Friday, April 15, 2011

04/15 (NBA Playoffs) Quickie

Now that we've got the bland formality of the NBA regular season behind us, we can focus on what really matters: Championship or bust.

As it was in October, there are just a handful of teams with a realistic shot at winning the title: The Lakers, Celtics and Spurs. The Bulls qualified for the group, although they would have to defy the "must go through trial by fire first" rule of the NBA Playoffs.

The Heat? I'll stick with the preseason prediction: The Heat -- as improved as they might be -- are not going to sniff the title. They won't win the East, and I can't see anyone actually picking them to beat the Celtics in the Eastern Conference semifinals.

And let's remember the rock and hard place that this Miami team is in:

The expectation is that they should win a championship. The reality is that they have no chance and, in fact, will barely do better than the Pacers or 76ers. Because anything less than a title for the Heat IS a failure, fair or not. It's so complicated.

I'm sticking with my preseason pick: That the Lakers will win another title. The Thunder will make it very interesting, upending the Spurs in the semis, then taking LA to 7 in the West finals.

In the East, the Celtics will drum out the Heat in one semi, then evade the Bulls in the other -- exactly the Game 7 disappointment Chicago will need to claim the Lakers' throne next year and beyond.

But the story -- for better or worse -- is that in Year 1 of what appears to be a 5-year experiment (less if they jettison Bosh in the offseason), the Heat failed. At the risk of ruining everyone's schadenfreude, I honestly believe that not only will LeBron not win multiple titles in his NBA career, I think he won't win any (short of signing up with a real contender later in his career).

For now, I'll stick with LeBron failing in '11 -- and Kobe claiming No. 6.

So many amazing things on Quickish today -- NBA playoff previews, NHL analysis, some phenomenal videos, great MLB analysis and a Quickish "original": A must-follow list of top NBA pundits. Please check it out -- and all weekend long.

-- D.S.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

04/14 (DL) Quickie

First, a fond (and navel-gazey) farewell to Dan Levy, whose prolific "On the DL Podcast" ends its 555-show run today. To commemorate it, he mapped the entire Muppets universe to folks around the sports-blog universe. You know what? They're almost all entirely appropriate. (He mapped me to Guy Smiley, which isn't that far off.)

What happened in Sacramento last night -- where the fans staged a don't-call-it-a-protest love-fest worthy of a team that will be bolting the city where it is the only game in town -- was one of the most powerful moments of the last year in sports. You really feel for them.

The NHL Playoffs started last night, and true to my very sincere attempt to follow them more closely, I had the Caps-Rangers game on almost the entire time. I am contemplating growing a playoff beard, but people who know me would note that it will take all of 3 or 4 days to have it grown-in in full.

NBA playoffs start this weekend: Picks and analysis tomorrrow.

Bonds guilty on that one obstruction-of-justice count: A totally meh moment. I side more with the folks saying "What a waste of time/money" than the ones saying "It's the 'guilty' verdict that will stain his career forever!" Like the assumption of guilt hadn't already tainted it indelibly?

Kobe's slur: Kobe always seemed too smart to devolve to that level. The $100K fine by the league is more of a statement than Kobe's apology, which veered between half-hearted (of the I'm-sorry-this-became-a-thing variety) and honestly being sorry he said it.

More later. Please pop by Quickish today. Lots lined up to make your day more interesting.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

4/12 (Interregnum) Quickie

A few stray thoughts on a morning I'm feeling chippy:

*It's "Tell-a-Friend Tuesday" at Quickish. All that means is that you recommend Quickish to a friend today. Ideally, lots of friends. Actually, really ideally, you tell lots of friends every day. But we'll settle for just one friend on one day. It's a more concerted effort to get the word out about Quickish. I know most of you already tell friends -- can't tell you how much I appreciate that. So here's a spin-off: Tell your friends to tell friends. Virality!

*Mariners fans deserved that comeback last night. It was as improbable an event in baseball as there exists -- that the wispy-hitting Mariners would be able to come back from a 7-0 deficit in the game's final three innings? (Oh, and in a start where King Felix got shelled, no less.)

*Even more than other years, the NBA Playoffs first round feels like a fait d'accompli. The marquee is Celtics-Knicks. Does anyone actually see the Knicks taking this more than 5 games, let alone winning?

*It's admittedly a low bar, but I'm more engaged in this year's NHL Playoffs than any in recent years I can remember. I'm nominally a Caps fan, so I'd like to see them avoid the ignominy of a first-round exit (particularly after being up 3 games to 1), but I can absolutely see the inherent drama of Bruins-Habs.

