risk of criminal prosecution. Finally, we have enough unemployment, and underemployment, especially among men that there is all kinds of people with all kinds of time on their hands. (Witness the Wisconsin movement.)

So I'm thinking -- hoping? praying? -- that when the NFL owners ruin the upcoming season, your fantasy league, and the long hot summer of nothing but mostly offense-free baseball, we won't just, you know, take it lying down, or with the beyond lame protests of the past when people stand around and wave signs.

Instead, let's all imagine a situation where stuff like this happens, as part of a whole Rise Up movement...

10) Sports Nation House Arrest. Hey, sports talk radio guys? Spend your unending timehole on the day to day movements and moments of the locking out owners. I'm sure that your army of unwashed and unruly would be happy to follow the swells around from place to place, just so that the service workers and everyone else can give these folks the very special attention they deserve. It's not as if the rich tip anyway, right?

9) Sit-ins. Not at the stadiums, though what the hey, the public pays for those, have at it. I'm thinking more along the lines at the owner's homes, especially for the little guys and girls who will be losing their jobs over this little fun experience. If Al Davis isn't paying your bills, the least he should do is house you. It's a mighty roomy crypt.

8) Vengeance cybercrime. All of these teams have Web sites, and many owners have social media presences. The average football fan isn't all that technically skilled to pull this off, but bitter fantasy nerds with all that time on their hands? We could be looking at a full-scale crushing that makes the attack on Bank of America look small. (And Skins Fan, feel free to have at the Daniel already; you don't need a lockout to feel the vengeance.)

7) Flash mob fan protests. Now that everyone has got a phone, can we (please) work out some kind of elaborate protests once the lords of football allow people back into the stadiums? Remember folks, as Cyrus says in "The Warriors", the numbers are with you. If everyone gives the owners' boxes the double bird and more at every opportunity, doesn't that have to have some sort of impact?

6) Outdoor signs. Just in the past month, we saw unhinged people spending their life savings to publicize the Rapture, as if that event needed a marketing budget or advertising campaign. (Probably the biggest reason why the Man upstairs called it off -- it's just demeaning to think that He needed pub.) So I'm thinking there might be more than a few outdoor displays of affection, either paid or unpaid. Perhaps more than, say, protests against wars, since we clearly care more about football than war...

5) Player league. This is my personal favorite, in that it has precedent (the 1910s, a wild time in American baseball) and a whole lot of fun points to it, especially since so many teams are meeting in players-only workouts and seem to be managing themselves rather well. If Drew Brees and 30+ guys from last year's Saints team plays Michael Vick and 30+ guys from last year's Eagles team, and the game is on television and the Internets, and the refs are all competent free agents and the stats more or less resemble what you'd get in a regulation game... you aren't watching that? I know I am, and plenty pf people are also buying tickets to see it. The players *are* the league; if they decide to play on their own, the owners can go pound sand. I don't know about you, but I'm OK with game in a high school yard if that's what gets it done. Put the pressure on, NFLPA...

4) Rival league. More realistic than the earlier scenario but still a pipedream, this assumes that there are a few dozen very wealthy Americans who enjoy football, don't own an NFL team, and can see the opportunity inherent in a wildly profitable and underserved market. Special bonus if this is how the USFL gets revived. I loves me some USFL.

3) Terrorist action. As John Lennon sings in his solo version of "Revolution No. 9"... when you are talking about destruction, don't you know that you can count me out... in. If someone were to go all Oklahoma City on an NFL complex or owner's residence at this point, would you be very surprised? Of course not; we are a nation of angry people with access to weapons, and anger plus weapons makes for some choices that come right out of a bad comic book, really. Luckily, the use of heavy stuff usually requires competence and secretive planning, not to mention cash that's usually out of the range of the unhinged. Sure would be a darn shame if something were to happen to Jerruh Jones' brand-new stadium or big teevee, though...

2) Class action lawsuit. Fantasy football is a very large industry that's about to pop like a balloon. Casino sportsbooks are legal in more states every day. Networks and advertisers and vendors and a million fellow traveler businesses, all twisting in the wind, all susceptible to the siren call of Lawyers Looking For Damages. It makes a fellow proud to be an American.

1) Police action. State and local governments are in the hole to teams on stadium projects. And the feds that solve, or better yet imprison in Gitmo, the fine perps at the head of this thing would be heroes. Either that, or just seize every team and their assets, and nationalize the sport, like the third-world country with oil relationship that this resembles. Viva La Revolution! (And yes, yes, I know, I've just outed myself on my dangerously leftist ways. But tell me, has the super right-wing nature of NFL monopoly served you well recently? Fans of Football, Unite! You have nothing to lose but your PSLs!)

Plus, this gives us all the better than sexpie vision of seeing Jerry Richardson sharing a prison with Rae Carruth. And yes, I know, I'm dreaming. But this is my blog, and I get my dreams here. Pretty, pretty dreams.

As always, you have the last word...

Thursday, May 26, 2011

45 Heat Bulls Game Five Takeaways

>45) Chicago's chance to extend the series took a sharp downturn when Dallas closed last night, since that gives Miami more motivation to not look soft

44) Either Erik Spoelstra is smarter than he looks, or the Heat really don't need that much

43) If you are bummed that Miami won, a huge consolation is how much Boston Fan hates everything right now

42) Suddenly, the idea that if LeBron James was serious about winning, he should have gone to Chicago doesn't seem so, well, sane

41) Miami's win over Chicago proves, once again, that if you play your best basketball in the regular season, you are doomed

40) I'm not saying tht I'm permanently down on Carlos Boozer, but I am in favor of him completing his destiny with an Armon Gilliam fade

39) The Heat like to try to get Dwyane Wade off early, so that they have a deficit for LeBron James to close later

38) According to every broadcast crew, the solution to all problems in basketball is to More Aggression

37) The trouble with Joakim Noah being one of your best players is that he's really not that much better than a lot of energy types

36) Adidas seems to think that 9.8 doesn't make anyone in their sneaker buying demographic think of an also-ran gymnast

35) Luol Deng wasn't interested in having the rest of May off, but in the long run, Luol Deng doesn't decide these things

34) Derrick Rose pwned Mario Chalmers on both ends, which is what he should be doing all along

33) James made a ludicrous three to close the first quarter, because that's just what he does this year and in these playoffs

32) The Chicago bench took a while to show up, but hey, better late than never

31) Kyle Korver actually had basketball moments of competency, which proves that this series has been going for a long time

30) Wade's turnover troubles made you wonder if he was giving something back to his hometown

29) James bought a Deng pump fake, then bounced back up to block his shot anyway, on one of those plays that no one else in the Association can make

28) Like OKC with the Mavs, even when the Bulls played well, they didn't get any separation, adding to the Forebodings Of Doom

27) If Mike Miller and Udonis Haslem continue to regain relegance, Miami might be as good as they think they are

26) You could have made a good chunk of money by betting that Chris Bosh would be better than Wade this series

