Saturday, May 24, 2008

Saturday 05/24 (Very) Quickie

Sorry for the delay: Moving sucks. Lakers won't impress me until they win in San Antonio. Doug Davis' return trumped Barry Zito getting off the schneid. More later. Back to packing hell. - DS

Friday, May 23, 2008

Friday 05/23 A.M. Quickie:
Celtics, MLB Replay, Lila Garrity, More

I am overwhelmed by schadenfreude about the Celtics. Everyone saw this coming; the only question now is: If they can't even beat the Hawks in Atlanta, how will they beat the Pistons in Detroit? The Celtics may very well be able to beat the Pistons in Detroit 1 out of 3 times, but now that they have lost at home, the sense of "unbeatable" has evaporated.

That's the lead of today's Sporting News column.

(Adding insult to injury is that it was the best playoff game from the entirety of the Big Three, and it still wasn't enough. Maybe Celtics fans will stop haranguing Ray Allen about his scoring, because they did a lot better when he was sucking.)

Meanwhile, if it wasn't for the Celtics' dud at home, I would have totally led the column with the MLB replay story, which is totally huge. For those of us who have been lobbying for replay in baseball for years, this is a very positive step -- this week's home-run mis-calls surely helped. (Look: Better now than in a World Series game.)

The fact is: Replay works. The only instance I can think of when it doesn't work is in college football, when the replay official DOESN'T review an obviously messed up call. That, and the ludicrous guidelines about what is "reviewable" and what is not (ie, penalty calls).

Baseball had been holding out because of this misplaced sense of nostalgia -- that umps are part of the game. But I would argue that it holds up the spirit of the game's "integrity" to get the calls right -- particularly when all we're asking for is fair-or-foul (or fan interference) on home runs.

Technology is a wonderful thing: Nice to see baseball taking advantage of it to ensure the fairest outcome of its games.

I'll be blogging all weekend -- including Memorial Day -- for those of you who check in on the weekends. Otherwise, have a great weekend, everyone. While you are lazing around, don't forget to take a moment to remember the service of those for whom the holiday was created.

-- D.S.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Pat Jordan Rules

Read this Pat Jordan piece ASAP.

Thursday 05/22 A.M. Quickie:
Kobe, Man U, Webb, Mayo, Joba, More

The Spurs ran out of gas, as much as Kobe stepped on the pedal. Besides, Game 1 ain't Game 7, which is where this is heading.

That's the lead of today's Sporting News column.

More you'll find:

Brandon Webb: No longer destined for 30 wins...
Joba Chamberlain: No longer shackled to 1 inning...
Bartolo Colon: One more master stroke by Theo...
USC: Parsing "didn't know" in a shameful way...
Man U: Lucky that Chelsea choked it away...
David Cook: Most talented Idol winner ever...

And more, here's the link.

If you didn't see yesterday's post on Indiana Jones, just look directly below this post -- and weigh in, if that's your thing.

- D.S.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Indiana Jones: Best Movie Hero Ever?

I have a special place for Indiana Jones, arguably the greatest lead action hero in movie history.

"Raiders of the Lost Ark" was the first movie I have any sort of memory of seeing. Two flashing images remain -- cripes: was it really 1981?

(1) The line to see it. It was huge, like nothing I had ever seen before, snaking around the modest strip-mall on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, Maryland.

(2) At the end, of course, when the main Nazi baddie's face melts off.

Later, "Temple of Doom" was right in my then-11-year-old wheelhouse; I didn't care much for "Last Crusade."

But, much in part due to its particular nostalgic significance for me, "Raiders" remains one of my all-time most cherished movies ever -- if no longer a Top 5 (or even Top 10) favorite.

I'm not sure I will make the midnight screenings tonight -- or even try to brave the insane lines during this opening weekend...I think I had to be 8 to have the patience for that.

But I can't wait to see it, and I'm curious how you all feel about the Indiana Jones franchise.

You all know I'm a sucker for superlatives, and there might not be a better or more beloved lead action hero in movie history. (Certainly in my lifetime.)

-- D.S.

PS: Here's a trip in the way-back machine -- the original trailer for "Raiders." 27 years later, wow, have trailers become different.

