So, anything happen last night? Besides the draft, can’t think of much. Pretty quiet night in terms of the NBA. Everything went according to plan, no real excitement. Wait, what’s that? The Bulls finally traded Jimmy Butler? And not to the Celtics? I almost couldn’t believe it.
Honestly, this trade really annoyed me. Not that someone else got Jimmy Butler. As anyone who has read any of my thoughts on the NBA could tell you, I was not overly eager for the Celtics to get Jimmy Butler. But mostly because the Bulls were asking for every single draft pick the Celtics had until 2075 and half the roster. Then they turn around and give Butler to the Timberwolves, who were still run by Bulls’ front office arch-nemesis Tom Thibodeau last time I checked, for two players and a pick swap? Are you kidding me? Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn? Seriously? That’s all it takes? I love LaVine, but who knows what he’s gonna look like next year after his knee injury. Kris Dunn is trrrrrraaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaassssssssshhhhhhhhhhh. Then they give up the 16th pick to thank the TWolves for taking their best player off their hands? And then they take Lauri Markkanen 7th overall? How can these people run an NBA team? To think the biggest display of idiocy by a front office last night didn’t involve Phil Jackson is dumbfounding. Even the Kings made good moves last night! Were the Bulls asleep? Were they drugged? Have they ever watched basketball before? Honestly, no profession in the world has more accepted incompetence than NBA GM. The morons that 90% of teams have running their billion-dollar franchises shouldn’t be trusted to manage a Bruegger’s Bagels. How can you go from asking the Celtics for absolutely everything to accepting the TWovles table scraps? And if you’re now committed to a rebuild, how do you not take someone with a higher ceiling than Lauri Markkanen? Dennis Smith, Malik Monk, OG Anunoby, even Donovan Mitchell were still there. Or, I don’t know, don’t give up your own first round pick, too and take someone like Harry Giles at 16. I just can’t believe how poorly they handled this trade. Now I’m pissed that Butler’s not on the Celtics, because apparently all they would have had to give up was Marcus Smart and Terry Rozier then swap picks. So annoying. Hey, Bulls, you stink!
Anyway, there was an actual draft last night. Most of it kind of went according to plan. No big shockers, besides maybe Malik Monk falling to number 11. Still, there’s plenty to talk about. I guess I should get used to Jayson Tatum now that a potential trade is probably off the board (I know, I can’t believe it, either). After throwing up multiple times thinking about the abomination that is St. Louis-style pizza, I was able to listen to him talk for a bit. If nothing else, at least he seems like a good guy who’s going to commit to the team. That shouldn’t be taken for granted, but I still have concerns. It doesn’t help that he’s the internet’s least favorite player.
Oh, well. Guess the Celtics are just going to punt on this year again, possibly get multiple picks in the top five, and trade both of them for future picks and take guys with no ceiling again. Sweet. Love Danny Ainge, man. Best in the business. On to what I liked and didn’t like.
Things I Liked
Markelle Fultz to Philadelphia
Dennis Smith to Dallas
Josh Jackson to Phoenix
Lavar Ball’s interviews
Malik Monk to Charlotte
All the old tweets that were dug up
OG Anunoby to Toronto
All the Kings picks (De’Aaron Fox, Justin Jackson, Harry Giles, Frank Mason)
All the Lakers picks besides Lonzo (Kyle Kuzma, Josh Hart, Thomas Bryant)
Jordan Bell to Golden State
The huge number of random picks that were in the stands
Frank Jackson to New Orleans
John Calipari continuing to stay ten steps ahead of every other coach
Things I Didn’t Like
Celtics not getting Markelle Fultz, Josh Jackson, or Jonathan Isaac
Jonathan Isaac going to the barren wasteland of Orlando
The Bulls. Literally everything they did
Bam Adebayo at 14
John Collins to Atlanta
Derrick White to San Antonio (I just wanted to be the only guy not praising them for this pick)
Devin Robinson going undrafted
Anyone mentally weak enough to stop watching before all 60 picks have been announced
Not enough Fran Fraschilla
Everyone’s suit is too conservative and classy now. Nothing to make fun of
There’s nothing quite like the NBA offseason. The crazy trades. The traitorous free agency decisions. The emoji wars on Twitter. In the week since the Finals ended, every day has had more drama than a Daniel Day-Lewis movie (R.I.P), and we haven’t even hit free agency yet! Dwight Howard was traded for a Plumlee, completing one of the most self-inflicted falls from grace in human history. The Lakers decided to give up on D’Angelo Russell after two years because…….? and traded him to the Nets in a move that somehow screwed the Celtics over twice. Phil Jackson has mysteriously put Kristaps Porzingis on the trading block (I doubt he’ll be traded), leading every fan base to rush to Photoshop to see what he’d look like in their jersey. But tonight is my favorite part of the NBA offseason, draft night. I’ve got my DiGiorno. I’ve got my spot on the couch picked out. I’m ready to be disappointed. Is it possible to go from all in on someone to all out on someone in a few days? Because that’s what I’m feeling now. Look at this:
Jayson Tatum says his No. 1 pick in the food draft would be St. Louis-style pizza. Never knew that was even a thing.
??????????????????? What the hell is St. Louis-style pizza? Why would he pick a fake food over all the other quality foods that have a right to go number one overall? Now I’m seeing him in a new light. Now all his flaws clearly counteract his strengths. Now he’s just the exact same prospect we’ve seen in every single draft that does absolutely nothing. I can’t believe the Celtics are seriously going to take an un-athletic Tobias Harris number three overall. Hey Danny, draft Josh Jackson please!