25) Carlos Boozer needs to know that Bulls Fan is saying Boo, not Booze

24) Chicago's seven point lead at the half was the biggest in the series, which is also all kinds of telling

23) There is no truth to the rumor that a shot block on Boozer is given away with every admission

22) James earned some Capri-Sun and orange slices after a flop to gain a Rose foul, then winked at the bench to make everyone outside of Miami throw up

21) Boozer finally earned some love from Bulls Fan for hitting James in the face for a flagrant, but as the Bulls were up 11 at the time and he really didn't hit him nearly hard enough, it wasn't all that smart

20) The Bulls then picked up another technical and let Miami get back in the game at the line, which made Dallas Fan shudder in remembrance

19) If the NBA doesn't do something to stop the flopping and selling of fouls soon, guys should just start taking acting lessons to make that part of their game more effective

18) Miami tried a zone, just to say they did it

17) Kurt Thomas gets fellated every year for being old and not horrible

16) When Wade doesn't shoot for a high percentage, TNT needs to find an injury reason; when he makes a jumper, they feel compelled to credit the training staff, rather than, say, random chance

15) Ronnie Brewer kept making plays in crunch time, independent of his non-star status, and his three at the 3:53 mark should have been a killshot

14) Why it took Tom Thibadeau 4.75 games to play Thomas over Boozer, we'll never know

13) Given Boston's past success with this kind of thing, you wonder why the Bulls didn't just hit James more often

12) I remain unprepared to live in a world where Chris Bosh makes plays in the clutch

11) Bulls Fan knows how to chant rude things, and since it prompted a James miss at the line, Karmic Justice was upheld

10) Rose really was the regular season MVP, which might not have been the best thing to happen for him before this series

9) The James three with 2:06 left to cut the game to five is starting to feel so familiar that the idea that he's not good in the crunch seems silly

8) Teams in this year's NBA playoffs that attempt to take some time off the clock to hold their lead, or freak out at the refs, do not win

7) In the Association, stars win games, and the last two minutes proved it in spades

6) No Bulls player but Rose wants the ball late, even at home, which kind of makes them easy to defend

5) TNT showed Heat Fan dancing after the huge James' tying three, just because the world does not hate Heat Fan enough just yet

4) In the final analysis, James can stop Rose, but Rose can't stop James, and that's kind of important

3)The really scary thing about this Heat team is that they might be a lot better next year, given Miller and Haslem getting healthy again, and the rest of the players learning how to play with each other

2) You have to wonder if Rose's troubles at the free throw line come from fatigue or inexperience, since just missing those seems against all known laws of NBA storytelling

1) The final possession, in which the Bulls were unable to get a shot off and looked terrible against ball pressure, was the series in microcosm

40 Thunder Mavericks Game Five Takeaways

Why so many? Because the Thunder are just that fascinating, the Mavs deserve love, and after this game, we may have as few as five -- yes, five -- NBA games left before a lockout nuclear winter. You have to love this era of sports, you really do...

40) Scott Brooks didn't change the starting lineup again, because that's just been such a win so far, and it will be the easiest point to make when they eventually fire him

39) I'm not saying that Tyson Chandler made Kendrick Perkins his woman, but Perk was wearing heels and pearls in the post-game interview

38) Perk's idea of a low-post game is to hit the defender until he's no longer there, then dunk

37) Serge Ibaka is too young and quick to completely lose touch of Dirk Nowitzki on a baseline spin move, and might have been the most invisible guy in blue tonight

36) DeShawn Stevenson must have value as a good-luck token or something, because he does nothing on the court to deserve minutes

35) When the Thunder let Jason Terry shoot a baseline three when no one even made the effort to close out on the shooter, that was somewhat telling

34) Russell Westbrook finally started to take advantage of his physical advantages, especially on JJ Barea

33) When the Thunder run and shoot early in the clock, it's almost always a better idea than running their set offense

32) As lovable as James Harden is, he can be had on the defensive end

31) OKC actually led after the first quarter, because the Mavs were just kinda bored

30) Making Dirk annoyed remains a spectacularly bad idea

29) Eric Maynor had some good moments, but he only guy in the Thunder that seems even remotely defending Barea is Westbrook

28) Once again with feeling: the Thunder bench might be better than their starters

27) When the Mavs aren't hitting their threes, they really don't seem all that special

26) It's really not news that the Thunder bench is better than their starters, since they insist on having Harden and Collison sit at the start of games

25) The Mavs didn't play with a lot of interest or hustle in the first half, and let Harden go wild, and yet still only trailed by three

24) The worse Perkins plays, according to the ESPN announcers, the more hurt he must be

23) Durant really needs to learn how to lean into any pump faked defender, since he's going to get that call

22) Serge Ibaka's fourth foul might have been the dumbest foul of the year, but at least it got him off the floor

21) Kidd's first field goal on Westbrook was straight out of the old man at the Y playbook

20) Westbrook's third quarter technical... made Ibaka's foul look smart, but at least he had good minutes after it

19) Honestly, when the Thunder play well, it's hard to remember which team was down 3-1

18) Dallas went beyond small with Barea, Kidd and Terry all on the floor at once, which didn't exactly do much to stop Westbrook from penetrating

17) OKC led at the end of every quarter, but never got any separation

16) Westbrook is much better at finishing off a pass than his own dribble, which should not have taken 4.5+ games to figure out, really

15) Mavs Fan is never a very confident fan, and if you had seen what they had seen over the years, you'd be the same

14) ESPN decided it was better to talk about Heat- Bulls then the game that was going on in front of them with nine minutes left, because they need to commit this war crime at least once a quarter

13) The refs clearly blew the block/charge call on Marion with Maynor, but it's not as if Dallas isn't getting calls at home in a closeout game

12) OKC really enjoys walking the ball up late, since it allows them more time to think about how they are going to screw things up

11) Dirk hitting the go-ahead three in the clutch would be predictable if it weren't so damned spectacular

10) Maynor proved that he's learned much from Westbrook by waving him and Durant off to shoot an airball with under a minute left

9) Honestly, watching the Thunder in late and close situations is like watching children being tortured

8) Even when Dirk misses in crunch time, it works out for the Mavs, since they just get the board

7) Make no mistake about it: Dallas wanted no part of Game Six, not that they were going there

6) At this point, you have to think Dallas is the favorite to win in the NBA Finals, though that won't be how the public bets

5) Mark Cuban's post-game address to the crowd shows that, in his heart of hearts, he'd much rather be a pro wrestler than owner

4) No one wanted to talk to Doris Burke on the court after the win, because she is, well, Doris Burke

3) David Stern sent Rick Barry to Dallas to give the Mavs the trophy, just to make sure that the building cleared quickly

2) The Mavs did not spray champagne after the win, because many of the players are too old to drink in the evenings

1) Dallas is now 12-3 in the post-season, and that's the only thing that matters

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Top 10 reasons why the Lakers hired Mike Brown

10) Loved his give the ball to his star and watch him do something offense

9) Wanted something as completely different from Phil Jackson as possible

8) Figure that the local media won't savage a cuddly black guy as badly as a bitter white man when the team falls apart this year

