Thursday, May 31, 2007

My Fair GM

The Bobcats officially named Rod Higgins as their GM on Thursday. In a press conference, Higgins thanked owners Michael Jordan and Bob Johnson for the opportunity, and then celebrated the moment with an impromptu rendition of his musical classic, “Why Can’t a Man Be More Like a Woman?” No wait, I’m thinking of Harry Higgins. Anyway, here’s my question: what will Higgins and coach Sam Vincent talk about when the topic of conversation turns to the 2007 playoffs? After all, it was Higgins’ Warriors who shocked and embarrassed Vincent’s Mavericks. Isn’t it still a little too early to put these guys in the same room together? Is there a precedent for this? I’m trying to think of one, but nothing comes to mind. Rodman didn’t go straight from the Pistons to the Bulls, and even the soul-less Yankees waited a year before taking Johnny Damon after the ’04 ALCS.

I’m not sure what to make of the hiring. First, I thought Bernie Bickerstaff was going to stay in the role, so what’s BB going to do now? He is still with us, right? Maybe I’m spooked after having seen Away From Her. Second, this entire time I thought the GM of the Warriors was Chris Mullin—this is the first I’ve ever heard that Higgins was actually Golden State’s GM. I mean, it’s always Mullin who does those chat sessions with Chad Ford in which the guest GM answers every single question with, “Well, at the end of the year we’ll evaluate our options and go from there.” Third, isn’t this almost like the GM-equivalent of signing Bonzi Wells or Jerome James? Are we just signing a guy because he managed to put together one great playoff series, even though his entire regular season was borderline crappy? Golden State hadn’t made the playoffs since Coolio was an up-and-coming MC, and they only snuck in this year on the last game of the season—not exactly Red Auerbach material. Granted, it was a great move on the Warriors’ part to get rid of some wildly overpaid players in the Dunleavy/Murphy-Jackson/Harrington heist, but c’mon, Indiana had no leverage on that one. The Pacers were trying to offload Jackson only because it was illegal to have him murdered; with every game, you’d see Larry Bird in the stands looking more and more like Phil Spector, so I'm not prepared to give Higgins that much credit.

Other ruminations: I was really hoping the Jazz could extend their series at least one more game, because it’s going to be forever until the Finals and the draft at this pace. With the Yankees rapidly devolving into the cast of Cocoon, I don’t know how I’m going to entertain myself until then (other than trying to keep control of my raging id of a dog, Lincoln). Are there any good movies out now? It seems like everything involves either pirates or penguins; they ought to just come out with The Pirates of Penguin Island and get it out of their system—maybe throw in Will Farrell and Steve Cassell while they’re peaking and it’d practically guarantee at least a hundred mil gross over the first weekend.

And oh yeah, while I’m thinking about it: he was a pioneer, and he seems like a good guy and all, but PLEASE, no more rapping, Mr. KRS-One. I just downloaded the new single, “Classic (Better Than I’ve Ever Been),” with Kanye West, Nas, and KRS, and I won’t even sugarcoat it: his verse is embarrassing. It’s seriously just, like, 8 rhyming couplets (e.g., “Peace, love, unity, having fun/These are the lyrics of KRS-One!”) Ugh. I’ve heard more intricate rhyming out of Dr. Seuss. It reminded me of every now and then when the WWE carts out one of their past 80s/early 90s wrestlers for nostalgia’s sake, and you realize that a) not only are they awkward and horrible, but b) they’re actually not much worse than how they were originally. In fact, I would say that rap and wrestling are two art forms that have advanced the furthest in 25 years; you wouldn’t want to watch most wrestling from the 80s because it’s slow and simplistic, and for the exact same reasons, you wouldn’t want to hear most rap from that era either. Discuss…

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Sam Vincent, Come On Down!

That scraping sound you hear is either a) Kris Jenkins polishing off his 10th straight bowl of Frankenberry, or b) Charlotte basketball fans collectively scratching their heads over the news that Sam Vincent is the Bobcats’ new head coach. It’s absolutely impossible for me to analyze anything of his professional background, because he basically hasn’t a professional background. However, I can confirm that he is NOT related to former KISS guitarist Vinnie Vincent (nor is he a fan, as he is on the record as being loyal to Ace Frehley*).