You can go anywhere on the internet and find a mock draft, so I decided I’d just say which prospects I like and who I don’t like. That way, the only thing I can be wrong about is if they’re good or not, not if they’re good or not and what team takes them.
Guys I Like
Markelle Fultz- Oh, what might have been
Josh Jackson- Come on, Danny, think of him and Jaylen Brown on defense together! I’m aroused, aren’t you?
De’Aaron Fox- Completely dominated Lonzo twice. A sign of things to come for one of them
Jonathan Isaac- Anthony Randolph with a jumper. Guy could be the best player in the draft or be out of the league in four years
Dennis Smith- I like him a lot, especially if you can get him outside the top 10
Malik Monk- Don’t know if you’ve heard this before, but the NBA is all about 3-point shooting these days
OG Anunoby- People are acting like he’s dead. It’s just a torn ACL. It’s 2017, he’s probably already fully healthy. He’ll the best defensive player in the draft, just take him
Harry Giles- Speaking of not dead yet. His injuries are considerably worse than OG’s, but if you’re not in the lottery, absolutely no reason not to roll the dice
Bam Adebayo- Mostly because he’s projected to go so low
Guys I Don’t Like
Lonzo Ball- As I’ve said before, I don’t think he’s that good
Unbelievable. That’s really all I have to say. Unbelievable. In the back of my head, I knew this would happen, but my heart wanted to believe. I wanted to live in a world where the years of planning and trading and positioning and rumors would finally lead to something. A tangible result. A sign that, yeah, there’s a clear direction here and everyone knows what they’re doing. But now? I don’t really know anymore.
You’re going to tell me that all you got for the number one pick was a swap this year and a pick next year that they can only get if it falls between 2 and 5? Seriously? One additional draft pick? For the number one pick? And to a team in your own division? The Sixers were demanding Brooklyn picks, Avery Bradley, Marcus Smart, Isaiah Thomas, Kevin McHale’s retired jersey, and a lifetime of free meals from Union Oyster House for Nerlens Noel last year. And you give them the number one pick for pretty much nothing? Now, this trade technically won’t be official until tomorrow, so I’m hoping there’s more to it. But if it’s just for next year’s pick/2019’s pick? Then what was the point?
Now, maybe they just needed to get another top pick in order to make the long sought after big trade and still have something for the future. But if that player is Jimmy Butler or, God forbid, one season of Paul George I’ll lose my mind. I’m in Denver now, maybe I’ll just become a Nuggets fan. Or just go full heel and jump on the Warriors. JIMMY BUTLER, AL HORFORD, AND ISAIAH THOMAS AREN’T ENOUGH TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP. I’m just assuming Danny Ainge knows that, too. Celtics trade rumors are literally never true. This trade pretty much came out of nowhere. Maybe Ainge has something unexpected in the works. Or, maybe he doesn’t. Then, I ask again, what was the point?
Perhaps the most logical explanation is that they just didn’t think Markelle Fultz was The Guy. I did, but I’m just some schmo. If they didn’t think Fultz was their man, and knew the Lakers would get suckered into taking Lonzo Ball, moving down to three to get the guy they actually want makes some sense. It’s also going to free up some cap space in case they wanted to make any big signings in the offseason. In the immediate aftermath of the trade, all the pundits were saying Josh Jackson was going to be the pick. But why, though? He’s an athletic wing and tough defender who competes hard on both ends despite a less-than-refined skill set. So, Jae Crowder? Celtics already have that, and they have it for cheap. Unless they just want to flip Crowder for something to get a younger version with more upside, I don’t really see why they would take him. And, assuming the fact that they already have a million guards factored in to the decision to trade the number one pick, I’m hoping and praying that means Lonzo Ball is out of the question, too. Not because of his dad or anything. I just don’t think he’s going to be all that good. That pretty much leaves Jayson Tatum as the logical pick, which I’d be fine with, even with the annoying y in the middle of his name. He reminds me a lot of young Carmelo Anthony. He’s a smooth, if un-explosive, athlete with great size, a very advanced offensive game, and has some good defensive potential. I think he’d fit perfectly at the Celtics’ barren power forward position. He won’t be there defensively in the first few years (what young player is?), but he’ll be able to score right away. After watching some highlights, I’m all in on him now. Give me Tatum, don’t give me Jimmy Butler. Of course, all of this means the Celtics will take Luke Kennard number three and I’m going to want to run into oncoming traffic.
Take a second and think of the greatest upsets of all time. The single game David vs. Goliaths like the 2001 Patriots or 2007 Giants. The season-long triumph of an out-of-nowhere team like Leicester City. The improbable comebacks like the 2004 Red Sox or 2016 Cavaliers. The rare seven game series where an on-paper inferior roster overcomes overwhelming odds to defeat the Super Team across from them, think 2007 Warriors, 2011 Mavericks, and, out newest entry, the 2017 Golden State Warriors.
Against all odds, the team that won 73 games last year and added Kevin Durant has won the championship. But honestly, I think most people saw this coming. They reduced the Cavs, last year’s champion and a Super Team in their own right, to scrappy underdogs who were happy to win one game. In a weird way, this series was both closer than it seemed and not as close as it seemed. The Cavs played well! At least, they did in games 3-5. LeBron was ridiculous, Kyrie got out of his funk and started painting an oeuvre of layups and crazy finishes that I’m not sure anyone who has ever played can match, and Iman Shumpert only hit the side of the backboard once a game. And they lost two out of three. Outside of game 3, the Warriors wins were wins. They completely wiped the floor with them in games 1, 2, and 5. No contest. The scores don’t even come close to reflecting how dominant they were. When the Cavs completely gagged game 3, I thought the Cavs would roll over. But, to their credit, they blew out the Warriors in game 4, then turned around an predictably lost in game 5. Now, of course, as with all things NBA and LeBron, the next question is what does this all mean?