7) He'll be easy to fire in midseason when the team needs a spark

6) Feel that his faster clapping pace will make up for his inability to do that loud Phil whistle

5) Liked his ability to send text messages to his players that they won't read, rather than give them books they won't read

4) Best way to really kick Brian Shaw in the teeth

3) By bringing him in, the Lakers have the inside track on getting both Eric Snow and Boobie Gibson to shore up the point guard problem

2) Gives Laker Fan an easy rooting interest when Aging Kobe feuds with the coach

1) It's not as if anyone better really wants to try to fill Phil Jackson's shoes

Mutual Assured Defense

Something you probably know about me, if you've been riding for the past few months with the playoff takeaways, or just have a sense of who I am as Hoop Fan... I'm not a particular fan of defense in basketball. It's frequently ragged to watch, hard to quantify from a nerd math point of view, and just, well, prone to all kinds of meathead "analysis." On the continuum of people who want to view the game as human machines in a mathematical situation against the destiny and heart emotional basket cases, I'm much more comfortable with the nerds. Which means offense, and shooting percentages and assists to turnover ratios and rebounding differentials and blocks/steals/free throws and so on, and so on. Judging these men by their "clutchness" seems like a mug's game, or at the very least, something you do when your own laundry is involved, or at the very least, some other laundry that you hate.

And then there's the Bulls vs. Heat series, almost a clinical study in just how hard it can be to score points in this game, between two teams that are built for defense despite having some of the most famous offensive players on the planet.

Start with the Heat, because you have to, being up 3-1 and all. Dwyane Wade might be the best shot blocker to ever play the #2 guard role, or at least, the best to ever do it while being perceived as a superstar. He doesn't take possessions off, harasses all over the floor, more than holds his own on the boards and doesn't gamble badly to get his steals. He'd have a job in the NBA even if he didn't have a jump shot. But since he's a star, he can play aggressively on defense and not get the whistles that a lesser player does. If he's not the best all-around defender at the off-guard position in the Association, he's close, and definitely in the conversation.

And then there's LeBron James. For all of his gifts as an offensive player, I actually think he's better on defense; ridiculous length, tireless motor, with a real thirst for chasedown blocks and causing turnovers to get out in transition and use the power that no one else has. Both Wade and James take charges, provide weak side help for troubled teammates, etc., etc. Oh, and like Wade, James doesn't get the whistles that another guy might.

On the Bulls side of things, there's Joakim Noah. He's basically Serge Ibaka but with a basketball mind, and while he might not have the sheer bulk of a Dwight Howard, he might be better as an overall defender, since he generally avoids foul trouble and is more prone to control his blocked shots, rather than launch them into the cheap seats. He also seems to delight in taking charges and causing any kind of deflection, and all of these guys hit the floor in a blink to save a possession, even when it might not actually be the wisest choice of action, given the time of the game and the relative importance of the ball.

Next up, Luol Deng. Long, fearless, with great body control, perfectly cast in the Chicago system as the lesser light to Derrick Rose, Deng is the ideal Iguodala, the role player with a more consistent handle and jump shot, who seems to study his man relentlessly and assimilate moves over the course of a game to up the ante in crunch time. He may not have much more to go in terms of a ceiling, but there's no denying that he's an outstanding defensive player.

Now, I'm giving short shrift to the rest of the rosters here. Joel Anthony is in the NBA strictly for his defense; he's good. Rose sets the tone for his Bulls team, and while he's not a lockdown guy, he tries hard and makes more plays than he misses. Mario Chalmers is the Joel Anthony of point guards. Taj Gibson has second hop action that makes him a good defender even when he buys a pump fake. At any moment, you can look out at the floor and see nothing but plus defenders.

It winds up being contagious. Kyle Korver is a disaster on defense, but at least here he's trying with all of his heart; trust me, he hasn't always. Chris Bosh wants no part of the rough stuff before this year; now, he's bellowing like Spartacus in the fourth quarter on dunks and changes of possessions, and while you can still dunk on him like he's Shawn Bradley, he's causing problems with his length in the post. Carlos Boozer has no hops and no defensive instincts, but he's doing what he can to rebound, take charges and hit the floor for loose balls. No one wants to be the single sieve in this series, and no one is in anything but the finest shape of their lives. Oh, and they are almost all young, too.

When you mix it all together, you get such an unbridled collection of raggedy that I'm not sure it's even hoop anymore, except for those stray moments when Rose, Wade or James gets some open space. There's not much in the way to flow to these games, nothing along the lines of sudden runs where the opposing coach barely has a moment to call time and stop the momentum. It's not the kind of ball I like.

But I can't deny that it's not compelling, unique, spectacular and deserving of the box-office ratings that it's getting, or that I'm going to be glad when it's over in another game or two. Because, and this is the final point to all this... we're watching the best athletes in the world, in the best condition of their lives, playing the hardest defense that they can. (And yes, Celtics Fan, I see you waving your hand in the corner, telling me that your team played better defense during its title shots. Probably, but at such a slower pace, it's even harder to appreciate it. Go soak your head.)

So if defense is your cup of tea, there's nothing better than this series, and no level that's better than what you've got right now.

At least, until the theoretical next year, when both of these units know each other a little better, and still not be anywhere near old and hurt.

Maybe we need to change the rules again...

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

45 Game Four Bulls Heat Takeaways

Man alive, these Conference Finals do not look like they are going to give us a lot of long series drama, do they? Miami held home court to go up 3-1 tonight, with the opportunity to send the NBA into a prolonged delay that would qualify as a minor lockout. But let's get into tonight's war...

45) Derrick Rose seems to have lost faith in Carlos Boozer, which means Derrick Rose seems to have an accurate view of Boozer's abilities

44) At some point, the Udonis Haslem media love just gets unseemly

43) Joakim Noah played with much more energy, fewer fouls, and less slurring

42) When the Heat offense becomes a James iso at the end of the clock, they get a lot more defensible

41) LeBron James finally had that earth-shaking chasedown block that he specializes in, but it didn't actually change the momentum

40) Boozer had the cherry picker dunk of the year off a Noah steal and assist, so much that his own teammates gave him grief over it

39) Making matters even worse for Kyle Korver is the fact that no Heat player wants to be the guy that missed while he was defending them, so they are all bearing down

38) Rose had a teleportation dunk and continuation on Mario Chalmers, mostly because Rose is so fast that he was dunking before the ref could blow the whistle... and then he dunked over Joel Anthony, just to show the world that he had a gear past that

37) Miami might be the only team in the history of the Association that can stay in a game against a quality opponent when they have very few assists

36) If Boozer could actually jump, he might be able to get numbers against good defenses

35) The idea that Mike Miller is getting minutes due to his rebounding staggers the imagination

34) James might have more timeouts after dunks than anyone else in the game

33) At some point, a pick and roll for Rose just means that there are more guys near him, and a greater chance that he's giving the ball to someone who isn't as good as he is

