Saturday, February 11, 2012

02/11 (Linsanity!) Quickie

Whether or not you watched Jeremy Lin torch Kobe Bryant's Lakers last night in an electrified Madison Square Garden (and I hope you did; if not, here are the highlights), this is clear:

Over the past week (has it only been a week?), the Lin story is the single-best NBA story I can remember.

Between Lin's multi-layered backstory (to review: Asian-American, Harvard, undrafted, cast-off) and his brilliant (and endearingly jubilant) on-court performances and the fact he's doing it in New York (for a team playing without its "stars") -- all magnified because he is doing it during that first slow sports week after the Super Bowl -- this has it all, culminating last night as Lin beat back the NBA's standard-bearer for individual excellence, Kobe Bryant, on national TV.

The euphoria has lasted longer than Michael Jordan's "double-nickel" comeback game. It has been more delightfully improbable than an 8-seed toppling a 1-seed in the playoffs (or even a hard-fought Lakers-Celtics playoff series). It has been more universally accessible than a scintillating stretch by a superstar (playoffs or regular season, it doesn't matter). And it has all happened in the span of 7 days -- from afterthought to the biggest sensation in the NBA, in just a week.

This is it, folks: This is as good as the NBA gets -- as good as sports gets, frankly.

Who knows how long this ride will last -- the expectations for Lin should be that he will torch the Timberwolves tonight, then excel once Amare Stoudemire returns to the team next week. The real challenge -- the one that everyone is looking to (if not looking forward to) -- is when Carmelo returns and tries to fit in with this new Lin-centric team. (If that is indeed a question, then it begs the question how Carmelo would have fit with Chris Paul joining the Knicks.)

Yahoo's Eric Freeman -- who has been watching Lin for a while -- made an interesting observation last night on Twitter: "The weird thing about Lin is I think he's more effective as a star than as a role player. It's been that way most of his basketball life."

The "Linsanity" phenomenon has been amazing this week. Lin is, most definitely, a star -- I think it's a given he should be added to the Rookie-Soph game at All-Star Weekend in two weeks. The question is whether the current stars of the team are ready to let him remain the Knicks' biggest sensation.

Be sure to pop by Quickish's Jeremy Lin stream to catch up on all the best commentary about Linsanity.

-- D.S.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

02/09 (Duke!) Quickie

A couple weeks ago, I was playing in my weekly pick-up hoops game and -- for once -- was just shooting the lights out. It all culminated in a long jumpshot I made at game point (which even included me muttering "that's good" as the ball left my hand). I walked off the court feeling like a million bucks.

I can't believe how Austin Rivers must be feeling, after lighting up UNC for 29, the final 3 coming at the buzzer after a crazy Duke comeback on the Heels' home court. It was the Play of the Year in college basketball and the official arrival of Rivers -- a heralded freshman -- as a college hoops mega-star.

You don't want to put too much weight on any win or loss during a college basketball regular season -- at least as it relates to the NCAA Tournament, which is (sorry, UNC and Duke fans) all that matters when you get to the elite level. Duke is still too inconsistent; UNC has no heart.

But sometimes -- for the biggest rivalries or the great comebacks or the buzzer-beating moments or a star player coming into his own -- you can set that aside and simply revel in an amazing sports moment.

Meanwhile, Linsanity continues. The sports story of the week -- and NBA story of the year -- continued last night as Jeremy Lin came to D.C. and led the Knicks to another win, with yet another stellar performance. The combination of his play, his exuberance and the team obviously rallying around him -- not to mention the backstory that has everyone rooting for him -- is incredible.

It is a very open question what happens when Carmelo comes back. He is the alpha friend who isn't around when your group of pals goes on an amazing road trip or has a phenomenal night out, then comes back and says "Hey, I'm back!" and everyone else sort of looks up and says, "Well, honestly, we just had the best time ever, but you sort of had to be there." Things are never the same.

Are the Knicks better without Carmelo? We'll see -- it's unlikely, but chemistry is a fickle thing. Here's the reality: This team wasn't going to win a championship with Carmelo anyway. If the standard is Are the Knicks a solid playoff team? then I'm not sure they're better off with him if it means disrupting the flow of the rest of the team.