LeBron should get out of this relatively unscathed. While he can’t blow his nose without someone questioning what it means for his legacy, he was amazing again this series. Did everything short of actually shooting the ball in clutch moments. First guy to ever lead both teams in points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks in a seven game series. That’s insane. LeBron is still LeBron, no matter who you think holds the fictional torch. In my mind, Kyrie didn’t really change his place in the league, either. He had a perfect Kyrie series: absolutely no defense whatsoever (except when he knows everyone is watching him guard Steph, so he actually tries a little), long stretches where he stinks, but the same number of stretches of utter brilliance. I don’t think anyone’s opinion of him really changed after this series. All the fools who think he’s a top ten player or the second best point guard in the league or better than Steph will stubbornly hold on to that until the day they die. The h8trs, like me (I think I might like him better if he was named, like, Robert or something), still will find places to criticize him. Like on defense. The truth is somewhere in between: offensively, he’s (just a disclaimer here: if you’re in the “80s/90s were better and basketball was real then and this new generation sucks and is watered down” crowd, you should probably stop reading this right now. It’s only going to get worse for you) pretty much the upgraded Allen Iverson: immaculate handles, best finishing around the rim for a little guy ever, much better shooting. Defensively, he’s worse than Steph, who everyone loves to point and laugh at. He is what he is at this point, which is obviously a great player. But unless he suddenly starts caring about defense, I don’t know how much better he can get. Then I gained a lot of respect for Kevin Love this series. His shot wasn’t always falling, but he was battling for his life on the glass and was playing the best defense of his career. He never quit, even when nothing was going down and he was stuck on island after island guarding Kevin Durant and Steph Curry, mostly because Ty Lue is a moron who doesn’t know what he’s doing. He was what Tristan Thompson is advertised as being. Everyone else on the Cavs SUCKED. J.R. got hot the last two games but was nothing before. Shumpert shouldn’t be in the league anymore. Deron Williams has made the “DWill or CP3?” debate seem like it was in another lifetime. Tristan Thompson should get a Depends sponsorship. Richard Jefferson was okay, but you need to use carbon dating to find his age. Kyle Korver was bad. In typical LeBron fashion, he threw subtle shade at his teammates during every postgame press conference. He seems to forget he’s acting GM of the team. And, of course, the classic quote:
On the Warriors side, obviously it’s all good for everyone, except, of course, the haters. This was a perfect playoffs for my newly re-adopted favorite player, Steph Curry. I withdrew during the popularity and backlash, but now that he’s Back, so am I. He was great in pretty much every facet of the game. He’s never played better, and, more importantly, he’s never played better in the postseason. He proved once again that he’s a top 4 player in the league, and (hopefully, but probably not) shut up the people who are very vocal with their belief that Kyrie is better. All the tough guys always love to say “He doesn’t guard the other team’s point guard.” Honestly, who cares? He’s not a strong defender. He’s become underrated because the likes of Russell Westbrook (who will never make another NBA Finals, let alone win his second in three years) love to openly mock him, but he’s still not great. Klay Thompson is. If the other team’s backcourt is Kyrie Irving and J.R. Smith, and one of your guards is an elite perimeter defender, why the hell would you not have him guard the opponent’s best player? The Warriors are smart. They aren’t coached by Ty Lue, so typical positional matchups don’t dictate who is going to guard who. Kyrie guarded Steph every time in the early games because they were point guards. Steph dominated and Kyrie got tired out. LeBron guarded Kevin Durant. Durant dominated and LeBron, despite what he says, got tired out. You’d have to be a complete idiot to keep those defensive matchups more than you need to. Why should Steph be penalized for having a great defensive teammate? I really don’t get it. As for my man Klay, like Kyrie he stayed pretty much the same. Once he got hot, he was the same old Klay. Draymond could never get it going offensively, but he did so many little things on defense that lead to multiple blowouts. Somehow Zaza and Javale McGee are now champions. Somehow James Michael McAdoo is a two-time champion. David West’s insatiable thirst may finally be quenched. Iguodala showed why he’s the sixth man of the year. The fact that Shaun Livingston can even walk, let alone be a contributing member of multiple championship teams, is an accomplishment. Patrick McCaw and Ian Clark were there.