32) Technical fouls can't be called for arguing on out of bounds calls

31) I might have been dreaming or drunk, but I swear I saw Mike Miller making a couple of threes

30) It's getting harder and harder to see how Kyle Korver isn't the worst player in the league

29) Heat Fan really marks out for LeBron doing post whistle goaltending

28) From minute to minute, it's hard to see how either of these teams can stay with, or score on, the other

27) Given Rose's hops and the importance of the game, getting him his usual rest didn't seem all that important

26) Miami was outscored by a ton in the paint and was, well, still in the game somehow

25) Tom Thibodeau has perfected the hands in exasperation foul call reaction

24) Never in the history of the Association have so many good offensive players been so interested in making each other look so bad

23) We really have reached he point where anyone who doesn't go down as if shot on contact is being chastised as selfish and stupid

22) The Bulls finally realized that the Heat have no point guard, and hence, should be pressured a lot

21) Seriously, the idea that Mike Miller has spent 90+ games playing possum to set up this emergence and moment is spectacular deviousness

20) Honestly, the Heat couldn't close out games in the regular season, and it was a big problem

19) Even when Boozer plays well and Taj Gibson does not, Bulls Fan doesn't really want to see Boozer out there

18) Rose's MVP card for ref calls is clearly regular season only, and he picked a really bad time to miss a free throw

17) If you want to skip the first 3 hours of these games, you pretty much can -- they aren't going to blow each other out

16) The Heat really aren't supposed to be able to win a game where Miller nearly outscores Dwyane Wade

15) The idea that James got whistled for a charge with less than ten seconds left in a tie game at home tells me the NBA wants this series to go long

14) We can pretty much forget the idea that Chicago has the better bench at this point, seeing how none of those guys showed up at all

13) Rose shooting fallaway jumpers in crunch time really isn't making Heat Fan too scared

12) It's hard to see how either of these teams gets to 100 without overtime

11) Bosh's continued late game heroics may be the most surprising thing in a wildly surprising playoff season

10) In the final analysis, the Bulls just got worn down by too many minutes on the starters, and too many fouls to defend to the full extent of their ability

9) Deng's exhausted inbounds turnover, and Rose's driving turn 30 seconds later, spoke volumes, all of them ending with sadness

8) Here's something you couldn't have even bet on: Erik Spoelstra outcoached Thibodeau

7) If James had defended this way against Rajon Rondo in last year's playoffs, the NBA is a very, very different place today

6) There may be something to the theory that Miami has a fifth gear, and Chicago does not

5) Chicago picked a really bad time to finally lose three games in a row

4) Like Noah or not, there's absolutely no quit in the man

3) For a bunch of prima donna party glory boys, the Heat play insane defense and sure do like to dive for loose balls

2) This series may not be over yet, but Chicago's not winning

1) Heat Fan spent the last six seconds of the game chanting at Charles Barkley, because that's their priority

Acquiring A Past

Before tonight, the Thunder were as close to unblemished as you get while still being an NBA champ-ionship contender.

Sure, they had lost in the first round last year in six games, after being tied after four, to the eventual champion Lakers... but losing to the champions in your first playoff visit isn't exactly shameful, and there was much to take from the year that was encouraging. This year, they were supposed to still be too young, too untested... but then Boston said yes to the Jeff Green for Kendrick Perkins deal, and things started accelerating.

The Lakers fell apart. James Harden blossomed in Green's minutes. Serge Ibaka moved to the off-the-ball defense that's his best use. Perkins improved their defense, and gave them the mean edge they lacked. Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant have physical advantages over every player they face at their position. And the dominoes kept falling.

The Spurs ran into a Grizzly buzzsaw that exposed them for the weak jump-shooting team that they are now. The Thunder shook off first round jitters to take out a game but flawed Nugget squad. Dallas wiped out a Blazer team that looked more dangerous to many observers. The Grizz lost their legs late in the tough second round, and OKC shook off shaky crunch time play to finally take care of business. The Mavs punked the Lakers so quickly that you thought they might lose one of their first two home games on rust, and proceeded to lose Game 2 at home, giving the Thunder the relatively simple task.

Defend home court, go to the Finals. In front of the loudest, most positive, least jaded fans in the Association.

They lost Game 3 when the starters stunk it up, and the closing run fell short on bad decisions and missed threes. I kind of lost hope that they'd win the series then and there, but they came back from down 2-1 on the road against the Grizz, and with days between games finally starting to get short, maybe the Mavs' old legs would start failing them. They came out tonight and looked as good as they've looked all year, with defensive pressure, great shooting, spectacular plays...

and Dallas kept hanging in, hanging in, not playing all that well but getting turnovers and making threes and free throws, never letting the lead get too much.

And with 4:43 left, the Mavs picked up the sixth foul on Harden. And very little went right for the Thunder in the next 9:43, eventually ending in an 8-point overtime loss that should be the last time OKC Fan sees his team this year, and a collapse that will stay with them for years.

This isn't fair, of course. Dirk Nowitzki might be the best player in basketball right now. Shawn Marion is playing his best ball in years. The Mavs are playoff-tested, even if many of those tests were failed in the first round. They have experienced coaching, the craftiest point guard ever in Jason Kidd, a revitalized Tyson Chandler and so on, and so on. They could easily win the championship in a few weeks.

But tonight, they wanted no part of this game. They gave up dozens of offensive rebounds, had little energy, lost every 50-50 ball and spent the first 43 minutes looking just satisfied to have home court in a best of three. But then the Thunder started failing, even as the ESPN crew went into coast mode, and the choke took on momentum. The 17-2 closing run is hard to fathom, even now, and as soon as it got to overtime, it was over.

Watching Durant in the postgame press conference, wearing his backpack like a clueless college student and looking more befuddled than any pro player should ever look, is to look into the eyes of a young man who has no answers. I don't doubt that he's been weeping, thinking about every one of his nine turnovers. I have no idea if he'll give them anything in Game Five, or if it will just wind up being a hoist fest for Westbrook as he tries to prove that he, and not Durant, should be the alpha.

Given what Dallas did to the Lakers the last time they had a kill shot in front of them, it might not be pretty. I hope not, but this team is just dead men walking. The bigger question, of course, is whether or not it will define them in the long run.

Because tonight, the Thunder acquired a past.

And it's not a good one.

40 Mavericks Thunder Game Four Takeaways

Well, this series is over, and while I'm going to be happy for the ride later, it's just all pain now. Let's get into it while the wound is still oozing...