We've seen this movie before: The Knicks had a great collection of solid if not spectacular players who knew how to play well together; they traded most of that group for Carmelo, and now they are winning big together in Denver while Carmelo has led the depleted, Melo-focused Knicks all the way to the top of the list of East teams not in the playoffs right now.

If Carmelo can adapt his game to fit Lin's game -- yes, you read that right -- then the Knicks could surge into something special this spring. If Carmelo demands that the rest of the team -- including Lin -- change their new chemistry in order to accommodate Carmelo's ball-dominance, then they may find themselves looking back at this week of Linsanity as the best things got.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, February 08, 2012

02/08 (Linsanity) Quickie

I'll admit it: I'm a little obsessed with the Jeremy Lin phenomenon. It's only been two games -- his brilliant off-the-bench debut on Saturday, then his even-more-brilliant turn as a starter on Monday.

How big is Lin? He is featured on the front page of the New York Times today.

How amazing is Linsanity? The Knicks are playing the hapless 5-win Wizards tonight and even with Melo out with an injury and Amare out grieving for his brother, Knicks-Wizards is the most must-see NBA game of the day. Knicks-Wizards!

People have tried to capture his appeal, and it's because his combination of different backstories makes him universally accessible:

*He is Asian-American, an even bigger rarity in the NBA than a Jewish player.
*He is from Harvard, arguably an even bigger NBA rarity than being Asian-American!
*He went undrafted -- no team wanted him.
*He is an evangelical Christian -- although he doesn't flaunt it.
*He plays with emotion -- swagger: Fist-pumps, shouts, sly smiles after big plays.
*He plays in the media capital of the universe.

Any of those individual components would make him interesting. The combination makes him a phenomenon, peaking at precisely the right moment: The devoid days after the end of the football season, as the rest of the NBA struggles to catch its breath after the sprint-start to the season -- and heading into All-Star Weekend, where it is obvious that Lin will have to be a part of the Rookie-Sophomore game (this year, with mixed teams being picked by Shaq and Charles Barkley; I don't think it's unreasonable to suggest that one of them will pick Lin first.)

Lin has instantly become the best story in the NBA this season -- eclipsing even Ricky Rubio -- and he has already secured a place as one of the most fascinating athletes of 2012.


*Kentucky crushes Florida: I think I said yesterday that UK would win by 20. They won by 20. I've been conditioned not to pick Kentucky to win the national title -- no matter how good they look in the regular season -- but this year may change that.

*Tonight: UNC-Duke. UNC is very good. Duke is just OK -- certainly overrated, and not close to the level of the top tier of teams this season. Coming off that home loss to Miami, they should get their doors blown off by a UNC team that poses match-up problems all over the place.

*NBA Last Night: Monta Ellis scores 48 in a close loss to the Thunder. Ellis is overpaid and a bit erratic, but he is on the short list of players who can go off for huge nights like last night.

*Paul Pierce passes Larry Bird on the Celtics' all-time scoring list: That's a big milestone -- The Truth has already established himself as one of the greatest Celtics of all time; that his No. 34 will hang in the rafters is obvious. The real question is: Does he finish his career in green?

*CFB: Memphis joining Big East. Much more interesting for basketball than football. If they're joining by 2013, I can't imagine Memphis coach Josh Pastner will still be there by the time they make the transition -- he's too hot of a coaching commodity to not head elsewhere.

Lots of good stuff at Quickish today. Give it a look!

-- D.S.

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

02/07 (SB Hangover) Quickie

It's always a bit startling how quickly the Super Bowl -- the preeminent sports event of the year -- sucks all the oxygen out of the room and then, faster than gameday itself, recedes.

This year, we're left with "legacy" talk -- which is a little ridiculous, particularly as it relates to Tom Brady. Did this Super Bowl loss taint Brady's legacy? Good grief: Of course not.

If Brady (and Belichick) had never won a Super Bowl? Perhaps. But that's not the case: At this point, another championship is gravy -- Brady and Belichick are in the unique position where merely making the Super Bowl adds (and can never detract) from their "legacy."