Wednesday 05/21 A.M. Quickie:
Bulls, Lottery, A-Rod, Piazza, NFL, More

I appreciate that "Beasley vs. Rose" is sort of like "Durant vs. Oden 2.0," but to me it's clear that the Bulls should take Rose.

The Lottery leads today's Sporting News column, bumping Game 1 of the East finals, which couldn't be more predictable and lame -- at least until someone wins a road game or the series reaches a 7th game, whichever comes first.

Yes, the Bulls need the frontcourt help and Beasley would be an instant scorer to pair with the less scoring-sophisticated Tyrus Thomas and Joakim Noah. But Rose has the potential for impact on the Chris Paul/Deron Williams level. He will make Thomas and Noah (and Deng, if they keep him) that much better -- in a way that Kirk Hinrich and Ben Gordon can't.

(The Bulls are likely regretting giving Hinrich that huge contract extension, but not quite as much as Mike D'Antoni is likely regretting not taking the Bulls job, although if he took the job, there is no guarantee the Bulls would have pulled the 1-in-100 chance of winning the Lottery.)

Things get intriguing after Rose and Beasley go 1-2 (or 2-1) to the Bulls and Heat. The T'wolves should be taking advantage of Jerryd Bayless or even OJ Mayo. But with the past two Lotteries yielding Randy Foye and Corey Brewer (not to mention Rashad McCants the year before that), they really need size, and that means they have to go with -- ugh -- Brook Lopez, who seems to be rated this high simply because he is 7 feet tall.

The Sonics need a PG. The Grizzlies need a PF. The Knicks could use a true PG, but presuming that Bayless is gone, it seems like a reach that they take Augustin or Westbrook. Mayo seems redundant when they have Crawford, so will Mike D'Antoni feed his Italian jones with Danilo Gallardi? (He better set that up early with NY media and fans, who likely won't appreciate a European pick.)

In MLB, Mike Piazza retires, A-Rod returns and the Red Sox trot out yet another spectacular young arm, which they appear to have an endless supply of. There isn't a better-run organization in sports, let alone baseball. Yes, that's my long-time man-crush on Theo Epstein emerging for the first time in a long time. You cannot understand how conflicted I am about my crush on Theo and my general dislike for Boston sports.

I, for one, would like to see the next generation of replacement players, who almost surely would be better and more talented than the version from the late-80s. What a replacement season would do is create the greatest fantasy football season in the history of everything. Meanwhile, I hope the Falcons enjoy the gentle upside of Matt Ryan, now that they are locked in. (Put Mike Vick's first game back in Atlanta on an opposing team -- presuming Arthur Blank doesn't bring him back for the league minimum -- as the game of the decade.)

Complete SN column can be found here

Update: My Wii Fit shipped yesterday, but I have no idea when it will arrive. Anyone get one?

-- D.S.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

NBA Draft Lottery Rose-Beasley Mania!
(Plus: Another Rant Against Age Limits)

As I mentioned this morning, I love the NBA Draft Lottery. I think that goes back to my childhood fandom of the Bullets, who were perennial Lottery losers. It was my playoffs.

The consensus has shifted that the Lottery's big prize is Derrick Rose, rather than Michael Beasley, who is a strong -- and consensus -- No. 2. No. 3 and beyond is a toss-up, depending on which team is there and what their needs are.

Rose is like Oden in that he is a true franchise-changer. Consider Chris Paul and Deron Williams, because -- coming out of college at least -- Rose is a better NBA talent than either of them.

Beasley is like Durant in that he could be a franchise player, but there is really no guarantee. After all, Durant was simply a poor man's Rashard Lewis this season. Working in Beasley's favor is that he is better -- more suited to excel in the NBA -- than Durant.

You won't hear much about that, because all the Durant-backers from a year ago would be loathe to admit that their "game-changing" favorite isn't even the best forward prospect of the past two drafts -- that would be Beasley.

But as you watch the mock drafts come screaming out of the mainstream media and blogosphere in the wake of the Lottery's results, please note how many freshmen there are on the list -- it is the best signal that the NBA's age-limit remains totally idiotic.

The only thing worse than the current age limit would be to raise it unconditionally, similarly to the way that they installed this first age limit.

Here's a novel idea: Let the market work. From '95-06 that is exactly what it did, producing highly efficient results, particularly among prep-to-pro players.