I would make some joke about Michael Jordan hiring his former Bulls teammate as a head coach only because MJ once lost a bet to him, but with MJ’s history, I’m worried that could actually be what happened. I’m also a little disappointed we weren’t able to get old Larry Brown to call the shots, but that’s not because I think LB is some sort of coaching savant. It’s more because I was curious to see how a man who famously refuses to put in young, unproven players would coach a team that consists of nothing but young, unproven players.

So what the heck, I’m throwing my support to Coach Vincent. As far as I’m concerned, a coach’s significance is overrated anyway. Take the Warriors just now: people keep saying that Don Nelson “out-coached” Avery Johnson, when in fact I think the exact OPPOSITE happened: Nelson didn’t coach AT ALL. Seriously, did it look like the Warriors were operating under any type of “system” out there? Hell no; every single game was total chaos. Nelson’s coaching “strategy” was the equivalent of unleashing a pack of starving pit bulls, and it worked perfectly. Stephen Jackson, Baron Davis, Jason Richardson, et al, were constantly a threat to either score 30 points or get ejected in the first 5 minutes. Thoroughly spooked, the Mavericks had no answer.

Coach Vincent is young enough to relate to the kids, yet old enough to keep ‘em in line. He’s got Brevin Knight to act as on-court drill sergeant, and the underrated J.B. Bickerstaff and Jeff Capel as his cabinet members. Roll the ball out there and let’s play…

*I completely made all of that up

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Thumbs Up/Sideways/Down

Thumbs Up: The Draft Lottery, Portland, Seattle, Atlanta
A fresh, crispy, hot-off-the-grill plate of poetic justice for the Grizzlies, Bucks, and Celtics; meanwhile, rewards to three teams who kept trying all year. I’m still a little wary of Greg Oden; maybe it’s that he didn’t ever seem that dominating in college, or maybe it’s that he spookily looks like Michael Finley’s head transplanted on Kevin Garnett’s body. But there’s no denying that Portland will soon have one of the most solid, young nuclei of talent since the show Three’s Company. As the prized centerpiece, Oden will be the Jack Tripper of the bunch, while Brandon Roy is the reliable playmaker/set-up man Janet, and LeMarcus Aldridge can be Larry—not in every show, but always a threat to steal every scene when he does appear. Needless to say, Zach Randolph is Chrissy: unquestionably the superstar but also a near certainty to be fired, and when—not if—that happens, Portland can replace him with some Cindy and Terry back-ups who maybe are not as explosive, but who are underrated just the same. Presiding over it all is Nate “Mr. Roper” McMillan: not just the landlord supporting actor but a superstar in his own right, capable of his own spin-off team down the line.

As for Seattle, Kevin Durant will be the best thing to happen to this city since the band Mother Love Bone broke up to form Soundgarden and Pearl Jam. And finally, the Atlanta Hawks, have been like the anti-Detroit Lions: while the Lions continue to draft wide receivers they don’t need, the Hawks have continued to not draft point guards that they desperately need. Will they finally come to their senses and get someone like Conley, Jr.?

Thumbs Sideways: LeBron James
I didn’t have a big problem with LBJ passing off at the end of the Cavs' loss to Detroit. I thought he should have taken it himself, but on the other hand, a) he was going to his left, and b) my dog Lincoln—already licking my face passionately—was on the verge of turning it into a full-fledged make-out session, so I didn’t get to see the play too well. The bigger problem is that he only shot 5/15 overall and didn’t get to the foul line once—very strange that he held back like that. It was almost like an intentional strategy on Cleveland’s part. Once the second quarter started, I kept waiting for the cameras to suddenly cut to Coach Mike Brown screaming something in Russian, immediately followed by LeBron exploding on the Pistons like Ivan Drago did on Apollo Creed in Rocky IV. But it never happened; it was like a trap that never sprung.

But also, what’s poor LBJ supposed to do with this lot? The team as a whole shot 37%, lowlighted by the point guards going a combined 0/8. And 1/10 on 3-pointers? C’mon, you’re not going to beat the Detroit Shock with those numbers, let alone the Pistons. Blaming any of this on LeBron is akin to blaming Robert De Niro for the movie City By the Sea; no matter how good the lead actor is, he can’t make up for a mediocre supporting cast and a poor production staff.