But, obviously, there’s only going to be one man’s name on everyone’s lips: Kevin Durant. What does this mean for his legacy? Did he ruin basketball? Is this title lessened because he had the gall to join an already stacked team? No, it really isn’t. Listen, you can feel however you want to feel about him. The hatred people feel is so deeply ingrained I don’t think there’s anything I can do to sway people. Seriously, you’d think he murdered everyone’s family or something. People call him a coward because he was a free agent. He’s soft, he’s a bitch, whatever. One guy I follow on Twitter tweeted, completely unprovoked and not replying to anything, to Kevin Durant that he was weak. At like, 3 pm today. As if saying that will make him feel bad about himself. You think he cares now? This was a business decision. He used the Warriors just like the Warriors used him. The accomplished their mission. He doesn’t give a damn what you say about him. Would people have been happier if he signed with the Nets? Why are you so mad that he left Oklahoma City? Because they had a good team? Well, the Warriors are good, too. Better, in fact. The whole point of free agency is that players should have some say in where they play. He didn’t want to be in Oklahoma City anymore. He spent nine years there, that’s way more time than anyone needs to spend there. Ever think he was just tired of it? That maybe, just maaaaaaaaaybe, he didn’t want to play with Russell Westbrook? Think about how awful it is to be a Thunder role player. You’re held hostage every game and have to bend over backwards to accommodate the world’s biggest temper tantrum throwing toddler. Now imagine you’re one of the five most naturally gifted players to ever play basketball and you have to do the same thing. Sounds pretty horrible to me. So, he left for an all time great team that knocked him out of the playoffs the year before. Who cares? It’s his choice. What if someone told you you weren’t allowed to leave a job you hate because a bunch of hardos on the Internet would yell at you? If you’re really that upset about him, get up, go outside, and take a nice long walk. Clear your head. Calm your nerves. Then come back and start firing off your tweets. Just don’t you dare say he’s just riding the bandwagon. He was the best player on the floor for either team. It was shocking when he missed a shot. All of a sudden, he’s Theo Ratliff on defense, too. The did more than pull his own weight. He dragged the Warriors over the finish line with his play. This didn’t “ruin basketball.” The Warriors are playing at a level few teams ever can match. Appreciate it while it’s here. The way these things work out, it won’t be permanent. Someone will get hurt, someone will want more money, someone will want their own team. The NBA isn’t closing up shop anytime soon, don’t worry. The Celtics and Bucks are rising in the East. The Spurs, Twolves, and Rockets are coming in the West. LeBron is getting older, and, assuming he gets his wish, the Banana Boat Super Team that comes together in a few years is going to stink. Now isn’t forever. The sun will still rise. The draft is next week. Even more incredibly talented players will join the league, making the “the league is watered down” crowd look worse by the day. The NBA has never been in a better spot. But maybe I’m just more optimistic than most. Maybe I can just look past my own outrage and see the bright future ahead. Maybe I can just see what other people can’t see: a home grown Celtics Super Team on the horizon. So, please, if you’re one of the people who are Mad Online, take a breath. Think happy thoughts. Think of whatever inferior era of basketball your nostalgia is telling you is the best. And listen to the official anthem of the Boston Celtics, the 2018-19 NBA Champions.
There’s no way around it: I’ve been living a charade. I’ve been deceiving almost everyone I’ve ever met for far too long. I could feel the complex web of lies I’ve built starting to crumble around me for a few months now, but then, last night, everything came crashing down around me. So, it’s time to come clean: I am not a hockey expert. Man, that felt good. Like a giant weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I’m not a hockey expert. Whatever you think the correct punishment is, I’ll take it. Throw the book at me. Lock me up and throw away the key. I’m not a hockey expert.
I thought I had everything figured out. Sure, pretty much all of my half-baked playoff predictions have been wrong, but I was still feeling good about my Finals pick. I mean, no one repeats in the NHL. It just doesn’t happen. It’s ingrained in the very fabric of the league: unpredictability and parity. But, lo and behold, the Penguins went and did it. It wasn’t always pretty, but they grinded out every game. Won it on grit and balls alone (with a sprinkling of two of the best players of the last 25 years). They just made the plays they needed to make. I’ve seen a couple places now comparing the Penguins to the Patriots due to the continued success in a league that doesn’t lend itself to it. I can definitely see the parallels. Built around a transcendent superstar (Brady/Crosby), a dominant secondary guy (Gronk/Moss/Malkin), and a rotating cast of fairly anonymous role players, both franchises are pretty much good every year. They’ve had the odd hiccup or two, but the Penguins almost always have one of the two or three best records in the East. They always play their best in the postseason. Literally everyone hates their fans and their best players. I’d embrace Penguins fans as kindred spirits, but then I’d have to associate myself with multiple people from Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh is one of those places where you really only want to know one person from there. One of my buddies is from Pittsburgh, so I’m at my quota. I’ll keep on disliking the Penguins so I can fit in with everyone else. Sorry. Now the question is, will they three-peat? Probably not. For all their talk of parity, the last ten or so champions have been the same three or four teams. It’s time for a random team to win. I thought we were gonna get that this year, but I’m definitely feeling it next year. I’m going with the Winnipeg Jets. Been a long, looooooooong time since a team named the Jets did anything noteworthy, and we all know the NFL version isn’t doing anything any time soon. So, the hockey version is about to pick up the slack. And, Canada is due for a win. The way these things work, the most forgettable Canadian team is going to be the one to break the dry spell. Write in pen: Jets 2018 Stanley Cup Champions.
Folks, it’s hot out there. Very hot. Whatever your favorite saying about how hot it really is definitely applies. I went to the beach thinking I might get some relief, but I was sorely mistaken. It was hot there, too. Luckily, as part of #teamsunblock, I didn’t pick up any sunburns. But the sand was like a hibachi grill. Every step was like getting stabbed by a thousand tiny knives. I wanted to amputate my feet. I still might, honestly. I got sand everywhere. I got sand in places I didn’t know I could get sand. And yet, despite that adversity, I’m still going to bring you some MLB Thoughts. I know, I know, you think I’m a hero. Listen, the real heroes are the school teachers and the baseball writers that put their beliefs over facts keep the game sacred. I’m just a guy with blazing hot MLB takes. But I can see how you would get it confused.