40) OKC started 9 for 9 from the floor, with better energy and defense than they've had in weeks

39) Scott Brooks actually had a nice coaching moment from going to a full court press after a timeout

38) OKC didn't change the starting lineup, and for once, it worked, giving the Thunder their largest lead of the series

37) Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka were actually effective early

36) Kevin Durant showed that when he passes in the open court and gets touches down low, he goes back to being all kinds of monster

35) Flops can also happen on offensive rebounding; just dive in a random direction and look offended

34) Both teams seem to get something out of full court defensive pressure, which makes their general refusal to use it puzzling

33) Dallas actually missed some free throws

32) Even the Thunder's mop up crew is young and hungry, but also all kinds of sloppy

31) Dirk knows how to end runs with a vengeance

30) Dallas's point guards were sad against the pick and roll in the first half

29) ESPN decided that it was more important to talk about poor fan behavior at the Miami game THEN THE GAME THAT WAS GOING ON IN FRONT OF THEM, BECAUSE THIS NEVER STOPS BEING THE MOST IRRITATING THING IMAGINABLE

28) When the Thunder shoot 68% from the floor, they really should have more than an 11-point lead at the half

27) Thunder Fan has developed a solid distaste for Jason Terry, but they won't need to see him again until next year at the earliest

26) Chandler and Perkins pretty much spend every possession trying to injure each other at this point, and should just get a room

25) For sheer novelty, the Thunder tried Westbrook on Dirk; it didn't work

24) Dallas shot 16 more free throws in the first half, because the Thunder really aren't old enough to avoid dumb fouls, or dumb coaches

23) ESPN is offended by crowds chanting against referee calls, and likes talking to player moms during the game, rather than covering the damn game

22) The most frustrating part about Westbrook's game is how good of a point guard he can be when he simply plays the position

21) Kidd got away with an obvious foul on a three point attempt, leading to a three-point play on the other side, and this how veteran teams stay in games on the road

20) Dallas spent this entire game in drafting trail position, never getting out of touch, and just doing all of the old man things that you do to stay close... and you felt that if they ever took the lead, they'd win

19) For some reason, the Thunder do not isolate and punish JJ Barea on defense every minute he's on the floor

18) Brendan Haywood's flagrant foul was so obvious, it didn't even matter that he did it to a big man

17) Durant's rebounding was contagious, and his three off a second chance opportunity from Collison should have been a killshot

16) OKC got more than half of their missed shots back tonight off the boards, which is hard to do

15) Harden fouled out with 4:34 left, and the Thunder absolutely fell apart without him

14) Dirk missed another free throw tonight, which must mean he's hurt or something

13) ESPN kept giving the Thunder the game well before it was over, because ESPN is all about Not Watching The Game

12) Westbrook blew two critical free throws as Mark Jackson continued to stroke him

11) On the plus side, this series going short does mean less of this broadcasting crew

10) Keeping Dirk under double figures in the fourth quarter seems to be absolutely impossible

9) That call on Collison with 6.4 seconds left was weak, but since Dirk was getting the ball, he was scoring someway or another

8) As soon as it went to overtime, it was over

7) The last nine minutes of Thunder basketball is the single best reason why Brooks will never win a championship in this hemisphere

6) Give it up to Shawn Marion; that last block on Durant was perfection, and ballsy considering that Durant does get a fair number of calls

5) In the final analysis, the team with the best player wins... and that's Dirk, by a lot

4) Dallas never lead in regulation and still won, which is damn near impossible to do

3) OKC seems to think that moving the ball in the clutch is against the rules

2) Give it up to Jason Kidd: 16 steals in 4 games and the game-winning three

1) It's unfair to be so disappointed in this young of a team not coming through at the highest level of competition, but life is unfair

Monday, May 23, 2011

Top 10 NFL lockout criminal acts

According to Ravens LB Ray Lewis, crime will go up if the NFL season does not happen. Unfortunately, the one-time (?) murderer (?) didn't specify which acts would happen. Which is where we come in!

10) Panthers owner Jerry Richardson caught staging gladiator blood sports on pay per view in his basement

9) Patriots owner Robert Kraft discovered to be the ringleader of a pirate movie ring, mostly dealing in the truly awful form of "hoodie" porn that Bill Belichick prefers

8) Bengals owner Mike Brown to just go for more direct theft of Cincinnati's residents by pointing shotguns at them

7) Raiders owner Al Davis to step up organ harvesting beyond the test tube stage

6) Seahawks owner Paul Allen convicted of crimes against mankind as the creative lead behind Microsoft Word's "Clippy" helper

5) The Titan's Bud Adams just starts driving around and flipping the bird to every man, woman and child in the greater Nashvile area while not wearing pants

4) The Lions' William Clay Ford conducts a home invasion and hostage ransom move against Detroit's last employed homeowner

3) The entire town of Green Bay takes turns robbing each other in a massive, coordinated and relentlessly friendly case of insurance fraud

2) Cowboys owner Jerry Jones convicted of jewelry store smash and grabs as he tries to make enough scratch to keep up the payments on his pleasure palace

1) Daniel Snyder to go on three-state crime spree as his main opportunity for evil is extinguished, but on the plus side, the final car chase and shootout gives Redskins Fan his first moment of true happiness in years

Sunday, May 22, 2011

40 Bulls Heat Game Three Takeaways

40) Heat Fan showed up for the opening tap and was loud, showing that they do have another gear in the playoffs

39) If we got four quarters of defense like the first quarter, the game would end in the '60s with a brawl or six

38) I've seen Rucker League games with more success and less contact

37) On some level, I'm rooting for Joakim Noah to really get freaky looking later in life

36) Heat Fan continues to get grief for dressing alike, even though every home crowd does that now

35) Noah's second foul would have been a flagrant and a technical in a game that was officiated like the regular season, or an MMA fight

34) When you force feed Carlos Boozer early, you increase the chance of the opposition getting block-happy

33) Both of these teams should shoot early in the clock, since long possessions that end with a shot hitting the rim are good ones in this matchup

32) Joel Anthony blocked so many shots in the first quarter, Heat Fan forgot that he's been wildly erratic for most of this series

31) Craig Sager dressed in key lime, because Miami never left the '80s, or he shops in Key West tranny stores

30) There is no truth to the rumor that Chris Bosh responded to Taj Gibson's second quarter trash talk by quoting his pay on a per-game basis

29) Bulls players have a bounty of dunking on Bosh, just as Heat players have a bounty for dunking on Boozer

28) One of these games, Mike Miller will have a positive moment, especially if he ever gets the DNP-CD he deserves

27) Boozer and Bosh dueled in the second quarter, just to prove that you can be soft and still get numbers in the playoffs

26) Your best point guards in this game were Noah and LeBron James

25) When Mike Bibby actually hits a three, it's like found money

24) TNT would rather show replays than when two guys get into each other after the whistle

23) I'm not prepared to live in a world where both Boozer and Bosh show up in a critical playoff game, though admittedly, they did it against each other

22) Noah seems immune to technical fouls, despite reacting to every call like a woman at a "Maury" taping

21) TNT showed a sign from a Miami fan about the Rapture, which was nearly as big of a reach as the tie-in with the new "X-Man" movie

20) Luol Deng's late third-quarter threes were massive, in that they closed the lead in a game that looked to be going south

19) James might make more bailout shots than anyone else in the Association

18) TNT insists on showing Tom Thibodeau's reaction on every shot clock violation, since they are an especially vile affront to him

17) Noah may have yelled a homosexual slur at the Miami crowd, proving that his trash talk isn't as imaginative as his hair

16) The Bulls score easier than the Heat, but the Heat have more guys who can hit tough shots

