Saturday, February 26, 2011

02/26 (Very) Quickie

Fun Saturday of college hoops on tap...

*Must-see: BYU at San Diego State at 2 p.m. ET on CBS, both to watch the Jimmer phenomenon, but to see SDSU, which -- if they win out this season -- could get a 1-seed in the NCAA Tourney.

*Carmelo and Knicks lose at Cleveland: On any given night, any team in the NBA can beat any other team -- but this sure felt like wonderful irony, given how this week has gone.

*The Pistons mutiny: It went from the star players having a "sleep-in" and skipping morning practice to Tracy McGrady and others openly mocking coach John Kuester as he was ejected last night, after playing the game with 6 players. Kuester has to be gone, but this team has far bigger problems than that.

*Magic not ready to give up yet? Perhaps energized knowing that designated Howard-stopper Kendrick Perkins has been shipped West, D-12 had 40 on Perk's new team -- the Thunder -- in a Magic win that had few practical implications but sure carried a lot of symbolism.

*NFL Combine: Can we get to some drills already?

*NFL Lockout Watch: The agents wanted to show solidarity with the union, but it's hard to imagine them being much more than self-interested.

*Charlie Weis is getting paid: $2.5M as Florida's offensive coordinator. That's going to be awkward -- not to mention expensive -- when they fire him after two years for not being particularly good. (I'm not bullish on Weis' abilities. Happy to be proven wrong, but still.)

More throughout the day at Quickish. Pop by!

-- D.S.

Friday, February 25, 2011

02/25 Quickie: Oscars, Celtics, More

Let's start with a Quickie tradition: The Oscar picks.

Best Picture
Will Win: The Social Network
Should Win: Toy Story 3

Best Director:
Will/Should Win: Darren Aronofsky (Black Swan)

Best Actor
Will/Should Win: Colin Firth (Should Win: Firth)

Best Actress
Will Win: Natalie Portman
Should Win: Jennifer Lawrence (Winter's Bone)

Best Supporting Actor:
Will/Should Win: Christian Bale (Fighter)

Best Supporting Actress:
Will/Should Win: Melissa Leo (Fighter)


NBA Trade Deadline: Here's the problem for Danny Ainge and the Celtics. Their window was this season. Not next year. Right now.

They have shown that the Heat can't possibly match them, particularly in the playoffs with its increased intensity. The Bulls aren't there yet. The Magic are cooked.

What the Celtics had to do was consider the Finals -- not the conference finals, the NBA Finals. Against the Lakers, Perkins is/was critical.

Now, the Celtics will still likely win the East -- as they would have with Perk. But once they meet the Lakers in the Finals -- or, god forbid, the Thunder -- they will be in some trouble.

I can't believe Danny Ainge panicked over winning the East. They were on track to win the East; they were on track to give the Lakers all they could handle in the Finals.

The expectations for the Celtics were clear: NBA title or bust. The only difference today is that when they inevitably fall short of that, the blame is on Ainge for trading their only legit big.

(Meanwhile, it's a coup for the Thunder, who can lock up Perkins, who makes a much more title-worthy complement to Durant and Westbrook and Ibaka than Green did.)


NBA Last Night: I regularly gripe that the NBA regular season is largely meaningless, but last night's Heat-Bulls game had a distinct playoff feel to it. And the Bulls proved that they are unwilling to concede anything to the Heat. Bosh's 1-for-18 FG performance is foreshadowing of what will end up being an epic playoff choke (it also foreshadows the value of a healthy Joakim Noah to the Bulls' prospects -- who on the Celtics is going to stop him? KG? Then who on the Celtics guards Carlos Boozer?)


The way the Tigers are handling the Miguel Cabrera thing is offensive and is so obviously going to implode on them, it's shameful. This isn't "imploding" like "ack, we didn't win the division." This is someone's life. And, god forbid, let's hope it doesn't involve others' lives, too. I said this when the Cabrera story broke -- this is a moment for paternalism by the Tigers and MLB. Unfortunately, the team and the league are acting like absent parents.