Ever since the Most Perfect Baseball Player Ever Mike Trout tragically passed away (on to the disabled list), we’ve been left with a power vacuum at the top of the league. “Who’s the best player in the league now?” Is it Clayton Kershaw? Bryce Harper? Perhaps Aaron Judge? Well, after looking over the facts, my mind is made up. Without a doubt, the best player in the league is currently Pablo Sandoval.
This is the third MLB Thoughts. Thus, it’s the third time I’m going to gloat about correctly predicted that the Rockies would be good this year. Don’t like it? Write to your local representative and ask him to make the Rockies stop winning games.
I wish the Red Sox offense would stop sucking.
I’m not usually a victim of small sample sizes, but I think Aaron Judge is pretty strong.
Why are the Twins good? They have the exact same team as last year when they lost a million games. I don’t get how they’re in first place.
I didn’t think they’d really have any competition, but the AL Central is giving the NL East a serious run for its money for the Worst Division Crown.
Speaking of why are they good and AL Central, how does Jason Vargas have a 2.18 ERA? Guy stinks.
Speaking yet again of why are they good, what’s up with Zack Cozart? His career high OPS was .769. He’s at 1.018 this year. He’s already got a career high in WAR, too. Forget Scooter Gennett, any random drug testers headed towards Cincinnati need to make a beeline for Cozart’s locker.
God, this Houston Astros super team is ruining the league. I mean, they’re just destroying everyone else in the league. Everyone knows they’re going to wind up in the World Series. Where’s the fun in that? I miss the 90s when it was more competitive. Sure, teams like the Yankees and Braves were dominant every year, but they had to fight more for it! The old guys were tougher! They didn’t just shoot 3s all the time! Sorry, I kind of blacked out for a second, there.
Aww, Manny Machado was spiked in the wrist and might go to the DL now? Why do bad things always happen to good people?
It would be the most Cubs thing ever if, after finally breaking through and winning the World Series, the turn around and miss the playoffs the next year with the exact same roster. Seriously, what’s going on with them? Was Dexter Fowler really that important? Every time the look like they’re ready to turn the corner, they lose three in a row or four out of five. And I know he’s everyone’s favorite fat guy (I love him, too, btw), but Schwarber has been bruuuuutalllll all season. Their numbers (particularly Bryant’s) are still pretty good, but something just seems off with the Kris Bryant-Anthony Rizzo tag team. They were a dynamic force all year last season, and there’s only been flashes of it this year. Guess it doesn’t help that both Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester both have ERAs over 4.
As we get into the dogs days of summer and there becomes a dearth of good talking points, expect there to be a lot of lamenting about how baseball is becoming more and more focused on the Three True Outcomes (strikeout, walk, home run). Strikeout rates continue to increase every year, home run rates are at their highest since the Steroid Era, and walk rates will increase as the value of on base percentage over batting average continues to grow. There’s going to be a lot of Goose Gossage-types who will come out of the woodwork and say that Back in Their Day, people actually put the ball in play and defense mattered. They will then say that they could have dominated in this era, even though the likes of Joe Kelly (Joe Kelly) can hit 100+ on the radar gun and some of the closers these days are almost literally impossible to hit against.
I also don’t get how the Giants can possibly be this bad. I mean, when you’re dead last in the league in runs scored (the Padres don’t count for the runs scored ranking anymore, since they’ve finished 30th out of 30 for 25 straight years), I guess that’ll lead to a lot of losses.
So, is the Phillies’ rebuild just going to be permanent or what? I get the Astros kind of ruined it for everyone else when they went from awful to great overnight a few years ago, but the Phillies have stunk for multiple years now. I don’t think Phillies’ fans would be too out of line to start expecting some results fairly soon.
Alright Yankees fans, I’ll acknowledge that the team is good. Maybe even legitimately good. But if you think I’m going to talk about how they just murder the Red Sox in back to back games, you’re sorely mistaken.
Just realized I never weighed in on the Bryce Harper v. Hunter Strickland fight. I don’t have a take I just realized I never actually talked about it.
MLB The Show 17 update: after grinding through an eternity in Tampa Bay, I finally hit free agency. I signed with Colorado because all I really care about are stats. Well, I’ve hit 120 combined homers in the first two years, so I think it’s going to work out just fine.
I realize they have good intentions, but the Reds’ camo jerseys are very bad.
The Rays’ “fauxback” jerseys are very good. Now someone please get Tropicana Field out of my sight forever.
Breaking News: The Mets stink.
Need more mascot race highlights. Haven’t had enough of them this year.
As is usually the case, during the eon-long downtime in between NBA Finals games (which, as LeBron James will tell you, are just basketball games. They aren’t the end of the world. When he wakes up tomorrow, he’ll still have more money and fame than you’ll ever have. But, no, he’s not bitter that someone out-Super Teamed him), we’ve been pelted with teasers and previews for Wednesday night’s game 3. And, as the game is being played in Cleveland, they keep repeating the now-tired phrase “Defend The Land.” The Land meaning Cleveland. In the grand scheme of things, it’s not a particularly new nickname. Unsurprisingly, LeBron created it in an effort so seem cool to all his friends in hip hop. It makes sense, too. You can’t spell Cleveland without Land. You can certainly see where people are coming from when they say it. But take a second to really think about it.
