Friday, February 20, 2009

Friday 02/20 A.M. Quickie
Tiger, Trades, Combine, Oscars

Tiger's back -- golf is saved. And it's a pleasant change of pace from A-Rod.

Plus: NBA Trade Dud-line, why Kyle Lowry is the new Shane Battier, why the Lions will draft Andre Smith (not Matt Stafford) and more. Complete column here.

-- D.S.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Thursday 02/19 A.M. Quickie:
NBA Trades, A-Rod's Cousin, Combine, CBB

After toying around with it throughout the week (and foreshadowing here yesterday), I finally up and lost it in the lead of today's SN column: The NBA is broken.

Why? Because there are about 4 teams actually playing to win (a title) -- the rest are businesses merely trying to manage costs.

I'm not offended by that, per se; I'm offended that they cynically expect fans not to recognize it. Trading Tyson Chandler? Motivated by money. VC? Jamison? All about money.

And, as I said yesterday: "2010" is, for a handful of teams, a worthwhile thing to plan for -- even if it means, by extension, that they're basically giving up on both this season and next season.

But then there's something you can see on the horizon: There will only be a handful of "winners" in 2010 -- LeBron and Wade and Bosh can only play for one team each. And that's if they don't stay with their current teams.

For all of the other teams hording cap space and sacrificing competitiveness, what do you think they'll do with all that money they have saved up. Spend it? I wouldn't bank on that.

I think that the dire economic times plus the dire state of player movement in the NBA -- literally, where we are waiting 2 years for something important to happen -- suggests that the NBA should adopt a model similar to the NFL: No guaranteed contracts.

Oh, the NBA union will never go for that, but it would dramatically change the NBA for the better.

More you'll find in the column today:

*A-Rod's cousin: His life is going to suck this week.
*Guess what: Looks like fans increasingly don't care about PEDs.
*Jeter dares me to ask: Hey, Jetes, you ever take a stimulant?
*The Suns are kind of awesome now.
*I have low expectations for the trade deadline.
*Is this the best class of OTs in NFL Draft history?
*Ken Griffey is a Mariner again. And that's amazing.
*Yikes: What happened to Illinois? Notre Dame? Butler?
*I can't wait for the Fab Five reunion.

Complete column here.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Wednesday 02/18 A.M. Quickie:
A-Rod, NBA Trade Rumors, NFL Combine

It's not that I don't care that A-Rod cheated. It's just that -- in the grand scheme of the era -- I simply can't get outraged about it. And I certainly can't get sanctimonious about it, like so many mainstream sports pundits.

There has got to be some data out there confirming that the outrage is as artificial as A-Rod's inflated stats; I haven't seen it, although there are folks out there (like Neyer) who do a damn good job articulating just how value-less the sanctimonious outrage from some corners can be.

Here's a great quote from another sage sports pundit, King Kaufman:
That's the bottom line in this whole steroid business. It was the culture. That shouldn't absolve anybody of blame or deprive you of the right to get on your high horse if you want to -- nothing should deprive you of that --- but if you're looking to honestly figure out what happened in baseball in the late 1900s and early 2000s, you can't ignore the context. There weren't as many question asked. Not by players, not by management, fans, the union, reporters or anybody else.

It's easy to click and cluck about moral relativism, but if a few years from now our culture decides that jaywalking -- which is against the law now -- is a heinous crime, we're all going to have to look contrite at our own press conferences.

And so today's SN column leads with the A-Rod spectacle from yesterday, but I hope it's the last time that happens -- beyond things that happen on the field. Did he try to self-flagellate? Yes. Did he leave a bunch of reasonable questions unanswered? Yes. That's all to be expected.

Far more interesting, at least to me, is that the Hornets gave up on contending for a title yesterday. And, approaching the NBA Trade Deadline, will the Rockets join them?

There are only a handful of teams actually competing for the NBA title this season -- Lakers, Spurs, Celtics, Cavs, Rockets...maybe the Magic (although losing Nelson hurts). That's it.

As I said in yesterday's column: Everyone else appears to be either preparing for the 2010 free agent class -- which, by inference, means that they are basically punting (even tanking, depending on how you define "tanking") on both this season AND next season -- or by SAYING they are preparing for the 2010 free agent class, but are really just trying to cut costs in the face of a terrible economy. The NBA: Where...cost-cutting happens.

(I loved that Michael Lewis article on Battier this past weekend, although Battier came across as weirdly defensive -- and not in reference to his on-court talents.)

Here is what I would like to see -- REAL "Moneyball" in the NBA. Given, say, a $20 million budget, could a savvy GM put together a playoff team made out of bargain and/or cast-off parts? You can't field a team of 5 Battiers and hope to win -- you could definitely find the underappreciated values at each position, though, and win. But who would be on that team?

Meanwhile, today starts the NFL Draft Combine, which has gotten very big -- it is the NFL, after all. I'm looking forward to finding out who runs the eye-popping 40 times; who is the next Chris Johnson?