Thumbs Down: Jerry West and Marty Burns
Though we were treated to that all-you-can-eat buffet of karma for the deliberately tanking teams, we unfortunately had to wash it down with a tall glass of piss-and-moan out of Jerry West afterwards. “The worst teams suffer the most, and they need the help. If you’re in a small market and you happen to have a bad year, it’s a big problem,” the Logo Man whimpered to’s Marty Burns. Shockingly, Burns agreed, arguing that “there is no proof they (tanked games). On the contrary, both teams won games late that they easily could have lost without anybody questioning it.”

Marty, are you kidding me!?!? Do you remember the lineups the Grizzlies, Bucks, and Celtics were fielding in the second half of the season!? They were like scab teams. “No proof”? They might as well have bloody gloves and DNA-matching hair follicles on their Ford Broncos. And as for West’s pathetic “small market” cop-out, Memphis is the 12th largest U.S. city in the league, ahead of the likes of Boston, Denver, DC, Atlanta, Cleveland, Miami, and Minneapolis. West sounds like a fat guy trying to sue McDonald’s. I hate it when GMs and owners euphemize “fan disinterest” with “small market.” Like I said, justice is done.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Thumbs Up/Sideways/Down

No "Sideways" today, I'm just going to Billy Joel-like extremes...

Thumbs Up: Nightmare Scenarios
True story: In Autumn 2004, I was deployed to the beautiful country of Iraq, and the day after the Red Sox defeated the Yankees in Game 7 of the ALCS, I was stuck on duty in my unit’s headquarters. As a deranged Bronx Bomber supporter, I was already deeply shaken over what I considered to be the ultimate nadir: seeing the Sox celebrate on Stadium grounds after the Yankees choked worse than Christopher Moltisanti. And yet it somehow got worse for me, as headquarters received a satellite feed that showed a continuous loop of the final out/celebration for the next 24-hours. So the images were burned permanently into my brain, and with 4 TVs posted--one on each wall--there was no turning away from it; it was a Clockwork Orange-style torture chamber. Despite all that went on during that yearlong deployment, it’s hard to imagine a more perfectly-tailored personal hell than that horrific day.

So I can sympathize with two recent “doomsday” victims: the Suns and Bulls. Who is Phoenix Public Enemy #1? Well, Robert Horry literally made a strong push for it, but I would think Bruce Bowen is still first on the Suns’ Most Hated List. And guess who drilled the tiebreaking 3-pointer with about 30 seconds left in Game 5? Double B. Then, in the decisive 3rd quarter of Game 6, Bruce had 8 points—including 2 dagger 3’s—and a steal on Nash to put the Suns on ice. Doesn’t Alice Cooper own a sports bar in the greater-Phoenix area? Maybe he can bust out one of his old guillotines and stage some Bowen beheadings.

Similarly, how could it have gone any worse for the Bulls? I suppose they could have been swept outright, or maybe Kirk Hinrich could have lost his eligibility by revealing he’s an android (have you seen his picture on Dude looks like the Silver Surfer with a wig). But still, Chicago paid top dollar for the Pistons’ Ben Wallace—in what was perceived as a major coup—only to fall to Detroit in the playoffs in six flaccid games. Worse, Wallace was positively brutal in the last game: 6 points and 7 boards, plus he only played 29 minutes with a gimpy back. And this was supposed to be his best season, too; from now on he’ll be on the decline AND costing $15 mil per year. Have a nice summer, Chicago fans…

Thumbs Down: Miami Vice
I saw this monstrosity over the weekend, and it was just an abominable mess, a sprawling disaster. Where to begin…I mean, if there was a running theme to this movie, it was “incoherence.” Right from the start, you couldn’t read any of the credits, because they were smaller than the last line of an eye exam chart. Next, just about every last bit of dialogue was mumbled or snarled gibberish, and those were just Colin Farrell’s and Jaime Foxx’s parts; the rest of the cast’s garbling was even worse. When the most coherent character in the movie is a thick-accented Korean-Cuban, your cast has got enunciation problems. Not that it mattered much, because I think there was more motor revving (boats, cars, planes) than actual speaking in this movie. The plot had something to do with drugs and/or a double agent, although I don’t seem to recall either ever being located—perhaps they were stashed in Farrell’s atrocious Scott Stapp hairdo. And Farrell and Foxx had less chemistry together than Neo and Trinity. At one point they did a “fist-bump” (before revving up an engine), and that was about it; Turner and Hooch had more charisma than these two. And just once I’d like to see a cop movie without the FBI and the local police arguing over “whose jurisdiction” it is. Why is this always a problem? If it was me, and someone else wanted to do the extra work, I’d be like, “Hell, knock yourself out…”