The Land. How much land is there in the world? A lot, right? So, something that called The Land must be pretty important, right? Maybe some kind of mystical, sacred ground that ancient people travelled to for worship. Or a booming economic or cultural center that dictates trends throughout the world. Or, at the very least, it has to have some kind of political importance. It has to be something, right? Nope, it’s Cleveland. The arrogance of LeBron to think that anyone outside the state of Ohio thinks of Cleveland as anything but a giant dump. I’ve been to Cleveland, so I’m speaking from experience here: Cleveland sucks. Everything about it is bad. The food stinks. The city is ugly. It’s always so hazy. Their sports teams outside the Cavs are horrible, and since there’s nothing else to do in town, the people are so beaten down and defensive about everything. In fact, the nickname The Land is the perfect snapshot of the people of Cleveland: they have such an inferiority complex they latch on to anything that shows it’s “us-against-the-world” and makes anyone outside the 216 area code notice them and acknowledge that they even exist. Cleveland is nothing. Cleveland is irrelevant. Cleveland isn’t The Land. You can’t Defend it. There’s nothing to defend! What, are people going to steal the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame? Not that! What culture does Cleveland have? What contributions has Cleveland ever made to America? LeBron and Drew Carey? Is that it? And you want to call that place The Land? Why? Not every city gets a nickname. What if, in an alternate reality, I was famous enough to create nicknames and I called my hometown of Rutland, Vermont The Land? Or The City? Or if I called Vermont The State? I hope would get mocked endlessly. You can’t just give something of such little importance a nickname like The Land. I don’t know what place in the world most deserves to be called The Land, but I know for a fact it isn’t a sad-sack place like Cleveland. I pray to God that the good people of Cleveland read this and make me public enemy number one, because that would mean I never have to go there again. Hey, Cleveland, you aren’t The Land, you’re The Dump. Boom, roasted. Rant over.
Man, the NBA thinks the Champions League has a long wait before the final. College football considers the gap between semi-final and final excessive. It feels like it’s been a year since some Champions League footy was last played. I almost forgot to do this preview, it’s been so long. But, we finally made it to the final. The game match to end all matches. What better place to celebrate the game than historic Cardiff, home of all the world’s greatest clubs? None that I can think of. Luckily, as an American, I haven’t been subjected to countless talk about how this game will affect Ronaldo’s legacy. Everyone’s been too busy debating LeBron’s legacy for that. So, freed from the weightiness of history, I can sit back and enjoy what’s sure to be an epic clash.
This is kind of like Juventus’ semi-final matchup, only if Monaco suddenly switched to Amateur difficulty level. It’s a similar offense vs. defense clash, but Real Madrid is in a different class offensively than anyone in the world save Barcelona. Ronaldo is truly the LeBron of soccer-he’s still great, and, by changing with both the game and his own physical “limitations,” somehow getting better. He’s surrounded by an absurd collection of attacking talent: Benzema, Isco, Kroos, Modric, Marcelo. Gareth Bale, even if he’s healthy, might come off the bench! This team can beat you any way they choose, and if Juventus’ (gracefully) aging defense can’t keep up, this’ll be over fast (that’s why they call me a Soccer Expert, folks). But, isn’t that what they (me) said last round? Yeah, the defense is old. But it’s still the best in the world. The Barzagli-Bonucci-Chiellini triumvirate just shut down a Monaco team that is just as fast (if not faster) than Madrid. Gigi Buffon may have discovered the actual Fountain of Youth. And Juventus isn’t trotting out the expansion Buccaneers, either. They can score, and score quickly. Considering Pepe is still injured for Real, if they’re shaky at all in the back Juventus could put two or three on them in the blink of an eye. Dybala and Higuain are a deadly one-two punch.
In situations like this, I’ll usually pick the team I think can control the midfield. All the scoring and defending in the world is great, but if you get dominated in the middle, it doesn’t mean a whole lot. That’s why I’m leaning Real. I wouldn’t be surprised if this became a blowout either way, but I do think it’ll come down to the wire. Will it be penalties again? Well, that depends on if Ronaldo’s having a good ab day or not. Juventus better make sure a ton of McDonald’s magically makes its way to his hotel room, because if those things are poppin’ and glistenin’ in the Welsh twilight, you know his shirt is getting ripped off at least once in celebration.
Prediction: Real Madrid Wins (But Juventus at even odds looks pretty good)
Wait, basketball is still happening? I almost forgot about it it’s been so long since a game has been played. But, finally, the Finals start tomorrow night. It’s a surprise matchup this season, as no one really saw the Cavs and Warriors clashing for a third straight Finals. But that’s why I say the NBA is the best league: the pure unpredictability of it all. The NHL could learn a thing or two from the NBA, I’ll tell you that much. Like what’s the point of even playing the regular season in the first place? Everyone knew it was going to be Pittsburgh-Nashville in the Finals the whole time. Makes me sick thinking about it. What a joke the NHL is. Worst league EVER.
