Saturday, June 09, 2012

06/09 (Very) Quickie

Great sports day ahead:

*NBA: Heat over Celtics.
*NHL: Devils over Kings.
*Boxing: Pacquiao over Bradley.
*French Open: Sharapova over Errani (and Nadal over Djokovic tomorrow).
*Euro 2012: Netherlands over Denmark, Germany over Portugal.
*Belmont: I'll Have Another wins the Triple Crown (ugh)
*Meanwhile: How can you not love a 6-pitcher no-hitter? (Only the 2nd in MLB history)

Tons of great stuff on Quickish for you to check out this weekend -- if you want something great to read, try our "Grantland Greatest Hits" list (off its 1-year anniversary on Friday) and don't miss Simmons' essay from yesterday that is my favorite thing he's done this year.

-- D.S.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

06/07 (Thunder) Quickie

The best moment of last night's Thunder win over the Spurs -- completing a four-game sweep after being down 0-2, to win OKC's (if not the franchise's) first Western Conference title -- came just before the game was over, but victory was assured:

Kevin Durant, triumphant, walked over to courtside to give his beloved mom a hug. It was an instant classic -- not quite "Good job! Good effort!" on the meme scale but certainly more meaningful.

It is impossible to dislike Durant or this young, fearless Thunder team. (The team's owners? Another story. But we all seem to be able to compartmentalize the players from the owners.)

It doesn't matter who the Thunder plays next: Either the Heat or the Celtics (let's hope it's Boston) will be assured the role of loathed villain to the Thunder's fresh-legged exuberance -- Darth and Luke, if you want an easy pop-culture metaphor.

Here's something interesting: My 6-year-old son has been following the NBA for a year -- last year's playoffs all the way through this season and this year's playoffs. And he loves the Thunder. Loves them. Partially it's because I rave about Durant. But he actually loves Westbrook -- the style of play of Westbrook and the Thunder as a whole is so obviously eager and infectious that even a six-year-old is drawn to it, without any sophisticated understanding of the game.

(Aside: I have been obsessed with OKC basketball fans since their very first game hosting the displaced Hornets -- they went bananas for that team, it helped generate the enthusiasm to bring/steal them the Thunder and they haven't looked back since. They are the best fans in the NBA, and damn near close to the best fans in sports. Doesn't matter that they've had a team for all of four years -- five if you count the Hornets. They are fantastic.)

The Thunder used to be the team of tomorrow. Now, they are the team of -- well -- now. And the foreseeable future.

When you consider that the Heat's window is this year plus another two before the Big Three can leave, perhaps a year after that before the Big Three are simply too old to keep up, there is a very good chance that Miami will never be good enough to beat this Thunder team.

Hell, they might not be good enough to win the East. We'll find out tonight.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

06/06 (Good Job, Good Effort) Quickie

The Celtics' Game 5 win over the Heat last night felt -- perhaps even was -- momentous. Short of their championship, it felt like the biggest win of Boston's "Big Three/Four" era. For those of us intrigued about the Heat failing, it was a fascinating night.

But the show was stolen by a perky young Heat fan caught by ESPN cameras as the dejected, stunned Heat trudged from the court to their locker room. The fan was shouting:


For this kid, it was an earnest exhortation of his favorite team, his heroes. That kid was adorable. His parents should be proud -- he is a great fan.

But for the rest of us, it was unintended schadenfreude. There was a twisted derivation of "Emperor's New Clothes" -- the child doesn't know any better than to rotely cheer "Good effort!" when, in fact, the game was defined by the Heat's sub-par effort (for example, Wade jogging back on D late in the game).

The context mattered -- the Heat battered, having lost home-court advantage and having to win Game 6 on the road in Boston, which will be in a frenzy, and staring at a second straight Playoffs failure.

And so "Good job! Good effort!" became an instant meme, an instant thing. It will dominate the next 48 hours -- perhaps longer.

In one of the truly ironic unintended consequences you'll see, the innocent cheering of a Heat fan has become the new universal catch-phrase to mock Miami's failure.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

06/05 (Thunder) Quickie

Winning on the road in a proverbially pivotal Game 5? That felt like the Thunder taking The Leap.