Friday, May 18, 2007

Thumbs Up/Sideways/Down

Thumbs Up: Old Athletes
I just can’t tell you how happy I am to see guys like Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, Pete Sampras, Brett Favre, Scottie Pippen, Barry Bonds, Evander Holyfield, Ken Griffey, Jr., Frank Thomas, and Ricky Henderson always dominating the headlines…because I’m not happy about it. At all. Not one of those oldsters is going to have any impact on their teams’ championship hopes this year (except maybe a negative one), yet the talking heads refuse to quit discussing them. The spotlight on the feeble Favre is particularly inexplicable, considering he plays for a team in Wisconsin that hasn’t been to the Super Bowl in a decade. I can’t imagine the kind of press A-Rod’s going to command by the time he turns 40. But you go, gramps, and get yours as long as you can (even if I’m convinced this is all because a lot of sportswriters are too lazy to learn the names of new players).

Thumbs Sideways: Opposing Players’ Relationships
Are guys on opposing teams supposed to love or hate each other? I guess it depends on who you ask. Venting his disgust over the Bulls-Pistons series, in which nobody was assaulted and the teams merely played basketball games against each other, ESPN’s Chris Sheridan advises the following: “You must hate, and if you can't bring yourself to hate, you at least have to feel a deep, deep dislike for the guys wearing the other uniform.” Man, I’m surprised Chris didn’t end that transmission with “God is great!” and submit it through the Al-Jazeera network.

On the other hand, William C. Rhoden, in Forty Million Dollar Slaves, falls just short of likening modern athletes to attack pit bulls, raised in cages and trained to kill each other for the amusement of their owners. “Although the NBA is filled with black players of similar backgrounds, they’ve been unable be to form a supportive community…because the (recruiting) Conveyor Belt, with its breeding of competitive spirit, does not engender camaraderie and kinship.”

I personally think both guys need to calm down. The Bulls didn’t win this series mostly because they shot worse than Dick Cheney, they have no low-post presence, and their guards aren’t very good at penetrating. Pontificate all you want, but I just don’t believe this series really was “symbolic” of anything…

Thumbs Down: The Orlando Magic
I keep reading about how they’re a “team on the rise,” and I’m sorry but, no, they’re not. Yes, they have Dwight Howard—good for them—but that’s it. I mean, do you honestly believe Hedo Turkoglu is going to vastly improve? Ditto for Jameer Nelson, with his 13 points and 4 assists per game? I know Nelson will only be entering his 4th season next year, but remember, he played all 4 years in college—I just don’t see how much higher his ceiling can go. Grant Hill’s most likely out the door, and the rest are all bit players: Ariza, Arroyo, Dooling, and the incomparable Darko Milicic. What am I not seeing here? The Magic’s appeal is as mysterious to me as Young Jeezy’s: darlings with the media, yet I see nothing but mediocre skills and limited upside.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thumbs Up/Sideways/Down

Thumbs Up: The Utah Jazz
They’re off to the Western Conference Finals, even though they were mostly dreadful last night. With 25 turnovers and 21/33 shooting from the free throw line, they were like a team of Inspector Gadgets. Remember Inspector Gadget? He used to solve all the cases despite never having any clue what he was doing—he would always come out on top essentially by accident. Meanwhile, Kirilenko (21 and 15) and Boozer (21 and 14) were sort of like the “Penny” and “Brain” of the group and did all the work.

One thing that totally baffled me: with about 3 minutes left and the Warriors trailing by one, TNT commentator Doug Collins said that Golden State coach Don Nelson “couldn’t have scripted this any better.” Wha?? Why would any coach prefer to be trailing late in a game on the road, let alone the coach of the most volatile team in the league? Throughout the playoffs, this had been exactly the type of situation in which the Warriors lose their cool, and sure enough Stephen “Dr. Claw” Jackson picked up stupid technicals and that was it for the Bay Area Believers. No, I’m sure if he’d had a choice, Coach Nelson would have scripted something else, like maybe being up by 20 and a water bottle full of Old Granddad tucked under his chair.