I love when people go on long rants about how bad the NBA is and how everyone knew what the Finals were going to be the whole year. First of all, the last two Finals were amazing, so if this year is anything like the first two, I’ll be fine with it. Oh, man, I hate seeing LeBron, at worst the second greatest player ever, pushed to his limits by the ultimate super team which was built specifically to beat him. What a bummer. These incredibly exciting games get old fast. I sure wish I could be watching Jazz-Raptors right about now. And this is the thing the “90s were the best NBA era” crowd somehow doesn’t get- this is how the NBA has always been. Basketball, more than any other sport, is controlled by the best players. It has the least amount of active players at one time, and the luck factor (random deflections in front of goal, bloop singles, Edelman/Tyree type catches, etc.) is way, way lesser than other sports. It’s dominated by skill and athleticism, and, surprisingly, the very best players are the most skilled and athletic. So, the teams with the best players win. If you don’t like it, the Stanley Cup Finals are on, and it’s looking like a pretty good series. And spare me the same, tired “The 90s were more competitive!” bullshit. You mean the same 90s where, if Michael Jordan hadn’t taken two years off, one team would have won eight championships in a row? I repeat: the same team would have won EIGHT titles consecutively. As in, one (1) out of the 27-29 teams would have won a championship. “But he beat so many great teams!” Really? If they were so great wouldn’t they have beaten him at least one time? If the Knicks were just so good, wouldn’t they have managed to beat MJ one out of the million times they played? “The 80s were more competitive!” Either the Celtics or Lakers won 8 of the 10 titles. The early 2000s was either Lakers or Spurs. I’m not sure there were any other teams besides the Celtics in the 60s, and the 50s don’t count since black people weren’t allowed to play yet. The 70s is literally the only period of time in NBA history with anything resembling parity. 10 out of 67 NBA seasons, that’s 15% of the time, there were no “super teams.” It just seems worse now because we can see every second of every game and we have infinitely more access. You think the Bullets were going all out every game in 1986? Probably not, because they knew they weren’t beating the Celtics in the East. It’s just so stupid when people complain about the state of the league. The players are better than ever. There’s more good players than ever, and I know it doesn’t seem like it, but more teams have good players than ever. Yes, the game is less physical now. Man, I hate that people aren’t getting injured anymore or that now that teams don’t have a designated roster spot for some thug who takes people out when they’re going to the rim, there are more skilled players than ever. God, I miss the 90s, am I right? And, of course, the the competitiveness argument. Sorry the all-star game sucks. Does it really affect your life that much? And at some point, there’s a line between competitive spirit and futility. I could try as hard as I can against a 54-year-old Michael Jordan in a game of 1-on-1, but I’ll still never beat him. Why should the Hornets go out and make short-sighted signings and trade everything for a fringe all-star because they just gotta win now and be competitive!, when it will make absolutely no difference against LeBron. So, instead of missing the playoffs, you lose second round and no longer have any kind of future or salary cap flexibility. But, at least you tried, right! So stupid. The NBA is smarter now. At least 10 teams now actually know what they’re doing, which is like, five times more than what it usually is. Teams aren’t going to mortgage their future chasing some golden goose that isn’t leaving Cleveland any time soon. I realize it goes against the mindset you need in literally every other sport, but ruling the NBA landscape when you don’t have one of the greatest players or miraculous collection of homegrown talent is an extreme long game. You need patience. You need foresight. You need to make intelligent moves that set you up to win when there’s a vacuum of power. You can only beat today’s version LeBron, Kyrie, and Love if you have three or four All-NBA level players. You know who else has that? Unless you’re the Warriors, the answer isn’t you. That’s why there’s so much tanking and asset-grabbing going on. Teams realize the best way to come out on top in ten years is by having the best young talent, and the best way to get the best young talent is by having the best draft picks. Listen, there’s not another LeBron-level player on anyone’s radar right now. Theoretically, he’s going to retire at some point. That’s when the Celtics moves pay off. That’s when (maybe) the Sixers moves pay off. That’s when the league becomes wide open. That’s when you get your precious competitive balance. For now, this is just the way it is. If you’re going to be mad at anyone, be mad at the league for rigging a million straight lotteries for Cleveland so they could get Kyrie Irving and, by trading Andrew Wiggins, Kevin Love. Besides Kevin Durant, all the Warriors best players were drafted by the team (and not in the top-5, either). As much as everyone hates them, the Warriors have achieved the platonic ideal of a title contender- they drafted excellently, spent money wisely, and added all the right pieces. That’s not the same formula the Cavs, Heat, or even late 2000s Celtics used. So before you start bitching about how many super teams there are and how they’re ruining the game, maybe consider the fact that the Warriors are just smarter than everyone else.
Anyway, with that rant out of the way, we come to the series at hand. Cavs-Warriors Round III. What will happen? Who will rise to the occasion? Who will choke? Well, I’m willing to bet LeBron will show up. Kevin Durant has spent the last year getting yelled at by people online. He’s been called soft. He’s been getting called out for his playoff failures. He’s been called a coward. Don’t you think he’s had enough? This might come back to bite me James Harden style, but I think Durant will absolutely go off this series, But those two will just cancel each other out. Steph Curry has been sizzling all postseason and has his own Finals demons to expel. He’s going to be big. But, despite the fact that I don’t really like him (it’s probably just his face. Or the fact that he fabricated the fact that he’s a flat-earther just to get some attention), I fully expect Kyrie Irving to match everything he does. Facing Steph always brings out the best of his considerable ability. Then there’s Klay Thompson, who’s icy shooting so far this postseason is either a sign of things to come, or the sign of a pending massive breakout. Honestly, in my mind, he’s going to be the key to the whole series. Somehow, one of the greatest shooters of all time’s jumpshot is the biggest variable. We know what LeBron and Durant and Steph and Kyrie will do. Kevin Love, when not guarded by Draymond Green, will provide his typical reliable shooting, passing, and rebounding. Tristan Thompson is going to completely dominate the glass, and may single-handedly win a game or two. Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston should dominate the game when the bench units are in. J.R. Smith and Javale McGee have improbably become consistent, known commodities. We’ve seen how these teams match up. We know their strengths, we know their weaknesses. Literally the only thing we don’t know is if Klay Thompson is going to show up. Listen, the Cavs have spent long portions of this season, both regular and post, looking horrible on defense. If they play that way against the Warriors, they’ll get scraped. But, I bet they’ll be a little more attentive to that side of the ball in the Finals. The Warriors have dominated the competition so soundly that it’s lead people to assume they have an extra gear they haven’t gotten to yet. Really, that just means Klay has been cold. Again, if he gets it going, this could be over fast. But what if he doesn’t? What if they play to another draw? What if it goes seven games? Well, I’ll take the team that has LeBron.