As for Eli (and Tom Coughlin), of course a Super Bowl ring -- sorry: another Super Bowl ring -- enhances their status in the sport. But "Super Bowl champ" doesn't properly account for what makes the Manning-Coughlin Super Bowl wins stand out: How they won.

I'm left less interested in figuring out where Manning or Brady fit in history -- let alone how they rank order within that history -- than appreciating one of the most dramatic Super Bowls ever.

Superlative: Want a legacy for Super Bowl XLVI? It was the most-watched Super Bowl ever. Its halftime show was the most watched ever. Ha: Remember when NFL pundits were worried about the impact of a protracted lockout? The NFL has never been stronger.

Gisele-gate: First, I don't blame her. Second, you can't expect this story NOT to get blown so out of proportion as to redefine "out of proportion." She's a supermodel. He's the NFL's biggest star. He lost devastatingly in the most-watched sports event of all time. The winning team's media outlets specialize in sensationalism (and hating Boston). Again: I don't blame her.

Kobe: Cracks the Top 5 all-time NBA scoring list. I love his reaction: "I'm not asking for too much, man. Just give me a sixth ring, damn it." (But you just know climbing that list matters to him, particularly passing Shaq.) Watching archival Kobe footage with my kids this morning, it dawned on me that my entire post-college adult life has tracked with Kobe's NBA career. And damn if he isn't still bringing it nightly.

Jeremy Lin Mania (aka "Linsanity"): Lin putting up 25 as the Knicks' surprise super-sub this past weekend was fun. Lin putting up 28 as the Knicks' starting point guard last night officially vaults him into position as the most interesting, exciting and must-see story in the NBA this season. I have to believe the NBA will put him in the "Rookie-Soph" Game during All-Star Weekend, and the NBA's version of the Singularity will occur when Lin matches up with Ricky Rubio, another spectacular storyline this season. But Linsanity, wow. (Trivia: I once owned the domain name "" That was a long time ago.)

NFL: Steelers hire Todd Haley as O.C. He's one of those NFL coaches who is way better as an assistant than a head coach. Still: The Steelers do things a very specific way -- Haley never struck me as a "do it their way" kind of guy. Then again, the Steelers jettisoned their old O.C. regime because it was no longer working, so maybe this fresh infusion of ideas will help. The Steelers aren't so far away from winning an AFC title that massive changes are necessary; then again, they did get bounced from the playoffs as humiliatingly as possible. (But that was the defense's fault, not the offense's fault.)

College Hoops: I'm back on the Mizzou bandwagon. Tonight: Kentucky gets its toughest test of the season when Florida comes to Rupp. This is exactly the kind of game that Florida typically loses by 20. But they present a few interesting match-up problems: First, they rely heavily on three-point shooting, which mitigates Anthony Davis' shot-blocking near the rim. Second, Florida's big man Murphy shoots 3s, which will draw Davis out away from the basket. Third, Patric Young is by far the strongest player Davis has seen this season. However! Florida's three-point shooting, however excellent, can be streaky, particularly on the road. Oh, and Florida is a terrible free-throw shooting team. Not that free throws matter when you're down 20 in front of 20,000 rabid Kentucky fans. More than you wanted to know.

Give Quickish a look today -- tons to see from yesterday's Super Bowl post-mortem and a lot to see today.

-- D.S.

Monday, February 06, 2012

02/06 (Champion Giants) Quickie

When your rooting interest is "Anyone but the Pats" (and for many, I'm sure, "Anyone but New York") what you really want in a Super Bowl is a good game, a thrilling finish, a bit of historical significance (ideally superlative) and a signature moment.

That's what we got; the game was entirely satisfying, right down to the Hail Mary that undoubtedly had most of the country on their feet thinking "Yes, I totally can see this touchdown happening."

Before that, the strangest touchdown in Super Bowl history -- Bill Belichick making the entirely correct call to let the Giants score so the Pats would get the ball back with enough time to mount a last-minute charge, then the Giants (or Ahmad Bradshaw) seemingly not realizing this, heading toward the goal line, then freezing himself, just before toppling over, his teammates stunned and a hundred million fans saying "There is TOTALLY enough time for the Pats to win."