College Hoops this weekend: The biggest game -- by far -- is the BYU-San Diego State rematch. BYU won in Provo; SDSU figures to be the favorite playing at hom -- and possibly for a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. They're the new Memphis. (If they do get it, dare I bring back the old Quickie "Boldest. Prediction. Ever." from 2006: That Memphis would be the first-ever 1-seed to lose to a 16-seed? We'll see...)


Lovie Smith gets an extension: Won't preclude him from being fired in two years if the Bears can't sustain the playoff pace they had last season.


Quickish is rolling today -- yesterday was on fire with the NBA Trade Deadline, but tons of great stuff today, too. Please give it a look -- and please tell your friends. (That's foreshadowing of a much much bigger "Tell your friends!" effort that is going to kick off next week with a new month.)

-- D.S.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

02/24 Quickie: Nets, Cards, More

The Nets' risk in trading for Deron Williams was totally worth it. Even if he goes to the Knicks (or Clippers or wherever) in a year an a half. Even if.

Because he is the best PG in the NBA. Because he allowed the Nets' new ownership to say "We're in." Because the new labor deal might make it favorable to him (and the team) for him to stay. Because he could be the chip to lure Dwight Howard to Brooklyn. And because there is likely more NBA immortality to be had by being Brooklyn's first NBA star -- presuming he can turn the Nets into contenders -- than there is doing it for the Clippers or, yes, the Knicks.

Derrick Favors might turn out to be great -- I'm bullish on him. But he might not. As Steve Politi wrote this morning in the Newark Star-Ledger: The chances of convincing Deron Williams to stay are better than the chances of Favors turning out to be as valuable as Deron Williams (even if you discount an expected value that takes into consideration that Williams might leave).

It was a phenomenal move, and Deron Williams should keep that in mind as he evaluates the franchise. Now, if they could just fire Avery Johnson, who is terrible and will do more to drive away Deron Williams than anything. (If Williams told Prokhorov to fire Johnson, Prok would do it in 5 seconds. Let's hope he does.)


Carmelo's Knicks debut: Yup, he shoots a lot. Yup, it turns out that Chauncey Billups might be the ultimately valuable piece of this. Yup, the game was an "event." Let's see what happens Sunday when Melo and the Knicks play a very motivated Heat in Miami.

Cards lose ace Adam Wainwright for the season: Oh, the Cards are so screwed. Presuming that their season is lost (and the future totally uncertain), it is in the best interests of the team to trade Albert Pujols -- and if Pujols cared about Cards fans, he would agree to be traded as a half-year "rental" to a contender in exchange for the massive stock of cheap talent that would help the Cardinals rebuild for a post-Pujols reality.

NFL combine starts today: As with the Senior Bowl, it lacks the Tebow storyline that was the gravitational force of last year's combine. But there is plenty to watch for: How does Cam Newton do? How does Patrick Peterson do? Who breaks through with eye-popping stats?

CBB: Marshon Brooks scores a Big East record 52 in Providence's loss to Notre Dame last night. It's amazing to think that in the glorious history of that league, no player has ever scored 52 -- not Chris Mullin or Walter Davis, not Allen Iverson, not Ray Allen, not Carmelo, no one. Pop over to Quickish and look for the post near the top with a 3-minute video of Brooks' scoring.

Tiger sucks, cont'd: Golf's big "match-play" bracket of the year -- the Accenture -- doesn't have quite the same vibe as the NCAA Tournament, so a "16-seed" beating Tiger Woods isn't that big of a deal. The bigger question: How on Earth does Tiger Woods earn a 1-seed? Golf rankings are absurd. Tiger isn't one of the top 4 golfers in the Accenture field based on his most recent "body of work." It would be like the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee giving Florida a 1-seed because they won the national title in 2006 and 2007.