15) This game showed why Gibson doesn't start

14) If this Bosh had showed up in the regular season, the Heat wouldn't have had so many sad sequences

13) The Heat seem incapable of shooting without a pump fake

12) Rose can finish in a thousand ways in the open court, many of them impossible

11) When Bosh is doing his Gladiator impersonation and dunk, your interior defense is just not cutting it

10) Udonis Haslem gives Miami the garbage man they've needed all year

9) Judging from Reggie Miller's commentary, he never fell for a pump fake in his life as a player

8) If you like possessions that end with multiple shot blocks, these are the teams for you

7) Kyle Korver trying to guard James in transition is just plain sad

6) For a team with a pronounced bench edge, the Bulls really are having issues in the fourth quarter

5) Since Wade brings the ball up, you'd think the Bulls would go for more full-court pressure

4) Somehow, the loss of Omer Asik doesn't seem like the whole difference in this one

3) The Goodyear Blimp's offensive interference irritates me

2) It's starting to seem like the Bulls can't win unless Rose is the best player on the court, and by a wide margin

1) James seems to have fixed that whole "can't close" problem

FTT Off-Topic: Rapture Without Laughs

So I don't know about you, Dear Reader, but I haven't been Raptured, and after a weekend of yardwork, hanging out with my kids, watching hoop and riding a bicycle while the world seemed to avoid anything beyond the usual calamities. And I've spent a few electrons on Facebook and snarky moments at work discussing the End of Days, as I'm sure you have as well.

There is, of course, a dark side, even to a failed Apocalypse. And the New York Times has it, in a profile of a family where the teenaged kids don't just have the usual problem of being embarrassed of their parents, but being, well, mortified by them. With the full experience of having your flesh and blood being convinced that you are going to the lake of fire.

Now, one assumes that the family has had a considerable conversation by now, or maybe even a double-down moment of how the calculation is just off. Or it's just the moment for full reboot, as the 'rents have the scales fall off their eyes and get back to what the rest of us regard as reality.

But the two key points for me are as follows.

1) Any religious faith that gets between you and your seemingly well-adjusted kids, and causes you to abandon their souls to eternal damnation... can't be the one. I'm sorry, it just can't. And if it can, then the state of the cosmos is even more misaligned than even the most misanthropic human being could imagine.

2) In any great con -- and there can be no doubt about it, this has been a spectacular con, given that you've got millions of people listening to this guy, and a bunch of people who've ponied up money for ads and swag -- there are victims. And the victims have victims, and as soon as you hear about them, the caveat of never give a sucker an even break goes out the window.

Because well, these kids don't deserve to be this estranged from their parents, or to have their inheritance and college dreams ripped away, for the sheer effectiveness of a con, or the willing nature of the duped. There really isn't any such thing as a victimless crime.

20 Mavericks Thunder Game Three Takeaways

Less than normal, if only for the fact that before the Thunder comeback, this really wasn't all that fun to watch...

20) Russell Westbrook player 42 minutes, scored 30 points, had 4 assists and 7 turnovers, and all of those numbers tell you why the Thunder works better when he actually works as a point guard

19) The Mavs don't win this game, and in all likelihood this series, without Shawn Marion scoring and defense, which is kind of amazing for a guy who looked completely washed up

18) If you can figure out the Thunder bench that shows up on the road and folds at home, you are better than me

17) Dallas won a road game with Dirk Nowitzki shooting 7 for 21, which hardly seems possible on a lot of levels

16) For the most part, James Harden let millions of beard lovers down

15) For two teams that have been pushing 110-120 points a night, this was an absolute rock fight

14) The Legend of Kendrick Perkins, Playoff Monster, took a serious beating with tonight's 4/5 in 30 minutes against Tyson Chandler's 8/15 in 35

13) Jason Kidd is thoroughly outplaying Westbrook to such an extent that it's giving a stiffie to every old rec league point guard

12) OKC shot 36% from the floor and 1 of 17 from the arc, which also hardly seems possible

11) If Nick Collison was five years younger, Serge Ibaka would have been benched by now

10) There may not be a more all-or-nothing bench player in the Association than Daequan Cook

9) Neither Kevin Durant nor Nowitzki did much to further the idea that they are both among the best players in the game... except for the fact that Durant had 12 boards and 5 assists on a night where nothing dropped, and Dirk won the game for the Mavs when they were falling apart

8) As his elbow to Harden proves, Chandler has yet to master the art of letting sleeping teams lie

7) Westbrook and Chandler now both have five technical fouls in the postseason, which means that they really are going to have to start earning them from now on

6) Mavs Fan is puling about the FT disparity, but unless Dirk is getting every call, it's not as if the Mavs have a ton of guys that generally draw fouls

5) There's no way this series isn't going good and long, if only for the fact that the Thunder only seem to play their best after losses now, and the league really needs more playoff games

4) While it's incredibly unfair to think that Westbrook is a finished product at age 22 with limited time as a point guard, life is, well, really unfair

3) In any 7-game series, the winner of the last game looks like the certain eventual winner, and this series is no different

2) Considering how well these teams can play, and that there are only 2 to 4 games left of this, a weak game and rock fight just seems like a cheat

1) The Thunder's best remaining hope is to win a multiple overtime war that winds up sapping the Mavs' hearts, minds and legs

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Can't Lose: The Friday Night Lights Review

Just be warned: I'm going to mark out for a while here.

FNL wrapped its fifth season up recently, and I just spun the final DVD from my Netflix subscription. The first four seasons are available on instant, and I suspect this will be soon, so the ease in getting this in your mind is just silly. So is the quality of the show.

For the uninitiated, FNL is an NBC drama, focused on the on and off-the-field story of football in Dillon, Texas, a small Western town that cares too much about football, just like everyone who reads this blog, really. I'm not going to give too much of it away, because I really do want as many people to see this thing as possible, but here's what you get...

1) The most realistic and best marriage on television. Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton are the backbone of the show as the coach and his wife, and the writing for them is amazing, as well as the performances. FNL is a mildly ad libbed show, in that the actors go off scripts but also have a little room to breathe, and the way that these two actors work together is just airtight. They bicker like married people, they work things out, the squabble and support and catch and release. It's downright inspirational, honestly, and they do all kinds of stuff together that's just outstanding. Emotionally charged fight as comedy? Sure. Small moments with a baby to get them to agree with one parent over the other? Yeah, we've all been there, but you've never seen it on television, for reasons that I can't quite fathom. FNL is just more honest than other shows, really, and the marriage is at the core of all of it.

2) Some truly hot women. Minka Kelly was good enough for the Charlie's Angels reboot and Derek Jeter; she's all kinds of useful, if you catch my drift. Adrienne Palicki got NBC to redesign a Wonder Woman costume to show off her legs; they were not wrong to do so. Aimee Teegarden grows up on the show into something fine, though as the underaged daughter of the coach, you might not feel that way. Jurnee Smolett is a whipsmart woman that shows they know how to cast hot sisters, too. And so on, and so on.

