Saturday, July 03, 2010

07/03 (Saturday) Quickie

Still find myself stunned by the way the Ghana-Uruguay game ended.

If you factor in the conditions (tie-breaking PK in final seconds of extra time), the history-making stakes (would have made Ghana the first African country to advance to the World Cup semis... in Africa's first hosted World Cup) and the scope of the fan footprint (not just Ghana, but all of Africa), it feels like the cruelest ending to a game in modern sports history.

I obviously don't know cruel endings around the world, but I tried to think of cruel endings in traditional US sports -- Game 6 or whatever -- and when you put it against those three qualifiers, nothing in US sports holds up. So all of Red Sox Nation was devastated after Game 6? Bah: How about all of Africa devastated after yesterday's loss?

Two more semis today, but they will be hard-pressed to match Ghana-Uruguay.

Also, isn't it nice not to have to lead with LeBron and NBA Free Agency?

So there's all this talk about Dwyane Wade taking a 2nd meeting with the Bulls. Personally, I totally discounted the idea that LeBron could join D-Wade in Chicago. It would be fascinating, even if they don't get a big to join them. I just don't see that happening (but I am enjoying the spontaneous freak-out from Miami media that their NBA meal-ticket might be skipping town).

As for Amare and the Knicks? If I was a Knicks fan, I would be uninspired about giving $100 million to Amare -- I'm not sure he's that much better than David Lee, but at way greater cost. We know Lee can produce at 20/10 without a point guard, let alone an all-world one; how about Amare?

Would Joe Johnson really turn down his $120M deal from Atlanta? If that isn't a signal that he doesn't really want to be on the team, I don't know what is. If I was the Hawks, I would take advantage of the waffling to pull the offer and rectify the mistake of giving him so much money.

Enjoy the day of World Cup, NBA Free Agent rumor-mongering, baseball and more.

-- D.S.

Friday, July 02, 2010

07/02 Quickie: LeBron, July 4, More

Sorry for the late post: Had an early-a.m. meeting, then got sucked into Holland's fairly epic upset of Brazil (which was my pick to win the World Cup....whoops).

Has LeBron signed yet? Ha, just kidding. Looks like he'll take this into next week -- wouldn't want to make his big announcement during a low-news-cycle long holiday weekend.

Today's SN column caps LeBron Week. Hopefully, we won't have to extend it too far into next week.

I will repeat my claim: If the Nets were already in Brooklyn, both LeBron and Bosh would be going to the Nets, period. The two years in Newark are a deal-breaker.

I don't understand the Rudy Gay deal, except that I guess the Grizzlies feel like they need a franchise player and Gay -- rather than, say, OJ Mayo -- is that guy. Strange.

I don't get the Knicks signing Amare to a max deal, beyond the ability to prove to LeBron that they have one of the three top PFs in hand. Otherwise, Dwight Howard is going to kill him.

There is an interesting thing going on here: If Amare is in New York and Bosh, as expected, goes to Miami, then unless LeBron wants to play in NYC or Miami, who is the PF he is paired with?

I guess Boozer would be the guy, and -- if LeBron wanted to be in Chicago -- he would convince both the Bulls and Boozer to sign Boozer to a big deal.

But what if the Nets grab Boozer? Would LeBron go to a team without a big-man running mate? Doesn't that seriously hurt his chances of winning a title?

(That gets even sketchier if/when Joakim Noah leaves Chicago for, say, New York or Brooklyn -- either next summer as a restricted FA or summer 2012 as an unrestricted FA.)

We might be starting to see the peeking of LeBron... getting boxed in? Maybe.

Anyway, it's a loaded column today, full of NBA FA, Phil Jackson's return (THE storyline of the 2010-2011 season), Josh Byrnes getting canned (I'd hire him for my team in a second), my All-Star ballots (totally conventional... no Zobrist-like mania this year) and more.

See the whole thing here. Daily updates throughout the long weekend. Otherwise, have a terrific July 4th and celebrate responsibly.

-- D.S.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Tonight in NYC: Varsity Letters July

For those in NYC, be sure to drop by this month's Varsity Letters Reading Series event -- tonight at JLA Studios in DUMBO, Brooklyn. It's at 7:30 and free. Featuring Leitch, a guy from Lapham's Quarterly and the author of a terrific book on how wacked the youth sports system is. Oh, and LeBron will drop by to tell you what team he will be playing for. All the details here.

07/01 Quickie: Happy LeBron Day?

So I have unofficially (or officially, if my SN column feels "official") dubbed today "LeBron Day," shorthand for the free-agent insanity that "officially" started at midnight, involving not just LeBron but all the top free agents.

It's "Happy LeBron Day" if you like all the hysteria. I would argue that this is the biggest -- perhaps best -- single event that has ever happened to the NBA in its history. (My other contender was the drafting of Kevin Garnett, but that didn't have the same lead-up or during or post-effects of this.)

If you're in Chicago or Miami or New York or Newark/Brooklyn? Hope (for now).