*Randy Moss to the Jets? Why not?

*So one-and-done Josh Selby skipped the Kansas hoops banquet because he was looking into his draft status? And? If your dream employer called you a few weeks before graduation and said they'll give you a job but they need you to start right away and you'll have to miss your graduation, you'd skip your graduation. By the way, this was a basketball banquet, not a graduation.

*By the way, this year's NBA Draft is awful. I'm fully on board with Bismack Biyombo going No. 1 overall. He has more upside than any player in the draft. Though that's not saying a lot.

*I think Tom Brady going in the 6th round is the greatest story in the history of the NFL Draft. (His story is being re-told tonight on ESPN, and the clip of him crying while remembering his drop through the draft is the most viral sports video of the week.) I'm totally comfortable using his draft story as a club to mock the draftniks, who are charlatans.

That said, he was pegged as a system QB who needs to be in the right fit in order to succeed in the NFL -- you could say that about most great QBs, from Montana to Elway to Favre. And you can't argue that Brady didn't benefit in some ultimate sense from being paired with Bill Belichick (and vice versa). Brady going in the 1st round to some horrible team would have obliterated his career. The lesson: When it comes to the draft, it's all about fit, about system and about opportunity.

Lots more coming throughout the day at Quickish. Please pop by (and tell a friend!)

-- D.S.

Monday, April 11, 2011

My Favorite FreeDarko Post

Below, in my small tribute to Free Darko (which is shuttering today), I mentioned that I contributed one of my favorite things I ever wrote to FD for their Valentine's Day 2007 post.

I'm going to post the whole thing below, because I love it so much:

"He's Just Not That Into U-donis"
Filed by Dan Shanoff

I'm not quite sure I can pinpoint exactly when I knew I WOULD marry my wife, but I'm quite sure I can pinpoint exactly when I knew I COULD:

The year: 2001
The setting: Our first date.
The place: West Village Italian restaurant
The context: 1.2 bottles of wine into dinner.
The topic on the table: The preeminent value of offensive rebounds in relation to (1) a basketball team's chances of success and (2) a basketball forward's worth as a player.

Let me clarify: My wife (then, the random woman I was on a first date with) was making that argument. I was pretending to engage in the discussion. I was nodding. I may have even been responding.

All I know is that her voice was drowned out by the one in the back of my head:

Li'l Danny: "Are you listening to this? Are you listening?!"

Me: "Pipe down. She's trying to make a point about the pro potential of Udonis Haslem."

Li'l Danny: "The fat Florida center? He'll never make it!"

Me: "Shh!"

Li'l Danny: "But here is a woman who not only loves basketball, but appreciates it for its subtle pleasures!"

Me: "Which *I'm* trying to appreciate, save for your yammering!"

Li'l Danny: "I think I'm in love. Go on: Say something smart that will make her respect you for your basketball knowledge!"

Me: "OK...wait: I'm blanking! I'm blanking!! It's all too much pressure! I'm smitten!"

Li'l Danny: "Plus-minus! Plus-minus!"

Me: "What the hell is 'plus-minus?'" (Remember: It was 2001.)

Li'l Danny: "Nooooo! Damn your ignorance! You better switch topics to something more your speed... like pop culture."

Me: "So, uh, how about'Sex and the City' women?" (D'oh!)

Fast-forward nearly six years, one marriage and one kid later: Her enthusiastic argument on behalf of offensive rebounds remains THE most -- if not only -- vivid detail of our entire first date.

And as we sit in our NYC apartment today watching her favorite NBA player -- David Lee (yeah, she's a Gators fan) -- she's still talking about offensive rebounds. And knowing Lee's NBA-best offensive-rebounding numbers, I couldn't love her more for it.


In Praise of Free Darko

When I talk about sportswriting never being better than it is now (and meaning it!), it is a recognition of one driving factor:

The opening of new platforms and distribution channels over the past decade has allowed new talent to emerge.

Because of that new open access, is there more crap than ever before? Absolutely. But the flip side is that the top 10% is better than ever before. And I'll trade the crap to get the great every time.

One of the most distinctive talents in sportswriting -- the Free Darko collective, led by the irrepressible Bethlehem Shoals -- is closing its doors today, moving on to other things.

I contributed a small bit to their 11,000-word final post today -- and I will point you to my favorite contribution to FD, from Valentine's Day 2007. It is one of my favorite things I have ever written.

Good luck to all of the FD crew on whatever they have next.