Tennessee's NCAA problem: It's beyond Bruce Pearl committing an infraction days after crying an apology about his previous infractions. It's beyond the NCAA smacking down the football coach who isn't even there anymore. There is a culture of impropriety, and that starts at the top -- I'm with everyone else who thinks that Tennessee's AD should lose his job over this. But, hey, he makes the school a lot of money.

Stick with Quickish all day
for NBA trade-deadline mania, NFL combine reports and more.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

02/23 Quickie: Melo, Cam, NBA Trades, Caltech!

First of all, the story of the day HAS to be Caltech snapping a 26-year, 310-game conference losing streak last night. See the video of the celebration here.

Carmelo, cont'd: Knicks debut tonight -- that won't be overhyped or anything. Meanwhile, the Nuggets -- without Melo OR the ex-Knicks -- scored 120 and routed the Grizzlies. Presented without comment.

I'm going to say that the only reason the wheels won't fall off the Knicks' (ahem) .500 season is Chauncey Billups. If it was just Amare and Melo? I'm still skeptical.

Cam Newton professes to want to be "an entertainer and icon." And I have no problem whatsoever with him saying this, even before the draft. Even if humorless draftniks and football writers think it's inappropriate or shows a lack of... something. They all dance around it, some more cleverly than others. But it's not to their credit, that's for sure.

The fact is that I want my NFL QB to aspire to be the most successful player ever. I want him doing a million TV ads, like Peyton Manning. I want him living a jet-setting lifestyle, like Tom Brady. And the fact is: Cam Newton IS the most talented QB in this draft. And he DOES have a massive amount of NFL upside (of course, playing for the Panthers or Bills can ruin even the most promising career). I don't mind the attitude. He HAD to have known it would drive people crazy. If he didn't, THAT says more about him than the statement itself.

Dave Duerson, cont'd: This story continues to be the most troubling of any during the NFL's brain-injury epidemic. This latest, in today's NY Times, is tough. More will come out. (And already has.)

Jim Calhoun's 3-game suspension from NCAA... next year: His intransigence in the face of a smackdown -- no matter how ridiculously softly the NCAA wants to euphemize it -- suggests that he probably deserves worse, if only for not recognizing that there was a problem.

Much, much more throughout the day. Stick with Quickish to keep up with all of it.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

2/22 (Carmelo) Quickie

There are a lot of angles to cover in this Carmelo story.

*Right off the bat, I'd send you to the Quickish stream of analysis about Carmelo, mostly from the first two hours after the story broke last night. You will get a terrific survey of quick-hit takes and be able to consume them fast.

*Here is my top-level takeaway: The Knicks will not win a championship with Amare and Carmelo -- they probably won't make it out of the first round of the playoffs. And from all expert analysis, landing Chris Paul or Deron Williams in 2012 is wishful thinking.

And so what are the Knicks left with? Relevancy. And -- in an old Quickie maxim -- if you're not going to win a championship, relevancy isn't a terrible 2nd prize. The Knicks had already gotten more relevant with Amare; that gets doubled with Carmelo.

But Knicks fans are crazy if they think this will get them an NBA championship. It was the right move to make, but not necessarily competitively -- unless the competition you're really in is to matter in a sports landscape dominated by superstars.

*Did the Knicks give up too much? Probably not -- again, if the goal was to maximize the star power (which it seems to be).

*Let's be clear: Contrary to months-old reports, Carmelo would have absolutely taken the $65M from the Nets if the Knicks didn't come up with the winning offer. In the end, he wanted the money more than he wanted the location. That he got both is not a product of his design, but of James Dolan and Isiah Thomas paying whatever price they needed to get him.

*The Nuggets did AMAZING. Consider the recent history of superstars changing locations -- either the teams are blinded into thinking the stars would re-sign with them or they get fleeced for pennies on the dollar. Denver got back maximum value for Carmelo -- and it's not pennies. They got three starter-quality players, a promising young center and a slew of draft picks (not to mention financial flexibility). Taking into account the respective contexts, I think the Nuggets did better than the Knicks.

