Friday, June 10, 2011

06/10 (Heat On Brink) Quickie

As I said yesterday, last night was not a must-win for the Heat. It was a must-win for the Mavs.

NOW it is a must-win for the Heat. Twice.

There are only three scenarios left in these instant-classic NBA Finals:

(1) The Mavs win Game 6. Despite close finishes, it would be a decisive knockout of the Heat, on LeBron's own home floor, no less.

(2) The Heat win Game 6, then the Mavs win Game 7. I think, given a preference, this is what almost every fan would like to see. By far the most powerful ending.

(3) The Heat win Game 6, then the Heat win Game 7. Games 4 and 5 in Dallas are forgotten. LeBron's mid-series problems are forgotten. The new narrative: Heat Champs ('nuff said).

That was a wonderful game last night, particularly if you are rooting against the Heat -- there was a national fan moment when Dirk had that baseline dunk, topped when Jason Kidd hit that 3, topped again when Jason Terry hit that absolute dagger 3 that had everyone going "Oh my god: This game is over. The Mavs are going to be up 3-2." (But it was more like OH MY GOD!)

If the Heat lose the series, last night's game -- specifically -- will be lost to history. So will Miami's other three individual losses. For that matter, so will the Mavericks' four wins.

What we will remember is that Miami lost in the Finals, that LeBron didn't play spectacularly. (OK, yes: That Dallas' vets found the craftiness and clutchiness to win.)

I keep reading that this is the Year of LeBron. What is being lost is that it's not the Year of LeBron -- it's the Decade of LeBron.

The Mavs will enjoy an extended summer of being champs -- perhaps even all of next season. But as quickly as the morning after the Finals end -- if they end with the Heat on the wrong end -- the storyline will be: Can LeBron and the Heat win that title in 2012? And there will be a year of build-up to next year's Finals.

I don't mean to be a downer here. But the Heat winning the title this year was always going to be a bonus -- they are built to contend annually for the next half-decade or so, and so you have to be willing to accept the inevitability of LeBron and the Heat winning a title. If not this year, then next. Or the next. Or the next. Or the next. (That's a lot of "nexts.")

What this year -- what last night -- represents is holding back that inevitability for one more day, one more game (or, in this case, two more games). That presumptions can be (and often are) wrong. That, like the Pistons crushing the heavily favored Lakers in 2004, expectations can be flipped.

Temporarily, the foregone conclusion is avoided. Last night, fans on the "Anyone But the Heat" side got our "must-win." The Heat may yet flip the script, but it sure looks less certain than ever. That is more than enough to celebrate this morning.

-- D.S.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

06/09 (Yeah, Yeah...LeBron) Quickie

"Now or never."

That's what LeBron tweeted in the middle of the night last night, and he's only partly right.

Tonight's Game 5 is a must-win for the Mavs -- if they lose, they would have to win two straight in Miami, an unlikely scenario.

If the Heat lose tonight, they still get two games at home -- entirely winnable. And so tonight is not must-win for the Heat.

Is it even must-play-well for LeBron? Again: Partly.

Would playing well get the media off his back? Only if the Heat win. And, even then, only if the Heat subsequently win the title.

Here's the reality: If the Heat don't win the title, it won't matter how well LeBron plays in Games 5, 6 and 7*, because he sealed the narrative in the 4th quarter of Game 4.

Conversely, if the Heat in the title, no one will remember Game 4. Oh, sure, there will be discussion of Wade's MVP performance. But the Heat don't win a ring without LeBron. And once LeBron has his ring, no matter how he gets it, that removes much of any lingering stigma.

And so "Now or never" is the right thing for him to say. It is an interesting thing for him to say. But the case can be made that tonight's game -- "now" -- isn't as important as Sunday or Tuesday.

-- D.S.

PS: For what it's worth, I think LeBron will shoot more and score more -- that is what his critics are asking for, right? -- but that doesn't mean the Heat will be in a better position to win. As it has been since the Boston series, LeBron's defense and facilitating are more important than his shot and scoring totals.