-- D.S.

04/11 (Charl) Quickie

So there's presumably an optimal way for a sports event to end, but more often than not, we just want it to end distinctively -- "good enough," I guess you could say, where that qualifier is left up to each individual fan (great recent example: did you find last week's UConn-Butler game fascinatingly ugly or just ugly?)

At the Masters, we didn't get the breakthrough of 21-year-old Rory McIlroy -- but if he wasn't going to win, at least he imploded spectacularly (and then seemed to handle it as well as could be expected after the tournament ended).

We didn't get Tiger winning -- I will continue to contend that Tiger losing (Tiger coming close to winning, ideally) is the far more dramatic outcome.

We had an anyone-can-win scenario heading into the Masters' final hour -- as many as a half-dozen golfers with a shot.

That 99% of fans had never heard of Charl Schwartzel doesn't matter -- he distinguished himself with his metronomic birdie-birdie-birdie-birdie finish to the course, pulling away from the rest, who simply couldn't keep up.

And in the end, we got an epic collapse from the "how-can-he-possibly-lose?" leader, a surge (but ultimately failure) by Tiger, a finish that lots of golfers could have claimed and a champ who earned it.

That's more than "good enough."


NBA: Yesterday, I said that even if the Heat beat the Celtics and end up claiming the East 2-seed -- and home-court advantage over the Celtics in the Eastern Conf. semifinals -- it wouldn't matter, because the playoffs are so different from the regular season. I still expect most people to pick the Celtics over the Heat in their playoff predictions.

Lakers lose 5th straight: Anyone NOT picking them to win the West? Didn't think so.


NFL Lockout: The judge can insist the league and union go back to mediation, but that hardly ensures that either side will budge. There's no urgency. I suppose the judge can indicate to one side or the other that if they don't emerge from mediation with a deal, then you never know what the judge will do (in other words: threats)


WNBA Draft: Not much drama. Arguably the greatest player in the history of women's college basketball -- UConn's Maya Moore -- will go to the Minnesota Lynx.


Pop by Quickish today to catch up on Masters reactions, NBA analysis, some really good recommendations and more.

Go back and scroll down through the awesome coverage this weekend -- it'll only take you two minutes or so. That's the work of the super-talented Michael Katz, the latest addition to the Quickish team.

-- D.S.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

04/10 (Rory Sunday) Quickie

It's fun to watch a national -- perhaps epic -- sports breakthrough in real-time.

The bandwagon for 21-year-old Masters leader Rory McIlroy is nearly at capacity -- and rightly so: He's young, confident, likeable and, through three rounds in Augusta, fearless.

Where Tiger -- and at this point, it's fashionable to say "35-year-old Tiger," unfairly, in the same kind of way people said "40-year-old Willie Mays" -- stumbled, Rory sizzled.

Barring an epic collapse that would define him just as much as (if not more) a Masters title would, Rory McIlroy is going to win the Masters at age 21 and become sports' Next Big Thing.

He seems to be deserving of both titles.


Congrats to Minnesota-Duluth on their NCAA hockey title. I was at a bar with no TV when I saw on Twitter the game was headed to OT. I fired up my new "WatchESPN" app -- on a 3G network, not wi-fi, no less -- and tuned in just long enough to see the game-winning goal live. I kind of hate "game-changing" as an adjective, but in this case, it seems to fit.


NBA Today: Heat-Celtics. Yes, there is a playoff home-court advantage seemingly on the line between Boston and Miami, but even if the two should/will meet in the Eastern Conference semifinals in a month and Miami has the home-court advantage, does anyone actually think that the Celtics are losing to the Heat?

It's easy to imagine Boston up 3-2 heading into a 6th game in Boston -- with the Heat folding. And even if Boston is down 3-2 heading into a 6th game in Boston, you can already feel the momentum-reversing rout coming, followed by a Celtics win in Miami in Game 7. So, really: What's the big deal about this game again?


MLB: Has the Orioles rookie pitcher Zach Britton turned into the most must-see player in baseball?


Fun day of sports today: Masters Sunday and the Rory story, plus Heat-Celtics (with Bulls-Magic as an appetizer, featuring presumptive NBA MVP Derrick Rose with one last chance in the regular season to dazzle MVP voters -- ironically, Dwight Howard might end up runner-up.)

Enjoy it, and please give Quickish a visit (or several) if you want to keep up with the best analysis of the big stories, plus get a bunch of recommendations to really good other things to read on a pleasant Sunday in April.