3) Rock solid acting from people who will have long, long careers. Michael Jordan was great on "The Wire", and he's terrific in the last two seasons of this. Jesse Plemons does great comedy in such a dry and understated way, you know he'll be working for decades. Zach Gilford can make you feel every ounce of his burden as the undersized back-up quarterback, and the unspeakable awkwardness that he has when he develops feelings for the coach's daughter. And so on, and so on. It's legitimately hard to find an actor, and a character, that you don't want to spend more time with on this show.

4) It's secretly for women, and might -- just might -- get them interested in football. The Shooter Wife hates football, has a mild fondness for basketball, and can tolerate baseball if she's at the stadium and eating junk food; I am lucky to get her to watch the Super Bowl. There's a great throwaway line in Season 5, when the coach is trying to get a basketball player to join his football team and give him a WR with size and hops; "He loves football. He just doesn't know it yet." If and when I ever get her to watch this show, maybe I can get her to watch football, too. Assuming that football ever exists again, of course.

5) It's complete. Like "The Wire." there's planning and thought all the way through, and it's going to a place that's satisfying and makes sense. So many shows lose their way or run out of gas, or keep making more to get to syndication or some other artificial reason. FNL is more like a novel; it goes where it should, it ends where it should, and the only problem is that life would be better if there were more things that were this good.

6) You can be progressive while enjoying violence and poon. FNL earns good points on the politics of what life is like in Texas without just rolling over, and they film the football scenes nearly well enough to help you forget that most of the actors are smurfs, or not possessing breakaway speed or size. Short of a few too many last-second game outcomes (well, it *is* a TV show), it just works.

7) It moves you. I realize that, as a father, I'm just a big pile of goo waiting to happen now, and playing my emotions is really not hard. FNL does this, but in ways that feel like art and craft, rather than manipulation. Actors move on, as children becoming adults will do, and you miss them; they return for smaller moments, and equivalent or better characters take their place. It all works.

Anyway, give it a spin, especially now that live sports are starting to wind down, and everything is ready for you in a convenient place. It's worth it, on every level.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Top 10 reasons why the NBA is taking 72 hours off

10) As Oklahoma City is a full three hour drive away, the teams clearly need time to recover from the arduous travel

9) By giving the Bulls and Heat more time off, the national media gets to avoid still-frozen Chicago a little longer, and that is very, very important

8) If we don't extend this as much as possible, we won't be able to tie the action into more summer blockbusters in ham-handed ads

7) Charles Barkley has been working way too many 6-hour days to possibly keep up with this pace

6) Time off gives the populace the critical time away from heavy rotation ads that are making far too many people want to kill Kill KILL

5) It's Chris Bosh's time of the month, by which we mean that he's got a lot to do around the house and for his family

4) Joakim Noah needs the extra time to muster up the three tickets that his Florida homecoming will demand

3) With two games in South Beach in front of him, Craig Sager needs every possible second to work out wardrobe

2) The extra time will help Thunder Fan figure out what they are going to wear to the game

1) Um, there's probably some sort of money involved

Top 10 reasons why MLB scoring is down

Oh, OK, I know, it's all just the roids. But let's pretend there's more to it...

10) Steroids taking years to finally wash out of bodies

9) Rain is bat kryptonite

8) What with all of the Twittering, no one can concentrate on hitting

7) All of the teams now employing humidifiers, not just Colorado

6) Hitters too confused by advanced sabermetrics to know whether or not it's OK to swing anymore

5) Game no longer appeals or attracts enough African-Americans, which somehow favors pitching

4) Dave Duncan has worked with enough retreads to permanently improve the pitching underclass

3) Now that we know enough to start limiting pitch counts, we have tampered in God's domain

2) Groupies just all over the pitchers and glove men now

1) Everyone just wanted to emulate those oh-so-exciting recent Oakland A's teams

Thursday, May 19, 2011

40 Thunder Mavericks Game Two Takeaways

40) For the second straight night in the playoffs, a game-changing dunk from the road team featured prominently, because some baskets are worth more than others, especially when they redefine awesome

39) Brendan Haywood had three fouls in two minutes in the first half, which is generally hard to do, unless you are Brendan Haywood

38) Mark Jackson went to puns in describing JJ Barea, which is to say that Mark Jakckson went for a scientific experiment in unbearable behavior

37) Dirk Nowitzki got bored of scoring all the points himself, so he decided to become the world's tallest point guard

36) As a short and plucky player, Barea might flop harder than anyone in he Association

35) Watching Jason Kidd own Westbrook was downright Master Sensei-esque

34) Shawn Marion will have borderline Hall of Fame numbers on advanced metrics, mostly because he spent most of his career playing for his generation's best point guards

33) Durant changed the game by dunking on Haywood, and risked scraping his knuckles on the ceiling

32) Dirk picked the wrong time to change out the video tape of him shooting a free throw perfectly

31) DeShawn Stevenson actually had a moment or two that helped his team, but remains a thoroughly regrettable human being

30) Between Peja Stojakovic, Kidd and Barea, the Mavs might lead the league in premature baldness

29) The Thunder remain the most run-tastic team in the playoffs, mostly because Westrbook runs just that hot and cold

28) Tyson Chandler and Shawn Marion made a lot of dunks, which in this series means you lose

27) There is a cottage industry in the psychological examination of Westbrook

26) James Harden's four point play to close the third quarter was nearly as immense as his beard

25) For some reason that defies explanation, Dirk didn't shoot much at all for the first three quarters

24) Kevin Durant got his fourth foul with 10:27 left, and never got his fifth

23) I'm not emotionally prepared to live in a world where Barea is routinely useful, and why he didn't finish the game for Stevenson also boggles the mind

22) I can't be the only person who suffers with intermittent sound on ESPN's HD broadcasts, and given the ESPN broadcasting crew, suffering may be overstating things

21) There are more than a few times every game when Harden is the best player on the Thunder, and in this game, that was the whole damn game

20) The fact that both teams take care of business at the free throw line proves that they aren't fouling hard enough

19) When Nowitzki passes to Stevenson, Thunder Fan smiles

18) Thunder Fan wishes that Andrew Bynum had hit Barea a lot harder

17) Westbrook sat for the entire fourth quarter for Eric Maynor, and the Thunder were better for it, since they moved the ball, got it to their best players, and avoided turnovers

16) Collison blocked and stripped Dirk in crunch time to help give the Thunder their largest lead of the night, and Thunder Fan tremendous white pride... that lasted until the man missed two huge free throws later

15) It's hard to see how either of these teams can win when neither of them can stop the other team's best offensive player

14) The fact that Harden looks and plays like this at age 21 tells me that he may, in fact, be a Muppet

13) Mark Jackson kicked and puled for Westbrook's return in the fourth, despite the fact that he was ice cold and the bench was winning

12) Young bench players aren't supposed to win road games in the Conference Finals against grizzled veterans

11) Dirk fouled out Collison and milked it for three free throws due to his ridiculous body control, but then finally missed one

10) Watching Scott Brooks manage the end of games is just all kinds of amazing, really