After 4 games, I am befuddled as to make a prediction on the game's outcome. Let's just root for an ending as entertaining as the previous four games. In a bit of a technocratic view, I'd like to see the Mavs win, if only because it presents the clearest path to a toss-up Game 7, which is in the best interests of everyone not a Heat or Mavs fan, while still preserving the "Heat don't win the title meme" for the vast majority of us who would like that result.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

Terrelle Pryor and the UFL

If the UFL actually thinks that bringing in Terrelle Pryor alone will juice interest in the largely hapless fledgling football minor league -- or if fans actually would have an interest (even passing interest) in the UFL if it did sign a known college star like Pryor -- then it makes it all the more obvious what the UFL's optimal strategy should be:

Undercut the NFL's draft age-restriction by two years, then recruit star college players after their freshmen and sophomore years directly into the UFL, to spend one or two years getting paid to hone their NFL skills until they are draft-eligible in the NFL.

We've been over this before: If the UFL could promise some money and, perhaps more importantly, a full-time focus on maximizing the players' draft prospects (and, ultimately, their long-term NFL prospects), they could not only bring in the "name" players that would increase interest in the league, but ultimately position itself as a viable development pipeline for NFL talent.

Again, this is all based on the assumption that single "name" stars from college, like Pryor, would materially move the needle for the UFL. If those individual players wouldn't, then the plan wouldn't work -- then again, why would people be talking about Pryor now if there wasn't some intrigue? You wouldn't need to recruit every talented rising college sophomore or junior -- just some of the bigger names, names you could market around ("See them now before you see them on the stage on the first night of the NFL Draft.")

What makes it so frustrating is both how obvious it is and the UFL's boneheaded insistence on trying to be a crappy version of the NFL, rather than taking advantage of the most glaring inefficiency in the NFL's development system -- its arbitrary age limit -- and arbitraging the 1-2 years between the emergence of college stars and their drafting into the NFL.

-- D.S.

Bill Simmons' Grantland Launches Today

Today is the launch day of Bill Simmons' new ESPN-backed project I jotted down a few launch-day/pre-launch thoughts. If this topic is of interest to you, please give it a read.

-- D.S.

06/08 (What the Heat?) Quickie launches today. As a fan of all media start-ups, sports and otherwise, I had a few things to say. Onward...

Heat, LeBron choke away Game 4 to the Mavs: All credit to Dallas for gutting it out, but for a second time in this series, the Heat collapsed.

Yes, Dwyane Wade was incredible, but -- yikes -- LeBron was a non-factor, in a way that seems to trouble most everyone.

It's not that he didn't score -- I don't care about that. It's that he wasn't aggressive or engaged, which has yet to be accounted for in post-game reports. The "Why?"

LeBron is the most talented player in the NBA -- that doesn't necessarily mean he has a killer instinct. He has shown flashes, but then again, he has shown flashes of NOT having it.

Here's the thing: LeBron and the Heat will win a ring (or rings) eventually and inevitably. It doesn't matter how much he has to do with that, because we'll largely only remember the titles.

Even games like last night -- or last year's check-out vs. the Celtics -- will be buried under the weight of "CHAMPION," as these things almost always are.

But games like last night have a way of sticking with people. In the same way it elevated our already out-of-this-world appreciation of Dwyane Wade, it diminished our belief in LeBron.

A few other thoughts:

*Terrelle Pryor leaves Ohio State: The guy was bad news from the start, even before he signed with OSU. He should have played elsewhere -- then again, would he have earned that $40K in autographs in Ann Arbor or Happy Valley or Gainesville or Eugene? (Maybe, if he was inclined to.)

Pryor leaves a legacy of winning, but not ultimately winning; he always seemed to have terrible games in those single losses that ruin Ohio State's season. (Ohio State fans who focus on Big Ten titles rather than national titles are missing the point.) He also leaves a legacy of scandal.

*Tiger drops out of the US Open: If he's too hurt to play -- or play well -- he's too hurt to play. But it just reinforces the idea that he'll never compete at the elite level (winning majors, I mean) again.

*The Pistons hiring Isiah would be a joke. The Pistons hiring Laimbeer would be inspired.

*Red Sox beat Yankees: Just can't get excited about this yet. (On the flip side, I'm going to be in Tampa for July 4 weekend and have every intention of going to a Rays game. Extra 2%, baby!)