*The Nets didn't get Carmelo, but -- then again -- they didn't mortgage the future (Derrick Favors, who still has huge All-Star upside, and a slew of draft picks, which could easily turn into an all-star talent). The notion that they won by gutting the Knicks' roster is overblown -- as much as I like it in theory; the Knicks only cared about the star power anyway. The brief rumor that the Nets were going to get Gallinari and Mozgov was exciting; it likely won't happen.

*Carmelo will reportedly wear No. 13 -- that's better than him wearing Bernard King's beloved No. 30; Melo had to have known that taking 30 would be a mistake. Good for him for recognizing it. The Melo-Amare Knicks (see what I did there?) will make their national-TV debut on Sunday night on ESPN against the Heat. Wow. Split the screen with the Oscars, I guess.

*On a personal note, I am not a Knicks fan but I do live in New York, and I am thrilled by the idea that Corey Brewer will be playing for the Knicks. I love Joakim Noah and Al Horford from those title-winning Florida teams, but Brewer was/is my favorite.

*I think we can all agree that the best part of all of this is that the Carmelo-Knicks trade saga is now over. In that detail, he unites all fans everywhere.

-- D.S.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Feb 2/21 (Presidential) Quickie

Kobe wanted to own that All-Star Game, and he did. I'm trying to figure out my favorite moment: His baseline, feel-like-I'm-20-again dunk or his breakaway slam in front of a desperate LeBron, followed by a butt-slap and a smirk that said, "I still got it."

Rihanna mania: Based on my Twitter feed, I've got to be the only one who thought Rihanna was just OK. Certainly not amazing. When your standard is "But it was better than Black Eyed Peas at the Super Bowl!" (or "Heh heh: Short skirt!), I can understand the enthusiasm.

All in all, NBA All-Star Weekend was a huge success.

*Bieber in the Celebrity game was an event -- even if you hate Bieber, you were kind of curious.

*The Saturday night event -- headlined by the dunk contest -- was the most-watched NBA All-Star Saturday Night EVER.

*And the game itself was an entertaining romp dominated by the elder stateman of the league (Kobe) and its best player (LeBron, who had a triple-double).


Carmelo: Nothing has changed since yesterday morning, except that the Nuggets have asked the Knicks for even more (Mozgov), knowing that the Knicks (or, more precisely, owner James Dolan, advised by Isiah Thomas) will do it if they think there's a chance that Carmelo wants money (meaning the Nets) more than love (the Knicks).

Supposedly, Carmelo will decide by the end of today whether he is OK taking the Nets money and sucking for the next three years (plus the rest of 2011); then again, it's not like he's winning a title with the Knicks over the next three years, either.


Daytona: 20-year-old Trevor Bayne wins, entirely unexpectedly. I ended up watching 180 of the 200 laps with my 4-year-old, who was fairly mesmerized and asked a lot of questions. He identified with the two brands he recognized -- Cheerios (Bowyer in the 33 car) and M&Ms (Busch in the 18 car), settling on Cheerios as his car, because it was near the front for most of the race... right up until the final few laps, when Bowyer was involved in a crash and his car was KO'ed. Gabe and I were both disappointed; it was unsatisfying to sit there for 3 hours only to have your car not even get a chance to make it happen in the final laps. But Bayne as a storyline is terrific -- the kid isn't even a Sprint Cup driver, but his reputation is secure for decades.


Lots going on at Quickish today. Please check it out (repeatedly!). It's not just about Carmelo -- promise.

-- D.S.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Feb. 20 (Very Dunky) Quickie

I'm not a fan of the "The dunk contest IS BACK!" meme. Every year, someone exclaims it and it is pretty meaningless.