If you're in Cleveland? Hopelessness. You all crushed me back in 2006 when I said in the Daily Quickie that LeBron was gone in 2010. I don't revel in being right.

(In fact, as someone who isn't a particularly big fan of LeBron's, the only thing I like about him abandoning Cleveland is that it allows me to promote the theory that he's an instantly legendary cold-hearted mercenary, whose karmic reward will be to never win an NBA title.)

A few early thoughts on free agency:

*The Hawks are idiotic to give Johnson 6Y/$120M.

*Richard Jefferson is an idiot to walk away from $15M next year.

*The Raptors should trade Bosh to the Rockets and Bosh should love that.

(This Bosh-Rockets thing shouldn't be undersold: If Bosh wants to win a ring AND he wants max money, he will be better off on the Rockets, playing next to Yao and Battier and Kevin Martin and under Daryl Morey's leadership, than he will playing next to D-Wade and 9 scrubs. You can't make the case that he has a better shot at winning a ring in Miami than Houston, particularly when you factor in that no one -- not even LeBron -- is toppling Dwight Howard and the Magic over the next 5 years, after this minor one-year blip with the Celtics, who are cooked.)

*Jordan Farmar is likely to end up with the Pacers as their starting point guard. This will be of enthusiastic interest only to me.

See the complete column here -- I vastly underplayed Elin's $750M divorce settlement with Tiger. She earned every penny. And, as long as he gets back to winning majors, the silence he has bought from her will mean that he can make back that $750M... and then some.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

06/30 Quickie: NBA Free Agency Mania

"Not signing LeBron James is arguably worse than signing Jerome James."

That, in a nutshell, is the thesis of the lead item of my SN column this morning -- an examination of the brutal zero-sum game that is 2010 NBA free agency... and the Knicks' spot as its biggest loser.

The Knicks have as much chance of landing LeBron as the Cavs do. (Ouch.) They won't get Wade. They won't get Bosh. Their "back-up plan" of Johnson and Amare is doubly humiliating: It isn't just a poor man's solution; it won't even pan out. Carlos Boozer won't go there (he could even go to the crosstown rival Nets, suddenly ascendant).

If you consider that the Knicks have been banking on two years' worth of "Just wait 'til 2010 (and -- psst! -- LeBron!)" this is a total, utter, Isiah-sized failure.

I fully expect them not to make any moves (maybe re-signing the popular David Lee), then spinning it as "cannily" saving for 2011 -- now re-named on Broadway as "The Summer of Carmelo!" Nevermind that the Knicks have about as much chance of getting Melo as they did LeBron.

There is legitimate intrigue over whether LeBron will join the Bulls (and who will go with him) or if he will sublimate his ego to join Wade and Bosh in Miami.

There is legitimate intrigue over what the Nets might do -- clearly, they like others will overspend to get better faster, but who will it be on? (Why is everyone sleeping on Rudy Gay?)

But there is no intrigue about the Knicks, except how humiliating the next 24 hours -- the next week -- will be for them.

See the complete column here, including my picks for where the big free agents end up:

LeBron: Bulls
Wade: Heat
Bosh: Heat
Dirk: Mavs
Joe Johnson: Heat
Amare: Bulls
Boozer: Nets
Rudy Gay: Nets
David Lee: Knicks

Any good theories? Put them in the Comments -- I will try hard to approve them faster.

See the whole column here
. More later.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

06/29 Quickie: LeBron-Wade-Bosh in Heat?

The latest twist in the Summer of LeBron: That he, Wade and Bosh convened in Miami over the weekend to talk about teaming up in Miami.

As it happens, that was going to be the lead of today's SN column all along: Why I am simultaneously repulsed and thrilled by this.

You can read the entire argument here, but this gist is this:

LeBron wants (or needs) championships. It could be to fulfill his inner NBA soul or to help him become a billion-dollar global brand. It doesn't matter. He needs to win titles.

The path of least resistance to winning titles is to join up with Wade and Bosh in Miami. LeBron would have to subordinate his "alpha" personality, but in exchange, he gets rings. Many rings.

I have always had zero sympathy for the NBA stars who went ring-less: They all had their chances to set their egos aside and play with Jordan or Kobe or Duncan for less cash and win rings. They chose money over glory.

LeBron has the chance to have his cake and eat it too: He can get max money and still win tons of rings, all the while looking magnanimous for joining forces.

And, frankly, it kills me for the rest of the league (including my team), but I want to see what three stars -- two uber-stars -- can do. 72 wins? More? One title? More?

I reject that LeBron needs to be the only "A" star on his team. I reject that players want to beat other stars en route to titles. There is no such thing as a qualified ring.

(Besides, there are plenty of opportunities to beat stars: The Heat can start with their in-state rival from Orlando/D-12, then move on to Kobe or Durant in the West.)

Here is the big theory: Winning titles and beating rivals has been done plenty of times in the NBA. See the tired old Lakers-Celtics thing, now going on 25 years.

If LeBron wants to create an NBA evolution -- transcend the previous stars -- the way to do it is to reject the "one big star per team" theory that dominated the league since forever.