The start of a New Year always brings a lot of things with it. Resolutions, big time football games, and, of course, my birthday. I’m typically steadfast in my resolutions, usually keeping to them for at least a week and half. The football games, be it NFL playoffs or the big name bowl games, rarely disappoint, except when they do. And lately, the bowl games in particular have disappointed me more and more. As we get closer (one week!) to my *gulp* 25th birthday, I’m forced to reflect on all the bowl seasons I’ve been through and figure out why a time, and sport, that used to be sacred to me no longer is so.
The clear answer is that I don’t really care as much anymore, but why? I still love football and follow it religiously, but the college game doesn’t stoke my fire as intensely as it once did. I used to be able to name countless players on every team and be able to essentially predict the entire draft. Now, I only know the first round guys, and even then I don’t really learn about them until late. Like I know there’s a great Ohio State cornerback, but only because I assume there’s always one and couldn’t tell you his name. I assume there’s a great defensive lineman from Florida, only because for at least ten years in a row one has been taken in the top 10, and most of them are all the same. I legit had no idea who Artie Burns was this time last year, and he was the best athlete on Miami. The best athlete on Miami is someone who I should know about for years, and I had no idea who he was.
The players are still good. In fact, at least athletically, they’re undeniably better than when I was in middle and high school, the peak of my college football fandom. So why does it feel like there’s so much less name recognition? Am I ignorant or is there less star power? Does anyone else feel the same way? Does anyone else care? Well, the last question doesn’t matter because I’m going to write this anyway.
I think a major reason is the demise of the NCAA Football video game. I used to spend hours upon days upon weeks upon months playing those games, and, after downloading the roster that had all the players names, would pretty much have it all memorized after a while. Now, I don’t begrudge the people who brought the lawsuit. Lord knows I’d want some of that EA money if they used my likeness (pick up your copy of Blogging ’18 this July!) and I do think big time college athletes deserve to be paid. But, come on. I care more about my enjoyment than your bank account. Let me play as Texas A&M QB #2 again.
Another reason is that I don’t really have a team. I always liked Oregon growing up, but it’s harder to claim allegiance to teams that become good out of nowhere without being called a bandwagon jumper. I’d rather die. Plus, they stink now. And, as a UConn graduate, there’s not much to cheer for on the football field. The closest thing I have to a team I legitimately root for is Wyoming because I like their jerseys (I know you’re wondering, so here’s the top five college football jerseys: 1. Wyoming 2. USC 3. Oklahoma 4. Oregon 5. Auburn). Other than that, it’s a year to year thing. I love high flying offense, but that’s not all that unique anymore (we’ll get to that). I always like the “mid-major” that goes undefeated a la Western Michigan, but if they keep winning it becomes less fun. So I wind up rooting for a bunch of good games which doesn’t always pay off.
I think, for me, though, the primary reason is that everyone, for the most part, plays the same way. I’m a diehard spread guy. More specifically, I’m a diehard run n’ shoot guy. There’s a reason I consider Colt Brennan my favorite athlete of all time. Those Hawaii teams were amazing. My man June Jones dialing up 10,000 quick slants and five yard hooks a game. I’ve jerked off to less. When Graham Harrell showed up at Texas Tech and picked up Colt’s baton, I was happy. Then, as I got older, Chip Kelly’s spread grabbed my attention. But now, everyone plays that way. Everyone goes uptempo, everyone has pieces of the Air Raid, everyone uses the spread. It’s hard to pick teams out. There used to be so many distinctive styles. Hawaii and Texas Tech were the only teams that passed every play. There were teams like Arkansas with Darren McFadden who ran the Wildcat exclusively. It seemed like a novelty to see mobile quarterbacks dominating teams running spread option, which is what made guys like Vince Young and Pat White so exciting. Now, the teams bordering on curiosities are teams that run slow, boring, pro-style offenses. Pure pocket passers are rare on the best college teams. And again, I love the spread. If you know me, then you know I love the passing game. But it loses some luster when Joe Flacco throws for 4,000 yards, just like the spread loses something when teams like Alabama, the oldest and stodgiest of the old and stodgy blue bloods is running read option 50 times a game.
And, obviously, the playoff has killed the other bowl games. Which I’m fine with. I’d rather have a playoff than not. But it’s just harder to commit 3 hours to a mid December game between two random teams than it used to be. All these talking heads haven’t really put that together yet. Players are more comfortable sitting these games out because they’re totally meaningless now. Sure it’s another game with the team, but the games are more of a marketing ploy for the two schools and the bowl sponsors and an outlet for gambling than a meaningful, legitimate football game. I guarantee all but the most try-hard, coach’s son-iest of players would say they don’t want to play. Most just don’t have the luxury of an NFL future to get them out of them.
I think that’s it. If you made it this far, congratulations. You’ve made it though an awful lot of kvetching. I hope you agree with some of what I’ve said. I hope you disagree with some. Either way, don’t get it twisted. I still love football and I still love college football. Staring my own mortality in the face has just stirred up some nostalgia. Give me a summer with no football and I’ll be ready to commit every second of fall Saturdays to college football once again.