Thursday, May 16, 2013

5/16 (Grizzlies) Quickie

The Grizzlies beat the Thunder so decisively that it made me wonder whether Memphis would have beaten OKC even if the Thunder were at full-strength.

It has become a given that as soon as Westbrook was ruled out of the playoffs, OKC was not even close to the team expected to win a second straight West title.

So what's a fair expectation, without Westbrook? Making (but losing) the conference finals? I don't think so -- the Thunder without Westbrook are a playoff team in the West, but clearly not a Top 2 team (let alone No. 1), and possibly not even Top 4. So this exit is fairly appropriate.

The real question is whether this Grizzlies team - as constructed, with those unstoppable two guys up front -- would have beaten OKC this year anyway. I think they would have. It's at least an argument.

And so I'm happy to give OKC an asterisk on this season, but let's not assume they would have gotten past Memphis either way -- at least in this scenario, they have an excuse.

Meanwhile, it is Gabe's 7th birthday. Some of you have been around long enough to remember when I announced he was born in the Quickie on back in May of '06, then all the adventures since.

Now he is a fully formed sports fan -- his favorite players are Cam Newton and Russell Westbrook. His favorite sports are football and basketball (although he also plays soccer and baseball). He loves NFL Red Zone. He is through the fifth Harry Potter book -- his signature gift this year was a Potter Quidditch jersey, which I'm not sure he'll take off. We are celebrating by taking him to Dave and Busters for dinner tonight -- his choice. He is wildly independent, and it is exciting to watch, even as I struggle to give him that leeway to figure out life. It's nice to have sports to bring us together.

-- D.S.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

5/15 (Knicks Et Al) Quickie

Flattered that Mike and Mike spent a block discussing my Andrew Wiggins column from yesterday. Greenberg had tweeted it out, so I knew it was on their radar. I feel strongly enough about the topic that I am glad it resonated with folks. (Ironically, the column itself didn't do nearly the same audience numbers as some of the other ones I have been doing over the past few weeks.)

Wiggins at Kansas is... sort of deflating. I will watch them, obviously, if only for Wiggins, but I am pessimistic that he can carry them to a national title, a la Danny Manning. This was a moment for a superstar prep to really make a statement about the vestigial role of college hoops, specifically for players only planning to spend a year in college before being a Top 5 NBA Draft pick.

Meanwhile, I'm circling around a concept for the NBA Playoffs that is tantamount to a "TKO" -- no team is eliminated until they lose four games, but at some point (say, down 3-1), it's effectively over. The Knicks are done -- not just because they are down 3-1, by the way, but also because the Pacers are playing so much better.

As a Wizards fan, it is heartening to see the success of the Pacers and Grizzlies -- two teams that grind -- making hay in the playoffs. Now, to call them "superstar-free" is misleading, because Paul George is one of the Top 10 talents in the NBA, and I'm pretty comfortable putting Marc Gasol in that group, too. But they are doing it with consistency across multiple positions, plus a winning system. (That is clearly how the Spurs are grinding down the Warriors.)

Last thing: Clayton Kershaw may well be the best pitcher in baseball, but 132 pitches is insane.

-- D.S.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

May 14 (Wiggins) Quickie

Top prep -- the best prep since LeBron, actually -- Andrew Wiggins picked Kansas, in a bit of a surprise.

But the real move should've been to skip college altogether and go to the D League, where he would instantly have access to sponsor dollars, future earnings and NBA coaching -- all without hurting his lock-to-be-first-pick draft stock.

Longtime readers know this is one my capital-i Issues: The absurdity of professional league "age limits," which are sitting right there to be disrupted.

There is nothing -- nothing -- rational about a surefire NBA draft-pick prep spending even a single year in college before going pro.

If I had a lot of money, I would offer the top five preps $200,000 each to sit out the year and do nothing but train for the NBA, giving them access to the best trainers possible.

All the players would have to do is promise to tithe 1% of their first NBA contract extension -- probably somewhere around $400,000, but hopefully higher directly because of their experience in my one-year program -- which would allow me to fund the next player down the line, along with operating costs, which would also be supported by a shoe deal and other marketing deals, which would be revenue-shared with the players.

There is a lot of dumb investment money being thrown around -- it is hard to believe that raising $10M as the equivalent of a seed fund and accelerator for basketball talent (with the potential for at least a 2X return) is out of reach.

Anyway, here's hoping Andrew Wiggins doesn't get injured, like Nerlens Noel. (Of course, that ACL tear won't keep Noel from being the No. 1 overall pick of this year's draft.

-- D.S.