Thumbs Sideways: The Cleveland Cavaliers
Please win tonight and end this series; the only reason I’m rooting for Cleveland is because they’re ahead. These games are like 48 minutes of watching Christopher Moltisanti asphyxiate on his own blood. I do feel bad for Jason Kidd, though, who could’ve been goin’ back to Cali, Cali, Cali had Nets GM Rod Thorn not said, “I don’t think so.” Think of what a wonderful world it would have been: the Lakers might have been more competitive in the first round of the playoffs, we would have been spared from this series because the Nets wouldn’t have been in the playoffs to begin with, and Cleveland could have gotten bounced in the first round by some other team, because they suck too. I mean, seriously, Sasha Pavolovic is actually starting for them.

Thumbs WAY Down: Suspensions for Amare and Boris
I don’t have much original to say about this, but my thumbs haven’t been this far down since I saw the movie Babel (did we really need to see that Moroccan kid masturbating over his sister? Was that really advancing the already ridiculous plot? C’mon, editors). These suspensions are basically a permutation of what we see in other sports: the if-I-make-an-exception-here-than-I-have-to-for-everyone dislogic. You see it in everything from suspensions to not letting players honor someone with innocuous marks on their uniforms. Here’s the thing: no you don’t have to treat everyone the same. You're not Immanuel Kant, you’re a commissioner, and you can and should run your entire league using broad rules with arbitrary enforcement.

How did strict, irrational interpretation of the rules become the dominant methodology in our nation’s sports leagues when it’s so un-American? I mean, the Supreme Court revisits cases all the time, the Constitution gets amended, Oprah withdraws her support from James Frey…

In any event, it’s obviously pointless to argue the absurdity of these suspensions when Stu Jackson actually tells ESPN’s Chris Sheridan, "It's not a matter of fairness. It's a matter of correctness, and this is the right decision." Right there, you know what you’re dealing with: someone who feels fundamentally different about things and isn’t budging. Your might as well be trying to convince Jerry Falwell of evolution or Kitana Baker that Miller Lite tastes great…

Monday, May 14, 2007

Thumbs Up/Sideways/Down

Thumbs Up: Tim Duncan
I have to admit, I downplayed San Antonio’s Game 1 victory in Phoenix, because a) Steve Nash was neutralized in the final minute, and b) I didn’t think Tim Duncan would be able to duplicate his 33-point/16-rebound/3-block performance. But although his teammates have been inconsistent, Duncan’s been a rock, a Simonian-Garfunklian island. He got 29/11/2 in Game 2, and 33/19/3 on Saturday. Basically, he not only duplicated Game 1, he’s sending out mass distros of it.

Thumbs Sideways: The Phoenix Suns
I still think Phoenix can, um, rise again, provided Nash rallies his troops. I think Steve is secretly thankful for that bloody nose, because it gives him street cred (look what public bleeding did for Curt Schilling)—it’s like when a rapper gets shot. Steve has now become the “Fabolous” of the NBA: both were formerly well-respected in their professions but not really regarded as tough, and now Steve’s been bloodied and Fab’s been shot. On the other hand, there’s a limit to how much of a beating one can take before it becomes counterproductive, and I think Nash reached that threshold in Game 3 when he went down in a heap after Bruce Bowen did a “Lord of the Dance” number on his testicles. Watching him flop to the floor in agony, I thought that if only Nash had Sandman-like powers, then Bowen’s knee could have burst through harmlessly like Spiderman’s punch. As for Fab, I’m fully expecting at least 2-3 references to his gunshot wound per song on his upcoming album--anything less would be a totally wasted opportunity.

Thumbs Down: My dog’s teeth
Lincoln is a non-stop chewing machine. He’s gone through three power chords, a mouse chord, two turntables, a microphone (not really), my flip-flops, and a chair. When I locked him in the kitchen the other day and removed all furniture, he actually began chewing the wall. Sometimes I just let him gnaw on my hand—even though it hurts, at least I can be sure he’s not destroying something else. Has anyone ever tried to feed a dog Bubblicious (if only I’d kept some of that awful military surplus gum that Topps used to put in their packs of baseball cards)? We got him this little muzzle made of cloth, but it took me more time to get it out of its plastic container than it did for him to chew through it. So now I think I'm going to have to up the ante and get him some sort of Hannibal Lecter mask...