But last night, at least the 4 contenders tried to raise the bar, creatively. I'm not talking about that contrived Ibaka dunk where he rescued the teddy bear for the kid actor. (Ugh.)

And I'm definitely not talking about the Blake Griffin dunk over the Kia, which -- let's be honest -- was far more sizzle than steak. (At least they decided to go all-in on it with the choir.) In the light of the morning, the stunt feels kind of embarrassing for everyone, Griffin included. He's better than that.

But JaVale McGee did a couple dunks that no other player in the NBA -- including Blake Griffin -- could do: The "two balls on two hoops" and the "dunk three balls at once" dunks.

McGee deserved to win. As Free Darko pointed out last night: Would it have been so terrible if Blake did his Kia dunk and yet still lost to the better dunk-contest dunker?

But DeMar DeRozan had one of those "lost beneath the hype of other dunks" performances: He only had 2 dunks. His first try was muffled by repeated misses. His 2nd dunk was, arguably, the most spectacular of the night.

Say this for the dunk contest: You had to stop what you were doing and watch, because you just didn't know what you might see -- and, on that front, it delivered.


Carmelo: Is it over yet? Nope. Let's try to make sense of the several strands:

He met with the Knicks. Yes, he met with the Nets. But apparently, he only met with the Nets because it was a precondition by the Nuggets for him to meet with the Knicks.

Carmelo affirmed he has no interest in the Nets. The Nuggets would still rather do a deal with the Nets than Knicks. (Tough luck.)

The Nuggets keep asking the Knicks for a ton. Knicks prez Donnie Walsh doesn't want to gut the starting lineup to get Carmelo; owner Jim Dolan (and Isiah Thomas) do. Guess who wins?

(In an added twist, apparently Deron Williams made it clear to friends that he has every intention of signing with the Knicks when he becomes a free agent in 2012. If I was the Jazz, I would call the Knicks and say "We'll take the Carmelo package for Williams RIGHT NOW." And if I was the Knicks, I'd much rather have Williams in hand than Carmelo.)

And so what happens now? Dolan gives up whatever it takes to get Carmelo, and in the next few days -- possibly today -- Carmelo is a Knick. The team makes the playoffs but gets KO'ed in the first round -- as they will next year, too. Then they get Williams in 2012. This is progress?


RIP Dave Duerson. The details that came out yesterday are horrifying -- he killed himself, but just before he did, he told friends to make sure his brain went to research to see what kind of damage he did to it playing football. This is the most troubling brain-injury-related development yet for the NFL. They can continue hoping/banking on people not paying attention or glazing over the details, but this is an awful new chapter in the story.


College Hoops Yesterday: Just in case you thought you had a handle on your bracket, Pitt loses to St. John's and Texas loses to Nebraska. Let's not put too much stock in any single games, but it should serve as a reminder that winning 4 straight to make the Final Four -- let alone 6 straight to win a national title -- is a brutal challenge to predict, this year more than most.


Stern's "State of the NBA": Like the NFL, the league has absolutely nothing to lose by playing hardball with the union to get the deal they want, even if it means losing next season. The league is so good right now that its avid fans will come right back. It's not quite as extreme an advantage as the NBA enjoys, but the NBA won't wipe out all the momentum it has built up by missing half of next season, if it means the owners get the long-term deal they want. As with the NFL, the owners' priority is the long-term; the players' priority is the short-term. That means the players will blink first, and the owners should know it.

(Speaking of blinking first: Will Sacramento give the Kings what it wants or will the team move to Anaheim? For those playing at home, that would make three NBA teams in L.A. Hard to believe that other markets -- Kansas City? -- wouldn't pony up to get the Kings.)


Daytona 500: It's the one NASCAR event each year I watch. This whole conjoined, tag-team, double-drafting stuff is novel, but a bit lame. But if the finish is anything like it was at the Nationwide event yesterday, with Tony Stewart winning by a foot or two, coming from behind in the final fraction of a second, then it's going to be a great race.

-- D.S.