If/when they dispatch the Spurs -- perhaps en route to an NBA title (if not this year, then surely soon) -- that will fit the narrative. Then again, three games ago, when the Spurs were up 2-0, we were talking about the Spurs going 16-0 in the crowning achievement of the Dynasty.

Between then and now is what makes the NBA -- all sports -- so amazing.

Celtics-Heat Game 5: Talk about pivotal. Chris Bosh should be back -- we'll see how effective he is. What should be clear is that the Celtics have zero fear of this Heat team -- I'm not so sure about the Heat's own fear... of failure, if nothing else.

Loved this Michael Lewis commencement at Princeton from Sunday: It underscores the most arguably undervalued thing in sports (or anything) -- the role of dumb luck.

Must-see video of the day: The new trailer for the upcoming "Dream Team" documentary. Wow, is this going to be cool.

Sorry for the late post. More tomorrow a.m.

-- D.S.

Monday, June 04, 2012

06/04 (Celtics) Quickie

Wow, these NBA Conference Finals are fantastic. I suppose there is still a chance one team could win the next two and they're over in 6, but it sure looks like we're headed for amazing finishes.

Celtics knot it up 2-2: Count me among those who hate the Celtics and loathe the Heat -- in that calculation, the lesser of two evils is the last-legs Celtics dismissing the Heat (although the Heat falling short in the NBA Finals for a second straight year is its own quality form of humiliation for them). I think it could happen, particularly if/when this goes to a toss-up Game 7. (The Heat's lack of any depth beyond LeBron and Wade really shows up in those closing sequences, doesn't it?)

Chris Bosh back for Game 5? You'd think it's a net positive, but the question is this: After sitting out weeks -- and battles -- is he ready to go into a scrum this intense? I'm not just talking about physically -- although if an "abdominal strain" was enough to keep him out for weeks, it's hard to believe he will be able to hand KG elbowing him in the gut a dozen times per game. I'm talking about psychologically -- he is the guy who shows up 2/3 of the way through your road trip with your buddies. It's nice to have him along, but there's a certain "you had to be there" disconnect of the previous experience.

Spurs-Thunder Game 5: Hard to believe SA won't play better back in front of their home crowd. Will be fascinating to see the adjustments they make from Games 3 and 4. (Not sure what kind of adjustment you can make for Kevin Durant destroying you in the 4th quarter or Ibaka not missing a shot. Guess you have to hope a bit for regression to the mean.)

Tiger: Pretty simple -- he's not "back" until he wins a major.

Justin Blackmon: What is it with Jaguars receivers and horrible judgment? What a dope.

Addendum: I realize that last week I missed the morning after the NBA Draft Lottery (aka "Wizards Fans Playoffs"). Needless to say I'm fully on board my Wiz using the No. 3 pick on Bradley Beal, even if Michael-Kidd Gilchrist is available. (If the team had made other choices over the years and was already loaded with shooters, perhaps a different story, even if I do think Beal is going to be a tremendous pro with All-Star potential -- but as it stands, they have no one who can shoot AND a glaring hole at shooting guard. This seems easy to me.) The Bobcats are in a tough spot -- MKG is the right pick, given their desperate need for a SF (not to mention a winner and leader), but as with everyone else on that team, he can't shoot.

-- D.S.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

06/03 (Durant) Quickie

I love Kevin Durant for a lot of reasons: I love his game, I love his style, I love his dedication, I love his humility schtick, I particularly love his relentlessness and I love that he grew up very close to me. He is the pride of the "DMV."

Wow, was it fun to watch him go off last night -- that stretch in the 4th quarter where he scored 16 straight points for the Thunder was ridiculous. I put together a really good stream of analysis of Durant that came overnight. Give it a read right here.

Hell of a series in the West. Really look forward to that going seven. Meanwhile, out East, it's a must-win for Boston to keep this interesting. Otherwise, you end up with what you've got in the Stanley Cup playoffs -- namely, two road wins for the Kings... and a presumptive title in the bag.

-- D.S.