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Thumbs Up/Sideways/Down

Thumbs Up: The Sopranos
I’ve been into this show for a long time, at first only because a lot of it takes place in my hometown (and Peter King’s as well, which we know because he mentions it about every two paragraphs): Montclair, NJ. In fact, Applegate Farm, where Phil took his publicly defecating nephew for ice cream in last week’s episode, is literally a five-minute walk from my old house (we actually used to walk there after dinner for ice cream during summers when I was growing up). So at first I watched mostly because there was actually a legitimate chance each week that someone might get whacked in one of my old neighbors’ front yards. But like everyone else, I stayed with it because it was and is one of the best shows on television.

Except this year, it seemed like it was suffering from “Hogan’s Family” syndrome, meaning there were huge crises on each episode that came out of nowhere and were then miraculously resolved within one show. The Hogan Family epitomized lazy 80s sitcom programming by taking tidy, 30-minute conflict resolutions to their extreme: the mother was killed off and the family barely blinked, the entire house burnt down and they were back in it the next week, best friend Bert announced he was HIV-positive and within one episode was dying in Mike’s arms…As I said, this was characteristic of lots of crappy 80s shows, but it seemed like The Hogan Family was the most egregious.

And now it seemed like The Sopranos was falling into that trap. I don’t know if it was because it’s the last season or what, but out of the blue Johnny Sack had cancer and was dead almost immediately, Tony suddenly had a severe gambling problem and was on the verge of squandering all his money on football games, etc. But they recovered this week with the best episode I’ve seen in a while, and it made use of all the slow-burning conflicts that have made the show much more realistic than others: Christopher’s ongoing heroin addiction, AJ’s romantic woes, the Middle Eastern thugs who may be terrorists, etc. Phew, it brought me back, and just in the nick of time. For a second there I was worried that they were going to have an episode in which either a) Meadow finds out she needs braces while she’s trying to impress a cute guy at school, or b) a wacky neighbor moves in next door who drives Tony crazy with his zany antics.

Thumbs Sideways: Crying in Public
Seems like everyone was turning on the waterworks this past week. First Andrei Kirilenko went all Jimmy Swaggart on us, and then it was T-Mac in a press conference that would have given Jimmy Dugan an aneurism. Even Tony Soprano lost it at Dr. Melfi’s office. The results have been mixed. As I mentioned above, The Sopranos episode was one of the best ones I’ve ever seen, and AK has come back in a huge way: 20 points, 9 boards, and 5 assists last night, plus 6 blocked shots, AND he played some competent point guard with Derek Fisher out (that is, until DF made a dramatic return wearing what I at first mistook for a Green Lantern costume), Derron Williams sitting with fouls, and Dee Brown possibly paraplegic. AK did everything except goad Don Nelson into a fight with Jerry Sloan, which I’ve been secretly hoping for because it would allow me to imagine what a fight between Phil Donahue and Ted Kennedy might look like.

T-Mac, on the other hand, might want to pace himself with his sprinkler system, because I don’t see how the Rockets are going to get better without a miracle draft pick or a free agency signing. T-Mac, Yao, Alston, and Battier have all peaked, they’re sorely lacking a point guard, Hayes is a backup at best, and Howard and Mutombo are at the bottom of their career downslopes.

Thumbs Down: David Halberstam’s Death
I know this was several days ago, but I just felt like paying homage to a master craftsman. I’m in the middle of Playing For Keeps: Michael Jordan and & the World He Made, with an emphasis on the “World.” Everything is covered here—everything: MJ’s entire playing career thru '98, all his teammates, even all his rivals (the Pistons and Celtics each get a full chapter; Phil Jackson gets several), David Stern, the entire league including all significant owners and agents, ESPN, and on and on. Halberstam could have just called this book Sports in the Late 80s to Early 90s because it’s such a thorough tour de force. And yet I zipped through it in a few days because it’s so engaging. I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t read The Breaks of the Game yet, which apparently is a must for any hard-core hoops fan. But it looks like it’s out of print, because they’re all, like, $80 on If anyone knows of an available copy that’s cheaper than an Eagles boxed set of CDs, please let me know.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Thumbs Up/Sideways/Down

Thumbs Up: The Western Conference Playoffs Second Round
Last night’s Jazz-Warriors game featured four double-doubles, six 20-point scorers, and a largest lead of just ten points. The Suns and Spurs, meanwhile, had a largest lead of just 8 points, field goal percentages of 50 and 46, three 30-point performances, 16 rebounds from Duncan, 18 rebounds for the supposedly beaten Stoudemire, and the added bonus of Steve Nash looking like Jake LaMotta. Unless Nash starts Game 2 wearing leopard-print boxing trunks, it’s going to be hard to top what’s transpired so far.