And before that, one of the greatest individual plays in the history of the Super Bowl -- "Manning to Manningham," the improbable bomb that took the Giants from 88 yards away to the inevitability of a score to take the lead with almost no time remaining, all based on a tap dance by an afterthought wide receiver making not just the catch of his life, but -- if not for Tyree's Greatest Catch Ever -- the greatest catch in the history of the Giants franchise (and one of the tops in NFL history).

And Tom Brady falling short -- not just on that last-minute drive, but specifically on that overthrow of Wes Welker... a pass Welker should have caught, yes, but a pass that Brady should have made easier for Welker to catch. The missed connection will haunt them both. Brady is arguably the greatest competitor of his generation; to miss out on a second Super Bowl title by one or two plays (to the same team, no less) might eat at him more than the three rings satisfy him.

And Eli Manning playing fantastic -- again. Granted, the Pats defense was not nearly as challenging as the Giants' defense was for Brady, but let's not take away from Eli, who now has two rings in just about the most dramatic way he could earn them -- not to mention earning a permanent place within the game's "elite," the tag that dogged him all season (and maybe his entire career).

It isn't just the rings -- as impressive as they might be. It is the WAY he earned them, with steady play and two career-defining throws -- Tyree's catch might have been more miraculous than Manningham's (although that is up for debate), but Manning's throw to Tyree -- a Hail Mary, really -- is a distant second to Manningham in terms of technical difficulty. Eli's place in history is secure; in the ridiculous "Peyton or Eli" debate, give me Eli. Both will end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And perhaps the most intriguing bit of history: The Giants became the first team to finish 9-7 in the regular season to win the Super Bowl. This was a championship team, no question; their path in the playoffs was as difficult as any champion of the modern era. But they were a stumble away from missing the playoffs entirely. That said, they were built for a championship run, as long as they cleared that hurdle. The overriding lesson? Every team has a reasonable chance to make the playoffs; 9-7 isn't an impossible standard. And, if they do and they have the specific right pieces, every team has a reasonable chance to go on that 4-game run to win a title. It is the climactic moment of parity.

In the end, I think we will look back and savor this one -- it set a new standard for satisfying Super Bowls.

And, finally, a quick bit about the ads:

*I'm partial to Volkswagen after their amazing ad last year was followed up this year -- this year's VW ad was just the typical "aww, cute" until the kicker when they went to the Star Wars cantina and they had the villainy watching the ad, with one guy muttering "the dog was better than the Vader kid," a great reference to last year.

*The Doritos ad with the dog that used Doritos to bribe his owner not to say he killed the cat was No. 1 on the USA Today "Ad Meter," and it was a great choice -- it was funny and it had the requisite animal theme. Best of all, it was made by an "amateur," beating out all those pricey spots made by the advertising "professionals."

*In the end, both the Seinfeld/Acura and Ferris Bueller/Honda ads lost a bit of punch for having been released earlier in the week. That said, there were 100 million people who had never seen them before, and I'm sure they kept people's attention (if more for the entertainment value than the brands themselves).

*If you're of a certain age, it was hard not to love the Met Life ad that featured the shots of all the cartoon characters. Brilliantly, they are releasing "outtakes," like this one involving Voltron doing some breakdancing during a pause in filmmaking.

*Teleflora and GoDaddy and Fiat (and, yes, H&M) were pandering and dumb.

*I thought the Clint Eastwood ad sounded like an ad for President Obama's re-election campaign.

So many amazing tips at Quickish: Great post-game columns from Bruce Arthur, Dan Wetzel, Will Leitch and more (with more coming); the best Tweets from the game; front pages from triumphalist New York; the night-winning ads and more. Please give it a look (and pass it around).

Congrats to Giants fans. Condolences to Pats fans. For the rest of us, it was just about as good as we could hope for.

-- D.S.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

02/05 (Super Bowl Sunday) Quickie

Rooting for the Giants (uh, technically I'm rooting for the Anyone-But-The-Pats), but...picking the Pats (Pats 30, Giants 27).

Pop by Quickish during the game for the very best of the real-time commentary about the game, the ads, the scene and more.

-- D.S.