Get the complete column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Tuesday 02/17 A.M. Quickie:
A-Rod, Pitt, MJD, NBA 2nd Half

The Monday after the NBA All-Star Game is typically one of the slowest days of the sports year.

Sure, there was a very illuminating Pitt-UConn game (revealed: Pitt rules the Big East now), but otherwise, it feels like we're waiting on today's A-Rod press conference -- you hate it, but it's unavoidable. It leads today's SN column, even though I did that with no small measure of self-loathing.

Meanwhile: Am I wrong that Maurice Jones-Drew suddenly becomes the most interesting contender to be the No. 1 overall player drafted in fantasy football?

Complete column here
. More later. Still rocking the Carvel ice-cream cake hangover.

-- D.S.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Monday 02/16 (Very Birthday) Quickie

Last night's performance by Shaq in the All-Star Game -- from his pre-game dance routine (with those freaky Jabbawockeez) to his MVP performance (in 11 minutes!) -- was surreal because it felt like his Last Hurrah. That leads today's SN column.

What makes it even stranger for me is that as of today -- at least for another two weeks -- he and I are the same age. (My previous gold standard for life-comparisons was Chris Webber, who was born two weeks apart from me. Yeah: Our freshman years of college were EXACTLY the same.)

As both Shaq and C-Webb might agree, 36 is a cachet-less age -- as I posted on my Facebook update today, "too young to be a phenom, too old for gravitas."

I guess in sports, where athlete careers wind down at (or are over by) age 36, that doesn't apply. ("Phenom," however, still applies for coaching jobs -- see Mike Tomlin or Josh McDaniels or Dan Mullen -- or front-office jobs -- see Theo Epstein or Andrew Friedman.)

Don't quite think it applies to folks who fancy themselves as sports pundits. Where Shaq is near the end (and C-Webb is past the end and into his new life as a TV analyst), I'd qualify myself as firmly in "mid-life." (No, not "mid-life crisis," but thanks.)

Last year, I celebrated the end of my relevance as part of the coveted "male 18-to-34-year-old" demographic. This year, I'm thrilled -- as always! -- to be around to celebrate... but for the first time, I spy that "40" hanging out there in the not-so-distant future.

What's the chance I can start a new "36 is the new 26" trend?

Enjoy your day off, if you're taking one. If you're working -- well, enjoy that, too.

More you'll find in today's column:

*A NASCAR non-fan's take on yesterday's debacle.
*NBA ASW round-up
*BC rules! So does Blake Griffin!
*Will Jeter support A-Rod tomorrow?
*Oil Can Boyd, the Wii Fit at Spring Training and More

-- D.S.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday 02/15 (Very) Quickie: HORSE, Dunks

I love AI's new hairstyle -- not that was averse to the cornrows; the short cut just reminds me of how he looked when he was at Georgetown.

Normally, I'm all for the populist vote, but America got it wrong voting Nate Robinson as Slam Dunk Champ over Dwight Howard.

Yes, for theater, I give Robinson huge credit for going "Lex Luthor" to Howard's "Superman," but I give Howard even more credit for letting Robinson dunk over him.

Robinson's signature dunk -- dunking on Howard -- was impressive only because of Howard, because Howard was willing to be a good sport about it.

Between Dwight's dunk on the 12-foot rim (how easy it looked!) and the off-the-side-of-the-backboard dunk (plus his role as Robinson's prop), Howard was the best. (It didn't help Howard that after last season, he didn't have much room to go up. Speaking of which, the judges' scores are ludicrous. You get an 8 for showing up; what's the point?)

But it certainly builds drama for next year (especially if LeBron participates -- btw, whether it's up to judges or fans, there's no way LeBron doesn't win next year. Sorry, Superman.)

(By the way: Technically, Robinson's dunk where he jumped off of Wilson Chandler was illegal, and he should have been penalized for it.)

As for HORSE, if you saw my Twittering about it, you know how I feel. Here's a recap: It was a bust. The shots were mostly mundane, they missed way too many of them (any idiot fan can MISS trick shots) and felt like it dragged on.

Couple of suggestions for next year:
(1) If you make the first shot and the next two guys make it, too, you get a letter (or you at least have to "prove it.")
(2) Players should have celebrity caddies to help them devise more interesting shots.
(3) At least one fan should be invited to participate -- again, there were moments where I feel like I could have beaten any of them. (And I'm not saying I'm any good.)

But let no one say that Kevin Durant doesn't have a flair for the dramatic -- he came back from last place to win it. But his shot selection at the end was lame: Ooh! You can make 3s! That's not a HORSE shot; that's a shootaround shot.

*Blake Griffin: 40 and 23...absurd numbers in OU's win over Texas Tech. Any doubt he's the best player in the country?
*Arizona was impressive in dismantling UCLA, but pick the Cats in March at your own risk.
*Ken Griffy Jr. to the...Braves?
*Daytona 500 is today: Who's watching?

-- D.S.