9) The Mavs got away with several flagrant fouls under the rim on Peja's late three-second miss

8) In the middle of the biggest road win in franchise history, ESPN was far more concerned about Westbrook's mental state than anything else

7) As we learned after Miami won Game Two, Game One meant nothing and there's all kinds of time to panic

6) Durant was so shocked by the bench's performance and the win, he forgot to thank his deity, which might also be another sign of the upcoming Rapture

5) When you shoot 56% from the floor in a road game, you really should win the damn game

4) The Thunder still haven't lost consecutive games in the playoffs, which really doesn't seem all that impressive or rare, honestly

3) Serge Ibaka sat for most of the fourth quarter as well, but someone avoided psychoanalysis

2) Something else to love about the Thunder is that they are all too young to think that rebounding is someone else's job

1) Since the Thunder bench didn't blow the game late, Brooks gets to be smart... for now

Top 10 Sports Rapture Developments

According to some well-publicized Apocalypse types, the world's coming to an end this Saturday, which just makes me feel all kind of wasteful for having a freezer full of food, and train and subway tickets for beyond this week. But how will a sudden and irreversible loss of virtuous people impact the sports world?

10) Training staffs absolutely decimated, with several athletes actually noticing

9) Overall attendance down, but not in the good seats

8) Mass transit and parking severely compromised, with few conductors and attendants

7) Sports talk radio absolutely unaffected, refuses to notice any difference

6) Craft services limited to fast food take out and booze

5) Tens of millions of fantasy sports players realize that they've actually been gambling, and have made a tragic mistake

4) Cubs and Red Sox Nation saddened to discover that, on a per capita basis, their ranks have been no more or less impacted than the Yankees and Cardinals

3) High schools, minor leagues and low colleges lose a solid 10% of starting athletes, but precious few stars

2) Online advertising revenue drops through the floorboards, as it turns out that only the virtuous click on banner ads

1) Several sports bloggers stop writing, just to better their rep

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

In Game 94, the Heat Get A Fourth

In the third quarter of tonight's Game Two of the Eastern Conference Finals, Miami looked lost at sea. Chicago's suffocating defense was starting to make every possession a tooth pull, an early lead was gone, and LeBron Jame and Dwyane Wade looked spent. With 5:49 left in the third, Miami coach Erik Spoelstra waved in Udonis Haslem for Joel Anthony.

It didn't seem like a series-changing moment. And while Spoelstra talked about how he knew he was going to get something out of Haslem tonight from his recent practices, the first half didn't give any evidence of that.

Forty five seconds later, Haslem fouled Derrick Rose, who made both free throws to bring the Bulls back to two. After a James turnover, Rose went to the rack... and Haslem made the first big play of his year. He got credit for the block, and it wasn't accidental.

In the subsequent break, Mike Bibby found himself trapped in the corner... and Haslem was steaming down the lane like a runaway freight train, resembling the player he once was. Bibby made the pass, and Haslem threw it down with a vengeance that looked, well, life-changing. Keith Bogans tried to stop it, and wound up doing nothing more than getting on the highlight and sending Haslem to the line. One make later, Joakim Noah made a turnover, followed by a James make, and the Heat were back up to six.

Suddenly the Heat had another option, one that took his shots without looking like he needed to ask a superstar for permission first. Haslem made a layup, then drilled a baseline jumper that wasn't even late in the clock. That jumper came from a Jamal Magloire pass, of all things. Miami actually resembled a basketball team, rather than a defense-only team of formerly name guys deferring to the stars.

This isn't to say that everything became peaches and cream. Haslem scored the next four Heat points, but they came over an 8-minute span; had Derrick Rose been able to put it into the ocean tonight, no one would have remembered that Haslem had a rebirth tonight. But since the Heat won, with Haslem giving them a credible power forward presence on a night when Chris Bosh "contributed" 10 and 8 in 42 nearly invisible minutes, that's the way the world works.

Game Three is Sunday, as part of the NBA's annual head-scratching schedule madness. The 90-plus hours and home court should do wonders for Haslem again, but after that, we'll go to every other game. You have to think this won't help the Heat, who aren't looking like they can handle the Bulls' front court depth and bench... but that's what you would have said before tonight's game, and before Haslem showed us this.

And if the Heat had this Haslem all year, rather than the guy who played just 13 games and didn't have a useful effort before tonight?

Well, Miami might be as good as they think they are. And still might become.

25 Heat Bulls Game Two Takeaways

25) In the second quarter, you have to wonder if Dwyane Wade didn't try for a chasedown block not just because he had two fouls, but also because he didn't want to be on another poster

24) When Chicago brings the defensive wood, it doesn't seem like Miami can get a shot off, let alone score... but they can't do that for 48 minutes

23) LeBron James bailed out on defending an end of quarter heave from Luol Deng, and that three points mattered... not at all

22) Stopping Carlos Boozer seems disturbingly easy for a scoring power forward with a great point guard

21) In the first half, Dwyane Wade's degree of difficulty on makes in the paint was off the charts

20) Kyle Korver and Mike Bibby have one job for both of their teams, and spent most of the first half not doing it

19) Udonis Haslem's third quarter dunks was fairly life-changing

18) When Derrick Rose isn't shooting for a good percentage, the Chicago offense really doesn't seem Final Fourish

17) The TNT broadcast crew really doesn't seem to be emotionally ready to handle runs

16) You could have got great odds from the idea that Haslem, Bibby and Jamal Magloire would actually have moments of competence, especially on the road

15) As Haslem's emergence shows, the Heat look a lot better when they actually have a power forward on the floor

14) Defense gets a lot easier to play when the refs put the whistles away

13) Conspiracy Heat Fan has a clear lost possession and a Taj Gibson hanging on the rim violation to add to the files

12) For a team with two stars that get a ton of calls from the refs, the Heat really didn't go to the line in the clutch

11) Dwyane Wade and Omer Asik both bladed, which means this game really should have been on pay per view

10) It would be really hard for the Heat's Big 3 to show up less in the first 7.5 minutes of the fourth quarter tonight

9) James' three with 4:30 left was a terrible possession, three points for the Heat, and the beginning of the end for the Bulls

8) Chicago's a great defensive team with a tremendous defensive coach, so I'm sure there's some genius reason for why Rose was on James for another key fourth-quarter make

7) You can't play defense for as long and as hard as these two teams play, and still have legs for any kind of offense late

6) Gibson's dunk through six hundred pounds of Heat was amazing, and one more reason why Boozer on the floor late does not happen

5) For the second time in this playoffs, Wade knocked an opponent out of the game with physicality

4) Now that Chicago has lost Game Two, everything that we learned at the end of Game One is meaningless

3) Kyle Korver and Mike Bibby aren't the worst defensive players in the Association, but they certainly look that way in this series

2) If James keeps ending teams with fourth quarter closing runs like this, he's going to completely blow his persona as a clutch time choke artist

1) It tells you a lot about the Heat bench that a 13/5 night from Haslem will be fellated for the rest of the week

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