The idea of an "age limit" is very simple: If you don't want to "ruin" your NBA career prematurely, don't enter the NBA earlier than you should.

"Should" is an amorphous notion -- was Monta Ellis wrong to enter the NBA when he did? Most experts would say he did just fine for himself, even though he went much later than he thought he would.

The bottom line is that NBA GMs are, for the most part, highly rational: You don't take prep Dwight Howard over college Player of the Year Emeka Okafor because you are an idiot, blinded by potential. You take him because you are fairly certain Howard's upside is vastly greater than Okafor's. Howard's "expected value" is far superior to Okafor's -- but not that much. Just enough to know you would take Howard over Okafor if given the choice of both. Okafor remained a superior choice to the players that went below him.

The point is that GMs who wildly pick young prospects and end up with a sketchy "hit" rate won't be GMs for long. There is a built-in incentive to do what is in the GM's own best interests, which align with that of the team.

Most GMs in the Lottery will be taking freshmen -- in their first year of draft eligibility -- over older players who could have entered the draft in previous years but didn't, because the weren't good enough to play in the NBA. (See Tyler Hansbrough: If he would have been a Lottery pick after his freshman year, he sure as hell wouldn't have stuck around for the past two seasons.)

This is because those freshmen are better prospects than the older players -- this isn't some fad. And if those players were available a year ago, they likely would have also been first-round picks (if not drafted quite as high as they will be taken next month).

All I'm saying is: Look at the signals the market is sending. Look at the history of efficiency within the market (before artificial constraints were clamped onto it). In this case, the rules should follow what you are seeing unfold in front of you.

Enjoy the Lottery! I love that Jay-Z will be there, representing the Nets (watch for coded signals to LeBron!), but I love even more that the Kings are sending a fan. That's what the Lottery should be all about.

-- D.S.

Tuesday 05/20 A.M. Quickie:
Spurs, Lester, Barkley, Lottery, More

You can hate the Spurs for their soullessness, but admire them for their dominance. To win a Game 7 on the road is remarkable -- in its own right, let alone because the Spurs had failed to do it in previous tries. The defending champs remain the team to beat.

The Spurs lead today's Sporting News column, with coverage of even more:

Jon Lester's no-hitter awesomeness...
Evan Longoria's heroics...
Charles Barkley's gambling problem...
The NBA's perception problem...
A Wings-Pens Stanley Cup finals...
Complete SN column here.

And, of course, the NBA Draft Lottery, being held tonight and annually one of my favorite events of the entire sports year. More on that later this morning.

-- D.S.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Monday 05/19 A.M. Quickie:
Pierce, Hornets, Reds, Parker, More

Was Pierce vs. LeBron like Nique vs. Larry 20 years ago? Eh: Sort of. The bottom line is that, like Larry, Pierce was significantly advantaged by his supporting cast; like Nique, LeBron may spend his entire career without earning an NBA title.

In the lead of today's Sporting News column, I was a little more concerned with looking forward than looking back: Boston did nothing to convince me that they will beat Detroit in the East finals, let alone the West champ in the NBA Finals. I am thoroughly unimpressed with their perfect playoff home record.

Becoming the first team ever to advance to a conference-finals round without winning a road game is not a mark of distinction. What it sets up is that if/when (ok: when) Detroit wins a game in Boston, the Celtics are in a ton of trouble. I wouldn't be saying that if they had a single road win during the last 14 playoff games. It's just not the signal of a championship team to not have them.

Meanwhile, Hornets-Spurs should be incredible. If any team can win a Game 7 on the road in a series in which the home team has dominated, it is the defending champs.

MLB: Edison almost rhymes with 7-win... If Big Unit is on, that makes the D'backs 4-deep in very very good starting pitching... Ryan Braun is my hero.

Candace Parker's rookie season in the WNBA is worth following on a game-by-game basis -- she seems to be THAT good... instantly the best player in the WNBA, which affirms her as the greatest female basketball player on the planet.

Big Brown: Triple Crown. Has a nice ring to it, doesn't it? Let's hope he's not a Belmont fizzler. I have a feeling he is going to do it.

More later. Here is the rest of the Sporting News column today.

-- D.S.