Friday, June 27, 2014

6/27 Friday Draft Hangover Quickie

*It doesn't matter how the US advanced at the World Cup -- only that it advanced, period. There is no such thing as "backing in" or "too close for comfort." Just ask Spain or Italy or England.

*NBA Draft picks I liked:
- Nurkic and Harris to the Nuggets
- Embiid to the Sixers
- Vonleh and Hairston to the Hornets
- McGary to the Thunder
- Kyle Anderson to the Spurs
- McDermott to the Bulls

*NBA Draft picks I didn't like:
- Gordon to the Magic
- LaVine to the T'wolves
- Caboclo to the Raptors
- The Wizards selling their pick
- That no one drafted Patric Young

Fun weekend of World Cup knock-out games ahead.

-- D.S.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Thursday 6/26 USA! Draft Day! Quickie

*Typically, NBA Draft day would be one of my favorite days of the year. This year, it's eclipsed by today's US-Germany game, which will obliterate all known viewing records (especially streaming).

*Prediction: The US advances to the next round. That's all that matters, really. The "how" is kind of incidental -- would you really be THAT bummed if the US lost to Germany but still advanced?

*Personally, I think that the "collusion draw" is going to be the result -- even if no one ever admits to the "collusion" part. If you want a binary pick, I think we are more likely to lose than win.

*However! The conditions necessary for Portugal or Ghana to advance ahead of us if we don't win or draw are fairly severe -- it would take Portugal lighting up a Ghana in disarray... wait, what?

*Anyway, keep in mind the upshot: All that matters is advancing, full stop.

*Meanwhile, the NBA Draft! And every indication is that it could get kind of wild -- the Cavs could trade the top pick?! Where does Joel Embiid go?! Who do my Wizards draft at 46?!

*Restating from a few days ago: I'm very bullish on Dante Exum and not bullish at all about Jabari Parker.

*Yesterday's trade action was an appetizer -- Tyson Chandler back to Dallas prob'ly means the Mavs are making a serious run at Melo... and the Knicks are hitting the re-set button.

(Here's my Knicks theory: They are going to sign Pau Gasol, then use Pau to entice brother Marc to sign next summer.)

*And then the Rockets -- trying to clear cap space of their own for a run at Carmelo (or, less likely to work, LeBron) -- traded Asik to New Orleans. Houston gets more flexible; NOLA gets better.

*All that doesn't even consider Tim Lincecum's no-hitter, the second of his career. Hard to argue that Lincecum isn't the most fascinating pitcher of the post-Maddux/Clemens/Big Unit era.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

6/24 Mexico Uruguay Italy Quickie

*Mexico's coach is so totally going to win the World Cup's "One Shining Moment" montage.

*Italy-Uruguay is going to be a phenomenal match today at noon.

*US hangover: My colleague Mike Foss thinks the US will beat Germany. I think that if they don't broker a draw, Germany wins 1-0, Portugal wins 4-2 and the US advances anyway, on goal differential.

*In every other year, I'm obsessed with the NBA Draft. This year, between the World Cup and the fact that my Wizards aren't in the first round, I'm slightly more passive.

But only slightly. I'm very high on Dante Exum, fairly high on Noah Vonleh and Gary Harris, still high on Joel Embiid, modestly bullish on Andrew Wiggins and not bullish at all on Jabari Parker.

*Carmelo will end up in... Chicago. (And if the Bulls can grab Afflalo from Orlando for a draft pick...whew.)

-- D.S.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday 6/23 USMNT Gut-Punch Quickie

*It is a measure of how much soccer matters now in the U.S. that we all were so battered by last night's finish/result.

*It is OK -- even preferable -- to feel dejected (the last second!) or dissatisfied (Bradley!), as opposed to feeling nothing. (Obviously, it would have felt infinitely better to have won.)

*Rationally, I get the whole "If we were the team to tie it up 2-2 in the last second, this would be the greatest moment in US soccer history." I get that 4 points through 2 games is pretty good.

*But it's hard to get over the fact that the game and its impact -- the three points, the guaranteed spot in the knockout round -- were ours, right there.

*Looking ahead to the game with Germany, we have plenty of pathways to get through: Beat Germany, draw with Germany, if Ghana and Portugal tie, if we lose closely but Ghana only wins by a goal, if we lose closely but Portugal only wins by less than 3 goals.

*It does befuddle me a little why the US wouldn't collude with Germany to tie the game, guaranteeing that both teams go through.

*The goal of the group stage -- at least for the US -- is to get out of the group stage. Not to maximize our points. Not to win stylishly. To survive and advance.

*Teams take different approaches to games with the bigger picture in mind all the time -- they rest starters, they try less aggressive tactics.

*In short: They do things that decrease their chances of winning in the short term in order to maximize their chances of winning the larger prize. (Shorthand: You don't play to win the game; you play to win the title.)

*In that respect, it's not unreasonable to evaluate that "Golden Draw" option -- in the same way that yesterday's 2-2 was felt as a sort of loss, a draw on Thursday would be the sweetest of victories.

*It all comes back to this: That we can even feel this way at all -- the dejection, the hope, the bracket-bending scenarios -- is the best sign yet of the ascendance of the sport in the U.S.

-- D.S.