We also might have a new hero (or antihero, depending on whether you’re an irrational Cleveland fan) in Carlos Boozer. Everyone’s been talking about how Yao couldn’t guard Booze in Houston’s opening round loss to Utah, but I think the more significant fact is that Boozer could guard Yao. Ming had 16 30+ point games during the regular season (even with two months lost to injury) and not a single one during the 7-game series. Yao also turned the ball over 4 or more times in 6 of the 7 playoff games (well over his career average of 3.42), and averaged a rebound less per game than he did during the regular season. This was mostly due to Boozer, with some help from Paul Millsap, despite the fact that both of them looked like Rocky trying to fight Thunderlips.

Thumbs Sideways: The Bobcats Coaching Search
Well, if we can’t get quality, we might as well go for quantity. Now Sam Vincent’s been thrown into the candidate pool. In the Observer, Rick Bonnell writes that although Vincent hasn’t even been a lead assistant yet, “he has a wide range of coaching experience, domestic and international, men and women.” So at least we know he’s probably not going to sexually harass any of the players, but I’m not sure if this makes him qualified. Michael Jordan has talked about searching for “the next Avery Johnson,” but we might want to re-think that strategy now. All I know is, at this rate I want to re-sign Okafor, Wallace, and Carroll, then go get Vince Carter, Rashard Lewis, and Chauncey Billups, because it doesn’t seem like we’re going to be throwing money at any coaches.

Thumbs Down: The Eastern Conference Playoffs Second Round
The Bulls look completely overmatched against the Pistons. Did you see Michael Sweetney lumbering in last night right out of the buffet line? That wins this week’s Phil Hughes Call-Up Desperation Award. Kirk Hinrich says the team needs to get their “swagger back,” but I’m sure Chicago fans would happily settle for him just getting a made field goal back (0-7, 2 points). Andres Nocioni suddenly can’t dribble, and Ben Gordon can’t due much of anything competently except foul opponents, and I love how Chicago is suddenly hoping and praying for more out of PJ Brown after they had him on the trading block to last-place Memphis practically all season.

While the Nets don’t look completely overmatched against the Cavs, both teams look equally crappy. Plus the Continental Airlines Arena is so quiet the PA announcer doesn’t even need a loudspeaker. I couldn’t believe how subdued it was there for Game 6 against Toronto, even though the game went down to the wire. Heck, the Bobcats Arena was more pumped up for our season finale against the Knicks.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

Thumbs Up/Sideways/Down

Thumbs Up: Golden State Warriors
There really isn’t anything else to say that hasn’t already been said endlessly. This series has been dissected worse than a frog in 7th grade biology class, except for two things:

1. When did Matt Barnes become psychotic looking? I hadn’t watched him closely since the Bobcats went out there and beat them (which makes the Mavs’ inability to win at the Oracle even MORE humiliating, by the way), but he’s like a “before” and “after” Travis Bickle.

2. Everyone keeps joking about Andres Biedrins’ horrible foul shooting technique, and I find those kinds of personal attacks tasteless and juvenile…especially when what they ought to be concentrating on is his massive overuse of fake tan oil—dude’s approaching He-Man Bronze. Seriously, though, he was the key to Game 6, when he defended the hoop like it was the secrets of Castle Grayskull. In the critical third quarter, with the Warriors up 62-57 and 7:30 left in the period, AB grabbed 4 rebounds, drew 2 fouls, and had a blocked shot over the next 4-and-a-half minutes. The Mavericks didn’t score again until AB subbed out with 2:51 left. He played like He-Man and made Dirk Nowitzki look like Kringer. Thanks to him, Dirk now has a reservation for 1 at Peyton Manning’s old suite in the A-Rod Circle of Postseason Failure Hell.