Establish the "post-rivalry" era, where superstars sublimate themselves for the chance to not just win rings but make history.

THAT should be the appeal for LeBron. Presumably, he can win titles anywhere. Only in Miami, with D-Wade (and Bosh along for the ride) can he create an entirely new framework for stardom.

If he cares about winning, he can go virtually anywhere -- let's say, Chicago. If he cares about winning AND creating a post-Jordan or post-Lakers/Celtics legacy, he must go to Miami.

See the entire column here, including a plan to get Strasburg in the All-Star Game that won't ruffle any sensibilities.

-- D.S.

Monday, June 28, 2010

06/28 Quickie: LeBron, World Cup, More

I have no problem with those "calling" LeBron's free agency winner, three days early, as the Bulls.

I don't need to wait for what I call in today's SN column the "prostrate exams" in Akron on Thursday by the lineup of shameless executives, most of whom know they have no chance but have to pantomime interest anyway.

So LeBron to the Bulls? Makes sense: Of any team where LeBron can be the alpha dog (which necessarily takes away Miami), they are in the best position to win now (Rose + Noah + another max FA like Boozer or Amare).

It is looking entirely likely that the Knicks will not only not get LeBron -- or Bosh or Wade -- but will have to settle for someone like Joe Johnson as their "catch."

It is not unreasonable to suggest that this is a failure by Donnie Walsh every bit as epic as anything Isiah Thomas did during his tenure.

For years, the Knicks have made these vague promises of "Just wait 'til the Summer of 2010!" Now that we're here, they entirely overestimated the lure of New York and underestimated competitors like Chicago and Miami. (Hell, even the Nets have a better offer - if they were already in Brooklyn, I think LeBron would be going to the Nets.)

So anyway, back to LeBron: Looks like he will go to Chicago. Interestingly, Chris Bosh isn't interested in joining him; Bosh would rather go to Miami to play second fiddle to Dwyane Wade. Good for Bosh. And great for the Heat, which can afford another max free agent or a bunch of quality supporting cast.

That means the open question is which power forward -- Amare or Boozer -- goes with LeBron to Chicago. Hell, even David Lee would be serviceable.

Look: Things could change. I wouldn't put it past LeBron to be so annoyed that the media presumes to tell him where he's going that he change his mind out of spite. (Although that would lack the CEO-style calculating that LeBron fancies himself applying.)

But with all the lead-up to "JULY !!!" it seems ironic that the week itself seems anti-climactic. (Unless you believe Stephen A, who seems to think LeBron is joining Wade and Bosh in Miami...)

More in today's column:

*Can't begrudge the fact that US Soccer was out-played in its ouster. You can begrudge Bob Bradley as not fixing fundamental flaws with the team (allowing early goals).

*Watch this Chris Henry autopsy story: He had brain damage, despite not having high-profile concussions, playing receiver and being 26. It's simply the cost of playing football. If you could check the brains of every NFL player (college, too), how many would have damage?

*Well, now the Rays are totally falling apart at the seams. Meanwhile, mock Jamie Moyer for allowing an all-time record 506th HR, but he has 9 wins at age 46.

See the entire column here. More later.

-- D.S.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Sunday (Very) Quickie: US Booted

Well, THAT was disappointing. It is probably for the best that the US was simply out-played, rather than robbed or victim of a fluke.

Same old story: Early goal. Make that two: Early in regulation, early in extra time. In the World Cup, you simply can't win like that. Not regularly, anyway.

It is impossible to begrudge Ghana, the last remaining African country in the Cup and full of fresh young talent that seemed to want it more -- or, more accurately, fear less -- than the sluggish US.

(You have to root for Ghana against Uruguay, right? BTW: That 2nd Uruguay goal was as sick as you will see in soccer, ever.)

What next for the US? I was not a Bob Bradley fan heading into the Tournament, and I think this finish -- premature and disappointing -- was a referendum on his style and decision-making.

(Roberto Clark played terribly yesterday. Altidore is the Striker Who Can't Score. Findlay is fast, but not much else. Where was Buddle? Where was Gomez?)

You can only hope that in four years, for the 2014 World Cup, there is an evolution of US players who are even further Euro-trained and ready to advance the sport here.

Otherwise, the thrill ride that is the US Soccer team at the 2010 World Cup is over. It was fun -- or mostly fun -- while it lasted. Keep watching the rest of the tournament.


LeBron Watch: Reportedly, he is not going on a tour; he is simply taking meetings in Akron. More than that, he is leaning toward the Bulls -- as he should, given that they have the best base of existing young talent (Rose, Noah) and the room for Bron AND Bosh. (Gee, thanks, Ernie Grunfeld!)

I'm going to dig into this a lot more later this week, but when the Knicks are inevitably shut out of the LeBron Sweepstakes (and Wade, too), it is a failure of the highest order -- up there with anything Isiah ever did. More on that later this week.

Wow, did England get routed out just now by Germany. Really looking forward to Argentina-Mexico later today.

-- D.S.