*Congrats to Arizona State women's softball on winning the College World Series (over Florida, yes).

Tons of great stuff on Quickish today -- recommendations to the best NBA Finals Game 4 analysis, more reactions to today's top news and no more meta-coverage of Grantland -- just money quotes and links to Grantland's best stuff.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

06/07 (Zip Around) Quickie

*Bruins thump Canucks: Sure feels like one of those beatings that complete flips a series, but small sample size... yada yada yada... let's wait until Game 4 is over.

*Warriors hire Mark Jackson: He might be the next Doc Rivers, but even Doc Rivers wasn't Doc Rivers until he had three Hall of Famers and the best assistant coach in basketball. That's not Jackson's situation with the Warriors; the "no previous coaching experience, head or otherwise" is the reason to be skeptical here.

*MLB Draft: So different from the NFL or NBA Drafts, where the impact at the top can be instantaneous. Most of these top players won't see the MLB level until 2013 at the earliest. That's a long way to go. Good thing we have...

*Bryce Harper Watch: After clocking a HR off a team that beaned him two days ago, Harper blew a kiss at the opposing pitcher, endearing him to no one. I don't mind the showmanship (or lack of sportsmanship) because this is obviously just who Harper is. He should be ready for the blowback, though. I'm sure the Nationals are trying to figure out how to mitigate the PR damage -- while secretly thrilled he keeps making national news as a single-A player.

*USC stripped of 2004 BCS title: I'm in the "let's not leave it vacated -- let's give it to Auburn." And I think the AP is derelict -- not to mention going against its stated goal of "not making the news itself" -- by not having the old voters re-vote. I think that would be tremendous in an otherwise slow offseason.

*West Virginia football coaching mess: Seriously, WTF? There's no way current head coach Bill Stewart can make it through this. And I suspect WVU can fire him for cause, thus voiding the hefty remainder of his deal. (Or, at the very least, settle for a figure way less than paying him out in full, if they simply fired him as they seem to want to.) Dana Holgorsen might be a flawed guy, but I think everyone is ready to see what he can do as a head coach. Let's get it going already.

*NFL planning for 8-game season? No, not "planning" as in "that's what it's going to be," but "planning" as in "contingency." And, frankly, let's be pragmatic: An 8-game season is better than a zero-game season. Would make for an insane sprint for the playoffs -- can you imagine how insane fans will have become without NFL in September and October?

*Tennessee AD Mike Hamilton resigns: Too little, too late.

*Michael Crabtree isn't sure about Alex Smith as 49ers QB: Who isn't? (This is news?)

*NBA Finals Game 4 tonight: Needless to say, it's a must-win for the Mavs.

Stick with Quickish all day for great recommendations and the best takes on the biggest stories.

-- D.S.

Monday, June 06, 2011

06/06 (Advantage: Heat) Quickie

Get over to Quickish to catch up on last night's game and everything else from the weekend. Meanwhile: Let's get to it...

Heat win Game 3: Dwyane Wade was phenomenal. Chris Bosh was good enough. And this LeBron "shrinking" meme is ludicrous -- none of this works without him.

Meanwhile, it's yet another game that the Mavericks coulda-shoulda-woulda won, and when they lose the series, they'll look back and say "If only..."

Nadal d. Federer in French Open final
: The big discussion today is Nadal's rising place on the "all-time" list. That he's even in the discussion should be good enough.

Albert Pujols: That is all.

Plaxico Burress freed from prison: He was wearing a Phillies cap, which was clearly intentional -- Philly is where Mike Vick landed, and they could use him.

West Virginia crazy: So that story about WVU coach-in-waiting Dana Holgorsen getting busted at casinos for being drunk and disorderly? Apparently the leaks came from the current coach, who apparently kind of resents the "in-waiting" thing.

MLB Draft today: UCLA P Gerritt Cole is expected to be the No. 1 overall pick by the Pirates, but there is no Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg mega-star in this year's field.

Olympic rights bidding presentations: NBC/Comcast vs. Fox vs. ESPN, in Switzerland. Can't even begin to guess who will win, but suffice to say these folks are playing chess where the rest of us kind of muddle along playing checkers.

Lots more to come today on Quickish. Pop by!

-- D.S.