Thumbs Sideways: Major League Baseball
I’m a Yankees fan…need I say more? I can’t tell you how happy I was to see Jaret Wright gone, only to find out that Kei Igawa is basically a Japanese bootleg copy of him. So as long as the Yanks screw it up, I’m forced to keep scrolling around the Extra Innings package. Two days ago I stumbled on a Royals broadcast, and I urge you to check it out if you get a chance, because their broadcast station, RSTN, is comically cheap. It’s public access-level bad; they’re not even capable of putting up graphics for the opposing team’s batters. RSTN makes News14 Bobcats broadcasts look like Star Wars movies.

Thumbs Down: The President’s Veto
Regardless of your political affiliation, explain to me how setting deadlines is “micromanaging”?

Thursday, May 03, 2007

NBA Playoff notes, etc.

Guess who’s back, back again…

Sorry it’s been so long since I’ve had a chance to enrich your life with my infinite wisdom, but I’ve been busy with end-of-the-year schoolwork. And I’m proud to add that I was NOT one of 34 people caught cheating on my finals (or at least no one’s said anything to me yet), but that’s more a testament to my not having any friends to cheat with than it is my integrity. Anyway, in the spirit of plagiarism, I feel like bootlegging “Thumbs Up/Down”-style blogs, so here goes:

Thumbs Up: Mavericks-Warriors
Anyhow, just like everyone else, I’ve been sucked into the Mavs-Warriors series like a bag of Capri Sun. Game 5 was so exciting, I actually began having bizarre hallucinations that featured Tracy McGrady wearing a kilt. It was like a heavyweight boxing match, specifically Creed-Balboa I. Every shot landed like a bomb, and it always seemed to be either a thunderous dunk or a 3-pointer. On a personal note, what was really weird was that I taped the game, but I underestimated how long it took, and I ran out of tape PRECISELY after Davis hit the trey that put Golden State up by 9 with 3 minutes to go. Annoyed as I was, I remember thinking that at least I was able to see the last significant play of the game. It wasn’t until I saw Sportscenter that I realized my VHS ran out of juice at the same moment as the Warriors.

Thumbs Sideways: Panthers Draft
I guess it went okay…right? That seems to be the consensus opinion. One thing that bothers me: I actually happen to be a Miami Hurricanes fan who watched every one of their sorry games last year, and I have almost no recollection of Jon Beason whatsoever. For the same reason, I don’t know what the Patriots saw in Merriweather or the Bears saw with Greg Olson, because this was an awful Miami team last year; they played about as impressively as George Bush did on those bongos last week. To be fair, in Olson’s case the quarterbacks were like Woody Harrelson’s character in Wildcats: they could run, they could throw, they just couldn’t run and throw. But still, I’m more shocked than anybody that three Canes landed in the first round. Although who knows, maybe Beason will really impress me. Perhaps it’s just the name: “Jon.” I’ve always been wary about missing-“h” “Jon’s”—Jon Bon Jovi, Jon-Benet Ramsay, and most of all: Jonathan Taylor-Thomas, the Machiavellian middle child on Home Improvement.

Thumbs Sideways: Bobcats Head Coach Search
I’m somehow containing my excitement about the possibility of landing Paul Silas, with his illustrious 355-400 lifetime coaching record. Could we have a more lateral move? Now I see we’re up to 5 candidates, and the answer is obvious: we need to do this reality TV-style: Who Wants to Be a Head Coach? or American Coach or something…

Thumbs Down: Paul Wolfowitz
I haven’t been this embarrassed about a fellow American in nearly five minutes. This is a man who became Undersecretary of Defense despite having no military background whatsoever (although in this administration, I suppose that makes him the perfect candidate), then does such a lousy job at it that he gets canned…only to become the President of the World Bank?!?! What about his performance as a UnderSecDef made anyone think he should then head a bank? And now he’s screwing that up too by giving perks to his girlfriend! People, can we please stop hiring this man? He clearly couldn’t manage a pro wrestler, let alone some of the most important organizations in the world.

Thumbs Down: LeBron James
Have you seen him in that USA Basketball spot? “It-is-an-honor-and-a-privilege-to-put-on-the-USA-basketball-uniform.” It can’t be that much of an honor and a privilege if you need to read a cue card to say the line. And how about a little feeling there, Mr. Global Icon? He looks and sounds about as convincing as a hostage assuring us that he is being treated well.