Saturday, February 25, 2012

02/25 (Very) Quickie

*OK, NBA All-Star Weekend is off to a slow start: That Rookie-Soph game was boring. (Although the Celeb Game got its highest audience ever, which must have been the Arne Duncan Factor.)

*The question of the week in MLB: Where do you stand with Ryan Braun? (I still think most people are happy a guy as talented as Braun will play a full season.)

*Best Thing You'll Read Today: NYT's Howard Beck on "The Evolution of Jeremy Lin." This is no overnight success.

*CBB: I really want to believe Marquette is an Elite Eight team... Today's Must-See: Mizzou at Kansas at 4 on CBS... Northwestern Bubble Watch: At Penn State tonight in a must-win.

*Today is my 5-year-old's season finale in his kindergarten hoops league that I've been coaching. We can quibble over the "Everyone Gets a Trophy" attitude, but not for 5-year-olds.

-- D.S.

Friday, February 24, 2012

02/24 (Braun) Quickie

The dominant theme about Ryan Braun and last night's news is that his story is a conundrum.

Technically (or is that "technicality"), his name has been cleared. But his winning defense wasn't "I didn't take the stuff" -- it was "The lab tech left my pee in his fridge and didn't FedEx it quickly enough."

And so few people are satisfied. Folks inclined to bury Braun will still think he cheated. Folks inclined to support Braun have awkward evidence. The MLB testing regimen has been turned into a punchline (which might be why the league took the extraordinary step of saying it "vehemently" disagreed with the arbitration panel's decision). And regular fans are left to get just a bit more cynical about all of this. (In fact, the only folks who would be decisively thrilled are those who think MLB's PED issue is either overblown or irrelevant -- the reigning NL MVP will get to play a full season.)

In the end, this will blow over, just like almost everything does. Partly, that's because of the murky ending to the story and partly that's because we like watching awesome baseball players on the field more than we care about watching them sit out 50 games, for whatever reason.

Perhaps the biggest implication of the decision? Braun goes right to the top of fantasy baseball draft lists.

Check out Quickish's coverage of the Braun news.


*Linsanity stifled by the Heat: There is no shame for Jeremy Lin in getting smothered by the Heat -- the best team in the league and, when they set their mind to it, the best defensive team in the league. And, oh, did they set their mind to humiliating Lin. That makes last night one of the more fascinating twists of the Lin Era. I tweeted this last night: No one ever claimed that Jeremy Lin's emergence made the Knicks elite; he just made them interesting. That is no less the case today than it was before last night's game. Check out Quickish's comprehensive Lin coverage.

*NFL Combine: Robert Griffin III measures taller than 6-foot-2. There were questions about his height -- which seems like a ridiculous thing to worry about, given the way that 6-foot-nuthin' Drew Brees has carved up the league. But between his size and his talent, he will be the No. 2 pick of the draft and a great NFL QB -- the only question is which team ponies up the bounty necessary to get the Rams to trade out for him. Cleveland's extra 1st-round pick -- acquired when they gave up their spot to Atlanta last year for Julio Jones -- should be the difference, unless Washington is ready to mortgage their future for a potentially franchise QB.

More coming this weekend. Please check out Quickish!

-- D.S.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

02/23 (Lin vs. LeBron) Quickie

For all the Linsanity of the past three weeks (less than three weeks, really), nothing -- not the debut, not the nationally televised Lakers win, not the game-winner over the Raptors, not the nationally televised Mavs win -- compares to what is coming tonight:

Jeremy Lin and the Knicks in South Beach to play LeBron, D-Wade and the Heat, on TNT in primetime.

It's not just that it collides this year's biggest story with last year's biggest story. It's that the game is on national TV -- accessible to everyone -- and it comes in the finale before the league takes a break for All-Star Weekend.

It's not even close: This is the biggest game yet of the NBA season (displacing the previous "Biggest Game Yet," Lin vs. Lakers) and arguably the most must-see NBA regular-season game since Michael Jordan returned the first time, against the Knicks in the Garden.

Does the result matter? No. To the extent that the Knicks are on the East playoff periphery, they could use the win, but it's hardly like there was an expectation -- before or after the start of the Lin Era -- they would win in Miami tonight. The Heat are locked into a Top 2 seed in the East.

No, this is entirely about the biggest storyline in sports going up against the storyline we all used to care about quite a bit -- but, compared to Linsanity, not so much anymore.

One other thing: Everyone loves Lin and the Lin story. I'm still trying to find a backlash (beyond the boring and meta "backlash to the media coverage"). Meanwhile, the Heat are still defined by their place as the team so many NBA fans love to hate.

In the complementary way most fans are thrilled to see Lin keep winning, they maintain last year's position that after wanting to see their own team win, they are rooting for the Heat to fail. If that puts tonight's game in apocalyptic "Good vs. Evil" proportions, just wait until they meet in the playoffs.

As for a prediction: Big game for Lin, big win for the Heat -- and the biggest TV ratings for an NBA regular-season game in the history of cable TV.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

02/21 (Still Linsane) Quickie

So the Knicks got torched by Deron Williams -- obviously smarting from being the spark of the nation's Linsanity. It's still the best story in sports right now, with a pretty good sports week in the making.

*Tonight: Northwestern hosts Michigan, and it's pretty close to must-win for NU if they want to keep their NCAA Tournament hopes going. (They finish with Ohio State in Evanston -- a near-certain loss -- plus road games at Penn State and at Iowa, neither of which are gimmes, unless the rest of us can convince them to roll over for NU to help the Cats make the Dance for the first time in school history.)

*Daytona: Danica-mania.

*NBA All-Star Weekend: We'll all watch, but kinda not feeling it this year. The Rookie-Soph showcase is stand-out for having Lin run alongside all those draftees picked ahead/instead of him, but otherwise? Meh.

*More college hoops: Mizzou at Kansas. It's hard to say that a win or loss here by either team is particularly determinative -- are you really going to discount Mizzou's shot at a Final Four run if they lose in Lawrence? Both teams are locks for high seeds, so this one is for pride.

*MLB: Manny Ramirez signs with the A's. I'm with everyone else who says "Why not?" Zero risk for the A's, and even at age 40, Manny could still be an entirely productive hitter.

*Are the Lakers going to trade Pau Gasol? If they want any shot to win a title this year -- no matter how slim that shot might be -- they shouldn't. They should keep the window wedged open as long as they can. If they trade Gasol, they might as well be saying, "We're done." Unless, of course, they can convince the Magic to take Andrew Bynum for Dwight Howard.

*Best Thing You'll Read Today: The story behind The Simpsons' classic "Homer at the Bat," by Erik Malinowski over at Deadspin.

*Otherwise, pop by Quickish today to catch up on the best takes on the biggest topics.

-- D.S.